Big Fun in the Little City: Fort Wayne, Indiana

Clickbait City

Not long ago a clickbait-type ad surfaced on my Facebook feed, suggesting I click through to learn all about a dynamic cultural urban powerhouse emerging in an unlikely city stuck inexorably in flyover country.  Well, I’m living here in the great American midwest, and given my goal to find great things for teens to get into no matter where they roam, I, um, clicked.  For my readers’ sake, I wanted to discover just where this magical midwestern metropolis could be.

Much Ado about Much!

This special city ended up being Fort Wayne, Indiana, population 264,000.  As it happens, an old friend lives there and had recently invited us to visit and enjoy one of his band’s live music gigs.  Who could say no to catching up, savoring some classic, live tunes and getting away for an overnight with the world’s best daughter?  Looking forward to confirming any and all claims from the aforementioned clickbait, my daughter, Holland, and I planned to stuff as much activity into our 24-hour sojourn in Fort Wayne as we could.  Should you ever find yourself with the occasion to visit this charming city, I hope Holland’s travelog below helps you discover some of the fun to be had!

Continue reading “Big Fun in the Little City: Fort Wayne, Indiana”

How This Mom Saved Nearly $2,000 Taking Her Family on a Luxury Orlando Resort Vacation

Psst!  Wanna “make” $568.00 per hour by vacationing in Orlando?  It’s easy!  

Orlando Vacation Savings

It’s easy to save big bucks on your airfare, accommodations and dining.  Any mom can do it!  Let me show you how!

But first.  My loyal fans will be asking themselves why I’m sharing Orlando as a destination on this website that celebrates travel off the beaten path.  Given the spectacular appeal of this well-known and loved central Florida destination, is it really worthy of an entry into Totally Teen Travel?

Well of course!

One of the things I always strive for is to find attractions that aren’t outrageously expensive.  Okay, sometimes I do find extravagant activities, like Porsche racing in Atlanta or hot air ballooning in Phoenix.  But I try to balance these kinds of things out with free or very low cost things to do as well.

Free Stuff Orlando
Who doesn’t love it?

In addition to domestic destinations, of course, I share low cost or free ways to travel internationally.  Lately we’ve looked at volunteering on farms and elsewhere.  You can work overseas teaching English.  Devoted monolinguists, on the other hand, can work virtually anywhere on the continent of Australia.

So I think it’s fair to say that yours truly is conscientious of the need to save a buck when traveling.

I’m so excited to share BIG ways to save at the home of the most incredible attractions on earth!  So without further ado, let’s see what we can do to open our pocketbooks in Orlando as little as possible!


Round-trip airline tickets have gotten a LOT cheaper over the years when you take inflation into account.  Even so, from pretty much anywhere outside of Orlando, you could easily expect to pay an average of at least $400.00 per person round trip.  That’s $1,600 in airfare for a typical family of four.

First class service Orlando
Of course, we used to get SERVICE when we flew, too. (Flickr photo)


Nowadays as you surely know, deeply discounted airlines compete ardently for your business.  With a little research online and some flexible travel dates, roundtrip airfares from virtually anywhere in the Eastern Time Zone to Orlando can be had for as little as $39.00 per person.

Pro tips: Each airline, discount or otherwise, sends emails with their latest bargain airfares.  Sign up on their websites for these!  Also research other ways to save on airfare, such as earning and using miles, or signing up for an airline credit card.

Look and see what kind of deals you can get on an airfare aggregator such as Kayak or Google.  Take a moment and look at as well.  For other deals and to sign up for emails, check these discount airlines’ websites:

Frontier Airlines


Allegiant Air


Here’s a small sample from Kayak as proof of currently available megacheap flights, no miles or cards necessary:

Sample Airfares Orlando
There are Ubers I can’t take this cheap to cross town!

So, in airfare alone, for a family of four we are looking at the difference between a $400 airfare per person and a $39 airfare per person.  $1600 all told versus $156. Ka-ching!

Do take into account that most discount airlines require additional fees for bags, reserved seats, soft drinks, basic human decency, etc.  But for getting your family from Point A to Orlando and back, can you really beat $156?!  I’ll take water please!

$1600 – $156 = $1,444 saved


This is where the fun is!

No, I can’t get you to Disney for a song.  If you have your heart set on visiting the Mouse, please visit Google or Pinterest for recommendations from legions of Disney fans, all of whom are far better versed in Disney Parks savings than I am.

What I can do is suggest you sign up for a luxury stay at Orlando’s Westgate Lakes Resort and Spa -or- Westgate Town Center!  You seriously won’t want to leave.  And you don’t have to!

Each resort offers multiple heated pools, hot tubs, and amazing activities such as boat rentals, water parks, playgrounds and so much more.

Simply click below to select the Orlando resort stay of your dreams!

BookVIP offers your family a 4 day/3 night vacation at either the Westgate Lakes Resort or the Westgate Town Center for only $99.00.  They throw in a $100 dining credit – so that in actuality they pay you to visit the resort!  How cool is that?!

What’s the catch?  You will be invited to attend a short, 1.5 hour presentation designed to encourage you to purchase an annual vacation rental.  You will be very tempted to sign up but it’s not required in any way.

Presentation Orlando
It’s just an hour and a half, but if you follow my advice it pays you $568 per hour!

The rest of your vacation time is yours.

BookVIP values your stay at $407.00 but charges only $99.00.  Taking the $100.00 dining voucher into account, you actually make a GWash!

So in lodging, we’re up a buck!

But we’re still not finished saving money!

You gotta eat, right?

The US Government has set the 2018 per diem dining rate for Orlando at $59.00 per person per day.  This cost covers reasonable dining expenses for an individual traveling on government business.  Emphasis on REASONABLE.

So it’s not outlandish to ballpark $59 x 4 days x 4 people = $944 dining expense for your family of 4.

Well… how can we save money eating on our Orlando trip?  We already have a $100 dining voucher, of course, so that helps.

Eating Orlando

Well, your accommodations at the Westgate Lakes Resort include a kitchenette!  Why not get a grocery delivery for the cost of a few bucks, and then eat breakfast in your studio?  Pack a lunch for a sunny picnic outdoors, and still enjoy a nice, reasonable meal out for dinner.  You can easily do this for about $400 (and don’t forget your generous dining dollars!).

$944 eating out – $400 mixed dining = $544 saved

So now after just a few hours’ work, we have saved a total of $1,988 on our vacation between airfare, luxury resort lodging and dining!

It’s like making $568 per hour!  With vacation benefits!

You attended a short, 1.5-hour timeshare resort presentation and spent about an hour researching low-cost airfare.  You arranged grocery delivery and made your own breakfast and lunches.  Congratulations!  You saved almost $2,000 for your luxury Orlando resort vacation. It’s as if you earned $568.00 per hour for the time you spent doing your homework.  $568/hour x 3.5 hours = $1,988.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t make that much in a week!

Give yourself and your family a fun-filled trip they’ll rememberSign up today for this amazing opportunity to take your family of four on a dream Orlando vacation for less than what you’d spend on a few dinners out!

Orlando vacation package
Click here now!

You don’t even have to specify the dates for your vacation yet.  On the BookVIP website, click on Book Now and then select the box that says, “No, I don’t have travel dates.”  You only pay $39.00 now for this option, and your discounted lodging rate is locked in for a full 12 months!

BookVIP guarantees their low rates, having satisfied over a million travelers to date.  They boast an A- rating with the Better Business Bureau and are easy to reach in the event of any issues.  Unlike so many other travel providers these days, BookVIP displays their phone number PROMINENTLY at the top of their website!


