Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Fossil Butte National Monument - Kemmerer, Wyoming

Description:  Described as an "Aquarium in Stone" Fossil Butte National Monument contains hundreds of fossils that formed in an ancient lake. Many of the perfectly preserved fossils are on display in the visitor center.  This is a great place for anyone interested in paleontology.

Location: 15 miles west of Kemmerer, Wyoming.  Less than 45 miles east of Bear Lake in Utah.

Cost: Free - but donations are always welcome

Operating Seasons and Hours: The monument grounds are open daily from Sunrise until Sunset.  The Visitor Center hours are 9:00 am to 5:30 pm from May through September and 8:00 am to 4:30 pm from October through April the hours are

Occasionally the entrance road gate will close due to severe winter storms. The upper road which leads to the picnic area, nature train and scenic drives closes during the winter from November first until late May.

Official Website:

Date of Visit: Saturday, May 22, 2010

This was the very last place we stopped on the ninth and last day of the Southern Utah Road Trip that my husband and I went on for our third anniversary in May of 2010. We'd visited the Utah Field House of Natural History in Vernal, Utah before starting our drive through Wyoming to our home in Logan, Utah.  During our three hour drive along the  boring roads in Wyoming we decided to make one last stop before returning home.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Utah Highway 12 through the Fishlake National Forest - North of Boulder, Utah

Description: Utah Highway 12 between Boulder, Utah to the south and Torrey, Utah to the north runs through the Fishlake National Forest is a 50 mile stretch of road that climbs to a height of over 8000 feet above sea level.  As the elevation changes so does the landscape.  There is also stunning scenery every way you look.

Location:  Between Boulder, Utah and Torrey, Utah in Southern Utah.

Date of Visit: Monday, May 17, 2010

Driving on this road was part of the fourth day of the Southern Utah Road Trip that my husband and I went on for our anniversary in May of 2010. We left Anazasi State Park in Boulder and started driving toward Capitol Reef National Park outside of Torrey, Utah.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum - Vernal, Utah

Description: The area around Vernal, Utah is known as Dinosaurland because of the many dinosaur fossils that have been found in the area.  The Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum is located on Main Street in Vernal.  This museum teaches visitors about the many fossils that have been found in the area.  There are dinosaur skeletons on display as well many plant fossils.  There is also a short movie that describes paleontology research. Outside the museum there are several large dinosaur statues on display in the Dinosaur Garden.

Location:  496 East Main Street Vernal, Utah 84078

Cost: Admission is $7 per adult, $3.50 for children from six to twelve years old, and free for children five and under.

Operating Seasons and Hours:  The museum is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm every day.  However, from October to March the park is closed on Sundays.

Official Website:

Date of Visit: Saturday, May 22, 2010

This was the first stop of the ninth and last day of the Southern Utah Road Trip that my husband and I went on for our third anniversary in May of 2010. We'd driven to Vernal the day before and visited Dinosaur National Monument.  We spent the night in a cabin at the Vernal KOA campground.  We were ready to check out the Utah Field House of Natural History before starting our drive home to Logan, Utah.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Dinosaur National Monument - Vernal, Utah (The Utah Side)

Description: One of the most famous dinosaur fossil quarries is located within Dinosaur National Monument.  The Carnegie Dinosaur Quarry is known for it's wall of dinosaur bones where visitors can have a close view of fossils still inside the rock that preserved the bones. The quarry was closed for several years, but now has re-opened. A new visitor center welcomes dinosaur lovers to the monument. Away from the quarry there are several scenic drives, hikes, and even opportunities for white water rafting.

Location: Dinosaur National Monument straddles the boarder between Utah and Colorado.  It is located between Vernal, Utah and Dinosaur, Colorado.  All of the dinosaurs fossils are located on the Utah side of the monument.

Cost: Entrance to the park is $10 per private vehicle.  Camping fees range from free to $12 depending on the campground. Most sites are first come first serve, but you can make reservations for a few sites at the Green River Campground.

Operating Seasons and Hours: The monument itself is open 24 hours a day.  However, hours for the two Visitor Centers and the quarry vary depending on the season. Generally they are all open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Official Website:

Date of Visit: Friday, May 21, 2010

This was the fourth stop of the eighth day of the Southern Utah Road Trip that my husband and I went on for our third anniversary in May of 2010. We'd driven from Moab, Utah via Colorado Highway 139 (also known as Douglas Pass Road). Then we turned west and headed back into Utah to reach the Utah side of Dinosaur National Monument.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Colorado State Highway 139 (Douglas Pass Road)

Description: On a map, Colorado State Highway 139 looks simple enough.  It runs in nearly a straight line parallel to the western boarder of the state.  However, straight is not a word to describe what this 70 mile road is really like.  The road climbs to a height of 8000 through several switch-backs.  Down hill grades of 7% are not uncommon.  This simple looking road is full of adventure.

Location: This road runs north-south along the very western boarder of Colorado and Utah.  From the south you access it near the town of Loma off of I-70 and from the north you access the road near the town of Rangely off of highway 64.

Cost:  Free

Operating Season: The road is open all year long; however, be aware that winter snow removal is not done at night.

Date of Visit: Friday, May 21, 2010

This was the third stop of the eighth day of the Southern Utah Road Trip that my husband and I went on for our third anniversary in May of 2010. We were on our way from Arches National Park near Moab, Utah to Dinosaur National Monument near Vernal, Utah.  The quickest way to travel between the two cities was to travel into Colorado and then drive north on Highway 139.   We'd already enjoyed interesting scenery while driving on the Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway (Utah-128)  and we were curious to see what lay in store on this road.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Stewart Beach - Galveston, Texas

Description:  Galveston Island is known for its relaxed beach atmosphere. Large waves from the Gulf of Mexico crash onto the sandy shore tempting you to stop and stay a while. One of the most accessible beaches on the island is Stewart Beach. This large beach has plenty of amenities including restrooms, showers, and beach umbrella rentals.  There are also trained life guards on duty.  The sand along the shore is kept seaweed free so there is ample room to stretch out on a blanket and enjoy your day at the beach.

Location: 201 Seawall Boulevard Galveston Texas. Stewart Beach is located at the very end of Broadway Avenue where it turns onto Seawall Boulevard.

Cost: $8 per vehicle.  $16 for an oversized vehicle.

Operating Seasons and Hours:  From Memorial Day to Labor Day the beach is open from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm on week days and open from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm on weekends.  From March to Memorial Day and from Labor Day to October the beach hours are from 9:00 to 5:00 on weekdays and 9:00 to 6:00 on weekends. The beach is still accessible during the winter, but the amenities and lifeguards are not available.

