June 22 2017

A Walk Through Central Park – First Impressions in New York City

a walk through central park

We’re pretty sure that a walk through Central Park is mandatory for anyone visiting New York City for the first time. Located in the heart of Manhattan, you actually can’t believe just how huge the park is without actually seeing it in person. (We got a great view of it from the Top of the Rock which we visited just moments before). It width spans from 5th Ave to 8th Ave and its length runs from 59th street to 110th street (843 acres) and it is almost 160 years old. The park is made up of hundreds of trails that criss-cross and curve in every direction. We could probably spend days, if not weeks, exploring every trail in Central Park… but since we had a destination to reach, we only got a small taste of what Central Park had to offer.

 

 

a walk through central park

Our journey began at the southeastern corner of the park off of 5th Ave. We walked along 59th street where we were mobbed by hundreds of people with signs for carriage rides, bike rides, tours… you name it. It’s very difficult to plot a course through Central Park if you’ve never been there so we opted to stick with the main roads whenever possible.  We entered the park at Center Drive and followed the street around for the first leg of our journey.

 

a walk through central park

It was pretty amazing how busy the park was… and it was still pretty early in the day (around 10am on a Saturday in May). Runners everywhere, bikes whizzing by, group yoga or other types of boot camps… basically as hectic as the rest of New York only with more nature lol.

 

a walk through central park

We used obvious landmarks to navigate such as the Olmsted Flower Bed which let us know we needed to turn and go up the path to The Mall. We took this path until it ended at the Bethesda Fountain. This was a rather beautiful stop which overlooked the lake to the Loeb Boathouse. For whatever reason, the fountain wasn’t on while we were there… (maybe too early in the year??) but the view was still stunning none the less.

 

a walk through central park

From there we crossed the Bow Bridge and followed the paths along the lake until we finally reached (what we thought was) the 79th Street Transverse. We had planned on making a stop at Belvedere Castle but since we were running behind on our travel schedule we opted to skip that and continue on towards the American Natural History Museum.

 

a walk through central park

We continued walking down this path for about 10 minutes or so before we realized that we actually were walking down West drive and was pretty much heading back the direction that we came lol. With a quick course adjustment (thanks to Google maps) we were back on track and wound up ending our Central Park excursion at W 77th St.

In the end we only walked about a third of the length of the park… and of that we barely scratched the surface of all of the sights available within that area. Still… it was a beautiful experience and we had a lovely time walking through Central Park!

 

a walk through central park

 

Final Thoughts:

Betsy –  After going to the Top of the Rock and walking past giant buildings it almost felt like we had stepped into a different world in Central Park. For me it was the best of both worlds as I have a great love for nature and I also enjoy big cities. And as newlyweds what could be more romantic than a walk through central park? Nothing, that’s what.

 

Chris – To me, Central Park was pretty surreal. The landscaping is definitely not “natural” although it seems they were trying to mimic a natural setting. I really loved the views with the large buildings in the background though… that’s definitely a sight you can’t get anywhere else!

June 20 2017

Top of the Rock – A Visit to Rockefeller Center – New York

 

top of the rock nyc review

 

The first stop on our ambitious 24 Hours in New York City trip took us to the Top of the Rock observation deck at Rockefeller Center. The Top of the Rock is highly rated on most of the travel websites that we use… even beating out the iconic Empire State Building observation deck on TripAdvisor. While the cost to get to the top is $34 if purchased separately, there are many discount passes that include admission to this historic landmark including: CityPASS, Smart Destinations, and the New York Pass. For this particular trip we used the New York Pass, however, we have used the other 2 companies on our other adventures and were very pleased with them.

 

top of the rock nyc review

 

Our Experience:

We visited “The Rock” on a Saturday morning in May and the weather was absolutely beautiful. The entrance wasn’t difficult to find: it’s on 50th Street, right across from the Radio City Music Hall, and says quite plainly “Observation Deck” right above the doors. Inside you make your way through a beautiful lobby to get to the ticketing area. There is security screening prior to entering so be prepared to put your bags, keys, camera, and phone through the scanner. We found this to be a very smooth operation at this time of day as the crowds were light so we were to the elevator and on our way up to the top in no time.

 

top of the rock nyc review

Once at the top you find yourself in a lobby-type area which it seemed most people mistook for the observation deck. They were crowding the windows taking pictures when just a few steps away was the real attraction. Outside the doors you were immediately treated to a clean, unobstructed view of the city around you. There are multiple levels, each with a better view than the level before, ending finally at a small deck at the top of some stairs where (at the time) very few tourists had gathered.

 

top of the rock nyc review

We took dozens of photos of the surrounding city and pointed out the various stops we were going to make during the day. There was a gift shop at the top, however it was pretty small and crowded… we had noticed that there was another gift shop near the exit on the way out so we skipped over this one. In total we spent maybe a half hour on the observation deck… sure you could relax up there and take in the view for hours but when you have other things to do you need to keep moving.

