Day Trips · Edinburgh · Europe · Family Travel · Museums · Scotland · UK · United Kingdom

TrippinTwins: Experiencing Edinburgh’s Camera Obscura 

We knew New Year’s Eve would be a late night, so we planned a leisurely New Year’s Day morning.  We were not super concerned with setting an alarm, figuring we would wake up in time to catch our bus into Old Town for brunch and an afternoon walking tour. Hindsight is 20/20 as they say, but that was certainly not the sharpest idea either of us have had. When Tara woke, it was an hour later than expected and she panicked, calling me to wake up saying, “Get up, get up! We have to leave soon.”

Barely awake, we managed to agree to reduce our usual “get ready” time to remain on schedule.  In those few minutes, we both managed  to make the same assumption that a light jacket would be just fine to carry us through the day. Boy, were were wrong!! When we walked outside, it was sooo much cooler than expected. Tara, not as easily bothered by cold temperatures, somehow talked me into sucking it up and hoping for the best, as it was really my only option.

I agreed to head to brunch, since I had to agree that finding food would improve my mood significantly. Hoping it would warm up after brunch turned out to be only wishful thinking. It somehow managed to only get colder and windier. Tara agreed that staying warm on the walking tour with light jackets would be a challenge, so we would play it by ear.

After the first hour and a good stopping point, we thanked our guide and bowed out in search of a coffee shop to warm up. Afterwards, while walking towards Edinburgh Castle, we noticed a crowd gathered outside Edinburg’s Camera Obscura & World of Illusions and decided to head inside to check it out.

Upon walking in, we quickly joined the ticket line where we learned the entrance fee secures all day access as long as the entrance stamp remains on your hand.  The six floors can be tackled in any order, but a majority of the crowd seems to make their way up to the top with the rooftop deck/camera demonstration before making their way down to experience the World of Illusions.

It was already around 3:30 PM when we bought our tickets, so we heeded the ticketing agent suggestion and made our way up the tight and windy stair cases to the sixth floor.  Once there, a staff member inquired as to whether we were interested in attending the last fifteen minute camera demonstration of the day. We were thankful for the notice and after telling him we in fact were, then directed towards the rooftop deck to spend some time taking in the amazing view of the city. Although the views are not hard to see, telescopes are offered and are quite the crowd pleaser.  The best part was that we arrived at the perfect time for a perfect sunset view!


When it was time for the camera demonstration, we were taken to a dark room and instructed to gather around the camera viewfinder, which is about the size of a medium round table. Our guide demonstrated how the camera worked by moving it around the viewing area, giving the group a virtual tour of Edinburgh. The sun had already set, so we were told our views would be limited to well known brightly lit neighborhoods and buildings. We were pleasantly surprised at how many city landmarks we could identify along with the areas that had been lit with holiday lights. The definite crowd pleaser was being given white pieces of paper which we used to “pick up” objects and landmarks.

If this demonstration is a priority for your visit, we suggest getting there earlier in the day. We were told the views are better on sunny and less cloudy days.

After the camera demonstration, we spent the next two hours exploring the World of Illusions starting with level 5 and working our way down to 2. (5: Magic Gallery 4: Light Fantastic 3: Eye Spy Edinburgh 2: Bewilderworld)  Every floor is divided up in smaller sections with various activities and hands on learning opportunities fun for both kids and adults. Many of the displays allow for hands on learning experiences using light displays, color and other optical illusions.  In addition, there are puzzles, a vortex tunnel, a mirror maze, which are all popular.

Like many places with multiple exhibits/stations, we quickly found out that a few stations attracted more crowds than others. We skimmed the rooms for the stations with the fewest people, did those first and came back to the others later.  We had a fantastic afternoon reading and learning about Edinburgh and photography, learning about the illusions, playing with the hands on experiments and learning the explanations behind the tricks. It took us about two hours to do every station we were interested in, but we can see others easily spending 3-4 hours.

Camera Obscura is a fantastic place to add to your Edinburgh itinerary that most everyone can enjoy.

Hat tips:

The stair cases are very narrow and steep, which can be challenging

All strollers have to stay in the lobby

There is no elevator

Families seemed to use the all day access for easy restroom access 🙂



Christmas · Europe · Holiday Travel · London · UK

Christmas in London, Take Me Back!