Official Website:

Date of Visit: Saturday, January 18, 2014, and Thursday, March 20, 2014

Over the past several months I've been talking about the different places that my family stopped during our Texas Coastline Roadtrip in November of 2014.  On day six of that trip we were planning to play at a beach on Galveston Island.  However, we woke up to rain soaking through our tent at Galveston Island State Park.  The rain effectively put an end to our plans to visit any beaches that day.  The rain also tainted my memory of Galveston Island, and I realize my last post may have painted a very disappointing picture of the island.

Today I'm going to fix that dismal picture by telling you about two rain-free trips to Stewart Beach on Galveston Island.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The San Rafael Swell in Central Utah

Description:  The San Rafael Swell rises like a giant wrinkle on the earth's surface.  The swell stretches over 100 miles in a north south line. The maze-like canyons and passages through the swell have been barriers to travel for centuries.  Interstate 70 became the only paved road through the swell when it was built in the 1970's. The interstate allows travelers a glimpse into the wild landscape.  But for those people with time and adventurous spirits the swell has many hidden treasures located along dirt roads.  The swell is one of those rare places that offer amazing beauty without crowds of tourists.

Location:  The San Rafael Swell l is located in Emery County in Central Utah.  It's borders stretch from roughly Price in the north to Capital Reef National Park in the south.  It's east-west boundaries are between Green River and Castle Dale.  There are several dirt roads that lead into the swell, but I-70 is the only paved road that goes through the whole swell.

Cost: Most of the features within the swell are on public lands and have little or no fees.  However, if you are unfamiliar with the area you may want to hire a guide or join a tour.  Also keep in mind that there are no amenities located within the swell.  You will want to make sure you have plenty of food, and water, and that you have enough of gas in your vehicle before you set out on any adventures.

Operating Seasons and Hours:  Open all year long, however the dirt roads will be unsafe during inclement weather.

Helpful Websites:  (This website has stunning footage of features inside the swell.),, and

Other Reference Material: The San Rafael travel brochure by produced by Emery County is a great resource.  I have also heard people recommend the book Canyoneering the San Rafael Swell, by Steve Allen.

Date of Visit: Sunday, July 1, 2012

This post is going to be a little different than most of my posts.  My husband and I didn't discover the wonders of the San Rafael Swell until two years after our Southern Utah Road trip.  Even when we did discover the swell we didn't have much time to explore it.  I made a mental note to make sure we came back to properly explored the swell one day.

Unfortunately, we haven't had a chance to go back.  So in this post I'll show you the few pictures we took during our drive through the swell, and then I'll talk about all the places that I want to visit when we eventually make time to explore the swell properly.  (I'm hoping to work in a little side trip to the swell during our next trip back to Utah.)

When I'd planned our Southern Utah Road Trip, I'd been completely unaware of the wonders within the San Rafael Swell.  My plan was to visit as many state and national parks within the state of Utah as possible. But there aren't any state or national parks inside the swell.  In fact, the swell wasn't even listed on my highway map of Utah.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Galveston Island State Park - Galveston, Texas

Description: Galveston Island is the closest island to the city of Houston.  The island is a popular place to get away from the routines of city life.  There are numerous ways to relax, but perhaps the best way is to visit one of the island's many beaches.  Galveston Island State Park has beautiful natural beaches that are homes to many plants and animals. The park spans from the bay side with its calmer waters to the beach side where you can play in the waves of the Gulf of Mexico.

Location:  The state park is located to the west of the city of Galveston.  It is east of the city of Jamaica Beach.   The exact address is 14901 FM 3005 Galveston, Texas.

Cost:  The entrance fee is $5 for adults, and children under 12 are free.  Camping ranges from $15-$20 on the bay side and is $25 on the beach side.  There are also two large cabins starting at $200 a night.

Operating Seasons and Hours:  The park is open daily. Office hours are from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Thursday, and from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm Friday through Sunday.   Park gates are open from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm.  Busy season is from March through October.

Official Website:

Date of Visit: Wednesday, November 5, 2014

This was the third and last stop on the fifth day of the Texas Coastline Road Trip that my husband and I took our kids on in November of 2014. We finished up at NASA's Rocket Park at the Johnson Space Center, and then drove 30 miles south to Galveston Island.  We navigated though the city, turned west, and drove about another 10 miles to find the state park.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Black Dragon Canyon - West of Green River, Utah

Description: Black Dragon Canyon is virtually unknown compared to other features in Southern Utah.  But that doesn't make it less interesting.  This canyon has steep sandstone walls painted with desert varnish.  A short hike up the canyon leads you to ancient rock art. There are at least two caves located in the canyon.  The canyon's close proximity to I-70 makes it an easy side trip.  

Location: Black Dragon Canyon is less than 15 miles west of Green River, Utah, and only about an mile from I-70. It is located on the eastern face of the San Rafael Swell which is often referred to as the San Rafael Reef.

Cost: Free

Operating Seasons and Hours: There aren't any official hours, but exploring will be much easier in the daylight.

Helpful Websites: and

Date of Visit: Sunday, July 1, 2012

Black Dragon Canyon is a place my husband and I discovered while returning from a weekend rafting trip to Moab, Utah in 2012.  However, if we'd known about the canyon during our Southern Utah Road Trip in 2010 I'm pretty certain we would have planned a visit.

In fact, I'm positive I would have completely changed our route home in 2010 if I'd known about the amazing destinations within the San Rafael Swell.  Instead of travelling north through Colorado to get to Vernal we would have gone west to explore the unique and yet almost unknown features of the swell.  On this alternate route we would have left Crystal Geyser in Green River, Utah and driven 15 miles west to Black Dragon Canyon.

Monday, October 26, 2015

How to Plan a Road Trip: Part 1 - Finding Places to Visit

The other day my sister called me up and asked, "How do you decide where to go on a road trip?"  She recently moved from Colorado to North Carolina.  She wants to visit the many interesting places that are now withing driving distance of her home, but she's having trouble knowing where to start.

I knew how she felt because my family recently moved to Alabama.  In fact, in a really odd coincidence our families moved the exact same week.  I told my sister some of the things that I've done to decide on places to visit.  She suggested I turn those ideas into a blog post.  So here we go.

I'm going to take you through my process for planning a road trip.  I'm going to use a road trip I'm currently planning.  Due to my husband's training schedule I have no idea when we will go on this trip, but I'm in the early stages of planning it anyway.  I figure it will be easy to make a pre-planned trip fit his vacation schedule rather than try to plan something at the last minute.

