Why Lansing, Michigan Might Surprise You

Are you looking for a place to unwind with friends, take in some history, dine on exquisite food and enjoy a weekend of fun with family oriented activities? Well if so then I have a secret to share – Lansing, Michigan has more to offer guests than one might expect. Just take a look at how I experienced all of these things and more during my recent trip to the State Capital of Michigan. 

Disclosure: This trip was sponsored by the Lansing Tourism Bureau. All opinions are my own.   
Why to Visit Lansing Michigan #hosted

Lansing, Michigan

When you tell people that you are taking a trip to Lansing, Michigan they may ask you two questions: Are you visiting someone at the university or going on business? However, on a recent tourism trip to the area, I found Lansing to be so much more than just a collegiate town or center for business meetings – I found Lansing to be a place I would want to take my family, a place to hang out with friends and a place to spend the weekend to have some good ol’ fashioned fun.

Old Town Lansing

The first place I checked out during my stay was Old Town Lansing – a historic shopping district (of course). As I walked down the streets past the obviously retro buildings, the buzz of pedestrians and chatter from people sharing a street-side bench surrounded me. I could tell right away that there was a community here and that the people enjoyed coming together in it. In one of the nearby parking lots people gathered to observe an outdoor junk art exhibit, one of the many different community exhibits this city puts together each year. 

Art exhibit in Lansing, Michigan #hosted

As I walked along further, following the sound of one of the communities outdoor public piano’s, I came across a gourmet popcorn shop called Cravings. I loved the retro feeling of the outside sign so I proceeded inward to find that I was able to taste test several different exotic and unconventional popcorn flavors right in the lobby – such as dill pickle, salt and pepper and BBQ. To tell you the truth, the dill pickle was my favorite and I liked it much better than traditional buttered popcorn. Who would have guessed? 

Cravings Popcorn in Lansing Michigan #hosted
Cravings Popcorn Flavors in Lansing Michigan #hosted

My final stop in old town Lansing was a carnivorous restaurant appropriately named MEAT. Here patrons are welcome to dine on fabulously BBQ’d brisket, turkey, pork and other types of meats -while those searching for a vegetarian option are ironically handed a drink menu. They do, however, serve a pretty kickin’ mac-n-cheese. Just an FYI. 🙂 

MEAT review in Lansing Michigan #hosted

State Capitol Tour

Not far from Old Town Lansing, I could see the State Capitol building standing tall. I could remember taking a tour of this Capitol building as a middle school student, but back then I don’t think I appreciated it to it’s fullest – as I am sure my kids wouldn’t appreciate it today. However, during this trip as an adult I found myself mesmerized by the intricate carvings and designs in the architecture, the history behind the Capitol buildings beginnings and the way the government system still worked here today. The best part about this tour – its completely free! Just show up any Monday – Friday , 9 a.m to 4 p.m. and follow along with a guided tour through the hallways and offices of the Michigan State Capitol building.

Take a Michigan State Capitol Tour #hosted

Michigan Historical Museum

After finding out how Lansing came to be the State Capitol of Michigan, I next headed to the Michigan Historical Museum to browse some of the vintage cars and artifacts from the area’s past. Walking in to this museum was like walking in to the streets and homes of era’s from the prehistoric through the 1950’s and today. In one room I was guided through a dark copper mine where I could hear the clank of the pick axes. Next I was walking through Motown and checking out a retro kitchen. Being a museum lover – I must say that is museum is one of the better ones. Its very well put together and not very busy. 

Tip: If you plan to go on a Sunday it is free admission for everyone!

Dine at Red Haven

With the farm to table craze sweeping the area, I was excited to visit Red Haven, a gourmet, small plate restaurant of this sorts located within the greater Lansing area. This place came highly recommended and I must say that I found the recommendation to be spot on. The menu was short and the plate sizes were small, but that was the idea. This restaurant encourages guests to try more than one item from the menu, share with friends and dine in a way that encourages socialization. While I was there I tried the zucchini blossom, the buffalo burger and for dessert a chocolate anglaise. Even though I was a little confused with the tomato foam on the stuffed zucchini blossom, everything was spectacular and I cannot go back again and try more menu items. 

Eat at Red Haven in Lansing Michigan #hosted

Watch a Baseball Game

Lansing, Michigan also happens to be home to the Lansing Lugnuts – the area’s professional baseball team. After dinner we found our seats at the Cooley Law Stadium and got ready for the game. I had forgotten how much I liked to watch baseball – in person that is. I was quickly caught up in the moment of singing the national anthem, drinking beer and watching people drive around the field shooting hot dogs into the stands. Everyone at the game was excited and that vibe rippled through the entire audience. They were here to have a good time and it made the experience just that much better. After the game ended (we lost, boo) the stadium put on one of the most spectacular fireworks displays. I hate to admit it, but they were better than my city’s fourth of July ones. I wont say that too loud. 