Get out into the city and save even more money with your GoCity Orlando card! You know where to click:

So what are you waiting for?  Click here and start making affordable travel memories for yourself and your family today!

What do you do to save money in your travels? Let me know in the comments!


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Sun Days: Eight TOTALLY Unique Things to Do in Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix Arizona

Arizona, of which Phoenix is the capital, is one of my favorite places in the world to visit.  As a young child we would spend many summer days sweltering in the desert sun while visiting my grandparents in the desert foothills.  These vacations formed the basis of many of my favorite childhood memories.  I still have friends and family in the state and go back as often as I can.

Sand Dunes Phoenix Arizona
This is NOT Arizona! No No No!

What makes Arizona so special to me is its desert setting.  This is not the bleak Sahara desert with its solitary sand dunes and lack of vegetation!  Flora and fauna of the region are so different from what you find back east.  Cacti are beautiful and weird, as are the free-roamin’ javelina, looking like a cross between dog and pig.

Palm Trees Phoenix Arizona
Palm trees at dusk

The sky is wide open, so dawn and dusk amongst all this scenery become times of jaw-dropping beauty.  The abundance of pink adobe buildings and Mexican-influenced southwest culture just add to the charm.

Saguaro Phoenix Ariona
Saguaro – the Arizona state cactus!

Thanks to a recent opportunity to spend a long weekend in the Grand Canyon State, my teens and I descended on Phoenix, the fifth most populous city in the country.  There is just a ton of great activities to do here, so for this post I have had to narrow them all down!

So for example, in the “Valley of the Sun,” as Phoenix calls itself, you’ll find plenty to do such as indoor sky diving.  While this is obviously a fun, adrenaline-pumping activity, it’s something I already discussed in my entry on Chicago.   There’s a brand new aquarium in Scottsdale (OdySea) competing with Sea Life Arizona in nearby Tempe; both look amazing, too.  However, most larger metroplexes around the US feature an aquarium; they aren’t particularly unique to Arizona.  In this post, I’d like to discuss some of the exceptional attractions and activities that you can only see and/or do in this desert metropolis.   Let’s go!


Saguaros Phoenix Arizona

OutdoorsSeasonal If it’s not too hot – say, 90 degrees or less – and this is your first time in the Sonoran desert, your first stop in town needs to be the Desert Botanical Garden.  Within the Garden’s extensive exhibits you will have the opportunity to learn all about the unique desert features of this area.  Curious about those tall, slender cacti that always look like they’re people at a cocktail party, frozen in time?  Those are saguaro, and by the time they look like that, they are over 100 years old!  Learn more about Arizona’s majestic cacti, how and why humans came to occupy the harsh desert habitat (long before air conditioning!), what wildflowers grow in its environs, and so much more.


Musical Instrument Museum Phoenix Arizona
My daughter – in front of THAT piano!

IndoorsCultureGood eatin'On the far north side of town lies the imposing Musical Instrument Museum.  Both my kids were excited to visit although only my daughter, Holly, can play any instruments. The majority of the museum is dedicated to each continent and the special instruments that come from them.  You put on the provided headphones and listen as you pass by each display and accompanying videos.  Some of the music had visitors dancing on the spot!

In addition to exhibits of instruments and their provenance, a gallery dedicated to artists and their instruments was a definite highlight.  We saw – and heard! – John Lennon’s piano and many more music legends in this large room.  Another room features a variety of instruments that visitors are encouraged to play. This is where everyone, especially the younger kids, gets active and has the most fun.  Plan to spend an afternoon here (mornings are overrun with school groups).  We didn’t try the café but heard really good things about it.


Arizona Capitol Museum Phoenix Arizona
Rotunda at Arizona Capitol Museum

IndoorsCultureAnother unique museum I’d highly recommend is the historic seat of the state’s government.  The Arizona Capitol Museum dates from the state’s territorial days in the early 20th century.  The wood-trimmed building itself exudes timeless elegance, with its lovely chandelier peeking through multiple stories’ open rotunda.  Informative exhibits of the state’s lonely frontier beginnings are displayed along with a special exhibit on the USS Arizona.  Take a peek into the old Governor’s Office and head upstairs to the legislative chamber.  The entire museum showcases the beautiful woodworking, lighting and flooring of a long gone era; compare it with the aesthetically dull 1960’s legislative buildings flanking it.


Amazing burrito from El Chino

Good eatin'I hope your visit to the state capitol has left you hungry because some of the state’s best Mexican food is just down the street.  I take the kids to Taquerias El Chino when we hit Phoenix because not only is the food incredible (yet affordable), but the staff is amongst the friendliest you will find anywhere.  Be forewarned: this is the quintessential Mexican food hole-in-the-wall restaurant and you may have to share one of the long tables with other hungry patrons, some of whom may well be Arizona state congress people – they frequent this gem, too!


Hot Air Balloon Phoenix Arizona
Speaking of hot air…

OutdoorsTranspoCan’t get enough spectacular Sonoran desert scenery? Why not max out the views from on high – and at dawn?  Amp it up to 11 on a sunrise hot air balloon ride with the folks at Arizona Balloon Safaris!  Hot air ballooning is safe – you’ll be given safety guidelines prior to flight – and it’s a truly incredible means of experiencing the landscape.   At around $140 per person, this excursion is a splurge on anyone’s budget.  However, how often do you get to greet the dawn from within the sky itself?  After your flight you’ll be served a celebratory breakfast complete with a flute of champagne (for your parents to enjoy).


Snake Phoenix Arizona
These guys like to lurk on the trails – be careful!

OutdoorsTake a hike – and experience incredible city and desert views with the ground firmly beneath your feet.  Hiking in Arizona is second to none.  Spectacular vistas await the intrepid traveler.  Read up on the important precautions to take, especially in the desert.  But do get out there!  Especially recommended for most levels of fitness is Echo Canyon Trail.


Waterslide Phoenix Arizona
The most beautiful sight to see during a Phoenix summer!

OutdoorsSeasonalPerhaps you’re visiting Phoenix in the summer, so a hike is the last thing you want to do.  The many hotels in the city have pools to lounge around in, but they tend to be about as exciting as an overgrown bath tub.  Resorts have great pools, but you have to be a guest to use them.  Water isn’t cheap or abundant for anyone in this parched desert biome.  So thank goodness for the water park!

The valley’s largest, open to all, is Wet ‘N Wild in the suburb of Glendale, open March through October.  This aquatic wonderland features all the usual adrenaline-pumping water rides (the Tornado, anyone?) along with more laid-back fun for the older folks.  You’ll find this mama, for example, on the lazy river Crazy Cactus Roaring River.


Desert vista Phoenix Arizona
Unspoilt desert landscape (the kind Mr Wrigley would have enjoyed)

IndoorsOutdoorsCultureGood eatin'See the house that chewing gum built at the delightful Wrigley Mansion.  There are many lovely homes in this scenic slice of Phoenix, but here you’ll take in the stunning historic building style (Mediterranean meets High Desert) and extensive valley views simultaneously.  I bet you will love the “Winter Cottage” and its old peacock lamps, telephone operator’s table and breathtaking foyer rotunda.

You’ll definitely want to combine a tour of the building with a lunch at its sumptuous restaurant and a stroll on the well-kept grounds.  Perhaps Mr Wrigley’s ghost will slide you a postprandial piece of Juicy Fruit gum!  (Honorable mention here must go to Frank Lloyd Wright’s desert masterpiece, Taliesin West, a must-see for fans of architecture or ecology.)

