Day Trip to Niagara Falls USA

Over the summer we took a day trip to Niagara Falls. We went right before the 4th of July because usually any time after that the park is mobbed, no matter what day it is. After 9 years of working of there I thought I had it figured out, but we were wrong! It was still pretty crazy, even on a Wednesday afternoon!

The day trip had two parts, one because I really wanted to go back and see all my old co-workers and two because I figured Ada would really enjoy some of the activities there, since she loves the water so much!

We all took a half day from work and school, and left around noon. Usually the later in the day the crazier it gets, to take full advantage you should plan on getting into the Niagara Falls State Park right when it opens at 9am. Hit the majors like Maid of the Mist and Cave of the Winds right away!

Our first stop was the Niagara Falls USA Visitors Center, my old home! We spent a good hour there talking with everyone. I picked a good day because almost everyone was there and it was so nice to catch up again! It felt very weird to be in there again, to spend so much time somewhere and then just stop going one day is a strange feeling. Everything looked and felt the same except it wasn’t my desk anymore. I miss the team so much, but I couldn’t help feeling like I still made a good decision for my family to move on. It was so much fun promoting such an exciting destination for so many years, and to see it now and how far its come is exciting!

We left with cookies and cupcakes in hand (that kitchen was always stocked with goodies) and headed to the park. My plan was to try and do both the Maid of the Mist and the Cave of the Winds, then head somewhere for dinner. The lines were much longer then we expected and since it was nearing 2:30 by the time we headed out, we only had time for one thing. I chose the Cave of the Winds because it always has been my favorite thing!

The Maid of the Mist is a classic, its a famous stop that if you’ve never done it you should! But since we have, I decided the cave would be more fun for Ada. Of course she was tired of walking before we even got to the attraction, so she was piggy backing it early!

Stephanie

The line at the Cave of the Winds took us about 20 minutes to get sandals and then another 20 to get to the Elevators, (Tip: if you can, don’t stop to sit on the benches and put your sandals on, grab them and keep moving. There is usually time while you are standing in line to put that stuff on and you’ll get a jump on all those people who stopped).

FullSizeRender 15

Ada was a little hesitant at first about all that water. She stayed close by and when we got to the top she wanted nothing to do with it. I was so surprised that she was so nervous about it. FullSizeRender 16

The very top of all the stairs is called the Hurricane Deck, we stepped to the side when we got to the top because we were in a lot of peoples way. I let her just stand by me and watch everyone for a few minutes and then all of a sudden she wanted to head in, and I mean ALL. THE. WAY. Something I wasn’t prepared to do and I didn’t really want to get that wet, but that’s the best part about having kids, they force you to do things sometimes that take even you out of your comfort zone! So we headed in and got wet, really wet, and it was SOOO much fun!

FullSizeRender 18

I love my little travel buddy so much! I’m so happy she was willing to step back, watch and then dive into something new. We had so much fun, even though it was literally the only thing we had time for.

FullSizeRender 17

I didn’t think the Trolley was that exciting, but she kept seeing the “Train” go by and wanted to ride it so bad, so we decided to take the “Train” back to our parking lot instead of walking. We had Discovery Passes, so it included rides on the Trolley all day, but its like $2 for a day pass if you didn’t have the full pass. Girlfriend was all kinds of tired after that, (she also missed nap time at school) so she was actually cool with sitting still for a little bit while we waited for the Trolley.

FullSizeRender 20

We had about a 4 minute car ride to the restaurant for dinner and she of course passed out! She never stays asleep once we arrive, so I carried her in with the hopes of her sleeping a little longer but that didn’t last. We went to dinner at Bella Vista Ristorante, inside the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel. Its right on the waterfront and since it was only about 5:00pm it was still pretty empty. The view was incredible and the food is really good, lots of Italian dishes to chose from.

They do a lot of weddings there right on the waterfront, and have an amazing ball room that overlooks the water. After dinner, Ada gave me an insight into her future by pretending to be the “Wedding Girl” with daddy! At only 3 years old she has been to more weddings then I did at 20, so she knows what’s up! But I am not ready!