Going to a Lugnuts Game in Lansing Michigan

Take a River Boat Tour with River Town Adventures

To end the weekend in style, we jumped in a riverboat and floated happily along the Grand River which runs through the city. Stepping on to that boat was like stepping into a canoe in the early settler days. The river banks were grown with natural flowers and brush, the fallen logs along the river allowed us to view turtles sunning themselves in the warm morning sun and with every turn of the river bend we were welcomed with more lush and calming views. It was a beautiful sight, not at all what I expected to see when visiting the State Capital of Michigan. 

Taking a tour with River Town Adventures in Lansing Michigan

In the beginning as I headed on a road trip in to the city of Lansing, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. However after diving in to all of the amazing adventures greater Lansing had to offer all I can say that Lansing will surprise you and leave you wanting to come back time and time again. After all, during this trip I only touched on the surface of what the area has to offer. To find out more about the adventures you can have, visit the Lansing Tourism page

Want to watch a quick two minute re-cap of my weekend? Here it is!

Where to Stay

For this trip I stayed at the Radisson downtown. Excellent hotel, close to all of the area attractions. Plus, it has a Starbucks in the lobby. Win/Win.

Have you visited Lansing, Michigan on vacation? What was your favorite thing to see or do in the area? Share your comments with us in the section below. 

Finding Myself in Chicago with #SoFabUOTR

This last weekend I headed back into Chicago for a chance to meet with and learn from the folks at Social Fabric at the SoFabUOTR conference. The single day conference turned out to be a great opportunity for gaining new knowledge, making new friends and even sightseeing Chicago. But it was what I learned about myself during this trip that really surprised me. 

This grant was  provided to me by Collective Bias, Inc. All opinions are mine alone. #SoFabUOTR #CollectiveBias
#ad #SoFabUOTR Chicago

Lately I’ve started to feel like a Chicago transplant – two trips back and forth from there in the last three weeks and I’ve started to become comfortable in the city and have even come to adore it. However, this last trip I took completely solo. That’s right – driving, train, taxi, meals, hotel stay – all by myself. This was actually my very first long distance, solo adventure and I would be lying if I didn’t say that I loved it!

As my train bumped along down the tracks into the city, I felt empowered – here I am all by myself and I didn’t even feel scared. I am woman – hear me roar! After a few hours of watching the scenery fly past me in a state of calm chaos, we entered the underground platform. It was dark, with only a couple of dim orange lights here and there. The train squealed to a stop. I could smell the weird, unfamiliar smell of the tracks. This was it? This is where we stop? This place didn’t look at all like the nice platform I got on to enter the train. This was dark, unfamiliar and dirty. As I peered uncomfortably out the window the entire inside of the train went dark. I felt my stomach take a quick jump up into my chest to hide. This is what I wanted – I kept telling myself. This doesn’t scare me. This doesn’t scare me. . . This doesn’t. . .

I stood up and grabbed my suitcase from the overhead bin – almost crushing under it’s weight. Still, with all of my travels under my belt, I have yet learned how to pack lightly. Some day I might know better. As I made my way to the light filled doors I saw a nice looking man standing there. Can I help you with your bags, mam? – he said reach his hand out towards me. I smiled, grabbed my bag in my hand and said “No thank you, I’ve got this”.

#ad #SoFabUOTR Downtown Chicago

The first thing I did after getting into the city was grab a bite to eat. Eating comfortably by ones self is the first step you need to accomplish in order to be a solo traveler. As a mom that normally ends up eating while standing up as I refill drink glasses, get a towel to clean up spilled drink and subsequently refilling the drink – this meal was a welcomed break.

At the end of my meal at a cute little street side diner, I stood up and confidently stepped out to the side of the street, lifted my arm and hailed a cab to take me to my hotel. I bent down to peer inside the window. The man driving the cab looked nice – he smiled as I opened the door to get in. Within moments of taking off from the sidewalk, however, he placed a small earbud into his ear and began speaking very softly to someone on the other end. As I watched him in his rear view mirror I would see him peer up at me- squinting as if to study my appearance. He continued to speak softly into his phone. I began to look around me to verify with myself that I had actually entered a real cab. After all, I wasn’t paying that much attention in the first place. I was just so excited that I had hailed my own cab. How could I be so stupid? I really should have paid more attention. I began to plan my exit plan just in case the cab took a turn down a road I didn’t recognize. I held on to my luggage a little tighter and prayed.

