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Tag Archive: 14-Day East Coast Road Trip

East Coast Road Trip: Our Last Day!

Welcome to my 14-day series on our East Coast Road Trip where I share our adventures along the way, how we’re doing this on a budget, honest reviews of attractions & restaurants we visit, and money-saving tips and ideas. If you missed it, read Day 1 here, Day 2 hereDay 3 hereDay 4 hereDay 5 here, Day 6 hereDay 7 hereDay 8 hereDay 9 hereDay 10 hereDay 11 here, Day 12 here, and Day 13 here.

Our 14-day East Coast Road Trip came to an end on this day, but we went out with a bang for our last day in Cincinnati!

We started the day with Tom + Chee (our first time ever to go to this restaurant — we loved it and we’re SO excited to discover they have one in Nashville!! Apparently we’ve been living under a rock!).

I got a salad (sorry! I know!), but it was a Grilled Cheese Salad and had squares of grilled cheese on it (like croutons) and was amazing!

And then we headed to Smale Park to eat our lunch and enjoy the beautiful surroundings (thank you to everyone who recommended this park to us!)

You all will be very happy to know that we did indeed stop at Graeter’s for ice cream. That was the one place everyone said we HAD to go to in Cincy and it didn’t disappoint.

I was going to split a cone with Jesse and was hoping he might go for the Raspberry that you all recommended, but we compromised with Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip. Yum!

We spent the afternoon and early evening at the Ark Encounter. We really enjoyed our time there! It was our big splurge of the trip and one of the things we had planned our trip around. I will say that it was pricey (and we even got half-price tickets from a friend of a friend who works for the company!), but we would highly recommend it if you get a chance to go!

And then we hopped in the car and drove the 4ish-hour trip home! It was good to be back in our beds!

It was such a good trip for so many reasons and I feel like we all have been stretched in really valuable ways as a result of it. We will carry so many memories and lessons with us in the months and years to come.

I came home feeling closer to Jesse and the kids because of the conversations and experiences we had, grateful for the simple rhythms and routines of our life that I sometimes take for granted, and inspired to be more adventuresome in my every day life right in TN.

(Thank you so much for letting me share our trip with you all here and for being so helpful and encouraging as we traveled. Our trip was so much better and richer because of you all!)

East Coast Road Trip: Exploring Cincinnati

Welcome to my 14-day series on our East Coast Road Trip where I share our adventures along the way, how we’re doing this on a budget, honest reviews of attractions & restaurants we visit, and money-saving tips and ideas. If you missed it, read Day 1 here, Day 2 hereDay 3 hereDay 4 hereDay 5 here, Day 6 hereDay 7 hereDay 8 hereDay 9 hereDay 10 here, Day 11 here, and Day 12 here.

We had an amazing day in Cincinnati for day 13 of our trip… and by some sheer miracle, there was almost zero arguing or people who were annoyed at each other!!

Instead, the day was filled with lots of laughter, fun, joking, experiencing new things together, and just generally really liking being together. Which, ahem, wasn’t necessarily the case the previous few days.

(We’ve decided that the 10 day mark is where we all kind of hit a wall and were ready to be home and feeling grouchy and tired of sleeping in one room, spending so much time in the car, and being off our usual routine and rhythms. I was wondering if we were even going to like each other by the time we got home. So the turnaround in attitudes was such a gift!)

We started off our time in Cincy with lunch at Skyline Chili. I got a Greek salad… yes, I know that flies in the face of all that is good and true. But y’all, I just didn’t know how my stomach would take the chili!

My family (mostly) really loved the chili, though some of them weren’t so sure that they liked it the next day. Yeah, it does a number on your stomach if you’re a Skyline Chili newbie.

(I tried a few bites and I’m not sure what to think of it. It was different, that’s for sure! ;))

Then, we went to the Creation Museum and got to spend an hour with their cartoonist (who is a friend of a good friend). Not only did he get us passes so we could get in for free (!) and go to the planetarium show for free, but he also gave us a behind-the-scenes tour, and showed us how he creates his cartoon strips using Adobe Photoshop. It was fascinating!!

The grounds at the Creation Museum were so beautiful. We loved walking around the grounds/visit the petting zoo!

We waited to go to the special effects theater & main exhibits until 5:30 pm and it wasn’t crowded at all — unlike earlier in the day when we heard it’s usually packed!

We then headed to Jungle Jim’s and had a blast there! What a fun and unique store! We let the kids pick a few treats there and they were SO excited about getting some candy from other countries!

I was super stoked about the South African food, the entire aisle of tea, and the hilarious bathrooms (you just have to see them… people had told us not to miss them and they were so right!).

Just one more day in Cincy and then we head home.