FullSizeRender 21

FullSizeRender 19

We had a super fun family day! Its always fun to be a tourist in your own backyard. The Niagara Falls State Park has so much to do, people tend to think that because there are only 4-5 attractions right there that its not enough to keep the family busy, but we spent one afternoon and did one attraction and dinner, it was more then enough for our family and we very easily could have come back and spent 2 or 3 days there trying to get everything in. Niagara Falls USA has so much to offer families, and with it being so close to my heart, I’ll be taking my family every year to remind us that we have a truly special gem right at our finger tips.

 

Adirondack Trip 2017

Before it gets away from me, I wanted to recap our family vacation to the Adirondacks this year. We didn’t do much, or anything really for that matter. Ada was more then happy to just stay at our cabins paying in the sand, water or the playground. She made some cousin friends this year that she got along really well with and basically wanted to spend every waking minute with.

IMG_4242

We went to town one afternoon, took her to lunch for pizza and shopping to pick out her one souvenir gift of the week. She picked a cute little stuffed, pink pig and a stuffed elephant for the new baby! And she got to pick out some candy from the Candy Cottage. She picked cotton candy! She also took a ride on the carousel horse outside the shop, a highlight every year, it will break my heart when she thinks she too old for that!

IMG_6742

IMG_5115

We took a family kayak trip out on Fourth Lake, which she really enjoyed this year, so much so that she wanted to go again later in the week, so Daddy took her again. Probably one of my favorite pictures from the week! Love when they spend special time together!

IMG_1384

I took her for a hike one of our days with a group of the littler kids. A group of them went earlier in the week and we were supposed to go, but we had a shoe incident, thankfully though, because that group did a very long hike. We did a short, flat, 2 mile loop around a lake and even that you would think I was torturing her by making her walk herself.

IMG_2381

She got to do her first, solo (without me or dad) tube ride on the boat, which she absolutely loved, she was a little nervous to go out but I’m pretty sure I was more nervous then her! Watching from the dock makes you feel pretty useless if anything were to go wrong. She loved it though and of course they went nice and slow, so she did great! Had the biggest smile on her face! She just looks too old for me in this picture!

IMG_6676

And lastly we had a family wedding for the first time ever while we were there. It was fun to have something different to do, although the lack of a babysitter made it harder. Fortunately, Dan has a 13 year old cousin who offered to watch her, and I obviously wasn’t drinking or partying very hard, so we took Ada to the ceremony with us, but then left her back at the Cabin with Dan’s cousin, and I made it back home around 10pm to do bedtime. It was a really beautiful wedding, just a little chillier then we all expected!

IMG_1273

FullSizeRender 13

IMG_7910

IMG_5886

And finally I’ll end with a few more favorite pictures from the week. Nothing better then a good family vacation! Ada slept great all week, with the exception of our first night there, which I always expect since its takes a night to get used to our new surroundings. It just always amazes me at how appreciative she is of everything we do, even if it feel likes nothing to me, its so exciting for her. To experience all this through her eyes makes every trip we take, worth every penny! I cannot wait until our next vacation to California in December! Our last one as a family of three!

IMG_1571

IMG_3784

IMG_1698

IMG_3604

FullSizeRender 14

Another great year in Old Forge, NY!

Disney World 2017

While in Florida this past February, we spent 2 days at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Ada is so obsessed with the Disney Princesses that I knew this would be a perfect trip for her right now. And since I’m still trying to get her familiar with the idea of travel, I want to make sure they are trips she is excited about. I know she probably won’t remember the details of the trip, most people recommend going when they are a little older, but I figured that since the family is in Tampa, its a perfect time to visit them and give her a little taste of Disney.

2 days is definitely not enough, but at the same time, it was plenty! There was obviously only so much we could do in 2 days, and being that she is still so young we wanted to make sure we hit up the things she was most excited about.

Our first (half) day there we didn’t have tickets to the parks, so we checked into the hotel and played at pool all afternoon.

