Disney World Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

How did I not blog these photos?! We try to head up to Orlando twice a year. The weekend getaways are a fun family bonding tradition, and I’ve really enjoyed watching my kids grow up in the parks. We’d never been for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, so last year, we ordered our Pooh costume t shirts on Etsy, and headed for the park on a Friday afternoon!

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

The party starts at 7:00, and your ticket gets you in at 4:00. We targeted getting there as close to 4:00 as possible. Assuming the time stamps on my camera are correct, the parking entrance pic is 4:22 and the castle pic is 5:20.

The pumpkin decorations on Main Street start the fun festivities. There’s a separate entrance to the side for the evening special event tickets, and the lines are shorter and the crowds are lighter b/c the number of tickets sold to these events is limited. So that was an absolute pleasure. The boys really loved trick or treating at the various rides. The inflatables made them easy to find, and the candy is dispensed by cast members out of barrels. After dark, in true Disney style, the magic continues. One of my favorite parts was the Boo to You Halloween Parade. Night parades at Disney are my absolute favorite. I especially appreciate the lighting, and the cooler temperatures once the sun has set.

Typhoon Lagoon and Old Town Orlando

On Saturday, we spent the day at Typhoon Lagoon and had a blast and were able to experience all the major slides with minimal waits. Crowds were light as the summer tourist season is over, and I think people forget how warm it can be in Florida in September and early October.

In the evening, we checked out Old Town Orlando, also a first for our family. It was SUPER touristy, and reminded me a bit of Gatlinburg, TN. We were able to see a car show, and I really enjoyed the big selection at the crystal store.

Disney Springs, Partin Ranch Corn Maze, and Home

We started this morning with a quick trip to Disney Springs. Hubby likes the undershirts from Uniqlo, and we don’t have a store nearby. The kids and I had fun with Sully tails and lego ladies.

Our next stop was Partin’s Ranch Corn Maze. I’d always wanted to do one, so I looked for one that would be on the way home, and this place delivered. There was a corn maze, a fun sandbox, water pump duck races, a butterfly tent, and a corn canon. The perfect adventure to round out our morning before we headed home!

I love to explore new places and have new experiences and this trip delivered 4 for 4! Mickey’s Not So Scary was new, Typhoon Lagoon was new (I was only there once as a kid and didn’t remember much of it), Old Town was new, and Partin’s Ranch was new! Happy fall ya’ll!

So You Travels: PNW Road Trip Part 1 of 3 - Seattle, Mt Rainier National Park, Fort Casey State Park, and Whale Watching from Anacortes

Getting There

I always start my travel photography with the actual journey. It makes for better storytelling and gives some context to the fact that my Floridian family all of a sudden shows up dressed in sweatshirts in August in front of mountains and waterfalls. The clouds from the plane were amazing as we chased the sunset from East to West.

Day 1 - A day in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass

Our first stop was Chihuly Garden and Glass. We are lucky that Chihuly’s work has been displayed twice at our local Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, and a lot of the work here was similar, with the shapes and scale. Reeds and bulbs and spheres and towers and sculptures. I absolutely love bright colors and fun shapes, and his work has both! I especially enjoyed the videos at the end which show him and his team in action creating their glass art. The scale of the glass work is just incredible. I appreciated that the staff photos here and at the Space Needle are included with admission.

Space Needle

The line was long on a warm day, and when we got to the front, our photo was taken in front of a green screen. The views from the top are nice, but what really makes this a special place to visit is the rotating glass floor. It makes one full rotation every 45 minutes, and I’d always wondered if that would be fast enough to sense it’s movement. Yup, you can totally tell, but not so much that you get dizzy or anything. And you can see the gears through the floor, which is pretty cool for an Engineer who is interested in how things work! And I took one of my favorite photos of the trip from up there - a double exposure of the boys’ silhouette, overlayed with the city below.

Pike’s Place Market and Gum Wall

Our next stop was Pike’s Place Market. I booked an Air BnB Experience photo tour with Cameron Thomsen Photography, who is responsible for these images. I always take the photos, and thus rarely appear in them, and knowing these are must-have Seattle photos, I treated myself so I could be in front of the camera instead of behind it. He did share a cool fact about how the Seattle gum wall started, which is that it is outside of a theater, who told its’ patrons they couldn’t chew gum. So they started sticking it to the wall outside! Ben started to feel ill during our experience, but he powered through, and Cameron was able to shift from portrait to documentary mode.