Step One: Decide on a general area that you want to visit. 
Maybe you have a relative in another state that you want to visit. Or maybe there is a really cool landmark that you've always wanted to see. Or perhaps you are like my sister and me and have recently moved to a new state.  In my sister's case she's thinking of taking a trip to Washington DC or the Appalachian Mountains. For me, my focus has been on exploring Alabama. My family is only going to live here for two years at the most so I want to make sure I get to see as much of this state as possible.

Step Two: Obtain a Map and Travel Guide for that area
Travel Guides and maps are available for free from each state's tourism department.  You can pick them up at information stations and rest stops in each state, or you can order them online.  To make it easy for you, I've put together a list with a link to each state's website where you can order maps and travel guides. There are apps and things online that you can use, but I prefer to have something tangible to work with while I'm planning my trips.

Step Three: Gather other supplies
In addition to your map and travel guide you will want to have a notebook and a pen to write down all the places you want to visit.  A highlighter or marker is also useful for underlining things that you want to remember.

Step Four: Read the travel guide
It usually takes about two to six weeks for your maps and travel guides to arrive.  When they arrive plan to take a couple hours to look through the travel guide and highlight things that catch your eye. Even if you are some what familiar with the area you might be surprised at what is listed. My family enjoys visiting natural features like waterfalls and caves so those always seem to be what I highlight.  I also like visiting historic landmarks.  
Keep track of all the places that interest you in your notebook. Sometimes it helps to write down why you want to go there. Make sure you leave room to write in the price later.

Step Five:  Find out the price of each place that interests you
Travel guides will give you lots of information about different places, but they don't tell you the price of admission.  So you'll have to do additional research online to find out how much each place costs.  Usually it's not hard to find the price just by Googling the name of the place you want to visit. Write the price next to the place name in your notebook.

If you're like me, and will have a limited budget for your road trip, then knowing the price can really help you prioritize where you will spend your time.
This is what my notebook looked like while I was planning last year's Texas Coastline Road Trip
It can also be beneficial to google things like "Free things to do in _____. or Fun things to do in ______"  Your search results might come up with something that either wasn't listed in the travel guide or that you overlooked.

Step Six: Highlight your map
This step is especially useful if you will be visiting an area that you are not familiar with.  I've only lived in Alabama for 6 months so I don't recognize most city names.  Highlighting the cities where the things I want to visit are located helps me see the big picture for what areas we should visit on our trip.
When I highlighted my map I discovered that a lot of the places I want to visit are located in the Northeast area of Alabama.  We will probably spend several days in this part of Alabama during our road trip.

My next step will be to start figuring out which features we will visit on what days, and where we want to stay each night.  But that's a topic for another post.

I hope this has helped give you an idea of how to start planning a road trip.  I think you'll be surprised by how many interesting thing you can discover about an area just by doing a little bit of research.

I'm curious, how do you decide where to go on vacation?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Crystal Geyser - Green River, Utah

Description:  Southern Utah is full of unexpected features, but perhaps the most unexpected feature of all is Crystal Geyser.  This is a cold water geyser located on the banks of the Green River just a few miles south of the town of Green River.

Location:  The geyser is located along Little Valley Road less than 10 miles south of the town of Green River.   Detailed directions are included at the bottom of this post.

Cost: Free

Operating Seasons and Hours:  The area is accessible at all times.  The geyser is said to erupt about twice a day, but it is not on a very precise schedule.

Official Website:

Dates of Visits: Friday, June 29, 2012 and Saturday, July 7, 2012

My husband and I actually discovered Crystal Geyser during our Colorado Road Trip in 2012. It was one of our first stops as well as our last stop on that trip.  However, since the geyser is located near Moab, Utah I'm including it as part of the alternate route for my Southern Utah Road trip series.  If we had known about the geyser during our Southern Utah Road trip in 2010 we might have reworked our route and visited the geyser instead of driving on the Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway.

Monday, October 19, 2015

NASA Rocket Park at the Johnson Space Center - Houston, Texas

Description:  Rocket Park is a stop on the Johnson Space Center Tour in Houston, Texas, but it is also available to the public for free. The park contains a Mercury-Redstone rocket, the Little Joe II rocket, as well as some other large equipment from the 1960's space program.  The most amazing thing on display is an actual Saturn V Rocket which is housed inside a giant climate controlled building.

Location: 1601 NASA Road 1 Houston, Texas.  This is down the road from the main entrance where you take the tour of the space center.

Cost: Rocket Park, including the Saturn V rocket, is Free.  However, if you wish to see any other part of NASA, such as Historic Mission Control, then you will have to pay for a tour.

Operating Seasons and Hours: The Johnson Space Center Hours are 10:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Friday, and 10:00 am to 6:00 pm Saturday and Sunday.

Official Websites: and

Date of Visit: Wednesday, November 5, 2014

This was the second stop on the fifth day of the Texas Coastline Road Trip that my husband and I took our kids on in November of 2014. We finished up at the Nature Center in Brazos Bend State Park and headed east toward the NASA area southeast of Houston, Texas.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Fisher Towers Section of the Colorado River - north of Moab, Utah

Description: There are many ways to enjoy the scenery in Moab, Utah.  You can hike or bike on many of the trails.  There are even trails for your ATV or your Jeep. If you want a bird's eye view of the area you can charter an airplane ride, and if you are really adventurous you can even skydive.  But perhaps the most refreshing way to enjoy the scenery is to take a river rafting trip on the Colorado River.

Location:  This post features the Fisher Towers Section of the Colorado River.  This section is north of Moab, Utah. I've listed other places to raft in the Moab area at the end of this post.

Cost: Varies depending on the company that you go through and the length of your trip.  The Fisher Towers Section of the river is generally less than $75 per person for a full day trip.

Operating Seasons and Hours:  Mostly the spring and summer.

Helpful Website: Discover Moab is a great place to start when you are trying to learn about the different companies that provide river tours. I've also included a list of different rafting companies at the end of this post.  

Date of Visit: Saturday, June 30, 2012

This is part of the "alternate route" to our Southern Utah Road Trip.  During our actual road trip in 2010 all my husband and I did was drive alongside the Colorado River,  Rafting on the river was something we did two years later on a weekend trip.  I'm adding it to my Southern Utah Series because it is something you could add to your own trip to Moab.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway (Utah-128) - Moab, Utah

Description: Utah Highway 128 is a 50 mile byway that runs from Moab, Utah to I-70.  If you are travelling to or from Colorado this route is more direct than taking Highway 191 from Moab to I-70, and the scenery is much more interesting.  Much of the road runs alongside the Colorado River, and is surrounded by red rock cliffs and mesas.  The route passes points of interest such as the Dewey Bridge and the Fisher Towers.  There are also several hidden places of interest along the route.  Instead of being a shortcut - this route really could be the subject of it's very own day trip.