17362530_10100368218095251_1551248753794676735_n

FullSizeRender

I then, neglected to make any dinner reservations for the first night, so we were left scrambling to find something. We thought about heading to Downtown Disney, but it just didn’t seem worth the hassle to pack everyone up and take the bus out. Instead we hopped the monorail and headed to the Polynesian Resort, where I wish we would have stayed. I remember staying there as a kid and so I wanted to show Dan, but we foolishly thought we could just walk up to a restaurant. Of course everything was booked. We were informed that the Kona Cafe had a first come, first serve bar seating area, and we somehow managed to nab three seats there.  After dinner we walked around, grabbed a famous Dole whip (the only place you can find them outside of Adventure Land in the Magic Kingdom), and we were able to catch the fireworks from the beach at the hotel. All things we just happened to stumble upon and probably couldn’t have planned any better.

17352371_10100368218170101_5100753226802726938_n
Chopstick fight at Kona Cafe inside Disney’s Polynesian

I booked this trip 30 days out, and apparently that was not nearly soon enough. When booking the “Magic your Way” tickets and staying on a Disney property, reservations for restaurants and fast passes open up 60-180 days out, so everything I really wanted to do like Cinderella’s Table or Chef Mickeys, etc. was completely booked up, we had to be a little flexible. The only character dining I could get our first day was lunch at Hollywood & Vine inside Hollywood studios, which changed our plans quite a bit. Hollywood Studios wasn’t exactly on my itinerary this time around, but it ended up working out for the best. There was a lot more in that park for younger kids then Epcot, which was my original plan. The only reason I wanted to do Epcot was for the Frozen ride, but instead in Hollywood Studios we started our day with the Frozen sing-a-long, which was a perfect alternative. She got to see her princesses in real life, and it even “snowed” white foamy bubbles at the end, which was super exciting for her!

Dinsey's Frozen Sing-a-long, Hollywood Studios

After the Frozen Sing-a-long, we did the Voyage of the Little Mermaid, this only had a short wait time and by the time it was over it was lunch time. That show was alright, she was excited to see Ariel live, but honestly in my opinion its time for Disney to update the theatrics, it seemed a little outdated, but to a 3 year old it was just fine!

Hollywood & Vine has the Disney Junior characters. So we saw Sophia the First, Doc McStuffins, Jake the Pirate and Handy Manny. They all make their way to your table at some point during your meal and it had a pretty decent buffet for lunch. She was just so excited the whole time!

11B982E7-BD7C-425B-B6B7-AE8A385465B7

7A913373-B5EB-4252-B17D-8E9A9122348B

After lunch we debated trying to catch the Disney Junior Live! show, but decided that it was getting hot and we just saw half those characters so we headed back to the hotel for a nap. We did get to see Donald on our way out!

17353087_10100368221513401_4857170604550667778_n

That evening, we had Fast Passes to Enchanted Tales with Belle. So after we were all refreshed we made our way into the Magic Kingdom for our first glimpse at the Castle!

FullSizeRender 2

5:00 was a perfect time to head into the park because I think everyone was at dinner so we didn’t have to fight crowds to get to Belle on time. We did it right away at the early side of our Fast Pass time slot, and this was probably the cutest thing we did our whole trip and made such an impression on Ada. Belle is her most favorite princess right now, so I think she was literally star struck. The whole attraction though was just perfect for her, it was with a small intimate group, so you could really take it all in, and I felt like she actually got some cute, quality time with Belle up close.

IMG_3142

After, we had some time and there was only a 20 minute wait at Ariels Grotto, so we waited a little bit for her to meet her second most favorite princess right now, Ariel.

17342496_10100368221488451_222727495968259284_n

We did a quick-service dinner and then it was time to get ready for the fireworks. Grandpa had sent her a gift card in the mail before our trip so we let her pick out a light up toy to play with while waiting for the fireworks, and then we caught the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular. So glad we got to see this since its coming to an end in May! She loved the fireworks despite thinking they were too loud!

17352449_10100368221613201_7066121401239284522_n

IMG_3205

We went back to the hotel that night and somehow the girl was wired still, so we let her go run around in the splash pad until about 9:30, at which point we threw her in a warm tub to clean up and she passed out in about 30 seconds.

IMG_3218

The next morning we got up early and made it to the Magic Kingdom again right at 9am when the gates opened, it was great timing as the lines were not yet too long and once inside, the park felt pretty empty. We even got to see Minnie as she was walking out! Perfect timing! (Main Street doesn’t look empty below, but the rest of the park really was!)