Either I wasn’t what the cab driver was looking for or I was just being way to overly paranoid, but moments later we pulled up in front of my hotel – he stopped the car and once again smiled. I paid my fare and pulled my bag out of the cab with a big thump as it hit the sidewalk. For a moment I just stood there, looked up, took a deep breath and sighed. I had made it. I rule the world.

#ad Chicago Buildings #SoFabUOTR

After getting into my room, part of me wanted to hibernate and call it a night. It was only 1pm and I had nowhere I needed to be until morning when I was scheduled to meet up with the other SoFabUOTR conference attendees. But I wasn’t about to let myself waste away my day because I felt uncomfortable. I was going to get out there and do something. I had to. So I booked a boat tour of the city and pushed myself out the door. The boat tour was really cool, BTW. If you’re ever in the area, definitely check it out.

#ad Boat Tour in Chicago #SoFabUOTR

When morning arrived I made my way upstairs and into the conference room full of other women and a couple of men. Breakfast was being served, so I grabbed a plate and walked into the room full of tables and chairs. Flash back to high school – where should I sit? Again, I took a deep breath. “Hi, is this seat taken?” The two ladies at the table looked up at me and smiled, “No, go right ahead”.

The single day of learning went like a whirl wind. Throughout the day I challenged myself, made new friends, and felt the reward of gained confidence with every added obstacle. All around me I heard similar stories of fellow writers who were also pushing themselves down an unpaved path as I was. There were uncertainties, fears and accomplishments felt as a whole. Each one of us was on our journey alone, but together this day we found camaraderie. This is what it is all about, I thought. Finding our unique place in the world and sharing it with others.

#ad #SoFabUOTR Chicago

As the day ended with a fun ride on a double decker tour bus and a happy hour at 52Eighty, I too felt happy. I felt the internal reward of challenging myself to step out of my comfort zone and open myself up to a new experience. I laughed with new friends, swapped business cards and promised to keep in touch. Then I grabbed up my bags and headed back towards to train station alone – after all, my next adventure awaited and I wasn’t about to miss it!

#ad Chicago Night Scene #SoFabUOTR

Check out this fun video I made during my short time in Chicago with #SoFabUOTR. It was such a great experience. And if you want to check out SoFabUOTR writers conference for yourself – you can do so by clicking here.

Have you ever traveled alone? How did it make you feel? Tell me about it in the comments. 

How to Prepare for Travel with Kids #ImagineSpring

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for OshKosh B’Gosh. I received a promotional item to thank me for my participation. #ImagineSpring
#ad #ImagineSpring How to Prepare for Travel with Kids
I remember when preparing for travel was easy. I used to put little thought into my trips or what I needed to bring. Sometimes I wouldn’t even be completely sure where I was going, I was just happy to be along for the ride. Then when I had kids, things changed for me. I would get easily overwhelmed at the simple thought of preparing for travel. I would over pack and worry for weeks about what I needed to do and bring. Over the years as my kids and I started to become accustomed to traveling together, we’ve learned to created our own rhythm of preparation. Being prepared ahead of time has helped everyone (especially me) relax and enjoy the process of travel even more. 
Below are a few of the things that we do to prepare as a family for traveling. 

1. Shop Early – Find the best deals.

Preparing for travel, especially spring travels after the long winter, usually means that new clothing is needed for the kids. At their age, they tend to sprout through sizes quickly and we often find that last years clothing doesn’t fit when we bring it back out of winter storage. Waiting until the last minute to find clothing to pack is just an added hassle. I like to watch ahead of time for spring sales to pop up and take my time to find clothes that my kids actually like and will wear again after the trip. Plus, shopping the sales ahead of time helps me save a lot of money, which is welcomed with the cost of traveling itself. 

#ad #ImagineSpring OshKosh B'Gosh Spring Clothing Line

One of my favorite places to shop spring break fashions for my kids is OshKosh B’Gosh. I’ve found their clothes are comfortable for my kids, which is important if you’ve ever listened to a child scream hysterically in the back seat of a car because their shirt is itching them. We also love OshKosh B’Gosh because their clothing is fashionable, cheery and bright colored; perfect for a fun day in the sun. Plus, right now OshKosh B’Gosh has some amazing deals going! Just be sure to print this coupon and take it with you to your local OshKosh B’Gosh store to get extra savings on top of their already great spring break deals! 
#ad #ImagineSpring OshKosh B'Gosh Coupon
2. Don’t procrastinate packing.

It goes without saying that waiting until the last minute to pack means taking the chance of forgetting something important, like a favorite stuffed sleeping buddy. I like to start early on preparing to pack by setting aside things I know we want to take or making a list of everyone’s must have’s. By making a checklist I can cross things off as they enter the suitcase or car. Also by doing this I am able to enjoy heading out on our trip instead of mentally going through everything I “think” we forgot to pack. 