 

top of the rock nyc review

On the way out we stopped in the gift shop which had a decent selection of souvenirs and picked up a little something to remember our stop. From there we must have made wrong turn because instead of an exit we found ourselves in a shopping mall. We wandered down a few hallways looking for a way out which we eventually found… on the opposite side of the building. This was actually convenient for us because it let us out right in the Prometheus statue which is something we wanted to check out while we were here. Also, as luck would have it, there was a special exhibit called the “Seated Ballerina” which was a 45 foot tall inflatable ballerina located just above the statue plaza. This was quite an amazing sight and the perfect ending to our Rockefeller Center visit.

 

top of the rock nyc review

Final Thoughts:

Betsy – This was the perfect way to start the day. No crowds, great view and great company. It is a must see when you are in NYC.

 

Chris – There’s just something about city views that I absolutely love! Actually I know what that something is… the photos!! I love the kind of photo you can only get from high up in a major city. Yes, I love the view and exploring the city from up above …plus you can’t argue that it’s pretty romantic to take in the scenery with your significant other 🙂

May 31 2017

24 Hours in NYC – The Essential New York Experience in One Day

nyc travel guide

We’ve just returned from one of our most ambitious adventures yet: getting the essential New York City experience in just one day! With so much to do and see in NYC, we could debate all day on what exactly constitutes the “essential New York City experience” but for the sake of this article… it’s what we considered our bucket list type landmarks. We will take you through our entire process, from planning, to seeing the sights, what we learned and our afterthoughts. If you would like greater detail on any of the attractions covered, we will be releasing more in-depth reviews in the coming weeks… but for now, here’s our trip as a whole.

PLANNING

You may be asking yourself “why only 24 hours?” …and that answer is simple… it is all the time we had. The first thing we do for any trip is map out the basics of what we wanted to accomplish. For New York, because of the time constraints, we wanted to make sure we got the major landmarks covered: Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, 9/11 Memorial and at least one museum.

Once we had our must-visit list complete, we scoured the internet to see what types of travel deals are available for NYC. We examined CityPASS, Smart Destinations & The New York Pass. All three have their strengths and weaknesses but we ultimately went with the New York Pass because it offered the most attractions in a single day for the best price. With that decision made, we began to put together an itinerary based on what our must-visit list and the extras that the pass had to offer. (Itineraries are Chris’s specialty.)


New York CityPASS

new york travel guide

Chris plots all of the attractions on Google Maps and comes up with a basic itinerary of the important stops in addition to noting other sights we could include nearby. Normally we don’t get quite this extensive but this trip was an exception. There were many drafts but we finally settled on: Top of the Rock, Walk Through Central Park, the American Natural History Museum, Grand Central Station, Battery Park, 9/11 Memorial, Statue of Liberty, a Sunset Cruise, the Empire State Building, and finally a walk through Times Square. Phew… that sounds exhausting just typing it out but we were going to do it!

Booking the Hotel

Trust us when we say there are no cheap hotels in the middle of any major city (and if there are you probably don’t want to stay there). Betsy is a master at getting the absolute best price at a room so she handles this aspect exclusively. Prices change daily so the best deal you find today isn’t necessarily the best deal period. Our best advice is to find a good price and book your room BUT don’t stop looking for a better rate. As long as you know the cancellation policy with your current reservation you can always switch hotels if you find a batter rate. We managed to score a decent price at the Residence Inn Manhattan/Central Park. It wasn’t the lowest rate out there but it was close and offered free breakfast and great views!

Transportation

There was NO WAY we were driving around New York City! We decided it was best to book a shuttle to and from the airport. There are a ton to choose from but we went with the SuperShuttle mainly because we used their services before in other cities. One word of advice: do NOT accept a ride from ANYONE claiming to be a taxi who doesn’t drive the stereotypical yellow cab vehicle. I guess this is a HUGE problem in NYC as they literally warn you everywhere you go. We planned to walk a majority of our time in NYC but we did utilize the subway as well.

 

new york travel guide

 

The Experience:

Arrival- We flew into LaGuardia on Spirit airlines which was a pretty typical flight. We found LaGuardia somewhat confusing as there are multiple shuttle areas so we had a little anxiety on whether or not we were in the right place… luckily we were and got under way. On a side note… the drivers in NYC operate on a level of insanity we had never seen before… it was somewhat fun but definitely nerve-racking the way we weaved through traffic. We made it to our hotel alive and as soon as we exited the shuttle we were pegged as tourists and got swarmed by people trying to sell us stuff. We quickly went inside, checked in, threw our bags in our room, and headed out into the city.