Location: Northeast of Moab, Utah.

Cost: Free

Operating Seasons and Hours: The route is open all year long, however some things may not be as accessible during the winter.

Helpful Websites: and

Date of Visit: Friday May 21, 2010

This was the second stop of the eighth day of the Southern Utah Road Trip that my husband and I went on for our third anniversary in May of 2010.  We'd spent the previous two nights camping in Arches National Park.  On the morning of our last day in the park we hiked to Delicate Arch.  When we finished with that hike we bid goodbye to the park, and started the next leg of our journey.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Brazos Bend State Park - Needville, Texas

Description: Brazos Bend State Park is less than an hour away from busy downtown Houston, Texas, but it feels like it's a whole different world.   The park's 5000 acres are home to wildlife such as many species of deer and birds as well as alligators who roam free through some areas of the park. In addition to the animals, the park is full of large Live Oak Trees practically dripping with Spanish Moss.  Water is abundant in the park with six lakes and numerous wetland areas.  Hiking trails cover the park and allow visitors the chance to see nature up close.  There is a camping area with sites for tents and RVs as well as an area with shelters. A Nature Center allows visitors to learn more about all the plants and animals in the area.  As if all that wasn't enough there is also an observatory in the park.

Location:  21901 FM 762 Needville, Texas.  Needville is 45 miles southwest of downtown Houston

Cost: $7 per adult.  Children 12 and under are free.  Admission is included in the Annual Texas State Parks Pass that is $70.  Camping starts at $12 for primitive sites and is $20 for sites with water and electricity.  There are also screened sleeping shelters for $25 per night.

Operating Seasons and Hours: Open daily throughout the year though the park does close to the general public during certain days during hunting seasons.. Park gates lock at 10:00 p.m.  Visitor Center  Hours are 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m Sunday through Thursday and 8:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m Friday and Saturday.

Official Website:

Date of Visit: Tuesday, November 4, 2014 and Wednesday, November 5, 2015.

This was the first stop on the fourth day of the Texas Coastline Road Trip that my husband and I took our kids on in November of 2014. We drove away from Goose Island State Park and headed toward Brazos Bend State Park which was southwest of Houston, Texas.  The trip would take us over two and a half hours.  We ended up taking a little longer because we planned to stop in the town of Angleton for lunch and grocery shopping.  Once we'd replenished our food supply we backtracked  west to the park entrance.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum - Calera, Alabama

Description: The Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum has something for just about every train enthusiast.  There are historic train engines, box cars, and signals on display outside the museum. Inside the museum there are actual pieces of train equipment from years gone by.  The gift shop has train books, movies, and toys to buy - as well as a toy train table for kids to play with.  Inside a historic train depot you can purchase tickets to go on an hour long train ride.  This is also a stop for special trains such as Thomas the Train and the North Pole Express.  There is even a train library that is open by appointment.

Location: 1919 9th Street in Calera, Alabama.  Calera is just 35 miles south of downtown Birmingham.

Cost: The museum is free.  However, riding the trains costs money.  Ticket start at $14 for an adult and $10 for a child.  The cost increases for different seating options and special events.

Operating Seasons and Hours: All the trains are outside so you can visit them anytime.  The gift shop is open from 9:00 am to 2:00 Tuesday through Friday and from 9:00 am to 4:00 on Saturdays.  The museum opens at 10:00.  There are train rides every Saturday at 11:00 and 2:00.  Special event trains have different hours.

Official Website:

Date of Visit: Saturday, September 12, 2015

Friday, September 11, 2015

Arches National Park - Highlights

Description:  As it's name suggests, Arches National Park is home to many stone arches.  There are over 2000 sand stone arches in the park.  World famous arches such as Delicate Arch, Landscape Arch, and Double Arch are found in the park.  There are many hiking trails that range from easy to strenuous that will take you up close to the arches.    

Location: The park is located in the Southeastern part of Utah.  The park is north of Moab, Utah.  The park entrance is located just off of US Highway 191.  The main features of the park are located within 10-20 miles from the entrance.  This park's close proximity to the highway makes it an easy place to stop and visit - even if you are just passing through the area.

Cost: $25 per car during peak times.  The park will only charge $10 during off peak times. (I don't have info on when those are.)
Entrance to the park is included in the $80 National Parks Annual Pass or the $50 Southeast Utah Parks Annual Pass.
Camping is $25 per night at the Devil's Canyon Campground.
There are also fees if you choose to go on the Fiery Furnace guided walk.  The fees are $16 for an adult and $8 for a child.  (Children under 5 are not allowed.)

Operating Seasons and Hours:  The park is open 24 hours a day all year long.  The Visitor Center is generally open from 9:00 to 4:00 with longer hours in the summer.

Official Website:

Date of Visit:  Wednesday May 19, 2010 - Friday May 21, 2010.  And Thursday, December 19, 2013.

This was the fourth and final stop of the sixth day of the Southern Utah Road Trip that my husband and I went on for our third anniversary in May of 2010. We left Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park and drove about 30 miles to the entrance of Arches National Park.  We camped in the park the next two nights, and spent the days exploring the many trails inside the park.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Eglin Beach Park - Destin, Florida

Description: The Destin Area of Florida is known as the Emerald Coast.  The water has a beautiful greenish tint that contrasts with the pure white sand on the beach.  Visitors come from all over to enjoy the many beaches on the Emerald Coast.  Eglin Beach Park in Destin, Florida is a private beach for all Department of Defense Personnel and their guests.  Military members of all ranks and all branches of service are welcome at the beach.  Retirees, Civilian Personnel, and Federal Facility Contractors are also allowed access to the beach.  Proper ID must be shown upon arrival.

Location:  Eglin Beach Park is located on Okaloosa Island just off of US 98.  It is west of the main part of Destin and just west of the Destin Bridge.

Cost: $3 per car on weekdays and $5 per car on weekends and holidays.  You can purchase a season pass for $75 if purchased in April or May. The cost for a pass decreases as the season progresses.  A pass purchased in June is $65, in July the cost is $55, and in August the cost is $45.

Operating Seasons and Hours: The beach is open from April to October. During the early and late part of the season the beach is only open Thursdays-Sunday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.  During the summer the beach is open every day of the week from 9:00 to 8:00.  Check the website for exact hours and days.