3. Create a mini first aid kit.

One of the reasons preparing for traveling with kids scared me in the past was because I feared being away from home and having one of my kids get sick or hurt. What would I do? While no one can prevent kids from getting sick or hurt during travel, I can help ease my own worry by preparing ahead of time in case something does happens. To do this I have created a small first aid kit that I bring with me on every trip. The kit includes things such as bandages, antibacterial ointments, over the counter medicines and past medicines prescribed by their doctors for re-occurring issues. It’s funny how now when people get a small cut on a trip, they come to me because they know that I will be prepared.

#ad #ImagineSpring Boys Spring Clothing
Boys Clothing from OshKosh B’Gosh Spring Line. 

4. Let the kids help. 

Involving the kids in travel preparation has become liberating for me. While before I would spend my time negotiating with my kids about what they could and could not bring (which if they had their choice would be everything they owned because they NEED it all), now I give each child their own bag and allow them to take responsibility for what they want to take on the trip. They are only allowed to bring what will fit into their bags, so I have found that they make more conscious decisions about what they really want with them and what can stay at home. Plus, my kids enjoy having their own bags to carry and finding things to pack in it keeps them busy for awhile as I make sure other things are ready to go. 

5. Find destination books.

This is a cute new idea that we are starting to adopt for our trips. Ahead of time, when we decide upon a travel destination, I like to search for kids books that include that destination. It could be an educational book about the particular location or a book with a story set in the same location as we are going. Reading it to the kids before we leave helps to create a sense of familiarity and excitement about our travels. 

6. Set a spending limit before leaving. 

Being prepared for souvenir buying ahead of time has helped my family create a reasonable spending budget for our trips. Plus, especially with my young children, they seem to want to buy something at every stop we make. Since running into an issue with this we have adopted the idea of giving each child a small amount of money which they can use to buy their own souvenir’s during our travels. Once the money is gone, it’s gone. This has helped them make better choices about what they really like and has cut down on the cases of “I want’s” during our trip. 

#ad #ImagineSpring Girls Spring Clothing Line from OshKosh B'Gosh
Girls Clothing from OshKosh B’Gosh Spring Line
7. Research ahead of time. 

There are several things to consider about a destination before traveling there with kids. If it is a specific attraction we are traveling to, do they allow outside food and beverage? Will I need a stroller for the younger child? When making a road trip, can I find fun stops to make along the way? Are there attractions nearby that are educational or fun? Being prepared to know the area ahead of time has helped me pack appropriately and saved us from wasting time searching for options in the hotel room. 

8. Preparing for home. 

While it is never fun to come home, being prepared ahead of time for all of the dirty laundry can help. One of my favorite road trip travel hacks is to purchase a cheap pop up hamper ahead of time and use it to store dirty laundry in at the hotel. This keeps the room less messy during our stay and separates the dirty clothes from the leftover clean clothes in our suitcases. Then I can simply pack the hamper in the car and it can go straight into the laundry when we get home. The rest of the suitcases can go back to our individual rooms for un-packing. 

Do you have a useful tip for preparing to travel with kids? We’d love to hear it! Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below. 

Cool Places to Visit Near Orlando, Florida

Cool Places to Visit near #Orlando #Florida #travel
For the last week and a half my family and I have been traveling around Florida on a ten day road trip. While we were in the area we spent most of our time wandering around Orlando and it’s neighboring areas in search of adventure. Even though Orlando in itself offers quite a bit of entertainment between Disney, Universal and SeaWorld, the neighboring cities also have a lot to offer and can provide a bit of respite from the bustling Orlando lifestyle.   
Below are some of the amazing places we found while feeding our wanderlust gene in the beautiful state of Florida. 

Melbourne Beach {Melbourne Beach, Florida}
Melbourne Beach Sunrise
A Florida sunrise from the back porch of my Melbourne Beach rental home.

Found about 76 miles southeast of Orlando is a quiet and relaxing beach town known as Melbourne Beach. This place is a hidden gem with clean, un-crowded beaches, nice restaurants, affordable rental homes or hotels and plenty of sunshine. We spent quite a bit of our time here and loved going to sleep at night to the sound of crashing waves and waking up each morning to the sight of the most beautiful sunrises we’ve ever seen.

My babies playing in the sand on Melbourne Beach. 

Barrier Island : Sea Turtle Conservancy {Melbourne Beach, Florida}

Also within the Melbourne Beach area, we happened across this interesting looking building with a huge turtle painted on the side of it.

Barrier Island Sea Turtle Conservancy #travel #Florida

The Barrier Island: Sea Turtle Conservatory is a great place to stop and learn about ways you can help to save the sea turtles. Inside their building we walked around a small museum like area, read about the species, habitats and then watched a short movie.

