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El Paso

El Paso is a west Texas gem!  We recently traveled to visit my sister and her family over the Christmas break and had so much fun!  There is so much to do in El Paso!  First on our lists of places to visit was Chamizal National Memorial and the El Paso Zoo.  The Chamizal National Memorial is part of the US National Park Service so don’t forget to bring your National Park Passport to get stamped!  We haven’t been to many national parks so we bought our first National Park Passport when we visited.  The museum does not take long to walk through so bring a picnic lunch or walk around the park to enjoy all it has to offer.  The El Paso Zoo is close by so after we had our picnic, we headed to the zoo.  The zoo takes about 2 hours to go through if you aren’t in a hurry and let the kids play on the giant playground.  We also saw the bird show that I highly recommend!  These two attractions are located in close proximity so you could definitely do both in one day.

The next day we headed to the National Border Patrol Museum.  The kids enjoyed being able to get into the vehicles and helicopter that are in the exhibit.   Do plan ahead as it is only open Tuesday through Saturday, 9-5.  Oh and lunch at Burritos Juarez!  Y’all have GOT to go to Burritos Juarez!  Everything is made fresh and their aguas frescas are delicious!  We wanted to go back before we left but realized that they were closed on Sundays.  You must go to Burritos Juarez when you are in El Paso.

And now for our most fun day…..  WHITE SANDS, NEW MEXICO!  White Sands is less than 2 hours away from El Paso!  Make sure you bring your disc sleds!  We brought 4 to share between the 10 of us and it was fine.  It was a beautiful day and we stayed for a few hours.  Here’s a tip:  drive back as far as you can go and it is less crowded.  Find a covered picnic table and park next to it and it’s yours for the day!  We looked for an area with a bathroom as well since we had 6 kids with us!  Don’t forget to pack your picnic lunch, snacks and drinks because there is nothing out there.  And your National Park Passport to get stamped!

Sunday was our last official full day in El Paso.  We started off the morning by going to church on base and then headed to lunch at L&J Cafe off Stevens and Missouri.  Make sure you get there early because there will be a wait.  But it’s worth it!  The service was great and everyone enjoyed their meal, even my vegan daughter!  After lunch, we headed over to the Wyler Aerial Tramway located in the Franklin Mountains State Park.  Be prepared to wait in line for a little while if the weather is nice and if you are going on a weekend.  (The tramway does close during bad weather and high wind.)  Be sure to ask questions as you ascend to the top of Ranger Peak!  The park rangers are so knowledgeable and the kids were asking all sorts of questions.  You could also hike up to the top but the hike is about 90 minutes to 2 hours long.   Once the tram reaches the top, you have all the time you want to explore the gift shop and take pictures.

Our family thoroughly enjoyed the city of El Paso!  We would have never put El Paso on our list of places to visit but since my sister and her family have lived there for over a year, we knew we had to come out and visit.  The drive out to El Paso from Austin is a long one, I’ll admit.  But so worth it!

Did we miss something spectacular in El Paso?  If so, comment to let us know!

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New York City

When my kids turn 11, they get to pick a place to visit with just mom.  This year, Sabrina picked New York City.  At first, I told her no as it was a little out of our price range.  But….  I met a friend from NY on my trip Greece that offered her extra bedroom to us.  And that made it more affordable!  So I watched for airfare deals and found one from Austin to Newark for only $119 each way.  We used United airline miles for the way there and paid for the way back.  We did our research and came up with a list of places we wanted to visit on our trip.  And we managed to squeeze pretty much everything we wanted to do in our 4 days there!

Central Park Zoo.  The perfect size for a fun afternoon!  It was cloudy and actually started to rain a little but we enjoyed our visit!  The best part was the feeding of the sea lions!  They do this a couple times a day so be sure to check out the times before you go.

 

Staten Island Ferry.  The best way to see the Statue of Liberty for free!  You just hop on and it takes about 25 minutes to get to Staten Island from Manhattan.  Once you get off in Staten Island, you have enough time to grab a snack and it’s back in line to head back to Manhattan.  We got some great pictures while on the ferry!

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911 Memorial and Museum.  A must see while in New York.  My daughter wasn’t born at the time of the 911 attacks and I thought it was important that she learns more about this time in our history.  We started off with the movie that the museum recommends that you see first.  It was really informative and it gave my daughter the chance to ask me some questions about that day.