 

nyc travel guide

Top of the Rock- Our first stop was Rockefeller Center and the Top of the Rock views of the city. This was included in our New York Pass but the stand alone price is $34 if purchased separately. It was early in the morning and the crowds were light so we got right up to the top without having to wait. The views were amazing and it was the perfect way to start the day. There were multiple levels but we found that the majority of the people stopped at the first floor so as we went upstairs the crowds thinned a bit. From the top we really got a good perspective of the day ahead of us that you really can’t get from a map. On our way down however, we may have taken a wrong turn because we wound up in a shopping area and couldn’t find our way out until we reached the other side of the building. This turned out to be a lucky break because we came out right in front of the iconic Prometheus statue. The Seated Ballerina, a giant inflatable piece of art was also there as well. It was fun to see a piece that was displayed for a limited engagement.

 

nyc travel guide

Central Park- Whats a trip to New York without a walk through Central Park right? The trick here was that we had a destination to get to, the American Natural History Museum, so navigating the park was a bit tricky. There are no direct routes through Central Park, it’s a maze of paths that criss-cross and wind around in every direction. We chose to stick by main roads whenever possible and picked obvious landmarks to help guide us when there weren’t. Even with this strategy we wound up taking a wrong turn and walked about 10 minutes in the wrong direction but with the help of Google Maps we got back on track. The views from the park are stunning, especially with the city in the background. We could have probably spent the entire day there exploring all that Central Park had to offer but we just didn’t have the time.

 

nyc travel guide

The American Natural History Museum Located right next to Central Park was one of several world-class museums in the area. We chose the Natural History museum over the others because we’ve really enjoyed similar museums in our past travels. This museum was included in our New York Pass, however, the suggested admission price is $22 if purchased by itself. (Suggested admission means you can technically pay what you want to enter.) The museum was HUGE! Probably the largest we have ever visited. The layout was pretty confusing though and we found ourselves lost quite a few times. We had initially set aside 3 hours for this visit but then cut it down to 2 hours due to time constraints. In the end we left after only an hour because it really wasn’t as amazing as we had hoped.

 

nyc travel guide

Lunch at Patsy’s Pizzeria- Just a few short blocks from the museum we found Patsy’s Pizzeria. The pizza was delicious and we loved the look and feel of the place. To us, it represented an authentic Italian restaurant in New York… we have no basis for comparison for this claim but it was very charming inside and out.

 

nyc travel guide

Navigating the Subway- We have to be honest with you, we are terrible at public transportation. In our defense, Detroit has a severe lack of public transportation. With that being said, taking the subway was the best possible way to get to our next destination, so we decided to suck it up and take the plunge. Our heads were filled with all sorts of NY subway stereotypes from TV and movies so so we planned the subway excursion thoroughly before the trip. It turns out this wasn’t the best idea because the route we had planned to take wasn’t running that day so we were waiting at a station for a train that would never come. We hopped on the only other train that ran on the same line which took us somewhat close to where we needed to go but we still had a great deal of walking to do on top of it.

 

nyc travel guide

Grand Central Station- We both really wanted to see Grand Central… we have a photo of it hanging in our living room after all lol. The plan was to get in, grab some photos and get out. It was awe-inspiring to say the least, however, some of the magic and wonder is lost from our living room picture after having been there. Once again, our intended subway route was not in operation, so we had to walk a bit to another line that got us to our next destination.


New York City Explorer Pass: NYC Attractions

 

nyc travel guide

Battery Park & Wall Street- We thought there would be more to see and do in Battery Park. After all, it was the gateway to the Statue of Liberty. We walked the park and took a few photos then made our way to Wall Street. We wanted to see the Charging Bull and the Fearless Girl statues… but when we got there… it was a madhouse of tourists in a frenzy trying to get photos. At no point could we even see the Charging Bull statue as it was completely mobbed with people… the Fearless Girl had people literally fighting to be the next in line to stand and get their photo taken with it. Needless to say we grabbed the best photo we could, given the circumstances and continued on our way.

 

nyc travel guide

National September 11 Memorial & Museum- We definitely wanted to visit the 9/11 Memorial on our visit. We debated whether or not we would have time to visit the museum but once we saw the huge line outside to get in we ruled it out. The important part for us was to visit the reflecting pools, read the names and stand in the place where it all happened. Even though the area was crowded, it was very somber and calm. We did find it odd that there were people taking selfies but …well we aren’t here to judge. Right next to the memorial was Oculus, which is an underground mall. We peeked inside to see what it was all about but didn’t stay long.

 

nyc travel guide

New York Water Taxi- Instead of taking the subway to our next destination, we decided to take the New York Water Taxi because it was one of the perks included in our New York Pass. The “All Day Access Pass” costs $31 if purchased separately and travels between 4 docks along the waterfront. We found the ride to be enjoyable and the tour guide was very informative! It even makes a pass by the Statue of Liberty for some great close up photos!

 

nyc travel guide

Dinner at the Gotham West Market- The Gotham West Market was a completely random pick on the fly because we found ourselves ahead of schedule and miles from where we had planned to have dinner. It’s a collection of trendy restaurants that all share the same building. We chose Genuine Roadside because we were in the mood for a good burger and fries. They did not disappoint! The food was good and the service was friendly… what more could you ask for?