Ever dream of spending a magical Christmas in London?  We got the chance this past Christmas when our New Years plans hit a snag. You see, we were very excited about booking a New Year’s trip to Edinburgh to experience Hogmanay. Wanting to ensure we did not miss out on festival tickets, we bought tickets before securing airfare. After realizing it was not within our budget to fly into Edinburgh from our hometown, we began looking into alternatives. Luckily, we found a fantastic airfare deal that had us landing in London on Christmas Eve!

Since London was a last minute add on, we did not have much time for pre-planning. We knew we wanted to stay for a few days to give us time to take in the sites, lights and sounds of a quieter time in London. We secured a hotel at the best place we could find at a reasonable price, which happened to be just outside the usual tourist areas. We did not book Christmas Lunch reservations in advance. Although, this made us a bit apprehensive, these few days turned into some of our favorite Christmas memories. If you have yet to experience Christmas in London, we hope we can provide you with some insight and suggestions to assist you plan your next Christmas in this magical city.

Where should I stay?

We started the search for lodging immediately.  The best deals we found were in Westminster,  so we chose to stay at DoubleTree by Hilton London – Westminster. Although we enjoyed the hotel, there were very few businesses open during Christmas and the days after. Although we found this a bit disappointing, it encouraged us to explore other areas where we could find more dining choices. During our walk, we found quite a few areas that had better options for tourists: Trafalgar Square, The Strand, Covenant Garden and Piccadilly Circus.  Of course, if you have your own mode of transportation, do not mind paying cab fare, or walking, your lodging choices are limitless.

Transportation options from Heathrow to London?

We noticed from Twitter that people were surprised at the lack of public transportation available from Heathrow to London during the holidays. The Heathrow Express Train  that runs to the city does not run on Christmas Day. Some years there is bus service offered in its place. Use the Transportation for London website for the latest schedules.  If you do not rent a car or book transportation in advance, be prepared to pay between £70 and £75 in taxi fare from Heathrow to the city hotels.

Transportation options in the city?

The London Underground does not run from late Christmas Eve through Christmas Day. It does run on 26 December, Boxing Day, with a reduced schedule. Several lines can have construction with limited service through early January. Verify schedules Transportation for London.

Taxis and Uber are both readily available. We only took cabs when under time constraints as there was a £4 holiday surcharge added to every fare. Bike share services proved to be a popular option based on the number of people we saw on bikes and the empty bike racks around the city. Otherwise, London is a walkable city and we walked practically everywhere we went.

Is Christmas Lunch/Dinner Hard to Find?

For Christmas Day dining, making advanced reservations, or staying in a hotel with a full-service restaurant is the surest bet. If you are searching for food on your own, as we did, we found heading to Westminster and St Paul’s Cathedral areas in the early afternoon to be a good option as they had pubs open for lunch service. Other sure bets are the Piccadilly Circus and Covent Garden areas where restaurants were open late.  We did not manage to find a Starbucks or a Pret a Manger open, although we were told by several people that they would in fact be open.  Therefore, for mid-day snacks and drinks,  we visited several family owned stores that were open and a street vendor at Westminster Pier.


A Fantastic Christmas Lunch at St. Stephen’s Tavern


A much needed Cappaccino at St. Stephen Tavern

More restaurants open on Boxing Day, the 26th,  though many in less touristy areas remained closed, sometimes through early January.

What Activites are Available? 

On Christmas Eve, there are Christmas markets to visit, performances and church services to attend. Although, we had wanted to go to midnight mass at Westminster Abbey, we did not get tickets, which are made available each November. There are also popular services at St. Paul’s Cathedral and St. Martin’s-in-the-Field !

We ultimately decided to forgo services and instead attend a performance of  “Carols by Candelight”, which was fantastically fun.  Performance dates and info can be founds here: Royal Albert Hall. It was there we discovered just how much Londoners enjoy the carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, which had us reminiscing of our caroling days.

On Christmas Day, take advantage of the fairly empty streets and closed businesses to enjoy the sights and sounds of the city. Walk through the various historic neighborhoods, take in the historic statues and buildings and take in those  famous and magical Christmas lights.


