My First Taste of Gator at The Catfish Place!

The Catfish Place

All travel and dining consideration courtesy Experience Kissimmee.

During my first-ever trip to Florida last week, I enjoyed a meal at The Catfish Place in St. Cloud. I always love trying out local foods when visiting a new area, and you couldn’t ask for a better place to do that than The Catfish Place. Founded in 1973 as a way to bring traditional Florida family food to the masses, this restaurant boasts a full menu of unique items like frog legs, alligator, and of course, catfish caught daily from Lake Okeechobee. Over the last 41 years, the restaurant has been frequented by a number of celebrities from Emeril Lagasse and Art Linkletter to Don Johnson.

Fried gator

To get our meal started off, we ordered a selection of appetizers including fried alligator gator, fried green tomatoes, fried pickles, and hush puppies. All of the appetizers were good, including the fried gator – this was my first taste of gator meat, and it tasted like extra chewy popcorn chicken.

Catfish, shrimp, hush puppies, grits and more!

For lunch, I was determined to get the most Southern dish I cold find, so I ordered deep fried catfish, deep fried shrimp, french fries, hush puppies, and cheese grits with a large glass of sweet tea. The portions were huge and the prices reasonable! This was my first time tasting grits, and it was interesting – to my West coast palate, it tasted like Tapioca pudding made with cheese. Next time, I’d like to try just plain grits because I think I would like it better.

If you’re like me and enjoy finding the most local foods possible during travels, then The Catfish Place is a must-visit if you are in the area!

For More Information:

The Catfish Place
Phone: (407)892-5771
2324 13th Street
St. Cloud, Florida 34769
Hours: 11 AM to 9 PM Monday through Thursday and on Sundays; Open 11 AM to 10 PM on Friday and Saturday.
Website | Facebook

Relax in Kissimmee With a Chef of Your Own!

Caesar Salad

All travel and related consideration provided by Experience Kissimmee.

Last week, I took a vacation to remember in Kissimmee, Florida. I had so many adventures during my stay and I can’t wait to share all of them with you! To start off, let’s talk about something that is dear to all of our hearts: FOOD!

My first night in Florida, I was treated to a yummy sit-down meal by Chef Linda Page. Linda offers a unique service for guests staying at vacation homes – such as All Star Vacation Homes where I spent my trip – by coming straight to you, preparing a full meal, and cleaning up. All you have to do is kick up your feet and relax while Linda delivers a tasty meal to your plate!

Chef Linda's Appetizers

It was great to come out of my room after getting off the plane and unpacking my bag to find drinks and appetizers waiting for me. The appetizers, were so, SO good – it took some will power not to devour all of them, as I knew I’d need to leave room for the actual dinner!

Lasagna and Broccoli with Garlic Bread

After enjoying appetizers and company with the other bloggers whose flights had just gotten in, we sat down at the table for our meal. We first enjoyed a Caesar salad with Sangria, followed by lasagna, garlic bread, and broccoli; finally, we had a very yummy Tiramisu for dessert. Chef Linda told us that she is always disappointed when she orders a Tiramisu and cannot taste the alcohol, so she makes sure to craft her dessert the way she’d want to eat it. I could taste the flavors of the Tiramisu just as it should have been and it was fabulous!

Tiramisu

After dinner, we were left with two breakfast casseroles in the fridge: Bacon & French Toast Bake and Sausage & Egg Bake. All we had to do was pop them in the oven, eat, and enjoy!

Sausage & Egg Bake

Bacon & French Toast Bake

Chef Linda is a great option for families that want to relax on vacation without having to cook or worry about taking their young kids to a restaurant. It’s also a popular option for groups of bachelor golfers who want to kick back and relax in their vacation home and enjoy a stress-free, home-cooked, family-style meal without the prep or mess! She has cooked for vacationers from around the world, including NFL draft players and British comedian Peter Kay. The cost of a home-cooked chef experience averages about $30 per person – so the next time you visit Kissimmee, give Chef Linda a call!