Official Website:

Date of Visit: Saturday, September 6, 2015

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Goose Island State Park - Rockport, Texas

Description:  Unlike the most of the other beaches in Texas, the beaches around Rockport, Texas have rocky shores.  Goose Island State Park is situated on one of these rocky shores.  It doesn't have a swimming beach, but instead has a very long fishing pier.  Away from the shore there are many coastal live oak trees that provide ample shade.  The most famous live oak, The Big Tree, grows about a mile from the main part of the state park.  The Big Tree has been growing for over 1000 years.

Location:  202 Palmetto Street, Rockport, Texas. The park is actually located 10 miles north of the town of Rockport, Texas.  You have to cross over the channel between Copano Bay and Aransas Bay to reach the peninsula of land where the forested part of the park is located.  Goose Island itself is just off the shore of the mainland in Aransas Bay.

Cost:  $5 for adults.  Children under 12 are free.  Camp sites costs $10 for a walk in tent only site, $18 for a wooded campsite with water and electricity, and $22 for a bay side campsite with water and electricity.

Operating Seasons and Hours: The park is open daily.  The gates are open from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm the office is open from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Official Website:

Date of Visit: Monday November 3, 2014 and Tuesday November 4, 2014

This was the fifth and last stop on the third day of the Texas Coastline Road Trip that my husband and I took our kids on in November of 2014. We drove away from the Port Aransas Ferry, and headed toward Rockport Texas.  Then we drove 10 more miles to reach Goose Island State Park.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Four Corners Monument - Utah/Arizona/Colorado/New Mexico

Description: The Four Corners Monument is the only place in the United States where four state lines touch.  Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico all come together at the Four Corners Monument.  People enjoy coming here so they can say they stood in four places at once.

Location: The monument is located just off of US Highway 160.  The monument is on the Navajo Nation Indian Reservation, and is managed by the Navajo Nation.  It is 6 miles from Teec Nos Pos, Arizona; 33 miles from Shiprock, New Mexico; 40 miles from Cortez Colorado, and 48 miles from Bluff, Utah.

Cost: $5 per person over the age of 6.  Anyone under 6 is free.  Cash only.  (The information number says it's $5 per car, but that is not what they actually charge when you are at the monument.)

Operating Seasons and Hours:  Open every day except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year's Day.  Hours are generally from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, though the park is open as late as 8:00 pm during the summer.

Official Website:

Date of Visit: Tuesday July 14, 2015

This was about the only sightseeing stop my sister and I made while we caravanned from Texas to Utah.  We traveled from Gallup, New Mexico to Shiprock, New Mexico and then decided that we should go check out the Four Corners Monument.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

25 Travel tips for Roadtrips with Pre-schoolers

This summer I took my four pre-school age children on a road trip through 18 states.  My husband was supposed to come with, but his training schedule made it so I had to go by myself.  Thankfully, I had help most of the way.  My kids and I traveled from Alabama to Texas by ourselves.  Then we caravanned with my sister and her children to Utah.  We were in Utah for my brother's wedding, but once that was over we went on a couple adventures including a trip to Yellowstone.  Another one of my sisters came with to help out on that trip.  We went back to Utah for a few more days, and then my sister, the kids, and I traveled all the way to North Carolina to visit another sister.  (We are a very close-knit, albeit far flung family.)  After a week in North Carolina we finally traveled back home to Alabama.

We traveled about 7000 miles in 5 weeks.  Days with over 12 hours of driving were common.  We slept in hotel beds, guest beds, beds made on floors, and we even slept in a tent one night.  We ate food out of a cooler on more occasions than I can count.

Through it all my kids were great travel companions.  Sure we had our difficult moments, but overall it was great.  During the trip I learned a lot of little tricks that helped things go smoothly.  I thought I'd share them here to help out those of you who are also crazy enough to travel with pre-school aged kids.

General Travelling Tips

1. Travelling is going to be really hard - but in a really good way

Around the 2000 mile mark on our way to Utah I came up with a good analogy for what it's like to travel with little kids:

It's a lot like childbirth. It's messy and uncomfortable, you end up screaming more than you planned, you are exhausted before it's over, you say and do things you never imagined, it's probably the very worst when it's almost over, and if you ever choose to do it again it won't be for a long time.

But it's all worth it because the feelings of accomplishment and empowerment are amazing.

Also you tend to forget all the bad parts and start thinking about doing it all again.

2. Travelling with Pre-schoolers is easier than travelling with a baby

In previous posts I've shared a lot of tips for travelling with babies and toddlers.(See the end of this post for links.) Some of those things still apply to travelling with pre-schoolers.  But some of them don't.  Overall travelling with pre-schoolers is so much easier than travelling with babies.  For one it was super easy to pack for this trip because I didn't have to bring any bottles, binkies, baby food, high chairs, or strollers.  I brought my daughter's pack-n-play, but she hardly used it so it won't come along on any future trips. I think the best part was that all my kids could walk every where on their own.  That made my life so much easier. 

3. Go with other adults

My husband was supposed to go on this road trip with me.  But when his training schedule changed it turned out that he had to stay home the whole time.  Luckily, I have some really great sisters who helped me out. One sister caravanned with me from Houston to Utah.  It was nice to have her watch my kids while I ran into bathrooms at gas stations or checked into motels.  On the way from Utah to North Carolina another sister rode in my car with me.  It was great to have another pair of hands to help the kids get what they needed or to load new movies into the DVD player.

This is something I've done on other long road trips as well. Last year my husband was in Korea for nine months.  I went to Utah for 6 weeks while was away.  My in-laws helped me drive to Utah and my parents helped me drive back to Texas.  Earlier this year my mother in law helped me with the kids as we drove to our new home in Alabama.  I've been very grateful for all the people who are willing to help me travel during the times that my husband is unavailable.

4. Drive late at night

In theory, you can get a lot of driving done late at night while the kids sleep.  It's also nice to drive through major cities late at night because you don't have to worry about traffic.  However, don't expect your kids to fall asleep in the car without a fight.  They usually start getting upset when the sun goes down.  I've driven a long way with lots of screaming kids after dark.

5. Drive early in the morning.

Leaving early is also a good way to get a lot of driving in while the kids sleep.  Twice on my most recent trip I got up at 3:30 to put sleeping kids into the car so we could be on the road before 5:00.  My kids would wake up a little bit, but they usually fell back asleep for at least an hour or two.
The only downside to this method is that  your kids are well rested while you are exhausted.  It can be really hard to show up to your destination and have kids full of energy when you just want to sleep.  So use this method if you have someone around who can entertain the kids while you catch up on sleep.

6. Pack extra clothes

Of course you'll have lots of extra clothes with you on a roadtrip, but you'll want some clothes to be readily accessible.  I usually pack a zip lock back full of extra clothes for my kids, and keep it in my backpack/diaper bag.  It comes in handy when they spill water all over themselves or get dirty somehow.