I created one more double exposure with Jaron before we headed out of the area.

Pacific Science Center

Ben needed some rest after Pike’s Place Market, so dad rested with him, and Jaron and I spent the afternoon exploring more of this city. Since we are members of our local science museum and it was a warm day, the Pacific Science Center was an easy air-conditioned choice, as our reciprocal membership got us in for free. We enjoy getting to see other science museums when we travel. The highlight of this one is the fun architecture in this outdoor water area. Jaron also really liked this exhibit which used ping pong balls and a large funnel to demonstrate the forces of planetary orbit.

Olympic Sculpture Park and Jump Bike Ride

I’d seen pictures of this colorful wall at Olympic Sculpture Park, so wanted to check it out. We walked through it, and spent some time relaxing in the soft, thin, short northern grass, which Jaron enjoyed (at home we have really thick grass). And we got such a beautiful selfie!

At the bottom of the hill when we left the park, there were Jump Bikes for rent. Jaron requested a ride, and after brief consideration, I obliged. It’s an activity I enjoy as well, and I was so proud of him for initiating the request! We rode along the water, and then along the railroad tracks, where we happened to see Boeing plane bodies being transported, which was pretty cool.

Ben rested, and since we weren’t sure what was wrong, he was quarantined to the spare air bed. He slept well. After a quick trip to urgent care for ear pain the next morning, and some prescription antibiotics for an ear infection, he was thankfully ready to rock!

Day 2 - Mt Rainier National Park Day Trip from Seattle

Silver Falls in Ohanapeecosh

We started the day at the Ohanapeecosh Visitor Center in Mt Rainier National Park to get information on hiking to Silver Falls, as recommended by 2 Travel Dads, whose info on travel in the Pacific Northwest (PNW for short) was extremely detailed and helpful!. Since our time was cut a bit short by the doctor visit, we took the shorter hike from the northern end, rather than the longer loop trail from the visitor center.


Paradise is the closest spot you can get to the top of the mountain by car without hiking days through the snow, and it’s wildflower season. Actually, they were all over the roadsides for most of our trip, but, with this gorgeous mountain as a backdrop, it was pretty spectacular. Again, wanting to appear in photos, we had Conchita from Conchita Sophia photography along with us to capture our family. I can’t wait to update this post once we get our images back! Here’s one sneak peek from my camera, because I worked so hard on finding the right outfits for the location!

Day 3 -Fort Casey State Park and Whale Watching from Anacortes Day Trip from Seattle

Fort Casey State Park

Another awesome 2 Travel Dads recommendation was Fort Casey State Park on Whidbey Island. It was on our way up to Anacortes for Whale Watching. Getting there was half the fun, as we got to take our car on a ferry! I know it’s probably annoying for the commuters who have to do it on the regular, but we enjoyed the novelty of it! And we still can’t figure out how all those cars spread out in the pre-ferry loading parking lot (which seems a lot bigger than the ferry itself) all manage to fit on board!

Fort Casey State Park was just awesome. It has a really long stretch with 3 floors of World War II bunkers. From the top you can see the ocean, and on the bottom, we used the flashlights on our phones to see and make it less scary. We enjoyed the magic of the beach, and skipping rocks, and I only wish we’d planned more time to further explore the beach and lighthouse!

Whale Watching

Our first big family trip was in 2013 to Boston, where whale watching was on the agenda. It was a long time ago, the boys were young, and those were humpbacks, so I wanted to repeat the experience with the Orcas in the Pacific Northwest. As it turns out, if I had to choose between the two, the humpbacks were a bit more exciting to watch, since they came closer to the boat, and you saw their breath as well as their tails. We still enjoyed our day with the Orcas though, as any time you get to see an animal in the wild, you experience a piece of that wild. We also saw birds, harbor porpoise, seals, and a nice view of Mount Baker. My 35 mm lens didn’t do them justice, but we met a fellow photographer on board who was equipped with longer lenses, Holly Cannon, who was kind enough to share her images with me!

Part 2/3 of the trip continues in Olympic National Park. Click here.

