First-Timer’s Guide to the Gateway Arch

One of the coolest things to do in St. Louis is visit the Gateway Arch. Built in the 1960’s this giant is 630ft tall in the center and towers over the Mississippi river . One side of the arch overlooks Illinois and the Mississippi, while the other overlooks the city of St. Louis. You will want to have a plan before arriving at the park. If you visit the arch on a nice day, you will want to take a stroll before exploring the arch itself. You can get some pretty epic photos within the national park so definitely allow some time for a photoshoot with your friends and/or family. Below is a First-Timer’s Guide to the Gateway Arch with some important things you’ll need to know.

First-Timer's Guide to the Gateway Arch

buy tickets online

You’ll want to buy tickets online if you want to skip the ticket line. The line can get really long, really fast so make sure you buy tickets online so all you have to do is wait in the line for security. School trips and tours are frequent visitors so make sure to get to the arch at least 45 minutes before your ticket time.

the security line

The security line is pretty lengthy. You won’t be allowed to join this line until 30 minutes prior to your tour time. The security here is just like TSA at the airport. The only difference is that you don’t need to take your shoes off at this one. They have an X-Ray machine for your coats and bags. The park does not allow pets, luggage, weapons, or alcohol on the premises so don’t bring your beer either. The line moves fairly quick but in bad weather it can be a drag so dress accordingly.  The line begins right at the front doors and you will be standing in line outside the building. Once you get through security you might want to use a bathroom before you take the tram to the top. There are no bathrooms until you come back down.

the tram ride

Did you know you can take a tram ride to the top of the Gateway Arch? If you want to get a birds-eye view of the city and Mississippi river you can ride to the top. Warning: If you are easily claustrophobic you may not want to ride to the top of the arch. You will need to sit in a small pod with 4 other people (your knees will be touching the person’s across from you and beside you). You will also bump your head (if not almost bump your head) a few times trying to sit down inside. The doors are clear and you can see the iron work from the inside of the Arch. Don’t worry, there are stairs all the way up incase you get stuck.

the top of the arch

Once you get to the top they will tell you to skip the first 4-6 viewing windows so that everyone can get into the arch easily. The trams run continuously so you won’t be stuck up there for long. The very top is about the width of a small passenger aircraft with small windows on each side. You may have to wait a few minutes to be able to get to a window, but the view is amazing. The Mississippi River is viewable out one of the sides, and there is an amazing view of the city of St. Louis out of the opposite side. You likely will not be able to move around very quickly due to the amount of people a the top, but you won’t need to hang out long. Once you finish continue across the arch to the opposite side and descend down the other leg of the arch.

the gift shop

If you need somewhere to grab a gift or two for friends or family the gift shop has loads of merchandise as well as some pretty awesome fudge. There is a section near the back that has native american history as well. There are books, tumblers, coffee mugs, magnets and more to choose from. The staff was very friendly and there was a lot to look at.

If you choose the option for the riverboat ride along with your arch tour, it is located on the east side of the arch down the steps towards the Mississippi river. You can also visit the Old St. Louis Court House within the same National Park, but you will need to walk a bit to get there.

Share your own Arch stories in the comments below
Check out my day trip suggestions for S. Louis here.

St. Louis Day Trip Itinerary

Looking for the best places to see and things to do in St. Louis? Look no further! Below I have come up with the perfect St. Louis day trip itinerary for a first timer. Keep in mind there are SO many more places to see and things to do. This list is mainly just an over view of the most famous places to check out. One thing we were unable to do on our weekend trip was check out the Budweiser brewery and Blues Museum, so don’t forget they are there too. St. Louis is full of history and there is so much more to it than most people know. The itinerary below is made up merely of suggestions and can easily be tweaked to fit your personal needs. Happy travels!

St. Louis Day Trip Itinerary

7AM- Wake up and get ready for the day

If you are driving from far away, or if you stayed over night in the city you will want to get an early start. So I recommend trying to get there the night before and staying overnight to get a fresh start. If you can, valet your car for the whole day. You won’t need if you have an Uber or Lyft app. There are literally Ubers everywhere and we had a wonderful experience with all our drivers. Get up early and take some time to get ready, you will be out all day so pack smart.

8Am- the mud house

St. Louis Day Trip ItineraryCall on an Uber or Lyft and take a ride over to The Mud House for breakfast and coffee or tea.
This is rated one of the best places to have brunch/breakfast in the city. Get there during their busiest time and you might be standing in a line clear out of the front door. You may have trouble finding a table due to the limited space, but the coffee is delicious. In the warmer months they have tables for patrons to use out front of the cafe as well. The atmosphere is welcoming and has an urban feel. The walls are covered in eclectic art and instead of order numbers you’ll receive a funny photo or meme to mark your table for the runners. We didn’t try it, but the french toast looked amazing. If you aren’t one for french toast try a breakfast platter. The jam is delicious.