Neon Snowflakes over Jermyn Street


Bond St Pacock Feathers


Picadilly Circus lights


If you are looking for a more formal tour, check out London Walks. They have 2 walks on Christmas Day that meet in Trafalgar Square.  If you are looking for a museum to visit, Ripley’s Believe It or Not in Piccadilly Circus is open on Christmas Day.

December 26, Boxing Day, is a big sales and shopping day.  Most major stores are open offering sales on everything from the high end brands on Bond Street to the bargains that can be found on Tottenham Court Road. There are also a few Christmas Markets open and a few West End shows.  We chose to attend the Nutcracker with the English National Ballet which was the perfect choice! It was the highlight of our trip. The costuming and dance talent is some of the best in the world.

We lucked into fantastic weather this year and did not let the drizzle keep us inside. We enjoyed our few days so much, that we know we just have to come back for another Christmas. Have you ever spent Christmas in London?  If so, do you have any tips to share?


TrippinTwins: Tour the White House

The White House, the symbol of American leadership, is one of the most recognizable buildings in the world. It has served as the official residence for every President of the United States since 1800.  When we were made aware the White House would be allowing photos on tours, we decided to put this experience at the top of our list.   We decided to request Veterans Day weekend because it is one of our favorite times to visit the city. We thoroughly enjoyed our experience, but being aware of a few things prior would have helped us to have an even better experience. We hope this post encourages those interested to apply and go see this great American symbol for yourself.

How/When to Apply for White House Tour:

There are several ways to apply and for obvious reasons, it is easiest if you have a connection in the White House. If you are one of those connected individuals though, you probably are not seeking advice from a blog. On the other hand, if you are like us in that you are just a regular folk with no inside connections , you  must apply through your state Congressman’s/Senator’s office.   Non-US citizens should apply through their embassy or can contact a Congressional representative and inform them of their citizenship.

Request Forms:

When filling out the request form, you are given a chance to select tours for the following places of interest: White House, Capitol, Supreme Court, Library of Congress, and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. We selected White House and received an inquiry from our Congressman’s office to see if we would be interested in a Capitol Tour as well.

Once your Congressman’s office processes the request, you will most likely receive a follow-on e-mail asking you to provide clearance information and to confirm your travel dates.  Once you have submitted the required paperwork, your representative’s office will notify you if your requested dates were approved/ disapproved.

When to Apply:

The suggested time frame to apply is 3-6 months in advance. We applied 15 weeks in advance of our planned trip date and it worked out.  We received confirmation our tour was approved 12 weeks after submission and 3 weeks before our trip date, but the average notification time is 2 weeks in advance of the trip date.  When we talked to a member of our Congressman’s office we were told the most difficult time to get approved for a tour is during the late November through the end of the year for Christmas season.  If you must visit during the holiday, apply as far as possible in advance.

Notification of Approval:

With your notice of approval from your Congressman’s office, you will receive a White House pass that lists tour date and time, required documentation, list of permitted items and list of prohibited items.

Before You Go:

Ensure you stick to your original travel dates. Rescheduling tours are a hassle and can not always be accommodated.

Ensure you bring your White House Pass with you or have access to a printer at your travel location.

Comply with the list of approved/prohibited items:

  1. You can bring a coat/jacket even though they not listed on the pass.
  2. Secret Service has the right to confiscate any item that is not specifically listed. We saw school groups have earphones/earbuds taken away from kids; small razor blades, lighters and vapor cigarettes all confiscated from adults.


Security levels can be different depending on the current threat level.  At the very least, there will be be 5 security checks.  You are requested to meet at the check in point 15 minutes in advance.  If you arrive early, stop in at the White House Visitor’s Center because that is where the guards will direct you.  We arrived a few minutes late, but it was not an issue because there is a 2 1/2 hour grace period.

The 5 levels of security are:  Gate Guard at meeting point checking tickets and times, 2  ID check points by secret service agents, dog sniffer and  metal detectors. Security is surprisingly quick, but can be daunting for kids and for people not aware of the procedures.

East Wing Tour:

The East Wing is the wing that is open for public tours.  Once you enter the first building,  you’ll be greeted by the Obama’s on TV reminding you the tour is a self guided and to utilize secret service agents stationed in the rooms to answer any questions.  You will also see a notice saying that you can take pictures and to use the hashtag #AtTheWH to share your experience.IMG_5307

Gift Shop:

The gift shop is like a kiosk stand.  It offers some unique items for purchase.  If interested, you must buy then because you will not be allowed to return later. There are plenty of gift shops in the surrounding area if you prefer to shop after the tour.