So You Travels: A Weekend in Charlotte and Asheville, NC - Things to Do and Places to Eat

With limited time off from work, we picked July 4 weekend to get away just the two of us while the kids are away at sleepaway camp for the summer. We wanted a destination that had an easy, short flight, so we flew direct in and out of Charlotte. From there it was a 2 hour drive to Asheville, which allowed us to see Charlotte, and also works out to be about the same, by the time you add in the time of a layover. We always love exploring new places. I’ve also learned to experience food more as part of travel, so I’m also sharing where we ate. I’m gluten sensitive (not celiac), and my husband is pescatarian away from home, so these restaurants are friendly to those dietary needs. Here’s what we discovered.

Night 1 - Charlotte - NODA

Growlers Pour House and Abari
We arrived at around 9 pm. The car rental building and view into the city were nice sights along the way from the airport. I’d done some research before our trip and wanted to check out Abari, a retro arcade for our evening activity, so I called to see if they served food, since we were a bit hungry from our travels. They did not, but were able to recommend a few places in the NODA (North Davidson) district up the street. We ended up at Growlers, where they had a mix of bar fare with some healthier options as well.

Day 2 - Charlotte - Exploring Uptown

Brunch at Famous Toastery
After our late night out, we slept in a bit on Thursday, and started our day with brunch. The place we were headed to was closed, but we found a lovely place nearby and enjoyed our meal at Famous Toastery instead. They had gluten free pancakes, which is always a treat.

Romare Bearden Park, The Green, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
After that, we explored Romare Bearden park, which is an urban green space. I wanted to see the Mint Museum, but since it was July 4, it was closed. We explored The Green park across the street, which has some cute literary and Charlotte public art. We made our way back across the street to explore the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. It was small and didn’t take us long to see it, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. I’ve never met an art museum I didn’t enjoy. I appreciate creativity.

Discovery Place Science Museum
The weather was looking ominous, so we took advantage of our Frost Science Museum Membership from Miami and explored the Discovery Place science museum. We checked out the lego buildings exhibit, where it was neat to see buildings that exist in different parts of the world co-located in the same room. We had a snack downstairs, I touched a millipede, and we enjoyed watching an octopus swim.

Little Sugar Creek Greenway - Charlotte
The highlight of our trip to Charlotte, for me, was biking along the Little Sugar Creek Greenway. We had to download the B Cycle app and get a day membership for $8 each, but then we had 2 hours with bikes, which we rented from the rack near Elizabeth Park and rode to Freedom Park and back. The bike trail weaves its way on either side of the creek, and the shade from the trees and breeze from our bikes made this activity a lot of fun.

NODA - Dinner at Cabo Fish Taco and Desert at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream
We returned to NODA for dinner. This fish taco place was amazing and they had all sorts of combinations of fish tacos. I got a teriyaki salmon taco and an ahi tuna taco, served on corn tortillas, and both were amazing. We were going to head downtown for fireworks, but instead headed up to the light rail station where were able to see some pyrotechnics on the horizon in the distance. We finished the night at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, which we discovered in Nashville on our trip there 2 years earlier.

Day 3 - Asheville Downtown

Morning in Charlotte - Breakfast at 7th Street Public Market, The Bag Lady for Crystals
Before leaving Charlotte, we had breakfast as 7th Street Public Market, which is like a food court. I really enjoyed my gluten free crepe from Hazelnuts Creperie, and hubby had eggs and grits from Uptown Yolk. I’ve discovered crystals over the past year, and it’s fun to explore shops in different cities. We stopped by The Bag Lady on our way out of town to check out their selection.

Downtown Asheville - Lunch at White Duck Taco Shop
Our first stop downtown was lunch at White Duck Taco Shop. Their menu is extensive, and fun.

Downtown Asheville - Urban Hiking
We explored a few more shops, including a kitschy souvenir store (LOFT), a mineral store (Cornerstone Minerals), a used book store (Downtown Books and News), an art gallery (Momentum Gallery), and a stationery shop (Write On). I refer to this day as our urban hiking day since I logged over 14,000 steps! I especially loved the secret books at the book store. They were wrapped with brown paper, and a short description of the plot. I selected the one on the left. Any guesses what it might be? I haven’t opened it yet!

Downtown Asheville - Lexington Park Antiques
This antique store was practically a history museum, with some piece of nostalgia around every corner!

North Carolina Arboretum, Dinner at All Souls Pizza, Asheville Friday Night Drum Circle
We headed out to the Arboretum for some nature, had pizza for dinner at All Souls Pizza where they had an incredible gluten free polenta crust, and were able to check out the Friday Night Drum Circle. We only caught the last few minutes, but the energy was palpable, and I’m so glad we made it!