9am- The gateway arch and tram ride to the top

St. Louis Day Trip ItineraryWe recommend checking out the gateway arch as early as possible. They start tours of the arch
at 9am. Be sure to buy tickets online before your visit as ticket lines can get pretty lengthy. This is a national park service so there are park rangers and you will need to go through security. The line for security is the longest line you will stand in today. It’s a lot like airport security except you won’t need to take off your shoes. Try to get to the arch about  45 minutes to an hour earlier than your scheduled tour time. You can enter the security line 30 mins prior to your tour time, and the extra 15-30 minutes will allow for you to take a walk around and take photos of the arch and Mississippi river. Take the ride to the top and come down the opposite side. You may get claustrophobic from the tram ride since they cram 5 people in a tiny capsule. The ride is about 4 minutes up and 3 minutes and 30 seconds back down. The top of the arch is like being in an airplane, it is extremely stuffed and there are a lot of people. Take a quick look around both sides of the arch and then descend.

11pm- Riverboat cruise on the mississippi river/courthouse

St. Louis Day Trip ItineraryOnce you are finished checking out the Gateway Arch head down the stairs towards the river and board your boat and get a tour of the Mississippi. They serve snacks and drinks on the riverboat so you can also grab something small to eat since you might be a little hungry. Hear about the famous Louis and Clarke crossing the Mississippi in St. Louis and expanding our country westward. (There is also a Great Westward Expansion Museum in this park but in 2017 it has been closed for renovations).

If it is a little too cold for a Riverboat cruise you can also check out the old Courthouse where the Dred Scott case was heard. The court case that arguably started the entire civil war was originally fought right here in St. Louis. If you are a history buff and love Civil War history (and even if you don’t) this beautiful building is a good place to stop and walk around.

2pm- anheuser-busch brewery (BUdWEISER)

We did not find the time to check out the Budweiser Brewery during our day trip to St. Louis, but we wish we had. We heard great things about this one from our Uber driver and friends who have visited before. The brewery is located very close to the Mud House, but on the opposite side of the highway. You can see the big brick building from the street. They offer tours to see how the beer is made and they also keep their stables with the Clydesdale horses from the commercials. At the end of the tour you can sip your beer and check them out. This is definitely one spot you don’t want to miss.

4pm- pappy’s smokehouse

St. Louis Day Trip ItineraryEver had Memphis BBQ? Missouri is home to some of the best BBQ in the entire country. Pappy’s has been featured on the Travel Channel and is well known in St. Louis for amazing ribs. You’ll be able to see the smokers out front of the restaurant under an awning right next to the street. There is a parking lot directly behind the restaurant and what looks like a side door is actually the front door. You will stand in line for 30 minutes to an hour or longer to be able to order, but it is VERY worth it. The fall off the bone ribs are some of the best we have ever had and you can choose your own BBQ sauce or try them all. Every table has four flavors of BBQ sauce to choose from. My favorite was the Pappy’s Original BBQ, but there are sweet and spicy sauces as well. Keep in mind, Pappy’s sells out daily and they stay open until everything is gone. It is best to get here as early as you possibly can if you want a large selection to try.

Before or after dinner I recommend heading back to the hotel for a bit and freshen up, it’s been a long day.

7pm- city museum/bowling

St. Louis Day Trip Itinerary
If you have kids, and even if you don’t, the city museum of St. Louis is a really cool place to check out at night. The museum is geared towards kids with tons of slides, tunnels and really cool exhibits to play in. There is even a ginormous ball pit and a huge section of caves to explore. After 5pm kids start to disappear and young adults come to have a drink and walk around the museum. There is a 10 story spiral slide that starts on the 10th floor and spirals all the way down to about the 2nd floor. If you get roof passes there is a huge ferris wheel and some additional slides you can try out. One in particular faces the river and you can get a really cool view of the bridge. There are three bars in the museum including one on the roof so if you are afraid of heights and a little nervous about the slides, have a few cocktails. We recommend a “Mama’s Lemonade” made with blueberry vodka, lemonade, and blueberries.

There are also some really cool bowling alleys in St. Louis. One in particular we saw and wanted to try but did not have the time was Flamingo bowling. You can see the bowling alley from the street and it is full of pink neon with a bar and large glass windows. It was packed when we drove by after 8pm and looked like a pretty popular place to hang out.

other awesome places to see

It is really hard to do absolutely everything in St. Louis is a single day, but you can at least see the big things. If you can stay longer we recommend trying all of the above places as well as the Blues Museum on Washington Avenue. There is so much to see and do in a city full of so much history as this one. If you would rather check out the Riverboat rides at night, they do nightly cruises as well as dinner cruises. City Museum also hosts wedding receptions and parties. Be sure to stop in the gift shop in the Arch for some fudge as well.

Comment below with your favorite places to visit in St. Louis. Where can you get the best BBQ?
Check out some carry-on bag packing tips here

Quirky Places to Stop on a Cross Country Road Trip

Quirky places to see in the u.s.