 

nyc travel guide

Circle Line Harbor Lights Night Cruise- While technically this was almost the same thing as the New York Water Taxi, the Circle Line Harbor Lights Night Cruise was a 2 hour excursion where you experience the sunset on the water and watch the city light up. It was included in our New York Pass and would have cost $39 if purchased separately. The view was amazing and it really was a spectacle to watch the city come to life as the sun set. Our tour guide was AWESOME! He was a real tell-it-like-it-is New Yorker with a fantastic NYC accent! One word of advice, it was COLD and WINDY out on the water so take that into consideration when dressing to go on one of these cruises.

 

nyc travel guide

Madame Tussauds- This was a completely unscheduled stop but since we were walking right by it on our way to the next destination we decided to stop… and yes it was, in fact, included in our New York Pass. Admission is $34 if purchased at the door. The celebs were amazingly life-like and we had fun posing and taking photos with the various characters. We breezed through this attraction pretty fast though because we were tired and it was getting late.

 

nyc travel guide

The Empire State Building- We finished out the day at the Empire State Building. Admissions was included with our pass but the cost is $34 if purchased separately. Even at 11pm the Empire State Building was extremely busy. There was a line to get tickets, then a line to get in the elevator, then a line to get in a second elevator. They announced we could walk up the 6 flights of stairs if we didn’t want to wait so we sucked it up and made the climb. There are 2 observation decks but we didn’t pay the extra to go up any higher than the 86th floor. While the view was amazing from the top… the crowds were ridiculous! Everyone was fighting over space to squeeze in and get a pic then essentially you had to move on without ever really enjoying the view. After a few pics we were done and so ready to leave.

 

nyc travel guide

Times Square- Our walk back to the hotel took us through Times Square (we had been through several times over the course of the day) but now it was lit up in all of its glory. It was surprising to see how crazy and crowded it was at midnight. We got through as quickly as possible as we were exhausted from our incredible day in New York City!

 

Residence Inn  Manhattan/ Central Park- Our room was cozy with an amazing view! We lucked out and got a corner unit which included a partial view of Central Park. We didn’t spend much time in the room but we got up in time to see the sunrise over Central Park. Well we technically couldn’t see the sun from our view but it was beautiful none the less.

 

Conclusion and Final Thoughts:

Looking back, we probably did way too much lol. Betsy didn’t believe 24 hours was enough time to see New York City and Chris took that as a challenge. Even though this was a rigorous and highly scripted visit, every single stop was optional so if we were running behind, or wanted to experience something longer we could simply remove a stop from our list. We hope to return to New York City in the future and have a more relaxed visit that covers more area than just Manhattan but at least we can now saw that we have been to NYC!

 

Betsy’s Thoughts:

While it was a great trip, I do believe we did too much. We did walk over 40,000 steps after all and my feet paid for it for several days after the trip. Sore feet and tiredness aside, I had a great time and it was amazing to see some of the different NYC landmarks up close, like the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. As much as I enjoyed seeing all of the sights, what I really loved most about NYC was all of the people and the diversity. NYC is the epitome of what the United States is to me and I think everyone would benefit from experiencing New York City.

 

Chris’s Thoughts:

I never traveled much before I met Betsy so every time we go someplace new, I feel a need to see EVERYTHING there is to see because in my mind, I may never be back. That being said, I agree that this plan was WAAAY too ambitious even for my standards. I regret nothing though!! Sure it was exhausting… sure my feet hurt for days afterwards… but this trip was an absolute success that has provided us with an amazing story to tell for years to come!


New York Pass

May 15 2017

We’re Back!

travel blog

 

We’re Back!! Yes that’s right, after a long hiatus from travel blogging… The Adventurers has Returned! Over the past 2 years we’ve had many adventures but due to working full-time, raising a family and each of us running our own separate blogs… well… let’s just say we had to push this venture aside for a little while.

So what have we been up to? We are excited to share with you that we just returned from our greatest adventure yet… our wedding! But not just your average run-of-the-mill wedding. (We’re the Adventurers after all) We planned an epic destination wedding and an incredibly familymoon (a honeymoon where the kids are included in all of the festivities). Naturally we’re going to fill you in on all of the details in some upcoming posts but here’s a little teaser photo from our wedding day!

 

travel blog

 

As you can tell it was absolutely amazing! We plan to share our experiences from all throughout Florida which began in Tampa and ended in Fort Lauderdale, so stay tuned! We also have a trip coming up that we like to call “The Complete New York Experience in One Day!” We’ll also revisit some past adventures like our “Michigan Fall Color & Lighthouse Tour” as well as our “Cold Day in Toronto”.

So be sure to sign up for our mailing list, or follow us on social media so you don’t miss out!

