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Monday, August 26, 2019

Fayetteville, NC - A Budget Friendly Getaway

Have you discovered fun places to visit just around the corner from where you live?  We just did.  I had heard about Fayetteville, NC from my daughter and son-in-law but we had never been there until just a few weeks ago.  It is only 1 1/2 hours from our home which makes it a breeze to get to.  Not only is it an easy commute but, because it is so close, it doesn't cost us much in gas to get there.  Add the reasonable cost of the many hotels in the area and this road trip becomes exactly the kind of vacation we can have on our retirement budget.  And these are only a couple of the reasons why I am calling Fayetteville, NC a budget friendly getaway!

We stayed at TownePlace Suites Fayetteville Cross Creek and definitely would stay here again.

Most of everything we did in Fayetteville cost nothing or just a few dollars.  One of the things we did, which was free, was enjoy the art that was all over the downtown area and beyond.  We had a ball finding all 14 sculptures in the "Work In Progress" collection while we toured the downtown area.  Read all about it here in our recent blog post.

Process by Christian Happel

The first thing we did when we got to Fayetteville was to stop by the Fayetteville Area Convention And Visitors Bureau at 245 Person Street.  This is where we got our (free!) "Passport".   This little passport was our guide for finding things to do in the Fayetteville area and downtown Fayetteville.  Inside we found pages of information, complete with addresses, of the main attractions not to be missed in Fort Bragg and the Communities of Cumberland Counties.  There is even a handy little map in the passport that we used to help us get around.  We had a great time collecting our stamp at each of the attractions we visited.

We spent 48 hours in Fayetteville.  It wasn't enough time to see and do everything we wanted to but now we have a great excuse to go back.  Maybe we will come back for one of the popular events Fayetteville hosts.  I know Lisa and Pete are looking forward to Comic Con in October and have been to the Brews N Blues Festival a couple of times already.

We visited Fayetteville, this time, mostly because the Cape Fear Botanical Garden had a special event going on that we wanted to see.  Me and Lisa are part Japanese, thanks to my mom, and have grown up with Japanese culture in our everyday lives.  So when we heard Origami in the Garden was happening here, we had to come and check it out!  It costs $10 plus tax to get into the gardens but it is well worth it.
FYI - There are discounts for military, seniors and children.

Another thing we came to do in Fayetteville was catch a baseball game at Segra Stadium, home of the Fayetteville Woodpeckers.  We were excited to see a game in this brand new stadium.  Prices vary depending on when you go but are much more reasonable than going to a major league game and just as much fun!

Although the team didn't win that night, we did have a great time cheering them on.  Not only did we have a fun time watching the game, but we were also treated to a beautiful sunset and then...

... an amazing firework display that was being presented at nearby Festival Park for the 4th of July!

Lisa had always wanted to go to some of the museums in the area, all free, but never had the chance so, with our passports in hand as our guide, we set off to find the museums.  One she really wanted to see was The Airborne & Special Operations Museum.  We learned all about the soldiers and the missions and everything in between and were amazed at the life-size dioramas.

Soko retired after working more than 35 years for the NYCTA as a train operator so we weren't going to miss seeing the Fayetteville Area Transportation & Local History Museum located in the restored 1890 Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railroad depot.

The Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex consists of a two floor museum building with exhibits about the history of southern North Carolina...

General Store Display

...the grounds of Arsenal Park which was the last major site to be destroyed by General Sherman's Union Army...

...and the 1897 Poe House.  We enjoyed our tour, with a very nice and informative tour guide, of this grand home of Edgar Allan Poe, the businessman, not the famous writer.

I still can't get over the fact that admission to these incredible museums cost nothing.  We did make small donations, though, at each museum.

One highlight, for us, of this road trip was hiking on one of the three trails at J. Baynard Clark Park & Nature Center.  We stopped in at the Nature Center before we went on our hike.  There were so many interesting displays there and the Park rangers were eager to answer any questions we had.

We hiked the Bear Trail and started to hike the Cape Fear River Trail until a fellow hiker told us how long it would take to get to the river and back!

Bear Trail

Another park, North Carolina Veterans Park, is not to be missed if you visit this area.  The exhibits here, especially the Hands of Support columns, really made us stop and appreciate all that the veterans did, and the sacrifices they made, to keep us safe and free.