Out back, on their observation deck, we were able to walk through natural vegetation paths and view the ocean beachfront. There was also this sign, which I loved.

Travel Florida

Brevard Zoo {Melbourne, Florida}

In Melbourne, just across the bridge from Melbourne Beach and only 60 miles from Orlando, we went back to visit one of my all time favorite zoo’s.

Brevard Zoo #travel #florida

The thing that makes this zoo so amazing is their open habitat design. The Brevard Zoo makes wildlife education hands on and interactive. For instance, we were able to take a train ride through the animal habitats, like a safari. The animals were free to walk up to us and we were able to see how amazing and majestic they really are up close.

This parrot happened to be my favorite. Isn’t he beautiful?  Read more about my zoo adventures here.

Red Parrot

Botanical Gardens : Florida Institute of Technology {Melbourne, Florida}

Also, while in Melbourne, we decided to check out the botanical gardens on the campus of the Florida Institute of Technology. This self guided tour is free and also comes with free visitors parking.

Botanical Gardens Florida Institute of Technology
To get to the gardens from the parking lot, we first had to cross through this long bridge. I didn’t mind, however. In fact, this bridge quickly became one of my favorite parts about the visit. Don’t get me wrong, the rest of the gardens did not disappoint either! 
I would think of these gardens as a look into retro Florida. All of the vegetation here is natural to the area so taking a trip here allows visitors to see the real, old school Florida in all of it’s beauty. 

Exploration Tower {Port Canaveral, Florida}

Only 25 miles away from Melbourne (and 50 miles from Orlando) is a port city called Port Canaveral. This port city is where people go to board a ship for a cruise. In fact, we were able to see a couple of cruise ships either boarding or un-boarding while we were there. I couldn’t believe how large they are up close! 
While we were in the bay we came across this weird looking building. Apparently this is an exploration tower that hosts museum like artifacts and offers visitors an overlook of the area from a rooftop observation deck. We didn’t have time to go up, but it definitely looked amazing from the outside!!
Port Canaveral Exploration Tower

Parker Brothers Concepts {Port Canaveral, Florida}

One place we did visit in Port Canaveral was the Parker Brothers Concept studios. These innovators are the minds behind the cars, trucks, motorcycles and machines you often see in popular movies and television shows. They are also the people behind the reality show Dream Machines which airs on the SyFy Network. Here in Port Canaveral they create new concepts and display past builds for interested car enthusiasts like the members of my family.

Parker Brothers Concepts tour

Outside the building we found the Ghost Busters car. . but inside we found cars and trucks from the movies Transformers and Battleship among others.

However, the coolest thing in this shop to both my husband and my son was the bat mobile! They were like kids in a candy store. Seriously, giddy with excitement.

While none of the cars can be touched just admired, the amazing staff did let us take a quick seat in the bat mobile to which my son proclaimed “My butt touched where Batman’s butt touched!” He’s only four, so it’s cute.

Daytona Beach {Daytona, Florida}

If you’re headed north from Orlando, Daytona is also a fun place to stop. Only about 55 miles from the city is this cheery, hoping fun place where the beaches are long and the shopping is plentiful.

Daytona Beach #travel

Fort Matanzas {St. Augustine, Florida} 

Furthest from Orlando, but well worth the drive, is Saint Augustine, Florida. This Spanish inspired area is full of beauty and culture. It is also home to one of the U.S National Monuments, Fort Matanzas.

St. Augustine Fort Matanzas

Fort Matanzas played a large role in guarding St. Augustine’s southern river approach as European nations fought for control in the New World. This fort, which is only accessible by boat depicts what life would have been like back then for a soldier protecting these grounds. 

Fort Matanzas

We were excited to be able to go up into the towers and onto the roof to get a view of the entire area. We could actually see a pretty long way from the top! Sort of scary and exhilarating all at the same time.

Helpful Tip: Visits to the fort are free, but tickets are available on a first come first saved basis and only a limited amount of tickets are given out per time slot. Boats tour the area every hour.

Walt Disney World {Orlando, Florida}

Last but not least, while we were in Orlando we enjoyed showing our Disney Side in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. This place is beaming with joy, possibilities.. . and also princesses.

Walt Disney World #Orlando
Entering into Walk Disney World, Orlando
“Where should I go?” -Alice. “That depends on where you want to end up.” – The Cheshire Cat.” 

Where do YOU want to go? Have a favorite place to visit in Florida? Tell us about it. 

Go ahead, PIN IT for later.

The Sights of South Haven {Michigan} in the Winter

I know what you are thinking, why would you take a road trip to the west side of Michigan in the dead of winter? The lake effect snow there is terrible! I know. In fact, I learned that the hard way. You can read all about it in my first article, Our Road Trip to South Haven was ALMOST Ruined.