For More Information:

Chef Linda Page – A Chef of Your Own
Phone: (407)856-7853
Website: OrlandoVacationChef.com
Chef Linda’s Blog | Facebook | Twitter

Tour of The Seahawks CenturyLink Field With The Nokia Icon #VZWBuzz #LetsGoPlaces

A few weeks ago I was invited to a media event sponsored by Toyota. There I meat with the execs and talked about how their review program works and they also gave us a tour of the CenturyLink Field home to the Seattle Sounders and the Seattle Seahawks.

WP_20140325_19_43_53_ProWP_20140325_19_59_07_Pro

During this tour, I used my new phone that Verizon gave me to review: The Nokia Icon and it’s known for it’s amazing photos and operating speed. It’s a super fast fully integrated WIndows Phone and what I mean by that is that I can now do all of my social media needs for work on a Windows Phone. The apps I need are there, the only one missing is Candy Crush and guess what? That just increased my productivity.

WP_20140325_19_56_06_Pro

The Tour of CenturyLink field reminded me of marching band in high school. There is something really amazing about walking down that same path that the football team uses when they enter the field before the game starts. We saw the press booth, which by the way Seattle has the best press booth out of all the stadiums. The Press Box is on the same level as all of the VIP booths and you get free food and drinks and free admission. I was told that Seattle’s press box is the only free press box in the NFL. I haven’t verified that fact.

WP_20140325_20_19_47_Pro

WP_20140325_20_20_00_ProWe were also allowed to walk through the locker room of the Seahawks. I took a photo of quite a few different lockers, but I had to share that even in the off season Marshawn Lynch’s locker is full of skittles.

The candy brand announced on Tuesday January 28th a formal deal with the Seattle Seahawks running back, whose relationship with the product dates to when his mother started giving him what she called "power pellets" in his Pop Warner playing days.

There is even now a Seattle Skittles package:

image

I had my picture taken as if I was a victor from the field and was being interviewed by the press.

WP_20140325_20_06_16_Pro

I’m really amazed though at the quality this camera has with night shots. I love how the light was reflected in this photo of CenturyLink Field from the VIP level.

WP_20140325_20_11_46_Pro

This is a picture of a 12th man flag that has been signed and is used as good luck before each game. The players tap the 12th man flag as they are walking down the hallway to enter the field for the game.

WP_20140325_20_11_23_Pro

I had a great time learning more about my local football team. I will cherish the photos that were taken on my Nokia Icon for quite a while thanks to the automatic upload to my skydrive account, I can go ahead and let my husband have my Icon. He’s been drooling over it since Verizon sent it to me to review.

Family Friendly Places to Visit In Phoenix For Under $25

Last year I went to Arizona with a group of friends for a girls getaway. We had a lot of fun together and I realized it’s a great place for families too. Phoenix devised a list of inexpensive family friendly attractions in the Phoenix area. Each attraction offers admission for less than $25, which makes it easy for families to plan a fun filled trip while staying within a budget.

Phoenix Zoo

image

With more than 1,400 animals, the Phoenix Zoo offers an educational experience and understanding of the wild creatures’ habitats and lifestyles. The zoo is one of the largest private non-profit organizations in the country and relies on admissions, concessions, special events and philanthropic donations for operations. Walk through the Africa Trail and greet giraffes, zebras and flamingos. Head south toward the Tropics Trail and witness jaguars and monkeys. Continue to the Harmony Farm and see real farm animals such as cows, pigs and chickens. Admission is $20 for adults, $10 for children ages 3-12, and free for children 2 and younger. Hours vary by season, but the zoo is open year-round, seven days a week. Visit the press page for more information.

Heard Museum

image

The Heard Museum has been internationally recognized for its collections, educational programming and festivals. The museum dedicates its work to the sensitive and accurate portrayal of Native American arts and culture. The exhibits feature artwork ranging from ancient artifacts to modern paintings. General admission includes access to 11 exhibition galleries, public guided tours, outdoor sculpture gardens, the café and museum shop. Admission is $18 for adults, $7.50 for students and children ages 6-12, and free for children 5 and younger. The museum is open every day of the year excluding Easter, July 4, and Christmas. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Visit the press room for more information.