Finally, I can't say enough about all the delicious food we ate in Fayetteville.

Lisa had a couple of restaurants picked out that she wanted to try.  She knew about them from her previous trips but never had the chance to go.  We agreed that of the four restaurants we went to, Fayetteville Pie Company was our favorite.  The uniqueness of their food, all served as a pie, was something different from our usual dining experiences, which is always fun.  Their daily menu changes frequently and features three savory pies ($10.00 each) and three sweet ($4.00) pies that are selected from their extensive sweet and savory pie recipe collection.  We each ordered a different entree and dessert pie so that we could try the entire menu of the day.

Dessert Pies - Berry Beloved, Nutella Mousse, Blueberry Vanilla Swirl

I have to go back to The Fried Sandwich Shop to try a selection from their Thanksgiving Style menu.  I almost had the Fried Turkey Bowl, which would have been Thanksgiving dinner in a bowl, but I changed my mind at the last minute and chose the Turkey Club Sub.  It was yummy but I haven't stopped thinking about that bowl!  My sandwich was $9.00 for a whole sub.  Lisa and Soko's choices cost a little less.

Gohan Bistro was where we had ramen.  It was definitely not your college staple variety.  I got the Paitan Ramen which sounded the least spicy of all the choices and I enjoyed it.  My soup and Lisa's Spicy Miso Ramen cost us $10.50 each.  Soko ordered the Mushroom Lover's Ramen which was one of the more expensive soups, but didn't break the bank at $14.50.

Spicy Miso Ramen

And, last but not least, we ate at New Deli.  I think the real reason Lisa decided we needed to eat here was mostly so that she could get an apple covered in chocolate, caramel, candy pieces, nuts and more.  There was an entire wall behind the cashier filled with apples.  We got three!  We also got really good sandwiches.  My Daville Panini was a scrumptious portabello mushroom and cheese sandwich and cost only $7.49.  Soko and Lisa's sandwiches cost about the same.  We enjoyed our sandwiches and also really enjoyed the fun decor here.

If you think you would like to check out this great city one day, keep in mind that many places are closed on Monday.  Also, if think you might want to try one of the delicious restaurants mentioned in this post, please note that Fayetteville Pie Company and New Deli are not open for dinner, so plan your visit for lunchtime.  The Fried Turkey Sandwich Shop downtown closes at 3:00 pm but their restaurant on Bingham Dr. near Hope Mills is open until 9:00 pm.  All of the restaurants are closed on Sunday.

Also, if you'd like to see Origami in the Garden, it runs through September 8, 2019 so hurry over!

We had a wonderful time getting to know Fayetteville.  We can't wait to visit again.  We know we will return because we have more lots more we want to do, see and eat here!

Monday, August 12, 2019

The All-New Sesame Street Land At SeaWorld Orlando And More

This is a sponsored post.  All opinions are my own.

Me and Soko retired 3 years ago and moved to Florida.  Every year, since then, we have celebrated New Year's Eve at SeaWorld Orlando.  The very first time we celebrated the holiday here, though, was back in 2000 when the threat of the world shutting down was on everyone's mind.  We thought, why not be in a happy place, having fun together, when it happens.   So we packed up the kids and Grandma and off to SeaWorld we went.  And the reason we decided SeaWorld was where we wanted to spend that eve was because, as a family of three generations, we needed a park that we were sure we could all have a great time at.

That New Year's Eve had always been one of our best New Year's Eve memories.  So when me and Soko found ourselves with nothing to do our first year in Florida, we decided to spend the day, and count down the seconds to the new year, with Shamu, Clyde and Seamore!

We love that the Christmas celebration is still happening then.  The festive decorations are everywhere and in the evening the park lights up with so many colorful displays that we are sure you can see SeaWorld from outer space!

And we can't say enough about the special holiday shows.  The O Wondrous Night show is worth the price of the ticket alone.  It is that wonderful!  The joy and happiness I feel by the end of the show, is the feeling I get every time I see it, even though I have seen it three times now, .

Then, if all this was not enough. we are treated to a spectacular firework display after ringing in the new year!  What could be better than that!!

