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 3 of 3 - Historic Columbia River Gorge Highway and Portland, OR

Part 1 of this post describes the first 3 days of our adventures in Seattle, Mt Rainier, Fort Casey, and Whale Watching. Click here. Part 2 of this post describes our adventures in Olympic National Park. Click here.

Day 7 - Historic Columbia River Highway

Blueberry Picking

For the last 2 days of our trip, we were joined by my college bestie, Michelle, and her son Aaron, who flew in from LA. We were meeting them at the Vista House for the view, but they got hung up with some travel logistics, which gave us about 15 minutes to stop when we saw the signs for u-pick blueberries! These blueberry plants were so much taller than the ones we saw in Washington, and their owner explained they were some of the oldest in the region. And I took the last of these pics because big one was being funny in the way he was imitating the air dancing of the tube ‘person’. I didn’t notice until I looked closely at the photo later that with that hoodie and his blue pants, he also matched the person!

Vista House

Our plan for today was to see the waterfalls along the Historic Columbia River Highway. The first stop is the Vista House, which offers a nice view of the magnitude of the river below, and was a good landmark to meet up with our friends. We also spoke to the park rangers and got some maps and prioritized which waterfalls we wanted to visit.

Lavender Picking, Eastwind Drive-In in Cascade Locks, and Bonneville Dam

In Washington, we got to see how lavender grows, but as the farm was closing, we didn’t get to pick any. So when we saw the sign to pick lavender as we were leaving the Vista House, we stopped. It snips off easily with a regular pair of scissors and smells absolutely fantastic! There are a lot of bees, but they left us alone. Then we stopped at Eastwind Drive-In in the town of Cascade Locks for some ice cream. It melted and was eaten before I could snap a pic, but the soft serve cones were extremely tall, even for the size small! The kids watched someone order a size large while they were eating, and it said it reached the rooftop of the counter service window!

Our next stop was the Bonneville Dam. I’d somehow missed this in my research for the day, but I loved it, and it was one of my favorite places of the day. There’s a several story visitor center, with some historical exhibits, a rooftop view of the spillway, a fish ladder to allow the salmon to cross through, an underwater viewing area of the fish, and the power plant building was open for visitors. I could have stayed much longer and explored every detail, but everyone else explored pretty quickly, so on we went! Admission was free, but we made a donation b/c we loved our visit so much!

Wahkeena Falls and Multnomah Falls

The closest falls are some of the biggest and most popular, so we chose to head East and see the dam first, then make our way back. We parked at Wakheena Falls, then hiked along the highway to see Multnomah Falls. It is not easy to return to the hustle and bustle of traffic and crowds after spending 3 days in Olympic National Park. These waterfalls are amazing, but they are located right next to the highway, which made this day a perfect transition back to the city. We were visiting nature, but was no where near as remote as where we’d just come from.

McMenamins Kennedy School and Voodoo Doughnuts

The McMenamin brothers re-purpose historic properties in the area to create whimsical gathering places. The Kennedy School is a hotel where you can stay in an old classroom, eat in what used to be the cafeteria, see a movie in what used to be the auditorium, grab a drink in one of several bars, or go for a dip in the pool in the area that used to be the teacher’s lounge. We enjoyed dinner here, and our friends got to stay here the next night.

On the way back to our Airbnb, my kids wanted to check out the infamous Voodoo Doughnuts. I found the two rotating display cases of a single donut of each type to be underwhelming, as I was hoping to see rows and rows of colorful donut amazingness! The line wasn’t too bad, but was still out the door.

Day 8 - Exploring Portland, OR

Waaaaaa, this is the last day of our awesome trip! Here’s how we explored and adventured!

Slappy Cakes

Slappy Cakes is the reason Michelle and Aaron wanted to come to Portland! They had experienced this breakfast awesomeness in Hawaii, and since there are so few of the chain in the world, Portland was the next closest location. We of course had to join them to see what all the fuss was about! After waiting a while for our table, we were seated. We ordered a few bottles of pancake batter (they had gluten free for me and little one) and some toppings, and everyone had a blast making their own pancakes. We started getting creative and making fun shapes, too! What a fun combination of an activity with a meal!

Portland Saturday Market and Chinese Garden

We were lucky enough to time our trip to be in Portland on a weekend, which means we got to see the Portland Saturday Market. My family appreciates arts and crafts, and there was definitely plenty of that to enjoy. Then we walked over to the Chinese garden. The highlight there was a teenage girl who was playing a traditional Chinese string instrument. When she was announcing the title of the song she was going to play next, a bunch of the kids and adults gathered around started peppering her with questions about the instrument and how she learned to play, and she graciously explained all!