Phoenix Art Museum

Through July 6, the Hollywood Costume exhibit comes to life at the Phoenix Art Museum. View outfits worn by unforgettable characters in movies such as The Wizard of Oz, Titanic, Harry Potter and Dark Knight Rises. This once-in-a-lifetime exhibit is only coming to the West Coast once and only at the Phoenix Art Museum. Admission is $20 for adults, $10 for children ages 6-17, and free for children 6 and younger. General admission to view the rest of the museum is $15 for adults, $10 for students and $6 for children. The museum is closed Monday and Tuesday, but is open Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Thursday – Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m.

Hollywood Costume exhibit hours through July 6, 2014:

• Tuesday, Noon – 5 p.m.

• Wednesday, Noon – 8:30 p.m.

• Thursday, Noon – 5 p.m.

• Friday, 10 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.

• Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

• Sunday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Musical Instrument Museum

The Musical Instrument Museum is the only museum in the world that displays musical instruments from nearly every country in the world. Guests are invited to play instruments in the Experience Gallery as well as view instruments played by musical icons such as John Lennon, Elvis Presley and Taylor Swift. A unique feature to the museum is the use of wireless headsets that provide continuous audio as the guest approaches each display, which provides a greater understanding of the sounds of each musical culture or topic. General admission includes the use of the headset and access to the Orientation Gallery, Experience Gallery and the country galleries. The price for admission is $18 for adults, $14 for teens, $10 for children ages 4-12, and free for children ages 3 and younger. For an added $7, guests can view the Women Who Rock gallery, a special exhibit created by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum. The exhibit features artifacts, costumes and instruments from more than 70 women artists. This exhibit is only available through April 20.  The museum is open Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit the press page.

Arizona Science Center

The Arizona Science Center is the premier Phoenix destination for learning all things science. With exhibits focused on inspiring, educating and entertaining guests about science, the Arizona Science Center is sure to keep adults and kids alike interested and amused. Enjoy the hands-on exhibits that allow you to explore renewable energy, digital communications and even the shake of an earthquake. General admission for the center is $16.95 for adults, $11.95 for kids age 3-17, $14.95 for seniors, and free for children 2 and younger. The center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Visit the press center for more information.

Enchanted Island Amusement Park

Whether you like spinning, flying, dropping, bumping, driving, rocking, or rolling, Enchantment Island Amusement Park rides are sure to thrill and delight. This picturesque park is filled with charm and magic, offering nine fanciful rides and a variety of popular attractions geared especially toward children aged 1 to 10. Ride the historic Encanto Carousel or get your feet wet in Splash Zone. Whether you duel with dragons or float into the sky with Parachute Tower, all ages are sure to delight at Enchantment Island. Admission into the park is free, but each ride takes tickets purchased inside the park. An all-day park pass is $14.25 for children under 54 inches tall and $8.50 for guests over 54 inches tall. Add the all-day splash zone pass for an added $2. The park has varied hours throughout the 2014 year.

Goldfield Ghost Town
Back in the 1890′s Goldfield boasted 3 saloons, a boarding house, general store, blacksmith shop, brewery, meat market and a school house. Just when it looked like the town would outgrow Mesa, the vein faulted, the grade of ore dropped and the town died a slow painful death despite unsuccessful tries to revive it. After more than 115 years, travelers from all over the world still visit this gold mining town located on the historic Apache Trail and enjoy the excitement and grandeur of Arizona’s Wild West. Tour the historic Mammoth Gold Mine and visit the town’s museum. Witness an Old West gun fight or pan for gold. The town is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is located 45 minutes from Downtown Phoenix. Ride the Goldfield Narrow-Gauge Railroad in a 1.5 mile loop that circles the town for admission of $8 for adults, $7 for seniors and $4 for kids 5-12. Take a 25-minute Goldfield Mine Tour that takes you underground and back in time for the same price as the railroad. The Goldfield Gunfighters offers free shows every Saturday and Sunday from 12 to 4 p.m. 

Usery Mountain Regional Park

Located on the Valley’s east side, Usery Mountain Regional Park spans 3,648 acres in the Goldfield Mountains. The park has plenty to explore, with a large variety of plants, animals and trails. Explore the beautiful Sonoran Desert by camping, hiking, horseback riding or picnicking. Programming and events at the park includes bird walks, family hikes, animal flashlight walks, scorpion information sessions, stargazing, full moon hikes and an abundance of others. Price for the programs typically cost just $6 per car. A full list of events and programs is found on the website. 