When you are driving across the country you spend a lot of time in the car rather than outside. It can get extremely monotonous. One of the best things you will experience are road side attractions. Some of the places you stop at briefly will provide the best memories when looking back. For me, my favorite memory of the cross country trip I took with my parents is simple. We stopped in Rapid City, SD for lunch before we went to see Mount Rushmore. We stopped in town at this small restaurant that made AMAZING bison burgers. For a year and a half leading up to this point I avoided red meat completely. I’m not sure if it was the fact that I had been deprived of red meat for so long or that the burger was really magnificent, but that was the best burger I ever had in my life. Whatever you do, make sure you stop at as many unique places along the way as you can.

wall drug

Unique PlacesUnique Places

You literally can not miss the exit for this attraction. When you are driving down the highway there is nothing around but hundreds if not thousands of signs for miles on I90. There is a Wall Drug gift shop, a saloon, an Inn, and the Wounded Knee Museum on main street. It actually sits on the edge of the Badlands national park and is quite close to the entrance. The little town is full of charm and looks like something out of an old western. You won’t want to miss this famous stop. There is even a large covered wagon with plaster horses for a photo op, and they have a “traveler’s chapel”.  Check it out, you won’t want to miss it.

the corn palace

Unique PlacesUnique Places

Located in Mitchell, South Dakota off of I90 is one of my favorite quirky places. The facility is a few stories tall and located off the highway. The entire outside of the building is made of corn. Yes, that is correct. Every year murals are constructed on the sides of the palace and they are completely made of corn. Inside is a gift shop and an arena where rodeos are held. You can buy basically anything in the shape of corn at this place.

south of the border

Quirky Places

This place is a lot like Wall Drug except less western and more Mexican. South of the border has signs every mile or so leading up to the exit. As a kid we would drive to Florida from South Jersey and South of the Border was our halfway mark. South of the Border is well known for the large sombrero tower visible from the highway and the entrance is a large billboard in the shape of a man with a mustache and a sombrero named Pedro. Drive through Pedro’s legs to find a parking spot and grab something to eat at one of the many cafes/restaurants or take a ride up to the top of the sombrero in a glass elevator. Tired from a long drive? Spend the night in a hotel room here or it’s RV campground.

calico silver mines

Unique PlacesUnique Places

Check out this ghost town off of veterans memorial highway (I15) in California. This little old silver mining town is full of really cool stuff. Check out the ghost tours once the sun goes down. You can even take a look in the old school house, get locked up, and check out some of the town buildings. There are tons of quaint little stores to shop in as well with really great soaps and incense.  The old mines are still there although they are not open to the public due to safety. If you need to stay the night near by there are a few camp grounds off I15 as well as the ghost town campground on ghost town road. You can always drive a little bit further towards the California coast and stay in Los Angeles or Rancho.


How To Learn A Foreign Language Without Taking a Class

Je m'appelle

Bonjour! Ciao! hola! guten tag! konnichiwa!

As a young kid I always wanted to learn a foreign language. Learning a foreign language can be a lot of fun and there are tons of ways to do it. I was born in the U.S. so English is my first language. As a child I picked up a little bit of Italian from my grandfather and his brothers and sisters who were immigrants from Italy. However, even being around them speaking it quite often together I was unable to follow. Although I am not fluent in French, I took six years of French classes from 7th grade through high school. I’m totally not fluent in French, but from time to time I find myself dreaming in the language (crazy, I know). Taking a language in school is one way to learn it, yet there are many other ways to conquer a language. You may not be able to speak it fluently, but you will be able to navigate the country if and when you decide to visit.



mobile Apps

There are a ton of different mobile apps and games that teach you how to speak another language. You can explore by topic and before you know it, you’ll be counting in a foreign tongue! The apps range from free to a couple dollars to download, but they are well worth it. You will learn so much and there are many different types of apps. Some apps allow you to play games, others are full of flash cards, and some simply teach you phrases. A lot of the apps have play-back so that you can even hear how the words should be pronounced.


If you are the type of person that learns best through reading, then picking up a simple dictionary or book can help you learn a foreign language easy. You can check out your local bookstore and see if you can spot any good ones. Barnes & Noble has a great selection. Make sure that you make some flash cards though, the best way to learn a language is to practice out loud. I definitely recommend at least buying a book to teach you the grammar or help  you form phrases.

You tube

This sounds really weird, but there are some cool videos on You tube that can help you learn a language. The ones I find that help me most are ones that use song to help you learn. WORDPIE is the channel I use. They have a ton of different languages and about 40 songs for each language to help you learn.


This one if my favorite. You can totally change your view on google to show everything in another language. Start to just search google under whatever language you want to learn. Using a few translation tools and having a little knowledge of the language will help you navigate the sites and you will learn a ton.

What about Rosetta Stone and other teaching devices like it?:

Rosetta Stone is a great product and it can really help you learn quickly. I bought the Italian version and learned a lot on the first 2 discs. My computer ended up crashing and when I tried to download it on my new computer it did not work. You will need to keep the little card that you find in the box the disc comes in, this has the number you need to download it to your computer. If you lose that card you will not be able to download the discs and unfortunately the company can not help you. I had paid over $400 for the first few sets and I was completely out of my money. They refused to help and claimed that they did not have a record of my purchase a few months earlier even though I bought it through their site. I was informed I would need to repurchase everything. I was extremely disappointed in their customer service, but if you want to learn a foreign language quick this is a great way to do it. The product is amazing and I still recommend it, but buyer beware.

un peu de tout

(a little of everything!)