Tips for when you are in the car

7. Have a DVD player in the car

If you are looking for a post with ideas for how to entertain your children without electronics - well this isn't the post for you.  While I totally think that there is a time and a place for riding in the car without electronic entertainment - a 10 plus hour road trip with little kids is not one of them.  Honestly if it wasn't for our built in DVD player I don't think we'd ever go anywhere more than an hour away.  I especially like to show long movies like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe because I can get in hours of driving without hearing any complaints from the kids.

8. Bring some DVDs that play automatically (Such as, fast play DVDs)

Whoever invented interactive DVD menus must have really hated parents.  There is nothing worse than trying to cue up a movie for a child while wading through countless menu options like selecting a language, and wide screen format, and then waiting for cute little animations to play. It's even worse when you are driving.  That's why I really appreciate DVDs that automatically play the movie right after the previews.  Fast play DVDs and other DVDs that start up by themselves are also nice when the DVD remote has disappeared.

9. Bring a recording of book

At one point on the trip, my sister let me borrow her I-Pad and listen to a book recording.  (Brandon's Sanderson's Firefight if you are interested.)  This was great because the kids were able to watch Charlotte's Web for the billionth time, but I didn't have to listen to it.  Instead I was able to listen to the book.  The only drawback was that I felt like wasn't as focused on the road as I normally was, but that might have been because it was the third day of our trip to North Carolina.

10. Give you kids treats for getting in their seat belts

Rather than argue with my kids about getting into their seat belts quickly I provide an incentive for doing it.  Even when we aren't travelling I give my kids fruit snacks after they are in their seats.  When we are travelling I'll usually give them some of our travel snacks.  This trick has saved me many headaches over the years.

11. Duct Tape the seat-belt buckle to the side of the booster seat

Buckling seat-belts is hard - it's even harder when there are other car seats in the way.  One of the things we did to make it easier was to duct tape my daughter's seat-belt buckle to her booster seat.  That way she (or let's be honest here - I) wouldn't have to fish around under her brother's car seat to try and find that stupid buckle every time.

12. Put your kids in Pull ups

This is probably the last year I'll be able to get away with this, but even though my twins are completely potty trained I put them in pull ups on long road trips.  I just don't want to deal with "Mom, I have to go to the bathroom." on top of everything else I have to worry about.  Plus I can't imagine trying to get all four kids out of the car and running to the bathroom every time my girls need to pee.

13. Give your kids glow sticks at night

Nothing helps your kids accept the fact that you are still driving when it gets dark than glow sticks. You can usually find packs of them at the dollar store. I'll keep them in the glove compartment and get them out when it starts getting dark.  I also like to buy different light toys at the dollar store.

14. Put all you kids' shoes into a bag 

My kids love to take their shoes off in the car.  So I usually don't even bother putting them into shoes until we arrive at our destination.  I'll even factor in an additional 5 minutes to our travel time to account for putting on shoes once we get there.  While we are travelling I keep all the shoes in a bag that is attached to the passenger seat.  Once we arrive I'll pull the shoes out and help my kids put them on.

When we are done with our adventures I make sure the kids take off their shoes and put them back in the bag.  That way we don't have to try and find the shoes next time we need to get out of the car.

I especially like this system when the shoes are wet.  It's nice to have a place to put their shoes instead of letting the wet and dirty shoes get all over the car.
Our shoe bag.  I like that it has a zipper so it closes easily.

15. Drive for three hours and stop for one

Generally you should plan to drive for three hours and then stop for one.  It wont always work out that way - sometimes your kids will need a break after only 2 hours and sometimes you can stretch it to 4 or 5 hours without stopping (even longer if it's night time).  But plan for an hour break about every three hours of driving time.

Your kids will handle the drive a lot better if they get a chance to get out of the car and run around every so often. Rest stops are great places to let your kids run around.
The kids rolling down a hill at a rest stop in North Carolina

Tips for when you are at a rest stop or gas station

16. Go to the bathroom at rest stops

I was on my own for the part of the trip from Alabama to Houston.  I didn't want to have to take all my kids into gas stations, and tempt them with candy on the way in.  So instead, I made sure to stop and go to the bathroom at rest stops.  There was one time when we had to go into a gas station and just as I expected my son tried to grab a container of Pringles as soon as we walked in.

17. Stop and let your kids stretch their legs first before getting gas

There have been a few times where I stop for gas first and think, "we'll find some where to run around after I get gas."  Those times always end in disaster.  Either the kids scream in the car while I pump the gas, or the older ones get out of their seat belts and refuse to get back in, We have seriously had picnics at gas stations because the kids needed out of the car so bad.

So I've learned that its always best to find a place for the kids to run around and go there first.  Then we can get gas after the kids get their wiggles out.

Usually I'll stop at a rest stop and let the kids run around.  Then we drive to the next exit and fill up on gas there.

18. Fill up on gas when you reach the half tank mark

This is a good rule anyway, but it's even more important with kids.  I always make sure to fill up the gas tank after we reach the half tank mark.  This is good for your car because the fuel pump wont have to work as hard.  It's also just a good safety tip in case you end up on a stretch of road where there aren't many gas stations.  But it works really well with kids because they usually need a break from the car about every 3 hours which is generally how long it takes to reach half a tank. The only exception to the rule is if all your kids are asleep.  Then you drive for as long as possible.

19. Don't worry about finding the cheapest gas

I've found that on long road trips gas prices tend to even themselves out.  Sure you might pay more at one gas station, but you'll find a better deal later to make up for it.  It's not worth the time trying to locate the best deal. Even if you have an app that helps you find the best deal it's still not really worth it.  Think about it, for every minute you are off of the freeway you are now one mile away from your final destination.  So if you spend 15 minutes trying to find the cheapest gas in town then that's 15 miles (and precious minutes) you'll have to make up later in your trip.  And kids generally aren't that fun later in the trip.

If you're filling up at half tank you generally only have to buy about 10 gallons of gas at a time.  So if you found the cheapest gas station by 10 cents you've only saved $1.00.  Personally I'd rather save 10 minutes of total driving time over saving one dollar.

For me the "best" gas station is usually the one on the same side of the road as my exit.  That way I can exit the free way, access the gas station with a right turn, fill up on gas, and be on my way without all that mucking around with lots of left turns.  It doesn't always happen that way, but I love it when it does.

Tips for when you are at the hotel/motel

20. Stay in cheaper hotels

My parents love hotels and so when we traveled with them last year they paid the difference for us to stay in a nicer hotel than I was planning.  At first I was like, "this is so nice, maybe we should start paying more for hotels."  But then my kids started spilling things and I was like, "nope, I like staying in cheaper places because then I don't have to worry about my kids ruining the room."