To be continued…

East Coast Road Trip: A Day in Pittsburgh

Welcome to my 14-day series on our East Coast Road Trip where I share our adventures along the way, how we’re doing this on a budget, honest reviews of attractions & restaurants we visit, and money-saving tips and ideas. If you missed it, read Day 1 here, Day 2 hereDay 3 hereDay 4 hereDay 5 here, Day 6 hereDay 7 hereDay 8 hereDay 9 hereDay 10 here, and Day 11 here.

I learned a lot of things on our 14-day road trip, but one thing I’ve definitely learned is that you all have the BEST recommendations! Case in point: we had an amazing day in Pittsburgh and every single bit of it was because of your recommendations.

The day started with doing laundry… in the hotel parking lot! Well, not totally. We washed and dried it in the machines at the hotel, but we had to check out of the hotel before we could get it folded.

So we folded it in the parking lot/back of our car. Which I wouldn’t really recommend as ideal, but it got the job done! 😉

Oh and as an update: The 5-day packing system worked SO well on this trip and I think we’ll definitely be doing some sort of rendition on it for most of our trips from here on out.

We had a blast going up the Duquesne Incline and seeing the incredible view of Pittsburgh. We loved reading more about the history of the inclines in the Pittsburgh area and we all thought it was a pretty cool experience.

The views from the top of the incline were really cool!

Note: I thought the fares were on the expensive side: It was $20 for round trip tickets for all of us + $5 for parking, but it was a unique experience and memorable experience.

Then we headed to the Strip District. And I’m just not sure how to even describe it.

There were all of these incredibly unique restaurants and grocers that covered a plethora of cultures and ethnicities — and almost every store was really, really inexpensive (at least compared to most of the prices we’ve been seeing on this trip!)

We were bummed that the Peace, Love, and Little Donuts Shop was already closed for the day when we got there. (We discovered that a number of restaurants and shops close around 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., so we wished we had gotten there a little earlier.)

Our favorite store was probably the Allegheny Coffee & Tea Exchange. They had a huge selection of coffees and coffee beans and teas and their prices were very reasonable! We bought loose leaf tea and coffee beans at Allegheny Coffee & Tea to take home, plus some coffee for Jesse, drinks for the kids, and tea for me.

The Pennsylvania Macaroni Company was such an interesting store. You felt like you were in a different country when you were in it — especially because the foods were all Italian!

We loved finding South African candy at the chocolate shop + various products made with Schweschwe fabric (very traditional South African) in another little shop. We split a delicious chicken quesadilla from this basement Mexican restaurant.

And we oohed and aahed over the produce prices at the open air “farmer’s markets” — a bunch of roses for $4-$5 and tubs of strawberries for $1!!!

Oh and we ate at Primanti Bros. like you all said we must. (I got a salad which is probably not what you’re supposed to order there, but it was delicious!!)

Then we hopped in the car and hit West Virginia for a little bit (our first time in the state) and then headed to Cincinnati for the last two days of our 14-day road trip.

Any suggestions on other inexpensive things to do in Pittsburgh? I’d love to hear!

East Coast Road Trip: Hershey, Pennsylvania

Welcome to my 14-day series on our East Coast Road Trip where I share our adventures along the way, how we’re doing this on a budget, honest reviews of attractions & restaurants we visit, and money-saving tips and ideas. If you missed it, read Day 1 here, Day 2 hereDay 3 hereDay 4 hereDay 5 here, Day 6 hereDay 7 hereDay 8 hereDay 9 here, and Day 10 here.

Okay, I’m going to get real and tell you that Day 11 of our trip was a little rough. I just wasn’t feeling all adventuresome or like a fun mom.

Honestly, I was wishing we were home and I could plop the kids in front of a movie, shut my bedroom door, and read a book in quiet.

Yeah. I felt on edge. I felt people-d out. I felt tired of the close quarters and long car rides. And I was frustrated with two kids who were being extra whiny.

And of course, this was the day I was wearing my Love Your Life shirt. 😉 Well, I needed the reminder. Because vacations with kids aren’t always fun or amazing. Sometimes, they are just plain hard.

However, despite what I was feeling inside, despite the fact that I did snap at the kids a few times, it was a good day. I’m truly grateful for this trip and the memories we made together on it. Also, close quarters are a great way to recognize character issues we need to work on and are fantastic ways to realize where we need to work on communicating better.

We spent the morning at The Hershey Story where I was so inspired by Milton Hershey’s life and legacy. What an incredible man! I was especially inspired by his business principles and by how generous he was with his employees.

It was cool to see some of the original recipes for caramels (the candy that Milton Hershey initially started making in his business, before he switched to chocolate).

It was also fascinating to read about creative ideas they had implemented to make their factories run more smoothly — like transporting chocolates via bathtubs!

The kids especially loved the Chocolate Workers Wanted exhibit, getting to try chocolates from different countries at their Tastings bar, and then getting to learn more how chocolate is made (it’s a pretty incredible process!) and make our own chocolate bar in the Chocolate Lab.