The best way to learn a foreign language is to immerse yourself in the culture the best you can. If you can visit that country then you will learn more than a book could ever teach you. Use all of the tricks I listed above and try to find anything in that language and read it. I am guilty of reading the instructions and warnings in French on the labels of soaps and sanitizers. Read the inserts of your new electronics, chances are it came in at least 2-3 different languages. The more you expose yourself to, the more familiar with the language you become. Before you know it, you’ll be holding full conversations.


Have any other suggestions? Comment below!
Leaving for a trip soon and wondering what to pack in your carry on bag? See my post here

Essential Carry On Bag Items You Should Never Forget

Important carry on bag items you shouldn’t leave at home
(or pack in your checked luggage)

Carry on items

Packing your carry on bag is an important part of your travel experience. Whether your flight is only 45 minutes long or you have 3 layovers; pack your carry on bag smart.  Make sure you giveyourself enough time to plan without making last minute decisions. The first thing you should do is make a list at least a week ahead of time. I always do this first so that I can buy anything I still need. Here is a short list of what I keep in my carry on bag:


My Journal

Not only do I journal about my day to day life, but I also write down any life goals or ideas that pop into my head I don’t want to forget. Sometimes I have blog post ideas randomly jump out at me and I have to write them down or I will completely forget. Keeping my journal with me also assures that it won’t be lost in transit.

My passport, wallet, ID, and cell phone/iPad

Do not put these thing in your checked bag. Luggage is lost in the airport every single day, not to mention you won’t make it through security without proper identification. Keep your cell phone on you, even if you don’t think you will need it right away. Plus, a lot of flights offer free wifi for at least an hour of the flight so you can check your social media. Bring your iPad on the plane with you and you can stream movies and play games on your apps.

A Magazine

I know Skymall magazine has some interesting things in it, but bring a few magazines from home. I love antiques so I usually pick up a copy of Flea Market Magazine if I’m feeling creative or Travel + Leisure any other time.

Activity Book

You can pick up a book with 100 word searches, sudoku puzzles, or crossword puzzles. Bring a pen and keep yourself occupied for a few hours. You can find them at dollar stores or a drug store like Walgreens.

A real Book

Pick up a book at an airport kiosk. Some airports offer a rental service so you can read  the book on the plane and drop it off at a kiosk in the airport at your destination. You can also pick up a book from barnes and noble or download an ebook from amazon to your nook or kindle.

A toothbrush and tooth paste

I always carry my toothbrush and toothpaste in my carry on bag. On long trips with multiple lay overs you can start to feel pretty gross without a shower. Brushing my teeth makes me feel fresh, plus I can brush my teeth after I wake up from my 5 hour nap.

Deodorant and a change of clothes

I always bring deodorant and a change of clothes. Be sure to dress in layers when you are traveling. Planes vary in temperature and if you are near the exit you’ll probably freeze your toes off in flip flops. Sometimes it is super hot and muggy though, and you will want to reapply your deodorant. If anything, bring a change of underwear if you will be traveling over 24 hours. It’s worth it.

My Camera

I always bring my GoPro on board the plane with me. It’s easy to get through security and you never know when you might want to document something. There could be a celebrity on your flight or maybe you have a really funny flight attendant who is doing stand up comedy. You just never know what you’ll see.

neck pillow & head phones

If you don’t already have one, invest in a neck pillow. You can get super cheap ones at a dollar store, but you get what you pay for. Check out Brookstone‘s collection of neck pillows and travel accessories. You can wear it around your neck in the airport if it doesn’t fit in your bag. Make sure to bring head phones so you can listen to your iTunes as well. Some flights try to charge you for head phones to watch the in flight movies, but bring your own and the movie is free!


The last item I always add to my carry on bag is a snack (or three!). I always tend to stop and grab a bag of something salty and something sweet for the plane. I just never know what I’m going to crave once I’m up in the air. I have been on flights where they ran out of the available snacks. ( I know, I was devastated.) That’s why I always grab a large bottle of water and a couple snacks in the terminal incase of a “snack emergency”.


Have something you can’t get on a plane without? Comment below!
Traveling with pets? Check out my article on Tips for traveling with your fur-baby.


UnderGround World Hidden In the Pocono Mountain Range



“Wonderland” or “Alice” is a world found within an old viaduct over the Delaware River. Many locals frequently trespass onto the property for the graffiti art and beautiful views. It is located fairly close to the New Jersey and Pennsylvania state border. Most people drive right past it on the interstate without ever knowing it is there. If you can find the location, you will need to park on the side of a road. You’ll then need to walk down a small trail and over a few concrete road blocks. Eventually you will find yourself at the top of the viaduct covered in gravel from the old rail roads that ran over this bridge in the past. On both sides of the bridge are beautiful views of the Delaware River.