17353235_10100368223424571_8889319707191277983_n

Our first stop was Fast Passes to meet Repunzel and Tiana. I’d read a lot about saving your fast passes until the afternoon, but there somehow was already a 50 minute wait and so I’m glad I didn’t take that advice and just got the Fast Pass for 9am. We were in and out in about 15 minutes and she was in her glory meeting both!

17342700_10100368223823771_6680317635546313285_n

FullSizeRender 3

I had called Disney on the phone before our trip  to help me find restaurant reservations after I was becoming frustrated at the the fact that everything was booked.  Someone actually managed to get us into Chef Mickeys at 10:30am, it wasn’t in my mind the most convenient time but I really wanted Ada to dine with Mickey and Minnie, so we took it. (I think someone worked some magic because we were guests of the Contemporary Hotel, which is where this restaurant is located.  I can’t confirm this, but I don’t know how else we would have been booked there, when everything said no availability).  This is why we got to the park so early though and what prompted me to book a fast pass, I wanted to get something in before 10:30 breakfast. It involved some back and forth, park hopping, which with the convenience of the monorail made this not the worst scenario. When we left the park the gates were mobbed!! Never try to enter the park around 10:00-10:30 it was crazy! When we came back into the park again after breakfast/lunch around 12:30 the gates were dead again!

Chef Mickeys at this time was also actually a blessing in disguise. Because it was the tail end of breakfast, as people cleared out, no new guests were coming in because they were getting ready to turn over for lunch. So because there were fewer and fewer people, the characters we’re actually starting to come around again.

17352209_10100368223718981_522481475292304680_n

We spent the rest of that afternoon in the Magic Kingdom again, and it had gotten crazy busy and super hot! We had fast passes for the Monster’s Inc Laugh Factory, which was super cute and felt amazing inside because it was all air conditioned. We grabbed some ice cream en route to the Haunted Mansion and when we got there, the Fast Pass line was longer then the regular line and we almost skipped it. Luckily, we found a shady spot for about 15 minutes and when I went back the line was down again and so we did that. Ada loves scary things so she was super pumped for the Haunted Mansion. I think she got a little nervous once we were inside but quickly got excited again and she loved it!

When we came out the afternoon Parade was just starting so Ada took the best seat in the house and we watched that before heading out!

FullSizeRender 4
Dad looks super mad because the Internet crashed on the East Coast that afternoon and he was trying to deal with that mess back at his office while fighting crowds and heat in Disney World = Not Happy! But Look at the smile on Ada, if only we all saw the world through a child’s eye!

She fell asleep in the stroller rental we had shortly after that, so once we got to the gates to leave I had to carry her all the way back to the hotel, that was suuuper fun! We had already checked out of our hotel, so we just grabbed a shady lounge chair by the pool and let her nap. I ran up to the hotel shops to get some souvenirs and then we let her run around the splash pad again for about a half hour before jumping in the car to drive “home” (Back to Tampa). We got in around 7pm and she talked Grandma’s ear off about everything we did!!

All in all it was a great way to add to our Florida trip! Next time we plan to stay at the Polynesian Resort and actually just take some time to enjoy the hotel and some of the things around that don’t even require park tickets. There is just so much to Disney World without having to pay hundreds of dollars to go to a park and since we have the family in Tampa and go down so much, its not one of those “once in a lifetime trips”, we can actually just do small bursts of Disney a little at a time, which I think is totally the way to do it!

Happy Birthday Ada!!!

Last post on my Ada’s first birthday I promise!  I just simply cannot get over how fast this year went. We couldn’t be more blessed to have had Ada make us a real family and I feel like sometimes I can’t even remember life before she was part of it. I have loved so much watching this little girl grow and change right before my eyes. When we look back at some of the pictures and videos from the first few days she was home with us I can’t even believe it’s the same girl now. The amount of change that happens this first year is like nothing else. I hope not every year goes this fast but she has really shown me what life is all about. Not everyday is beautiful, and I certainly have moments where I feel like I miss the old life we had, but I couldn’t imagine ever not having her be part of me. She has made me feel like a bigger and better person. I’m a mom and that’s the most important role in my life now!