Plus I don't like paying a lot of money for a room that I'll spend maybe 12 hours in.  I've found that after 14 hours of driving any room with a shower and a bed feels like a palace.

21. Ask for a first floor room

There isn't any pitter-patters of little feet in my house, its all stomp stomp stomp all the time.  When we get to a hotel my son loves to jump off the bed and land of the floor and stomp around the room.  On this trip I finally started requesting a first floor room when I check into the hotel.  That way we don't have to worry about disturbing the people below us.
My son preparing to jump of the bed. (This is from last year, but he does the same thing now.)

22. Unplug the phone when you enter the room.

My girls have always loved to play with hotel phones.  So I've learned its just best to unplug the phone from the wall as soon as we enter the room.  My girls even tell me now, "you forgot to unplug the phone."

23. Movies on Netflix

Most of the time we watch whatever is on TV at the hotel.  The selection of shows is terrible, but usually there is something fun and nostalgic like "Full House" or a movie from my childhood on.  Mostly it's a nice reminder of why we don't have cable. If my kids are having a hard time settling down I like to get out my laptop and turn on something on Netflix.  My go to movie is the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.  This movie is perfect because its entertaining enough that all my kids watch it, but it doesn't get them all riled up.  In fact, up until recently they always fell asleep during it. This is also my trick for getting the kids to be quiet when we are staying with people who need to get up early for work the next day.

Tips for meal times

24. Go to McDonalds last

For health and financial reasons we don't eat out for every meal of our trip.  Instead I bring a box and a cooler full of food.  We snack in the car and have little picnics at rest stops.  I'm even getting really good at planning dinners geared toward hotel microwaves. (I'll write a post about it eventually)  But by the end of the trip we are usually running out of food.  I always plan to go to McDonalds for dinner on the last day of driving. Fries and and ice cream do a lot to improve the kids' morale - especially when we still have a lot of night driving ahead of us.

25. Bring your own Happy Meal toys

My kids like the idea of Happy Meals, but they never eat anything besides the fries and the occasional chicken nugget.  The last time I bought a Happy Meal was last year.  My daughter acted so excited that I'd bought her a hamburger and then she only ate one tiny bit of the bun.  So I've given up on buying happy meals.  This year I went to the dollar store and bought some little toys for each kid.  Then I gave the toys to the kids after we were done at McDonalds.  They were happy to have toys and I was happy to save money.

At another point in our trip my daughters kept asking for a happy meal because they wanted the toys that were on display.  I took them over to the display and asked them what toys they wanted and why.  They wanted the little notebook and the purse.  I asked a few more questions and discovered that they didn't care about having the specific ones from the happy meal.  They just wanted a notebook and a purse.  So I told them that I'd get them some later.  Next time I went to Walmart I let them pick out a little note book.  (The purse is still coming.)

One Final Thing:

Over the years I've had a slogan for various things.  I start saying it while my husband and I planned our wedding, and now it applies to the adventures we take our kids on.  Here it is: "If you're not having fun you're missing the point."

So the biggest thing I want you to think about when you are planning a trip for pre-schoolers, is whether or not you and your children are going to have fun.  Sometimes the road trip itself isn't the fun thing - sometimes its the thing you have to go through to get to the fun thing, but you still should be thinking about fun.

The more fun your pre-schoolers and other kids have on your trip, the more likely they will be to want to go with you on more trips as they get older.  And that's what a good road trip is really all about - spending time together as a family and making great memories.

Good luck making memories!

Check out my other posts for more travel tips:

Tips for Traveling with Babies - 2012 Edition

Tips for Traveling with Babies/Toddlers - 2013 Edition

Friday, August 21, 2015

New Beginning

My twins started Pre-K today.  I keep imagining one of the teachers asking one of my daughters what she did that summer.  My daughter might reply with something like, "We went to Texas, and then to Utah, and then to Yellowstone, and then to North Carolina!"  And I'm sure the teacher will think, "okay, one of those has got to be wrong."

But no, we really did go on a roadtrip from Alabama to Texas to Yellowstone, back to Utah, and then all the way to North Carolina before heading home to Alabama.  We went to Utah for a wedding, and then did all the other traveling because we needed something to do while my husband was away at some Army training.  For five weeks I traveled the country with my four kids who are all under the age of five.  We had help from some of my sisters and other family members or else it really wouldn't have been possible to do all the things we did.

And it was great!  Check out the route.  I drove all of those 5,892 miles - actually the distance was probably closer to 7000 with all the little side trips and visits we did while we were in Utah.

I would be a little sad that we had to come home to reality - except for the fact that something big has changed in my reality.  Two (and hopefully three) of my kids are going to Pre-K this year!  For the first time ever I'm only going to have one child at home.  And she's a really easy kid.

I'm planning on using my new found free time to work on this blog, because let's face it, I'm hopelessly behind on it. I'm still chugging through writing about our Southern Utah Roadtrip that my husband and I went on in May of 2010.  And I'm also writing about our Texas Coastline Roadtrip.  Not to mention all the little day trips we take to explore things around our new home here in Alabama.  Plus I have at least five new locations from this latest cross country trip that I want to write about.

So hopefully you'll see a lot of new content appear here on a fairly consistent basis.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky vs Dead Horse Point State Park

Dead Horse Point State Park and the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park are located less than 20 miles away from each other.  When my husband and I planned our epic Southern Utah Road trip back in 2010 we planned to visit both parks in one day.  We stopped at Dead Horse Point State Park first, and then continued on to the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands.

If you have the time and the money you should definitely plan to visit both parks.  But what if you only have time and/or money to stop at one? Which one should you choose?

Is one park better than the other?

Here's my short answer.  We'll get to the long answer in a minute.  Which park is "better" really depends on what you want want to get out of your trip.  For instance, if all you want to do is stare in awe at a spectacular vista, then Dead Horse Point State Park is the place for you.  You'll be able to park your car almost at the edge of the overlook.  Then the view is yours to look at for as long as you want.  However, if you're interested in doing more than just take in an amazing view, then Island in the Sky is probably a better choice for you.  You'll get to see amazing vistas, as well as hike to a cool feature such as Mesa Arch.

So how do you know which park is better for your needs?  I've gone ahead and assembled this little comparison chart to help you out.

Let's talk about what you see on the chart.

Distance from Moab/I-70.  Dead Horse Point State Park is the closer of the two parks.  However Island in the Sky is not that much farther away.