Day 4 - DuPont State Park - Triple Falls, High Falls, and Hooker Falls

For the next 2 days, we went to the market and bought ingredients for breakfast and lunch to save time and money on meals leaving more time and money for exploring. We drove about 50 minutes out to the park for this hike which would take us to 3 different waterfalls. It is a very popular hike, and parking extended out onto the highway, and there was a bit of foot traffic on the trail, but as a novice hiker, I always find comfort in the presence of other humans enjoying nature with me. It was a hot and humid day, but we were rewarded by a dip in the water at Hooker Falls. It was cold, but not too freezing for this Florida girl to enjoy.

West Asheville - Dinner at The Walk, Sunshine Sammie’s (Downtown), Retrocade
After our hike, we headed back for showers, then found dinner at The Walk in West Asheville. We met up with family who was also in town at Sunshine Sammie’s for desert, then headed back to Retrocade in West Asheville, where $10 each got us unlimited retro video games.

Day 5 - Biltmore Estates

On our final morning in Asheville, we headed to the Biltmore Estate. It was SUPER hot. There’s no AC in the house, but there are fans. Still, it was hot. I selected the kid’s audio tour, an idea I got when we visited The Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island a few years back, where the children’s audio tour is narrated from the perspective of the house. This tour is narrated from the perspective of the dog. I found the facts to be equally informative, and the delivery is a bit less dry. After that, it was back to the airport and home. We enjoyed the bonding that comes from exploring a new place, and this is some place that would be fun to return to explore further!

The Pinterest Image: A long weekend in Charlotte, NC and Asheville NC | Things to do | Where to eat | A day by day itinerary

So You Travels: The Ultimate Grand Canyon Road Trip Part 2 - Utah and Nevada

Part 1 of this post describes the first four days of our adventures in Arizona.  Click here.

Day 5 - Zion National Park - The Narrows

After driving in from Arizona, we knew we wanted to hike The Narrows in Zion National Park.  So we drove through the scenic road within the park and eventually arrived at the Visitor's Center.  We didn't really know what to expect, and we got information from a park ranger who suggested visiting an outfitter to rent neoprene socks and walking sticks since the water can be cold and the bottom is like walking on bowling balls.  So we headed into town, which is literally right outside the gate of the park. and not only got neoprene (like wet suit material for those unfamiliar) socks and walking sticks, but we also got water shoes too! 

This was one of the most incredible hikes I've ever done.  In most cases the water was up to ankle or mid-calf height.  We had taken the shuttle bus out to the stop for the hike, then hiked the paved trail for about a mile, and then enjoyed hiking up and back in the canyon.  Could we have done it in normal sneakers? Sure.  But the warmer shoes allowed us to be more comfortable and really enjoy, rather than worrying about cold feet!

Day 6 - La Verkin, Kanarra Falls, and Toquerville Falls

Instead of staying right in the town immediately outside of Zion, we selected an airbnb in the nearby town of La Verkin.  Day 6 was originally earmarked for a day trip to Bryce National Park.  But the kids were exhausted from many late nights, and we were off to a late start in the morning.  Also, our hosts had a book in the apartment with some pictures and instructions for some more local hikes. 

That morning, Kay knocked on the door and delivered a bag of apricots hand picked from his tree in the front yard!  So we got to talking, and ended up deciding to do two local hikes.  One to Kanarra Falls, and one to Toquerville Falls.  For the first, it was another mile or so of hot desert hike, and then a hike similar to the narrows, walking in and out of a rocky creek. ending in a shorter narrower canyon, that was like a cross between Antelope Canyon and The Narrows.  There was a waterfall and a scary metal ladder that the kids and I climbed to further explore a natural rock slide!

Toquerville Falls was in a super remote area that can really only be accessed by ATV, which our host and his friend offered to take us to, and we couldn't refuse!  Once we arrived, we enjoyed the natural swimming hole.  At the end of the day, we got to watch as our host harvested the chicken eggs we had been enjoying for breakfast during our stay.

Day 7 - Las Vegas - M&M World, Coca Cola Store, NY NY Arcade, O Cirque du Soleil at the Bellagio

We arrived in Vegas and checked into the hotel, then spent some time on the computer researching and purchasing tickets for a show later that night.  We explored M&M World and the Coca Cola Store which were down the block from our hotel.  Then we met up with my college bestie and her family whom we vacationed with 2 summers ago in Colorado.  They live in LA, so Vegas was just a road trip for them that morning.  