Towards the center of the bridge you will find a manhole that is not covered with a ladder that descends down into the viaduct. If you are brave enough, go down the ladder for what feels like forever. At the bottom you will find yourself near an opening and surrounded by graffiti. There is graffiti art everywhere and you’ll get another breathtaking view of the Delaware River. Take a moment to breathe in and out and just be.

Remember to be safe when checking out this location. Since the viaduct is on private property you are trespassing and can be arrested for being here without permission. While I have never personally had any issues, you should always be aware of your surroundings and be careful. The ladder down into the viaduct during rainy weather is exposed so it is very slippery. Be sure to we are comfortable shoes or shoes with grip. Do not try to descend the ladder in heels or boots.wonderland

Know any other cool places in Pennsylvania to check out? Comment below!
Going on a road trip? Check out my post about road trip essentials.

6 Awesome Places Near Atlantic City You’ve Never Heard Of, But Need To Visit.

the stigma

When most people think of New Jersey they think of crumbling industry and  big polluted cities. People think of it as a lesser version of New York and no one seems to want to give it a break. Believe it or not, there is more farmland in NJ than there is acreage in the state of Delaware. You can find some of the most beautiful sunsets, best flounder fishing, and the most quaint little towns in the entire country. Although Atlantic City is not at it’s peak, there are many beautiful places around it. Some places within a 30 to 40 minute drive of the city are worth a minute or two of your time. Below are my favorite places in and around Atlantic City, NJ that you didn’t know existed, but definitely need to see.


6 places (shockingly) located in and near atlantic city

the Historic Town of Smithville


Smithville village


The small historic town of Smithville is located north west across the bay from Atlantic City, NJ. The little village is full of shops and restaurants with amazing food and great atmosphere. They also have revolutionary war time themed re-enactments and host two craft fairs during the year; May Fest & October Fest.  Previously surrounded by pine barrens, Smithville is now the heart of a small town.




Locals and travelers alike love to come walk the old bridge, feed the ducks, and have a slice of pizza or “Stockton Bomb” from Costello’s sitting on the deck over the small lake. Take a ride in the duck boats or have a competition at the “shooting range” to see who can score the most points. The Smithville Inn is an old restaurant that was once a stop on the stage coach route which is now Route 9. The Inn dates back to 1787 and some believe that many of the stores  around the Inn are haunted.

Santa visits at Christmas time and a haunted train ride is fun for all ages during the month of October. Carolers sing during the holiday season and a large Christmas tree lights up the train station near the center of town. You can even stay over night in the village and enjoy a relaxing weekend by visiting their website, here.

Gardener’s Basin

Atlantic City

Second story deck of Back Bay Ale House

Gardener’s Basin is a small area of Atlantic City that barely seems like Atlantic City. One of the best places for a good breakfast in the city is Gilchrist which makes amazing eggs and breakfast sandwiches. Drink a warm cup of coffee and look out over the bay as the sun begins to rise behind you.

Start your afternoon by checking out the little shops and then head over to the Atlantic City Aquarium. Although it is quite small there a lot of really cool “touch” exhibits and craft areas for kids depending on the time of year. They have a decent amount of aquatic life and some really cool relics from old ships to diving suits. There is even an observation deck where you can see a good distance over the city.

Atlantic City

basin mason

Back Bay Ale House is the home of the famous “Basin Mason”. Try a 32 oz mason jar full of delicious adult beverage you can select from their cocktail menu. The drinks are both satisfying and strong for $12.50. If you order a 32oz jar they do have a 2 drink limit and trust me you won’t need a third one. They have mouth watering clams and amazing fish entrees to choose from. The small upstairs balcony, which can have up to a 3 or 4 hour wait time to be seated, has the best view of the sunset. There is an outside bar under the second floor balcony that sits about 100 yards from Scales

When night falls Scales Grill & Deck Bar has the best entertainment. Fairly new after the old building that once stood in its spot burned down a few years ago, Scales provides live entertainment and a fun atmosphere. Located directly on the water, you can either boat here or drive.

Ocean City boardwalk

Ocean City

Jersey Girl

Ditch the Atlantic City Boardwalk and drive 15 minutes south on the parkway until you get to the Somers Point & Ocean City Exit. Pay the toll and follow this road over the 9th street bridge and into Ocean City. One of the last dry towns in the United States is nestled right in southern New Jersey. Ocean City is one of the best shore towns for families with two amusement parks, a large arcade and miles of boardwalk. The beaches are clean and have life guards during the summer months.


Ocean City

Have a Khor’s Bros ice cream cone, enjoy a show at the Ocean City Theatre Company, or play a round of mini golf at Congo Falls. Gillian’s Wonderland Pier sports a huge ferris wheel and rides geared toward smaller children. Take a walk down the boardwalk a little further and find Playland’s Castaway Cove a pirate themed park with rides.


Ocean City

Ocean City boardwalk

Grab a slice of famous Manco & Manco pizza and sit on the boardwalk enjoy the beautiful views of the ocean. Check out the shore stores that line the boardwalk to purchase your own hermit crab and a bright neon t-shirt or sweatshirt with an obnoxious saying. You’re in New Jersey, so why not?