Cost: Both parks cost $10 per vehicle.  The fee for Dead Horse Point covers only one day whereas the fee for Island in the Sky is good for 7 days.  You can also visit other parts of Canyonlands with the same visitor pass that you obtain from Island in the Sky.  There is also a Southeastern Utah Pass that you can obtain for $25 at Canyonlands.  That pass will give you access to Canyonlands National Park, Arches National Park, Hovenweep National Monument, and Natural Bridges National Monument.

Annual Passes: Whether you already have a National Parks pass or a State Parks pass could be a factor in picking which park to visit. Canyonlands National Park is included in the America the Beautiful Annual Pass that costs $80.  Dead Horse Point State Park is included in the Utah State Parks Annual Pass that costs $75.  Both of these passes are a great deal if you plan to visit other parks within the year.

Park Hours:  Island in the Sky is open 24 hours a day 7 days a week.  However, most of the trails and overlooks wont be very enjoyable in the dark. Dead Horse Point is open from 6:00 am to 10:00 pm every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Years Day.

Visitor Center Hours: Island in the Sky's Visitor Center is generally open from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, and has longer hours in the summer.  Dead Horse Point's Visitor Center is open from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.

Number of Hikes: Island in the Sky has 13 different hiking trails.  Some are from the overlooks down to the White Rim Trail, but others are to interesting features such as Mesa Arch and the Upheaval Dome. Dead Horse Point has 5 hiking trails, but they only connect various overlooks around the rim.  Dead Horse Point also has the Intrepid Bike Trail which is a serious of trails all on top of the rim.

Things to see and do:  Island in the Sky provides many more things to both see and do than Dead Horse Point.  In addition to the hiking trails that I mentioned above there are also chances to go backpacking in the back country or go on ATV trails.  Both parks have interpretive displays at their visitor centers, but the Canyonlands visitor center also has a short movie about the park.

Camping Facilities: The Willow Flat's Campground in Island in the Sky has 12 camp sites available.  These sites have tables, fire grills, and access to vault toilets.  Firewood and water are not available.  Each site costs only $10, but there are given out on a first come first serve basis so you should plan to arrive early to get a site.

The Kayenta Campground at Dead Horse Point State Park has 21 campsites available.  These sites have electricity, tent pads, sheltered picnic tables, and access to modern restrooms.  The sites are reserveable and each site costs $28.  There is a reservation fee charged of about $9.  There are also some cool yurts that are available for $80 a night.

If you still can't figure out which park to visit I encourage you to check out the posts I wrote about each park.  Maybe the pictures will help you decide.  Here's the link for Dead Horse Point State Park.  And here's the one for the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands.

Hopefully this post helps you figure out which park is "better." Ideally, you should try to visit both places.  If you can, plan for about an hour at Dead Horse Point and then for at least three hours at the Island in the Sky.


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Port Aransas Ferry in Port Aransas, Texas

Description:  Texas Highway 361 uses an unusual feature to connect Port Aransas to the mainland.  Ferry boats that can hold up to 20 vehicles work to carry passengers across the Corpus Christ Channel.  The short ride across the channel is provided for free.  It's a fun way to enjoy a ride on the water without paying any money.

Location: 619 W Cotter Avenue on the Port Aransas side.

Cost: Free - though there could be a wait time.

Operating Seasons and Hours:  Ferry boats operate 24 hours a day every day of the year.  The only exception is when the weather makes the water too dangerous.

Official Website:

Date of Visit: Monday, November 3, 2014

This was the fourth stop on the third day of the Texas Coastline Road Trip that my husband and I took our kids on in November of 2014. We left Mustang Island State Park and drove north for just a few miles to the town of Port Aransas.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Providence Canyon State Park Georgia: Re-visit

Description: Red sand is everywhere throughout the south, but rarely do you get the chance to see sand as interesting as it appears in Providence Canyon State Park in Georgia.  Here the sand has been eroded into beautiful canyons and cliffs.  Water flows through the canyons allowing trees and other vegetation to grow. Perhaps the most interesting part of the park is the fact that the canyons were created less than 200 years ago through erosion from poor farming techniques.  

Location: 8930 Canyon Road Lumpkin, Georgia.  Lumpkin is about 40 miles south of Columbus, Georgia and 100 miles east of Montgomery, Alabama

Cost: $5.00 per car

Operating Seasons and Hours: The park is open daily, generally from dawn to dusk. The Visitor Center is only open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday during the months of September, October, November, March, April, May, June, and the first week of July. Visitor Center hours are 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Official Website:

Date of Visit: Saturday, June 13, 2015

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

How to order Maps and Travel Guides for FREE!

Sometimes people wonder how I know about so many places to visit.  Some places I've learned about through word of mouth or through Pinterest, but I usually learn about destinations from reading about them in the guidebooks published by each state's tourism department.

Tourism is a huge industry that every state depends on for income.  Each state provides a free travel guide so you can see what interesting things they have to offer.  I love ordering a guidebook for a state that I plan to visit. When it arrives I take an hour or so and skim through the book.  I highlight things that stand out to me, and write them down in my trusty little notebook.  Later I'll look those places up online to find out their cost and other details.

It's really easy to find the guidebook for each state online.  All you have to do is search for "Free Travel Guide [State's Name]."  But because I'm nice, I've gone ahead and assembled a list of all the states with links to their tourism websites.

If you click on the link next to each state's name you will be taken to their tourism website where you can order a free brochure.  Each website is slightly different, but you usually need to select the brochures that you want. Then you enter in your name and address and some other basic info and click submit.  Some states ask if you want to receive e-mails, but you don't have to sign up for that. Most states also allow you to download the brochure immediately.  That's a nice feature because sometimes it can take weeks to receive your guidebook.

Many states even send you a free highway map.  I know you are thinking "I'll just use my GPS."  But trust me, a paper map can be very valuable.

If you don't have time to wait for a guidebook and map to arrive, you can pick them up while you travel.  Most states have Tourist Information Centers at rest stops or in large cities.  These places will provide you with guidebooks and maps for free.  The people who work in these offices are usually very knowledgeable about the area and can tell you about great places to visit.

This is a list of  all 50 states in alphabetical order:  I hope this will help you find a great place for your next adventure. 

Alabama -

Alaska -

Arizona -

Arkansas -

California -

Colorado -

Connecticut -

Delaware -

District of Columbia -

Florida -

Georgia -

Hawaii -

Idaho -

Illinois -

Indiana -

Iowa -

Kansas -

Kentucky -

Louisiana -

Maine -

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Box Canyon Springs - Wendell, Idaho

Perfectly clear water rushes out of the nations eleventh largest spring at the head of this box canyon near Wendell, Idaho. The water the...