Cameras are restricted to a three inch lens, so cell phone cameras were by far the most popular camera on the tour. Spend time taking in where you are and not obsessing about getting the “right” picture because it’s not always possible. Patience is a virtue if you are wanting to take a picture without strangers in the photo. Tours are one right after the next, so it is rare to have a moment to yourself or with just your group.


The East Wing consists of 9 rooms, some you are able to walk through and some you can only peek into.  There is no specific order you have to follow and you can re-enter rooms you have already seen.  The secret service agents posted in rooms were friendly, but do not know every detail about the room they are posted in because they rotate frequently.  These are some of our favorite rooms we viewed.

 Vermeil Room

This room is located on the ground floor of the White House.  We were not allowed to go into this room, only look in through the open door.  When the house was first built, this room was used as a storage and staff work room.  In 1902, during Roosevelt’s Presidency, it was renovated and turned into a public use room.   The room is sometimes referred to as the “Gold Room” and serves as a display room and a sitting room for formal occasions.  The walls are yellow paneled to compliment the gold-plated silver given to the White House by Mrs. Margaret Thompson Biddle in 1956. The carpet is a Turkish Hereke circa 1860.  The circular mahogany table, in the middle of the room, is Empire revival style, has a tilt top with gold stars in each of the 12 sections.  The chandelier, hanging above, has ten arms and was made in England around 1785.

The mahogany table in the middle of the room is made in the Empire revival style from the 19th century.  The cut glass chandelier hanging above the table was made in England around 1785.


The library is located on the ground floor of the White House.  This space has served a wide variety of  purposes over the years, most recently turned into a library in 1935. The library only has room for two thousand and seven hundred volumes, so the selections are very limited.   The collection was last updated in 2005; Most selections have been there since the early 1960’s when First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy asked a committee to chose books for the library.   The selections chosen represent the culture and history of the United States.  The room is less formal than the state rooms and is often used for media taping.


East Room

November is Native American Heritage Month, so there were a few exhibits celebrating Native American heritage in the East Room when we visited.  It is the largest room in White House, often used for large gatherings such as bill signings, dinners and concerts.  It is the place where presidents are often inaugurated in private before the public ceremony at the Capitol and where former heads of state and other dignitaries are lain in honor before their funerals.

The room was renovated in 1902.  This is when the Bohemian cut-glass chandeliers were added and the paneling on the walls was painted white.  The quilts are part of the Native American exhibit.
George Washington
This full length picture of George Washington was painted by Gilbert Stuart and has hung there since 1800.

 Blue Room

The blue room is located in the center of the State floor of White House.  It is one of three state rooms on the state floor of the residence and is known for it’s oval shape.  The room where the President receives many of his guests and receptions and small dinners take place.  The room has been renovated and redecorated several times, but has always kept its blue color scheme.  During the holidays, it is the room where the official White House Christmas Tree is located.



Red Room

The red room is another of the state parlors of the White House and received its name from the red decor of the room.  The style of the room today is influenced by the American Empire style originally chosen in 1962 during Kennedy’s Administration. The furniture in the room is from the years 1810-1830.  The walls are adorned with fabric woven  in the United States from French Empire designs. The furniture, such as the American Empire sofa, is upholstered in a silk of the same shade of red. The room has been used for a wide variety of activities, in recent administrations for small gatherings and dinner parties.  In 1876, This room also served as a secret swearing-in of President Rutherford B. Hayes after his contested defeat of Samuel J. Tilden in the election.

    Old Family Dining Room

This room is located on the State Floor and is the smaller of two dining rooms on the floor.  It has been renovated several times and was just renovated again recently.  First Lady Obama unveiled the newly refurbished State Dining Room on 10 February 2015.  It is used for private events, presidential working lunches and a over flow room for State dinners.  The latest refurbished room has a modern touch, but retained many of the Kennedy era antiques and a chandelier from 1780.