Cape May, NJ

cape may

Located all the way down the parkway South to Exit 0 from Atlantic City is Cape May, NJ. This not so little town has a million things to do. From the concrete walkway along the ocean, to the southernmost tip of NJ, to the shops and bed & breakfasts throughout the town there are so many things to see. Check out the Cape May lighthouse, which also happens to be the place my husband and I got engaged in 2015. You can get perfect sunset pictures at the top of the light house and on the beach. While you are there, check out the old ship wreck a few hundred feet away on the beach.

Cape May

Cape May light house

Walk around down town, or rent bikes to ride to the beach. Stroll down the cobble stone streets and eat an ice cream cone and stop at the Lobster House restaurant & raw bar. This is one of the best places to eat in southern New Jersey. You can eat dinner in the 5 star restaurant which is a little more business casual, or sit on the deck by the clam boats and order from the raw bar wearing your flip flops.


Take a walk back in time and explore this old town about 30 minutes west of Atlantic City in the pine barrens. Batsto is a New Jersey state park with large old barns, mills, and trails to explore. Keep an eye out for the Jersey Devil who is known to roam these woods and has been spotted in the area. The village dates back to 1766 when a large iron works plant was built there. Over time, the natives of the town eventually all died or moved out. Today it is a historical land mark in the state.

The village is right near the river and is well known for hiking, biking, star gazing, and glass making. It is a great place for the whole family to spend some time out doors and exploring history.

the edwin b. FORSYTHe Wild Life Refuge

Located in Oceanville, NJ the wildlife refuge is a beautiful place to reconnect with nature and is found 12 miles from Atlantic City. You can drive, hike, or bike around the 8 mile one way dirt road. Climb the observation towers to get a bird’s eye view of 47,000 acres of preserved wetlands. You will find amazing views for landscape and nature photography as well as diverse species of birds.

When you are finished exploring the wild life refuge trails, check out the Noyes Museum which offers a ton of culture and history of the area. The museum is full of local art and offers many arts and crafts days for kids and is a collaboration with Stockton University. The staff is very friendly and the show room offers interesting art work and beautiful views of Lily Lake.

Like this article? Check out some of my others, here
Have something to add? Leave a comment below!

Taking Trips with Pets

Flying with your fur-baby

Many people today have pets and the majority of those people think of them as their family, as my husband and I do. We treat our cat, Fester, like he is our child sometimes. So how could you go on a family vacation without bringing along your four-legged friend? Taking trips with pets can be stressful for both you and your pet. Make sure that you have your pet checked by a vet to be sure they are in the best condition possible before bringing them away with you.

You will need to buy a carrying case for them and they will need to stay inside it. The exception to this rule is if you have a service animal or a doctor’s note stating they are a “companion”. This allows you to keep them out of their carrying case, even on board your flight! Provided your pet is under the weight restriction and able to fly under the seat in front of you, they can sit in your lap for the duration of the flight.

If you have an animal that is easily irritated and upset you might want to find some way to help calm them. Some vets offer medication for this, but there are natural alternatives as well. When we moved to Wisconsin, Brandon’s mom sent Fester to us. His dad hopped on a flight to Chicago for work where we picked him up. She used a lavender essential oil collar and he had no problems. Our cat Fester slept right through the flight and stayed awake, but calm, through the 3 hour car ride to our new home. Do remember, that your pet may be drowsy for a short while before finally waking up once you remove their collar. The Sentry Collar that Brandon’s mom  used can be bought for both felines or canines and come in many sizes.

Choosing a carrying case for small pets

Taking trips with pets

My sister carrying her cat, Mika.

Taking trips with pets

One of the best carrying cases for a cat is the cat pack. There are a few versions of this out there. A popular one right now is a back pack with a round window for your cat to look out of. My sister bought one that you can wear as a back pack or you can roll it behind you. It is made of mesh, very breathable and it provided enough room for her cat to be very comfortable.

Make sure that your pet fits correctly in the traveling case you choose. If you plan on bringing your dog or cat into the cabin there are regulations to follow. You will need to make sure that the carrying case will fit underneath of the seat in front of you. Check-In will make sure that your pet’s case is up to regulations. Beware. If your case is not up to regulation you can be turned away. If you buy a new carrying case bring it in a few days before your flight to make sure it will fit.

Another thing to think about when taking trips with pets is whether they fit comfortable inside their case. Your furry friend should be able to turn around completely inside their carrying case. If your animal is unable to turn around completely,  your flight representative may turn your pet away. Try it out ahead of time.

Remember, before a flight do not feed your pet since they can sometimes get motion sickness. Unfortunately, your kitty or doggy does not get a barf bag to use. Make sure they are sedated, they remain in their case, and they do not eat prior to any flights.

taking trips with pets: on the road

Taking Trips with Pets


Taking trips with pets







If you need to bring your pet on the road with you, you may want to use an SUV. You should try to make an area for them to lay down on their own bed if possible. Most animals do not like the car so you may want to use the lavender collar I mentioned above, here as well.