Category: Destination Wedding, Florida | Comments Off on We’re Back!
March 2 2015

Getting Around While On Vacation




Getting Around While On Vacation

As we mentioned in this post, where we stay while on vacation is something that we spend a lot of time researching before we make our decision. Once we have our accommodations locked in, we then start to figure out how we are going to get around while we are on vacation. As a general rule we do not enjoy driving once we get to our destination as neither of us like to drive in places that we are not familiar with and we find that it just adds unnecessary stress and anxiety to the trip. There are times, however when the best option is for us to rent a car, but we try to avoid it if possible. (We have fond memories of a trip to Florida where Betsy had to back up out of a toll booth on the expressway because we didn’t have the pass needed to open the gate. Fun times.)

bus

When we went to Disney World we did not need to rent a car as we stayed at one of the Disney properties and thus we received free transportation to and from the airport as well as to all of the parks. That worked perfectly for us! When we went to San Francisco, we didn’t rent a car either. Instead we used all of the various public transportation options available to get around once we left the airport and overall that worked well as soon as we figured out how it all worked.

When we went to Disneyland we did not rent a car either even though we were not staying at one of the Disney hotels. Instead we utilized SuperShuttle for transportation to and from the airport and because our hotel was close to the parks we were able to walk to wherever we wanted to go. SuperShuttle is an airport shuttle service that can take many people to and from the airport at one time and is an affordable transportation option as long as you don’t mind sharing the shuttle with people who you do not know.

 

wing

 

The Experience

We made reservations with SuperShuttle in advance on their website for our Disneyland trip. It was quick and painless and we even found a promo code that saved us a little bit of money! It pays to search for those promo codes! Because SuperShuttle had our airline information they knew exactly when we landed and even sent a text message welcoming us and giving us some shuttle information. We found the SuperShuttle pick up at area at LAX with relative ease and we checked in with the SuperShuttle agent. Once checked in we received another text message letting us know what number van we would be getting on and it even gave us the option to track the van so that we could see how far away it was and how long it would be before it would pick us up.

While we waited for our van to arrive a different SuperShuttle agent replaced the one that had checked us in (possible shift change?) and that resulted in a bit of confusion when we tried to get into the shuttle that we were assigned to. The new agent told us that it wasn’t our shuttle despite our attempts at showing him the text message with the van number we were assigned to. The driver of the shuttle quickly resolved the issue and we boarded the shuttle headed for our hotel. The drive from LAX to the Disneyland area takes about 40 minutes but we also had to stop at other hotels before we got to ours as the shuttle was filled with people going to neighboring hotels so it took longer than 40 minutes. Not a big deal for us but something to keep in mind if you decide to book SuperShuttle. The way back to the airport is the same situation. The SuperShuttle picks everyone up from various hotels and then goes to the airport.

 

The Opinions

Betsy: I found SuperShuttle very easy to reserve and I really liked the text communication that we received when we landed and while we were waiting for our shuttle to arrive. The only thing I was a bit irritated by was when the SuperShuttle agent wouldn’t let us board the van that I knew was ours. I didn’t appreciate the way that he dismissed what I had to say without actually looking into it first. Overall my experience with SuperShuttle was positive though and I wouldn’t let that small snafu dissuade me from booking with them again.

Chris: In addition to this trip, I had to use SuperShuttle once before in Chicago when Betsy and I had to return home separately. Each time went smooth and easy. I was dropped off right in front of the terminal where I needed to be so there was no guess work. I will definitely be making use of this service again!




Category: Disney, Transportation | Comments Off on Getting Around While On Vacation
February 23 2015

HopCat Detroit Review




hopcat

The Experience

Chris and I ended up having an unexpected night out together last Friday because my friend was sick and was unable to attend the Garth Brooks concert with me. (To read about the Garth concert click here.) Since Chris doesn’t like country music I thought I would sweeten the deal by enticing him with dinner at HopCat beforehand. We’ve been to the one in Grand Rapids a couple of times but we had not yet had the opportunity to go to the new one in Detroit so Chris was all for it!

HopCat Detroit opened in December of 2014 and is located on Woodward Ave in MidTown Detroit in a renovated 100-year-old building. They have the largest tap selection in Michigan with 130 Craft Beers on tap. The second level of the restaurant is home to their Huma Room where they have live music and other performances. And like all of the other HopCats before them, they have a great menu and the infamous Crack Fries!

Parking is a bit tight in that area plus construction is currently under way for the M1 Rail (which will have a stop right outside HopCat) so Chris and I ended up parking a block away in the Wayne State parking garage. Normally the walk wouldn’t have bothered us but Friday just so happened to be one of those sub-zero days. It was a brisk walk to say the least.

HopCat Detroit (1)

Once inside we were seated right away as we had arrived before the dinner rush. Our waitress explained the beer menu in great length and perhaps we should have stopped her because we don’t drink beer. I know, I know…..we went to HopCat but we don’t drink beer? It is true, we are not beer drinkers and we actually don’t drink much of anything anymore. No particular reason, we just aren’t big drinkers. We do however, love the food at HopCat and that was why we were there.