White House Old Family Dining Room
The Old Family Dining Room of the White House, Feb. 9, 2015.  (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon) 45
Closing Comments: Spend time studying the rooms you will see on the tour before you go. The official suggestion is to visit the Visitors Center, but you can also look online.  Wear comfortable shoes that are good for walking and standing. Expect to spend 45 about minutes viewing and taking photos of the rooms and 15 minutes walking to the exit gate. It was an honor to have this opportunity and we encourage all to apply.

Have you been to the White House, or experienced a White House Tour?  If so, we would enjoy hearing about your experience.

Day Trips · Everglades National Park · Fall · Florida · National Parks · Tours · Trip Ideas · Trip Planning · Water Adventures

Florida Everglades: In a Day 

What do you do when you only have 24 hours to see a place you have longed dreamed of?  This is the quandary we found ourselves in recently after attending TBEX in Fort Lauderdale, FL.   We really did not want to leave the Ft. Lauderdale area once again without seeing the Everglades, but knew we had to find a way to do so in 24 hours. After doing some research, we decided to book a tour through Viator with a company that offers small group day tours with hotel pickup.

The tour operator we took the tour with is called  Eco-Adventures  and the official tour name is “Everglades Day Tour”.  The tour covers a wide area of the Everglades along Hwy 41 and allows one to see a variety of ecosystems quickly. Our guide, Alex, picked us up from our hotel in downtown Ft. Lauderdale  in a 13 passenger van.  There were several last minute cancellations, so there were only two others on the tour with us which worked out great.  As a guide, Alex, was much more than your average tour guide. He is a wildlife naturalist and kept us engaged during our hour drive to our first stop in Davie, FL by describing the significant landscape changes, the Indian tribes that live in the area, the native and invasive plants and the animals that we are most likely to see.

Our first stop of the day was at Pond Apple Swamp to take an airboat ride through the Sawgrass Prairie.   This was an entertaining and educational 40 minute ride in the Pond Apple Swamp where we saw alligators, birds, turtles, flowers and vegetation. The boat went slow enough to allow discussion about the animals and to allow people to take photos. We also learned what looked like intentional defined paths across the prairie, are actually formed by repeated use of airboats in the same areas.



Defined paths across the sawgrass prairie made by repeated airboat use



Baby alligator spotted on the airboat ride



White Ibis flying across the sawgrass prairie



At the conclusion of the boat ride, our tour mates told Alex, our guide, they wished to see more alligators.  He was more than happy to accommodate their request by driving us to a boardwalk area where he had recently seen a few hanging out. We viewed wildlife and relaxed there for 15 minutes before continuing on along Hwy 41 to our next official stop at Kirby Skorter Roadside Park. 


Alligator viewed at boardwalk area



White Ibis spotted at boardwalk area


The Kirby Skorter Roadside Park, named after one of the area’s pioneering families, is a great place to see Cypress trees and offers many possibilities for wildlife sightings.  Most importantly, it allows people to stay dry while doing so.  Our guide told us the best time to do this is in October – March.  We took a leisurely stroll on the boardwalk, which is a 1 mile round trip, while Alex described everything that we were looking at to us.  This was a fun activity appropriate for all ages and activity levels.


Osprey nest in a tree



Florida State Pine Tree



Cypress Trees



Late blooming bromeliad


Following our walk, we were taken to the Oyster House Restaurant in Everglades, FL for lunch.  We were all really hungry at this point in the day and were ready to eat.  Thankfully Alex had called in our order earlier in the day, so we did not have to wait long for our food and drinks to arrive.  The cost of lunch was included in the tour price, so that meant the food selection was somewhat limited, but good.  As part of our lunch, we were given fried alligator bites to try as an appetizer.



Tara & Alligator
Tara eating alligator


After lunch we got ready for our last activity of the day.  We went on a 90 minute boat ride to Ten Thousand Islands cruise with the Everglades National Park Boat Tours.  On this boat ride, we explored the saltwater gulf and the Mangrove forests.  Our boat captain did a great job of spotting wildlife, slowing down for us to get a good glimpse and mentioned that we were a super lucky group because we saw a plethora of wildlife. We saw several dolphins playing, a bald eagle, a few manatees, flamingos and various other birds.  When the ride was over, our group did not want it to end because we all had such a great time.  However, it was time for us to head  back to Ft. Lauderdale so we could go to dinner and our guide could watch his football game!