The boys enjoyed the game room at the NY NY Hotel, and we all had dinner together.  Then their family went to bed, and our family went to see O Cirque du Soleil at the Bellagio. It was an incredible experience, with acrobatics in and out of the water, and a dynamic stage that transformed between covering the water, to being deep enough to allow dives from great heights.  It was only my second cirque show, the first being one my parents took me to on our trip to Vegas in 1995.  It was unforgettable, and I'm grateful I was able to pass that unforgettable experience onto my children.

Day 8 - Hoover Dam and Las Vegas, The Orleans Hotel

On our final day of vacation, we explored the Hoover Dam with our friends.  I think if I had known more about it, I would have wanted to plan some water time on Lake Mead.  Now I know, and will plan to explore should I return to the area.  We had planned to return to town and explore some of the hotels.  On the way into town, our friends' eldest wasn't feeling well, so we broke plans to spend time together.  My family saw a billboard for Incredibles 2, so I used my Flixster app to purchase tickets for the next showing.

The movie theater turned out to be inside of a ginormous off-strip casino called The Orleans.  And after the movie, we followed the signs to the Bowling Alley that we'd seen on the way in.  It was the biggest bowling alley I've ever seen!  70 lanes!  And that was on the second story of a part of the hotel.  Unreal!  We bowled a game together, and then decided to stay for dinner at the buffet for the full Vegas experience!  It was fun to explore this off the beaten path Vegas spot.  Our next stop was to check out Circus Circus, but the timing didn't work out for us to see one of their free shows, and we were kind of done by that point, so didn't do the rides or games.  We did end the day with a beautiful sunset on the way back to our hotel!

Day 9 - Travel Home

We woke up and had breakfast in our room as we had every other day of the trip.  We arrived at the airport only to find out our flight had been cancelled!  This had not been communicated to us prior to arrival at the airport, so we got in a short line, which ended up being long because it wasn't moving.  I called the airline in parallel, and received the 30-45 min call back before we reached the front of the line.  The airline had put us on another flight with another carrier approximately an hour later, so we were able to make it home on the same calendar day as originally planned.  In hindsight, I think it was just one final adventure to make it exciting to get home.

So You Travels: The Ultimate Arizona Road Trip Part 1 - Phoenix, Sedona, Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Lake Powell, Horeshoe Bend

Day 1 - Flight to Phoenix, Cosanti, Arizona Science Center, Taliesin West

This year's trip took us out West.  We flew into Phoenix late Thursday night.  You can see how I rocked baggage claim in the middle of the night when we arrived early Friday morning!  We spent our first day exploring Scottsdale, AZ, with a stop at Cosanti to see the wind chimes by designer Paolo Soleri and a visit to the Arizona Science Center.  We concluded our day with a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West, which was just as I remembered it from when my parents took me in 1995!

Day 2 - Sedona

Day 2 was spent exploring Sedona.  We started off the day at the Chamber of Commerce to get some information about hiking.  We wanted a hike with rocks and water, so after a mile or so in the incredible heat of the Baldwin Trail, we were rewarded with the cool waters of Oak Creek and the vortex near Cathedral Rock.  I have to say, I'm definitely a believer in and senser of the Earth's energy, and my family definitely got back in the car happier.  We finished our day with an off road jeep ride, where we were blessed with a driver who also knew how to handle my camera, and was able to get some lovely sunset family photos of us!

Day 3 - Grand Canyon

On Sunday, we explored the Grand Canyon.  First we biked around on the South Kaibab Trailhead.  We were so busy stopping to enjoy the sights along the way, we didn't even make it out to Yaki Point!  After we returned the bikes, we stopped in the General Store within the park for some snacks and drinks.  We finished up the evening taking the shuttle bus out to Maricopa Point, walked to Powell Point, and finished enjoying the sunset at Hopi Point.

Day 4 - Antelope Canyon, Kayak Lake Powell, Horseshoe Bend

Lower Antelope Canyon was one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen.  It was a good almost hour (with stopping to take many photos along the way, of course) of walking through seemingly endless twists and turns of incredible colors and rock formations in this incredible slot canyon.  We spent the afternoon kayaking on Lake Powell, and the evening enjoying the sunset at Horseshoe Bend.

Part 2 of this blog post, highlights our adventures in Southern Utah and our road trip conclusion in Las Vegas!!  Click here.