Adventures

All 50 by 40: Alaska

Alaska is vast and stunning. Of course this was kind of a major one in my quest to see all 50 states. It did not disappoint.

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Traveling with young children means a different pace, so we definitely didn’t do the level of exploring we might have if we were solo. Still, we enjoyed ourselves more with the girls along and it was fun discovering a new and beautiful place with them.

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We had plans to take a small plane around the summit of Denali, but due to smoke from wildfires were unable to do that. The glacier cruise out of Whittier was a perfect way to spend a Sunday. The views were fantastic and the water was the bluest I have ever seen.

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It reached record-high temperatures while we were there, hence my sleeveless shirt while cruising around glaciers.

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We got up-close views of wildlife.

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Of course I had to take in the food scene, which meant eating a lot of delicious seafood (halibut, salmon, and crab), as well as reindeer sausage.

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Anchorage has no shortage of delicious bakeries. Macarons at Sweet Caribou were a fun treat to take to the park.

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The cardamom buns at Fire Island Rustic Bakeshop were amazing.

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We explored the adorable town of Talkeetna.

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Here we shopped for a few souvenirs and I had the best blueberry ice cream ever.

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The girls were interested in stopping at every playground they spotted from the rental car window.

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They also couldn’t get enough of the hotel pool. Again, traveling with kids means taking time for the things that we as adults maybe don’t find as exciting. The reward is that the kids have a blast and we do a little more relaxing than we might have otherwise. (Like sitting in the grass eating a vanilla blackberry macaron.)

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My husband did some halibut fishing while we were in Alaska and we shipped some delicious fish home to enjoy in the months to come. Alaska is a special place with so much to see and do. We definitely plan to return.

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I only have two states left and I would love to hear your suggestions for places to go and things to see in Michigan and West Virginia. I’m looking at plans to cross at least one more off next year. Which will I choose?

The Updated List

Michigan (I have been to airports)

West Virginia

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Adventures

All 50 by 40: Wisconsin

My quest to visit all 50 states before I turn 40 is going well. I have almost exactly four years left to visit just three more states. Over Memorial Day weekend, my husband, daughters, and I packed up the car and headed to La Crosse, Wisconsin.

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I have lived my entire life in the Midwest, but have never made it to Wisconsin. Obviously Wisconsin Dells is a top destination for families because of its many waterparks, but our girls are still pretty small for large-scale waterparks. Also, having only taken four days off we wanted to visit Wisconsin without making the drive even longer.

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The Children’s Museum of La Crosse was a huge hit with our daughters.

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Grandad Bluff Park was a lovely morning hike that provided a beautiful view.

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Of course there was cheese shopping. And cheese eating.

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My husband’s friend took us on a pontoon ride down the river.

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We spent the rest of the time wandering around La Crosse enjoying (finally) some warmer weather after surviving yet another South Dakota blizzard on May 22. (Yes, ridiculous.)

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The painted herons in front of our hotel were fun to walk through. We have similar painted bison in our town.

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We stayed at the downtown Radisson in La Crosse, which was great and within walking distance of many shops, restaurants, and sights to see. Wisconsin was a fun, relaxing trip, and one we’ll probably do again.

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I only have three states left and I would love to hear your suggestions for places to go and things to see in these three.

The Updated List

Alaska (Planned for this summer!)

Michigan (I have been to airports)

West Virginia

Adventures

All 50 by 40: Tennessee and Arkansas

Some of my favorite trips are the ones I go into with no expectations. My expectations for Memphis were fairly simple: Visit Sun Studio, stop at Graceland, sleep in past 6:30 a.m., eat some barbecue, and enjoy a romantic anniversary date with my husband. It met all those expectations and then some.

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Sun Studio was my favorite place in Memphis. There’s something about setting foot in such sacred ground where Elvis, Johnny Cash, and others began creating the music that I love and that would influence pretty much every rock musician from that day forward. Our tour guide was super cool, entertaining, and informative so that certainly didn’t hurt.

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Throughout Sun Studio are pieces of original recording equipment, records, radios, and of course a lot of photos. The tour guide played a lot of original music as he explained the history of this magical place. It was so cool.

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We also toured Graceland. While not as inspiring to me as Sun Studio, it was definitely cool seeing Elvis’ home. I learned a lot more about the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

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We toured Elvis’ living room, dining room, airplanes, and even the Jungle Room. Sadly, I forgot to photograph the latter. I think I was just distracted by that much green shag carpet.

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Graceland was built in the 1930s. Elvis purchased it when he was in his early 20s and already an international star. The inside of the home is oh-so-1970s which was tacky and cool at the same time.

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Elvis was only 42 at the time of his death. He had achieved such over-the-top stardom, yet seemed to long only for spending time at home with his family. The tour definitely sparked a lot of conversation between my husband and I about what his life must have been like.