You will also need to factor in time to stop for bathroom breaks if you have a dog. A lot of rest stops have areas for your dog to use for activity or bathroom. For cats, you can bring a litter box in your car. If you do bring a litter box, keep in mind you may need to open a window every few hundred miles. Make sure you keep your cat in a carrying case in cars as well. They can be distracting or they may even escape through an open window.

Be sure to always keep your pet on a leash, even with open windows. Just tie the leash to a spot in the car that is safe. Always be sure to bring extra doggy bags for “number 2” and get them enough exercise daily. It’s good to bring them a a few toys to keep them distracted as well and make sure you bring enough food with you for the entire trip.

Sharing your life with your pets is so important to many, so it would be terrible to leave them at home. When taking trips with pets be sure that your pet is comfortable. Whether your fur-baby is in the back of your car or under the seat in front of you, make sure they are healthy and you follow all airline regulations. If you do all this then you should have smooth sailing.

Happy travels!

Spooky Destinations (Just In Time for Halloween!)

Spooky Destinations 2017

Beware of the living dead, (Spooky Destinations 2017)

Spooky destinations perfect for halloween

In the spirit of Halloween, I decided it would be fun to do a post about spooky destinations. Growing up on the East Coast there were a lot of really cool haunted attractions within an easy driving distance. Here are a few of my favorite spooky destinations for Halloween. Feel free to share your own in the comments section. There are so many great haunted attractions all around the United States and elsewhere. Below is a list of my all time favorites.

Kilmainham Gaol –Dublin, Ireland

One of the most amazing (and creepy) places I have ever visited was Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin, Ireland. This castle-like prison sits in the middle of Dublin and has an eery sense to it. The prison held many children during the potato famine. Many women and children purposely stole so that they would have food to eat during the winter months. During this time, the prison was so full that people were sleeping in the hallways and did not have a cell.

In 1916 the fourteen leaders of the Easter Uprising in Dublin were executed by firing squad in this jail’s stone breaker’s yard. Walking around the outside of the yard is unsettling, and you can feel the strong energy trapped in the stone walls from this event. Two black crosses in the spot of the executions stand as a constant reminder of the tragedy that occurred here.

Bate’s motel — Glen mills, Pennsylvania

One of the scariest halloween attractions I have ever been to is Bates Motel in Glen Mills, PA. This haunted attraction has been around for 27 years as of 2017. There is a haunted hay ride, haunted trail and  a haunted house on the property. You can buy tickets for all attractions, or just one. In recent years they have added four different “escape rooms” each with a creepy theme.

One of the best things about this property is the special effects. Not only are there real actors, but there are also animatronic monsters. This is an area favorite and they offer a lot of great deals during the season including military and college discounts. This one involves a lot of strobe lights and pyrotechnics. I wouldn’t recommend this attraction for anyone suffering from epileptic illness.

Eastern State PENITENTIARY –Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Eastern State Penitentiary: Terror Behind the Walls is another spooky destination that I highly recommend. This is one of the oldest prisons in the United States and even held a few celebrities. Al Capone, a gangster who organized the St. Valentine’s Day massacre in Chicago, IL is among one of the most famous. At night during halloween time you are given a flash light and let loose in the halls of the penitentiary. There are actors in creeping through the halls and in the cells that seem to come out of nowhere.

The Eastern State Penitentiary is a haunted attraction when the sun goes down during the Halloween season, but it is a historical landmark year round. You can take guided day time tours all year, and it is still quite creepy since there is no sunlight that gets inside these walls.

Mickey’s not so scary halloween party –disney world

If you have young children (and even if you don’t) Disney World is a great place to visit during Halloween. Get your tickets to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and get excited! All your favorite characters are there to celebrate the spooky time of year. If you’re lucky you might even get to see the headless horseman ride through just before the parade and fireworks!

Make sure that you pack your costume for the party because EVERYONE gets dressed up. The lines for all the rides are super short and the best part is all the trick-or-treat stations for the kiddos. Be prepared to come home with A WHOLE LOT of candy because almost every ride has a trick-or-treat station. Don’t forget to ride the haunted mansion while there and make sure you stop into Sleepy Hollow in Liberty Square for a Jack Skellington cake pop that is absolutely killer.

Fright Fest — Six Flags

As a season pass holder for Six Flags: Great adventure in South Jersey as a teenager, I attended fright fest every year. There are many six flags across the U.S. and these parks do an outstanding job scaring the crap out of people like me. One year I actually had a man with a chain saw chase me around the entire park for about 4 hours. He would follow me in line for rides and then be waiting for me to come off. Later I found out that my friends actually paid him to do this, but none-the-less these parks are awesome.

You don’t need to dress up and even though the parks are exceptionally crowded you can take advantage of haunted trail walks and other Halloween specific attractions. Some of these parks also do nights where they invite a hypnotist and you can see a show. Fright fest is a spooky destination that is definitely a lot of fun, but not all that terrifying.