I struggled a lot this year with having to work full time and not being with Ada, especially early on when she was so tiny. And I struggle a lot now that she is a little older and more fun and interactive. This summer was hard when I knew she was splashing in pools, toddling through the sprinkler or playing outside in the sun while I was working. It wasn’t in our cards for me to stay home at this point in our life and I know it’s not going to get any easier, even though people say it does.

We both took the day off today and we took Ada to the zoo. It was so nice to spend the day together, we had so much fun and we look forward to celebrating many more special birthday’s with our little lady!  Happy Birthday to my one and only Ada Morgan!

DSC_0232DSC_0055
DSC_0063

DSC_0078

DSC_0107

DSC_0124

DSC_0144

 

First Family Vacation – Washington D.C

We took our first family vacation last week to Washington D.C and baby girl was amazing! 6 months is really the best age! She was so much fun and was so excited to see everything, yet still little enough to transport easily and would still take nice long naps in the stroller. We traveled with our friends who also have a little girl who just turned one in February. It was a long car ride (about 8 hours) but both girls did great, we had so much fun and I would definitely do it again a million times over!

We visited the The National Zoo on our first day and lucked out with the best weather, not too hot but nice and sunny! Ada slept for most of the morning, but she got out of the stroller long enough to see the Panda Bears, the elephants and some of the monkeys.

2014-04-10 12.29.27

After the zoo we had lunch at an awesome Lebanese Restaurant called Lebanese Taverna! We then took the metro to downtown D.C and strolled passed some pretty famous buildings.

Our second day we ventured back into D.C and attempted to tour the Capitol Building, apparently security is pretty tight around there and they wouldn’t let us go in with 5 water bottles, and 2 huge overstuffed diaper bags, so we just walked around the building, saw all the beautiful Cherry Blossoms then headed over to the Smithsonian Buildings.

We first did the National Air and Space Museum. I had Ada in the baby Bjorn Carrier and she was loving life. Girlfriend was soooo excited to see everything, I’ve never heard her giggle, coo and smile so much in such a short amount of time!! We had lunch at a great Mexican restaurant called Oyamel Cocina Mexicana which was fantastic and I had a phenomenal mojito!! After lunch we did the Natural Museum of History and Ada decided as soon as it was dark and cool that she would take a little nap. So she slept through that whole museum too! Luckily she won’t remember this trip anyway (and hey, everything is free in D.C)!

Our last full day we played it more low key, the babies we’re getting tired of constantly being packed up so we walked the town of Old Alexandria where we stayed. We walked down the shops to the waterfront and just strolled in the sun, we then decided to have some drinks and a light lunch at any place with an outdoor patio, so we strolled back up the street and sat outside enjoying the nice weather at 3 different places (nothing like bar hopping with babies!) It was just the low key afternoon we needed though, the babes were so good and they loved sitting in our laps in the shade.

2014-04-12 13.58.37

We left fairly early on Sunday and made it home before bedtime. I was lucky enough to have Monday off of work so I had an extra day to get caught up and spend some quiet time with my little lady.

I am just loving every single minute with her lately, she is absolutely amazing to watch right now as she figures everything out. We started eating cereal and some veggies about 2 weeks ago and while its been tricky and a little frustrating at times, she’s starting to get the hang of it and gobbles everything I give her right up. She will reach for everything that is just a tad out of reach and watching her struggle to figure out how to get to it is amazing, she’s starting to try to twist those little legs underneath her and balance on one foot or a knee, which means crawling is right around the corner. She’ll use me as her stabilizer only to pull herself up to a stand, and will pull on everything else that’s nearby to help her get to where she wants to be. On our car ride home I was sitting in the far back seat of the van so the babies we’re facing us, and I just watched her as she moved her fingers and hands around in front of her face trying to figure out what else she might be able to do with them (like get herself into all sorts of trouble!) Going back to work this week was much harder then when I went back after maternity leave. She’s just so interactive and fun now that I want to spend all day just playing and teaching her things!

All in all it was a terrific family vacation and Ada was at a really great age to travel with! Would highly recommend D.C with kiddos and even so with a 6 month old!