Playground at North Park Blocks and Powell’s City of Books

Next, we wanted to see Powell’s City of Books, a well known large book store in Portland. We discovered and joyed some playground time on the way. I later learned this play area is part of the historic North Park Blocks. Michelle and Aaron went back to their hotel for a bit.

Alberta Arts District

We took the bus back up to the Alberta Arts district to meet up with Michelle and Aaron for dinner. The boys had dinner together in a pizza place, and the girls had lovely salads in a cute outdoor food truck area. After dinner, Michelle and Aaron stopped by our airbnb and we played the new card game we purchased at the book store. It’s called Dutch Blitz, but they were familiar with the game and had played with regular cards and knew it by the name, ‘Hell’. It’s become a family favorite since returning home.

Heading Home

Wish we could have stayed longer, but, home we went. Until next time!!!



So You Travels: PNW Road Trip Part 2 of 3 - Olympic National Park - Hurricane Ridge, Lake Crescent, Hoh River Rafting, Hoh Rainforest, Kalaloch

Part 1 of this post describes the first 3 days of our adventures in Seattle, Mt Rainier, Fort Casey, and Whale Watching. Click here.

Day 4 - Olympic Peninsula - Berry Picking and Hurricane Ridge at Olympic National Park

Waffle Ice Cream Sandwiches for Breakfast

One of the things we enjoy about staying in Airbnb’s is being able to make our own breakfast and lunch. It saves time and money when we travel, leaving more of both to do and see more when we’re out for the day! It could also mean waffle ice cream sandwiches for breakfast when you’re moving from one place to the next this morning, and you might as well use up that ice cream before you go! The kids were pretty excited about it!

Bainbridge Island Ferry

Getting to the Olympic peninsula started the fun, as we got to take our car on the ferry again! We hadn’t checked the schedule before we left, and just missed the 11:30 ferry. We left our car and walked to the nearest souvenir shop in search of a marmot. They really were cute. We didn’t find any, and by the time we got back to the car, it was time to load the ferry.

Graysmarsh Berry Farm

Our first stop was Graysmarsh Berry Farm. We had read that berries and lavender are in bloom in the region this time of year, and since this farm had both, we headed there first. They closed at 4, so by the time we got there we only had about 45 minutes, but that was just the right amount of time to explore the rows and rows of berries. We got to pick raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries! Coming from Florida, we are experienced with strawberry picking, but had never even seen how the other berries we get from the grocery store grow, so that was a lot of fun. And amazingly delicious!

We didn’t have time to try picking lavender, but they did let me walk out into the field before we left to smell the lavender and snap a few pics. Seriously, I could lay down in the field and chill there all day! Think they’d let me get a sleeping bag and sleepover? That’d be the best, most relaxing sleep ever!

Shoutout to my friend Sheryl from Why Not Adventures for finding this place! She travels a lot and takes the most amazing trips, and created a trip planning business to share this joy and talent with others. I love trip planning too, but for the past few years, I’ve consulted with Sheryl on my trips to help me not over plan, make sure there’s nothing I missed, think and talk it out when I need to review my itinerary, and find places like this!

Olympic National Park - Hurricane Ridge
I really didn’t know what to expect here, just that it was something we should see, and I was completely blown away. There were some steep, but other than that pretty tame loop hikes near the Visitor’s Center, and longer hikes had we had more time and daylight. We really enjoyed the wildflowers and wildlife (we saw a buck!) and amazing views. I also got one of my favorite family selfies of the trip (us at the top of the mountain looking at each other, the second image below the sign). I can connect my camera to my phone and use it as remote, which is pretty cool.

While watching the sunset, we spoke to some other visitors who were staying to watch the meteor shower, so we did the same. In making this decision, we had no idea the sunset would be so long! We loved the technicolor skies, but man, it was about an hour of that and got cold out before the stars came out! I didn’t have my tripod with me so couldn’t effectively capture my own night sky photo, so I picked one off Google that looked similar, just so you get an idea of what the night sky looked like. I saw one or two, maybe 3 shooting stars out of the corner of my eye, but none directly. I did see a bunch of moving stars, which I’m told were satellites, so that was cool!

Day 5 - Crescent Beach in Joyce, WA and Lake Crescent Bike Ride in Olympic National Park

Crescent Beach - Crescent Bay - Saltwater Creek Recreation Area

I had originally earmarked this morning to check out the Sol Duc Hot Springs, but we’d been travelling pretty heavily, and wanted a more relaxed morning. We checked in with our Airbnb host, who suggested checking out Crescent Beach. We looked up Crescent Beach on the map, and it wasn’t nearby. We took a closer look and found Crescent Beach Road across the street from where we were staying, and used the map to take that road until we hit water, assuming we’d figure it out. I love adventures like that! Not knowing where you’re going and exploring along the way!

