New Orleans- Louisiana – one of my favorite cities in the world!!! There is nothing like it -it has its own culture, food and vibe is so special. There is so much history and music in the streets. Also the food is amazing. If you haven’t felt the vibe of New Orleans before put it on your list!
There is so much to experience in New Orleans- so many festivals and music in the streets- we are lucky enough to have attended Voodoo fest for Halloween (October 2003) & Jazzfest (April 2014) I have also been with my family as well (January 2016) and had just as much fun. Walk the streets of Frenchman for all the music with a drink in your hand- there is no open container law in New Orleans so feel free to drink anywhere. Explore the french quarter and walk down Bourbon street. Have beignets at cafe du monte. Take a river boat cruise and so much more!
Shenandoah National Park– Virginia– $20 vehicle or National Parks pass (May 2021)
Skyline Drive– this is the road through Shenandoah- it is a beautiful drive with lots of overlooks -Part of the Appalachian trail runs through the Shenandoahs so you will see hikers and be able to hike yourself. We did Little Stony Man it is 3.1 mile round trip hike.
Also Luray Caverns and Shenandoah Caverns are close as well. We visited Luray Caverns on this trip. Tickets are $32 and it takes a little over an hour to walk through. They are open 9am- 7pm Mon-Sun- We loved it. https://luraycaverns.com/
Here is a YouTube video I made of our trip through the south https://youtu.be/TqeU7ZLJFXs
Great Smoky Mountains– Tennessee– (May 2021) We stayed in Gatlinburg – it is cute but a busy town. Perfect place for good food and easy access to Great Smoky Mt National Park- Park is free but accept cash donations. In the park check out Clingmans Dome and the Chimney Tops- they are both in the same area. Check out Cades Cove- we saw 2 black bears and it is a gorgeous drive. We hiked the Laurel Falls Trails- which was easy and kid friendly. We didn’t have time to hike Abram falls but if you do add it to your list. While in Gatlinburg we took the chairlift to the Skylift Park and walked across the Skybridge- it is the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America. You buy a ticket there and it is $28.95 – ticket is good for the whole day. https://www.gatlinburgskylift.com/
Highlands of North Carolina– What a gorgeous drive. We stopped at Dry falls as it had a parking lot. You can see the other falls from the drive but limited parking on the side of the road.
Florida– Devils Den, Rainbow Springs, Three Sister Springs & Manatee swim (May 2021)
Florida is a big state and on this trip we decided to explore the panhadle to visit my family and down to the west side to explore the springs, Devils Den and swim with Manatees! We stayed in Homosassa spring area but the vibe was not our style so next time we would stay up by Crystal River.
Devils Den Springs – you can only dive or snorkel here. You need to either bring your own fins and mask or you can rent them there for $12 a person. Admission in is $15 per person Monday-Friday & $22 Sat &Sun- we went on a friday- you have to book an appointment ahead to time to enter. http://www.devilsden.com/ This place was very cool and highly recommend. We brought a water bag for our stuff. You can leave stuff in car or there is a picnic table you can leave your clothes and stuff on- its out in the open so we just did our clothes and put our wallet, phone & keys in our water bag.
Rainbow Springs– The water was so incredible. You can rent kayaks, tubes and paddle boards here. You can walk the trails with man made waterfalls. Or you can swim in the water in a roped in area. You are not able to touch the bottom so bring floaties for the kids- It cost $2 per person to enter this State Park. The water is so gorgeous. Felt like a mermaid! Highly recommend stopping here.
Three Sister Springs- you can only access this spring by kayak or swimming. We rented a cleak kayak from Hunter Springs Kayak- http://www.hunterspringskayak.com/ – it was around $90 for a clear kayak for 3 hours. They showed you a manatee protection video before you can get your kayak. We paddled for about 20 min to get to the spring. We did not see any Manatees in the springs but from November to March you can not kayak in case it is roped off due to Manatees. We went in April so it was open. We did see 2 manatees on our paddle back. The water in the springs was beautiful. The spring itself is small and can get crowded.
Manatee swim!! We went with Fun 2 Dive- https://www.fun2dive.com/ we got lucky and were the only ones on the tour so got a private tour! which they said was so rare so we felt super lucky. It meant we were the first ones out to the water cause we didn’t have to get a group ready. We got about 30 mins alone before the rest of the tours came in. I love the chopping sound they made when they eat the sea grass. You have to watch a video ahead of time before you can enter the water with manatees. You are not allowed to touch manatees. You just float, no kicking or fins and slow hand stokes. I loved when they would come up for a breath of air and pop their cute nose up- what an incredible experience!
Congaree National Park– South Carolina– (May 2021) as we headed back north to head home we stopped at Congaree NP- it was amazing- I have never seen anything like this before. We walked the boardwalk loop trail- which is the post popular walk- it includes both upper and lower boardwalk- 2.4 mile loop. Congaree is free to enter the park
Orlando- Disney – we have been to Disney twice- once staying at a resort taking a shuttle to the parks (December 2014) & once staying in an airbnb and driving in each day (June 2019) Both were great options. There are very inexpensive airbnb with 5 bedrooms and pools. The resorts are more convenient though. Either way you will have a blast. There is a lot to see and do and everyone will want different things. Choose to be together in the morning or afternoon. Then give others the space to split up and be free and follow their hearts- cause its like being a big kid and the little kids can explore. Trying to keep everyone together can be tiring so surrender! Have fun!
Walt Disney World has 4 theme parks- Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, & Hollywood Studios- you will want to stay for the fireworks at Magic Kingdom & Epcot, so either take a mid day nap or go later so you can all happily stay. You can also fast pass 3 rides each person. Take full advantage of that cause the lines are long.
Here is a YouTube video of the trip we took to Disney with Joe’s family https://youtu.be/0784tUsex6E
Here is the YourTube video of Rachel’s family trip to Disney https://youtu.be/QjdWo5E4XSM
From Orlando or Miami you can check out Everglades National Park, Biscayne National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park and the Florida Keys.
Atlanta, Georgia– Sweet Water Festival- The Sweet Water Festival is located right in downtown Atlanta in the Centennial Olympic Park- we stayed with friends in Atlanta but there is a couple hotels right across the street and air bnbs a couple miles away- there is also a ton of parking – you can reserve parking through the Sweet Water fest website at the red deck for $11 a day- you can reserve up to the Thursday before the festival- after that it you can’t reserve anymore and it will be $20 to park- you can also park right across the street for $50 a day- the set up of the festival is great- tons of food, a water station, and three stages – the water station can get pretty busy- and there was def more Saturday tickets sold and felt super busy- but Thursday & Friday was not busy and felt perfect!! Sunday we got a spot early so they felt good- it was so beautiful at night to see all the building and wheel light up- highly recommend this festival