After getting through that winter storm though, the second day of our trip made up for the first and reminded me why I wanted to take a trip to South Haven in the first place. So I apologize in advance, but this article is going to be chocked full of photos because there aren’t proper words to describe how lovely South Haven is in the winter.

South Haven Lighthouse

This is just about the entire reason I wanted to go to Lake Michigan in the winter, to see the ice covered lighthouses. I’ve seen so many photos of them circulating around the internet that I just needed to see it for myself. Even though the lighthouses weren’t as covered in ice as I had hoped, they were still strikingly beautiful against the white snow covered landscapes.

Most of the water was frozen solid near the shores, however in some spots it was still open, only peppered with chunks of floating ice. 
In other spots the water on Lake Michigan had frozen and expanded to create mounds of ice and pointy slabs (this one reminds me of the Sydney Opera House). 

The Harbor

South Haven is pretty much known for its lake side community so even though it was the dead of winter, I still wanted to check out the well known area known as the Old Harbor Village and see the vibrant colors that had beckoned me from the internet.

From the view out my window at the Old Harbor Inn, I could see the remnants of the small beachfront community. To the other side of these buildings was the harbor where ships could pull up to dock and enjoy the rows of businesses, restaurants and bars along this small corridor. At the very end of this strip was my hotel, I can image what a great place this would be to stay in the summer, overlooking the entire madness below.

 The party deck, completely covered in snow. What a shame.

Downtown South Haven

Less than a block away from the harbor is the downtown area of South Haven. Here I was able to get a hot cup of coffee to warm me up as I continued to navigate through the streets. I was happy to find that everywhere I looked here I found color and beauty!

The Michigan Theater

Within the downtown area I stumbled upon the Michigan Theater, a retro movie theater which shows newer movies but still with vintage prices. It was beautiful. Seriously, I think all movie theaters should be like this, but that is a whole new story. In case you are wondering, I believe they have $4 movie tickets and $0.50 popcorn. I didn’t stay for a movie, but would be worth checking out.

As we headed out of town on our way home, I spotted something unusual, a caboose in docked right next to the harbor. I made my husband pull over the car and I got out to check it out. This, my friends, is an old caboose turned into a hotel! Next time, I am totally staying here!! How awesome is that?

While South Haven in the winter is extremely cold, it is worth it! The sights of Lake Michigan frozen over were breath-taking. There are also several other lake front communities within half hours drive that each have their own lighthouses too. We took time to drive through Saugatuck/Douglas and Holland as well and I was able to get this photo.

Saugutuck/Douglas Light House 

Where do you like to vacation in the winter months? Do you see the beauty in the snow and ice or do you seek out the sun? 
For more information on visiting South Haven, Michigan check out the South Haven Visitors Bureau website. 

Travel Adventure: Sandusky, OHIO

 Disclosure: I received discounted media rates on our hotel during this trip. 
Visit Ohio #travelblogger

When you think of Sandusky, Ohio, what do you think of? Cedar Point? Probably. However, we didn’t go to Sandusky to see Cedar Point (this time). We went to Ohio to set out on an adventure, to find what else lies just over the border of Michigan and to spend time as a family exploring.

Let me take just a quick second and share with you a little about my long term goals. Over the next year my goal is to travel throughout the entire USA and then hopefully abroad. In traveling the US, I want to find out what makes America great. Do we still have that “sparkle” that we used to or is that old fashioned amazement gone? During my travels I hope to see, taste and hear the tradition and culture of America. To find the hidden treasures on the back roads of Route 66 and taste a New Orleans beignet.

Last week, we took to the road to visit our neighboring state of Ohio. With only a few days away from work, we had to make our time count. (This is something we need to work on too, getting more TIME to travel.) In setting our long term goals, we have decided to use whatever time we can get away from work and schedules to hit the road as a family. During this trip we were looking for somewhere to go that would be fun for the kids, after all, being a good traveler is something that must be taught. We decided that just packing up the kids, throwing them in the van and heading across the state probably would end in me pulling my hair out and vowing never to travel again. So instead, we have decided to start to introduce travel to our kids as being something to enjoy and to teach them to live in the moment. To do this we are starting with shorter distance trips and are working our way up to the longer car rides that I am so desperately longing for.

Visit Ohio #travelblogger #GreatWolfLodge #Sandusky

Within the Sandusky area of Ohio we found a hotel that would meet all of our needs. It was a nice, clean place for us to rest after exploring and it gave the kids that much needed excitement that they craved. I don’t know if you’ve ever stayed at a Great Wolf Lodge before, but wow, they have everything! From absolutely amazing staff to children focused activities and meals, we were completely head over heels with our choice to stay there, as were the kids.