While taking our order, you could tell that the waitress was a bit disappointed that we didn’t order any beer. Perhaps we were an anomaly she had not yet encountered there yet. People that don’t drink beer do actually exist.

Chris ordered the Grand Royale which is a sloppy joe topped with jalapeños, Crack Fries and cheese sauce on a brioche bun. (He always gets this every time we go to HopCat. That is how good it is!) I ordered The Bar Zee burger which is a half pound burger topped with cherry smoked bacon, jalapeños and bar cheese on a brioche bun. My burger came with Crack Fries and I also got cheese sauce on the side. Cheese sauce is a must with the Crack Fries!

HopCat Grand Royale

HopCat Bar Zee Burger

We both really liked our meals. We would also recommend the Killer Mac & Cheese. We did not have it at the Detroit location but we have had it in Grand Rapids and it is delicious!

The Opinions

Betsy: Overall I really enjoyed our dinner at HopCat! The Crack Fries were just as good as I remembered. I was however, a little annoyed by the waitress. In addition to the displeasure she had when we didn’t order any beer she also told us as we were leaving that when we come back next time we should try some of their beer. She didn’t say it in exactly those words and I understand that HopCat is known for their beer selection but there was obviously a reason why we didn’t order any beer. What if we were recovering alcoholics or something? We are not but still. On another bad note, I used the ladies room before we left the restaurant and it looked like it hadn’t been tended to in quite some time. Those two issues were minor for me though and would not deter me from going back to HopCat in Detroit again.

Chris: I love Hopcat’s food. I am so tempted get everything on the menu but I always have to go with the Grand Royale because you just can’t get anything like it anywhere else. Now that we don’t have to drive across the state to get to one I’m sure we will be visiting more often and I will stray from the norm and try the rest of the menu. I didn’t read our waitress as being displeased by our not getting beer but simply urging us to try some since that is obviously their claim to fame. Between the 2 locations I still enjoyed the one in Grand Rapids better… but maybe that’s because there was just a little bit of magic behind discovering a great place to eat while on a road trip lol.

 

 




February 18 2015

Disneyland: Where to Stay




Where To Stay When You Go To Disneyland

The Planning

If there is one thing that we have learned through all of our traveling it is that where you stay can make or break your trip. Even if most of your day is filled with sight-seeing, where you rest your head at night can still have a huge impact on your experience. Don’t believe us? Click here to read our review of the cabins that we stayed in when we went to Mackinaw City. That was a great experience but the year before that we stayed at a budget hotel that was friendly to our wallet but not friendly to our senses. It made our skin crawl and dampened what would have otherwise been a great trip.

Because of that knowledge we spend a considerable amount of time selecting where we are going to stay when we go on a trip. Some of the items that we consider before booking a hotel include proximity to the attractions we want to visit, reviews on TripAdvisor, amenities and price.

When planning our trip to Disneyland we considered the hotels at Disneyland itself which included: The Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel. All of which turned out to be too expensive for our budget. We then started exploring Disneyland’s Good Neighbor Hotels which are hotels in the area that are not owned by Disneyland but have a relationship with Disneyland and have received the Good Neighbor approval. We eventually choose the Anaheim Marriott Hotel which was in fact a Good Neighbor Hotel and was within a mile of Disneyland, California Adventure and Downtown Disney. The hotel had great reviews on TripAdvisor, it had excellent amenities and we ended up getting it at a price that was perfect for our budget!

The Experience

Marriott is known for its world class service and this hotel was no exception!

We received a friendly greeting from the front desk when we arrived and we were able to check in even though we had arrived several hours before the official check in time. We did have a bit of a snafu at the elevators only because we were not using them correctly. Ha! Turns out there is a keypad outside of the elevator banks where you make your floor selection as opposed to inside the elevator. We saw several others make them same mistake as we did throughout our stay so we didn’t feel so bad. We even had a couple that got stuck riding the elevator with us to our floor because they hopped in at the last minute without knowing they had to push their floor button before getting in the elevator.

Our room was clean and nicely furnished with a modern touch. But really the best part of our room was the balcony and the view!

Marriott Anaheim View

Marriott Anaheim View 2

Quite a change of scenery compared to what we see every day in Michigan!

After getting settled into our room we made the walk from the hotel to Downtown Disney! We knew that we were in for a mile walk but that didn’t bother us. The route from the hotel to Disneyland turned out to be very easy to navigate and it appeared to be very safe. (Although one night we did encounter police officers handling a disturbance.) The route was also lined with palm trees and it was very pretty a night when it was all lit up!

Anaheim Marriott Walk to Disneyland

As far as the amenities of the hotel go, we really didn’t take advantage of them since we were gone for most of the day but we liked knowing that they were there if we wanted to use them. We did attempt to use the pool but unbeknownst to us it was closed for renovation. Womp womp. That was a bit of a disappointment but it wasn’t a deal breaker.

Tips

– If you are not able to check in early or if you need some place to store your luggage on the day of your departure until it is time for you to head to the airport they will store your luggage for free! We used that service on our last day in Anaheim so that we could spend the day at California Adventure before flying home that evening.