If you are lucky enough to enjoy a stay of any length while you’re here, try to get to the Grand Canyon, Sedona, and Tucson.  Summer visitors to Arizona can cool off by heading about three and a half hours northeast to the White Mountains and the resort town of Pinetop.  Yes, a cool Arizona town covered in pine trees!  In the winter, why not head just a few miles east of Pinetop to the skiing mecca at Sunrise Park Resort?

Arizona is so much more than dry desert heat.  What would you enjoy doing here the most?  Let me know in the comments!

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A Trip to the Museum: Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio

A Trip to the Museum: Columbus Museum of Art

Take Your Teen to the Columbus Museum of Art!

My daughter, Holly, pictured above (hint: she’s the one in the fur-obscured Arctic Monkeys t-shirt), is already a world-renowned artiste at the tender age of fourteen.  Hey, I have Dutch friends who have seen some of her artwork!  And looky here!  Now you have, too!

CMOA Columbus Ohio
Artists’ occupational hazard? Beautiful face bursting through the sketch paper.  Untitled (Holly, watercolor, 2017)

When I saw that one of our favorite museums, the Columbus Museum of Art, was closing out its special exhibit called Beyond Impressionism, I asked Holly if we should go.  Without any hesitation she agreed to the road trip!  She’s not an impressionist; she’s a realist, but we hoped post-Impressionist art such as we would find on display would inspire her to take her portraiture in an exciting new direction.  So it was a no-brainer to hop in the car last Saturday and drive up to Columbus.

McDonalds Columbus Ohio
Top Drawer! Top Drawer!

The next morning, Sunday, we made our way to downtown Columbus, which locals call the Discovery District, and the museum.  Luckily we arrived around 9:45am, because a long line was starting to form behind us in anticipation of the 10am opening.

The Beyond Impressionism Exhibit’s Star Artist, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec

The museum has a lot of great offerings, but of course we made a beeline directly for the special exhibit.  I loved seeing works up close that I had learned about in high school!  Especially cool were the Toulouse-Lautrec prints.  Holly even snapped up a “Le Chat Noir” t-shirt.

Le Chat Noir Toulouse Lautrec Columbus Ohio
Le Chat Noir (Nightclub poster by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec)

I recalled how many times over the years I had seen the Troupe de Mademoiselle Eglantine print and its variants.

Troupe de Mlle Eglantine Toulouse Lautrec Columbus Ohio
Troupe de Mlle Eglantine (poster by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec)

Poor Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. Though born into an aristocratic family, he lived a tough, tragic, short life.  His parents split when he was only in grade school.  He grew to be only 4’8” tall due to easily-broken femurs in his teen years that didn’t heal properly.  He also suffered from alcoholism.  Painting gave him relief from his despair.  He died age 36.

Toulouse-Lautrec spent a lot of time with morally questionable characters.  According to fellow painter Edouard Vuillard, “Lautrec was too proud to submit to his lot, as a physical freak, an aristocrat cut off from his kind by his grotesque appearance. He found an affinity between his own condition and the moral penury of the prostitute.”

The Sphinx Toulouse Lautrec Columbus Ohio
The Sphinx (Toulouse-Lautrec, 1898). This is one of his more modest ladies “de la nuit.”

So while other artists of his day aspired to create paintings of perfect likenesses of their wealthy patrons, Toulouse-Lautrec was perfectly happy to sketch all number of the prostitutes, dancers and other “low lifes” in his circle of acquaintances.  He paid the rent by creating low-brow advertising posters, which further caused him to be looked down upon.

For a modern-day analogy, think of yourself as poor, unloved Henri: your art friends enjoy the prestige of creating fine art portraits of Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, while you get to maybe design disposable Wal-Mart circulars.  I wonder what art aficionados of Toulouse-Lautrec’s time would think about how celebrated his works have become in the years since their creation!

The Contemporary Art Gallery

Once Holly and I made our way through the marvelous Beyond Impressionism exhibit, we headed upstairs to see some of the regular collection on hand at the museum.  Our destination was the Contemporary Art Gallery.  There’s just so much creativity on display there!  You can’t help but marvel sometimes at the intent of each artist, and wonder what was he or she thinking!  Definitely do not miss this incredible gallery!

Within it, the thought-provoking Nocturne Navigator had a small room to herself.  The larger than life, iridescent blue statue of a skyward-looking African American female in a lit-up skirt, illustrating the path for slaves to find their way at night to freedom, was jaw-droppingly awe inspiring.

Nocturne Navigator Columbus Ohio
“Nocturne Navigator” by Alison Saar, 1998. Pic can’t do it justice, sadly.

Having seen so many paintings and sculptures that stirred us, we took our leave of the museum and headed back home.  I was sad we didn’t make it to the other incredible galleries on hand, but we were kinda missing Jitterbug, our own “chat noir.”  I have no doubt we will be back to Columbus soon, though, and I promise I will monitor Holly’s new artworks for any signs of inspiration!

Jitterbug Chat Noir Columbus Ohio
Our own “Chat Noir,” AKA Jitterbug!

Columbus Museum of Art Entrance
Outside the Columbus Museum of Art Entrance

Tips to Enjoy the Museum!

  • -Allow at least an hour to enjoy the JPMorgan Chase Center for Creativity on the first floor, straight ahead and to the right after you enter the museum.  This is a spacious, attractive workshop to take the kids to and have all sorts of unique fun creating art with them.
  • -But take the kids to the exhibits as well.  Interactive creativity stations for young and old alike are strategically placed throughout the museum.
  • -There is no charge to enter the museum on Sundays. However, the crowds start pouring in early so do arrive as close to 10am as possible.
  • -Plenty of parking is available on the surrounding streets, so don’t bother paying to park in the lot behind the museum.
  • -Bring a pencil and sketch to your heart’s content in any gallery you like!  Non-flash photography is also permitted.
  • -The museum is situated right in the middle of Columbus’s Discovery District.  Pick up a museum brochure at the entrance, which lists nearby attractions and places to eat!

Cleveland ROCKS! Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland Ohio

Here it is, the 21st century already, and I had little idea of the amazing happenings on the other side of my adopted state of Ohio.

When I was little, back in the Stone Ages, Cleveland was known universally as the buckle of the Rust Belt.  Why?  Its claim to fame throughout much of the 20th century lay in its rise as an Industrial monolith.  Terrific for the American economy… not so much for Cleveland.  Factories belching out smoke and all manner of industrial pollutants ain’t pretty.  The “Mistake on the Lake”, as Cleveland was dubbed, eventually offered up a gritty cityscape of the usual urban decay.

But no more!

Thanks to the ongoing efforts of public and private partnerships throughout the area, Cleveland has become a true renaissance town.  The northeastern Ohio city has reinvigorated its stretches of forests, beaches, rivers, and even waterfalls.  Once an environmental nightmare – the Cuyahoga River caught fire in 1969 – today the landscape comprises cleaned-up pinnacles of natural beauty.

There is a wealth of amazing attractions and activities here, rivalled only by the wealth of the city’s captains of industry of decades past.   You will have a grand time simply planning a visit, let alone actively participating in the awesome stuff to do.

Cleveland rocks, indeed!

Rock N Roll Hall of Fame Cleveland Ohio

IndoorsCultureDiscover exactly why Cleveland rocks as you tour its world-renowned Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  The term “Rock & Roll” was coined right here on the banks of Lake Erie, so it makes sense that the city is home to this terrifically entertaining museum.  I know that “rock & roll” as a musical genre, despite its roots in teenage angst and rebellion, holds little interest to many young people of today.  Even so, let your parents get their geek on within the seven floors of interactive content and unique rock memorabilia.  You’ll find cool connections between the history of rock and the riffs of present-day popular artists such as Sia, Bruno Mars, The Arctic Monkeys (Hi, Alex), and many more.