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Memphis was a great, laid-back place to take in a little history and a lot of barbecue. On our last night, we toasted our fifth anniversary at High Cotton Brewing Company. Then we took in some great live music on Beale Street.

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We stayed at the Sheraton in downtown Memphis, a short walk or trolley ride to Beale Street and other area attractions. Notable meals we ate were ribs and catfish at Westy’s, to-die-for barbecued pork shoulder at Rendezvous, and some yummy steaks and oysters at 117 Prime. The food scene in Memphis was great and my barbecue-fan hubby definitely enjoyed.

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As far as Arkansas goes, we merely drove across the Mississippi River to look around, so I don’t have much to say about that state. Sorry for the lame review, Arkansas. Maybe we’ll meet again another day. This end this trip with just four more states to visit before I turn 40 and almost five years to do that. I’m feeling confident that I will accomplish this goal.

The Updated List

Alaska

Michigan (I have been to airports)

West Virginia

Wisconsin

Adventures

All 50 by 40: Texas

My quest to visit all 50 states by the time I turn 40 has the self-imposed rule that airport layovers don’t count. This is why Texas remained on the to-visit list despite the fact that I have been to airports in various Texan cities several times. My husband and I decided to make this one a family trip and chose San Antonio for the history, River Walk, and abundance of kid-friendly activities.

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My three-year-old has flown several times and is a pro as well as a lover of all things vacation-related.

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This was my one-year-old’s first time flying and she didn’t take too kindly to it despite the happy photo below. I’m not giving up that easily, however.

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The grounds of the Alamo are beautiful and made for a great place for the girls to run around and experience some fresh air while my husband and I got our history fix.

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We explored all five San Antonio Missions, which were fascinating.

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We stayed at The Hotel Contessa on San Antonio’s beautiful River Walk. I’m working on a separate post just about the hotel, which was elegant, yet kid-friendly. This was a great location close to shops, restaurants, and, of course, a pink horse-drawn carriage.

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The below photo pretty much sums up the highs and lows of traveling with small children. There are smiles, fun, happy memories, mixed with occasional inevitable meltdowns.

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Sea World was a must and the whole family enjoyed our day spent there.

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The little one sampled the duck food. Gross.

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San Antonio is somewhere we’ll definitely revisit in the future. We will also continue to take family vacations at least once a year, despite the hiccups that accompany traveling with small children. In the end, the memories of their laughter while splashing in the pool and watching them experience something new will always overshadow the screeching, spilled milk, and flights with a squirmy, nap-fighting one-year-old.

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I have six states left to visit and tomorrow marks exactly five years to visit them all before age 40. I can’t wait to book my next trip!

The Updated List

Alaska

Arkansas

Michigan (I have been to airports)

Tennessee

West Virginia

Wisconsin

Adventures

All 50 by 40: Hawaii

I just finished visiting my 43rd state on my quest to visit all 50 by age 40, and this last trip left me with one question: Why did I leave Hawaii until number 43?! Silly.

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My husband and I stayed on Maui. It was absolutely gorgeous. We chose not to island-hop on this trip because we really wanted to absorb as much of Maui as we could while still having time to relax.

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I am currently working on my Maui Top 10 list, which will definitely include whale watching and eating my weight in fish tacos.

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There was relaxing pool time.

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The Banyan Tree, which gets creepily loaded with noisy birds at sundown.

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Our beautiful resort made it difficult to come back to snowy South Dakota.

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Our beautiful resort made it difficult to come back to snowy South Dakota.

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The fantastic hiking trails were one of our favorite parts of the island, and, in my mind, an excuse to eat more fish tacos.

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I took my first helicopter tour. It was awesome!

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We left our three-year-old and eight-month-old daughters home with my very generous and caring parents. We missed them so much, but the time away was good for us. Thank you, dear friends, for reminding me of that, and squelching that mommy guilt before it had a chance to take hold.

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Stay tuned for my favorite parts of Maui. What state should I visit next? Here are the remaining seven.

The Updated List

Alaska

Arkansas

Michigan (I have been to airports)

Tennessee

Texas (I have been to airports)

West Virginia

Wisconsin

Adventures

Mystic, Connecticut

Over Labor Day weekend my mother and I took a quick trip to Connecticut and Rhode Island. We sailed, visited some wonderful friends, and ate fantastic food. Mystic, Connecticut was a definite highlight.

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The town is quaint and full of New England charm.

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We did a little shopping.

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I had to remind myself I live in the Midwest and all this lobster kitchen gear would be silly in my house. I wanted it all. I settled on a dishtowel with a sailboat on it.

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Of course we shopped for my daughter and nephew.

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Our sunset cruise on an amazing sailboat was relaxing and gorgeous. We had fun watching the crew lift and lower the sails.

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Until next time, beautiful Mystic.

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