Just past the Crescent Beach RV park, there was a small parking lot, where the signs read ‘Salt Creek Recreation Area’. We parked there, and explored the beach. We lucked out in that it was low tide, and the kids had a blast skipping rocks (they did that pretty much everywhere we went that had water and rocks), and the highlight of this beach was a see-saw that someone had made out of driftwood! For the rest of the trip, it was ‘see-saw beach’ and little man kept asking to return! I looked at a map after we left, and Crescent Bay is what appears on the map. I even looked it up on Google Earth, and you can see the parking lot and little tree island. So cool!

Lake Crescent - Olympic National Park

We like to make our travel active. In several of the places we’ve visited, we’ve done bike rides, or water sports like SUP or kayaking. My research led me to Adventures Through Kayaking, who rented us mountain bikes for the day to explore Lake Crescent with our guide, Jake (who photo credit for the images I’m in below goes to). We biked along the Spruce Railroad Trail. It was a solid trail, but much rockier and hillier than this Florida girl is used to! I also experienced a metaphor for life on the ride through the ups and downs of the mountain path: the uphill climb is tough, but the downhill coast is glorious. And the feeling that you earned it and worked for it makes it that much more satisfying.

After our ride, we had dinner in town in Port Angeles. The kids were begging to go back to the ‘see-saw beach’, and it was nearly dark by the time we made it there after dinner. We told them the see-saw was most likely inaccessible due to the tide coming in, and we were right. It was amazing to see nature at work, and how those many yards of open shoreline from that morning were now covered by the sea! Also, they got to throw a few more rocks, so, mission accomplished, ha ha ha!

Day 6 - Hoh River Rafting, Hoh Rainforest, Kalaloch in Olympic National Park

Chill morning at ‘home’ and Lake Crescent on the way out of town

This morning, we were planning to get up early and see the tide pools on the beaches of Olympic National Park. But I had left my sweatshirt in town the night before at a store that didn’t open until 11:00 am, so I stayed home with the boys to pack and supervise some summer reading and play while he went to get the sweatshirt. It was a pretty cool space with several interesting natural wooden touches, and some deer that visited the backyard in the mornings.

On the way out of town, we passed the opposite shore of Lake Crescent than the one we’d explored the day before, so we pulled off for one more look at the beauty, and of course, more rock throwing. The boys have mastered skipping rocks, especially big brother. Mom, less so, so I participated in the rock throwing contest for distance. I did not win.

Hoh River Rafting

Having enjoyed white water rafting in Tennessee two summers ago and kayaking in Arizona last summer, I researched if there was any rafting on the rivers that flow through the Olympic Peninsula. I was rewarded with the discovery of Hoh River Rafters. It was so peaceful, and unlike any other river rafting tour I’ve ever done. In the Smoky Mountains, there are many whitewater rafting companies to choose from, and each takes out at least a half a dozen boats at a time, and the busy energy can be felt.

This experience with Pat was a complete contrast. Our boat and the other who joined us were the only two out there. The river was wide and calm. The water flowed gently off the rocks into the river. There were a couple of slight rapids, but this Class II experience was such a contrast to the Class III and IV rapids of summers before. Asking about all of the fallen trees and driftwood we saw, we learned how the river normally towers at heights above where we were floating and roars through the area at incredible speeds as the seasons change. I kept commenting on my disbelief at the lack of crowds. The experience was so lovely, I was so surprised it wasn’t more widely experienced. It felt like magic.

Not wanting to risk the combination of my real camera and water, all I have from this experience are cel phone photos, but I am grateful for these memories. Sometimes the best camera is the one you have with you.

Hoh Rainforest - Olympic National Park

We were just up the road from the rainforest when we finished our rafting trip, so we headed down to explore the loop hike behind the visitor center through these ancient trees. It was so beautiful and so amazing. The signage throughout the hike was really well done, and told the story of the forest. The massive size of the trees and changing microclimates on this short hike was awe-inspiring. My little one especially came alive in the forest with curiosity and exploration.

Kalaloch Lodge - Olympic National Park

From the rainforest, we headed to Kalaloch Lodge for dinner and the sunset. We pulled over to see Ruby Beach along the way. We didn’t have the time to hike down before the restaurant closed, but at least got to see the stacks (rock formations in the water). Since we were headed to Portland the next morning, after dinner we kept driving to Olympia, where we spent the night as a nice halfway point. What a beautiful way to end little man’s birthday!

Part 3/3 concludes this amazing travel experience with visits to the Columbia River Gorge and Portland. Click here!

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

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