Cleveland Museum of Art

IndoorsCultureThe Cleveland Museum of Art, thanks to the generous patronage of all those wealthy industrialists, happens to be one of the finest art museums anywhere.  Amazingly, it costs nothing to attend.  Visitors love the museum itself, which centers around a handsome lobby.  Each exhibit starts and ends within the lobby, so it’s easy to use the space as a meet up if everyone strikes out on their own.  The medieval armor (featuring snicker-worthy codpieces) and weaponry exhibit is a special treat for all but especially for young folk, who will also enjoy the interactive camera technology that sets you up making your own 2-D and 3-D art.

OutdoorsMiscellaneousTranspoOn the other side of 9th street from the RNRHOF, check out the USS Cod Submarine Memorial; you won’t have too much walking around too do within its claustrophobic confines.  I mean, how much do we owe these dedicated 97 navy men who lived in frequent terror on this relatively tiny sub during World War II for over two months at a time?  It’s a fascinating exhibit that all Americans should experience in order to appreciate just a small but significant facet of our exemplary armed forces.


The Arcade Cleveland Ohio

IndoorsCultureGood eatin'Peer back a little further into history at The Arcade Cleveland, an architectural treasure downtown that dates back to the end of the 19th century!  This glass-enclosed, multistory visual feast is a must-see, and it stands within easy walking distance of Quicken Loans Area, Progressive Field and/or the Public Square.  One of the country’s first indoor shopping malls, the Arcade demands you take a seat with a steaming latte, cappuccino or hot chocolate.  Close your eyes, and imagine yourself amongst the bustle of upscale Cleveland during the turn of the prior century.

Good eatin'CultureDelicious stuff to eat lies within easy Uber distance at Cleveland’s own Little Italy neighborhood.  Kick Chef Boyardee to the curb, because you can’t go wrong enjoying your pasta at any number of the authentic Italian kitchens to choose from.  The quaint ambience of the area will enchant, whether you dine indoors or out.  After your meal, enjoy a stroll amongst the art galleries, coffee shops, boutiques and bakeries.  The Italin treats are out of this world!


A Christmas Story House Cleveland Ohio
Look familiar?

IndoorsMiscellaneousGood eatin'If you’re at all like my family and me, one of the aspects of Christmas we look forward to the most is the annual A Christmas Story marathon on TBS.  Did you know the exterior of Ralphie’s house – The A Christmas Story House – was shot right here in Cleveland?  And that you can not only visit said house, but have it all to yourself if you book an overnight there as well?  The house has been redone inside to match the movie, and it’s filled to the brim with selfie-enticing touchable props, including everyone’s favorite, the F-R-A-G-I-L-E leg lamp!  A museum with the real props from the movie sits across the street.  Save your ticket stub for a 10% discount at the fabulous Rowley Inn restaurant on the corner.

IndoorsMoving on to some fun stuff, be sure and check out the vintage pinball machines at your beck at call at the Superelectric Pinball Parlor.  Situated within the buzzing Cleveland Arts District, the Parlor features over 20 games of the cool variety that your grandparents would have played on their first date.  You can easily find out what’s on hand by perusing the list of available machines on their website.  Also on hand is a FREE vintage jukebox with some serious retro tunes.

IndoorsGood eatin'In keeping with the vintage gaming theme, why not unplug for a while?  Put yer dang cell phone and its execrable junk-food themed game apps away, and stay a while at the Tabletop Board Game Café.  Why aren’t these cafes on every street corner everywhere, I demand to know!   Anyway.  Only five bucks gets you in, and you can choose amongst an array of dozens if not hundreds of board games to play amongst your friends or total strangers.  Everything from the classics (think Monopoly, Sorry and Clue) to the new stuff like Cards Against Humanity is here along with tasty food.  What a fantastic way to relax and while away a rainy afternoon!


Edgewater Beach Cleveland Ohio
A beach! In Ohio!

OutdoorsSeasonalIf the weather is nice, feel free to forfeit your Monopoly riches and head directly to Edgewater Beach, do not pass go, do not collect $200.  Sit and enjoy a picnic on the fine sands of the shores of Lake Erie, or walk/bike/run along lovely paths with views of the skyline.  Swimming in the lake is mostly encouraged – the water is shallow enough for all but the smallest kids.  However, there may be signs prohibiting it so be sure and look for them, first!  This beautiful jewel of the Cleveland park system is very well kept, and there is plenty of parking available.

OutdoorsSeasonalIf even more adventure and excitement is what you crave, I highly recommend the 5 zip lines, dozens of obstacles and beautiful vantage points amongst the tree tops at the Go Ape at Mill Stream Run Recreation Area.  Such a fun and exhilarating way to burn off energy!  The Tarzan swing looks especially unique and enticing.  As always with outdoor attractions, check first for important safety regs and answers to all your questions.

How would you spend a day “rocking out” in Cleveland?  Let me know in the comments.  Rock on!

Live It Up in Dallas, Texas!

Luggage tags inked “DFW”?  You’re in for a massive heart-pounding, adrenaline pumping good time!   Dallas is only the third largest city in Texas.  Even so, this southern metropolis proudly embodies the “Everything’s Bigger in Texas” mantra.  So it shouldn’t be any surprise that the excitement to be had here is just as outsized as the city itself.

Live It Up in Dallas, Texas
Welcome to Dallas, y’all!

What you’ll find are opportunities galore to kick your adrenal glands into high gear.  Dallas likes to think of itself as prim and proper.  Look carefully, though, and you’ll find a real wild child of a town, just ready to show you an exhilarating good time.  Everything is indeed bigger here, including your maxed out heart rate when you kick it at the following attractions!


Live It Up in Dallas Texas

OutdoorsMiscellaneousIf there’s a more extreme amusement park in Texas than Zero Gravity Thrill Amusement Park, I’d like to know about it.  Two – just TWO – of the amazing things you can do here include free falling from 16 stories up, and experiencing 4 g’s of force in the so-called Skyscraper.  (4g’s is more than space shuttle pilots experience during take-off.)  Shouldn’t it go without saying that you can bungee jump here? I want pictures if you go!  And video, too.


Live It Up in Dallas Texas

OutdoorsMiscellaneousWould-be circus performances will want to explore the thrills on hand at Skyline Trapeze.  Allow for at least two heart-thumping hours.  Your first several minutes is spent on the ground to learn important safety procedures and trapeze techniques.  Then you’ll have at it, twirling and flying through the air with the greatest of Texas ease adrenaline at your service!  Anyone in your party who’d prefer to keep their heart inside their chest could hang out at the adjacent arcade/go kart mini-golf park.

OutdoorsMiscellaneousSoar among the treetops at Trinity Forest Adventure Park on your own or with a guideNo less than eight ropes courses beckon, at heights up to 50’ tall!  Keep your heart pumping furiously by participating in military-style obstacles such as wobble bridges, and see how stealthily you can slink about on tight ropes, ladders, cargo nets, zip lines, and more.  Allow at least three hours for this spirited excitement!