A few things to note:

  • The Museum Admission is $12.50 for adults and $9 for kids. The Tastings bar and the Chocolate Lab are an additional fee. Teachers, veterans and families of active duty military personnel receive $3 off admission to the Museum Experience. Valid school/military identification required. (They were so generous to give us free admission plus free tickets to the Tastings bar and to their Chocolate Lab since I am a blogger and was blogging/posting on social media about our trip.)
  • There is currently a Groupon available that gives a combo package for the Museum Admission + the Tastings Bar that would save you quite a bit off the price if you were wanting to do both.
  • The Tastings Bar experience was fun, but honestly, I would recommend the Chocolate Lab over it in a heartbeat. If you do decide to do the Tastings Bar, you only need to purchase one for every 3-4 people as that’s enough to go around and for everyone to get to taste the chocolate.
  • We really enjoyed the Chocolate Lab. Not only did our kids have so much fun making their own chocolate bars, but we thought that the information shared about where chocolate comes from, how it’s made, how they use every single part of the cacao bean, and the history of chocolate was really insightful and we learned a LOT while there.
  • You can’t purchase tickets for the Chocolate Lab ahead of time so if you are wanting to do that, just know that tickets are sold on a first-come, first-served basis the day of.
  • I thought that the upstairs was geared a little more toward adults, but it was interactive enough for our kids to enjoy it. I think the price is on the high side for what the museum offers. If you’re just looking for a little fun adventure related to chocolate and how chocolate is made, I’d recommend just doing the free Hershey World tour (see below).

Next, we went to Hershey’s Chocolate World to do the free tour — which was a fun experience! Here are more details on this free tour:

Follow cocoa beans on a delicious journey in this immersive & FREE chocolate making tour. See, feel, hear and smell the transformation of cocoa beans to HERSHEY’S famous chocolate on this fun tour. Then, enjoy a FREE Hershey’s product sample on us!

A few things to note:

  • There was almost no waiting time, but based upon the HUGE area they had set up for a line, I’m guessing that they sometimes do have a very long line.
  • The tour is 30 minutes long and it’s a “ride” that you’re sitting in and just going through the tour.
  • The admission is free, no tickets are required. The tours run continuously until closing.
  • If you have a child who tends to get over-stimulated by a lot of noise and color and lights and sounds, this might not be an attraction for you because there is a lot of that going on during this tour.

(And yes, near the end of the day, being around all that sugar kind of made me feel like I should go eat a kale salad after I left! ?)

We had planned to visit the Flight 93 Memorial, but there was a big thunderstorm on our way there, so we ended up having to skip it & hang out at a gas station until the storm had cleared.

We made it to Pittsburgh around 9 pm and I enjoyed some quiet (see my book stack photo) while the kids watched a show.

Tomorrow: exploring Pittsburgh and then driving to Cincinnati!

To be continued…

P.S. I hesitate to share so honestly because I know that we’re so blessed to get to go on this trip & many, many people would love to be in my shoes. But at the same time, I want to be honest that traveling is not always roses & rainbows.

East Coast Road Trip: Traveling to Pennsylvania

Welcome to my 14-day series on our East Coast Road Trip where I share our adventures along the way, how we’re doing this on a budget, honest reviews of attractions & restaurants we visit, and money-saving tips and ideas. If you missed it, read Day 1 here, Day 2 hereDay 3 hereDay 4 hereDay 5 here, Day 6 hereDay 7 hereDay 8 here, and Day 9 here.

Day 10 on our road trip was a laid-back, quiet travel day. And after a few go-go-go days, it was just what we all needed, especially the 4 of us who are introverts! (Yes, can you believe that it appears Silas is the only extrovert in our family??!!)

The morning began with swimming and hanging out at the hotel and then we packed up and headed for Pennsylvania.

We made a pit stop at two different travel centers along the way. One had a farmer’s market stand where I found fresh whole wheat bread (it was $7/loaf, which is almost 5 times what I usually pay!! But I was out of the bread I had brought and I usually eat 3-4 slices of whole wheat bread every day, so I coughed up the money and bought it.)

We also got $0.50 frosty’s for the kids at the Wendy’s at the other travel center (that’s much more my kind of price range!)

We started reading the sequel to The Upstairs Room aloud today called The Journey Back, which we’re all excited to dive into as we loved the first book! (Note: Just like the first book, I’m editing it as there is some crass language.)

And I finished reading Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? (I really enjoyed this book and the fascinating look that it gives at what it’s like to work for the President, but it comes with a huge crass language warning.) and started reading What Falls From the Sky (I think it’s going to be an inspiring read!)

We made it to Harrisburg around 7 pm and enjoyed a completely laid-back evening at the hotel! Basically, today fed my introverted soul and I’m ready to hit the ground running again for the last five days of our trip!