#RockYourVacation Twitter Party Today, 04/02!

#RockYourVacation

Travel consideration provided by Experience Kissimmee.

Hello from sunny Florida! I am having an amazing time on my trip with Experience Kissimmee. Today we will be taking a tour of the beautiful All Star Vacation Home that the winner of the Rock Your Vacation contest will be staying at, to help get you excited to vote for your favorite entry and pick the lucky winner! We will also be hosting a Twitter party live from the winner’s home, where you will have a chance to win fun prizes! Details are as follows:

Hashtag: #RockYourVacation
Follow: @Kissimmee
Date & Time: April 2nd, 2014 at 3:00 PM EST
Click here for more info and to RSVP!

There will be fun prizes up for grabs, including Experience Kissimmee portable phone chargers (These have been a lifesaver on my trip!) and tote bags. You won’t want to miss it!

5 Family Friendly Attractions to Visit in Chicago

BY Alana Birky:

If you’ve ever been to the Windy City, you know how huge it is. It can be a little overwhelming if you’re traveling by yourself, but even moreso if you’re traveling with your family. Fortunately, there are a lot of things you can do in Chicago. Here are a few family attractions that will keep both the kids and parents entertained.

Millennium Park

With Lake Michigan on one side and the Chicago skyline on the other, Millennium Park is a beautiful place to go to so you can take in the city. Not only that, but the famous outdoor theater hosts famous music performers in addition to free music concerts and cultural programs during the summer months. Stop by The Bean just next to the amphitheater to catch a reflection of yourself and the Chicago skyline. And if you are going to be there in the winter, enjoy skating on the large McCormick Tribune Ice Rink nestled between The Bean and Michigan Avenue. 

The Field Museum and the Shedd Aquarium

If there is one thing that Chicago has on other cities, it’s museums. The Field Museum is home to SUE, the largest and most complete fossil of a T-Rex in the world.  In addition to that, the Field also has a DNA interactive discovery center, tons of fascinating dinosaur and animal exhibits, and a world-class Egyptian exhibit, among others.

If you can pull yourself away from the Field, explore the Shedd Aquarium, one of the largest indoor aquariums in the world. The nearby Adler Planetarium is another great family museum is known as America’s first and the world’s most advanced planetarium. The Museum of Science and Industry and the Art Institute of Chicago are other Chicago options.

Soldier Field and Wrigley Field

For the true Chicago experience, you have to get a Chicago-style hotdog at a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. Not the baseball type? Soldier Field is the oldest NFL stadium, recently renovated for a mix of 1920’s architecture along with modern glass and metal. The stadium was long listed as a national historical landmark and sits right on the water for a beautiful view of the lake among an energetic crowd of Chicago Bears’ fans.

After enjoying a long day at the game with your family, you may still feel the need to have some fun. For that reason, since you’re with your family in a hotel room, you can turn to online gambling. Instead of just throwing your money down on any site, though, make sure you check reviews and use only the best online casinos.

Shopping at Water Tower Place

Looking to do some upscale shopping? Water Tower Place was one of the only buildings left standing after the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. Now, it is a shopping hub that includes the American Girl Place, complete with photo studio, doll hair salon, and café. In addition to tons of shopping, it is also home to the Chicago Sports Museum, and you can even catch a Broadway at the Water Tower Broadway Playhouse.

These are just five of the family-friendly things you can do in Chicago. You can also head to Navy Pier to ride the Ferris wheel, Ravinia for an evening picnic listening to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, or the Magnificent Mile for more shopping and a look at the famous Marshall Fields building.

Ride Bikes on Lakefront Trail

Don’t stay locked away in your hotel room! Since you likely didn’t travel to Chicago with bikes in tow, rent a bicycle and head down Lakefront Trail. There are other bike routes in Chicago, of course, but this is one of the most well-known. You’ll enjoy a scenic route along Lake Michigan. Remember to always remain vigilant while riding your bike. Don’t wear headphones while riding your bike!

Have you ever traveled to Chicago with your family? If o, what did you do? Leave a comment below and let us know!