Live It Up in Dallas, Texas
Dallas skyline

Downtown Dallas provides plenty of opportunities to get totally amped up in the city.  Below are just a very few highlights!  Experts recommend taking the DART train to avoid parking headaches.  Here are some awesome things to do:

OutdoorsMiscellaneousWork out your legs -and- your brain by signing up for the Outdoor Trivia Race in the Dallas Arts District  You have an important deadline to reach in 90 minutes: you must save the city from an invasion of deadly germs, wielding only your wits and your cell phone.  Once you’ve proven your mettle on the bacteria-laden battlefield, you can boast bragging rights amongst your group and online!   I love how this unique city exploration game is like an ordinary walking tour on steroids!

IndoorsMiscellaneousGood eatin'The Perot Museum of Nature and Science downtown is another not-to-be-missed science museum.  State-of-the-art video and 3D computer animations provide thrilling, life-like simulations where visitors can exercise their brains through hands-on activities and interactive games.  A particular draw is the tornado simulator – yes, north Texas is prime tornado country – and right here you get to experience the adrenaline of living through one. Other permanent exhibits explore life as a bird (or, closer to home – life as a human), the expanding universe, sports, and engineering/innovation.  After your visit, try some amazing Tex-Mex.  Skip just past the Tex Mex-inspired El Fenix across the street*, and make a beeline towards authentic Mexican (interior Mexican) Meso Maya right next door.

Live it Up in Dallas Texas
Braniff 727

IndoorsTranspoBack to the ‘burbs: How stimulating is simulating?  Hmmm… did someone say flight simulator?  Give piloting a whirl and visit some neat aircraft at the small but mighty Frontiers of Flight Museum near Dallas’s original city airport, Love Field.  The sadly extinct Braniff Airlines is memorialized here along with the still crankin’ Southwest Airlines.  Also on hand are relics from the Hindenburg, and the entire Apollo 7 space capsule!  A particularly neat display shares the evolution of flight attendant fashion.  I know the first place this aviation buff is heading next time I’m in Dallas!

Live it Up in Dallas Texas

OutdoorsGood eatin'CultureFinally, I’d like to recommend a fun juxtaposition to the tightly buttoned, straight laced city that you’ve explored so far.  The other side of the conservative coin lies deep within a quirky, anything goes, artsy fartsy east Dallas neighborhood known as Deep Ellum, the happenin’ incubator of north Texas’ best jazz and blues musicians.  It’s fun to locate the district’s murals and sculpture, which promote a unique Texas aesthetic.  You can admire them at length while you chill out and chow down on some of the city’s most innovative eats.  The people watching in this colorful, counterculture enclave can’t be beat!

What is your favorite thrill-seeking activity?  Let me know in the Comments!

*I am not discouraging you from eating Tex-Mex.  I love it, myself.  If you should find yourself anywhere near a Chuy’s, in Dallas or elsewhere, give ’em a shot!  They serve some consistently excellent Tex-Mex specialties in a super fun, kitschy ambiance!

What’s So Peachy About Atlanta, Georgia?? (Hint: A LOT!)

If you’re like me, you’ve changed planes at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport a time or two in your life.  The busiest airport in the world, ATL’s enormous concourses always buzz with frenetic travelers on the go.   While making your way through the hectic airport, have you given a second thought to the city of Atlanta itself?  Why are all the city streets named after peach trees, for example?

We all learned in school that the Civil War’s General Sherman ordered the vital railroad hub of Atlanta burned to the ground.  Now, 150 years later, “Hotlanta,” so nicknamed because of its hot and humid summer climate, boasts its importance as a center of transportation once again, as hub of two of America’s largest airlines, Delta and Southwest.

A city on fire… again!

The city is not just literally balmy, however; it’s on fire figuratively as well.  Atlanta is legit a hotbed of outstanding activity!  It’s no wonder that the city’s motto is Resurgens, Rising Again.  (Nothing to do with peaches, alas.)

So for those of you lucky enough to venture away from the airport, I present the following “peachy” things to do.  There are three main clusters of activity described here: the tourist area downtown known as Pemberton Place, the nearby Civil Rights history centered around MLK, and last but not least — sorry! — Hartsfield-Jackson airport!

Pemberton Place

Luckily for Atlanta tourists, most of the city’s noteworthy attractions are situated in this 20-acre downtown cluster.

Georgia Aquarium

IndoorsMiscellaneousOne of the world’s largest aquariums, the Georgia Aquarium is home to well over 100,000 critters.  You’ll want to arrive first thing in the morning, or after 4pm, when ticket prices drop if you buy them online.   Guests rave about the indoor dolphin show, and thrill to rambling through the huge tank with sharks and manta rays circling all around them.  Highlights of this aquarium include opportunities to interact up close with a variety of sea creatures including the whale sharks.  These endangered animals are the world’s largest living nonmammalian vertebrates; you would make a tasty but rather small snack for them, as they are many times larger than you!  Animal Encounters allows guests to hang out with their choice of dolphins, penguins and sea otters.

OutdoorsCultureAdjacent to the Aquarium is the world-renowned Centennial Olympic Park.  Home of the 1996 Olympic games, this beautiful 21 acre urban greenspace is now filled with walking paths, water gardens & the Fountain of Rings.  To learn more about the cool events going on here, your first stop should be its official Visitor Center, located adjacent to the Fountain of Rings on the south side of the park.


IndoorsCultureNo visit to the New South (“Too busy to hate on anyone”) would be complete without a stop at the Center for Civil and Human Rights.  Amongst its highly interactive, thought-provoking exhibits is the Woolworth lunch counter experience.  You must be at least 13 to participate – it’s that intense.  This brutal re-enactment of the hate experienced by four African American men just wanting to enjoy a meal really stands out in its stark effectiveness.  Now that you’ve pondered the human rights journeys of the past, consider the future.  Be sure to visit the Technology display to understand how tech can be so life-changing – in both good and terrible ways.

CNN Center Atlanta

IndoorsMiscellaneousCurrent and future broadcasters, journalists, media stars and news junkies should sign up for the CNN Atlanta Studio Tour.   The Cable News Network, on air since June 1, 1980, was the first all-news all-the-time television channel in the United States.  There are three tours to choose from: Behind the Scenes, HLN with Robin Meade, and the VIP Tour.  Guests note that this last option is by far the best, as in addition to visiting the control room, newsrooms, special effects studio, and more, you are taken to witness an actual studio broadcasting live on air!  After any given tour, stop at the lobby food court for your choice of a delicious meal and awesome people watching.

World of Coca-Cola Atlanta

IndoorsMiscellaneousThirsty soft drink enthusiasts will enjoy the World of Coca-Cola.  This museum, a paean to America favorite sugar-laden carbonated beverages, features a fun variety of interactive exhibits, including a really cool 4-D theatre experience.  It’s fascinating to consider how Coke, a humble pharmaceutical tonic concocted right here in Atlanta, became such a behemoth of international corporatism.  Rest assured, your thirst will be fully slaked by your choice of Coke product proffered upon entrance to the museum.  But also try a taste here of the dozens of distinct varieties of Coca-Cola produced for consumers the globe over.

Martin Luther King, Jr National Historic Site

Martin Luther King, Jr Atlanta

Atlanta is the proud home of the Martin Luther King, Jr National Historic Site.  Fortunately, this is a very concentrated area east on I-85 from Pemberton Place, and it’s easily reached via Uber or public transportation.

Ebenezer Church at Martin Luther King Atlanta

IndoorsCultureThe Ebenezer Baptist Church of Atlanta is a small church with a grand history.   You’ll visit the historic site of the church; its iteration across the street is a dynamic place of worship today.  Anyway, at Ebenezer you’ll want to take a few minutes to sit in the pews and listen to Dr. Martin Luther King’s sermons.  Close your eyes and imagine him here, as he was only 50-odd short years ago, leading the congregation with his powerful messages of hope and inspiration!  In the basement, watch a video of Dr King’s sister narrating her family’s poignant story.