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Eataly.  Eataly is located on the third floor of 4 World Trade Center.  We stopped at Eataly to eat dinner after the 911 Memorial and Museum visit.  They have 5 restaurants to choose from!  We opted for a piadina to share and gelato for dessert.   So much good food to choose from!

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The Highline.  After dinner, we went walking along The Highline.  The Highline is a public park built on a historic freight rail elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side.  It’s a great place to stroll and check out New York.

Hillsong Church.  Sunday morning we hopped on the subway and headed to Hillsong NYC for the 10 am service.  The music is amazing and the sermon that day was fantastic!

Broadway.  After church, we headed to Times Square to check out a Broadway show.  Sabrina and I researched which shows we wanted to see and had a few in mind that were family friendly.  We ended up seeing Paramour which was a Cirque Du Soleil musical.  After the show, Sabrina got to take a picture with two of the actors!  Check out TKTS for discount tickets for many of the Broadway shows!

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Times Square.  Iconic!  Times Square is a great place to people watch and shop!  You must go there at night and during the day if you have time.

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The Bronx Zoo.  This was on Sabrina’s list of places we had to visit.  She was watching the Animal Planet series “The Zoo” and wanted to check it out.  We devoted an entire day to the Bronx Zoo.  We took the subway out to the Bronx and got off at Pelham Parkway.  The signs were easy to follow to the zoo.

I highly recommend making a list of all the places you want to visit before you go.  Then group them into locations.  We didn’t plan each day out until we arrived in New York.  We went in April and the weather was cold and rainy when we arrived and hot when we left.  So we saved the Bronx Zoo for our last day since the weather was nicer.

Take the subway!  Much cheaper than a cab and easy to navigate.  Download one of the subway apps on your phone and it tells you exactly which train to take and when to get off and switch.  The subway employees are helpful as well so ask when you purchase your pass.

Have fun shopping!  Go to Bloomingdale’s!  Macys!  Dylan’s Candy Bar!

New York City is a great place to visit!  So much to do!  And eat!  And experience!

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5 GREAT Reasons to Head to the JW Marriott in San Antonio!

Need a family getaway that won’t break the bank?  One of our favorite places to vacation is the JW Marriott in San Antonio.  It’s just a short drive down I-35 and you don’t actually have to drive into town when you come from Austin.  We took a family vacation and met our extended family there to celebrate my dad’s 70th birthday.

  • The pools!!!  There are so many pools including an adults only one!

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    This was the beach entry pool that was perfect for the kids AND the adults!
  • Waterslides!  They just added a couple more slides that the older kids and adults can enjoy.
  • Lazy river.  The lazy river is perfect for leisurely floating and has a bunch of entry/exit points.
  • Kids activities.  When you arrive, you get a weekly schedule of everything that is happening.  From s’mores to gagaball, there is plenty for the kids to do.

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    As we were waiting for our lunch, one of the Kids Activities employees started a kickball game with the kids!
  • The food!  So good!  Poolside ordering, lots of restaurants.  Our favorite was the jalapeno jelly and biscuits from the Crooked Branch.  And the sangria was refreshing as a poolside drink!DSC01634

This is one of our favorite hotels to visit!  We spend all day at the pool and let the older kids run around together.  There is so much to do here!

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Family Fun Park in The Woodlands Area!

“We had so much fun at this park we found in our neighborhood!”

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Art (Richelle’s husband) and 2 of her kiddos, Jonah and Owen.
That’s what my sister, Richelle, called to tell me a couple days ago.  So I asked her to send me her review so I could share it with y’all!

Sawmill Park is located in The Woodlands area of Houston.  The park has tons of great features!  Playground, swimming pool, pavilions and a “sprayground” and much more!    The park is free but if you want to hit up the sprayground when the pool is open, you have to enter through the pool gates and pay the admission fee to use it.  When the pool is closed, the sprayground is free.  Check out the pool schedule here.

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Jonah running through the spraygound.
The park has tons of shade but with that in mind, don’t forget the bug spray.  The bathrooms are convenient and a necessity when you have small kids that ALWAYS need to go to the bathroom!

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Here’s a great shot of the playground.  And yes, that’s Owen, almost naked. 
Thanks, Richelle, for the awesome insight on this park!