Author Bio:

A born-and-bred Chicago girl, Alana Birky is eager to share a love of her city and why it is better than New York. When not planning trips back to Chicago to visit the Lyric Opera and eat pizza at Gino’s East, you can find Alana planning another vacation, tutoring kids in English, or editing short stories, novels, and works of nonfiction. You can read more about her work as a writer, researcher, and editor by checking out her website, alanagbirky.wordpress.com.

Rock Your Vacation in Kissimmee, Florida!

RockYourVacation

Travel consideration provided by Experience Kissimmee.

On Sunday, I’m heading to Florida for a special VIP tour around Kissimmee. I’m very excited for my first visit to the state, and after getting a load of my itinerary, I’m even more pumped for exciting adventures which have been planned for us. I’ll be doing everything from ziplining over alligators (!!!!!!!!!) to touring a chocolate factory (Yes please!). The schedule is jam-packed with fun activities, and I’m looking forward to trying things I’ve never dreamed of doing. Did I mention the gators?!?!

I’ll be sharing all the fun details of my trip right here on MomStart, but in the meantime, get a peek at the fun places I’m going to be visiting:

Accommodation & Transportation

Shopping

Dining

Activities

#RockYourVacation Contest!

On March 31st, Experience Kissimmee will announce the 8 finalists chosen in the Rock Your Vacation Contest and put them to a public vote, which will last through April 20th. The grand prize winner will receive their own VIP vacation experience in Kissimmee, while 5 runners-up will receive a Samsung GALAXY Camera Wi-Fi. In addition, registering to vote for your favorite video will enter you for a chance to win 1 of 7 pairs of Beats by Dre Solo, so you’ll definitely want to vote for your favorite submission! MomStart will be bringing you all the info on how to cast your vote once the entry period starts, along with a special peek at what’s in store for the grand prize winner. I’ll also be participating in a special #RockYourVacation Twitter party on April 2nd, so watch @MomStart for further details on how to join the fun!

Traveling With The Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 With Keyboard #ATTSeattle

You know I travel a whole lot. I love to travel and lately I’ve been in and out of the airport like crazy. I even had a day trip where I was down to Portland and back in one day. Well, when I travel like that I want to travel light and the Samsung Galaxy Note was perfect for my trip down and back. I had all the computing power I needed for my little day trip. I can easily enter data into my spreadsheets while on the go with Polaris Office. This productivity app lets you view and edit Word, Excel, PDF documents and more–wherever you are. And I have to say the Galaxy Note series is one of my favorite devices out there.

IMG_1478Quick Deets:

  • 1.6GHz Quad Core Processor
  • 8-inch Display
  • 16 GB Memory, 2 GB RAM
  • microSD Card Slot (Up to 64 GB)
  • Android 4.1 Jelly Bean OS

One of the things that was really helpful was the stylus. I was able to write down notes as I was touring my top secret location on Monday. I still can’t give out details and I wasn’t allowed to take photos even though the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 has a fantastic camera on it. With the Awesome Note app, you can manage your schedule and to-do lists in one convenient place. Awesome Note allows you to combine notes with To-do priorities, so you’ll always be on top of your life and schedule. You can customize Awesome Note’s appearance with different themes, icons, colors, and fonts. The 5-megapixel rear camera lets you take high-quality photos and videos, and a 1.3-megapixel front camera lets you video chat with your friends. After you’ve taken photos, you can edit them directly on the Note, and you can easily create and send a handwritten postcard. It’s so awesome!IMG_1479

The S Pen also opens up new ways of interacting with your tablet, thanks to built-in gestures. For example, by pressing and holding the S Pen button and drawing a less-than arrow, you’ll go back to the previous page you were on. Drawing different gestures will allow you to take screenshots, open a menu, launch a Popup Note, select text to cut and copy, and more. IMG_1480IMG_1481

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 includes the latest S Note with Web Viewer app, which is a great companion for the S Pen. Take notes on the fly, and then access these notes and edit them from your desktop or another Galaxy device. S Note makes it easy and intuitive for you to digitally publish your experiences. It includes different templates for journals, photos, text, and more, so you can find the perfect template for your needs. By using the S Pen, you can freely handwrite into your tablet, and S Note will automatically convert it to text. You can also draw shapes and formulas, and they’ll be matched and converted by the software as well. S Note is compatible with Evernote and Dropbox, automatically saving and syncing your documents once you’ve finished.IMG_1482

Another thing I really loved was the use of the keyboard. The keyboard acts as a screen protector when it’s not in use and then as I’m sitting at a round table interviewing talent or taking notes it gives me the speed that I have. I’m a very very fast typer so when I’m not standing I prefer to use a keyboard. It came in quite handy. Plus I just get a cool factor by setting myself up at the table in front of everyone!