OutdoorsIndoorsCultureThe onsite National Park and Visitor Center are home to Dr King’s birthplace and graves.  Commit to spend at least a couple of hours here to fully appreciate Dr King’s legacy and impact on civil rights in the current era.   You will be so moved, I promise!

ATL – Hartsfield Jackson International Airport of Atlanta

Last but not least, let’s re-visit the neighborhood of Atlanta’s gargantuan Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL) for its variety of fascinating activities.

Hartsfield Jackson International Airport Atlanta

IndoorsOutdoorsI’ve already confessed on this website how much I love airplanes and air travel.  The Atlanta airport, with multiple runways in constant use by every variety of aircraft imaginable, is America’s mecca of plane spotting.  You could visit an airport parking garage and uncomfortably camp out on its top floors for good runway views.  But I’m sure you’d rather “camp out,” legally and in style, at the Marriott-branded Renaissance Concourse Atlanta Hotel.

This pyramid-shaped hotel is situated right on the northern edge of Hartsfield-Jackson’s slew of runways and concrete aprons.  Request a runway-view room, for which you shouldn’t be charged more than an additional $20 per night.  Then you can either relax on your very own balcony to enjoy all the plane spotting, or splash around in the indoor glass pool to do so.

Spirit of Delta 767 Atlanta
The Spirit of Delta Boeing 767 aircraft, Delta Flight Museum, Atlanta

IndoorsTranspoEndlessly fascinated by flight, I would make my first Atlanta stop a visit to the Delta Flight Museum, right on the airport grounds.   Historic aircraft dating back as far as the 1920s are on display.  More recent airliners include the airline’s awesome Boeing 767, known as “The Spirit of Delta.”  Take a tour of a 747 and defy death by a walk on its wing!  And forget your Xbox 360: a dedicated 737 flight simulator is open to the public.  Please be extra sure to visit the museum’s website before you go due to its restricted hours of operation.

Porsche Experience Atlanta

IndoorsOutdoorsTranspoPerhaps you’re a speed buff, but prefer the four-wheeled variety.  If so, dig out your wallet and take advantage of the city’s most breathtaking way to kill an hour and a half, the Porsche Experience Center Atlanta.  The website explains all the details, but basically, anyone at least 21 with a valid driver’s license can sign up to race drive the German manufacturer’s amazing sports cars for a 90 minute session around the facility’s proprietary racetrack.  Expect to pay as much as $1,000 for this splendid opportunity.

Younger folk need not despair: you’re welcome to sit shotgun while a Porsche-certified veteran driver maneuvers you around the track.  Another option for the youthful set is a 30 or 60 minute session in the driving simulator lab.  All visitors can enjoy the Heritage Center, a celebration of the vehicles’ unique history.  Also onsite are a retail store and two dining establishments.


I have barely scratched the surface of all there is to do in this vibrant city.  I would love to know whether you have visited Atlanta before, and what appeals most to you?  Tell me more in the comments!

Rockin’ (and Rollin’) – Things to do in Memphis, Tennessee

  Memphis – a city that exemplifies the word Resilience.  The “birthplace of the blues” was founded upon a bluff along the Mississippi River.  The cliffside location made for easy transportation up and down the river, and unlike elsewhere in the vicinity, it would not flood.  Resilience to the forces of nature.


Resilience to the forces of oppression would be found in the mid 19th century, within a remarkable “way station” along the Underground Railroad.  The slaves fighting back.  Resilience in the face of evil.

Post-Slavery Mosquito-Borne Yellow Fever

The years after slavery brought poverty and horrific sanitation conditions to the city.  Memphis could not withstand the onslaught of Yellow Fever.  Thousands died, and while wealthy whites were able to flee the scourge, poor blacks could not.  Luckily for them, the deadly plague was far less fatal than it was for other peoples.   The theory goes that continuous exposure to the disease amongst their African ancestors back on the continent was passed down to them and protected them.  Immunology passed down from parent to child.   Resilience.

The Era of the Struggle for Civil Rights

Shortly after the horrors of this massive Yellow Fever outbreak, a revolutionary sewer system and fresh water aquifer brought relief to the city.  Memphis managed to pull through in no small part due to the heroic efforts of its surviving African American residents, many of whom helped allay the suffering of both whites and blacks.  When it was all said and done, however, Memphis still refused to confer civil rights upon everyone.  Blacks continued to be paid far less than whites.  Their education was poorer, and they were kept from voting.  Their civil rights struggles persist to the present day.  Thankfully, they don’t give up.  They are resilient.

Birth of the Blues

blues guitar in Memphis

I bring up the resilience of the city to help explain its history as the birthplace of blues and rock.  It’s been said that only those who suffer create noteworthy music.  Listen closely to early blues and rock.  Sure, “I’ve got the blues” is a struggling musician’s outlet to express despair.  But pay attention too, to their defiant, rebellious cries for hope and joy.  These musicians, ever resilient, form the backbone upon which Memphis pride passionately stands today.

Jailhouse Rock Elvis Presley Memphis
Elvis the Pelvis

CultureEveryone knows Memphis is the home of Elvis Presley.  The “King of Rock and Roll,” Elvis gave your great-grandparents the vapors when their children (your grandparents!) eagerly watched him gyrate on TV.  The King was quite the living legend in his day with his blues and gospel-inspired rock music.  He made his Memphis home at Graceland, a major American tour attraction.

If you’re in Memphis with your grandfolks and they want to visit Graceland, by all means, go!  Over 600,000 people a year enjoy checking out the King’s amusingly retro shag carpet, TV,  airplanes, vehicles and more.  Your grandparents will especially revere his grave site on the property.

Having noted all the above, I would not recommend a stop at Graceland if you are on a tight schedule or budget.  The kitsch factor is fun, but visitors complain the tours are highly overpriced, and you don’t get to see the inner sanctum of the residence (Elvis’ upstairs living quarters).

Sun Studio Memphis

CultureIndoorsInstead, visit the studio where the King’s voice and music first burst onto the scene.  The epicenter of the birthplace of rock and blues is a much better stop for music lovers.  Sun Studio is this place.  The renowned recording studio is still in full use today, at night.  During the day, the facility hosts scores of tourists gawking at the instruments, costumes, memorabilia and music of a bygone era.  Grandma can always revel in the fact that Elvis haunted these very same walls.    Bonus: delicious milkshakes served here!

CultureIndoorsIn conjunction with Sun Studios, you definitely should check out the Smithsonian-sponsored Memphis Rock ‘n Soul Museum.  According to their website,

This museum tells of the musical pioneers and legends of all racial and socio-economic backgrounds who, for the love of music, overcame obstacles to create the musical sound that changed the world… A digital audio tour guide takes visitors at their own pace through seven galleries featuring 3 audio visual programs, more than 30 instruments, 40 costumes and other musical treasures.

IndoorsMiscellaneousThe Gibson guitar factory across the street is a wonderful adjunct to the Rock ‘N Soul Museum, even if you don’t play guitar.  Watch master luthiers in action and pick up your very own guitar in the gift shop.

While in town, take some time to visit some inspiring attractions dedicated to the fight for Civil Rights.

CultureYour first stop should be the Slave Haven / Burkle Estate Museum.Slave Haven Memphis  This stop on the Underground Railroad should only take an hour or so of your day.   You’ll discover what many heroes of the time (including abolitionist Jacob Burkle, a German businessman whose home you’ll tour) did to help runaway slaves find freedom at long last.