Visit Ohio #travelblogger #thegreatwolflodge #sandusky
Visit Ohio #travelblogger @Greatwolflodge #sandusky
Within the hotel you will find an amazing water-park complete with slides, a lazy river, waterfalls and kiddie pools. 

#ad Great Wolf Lodge Sandusky Ohio
Visit Ohio #travelblogger

It truly was great fun for the entire family. The kind of fun that will make a kid once again out of you.

#greatwolflodge #food #travelblogger

The Great Wolf Lodge also have several in-house restaurants serving everything from breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks to tasty desserts. My favorite of the week was the room delivery pizza. Just call downstairs to place your order and you can enjoy an extremely tasty pizza in the comfort of your room while you take a break and relax. (Because seriously, with two young kids, sometimes you just need to relax while you eat. . especially once they get tired and cranky.)

Visit Ohio #greatwolflodge #travelblogger

Another fun aspect of our The Great Wolf Lodge was their arcade, the cub club and the creation station. When you check into your room, pick up the Pup Pass at the front desk. This deal will allow your kids to experience many of the fun activities around the lodge during your stay and save you tons of money over buying everything at the stations individually. We bought one for each kid and it gave us just the right amount of fun for the time we were there. Included in our pass was a “build a bear” style animal at the Creation Station, a glitz glitter tattoo in the waterpark, a color your own item at the Cub Club (t-shirt or pillowcase), a small ice cream at the Bear Paw Sweets & Treats plus a cup of self serve Mike & Ikes in the gift shop.

visit ohio #travelblogger #Sandusky #ohio

Once the kids had had their fun and got the wiggles out from the car ride, we set out to explore the surrounding area. In the spirit of adventure, we simply headed out to see what we could find, following street signs and turning down roads just because they looked cool. During our drive we found ourselves on the beach of Lake Erie. Across the water we could see the silhouette of Cedar Point. We rested for awhile enjoying the smell of the water, the bright sunshine and the sound of the seagulls overhead. From here you can walk downtown to find eclectic shops and unique places to eat plus a handful of historic buildings.

Visit Ohio #ghostlymanor #travelblogger #sandusky

Along our journey we came across a building that cant help but catch your eye. Out of the front of this building a large dragon was being released. Once we arrived closer to the building it sparked a memory in my mind. I could remember seeing this building on the Travel Channel as one of the best haunted houses around! We just had to go in! Once inside we opted for a nice game of glow in the dark putt putt. I would have liked to experience the haunted house, but didn’t think it was appropriate for my two little’s. Maybe next time.  (But that ok because the putt putt was super awesome too.)

Visit Ohio #Ghostlymanor #travelblogger

On the last day of our trip we were rained out, which was a huge bummer because I had found several other places that I wanted to visit before heading home. And while we didn’t get to visit them this time, I am hoping that we can make it back again in the future and check them out.

If you are visiting Ohio, here is a list of the best places to visit as a family.

Places we visited: 

The Great Wolf Lodge – Sandusky, OHIO
Ghostly Manor 
Downtown Sandusky

Other cool looking attractions: 

African Safari Wildlife Park – Port Clinton
Air Boat Rides
Cedar Point
Edison’s Birthplace
Historic Lyme Village
Kelly’s Island
Perry’s Cave
The Toledo Zoo
Glacial Grooves

If you know of any others please let us know! You can also post your reviews of the places we’ve listed here to help other families start out on a grande adventure of their own.