Quick deets:

  • Compatible Model: SamSung Galaxy Note 8.0 inch Tablet
  • Rechargeable, wireless, bluetooth keyboard is sleek, professional, easy to use, and easy to carry. Comes with USB charger cable
  • Versatile design allows you to prop up your tablet into comfortable typing and viewing position
  • Rubberized back provides extra grip to make sure your device stays put in your hands

In Chicago? Fun Things To Do Starting with the Lake

 

The Chicago lakeshore is one of the highlights of visiting the “Windy City”. Though most first-time visitors only know the city for its iconic skyscrapers, colorful history and well-positioned music scene, Chicago’s locals love their home for its proximity to Lake Michigan.

clip_image003clip_image001

Lake Michigan is not a lake in the same sense that we have lakes in the United Kingdom. Shaped roughly like Sweden, Lake Michigan is nearly 500 kilometres long and nearly 200 kilometres wide. With that size in mind, it should be no surprise that the blue expanse of water extends far past the point your eyes can see. Even from a high-rise hotel with lakefront views, you won’t see the end of the water. For your short city break, find hotels near the shore in Chicago on Expedia here.

Where to Stay

Stay near the lakefront — that’s our best tip for you if you want to experience the city from its best side. Four- and five-star hotels such as the Hard Rock Chicago and the Embassy Suites Lakefront provide luxury rooms with a view of the water, and stunning glimpses of the city’s architecture from on high.

Additionally, staying near the lakefront puts you in an enviable location for transport to other sights and locations within Chicago. Lake Shore Drive is well-connected to other important city thoroughfares if you’re intent on driving yourself, plus the Downtown area (near Millennium Park on the waterfront) has the largest concentration of public transportation stops, including ones for the “L,” Chicago’s elevated train serving as a rapid transit system.

The Parks

My image of Chicago before I visited was of jazz clubs, speakeasies and the academic buildings of Northwestern University and other places of higher learning. So I was surprised to learn Chicago has dozens of delightfully innovative outdoor areas for recreation. Several of the best parks in the city are located on the lakefront. Millennium Park was created recently when the city turned what had once been industrial property into a pleasant garden for everyone to enjoy.

Millennium is actually within the larger, versatile space of Grant Park, which stretches from the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago almost to the Shedd Aquarium, and encompasses the land on both sides of South Lake Shore Drive. Grant Park is a go-to place for Chicago festivals, performances and art exhibitions.

In addition to the Art Institute, Grant Park has several attractions both locals and visitors enjoy. For example, the Field Museum of Natural History and the Adler Planetarium are great stops when travelling with children.

Don’t miss another park on the lakeshore: the long Lincoln Park. Located in the area of the city with the same name, this park houses the Lincoln Park Zoo and the Chicago History Museum, as well as many acres of gardens dotted with statues of famous Chicagoans.

clip_image005

clip_image006The Beaches

If you’re lucky enough to be travelling to Chicago during a spell of warm weather, head for the beach. The lake’s long beaches remind some travellers of California — though you’ll notice there’s less surf on these shores. Out of these beaches, Oak Street Beach is closest to the Magnificent Mile, while Belmont Harbour offers chances for running and cycling along trails as well as swimming. The busiest beach in Chicago, however, is probably North Avenue Beach.

Water temperatures in the lake range from freezing in the winter to pleasant in the summer, so you’ll need to judge for yourself at the time of your visit if it’s warm enough for a swim.