We had an amazing day in the everglades and cannot wait until our next trip there.  Have you been?  If so, what did you see that we didn’t?



Day Trippin’ Pumpkinfest: Franklin, TN 

You would have to living completely off the grid to have not heard of Nashville, TN by now. It is possible that you have not been to Frankin, a suburb just 20 mins south though. If you have been, it is most likely a place you love. If not, it should be on your Nashville list.  It’s a town that hosts several festivals throughout the year and has plenty of eating and shopping options to satisfy just about anyone. 

The most popular festival is the Pumpkinfest, which is held annually each October. The Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County holds it  in the downtown district, which is nationally recognized as a “Great American Main Street”. This year we took the advice we have been hearing and went to check the festival for ourselves.

Who should come? 

Anyone and everyone looking to experience a fun fall festival in a quintessential American small town.  Whether you are a few hours or a few minutes away, this is a fun day. Folks come dressed in regular clothes or Halloween costumes. You may even bring your dogs dressed in their Halloween best!
How to get there: 

By car. Either your own, rental, or Uber. The closest airport is located in Nashville, TN. If you are coming from Nashville, Franklin is located 25 miles south of Nashville. If you are coming from Huntsville, AL, it’s 140 miles North. Franklin is a fantastic day trip option for either location.

Where to Park:

The festival is held downtown, so you will want to park within a few blocks of Main St. This site offers areas where free parking is available. There are other paid lots available in church parking lots and various businesses in the area during high visitor times.

Where to eat:

There are food trucks available as well as coffee houses and restaurants within walking distance. We chose to eat lunch at Puckett’s Grocery and Restaurant, which offers fantastic reasonably priced dining options for the entire family.

IMG_4660 IMG_4662

If you do not feel like waiting for a table at one of the sit down restaurants, food trucks are great options. One popular truck for drinks was Wild Bill’s Soda General Store

Strolling, Shopping and Show Watching

For families with kids, there are many options to keep the  kids engaged. There are costume contests, face painting, and arts and craft tents.

For adults, there are tents with local craftsmen selling jewelry, pottery and art. There are also stores in the area with high end retail to browse, do some shopping and take a break from outside elements. It is after all early Fall, which in the South, could either mean it is bitter cold or summer is still hanging around.

Be sure to make your way to the stage area in the square to listen to the local talent which includes singers, bands and local champion square dancers and cloggers. The enthusiasm this community has for their talent is contagious, making for a fun experience.

If you want a break from Main St and the Square, we recommend a stroll to nearby historical neighborhoods and admire the grand beautiful historical homes.


Have you been to Franklin, TN? Have you been to a festival there?  If so, tell us about your experience.

Adventure · Airboat Tours · Day Trips · Everglades National Park · Florida · National Parks · Tours · travel · Water Adventures

Snapshot Sunday: Florida Everglades-Sawgrass Prairie 


Water trail made by repeated use of airboats in same area
White Ibis in Sawgrass Prairie
Florida Soft-shell Turtle in the Sawgrass Recreation Area
Cormorant in Sawgrass Recreation Area
Palm tree in Sawgrass Recreation Area
View looking onto Sawgrass Prairie from airboat

Water lilies from the airboat 

Beer · Chattanooga · Tennessee · Tours · travel · Uncategorized · Water Adventures

Exploring Chattanooga: Chocolate, Beer, Boats and Walking Tours! Oh my! 

Do you usually travel over holiday weekends?  We do if the holiday falls on a Friday or Monday because it works out great with our schedule and we’re able to go places without having to take a day off work.  Columbus Day is celebrated on a Monday, so we decided to visit Chattanooga, Tennessee over the holiday weekend.   It is currently the “IT” city of the South and draws more than 3 million visitors a year.

Chattanooga offers a variety of options for a vacation destination; there is something for everyone. Although the Tennessee Aquarium  is an absolute must if you have not been, there are other great places to check out. These are some of the highlights over the weekend we spent there:

1. River Gorge Explorer

We did not visit the Tennessee Aquarium this trip, but we did ride the River Gorge Explorer that is guided by a Tennessee Aquarium naturalist.  It is a 2 hour boat ride in a climate controlled setting and offers fantastic views of the scenery and wildlife along the Tennessee River.  We spotted several species of birds including blue osprey, herons and a hawk.  It is appropriate for all age groups, there is plenty of room for kids to be kids and for adults to find some peace and quiet. You are initially seated in the inside cabin to ride to your destination. Once you reach destination, you are free to hang out on the viewing deck or the stern of the boat.  The boat has 4 engines and 35 mm horsepower, which the captains takes advantage of to ensure the passengers are safe while throwing in a bit of high speed and a maybe a few tricks when other boat traffic allows.