Halloween horror nights –Universal Studios Los Angeles, Ca

Universal Studios at first reminded me of fright fest, but on a completely different level. The haunted maze attractions and the actors inside them at horror nights are absolutely phenomenal. Everything from make up to the special effects are stunning. The best part is there are actors everywhere hiding out waiting for you to come around the corner. No one is safe and everyone will get a thrill. I would not recommend bringing small children. Young adults and teens seem to be the main focus group for this attraction. If you are in the Los Angeles area in October this is a must see.

Hotel of horrors –Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania

If you find yourself in the Pocono mountains in Pennsylvania around Halloween be sure to stop at this 200 year old Hotel of Horror. The abandoned hotel formerly known as The Lake House Hotel is well known in the area for it’s paranormal activity. The best part about this tour isn’t just the live actors who literally come out of walls to scare you, but the fact that the place is actually haunted. You might encounter a ghost (or two) while wandering the hotel in the pitch black. It wouldn’t be a surprise to have someone tap you on the shoulder while you are walking through, only to find no one was behind you.

The walkthrough starts in the basement and ends on the ground floor and takes you in and out of rooms as you walk up and then down the entire hotel. If you have any heart conditions, this one might not be for you.


Have a favorite haunted attraction that I didn’t mention? Let me know about it in a comment and you might see it on my 2018 list!

Road Trip Essentials

Road trip essentials

Wherever you go, go with all your heart

Road trip essentials for long drives

The road trip essentials I listed below are some things I can’t go on a long road trip without. Many of them can be tweaked to fit your needs. Also, be aware that along with the things listed below there are so many other important items to remember like a spare tire and jumper cables. In 2013 my parents took me on a road trip across the country that was full of memories we will never forget. That trip was the best vacation my parents and I have ever taken. The road trip essentials I’ve listed below have treated me well and I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

  • Pour over coffee maker (with coffee grinds and travel mugs. The one I use is here. If you can’t drink this type of coffee you can stop at a coffee shop or you can always buy the pre-packaged Starbucks coffees.
  • Car charger for your phone, watch, and any other electronic devices. See here.
  • Your hiking boots! It’s common to find impromptu hikes in remote areas. Why not stop and enjoy a little? Hot out? Check out my favorites; Keens or Tevas. They are much alike but have some important differences so research and try both. I used Keens in Hawaii, but use my Tevas when hiking in my home state of Wisconsin.
  • In contrast to those hiking boots, bring slippers to wear in the car to keep your feet warm and cozy.
  • A Flare gun. We carried one with us when we drove across the country. It not only can be fired into the air in the event of a serious emergency, but anyone trying to rob you probably doesn’t want it shot at them either.
  • Layered jacket. Temperatures above and below the mason dixon vary greatly and can change in an instant. Find a good jacket that has layers that you can zip in or out . It also helps if you have lots of pockets. I use this kind here.
  • Protein bars and energy drinks. For protein bars I use Quest, cookie dough and cookies and cream are my two favorites. You wouldn’t even know that’s what you’re eating. I use to swear by red bull but I really love Uptime energy drinks. They are way healthier and full of vitamins and minerals your body needs through out the day. So ditch the red bull and pick up some uptime.
  • First aid kit/Medicine bag. I’m a medical assistant so I am always aware things might not go as planned. Pack a first aid kit/medicine bag with essentials for headaches, cuts, and anything else you might think of.
  • If you are going to be camping make sure you bring a weather radio to stay aware if weather conditions begin to change rapidly. Make sure to also have a heavy duty flash light like this one and spare batteries incase you have some night time car troubles or need to find something in the dark.
  • Bring a camera. I recommend buying a Nikon 2100 if you want still shots since that’s the one I am about to purchase too, or use a GoPro. I have the Hero5 and shoot everything with that, you can take still frames of whatever you want and even pull stills out of your video that still have really great quality. Plus you can document all those impromptu and “promptu” hikes.
  • Bring cash. Make sure you bring cash with you on your road trips. Even though credit cards are pretty universal now, cash is still king. Plus, if you stop at a small town shop along the way that doesn’t take credit cards you’ll be left high and dry.
  • Hopefully you do not break down, but make sure you have AAA or road side assistance through your insurance Incase of any car problems. If you rent an RV or a car then make sure that you ask the rental service questions about how many shops they have and what you should do incase of an emergency. If the rental company tells you not to drive through Death Valley, you probably shouldn’t drive through Death Valley on this road trip.
  • Bring a tent and/or get a membership for a campground found in multiple places all over the US. KOA is the one we used and it was really easy and the employees were super friendly.
  • Bring survival gear. Probably not a road trip essential because you most likely won’t get stranded and if you do someone should be along soon enough, but you never know. Especially if you are hiking in large parks, be prepared. Bring a lighter or fire starter, iodine kit to purify drinking water, and some rope (survival straps are enough, See here.) You most likely won’t need any of this but if there is a situation that arises you’ll be completely prepared.
  • A good guide book and a map. Learn how to use a real map, not just the one on google. Surprisingly enough there are a lot of dead zones in the US. (Yes, there are people without internet and WiFi out there). Learn to use a real map and mark out your planned trip before you leave to help you follow it more easily. You can usually pick a good one up at Barnes and noble

If you can think of any more road trip essentials to add to this list comment below!