Lorraine Motel Memphis

CultureMove on to the incredible, heart-rending exhibits at the National Civil Rights Museum, housed in the former Lorraine Motel.  This is the very site where Dr Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968.  His motel room has been left as he himself left it nearly 50 years ago.  Plan to spend several hours here because the exhibits span a lengthy timeline, from ancient slavery practices to the push for Black Power and ongoing civil rights activities.  You will definitely want to set aside some time for quiet reflection here.

Good eatin'Hey, you’ve gotta eat.  While you’re in town, you must try some of the best barbecue in the bbq ribs Memphisworld!  One of the most exemplary joints stands right across the street.  Central BBQ is renowned for its yummy smoked pork, chicken, turkey, ribs and more.  The atmosphere is casual for such serious barbecue.  Do not miss it!


Tom Lee Park Memphis

OutdoorsMiscellaneousOutdoors lovers will be in heaven alongside the mighty Mississippi River that borders the city.  If time permits, stroll Beale Street – you’re too young to go to the clubs, but you’ll experience the blues up close in its natural habitat!  Then stop at Beale Street Landing, with its lovely views of downtown, Tom Lee Park, with its paved walking path parallel to the river, or the Mud Island River Park, showcasing a scale model of the Mississippi near the Mississippi River Museum.  Hopefully you’ll have time for all three!

Good eatin'You’ll be famished afterwards, so what better time to try out the nearby Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken?  Each crunchy breast, wing, leg and drumstick is spicy, but not too hot!  There is usually a considerable wait but it’s so worth it!

Indoor Go Kart racing Memphis

IndoorsTranspoNow let’s talk about Rollin’ in Memphis.  For simple yet heart-pounding excitement, race indoors in the 40,000 square foot indoor go kart track at the Autobahn Indoor Speedway.  Separate courses are designed for the thrill of adults and well as youngsters.  Considering you must wear a helmet, and the European-designed electric vehicles’ speeds can go up to 30, 40, or even 50 miles per hour, this is no baby bumper car ride!

How have you overcome the obstacles in your life (and off the raceway)?  Do you have any creative outlets, and how do they help?  Let me know in the comments!

The Wright Stuff – Dayton, Ohio

Not gonna lie – I LOVE flying.  It was totally the shizz back before deregulation in the 70’s.  Even cattle class passengers enjoyed endless leg room, free food that wasn’t as bad as people will tell you it was, no nickel-and-diming for every little thing; heck, smoking in the lav was okay!  Eek!  Well, maybe flying wasn’t perfect, but it was a beyond magical experience for a young girl like yours truly.  My daughter loves flying too, even though nowadays passengers are treated like third-rate cattle with a coinpurse attached.  Hard to imagine that the Wright Cycle Co. in Dayton, Ohio is where it all began.

CVG airport observation area
CVG airport observation area

As I look forward to a new journey by air soon, I sometimes wonder if the Wright Brothers ever could begin to imagine air travel in the 21st century.  I think I’d rather sit cramped in the rearmost middle seat any day than have to lie prone on top of a flimsy biplane wing, because at least I’d get a few frequent flier points and a pack of pretzels for my troubles.

Time Travelers?

Seriously though, how cool would it be though if the Wrights could come time travel to the present?  I’d give anything to know what they’d think about our complex jet engines and sleek, aerodynamic fuselages.   How would they marvel at their humble flying machine making the innovation of the sound barrier-breaking Concorde possible?  Most importantly, how indignant would they feel to have to remove their jaunty caps and tweed jackets in the TSA slow lane?

North Carolina may stamp “First in Flight” on their license plates; their Kitty Hawk field, where the Wright Brothers first slipped the surly bonds of earth, is a pretty cool place.  However, the preface to this very flight occurred right here in Dayton.  If you’re a fan of aviation to any degree at all, this should be a very cool place indeed for you to explore!


Dayton Carillon Park

OutdoorsCultureA park is a park is a park, unless it’s this 65 acre historical overview of Dayton during the Wright Brothers era, Carillon Historical Park. Entertaining exhibits of Dayton’s role in the technological revolution at the turn of the 20th century compete with the sight of the well-tended grounds.

The Wright Brothers center within the park includes a reproduction of their cycle shop, interpretive materials including films of early flights, and a room devoted to display of a Wright II Flyer, the world’s first practical airplane, built by the Wright brothers in 1905.  I would recommend the Aviation Heritage NHP for Dayton visitors with limited time who wish to focus on the aviation history aspect of their visit.  But if you wish to examine additional facets of the history of the area in a beautiful setting, this is the place to be!


OutdoorsIndoorsCultureHow did the workings of the humble bicycle evolve in Orville and Wilbur Wrights’ heads into the prototype of a successful flying machine?  Ponder the answer at The Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center.  This is where it’s real: enter the world of the Wright Brothers in their restored print shop and subsequent bicycle shop, and just try not to get inspired to turn your dreams into reality!  A cool exhibit chronicles the parachute’s invention in Dayton up to its use in the space program.  The Huffman Prairie Flying Field Interpretive Center, a short drive away, allows you to see the field where they tested their airplanes.  No skydiving offered here, alas.  A visit to both Centers is a terrific way to prepare for the pièce de resistance – a visit to the Air Force Museum, as described below.


Air Force One at USAF Museum

IndoorsOutdoorsTranspoIs there a larger, more comprehensive military aviation exhibition facility anywhere in the world to compare to the National Museum of the United States Air Force?  Not a chance.  This is the place to check out if you’re the least fascinated with air and space travel, civilian, military or otherwise.  The museum is laid out in historical sequence. You’ll start your visit with the Wright Brothers in Building One, and finish up in Building Four with displays showcasing the future of aeronautics.

Among the countless aircraft on display is President John F Kennedy’s Air Force One plane, a  Boeing VC-137C SAM 26000.  This is the vehicle that transported his body back to Washington from Dallas after he was tragically shot. If you’ve ever seen the iconic black and white photograph of the inauguration of President Lyndon B Johnson with the  widowed Jackie Kennedy, this is the very plane in which this event occurred.  Anyway.  Kids and their families will all love the IMAX theater for movies, and flight simulators for those who want to try their hand at flying.


IndoorsTranspoNow that we’ve looked into all the amazing aviation history on display in Dayton, you may wonder if aeronautics is the only form of transpo anyone cares about in town.  Not hardly!  PackardSo if you prefer historic cars to planes?  Dayton’s down with that.  Visit America’s Packard Museum at the Citizens Motorcar Co., a renovated art deco Packard dealership from years past.  In addition to housing more than 50 lovingly restored vehicles and accessories from years ago, you’ll see fascinating exhibits detailing Packard’s many contributions to the war effort.  Pony up a little coin and take a ride with a staff member in one of the cars! What a neat way to participate in the theme of retro transportation this city celebrates!


OutdoorsTranspoCultureSeasonal  Dayton takes outdoor fun to the next level and it’s either free or very low cost!

Terrific views of the Great Miami River aren’t the only thing on offer at RiverScape MetroPark!  The heart of RiverScape is a big white permanent pavilion, which becomes the home of an enticing ice rink in winter.  In the summer you’ll find a vivacious cultural festival going on more often than not, along with a fun water play area for the whole family.  So no matter the season, this is always a rewarding place to visit.  Be sure to take in the views of the river from one of the many swinging benches along the river.  Whenever you visit, be sure to stop by here during lunch, when food trucks and live music are on offer.