Pro Tips:

If your visit is going to coincide at a busy time of the year, buy your tickets in advance online and bring a printed copy with you.  Tickets can be bought at the Aquarium, but lines can be really long and tickets are quick to sell out.

No need to arrive at the docking location more than 10 min prior.  There is not a lot of waiting space and there is plenty of seating in the boat.


There are two ticket options: River Gorge Explorer (Adults: $32.00, Children 3-12- $24.50, Children under 3 – $18)  or Tennessee Aquarium/River Gorge Explorer Combo (Adults: $56.95, Children 3-12 – $39.95, Children under 3 – $18).

2.  Chattanooga Sidewalk Tours

We enjoy taking walking tours whether on the road or at home because they are a great way to see and learn about a city.  We usually take large group walking tours because they’re affordable and low hassle.  When we were looking for walking tours in Chattanooga, we found Chattanooga Sidewalk Tours and saw it was rated on TripAdvisor.   They are a local company that gives group and private tours for locals and tourists. It was really easy to book with them, we corresponded through email  a few times to find a time worked for all of us.

Chattanooga Sidewalk Tours offers two walking tours: Dynamo of Dixie and Bluffs and Bridges.  We decided to take the Bluffs and Bridges Tour because we wanted to learn more about the people that helped to influenced Chattanooga’s transformation, see their homes and see the world class bridges and bluffs in Chattanooga.  It was a 90 minute walk, perfect for anyone that enjoys a leisurely walk.  Our guide, Keith, was fantastic.  He was extremely knowledgeable about Chattanooga’s history and could answer practically any question pertaining to it and the Civil War.

Price: $15 per person, but it’s the south so be nice and tip too!

Walnut Street Bridge – one of the world’s largest pedestrian only bridges. It was built in 1890 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.
                              Walking the Walnut Street Bridge
One of the many pieces of art in downtown Chattanooga. Tara’s hanging out with the horse found in the First Street Sculpture Garden.
Coolidge Park Antique Carousel located in Coolidge Park. Fifty two hand carved animals for your enjoyment.
3.  The Hot Chocolatier

All kinds of hot chocolate and other chocolate treats to take home!
What kind of hot chocolate do you like? I bet they have it available!
Who doesn’t like a good chocolate shop?  This locally owned artisan chocolate and pastry shop, located across from the Chattanooga Choo Choo, is a must visit while in Chattanooga.  They offer pastries that rival some of the best European ones, every kind of hot chocolate and coffee favor you can think of and excellent artisan chocolates.  There’s even a window in the shop where one can watch chocolatiers and pastry chefs working.  If you’re looking for an afternoon pick me up or an after dinner snack, this is your place.

4.  Terminal Brewery

This is a locally owned brewery that aims to be as green as possible.  The  brewery uses organic ingredients in their drinks and food and aims to be as environmentally friendly as possible in their business operations.  They offer several different kinds of beer on tap as well as organic wine and spirits.  For the people who cannot or do not like to drink alcohol, there is house made root beer available.  Their menu is great for meat eaters as well as vegetarians.  It’s a very laid back atmosphere, great place to hang out and watch a game.  If you’re looking for a locally owned place with great drinks and food, consider this next time you’re visiting Chattanooga.

What should we be sure not to miss next time we visit Chattanooga?  We’re always up for recommendations.


October Blogging Challenge-Thankful Friday-Day 16

I’m thankful this week for all the positive interactions I’ve experienced with random people over the last few days. Last Friday out for dinner,after a tough day/week at work, a random lady turned to Tara and I directly and said “Are you two twins? How old are you” I normally brush these people off after a few niceties. She kept on and said “Well, I just wanted to say that the two of you are just beautiful. You really are.” This was the first time I looked a random stranger in the face directly and said “Thank you. It means a lot”. 