– Shop around online on the various sites to get the best deal at the Anaheim Marriott Hotel or any other hotel for that matter!

The Opinions

Betsy: It is no surprise that I am a bit of a hotel snob since I have worked in the hotel industry for many many years. Because of my hotel experience, I see things that other guests may not notice. I am especially critical of customer service. All of the employees at the Anaheim Marriott were very friendly and ready to assist with anything that we needed. Our housekeeper in particular was very nice and every morning while cleaning she would sing while she worked. I like seeing employees so happy as it is indicative of the culture at the hotel. I really enjoyed my stay there and would definitely stay again! Hopefully next time the pool will be open!

Chris: The hotel was very conveniently located and so close we could actually see parts of Disney’s California Adventure from our window. They offered a shuttle to Disney but it probably wasn’t any faster than it took us to walk the distance. I was pretty bummed about the pool though… we came from 10 degrees and snow to 70 and sunny so I wanted to get some pool time in and soak up the warmth. Ah well …I just had to settle for going to Disneyland lol.




Category: Amusement Parks, Disney, Places to Stay | Comments Off on Disneyland: Where to Stay
February 16 2015

Valentine’s At Buddy’s Pizza




buddys pizza

We’re bringing the blog back! Not to be confused with bringing booty back. Very, very different. But still just as fun. We haven’t posted on here in a while but since one of us, cough Betsy cough, is in between jobs right now, we figured this was the perfect time to revitalize our little piece of the internet.

And we have lots to talk about after all. In January we made a trip out to California to Disneyland for the inaugural Disney Star Wars race! You can read about the races themselves on our other blogs here and here but on this blog we will be focusing on the travel and attractions part of the trip. So stay tuned for posts about that later this week!

In the meantime, we thought we would share our Valentine’s weekend excursion to one of our local pizza places, Buddy’s Pizza! We’ve blogged about them before but they are so good we thought that they were worth another mention.

We had Thing 1 & 2 with us over Valentine’s weekend so we couldn’t think of anything sweeter to do as a family than head to Buddy’s for some of their famous square pizza. We were a bit nervous as to how long the wait would be. Not only was it a Friday night, which is a notoriously busy restaurant night in our area, but it was also Valentine’s weekend. As luck would have it, we ended up waiting less than 20 minutes before we got seated!

Buddy's Pizza Shelby Township

The biggest decision we have at Buddy’s is what pizza to order! They have so many great options. We ended up ordering two pizzas, the Detroiter and the Meat Deluxe Pizza. We also got an order of their Oven-Baked Cheese & Bacon Fries as an appetizer.

Buddy's Pizza

Everything was great as usual! Our server, unfortunately we didn’t catch her name, was fantastic! She seemed to anticipate every need we had, she never let our drinks run out and she delivered quick and friendly service. We left with full bellies and smiles on our faces.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to try out Buddy’s Pizza yet, we highly recommend that you give them a try. You won’t be disappointed!

Have you been to Buddy’s Pizza?

What is your favorite thing to order?




Category: Detroit, Restaurants | Comments Off on Valentine’s At Buddy’s Pizza
January 7 2015

Holidays in Henry Ford Museum & Holiday Nights in Greenfield Village – Event Review 2014




henry ford

Holidays In Henry Ford Museum:

Beginning after Thanksgiving and continuing right on until Christmas, The Henry Ford gets all done up for Christmas. There are many activities for adults and kids alike and the best part is that there is no extra charge beyond the normal museum admission. $20 for adults, $15 for children, and 4 and under are free. If you live in the area, then a membership might be the way to go so you can have unlimited access all year round. The museum’s permanent exhibits are all open and accessible during this time but you get the bonus of some added attractions such as:

henry ford

Story time in an old train car. One of the many wonderful volunteers will read aloud from a selection of children’s holiday tales.

henry ford

The most photographed object inside the Henry Ford (the Allegheny Locomotive) get’s all done up for the occasion!

henry ford

There is a giant model train display and a VERY impressive Lego City display along side the trains on the far side of the building as well. But let’s not forget about Santa…

henry ford

Not many people know this… but Santa, the REAL Santa, comes to the Henry Ford every year to visit all the children of Metro-Detroit and beyond. SERIOUSLY! If you don’t believe me go see for yourself. Unlike other places that reportedly have Santa but actually have some guy in a fake beard in the middle of the mall this is the real deal! The other perk of seeing Santa at The Henry Ford is privacy. Santa is in his own little area away from all of the crowds where he has full conversations with each and every kid. This kind of quality experience takes time so expect to wait a good long while in line. It’s always good to be prepared with snacks and other activities to help pass the time… another good tip would be to take turns waiting in line so the kids can stay distracted elsewhere in the museum if they start to get antsy. In the end it is worth it!

So don’t just take our word for it, experience it for yourself! You will find that you will be coming back year after year.