When we were there in December, we were thrilled to see that a section of the park was closed off and work was being done on a new Sesame Street Land   We are brand new grandparents with a grand baby who just happens to love the Sesame Street characters!  I have been anxious, since then, to check out this new section so when my sister, Sandie, and niece, Erica, asked if me and my daughter, Lisa, wanted to go to SeaWorld, with them and Erica's two little ones, when we were in Florida together last week, of course I said "YES"!  Once again, I was making a three generation trip to the park but this time as the one in the oldest generation! 

The first section we headed for when we got to the park was Sesame Street Land.  We dropped off our daughters at Infinity Falls on the way.  The little guys were too small for that ride and me and Sandie are not as daring as we once were years ago.  We decided to pass on experiencing the world's tallest drop on a river raft ride!  So off, me and Sandie went to find Sesame Street Land with the little guys.  It was just past Infinity Falls and right behind Shamu Theater.  We made it there right in time for the Sesame Street Party Parade.

Erica's little guy loved the parade and decided to march alongside. 

There were six rides to choose from in Sesame Street Land but the little guy wasn't quite tall enough for a couple of them.  Little guy and little girl were big enough for Elmo's Choo Choo Train.  They had a great time riding with their grandma.  I think Sandie had the most fun though!

The kids also enjoyed the interactive activities around Sesame Street Land, especially the laundromat game they found outside of  Hooper's Store.

We found 123 Sesame Street with Oscar's Garbage Can outside.  The kids tapped on the garbage can and received a grouchy reply!

We got something to eat and drink at one of the three food trucks parked on Sesame Street while the kids created delicious meals with Cookie Monster and Gonger at Cookie Monster's Foodie Truck Challenge.

A highlight of Sesame Street Land for Erica's kids was the play area where they had a ball running around and climbing up and down the mountains.

Rubber Duckie Water Works was probably the area the kids, and the rest of us, enjoyed most in Sesame Street Land on this very hot summer day in Florida!

Sesame Street Land was a big hit with Erica's kids.  I can't wait to take my grand baby here one day soon! 

Now it was time for me and Sandie and the kids to catch up with Lisa and Erica to enjoy the rest of the park together.  We can never make a trip to SeaWorld and not stop by the Clyde and Seamore show for sure.  
One of cutest shows here, and one that every generation definitely enjoys, is Pets Ahoy.  How can you not love the antics of these pets adopted by SeaWorld from local rescue shelters!

One ride all six of us really loved was Antarctica:  Empire of the Penguin.

We all loved the Aquarium in SeaWorld.  Erica's kids would have liked to spend the entire day here!

In between shows and rides, we stayed nourished and hydrated.  We couldn't beat the price of adding on the All-Day Dining pass to our admission tickets.  The variety of restaurants available at SeaWorld made it impossible for everyone not to be able to find something they would like to eat.  I highly recommend eating at least one meal at Voyager's Smokehouse!  

Our favorite way to end a fantastic day at SeaWorld Orlando is by making it all the way to the grand finale - the fireworks show, Ignite!

We had a great day at SeaWorld.  Now it was time to check into our hotel and relax.  It was nice of them to have orange water and iced tea waiting for us when we got there!

Our plan was to stay overnight in Orlando and spend the next day in Aquatica, SeaWorld's sister park, another perfect place for all of us to enjoy together.

After a very fun but hectic day at SeaWorld, we, by we I mean I, were ready to relax at Aquatica.  The very first thing we needed to do was to find a good place to put ourselves and our things down.  We found a great spot in front of the Cutback Cove wave pool.  It closed for a short time when inclement weather was passing over the park.

Once the areas were open, the kids found their way to Kata's Kookaburra Cove.

Little girl found a slide there that was a perfect size for her.

And Lisa found one, Taumata Racer, that she said was amazing.  I took her word for it because...

...this was her view from the top!  Yikes!!

Then we all went to Loggerhead Lane to relax in the lazy river.

We had a great two days at the parks and made some really fun memories along the way.  And because of the great deals we found on the ticket prices, the icing on the cake, I wouldn't be surprised if our summer visit becomes a tradition like mine and Soko's New Year's Eve visit!