Navy Pier

One of the signature features of the Chicago shoreline is the Navy Pier. Located in the Streeterville neighborhood, just along the shore from Millennium Park, this pier offers a full kilometer of entertainment options with enough diversity to satisfy even your most choosy travel companions. The pier hosts temporary shows and exhibitions, the Chicago Children’s Museum, an IMAX theatre and plenty of restaurants, cafés and shops. It was originally built for ferries, barges and other vessels to have a central location for docking in the city, and still offers opportunities for lake cruises and other water-based fun.

Chicago’s lakeshore is a place for sport, relaxation and entertainment. You may happily spend a day on Lake Michigan — or even your whole trip.

5 Activities for Under 5 Bucks in Dunedin

Guest Post

clip_image002Dunedin is a student city and, therefore, is particularly friendly on the wallet, making it great for an inexpensive family weekend. It’s also arguably New Zealand’s most friendly city, making tit perfect for couples, families or solo travellers. Here is a guide to five of the best experiences in Dunedin for people on a budget.

Check out the Otago Museum, Free Admission

clip_image003Located in the heart of the city, the Otago Museum is right beside the university. It is one of the most popular attractions in the city, and has one of New Zealand’s largest collections. One of its more special features is the large tropical butterfly rainforest that has been created in the interactive section of the museum. The museum is also known for its spider collection, its 30,000 bird specimens and 40,000 marine specimens. It has the world’s best moa collection, including two of three of the only complete moa eggs in the world.

As well as covering the natural sciences, the museum has an amazing collection of art, with the majority being Polynesian, Melanesian, Maori and Australian origins. With so much going on, it’s hard to believe admission still remains free.

Explore the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Free Admission

Conveniently located in the heart of the Octagon for those who wish to book a Dunedin city hotel, the Dunedin Public Art Gallery was the first public art gallery in New Zealand, founded by W.M. Hodgkins in 1884. The gallery has a balance of older and more contemporary pieces by both local and international artists. Some of its stand-out pieces by New Zealand artists include “A Waterfall in the Otira Gorge” by Petrus Van der Velden, “Portrait of a Girl” by G. P. Nerli and “All ‘e Same t’e Pakeha” by C. F. Goldie. Other notable attractions include the British Watercolours collection featuring more than 1,300 pieces and an amazing decorative arts collection, based on London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. This particular collection includes ceramics, textiles, glassware and furniture; it is the best of its kind in the country.

clip_image005Grab a Coffee and Soak in the Octagon Atmosphere

clip_image006If you want to stay in the CBD, you can take in all of the action and atmosphere of the liveliest spot in Dunedin by perking up with a creamy cappuccino in one of the many Octagon cafes. The official Dunedin city centre, the Octagon is a place where tourists and locals come to dine, drink and explore local buildings and attractions including the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, the Dunedin Railway Station (New Zealand’s most photographed building), the Dunedin Town Hall and St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral.

Take a Hike Along Frasers Gully

Take a bus from the city centre to the beautiful area of Frasers Gully. Here, you can walk undisturbed through one of the most stunning areas in Otago amongst lush native New Zealand bush. There are plenty of waterfalls, some wonderful examples of native New Zealand wildlife and plenty of flora to top it off. Start your walk from Kaikorai Valley Road and make your way towards Dalziel Road. You will bypass Kaikorai stream, home for native aquatic animals including freshwater crayfish, whitebait, eels and freshwater mussels. Although the track itself can be steep in places, it’s ideal for those with a medium level of fitness. Kids can handle it, provided they are reasonably active and more than 9 years old.

Spend a Day at St Clair Beach

One of the nicest beaches in Otago, St Clair beach is a beautiful stretch of white sand popular with surfers, café-goes, walkers and runners. If you’ve never attempted to surf before, St. Clair has an incredibly consistent break. The team at Esplanade Surf School offer group and private lessons, and are incredibly patient with first-time surfers. Nestled around the promenade are restaurants, cafes and bars at different price points. After a walk, surf or swim, spend an hour or two eating, drinking and relaxing with gorgeous views of the Southern Ocean. If you’re feeling particularly brave, time your trip to coincide with the city’s annual “Polar Plunge”. You won’t even know what hit you!

Otago Museum image non-attributed from Flickr’s Creative Commons

Dunedin Railway Station image by setev from Flickr’s Creative Commons