Yesterday we were at a work lunch and it was taking Tara’s salad forever to come. Tara and I had told the staff that we would be on the same bill to consolidate checks. The manager came over, apologized, and gave us both free meals.

Today, we were at another place for lunch that normally makes us clear our own tables. Today, a manager came by and cleared our plates for us.

These were all random interactions after a particularly tough week. It’s nice to be reminded that people still value you as people and customers. 

And now, just a few minutes ago, we got super lucky again. We bought tix to London for half the price they had been selling them for the past few weeks. Seems to have been a system glitch that was on our side for once! 

What are you thankful for this week??

October Blogging Challenge · Uncategorized

October Blogging Challenge:Our Current Playlist -Day 14

Music is an important part of both of our lives. We are known to fly to cities just to see a concert. We are lucky that we live within driving distance to Nashville, TN. Our playlists are always eclectic, but favor pop and current country. 

 Out favorites at the moment: 

1. Taylor Swift-what can we say? We’ve seen her 3 times in concert and absolutely think she’s a genius songwriter. 

2. Ed Sheeren-We’ve seen him twice live and he’s just adorable. “x” is one of our favorite cd’s ever. 

3. Kelly Clarkson-Top 5 singers we’ve seen live with a heart of gold. Her covers are innovative and mostly better than the original artist versions. The girl can sing anything! Her smashup of “That I Would Be Good/Use Somebody” is a favorite. 

4. Vance Joy-I didn’t know much about him until he opened for Taylor this summer, but he blew me away. I quickly bought every song from “Dream Your Life Away”. 

5. Paul McDonald & Nikki Reed-“The Best Part” and “I’m Not Falling”. Totally blew me away. Don’t know if those two will continue to collaborate, but they should.

6. Matchbox Twenty-Well, we are early days Matchbox fans and a hard core Rob Thomas fan, but we are partial to their early stuff. Nothing better than “Hang, 3 am, Black & White People, Real World”

7. Bleachers “Strange Desire”-Probably read about this in an album of the year review list because it hasn’t been in the radio,  but definitely a favorite at the moment.  

8. Keith Urban -Probably seen him 3 or 4 times and he gives one of the best concerts out there. He’s got a song for any mood. 

9. Jewel “Picking up the Pieces”, is a new favorite. Collabs with Dolly and Rodney Crowell make it even better. Still love “Spirit”, but glad she released new music that showcases her songwriting and vocal talent. 

10. James Bay-“Chaos and the Calm”A coworker introduced us to him earlier this year, but we love him. Favorites are “Hold Back the River, Let it Go, Move Together”

Throw in a little Eminem on the more frustrating days and that is an average day of listening at the office. 

October Blogging Challenge

What/Who Inspires You-The Fighters and Colbert- October Blogging Challenge-Day 11

When we think about our life and the people who have inspired us, several people come to mind. My mom, my mom’s mom, my uncle who passed away from AIDS, or ARC, all the people we know/who have known who have fought cancer, the ones we knew that passed away too early from Cystic Fibrosis, and Stephen Colbert. 

We have experienced our fair share of loss in our relatively short life. It’s an interesting fact of life we don’t share with a lot of people we interact with on an everyday basis. These experiences have absolutely had a major impact on the way we view our life. 

We watched as my mom held our family together, took care of us and never missed a day of work while watching her dear family members fight and subsequently loose their battles. We watched our grandmother keep everyone together while burying 2 husbands, 2 kids and several close family members with grace and humor. When we lost her suddenly a few years ago, it changed our extended family dynamic forever. She was the glue that managed to hold everyone together. 

We have always admired Colbert as a comedian, but recently even more so from the interviews he’s given recently on grief and suffering and how he’s managed to lead a successful and happy life. It is rare that we have an honest conversation about death and suffering in the media. Colbert has opened up that opportunity. He spoke both in the GQ interview and with his conversation with Vice President  Biden about the importance of accepting suffering and not being defeated by it. We absolutely relate to how he closed the GQ interview with how everyday “we are volunteers”. We are! It is absolutely our choice how we interpret and react to things that happen in our lives. 

We live our lives with the awareness that we have several angels looking out for us, and the knowledge that life can change in the blink of an eye. We do get caught up in the small things, but generally only temporarily. For we truly know that people are fighting much harder battles on an everyday basis. These are the people that continue to inspire us.