 

 

greenfield village

Holiday Nights at Greenfield Village:

After hours, on select nights throughout December, you can walk the streets of Greenfield Village as it is done up like an old turn of the century Christmas town. Tickets for this event sell out well in advance so you need to plan your trip days or even weeks ahead of time. Prices are $22 for adults, $16 for children, and kids 4 and under are free. Members do not get in free for this event, however, they do get discounted tickets and the ability to purchase them a full month ahead of the general public. They also have special dining packages at the Eagle Tavern available at a somewhat premium price (we have never been but I’m sure the experience is worth it).

greenfield village

You will find the craftsmen working away in the various shops where you can watch them make actual items that get sold right there in the village. There are carolers singing, costumed townsfolk roaming the streets spreading cheer, and even a policeman or two directing traffic.

Greenfield Village

Take a ride on a Model T and go whizzing through the village as the driver honks the little horn at the people walking by. Or have a sing along on a horse-drawn wagon as you tour the streets. Even take a ride on the Carousel, all at no extra charge!

Greenfield Village

Unlike some of the other after hours events, most of the houses are open and done up for Christmas in a manner that was typical of that time period. You can shop at the street vendors for some classic ornaments or get a hot fresh batch of roasted chestnuts for a snack… yes you can even go ice skating!

Greenfield Village

To stay warm, they have small bonfires set up and one of the bonfires we stumbled across even had s’mores! The buildings are also heated but it is advisable to dress very warm for this event because you are spending the majority of the time outside. The event is very kid friendly, however, the weather might not be so keep that in mind when bringing the little ones.

Greenfield Village

Even Santa makes an appearance! After working all day inside the museum, Santa retires to his home-away-from-home where he sits out on the balcony greeting all the boys and girls. Naturally, a few days before Christmas he must return to the North Pole in order to prepare for his big journey …and then he probably goes on vacation after that …someplace warm. 😉

Greenfield Village

The evening ends with a stunning fireworks display while they hold a Christmas Carol sing-along in the square. The gift shops stay open an extra half hour so if you’ve had your eye on something but didn’t want to carry it… you can still run in and pick it up! Overall this was by far THE best event we have ever attended at the Henry Ford for any occasion! We will definitely be going back again every year from now on.

*Disclosure – We received free entry into the Holiday Nights event in exchange for our honest review. We are, however, members and frequent visitors of the Henry Ford and toured the museum on our own. 




Category: Detroit, Holiday Festivities, Michigan, museum | Comments Off on Holidays in Henry Ford Museum & Holiday Nights in Greenfield Village – Event Review 2014
January 7 2015

Wild Lights At The Detroit Zoo – Event Review




detroit zoo

The details:

Starting mid- November, The Detroit Zoo comes alive at night with the twinkling of over five million lights. It’s dubbed “Wild Lights at the Detroit Zoo” and it runs weekends and select nights from 530 – 9 pm through December 31st. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the gate PLUS a $6 parking fee (both members and non-members pay the same prices). It is STRONGLY recommended that you purchase your tickets in advance because the event sells out most nights. It is also advised that if you have your tickets you should avoid arriving early… normally we suggest the opposite but in this case there are HUGE crowds of people trying to purchase tickets at the gate and things get very congested and backed up for a good hour. The “loop” around the zoo is said to take about an hour and a half if you include the 4D movie experience. (This year is the Polar Express but we are unsure if it will be the same every year).

wild lights

 

Our experience:

This was our first visit to Wild Lights even though we are long time visitors of the zoo itself. Our motto is always to arrive early to beat the crowds but little did we know that was a mistake for this particular event. The line of cars to get into the zoo was so long that it had stopped traffic in the streets outside. Once we got in we barely managed to get a parking spot way at the very top of the parking garage and when we got to the main gate we were greeted by a huge mob. It wasn’t a terrible wait, however, we noticed as we were leaving that there were NO lines at all just a short while later.

wild lights

Once inside, things were less hectic and the crowds thinned out as we moved along. You are directed down a specific path and not allowed to roam free throughout the park. The light displays were stunning and somewhat themed by the area you were walking through. You can not, however, see the majority of the animals… the trails avoid most of the enclosures or they are blocked from view.

wild lights

The carousel was open as was the 4D Theater which was playing a condensed version of the Polar Express (not included in the ticket price). We skipped both of these attractions and continued through the trails. There were many concession stands open along the way including the Arctic Café where people could get holiday-themed snacks like hot cocoa and such. There were also warming stations every so often with space heaters or small bonfires to thaw you out on the colder nights. The full loop took us roughly an hour to complete. We did not dally in one place for too long and kept walking for the most part.

wild lights

Overall we had a great time! Next year we will have learned our lesson and will arrive after the mad rush for the gate opening. The displays were incredible and it was a fun night out with the family. We will definitely be attending this again next year!




Category: Detroit, Holiday Festivities, Michigan, Zoos | Comments Off on Wild Lights At The Detroit Zoo – Event Review