MetroParks Mountain Biking Area (MoMBA) – The thrill of Mountain Biking is available for all experience levels on several exciting trails.  You don’t have to bring your own bike; you can rent them along with helmets here at MoMBA on Saturdays from 10AM to 1 PM – first come, first served, so get here early! Enjoy over nine miles of dedicated single-track trails in the beautiful wilderness not far from town, and bring the whole family.  There are bike rentals available for small children along with trails suited just for them.  Be sure to check the weather, and the website, before you go.  What a fabulous way to get in some exhilarating exercise!

The Riding Center at Carriage Hill MetroPark provides opportunities for everyone in the family to participate in a variety of horseback riding activities. Safety and proper horsemanship skills are taught, and weekend trail rides offered Saturday and Sunday from 10 AM to 2 PM, June through October, at the park’s Riding Center.  Seven miles of wooded bridle trails provide a serene, scenic backdrop to your ride.  Check the website for important details.

Stay Inside Awhile

Scene 75

IndoorsGood eatin'Just wanna kick back and find some legit fun while you’re in town?  One of North America’s largest and most spirited indoor entertainment emporiums lies north of downtown Dayton, just off of Interstate 75.  Scene 75 offers pizza, burgers and salads to slay your hunger before or after you’ve slain your enemies.  Take part in the competitions of your choice, which may include the multi-story laser tag arena, go-kart track, arcade, blacklight mini-golf course or Valkyrie experience.  But why stop there?  According to Scene 75, the one-of-a-kind Chaos Room is designed to “immerse yourself in your favorite video game on 15 ft HD projection screens with surround sound.”  Personally, if I feel like entering a chaos room I just tiptoe gingerly into my kids’ bedchambers, but what do I know?


What do you most want to do in Dayton?  Let me know in the comments!

Museums, Skyscrapers, Sports & More – Chicago, Illinois


Chicago, the Windy City, lies along the shimmering west coast of Lake Michigan.  Best known for its towering skyline, deep dish pizza and bitterly cold winters, the city is the third largest in the United States.   Numerous trade associations hold annual meetings here every year, so I expect a lot of families accompany conventioneers and seek something to do while the conventions are taking place.

Such a large population center means that there should be a TON of cool things to do, and Chicago delivers.  The challenge for me as your Totally Teen Travel tour guide is to NARROW down the possibilities.  Unless you actually MOVE to Chicago, there is plenty for everyone to do during any given time spent here!  Even locals might argue they’ll never get around to everything!

Segway tour of Chicago
Multiple Segway tour companies

Unlike most cities about which I’ve written, there are multiple appealing attractions and things to do within their own type of category.  For example, Chicago has dozens of compelling world-class museums you can visit.  How the heck do you narrow the list down?  And who doesn’t want to experience the amazing Chicago skyline?  Which viewing opportunities are the most intense?  And how to best get into the sports the Windy City is so famous for?


What I will do here is recommend the most teen-friendly attractions in these categories.  But I suggest you go a step further and research ALL the exciting possibilities available to travelers on Chicago’s online visitors’ bureau.  Scroll down a bit and on the right side of the page you can “create a personalized itinerary” via the Utrip Trip Planner.  Input the requested information and voila!  Recommendations based on time of year, budget, age of participants and more are provided.

Why not save some serious coin while you enjoy all Chicago has to offer?  Massive savings are in store with the Go Chicago card.  Click on the banner below and check out all the discounts!




Art Institute of Chicago
Entrance to the Art Institute of Chicago

More than anywhere else in the USA, I strongly encourage you to visit at least one Chicago museum based on your interests, background, or career plans.  There is something spectacular for everyone here, truly.  Even if you get dragged to your twin brother’s idea of a great museum, I’m confident you’ll still enjoy yourself immensely (and learn a lot, too!).

Here’s just a tiny representation of the museums you can choose from:

Many more exhibits, events and possibilities can be found, again, at the Visit Chicago website.

Now that I’ve gotten museums out of the way… there are plenty of other options for your trip to get totally lit.



Chicago’s skyline is spectacular, and only outdone, arguably, by the world-famous New York skyline.  There are several ways to enjoy the view, “big picture” style as well as up close.

Cycling along Lake Michigan Chicago
Cycling along Lake Michigan
  • Work out your quads as well as your vision via Chicago’s Lakefront Trail.  Not only will you experience lovely skyscraper views along the shore of Lake Michigan, but you will also pass through many beautiful parks, two of which are Jackson Park, with its University of Chicago, and Grant Park, featuring the famous Buckingham Fountain.  Millennium Park and Lincoln Park with its free Zoo are also on your path!  Rent your bike at Bobby’s Bike Hike – 540 N. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago IL 60611.  Ask for maps and helmets, or why not just sign up for a guided bike tour.

    Navy Pier, Chicago
    Fireworks on the Navy Pier
  • Promenade along the Navy Pier for spectacular skyline views and tons of cool things to do. This is where you’ll find the Children’s Museum, Imax theatre, classic carnival-style rides, plenty of restaurant options and the climate-controlled Centennial (Ferris) Wheel, which offers pristine views of the lake and skyline.  Stick around for the gorgeous sunset, and fireworks at specified days and times.
  • Want to round out your skyline experience from within the concrete jungle itself? Like, from the tip top of a skyscraper?  Then I recommend 360 Chicago.  Check on local sunset times, and plan to be here late in the day (while the sun is still out) to enjoy daytime, twilight, and night time vistas, each of which is guaranteed to take your breath away.
    • Now that you can’t breathe, take your death defying to new “heights” (no pun intended).  Sign up for the heart-pounding TILT experience!  You stand facing the views and are engineered safely to stand OUT and ABOVE the Magnificent Mile, over 1000 feet below!    See it to believe it at the 360 Chicago website.



It should go without saying that Chicago is a sports lover’s town.  What kind of cool stuff is there to do for youse guys besides attending a Bulls, Bears, Sox, or Cubs game?

Wrigley Field Chicago
Entrance to Wrigley Field
  • Wrigley Field is the historic home of the beloved Chicago Cubs. Yes, this is the same Wrigley who probably made the chewing gum you love so much.  The ball park is over 100 years old; hopefully the gum you’re chewing right now isn’t.  Anyway, a tour of this mighty piece of sports history bestows a nostalgic feel for the sport of baseball as it was enjoyed back then.  Enjoy baseball the way your great grandparents did!  Depending on whether there is a game scheduled that day, there are different spots (dug out, press box, home base, etc.) within the ballpark on display.
  • Going back to the museum thing: Another Windy City museum to relish involves great fun with cool sports memorabilia and tons of interactive activities.  Here’s what to do: Have a delicious meal of American comfort food at Harry Caray’s 7th Inning Stretch.  While dining at the ‘Stretch, ask for free tickets to the adjacent Chicago Sports Museum!   No need to be a sports fanatic to have a rollicking good time here.  Do check the online calendar first to avoid disappointment if the museum’s closed for a private event.
iFLY excitement Chicago
iFLY excitement
  • Defy death once again (you did TILT… right?) at iFLY, one of a few nationwide spots for indoor skydiving!   After a short but comprehensive training session, you’re instructed to lean into a fierce wind that lifts you off your feet just a few feet off the ground.  Like Superman, you’ll soar (in place), floating on a big column of air.  It’s completely safe, they say.  But then, they make you wear a helmet and goggles, so maybe not?

I would warn you that you will find this experience completely off the chain!  Follow up on  your newfound love by making a competition out of it.  Yes!   This thrilling new sport is  known as “bodyflight.”


What else would you recommend teens to do in the Windy City?  Let me know in the comments.

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