Tomorrow: exploring Harrisburg, PA and then driving to Pittsburgh in the late afternoon/early evening.

…To be continued

East Coast Road Trip: A Day in Boston!

Welcome to my 14-day series on our East Coast Road Trip where I share our adventures along the way, how we’re doing this on a budget, honest reviews of attractions & restaurants we visit, and money-saving tips and ideas. If you missed it, read Day 1 here, Day 2 hereDay 3 hereDay 4 hereDay 5 here, Day 6 hereDay 7 here, and Day 8 here.

Okay. It’s official. I have fallen madly in love with Boston.

As in, I think I want to move to Boston. Or at least rent an apartment in the North End and visit for a week every month. (Hey, a girl can dream, right?? ;))

The coffee shops. The open air restaurants. The quaint streets. The scenery. The smells. I almost felt like I was back in Rome!

On Day 9 of our trip, we slept in and the drove to downtown Boston where we got all-day parking a block from Boston Common for just $15.

A few notes about parking and traffic:

  • Since we were visiting on Sunday, a local hotel offered all-day valet parking for just $15! From what I could tell — and what I heard — visiting on the weekends means that parking is much less expensive than it is on weekdays.
  • You can read more about parking in Boston here. (Locals: is that list accurate? I wasn’t sure.)
  • We also found that the roads were easy to drive and navigate (however, keep in mind that we are used to Nashville traffic!), traffic wasn’t really heavy like we expected, and was nothing like NYC. So it was no problem for us to drive into the city instead of taking the subway into the city. However, we were there on a Sunday, so I think that made traffic a lot lighter.

After visiting the Boston Common, we headed out to walk the Freedom Trail. We LOVED how there was such an eclectic mix of modern and historical.

We were pleasantly surprised to notice how much cheaper the prices were in Boston compared to the prices we’d been seeing in NYC and DC! (For instance, tourist-y t-shirts were $10 and water bottles were $1.)

We loved getting to spend time at the Old South Meeting House, the site of the Boston Massacre, and Faneuil Hall.

We went to the Rose Kennedy Greenway halfway through our day and then came back to it near the end of the day because our kids loved it so much!

One of the things my followers on Facebook had told me that we had to do was to check out Mike’s Pastry’s and Modern Pastry. It seems like there might be a sort of friendly disagreement between locals as to which shop is the best.

Some locals said we HAD to go to Mike’s and others said we HAD to go to Modern. And most of the locals had a strong opinion as to which one we should go to! So we decided to go to both. 😉

We went to Modern first. The line was out the door and they had quite a huge selection of options but they line moved so fast that we had barely made our decisions of what we wanted to get by the time we got up to purchase. Note: They only accept cash.

Mike’s was PACKED. As in, there were 6 (?) long lines out the door, you couldn’t really see what they offered (though it was clear there was a LOT of cannoli options!) because there were so many people in front of the display cases.

While Jesse waited in line, the kids ate what some of we bought at Modern Pastry… which was probably completely against the “rules”, but they were hungry and the wait was long! 🙂

We got a cannoli and a scone at Mike’s and they were both so yummy!

We also walked to see Old North Church and Park Street Church.


And then we walked over the bridge to the USS Constitution. We LOVED getting to go on board this ship and couldn’t believe how they let people just walk around and touch almost everything!

A few things I wish had known ahead of time:

  • It’s a long walk to get to the USS Constitution from Boston Common — especially if you do it at the end of walking the Freedom Trail. Silas was pretty worn out, but he loved the ship.
  • It’s free to go on the ship. The museum (which we didn’t go to) is a suggested donation of $5-$10 for adults, $3-$5 for children, or $20-$25 for families.
  • The ship is not open all the time. Sometimes it is closed for repairs. You’ll want to check before going to it. (I’d hate for you to make that long trek for nothing!)
  • You have to show your ID to get on the ship and your bags are searched.
  • They allow you to bring sealed food and water bottles on the ship. (Or at least they let ours through without mentioning that it would be a problem!)

We walked back to Boston Common from the USS Constitution and saw Paul Revere’s house on the way.

We stopped by a SweetGreen to grab some salads to split for dinner and then had a picnic at Boston Public Garden where we fed the ducks and marveled at how perfect the weather was and how beautiful the evening was. This park is very worth visiting!

We hadn’t expected to stay in Boston until after dinner time, so my phone died for the last hour of the day so I wasn’t able to get all the pictures I would have liked to of the park, but we would highly recommend it.

We then headed back to our car around 7:30 p.m. and drove to New Hampshire (our first time there!) to be able to say that we’d visited the state and then headed to Albany, NY for the night and then it’s onto to PA!

To be continued…

Have you been to Boston before? Any suggestions for the best free or inexpensive places to visit there?