Dick and Jane Tour: Ann Arbor, MI

Some of the products featured in this post were provided to us free of charge. 
Our summer tour through Michigan is still underway, even though the weather has been making us feel like fall is almost here. So far on our tours, we have visited some amazing places and today’s post is about one of them. From the University of Michigan campus to the eclectic stores and restaurants, Ann arbor is quite a cool city. So cool, that many movie directors have chosen this location as the prime spot to film their movies. If you’ve ever seen the 5 Year Engagement you may have picked up on some of Ann Arbors most popular spots, such as the famous Zingermans Deli. However seeing Ann Arbor in the summer is so much better and that is why it is on our must see list for this summers tour. 
 Today’s trip we were focused on finding fun places to take the kids that we as the parents would like as well. Wowwee, let me tell you. We found it! Never before had I been to the Ann Arbor Children’s Museum, so when I walked in I was like a kid in a candy store. From your first musical steps into the building you are welcomed to touch, play, interact and experiment with all of the exhibits. They have a water room where kids can go fishing, an old ambulance that they can crawl through and even a room dedicated only to the littlest ones that has balls and toys made just for them. My favorite exhibit in the museum was a real functioning bee hive that had pipes going to the outside of the building so the bees could freely come and go as they pleased. The bee hive was enclosed within a clear glass container so we could watch the bees doing as nature instructed them to and producing their honey. We had a hard time getting the kids to leave, they just wanted to stay and play all day long. 
After spending the entire morning at the museum we finally talked the kids into leaving so we could get some food.  Luckily, food is not hard to come by in the city. Just take a quick walk over from the museum to the main street and you can find place to eat such as Afternoon Delight, Five Guys and PotBelly Subs. 
Once lunch is done be sure to set aside time to walk the downtown area. Ann Arbor has an abundance of culture and art that you will want to have your camera ready. You really never know what you are going to find just around the corner. 
Photos of Downtown Ann Arbor. Hidden Alleys, Fairy Doors (photo credit visitannarbor.org) and city life.
Ann Arbor turned out to be a wonderful place to spend time as a family. We had a fabulous time exploring the city and would like to thank all of the people that helped to make it happen. Check out the Visit Ann Arbor website and plan your trip to Downtown Ann Arbor this summer! While it may feel like fall is here, there is still time to get out and play! So get out there and do some exploring as a family. It is time well spent. 
Attractions to see in Ann Arbor: 
<3 Dick and Jane
Disclosure: We were provided with free admission to the Hands on Children museum in order to facilitate our post. 

My Birthday Suprise – A Trip to Chelsea, MI

Who am I and what am I all about?

This question may be answered better of me by my husband.  After my 30th birthday last week I have realized that he knows me. . really knows me.  And I guess after 10 years together, he should. This year for my birthday my husband took me on a weekend getaway to the Chelsea House Victorian Inn Bed and Breakfast in Chelsea, Michigan. When we arrived we enjoyed some shopping and wine drinking in the quaint little downtown shoppes and restaurants.  After dinner at the fabulous Common Grill, where we sat next to movie and television star Randolph Mantooth, we enjoyed an intimate live theatre performance at The Purple Rose Theatre.  I loved every moment of it. So is this who I really am? An art loving, theatre going, wine drinking woman? Yes, I am.  I am so proud of my husband for really thinking about who I am this birthday and for planning something that was so true to me.

I know you are all curious about the details of this awesome weekend, so here ya go! Join me on a quick tour of the sites and sounds of Chelsea, MI. . . the “New York” of Michigan.

When you pull into downtown Chelsea, don’t blink. You may miss the town.  Yes, it is small but it is packed with amazing experiences you can not get anywhere else in Michigan. The town is made up of historic homes, eccentric shops and an off Broadway theatre that practically puts you into the play (plus the Jiffy mixes plant!).

We stayed at the Chelsea House Victorian Inn, a quaint home built in the 1880’s. The home is immaculately taken care of and clean (something that as you know if super important to me). I was a bit concerned ahead of time about feeling comfortable staying in someones home. However,  the owners went out of their way to make us feel welcome. It sort of felt like we were staying with family. They even made it a point to learn our names ahead of time. You could tell that we were more than just a paying customer to the owners, we were now friends. I highly recommend staying at this beautiful home if you are ever to visit Chelsea, MI.

Before the play we made reservations at The Common Grill. Apparently this is a quite popular place to eat in this town (or it may be the only place, I didn’t really see any other restaurants) because the wait to get a seat was long. We sat at the bar waiting for our table to become available and a homeless looking man came and sat next to us. This caught our attention because everyone else was dressed nicely. We later found out that it was Randolph Mantooth , the lead actor in Superior Donuts. He was dressed for his role and grabbing a quick bite to eat before going onstage. Where else would you be able to rub elbows with actors? Our table was called and we enjoyed our meal. FYI, the bread is a-maz-ing!

Finally we entered the small, intimate Rose Theatre to see “Superior Donuts”.  The venue probably seats around 100 people, if that.  Truly, there is no bad seat in this place.  Every seat is within a frog hop of the stage. This made for a quite amazing experience. As I was drawn into the screenplay I almost forgot that I was sitting in a theatre and not sitting in the donut shop as a customer watching everything unfold.  And if that in itself isn’t cool enough, I recently found out that the theatre is owned by “Dumb and Dumber” actor Jeff Daniel!

Superior Donuts Trailer courtesy of YouTube

I must say that this little gem of a town is worth the trip.  While enjoying breakfast at the Chelsea House, another guest who had met and spoken with Randolph after the play said this: ” I asked him (Randolph Mantooth) why after all of his fame in acting he would choose to work in Chelsea, MI and he replied. . This place is like making it in New York, only better”.

Thank you hubby for the amazing time. I will never forget it!

Happy Travels!
<3 Dick and Jane

I was in no way compensated for my review. This post is entirely based on my experiences.