Posted in: Exploring Georgia, Museums & Tours, Sightseeing

Savannah Ghost Tour

Attitude is everything. We thought we were booking one of the trolley ghost tours. When we looked closer we had booked a walking tour. Initially I thought, man this is going to be rough and 3/4 of the group were whining. However, once the sun went down, it was a nice night for a walk and we got to see some things that I think we would have missed if we were riding. The pace was pretty slow as well. Masks were required for groups of 6 or more, as well per Savannah’s COVID restrictions.

Savannah has a ton of history. The city is the USA’s first planned city. In fact, the original city was layed out in England before they even came over to build. Our tour guide said there were Native American burial sites and settler burial sites under the city’s streets and buildings. At one time there had been two cemeteries in the downtown area, but there is now only one, Colonial Park. Some of the tombs look like stone/brick tents, but they also extend underground. There are shelves inside to house the deceased, and just like in New Orleans, bodies got moved down to make room for new family members. Per our tour guide, Colonial park cemetery has 600 gravestones, but 1100 dead. The cemetery has lost both ground and tombstones, due to city growth and graffiti. Some were moved, but there are 4000 unmarked graves now outside the gates. Supposedly, some of the lost tombstones happened when the Union army was stationed there for a couple of months. When it got too cold for their fabric tents, some took shelter in the tombs. The sidewalk around the cemetery has special decorative bricks. We learned that the bricks actually mark the lost and unknown graves. Each circle represents an unmarked, lost grave. (Our guide pointed out that sitting in a cemetery for months in the cold had to be boring. Then add in that some states allowed as young as 14 to enlist, there wasn’t a lot of supervision, they were away from home, and whiskey was part of the daily rations. “You had a bunch of bored drunk children with no parental supervision away from home…”)

Ben’s favorite story was the Marshall House. It was a boarding house and a hotel, but during the Civil War, there were a lot of injured soldiers coming from Atlanta. It was turned into a hospital. There were a lot of surgeries and amputations. It reverted back to a hotel, and then to a hospital again during two yellow fever outbreaks. Afterwards, it would become a hotel again. During renovations in the 1990’s, they pulled up the floor to find saws and other surgical equipment, as well as bones. It was a medical dump site.

I didn’t find a lot of evidence to support the story of the bricks (although I did not see a similar design around the city), or the bones at Marshall House (although even AAA wrote about it). I was a little disappointed, as I like the ghost tours we go on to the have some facts to them, not just ghost stories.

Have you gone on a Savannah Ghost Tour? What was your favorite story?

Posted in: Exploring Florida, Hiking, School, Sightseeing

Exploring Epcot (Orlando, Florida): Tickets/Reservations, Parking, and Rides

I know I said we were only going to do one Amusement Park while in Orlando, and we chose Universal Studios. However, someone gifted us with tickets to Epcot (Thank you!!!) and we were able to go to explore Disney’s Epcot.

The boys had a blast. Ben and I had researched the rides and the different attractions/food in World Showcase and had a game plan all laid out. We wanted to get there around 10:00 am (park opened at 11:00) so that we could get a closer parking spot. Parking was $25 for standard parking and $45-50 for premium. However, because we got there so early, we were only a few rows from the entrance even with parking in the standard lot. Parking was also staggered to help maintain social distancing.

Another win of going early, was that even though the park officially opened at 11:00, they let everyone in around 10:15am. We were on Test Track by 10:30 and The Seas at 10:50am.

It was a great experience walking through the park. Due to the limited capacity, ride times were much shorter. Our longest wait was about 1/2 hour. The Frozen line in Norway was longer, but we didn’t go on that one.

Disney allows you bring in snacks and water (no glass, no heating or refrigeration) and backpacks. We brought several bottles of water, as it was going to be really warm (88℉ was the high!). Water fountains were open, so we could refill our water bottles. We were also able to get a cup of ice water in Canada and France. Mexico told us they were only selling bottles of water.

There was a lot of construction walls up for coming new attractions. I know that Ratatouille and Guardians of the Galaxy were being built.

Epcot was gearing up for their International Flower & Garden Festival, so we also got to see lots of really cool flower displays.

There were currently not any of the nightly firework shows at any of the Disney parks, so once we had ridden and seen what was on our list we headed out.

We were all pretty tired at the end of the day. We got to the park at a little after 10:00 am and left around 7:00 pm (closed at 8:00pm). We managed to get in 17,701 steps for the day at Epcot.

COVID:

To enter the park, you had to go through temperature screening. Masks were required and it was stated that if you did not comply you could be asked to leave. I did see several staff members telling people that the nose had to be covered as well. Disney did a great job of marking social distancing lines/markers on the ground and on large outdoor benches. There were hand sanitizer stations available at ride entrances and exits. However, we noticed a lot of them were out or were too slow to keep up with the stream of people. A pump/manual style type probably would have been better. (Universal Studios gave everyone a squirt of sanitizer before they were allowed on a ride.)

RIDES & SHOWS:

The first ride we went on was Test track, as we read it was one of the more popular lines and often had longer lines. Because we were so early, there wasn’t much of a line and we got on before the park even officially opened! The interactive piece at the beginning of the ride where you can design your own car was shut off, so we missed having the fun of designing your own car and testing it against the track. The line inside was air conditioned and had some neat concept cars to look at while you waited. We were in line for maybe 15 minutes. It was still a fun ride. The outside track got up to about 63 miles per hour, although Ben pointed out that I drove faster than that on the way over to Epcot.

We headed to The Seas because they have a really neat aquarium at the end of the ride. The wait was short, maybe 5 minutes. The queue line was made to look like a beach scene and parts of it looked like you were underwater. Even the handrails were made to look old and rusty! The ride was ok, it was a little boring. Part of it was that we had the ride stop on us for “technical difficulties”. However, at one point in the ride you get to see parts of an actual aquarium and the Nemo characters are projected onto the glass to seem like they are in the aquarium as well, which was really neat. The aquarium at the end was worth the ride though. We got to see different kinds of fish, a dolphin, manatees, sharks, moray eels, and a sea turtle. (Nick was very happy he got to see a sea turtle. He has been asking for a turtle for a pet for a while now.)

We headed back towards the front of the park to the iconic Epcot globe to ride Spaceship Earth. It was a 20 minute wait. It was a little bit of a dated ride (opened in 1982, last renovated in 2007, per WiKi). The beginning of the ride was dark and was hard to see some of the graphics. It was still kind of neat, definitely more of an educational ride. Will liked the animatronics during the middle of the ride. At the end of the ride, you descend through the globe. Instead of lap belts to descend through the ball, the cars turn around backwards on the hilly descent. At one point, we got stuck going down for “technical” issues, so I was very glad we were backwards and not leaning forwards at an angle. There was an interactive screen in the car was fun during the descent. The interactive exhibits and screens at the end of the ride were not available (due to COVID).

Our next ride, which was one of our favorites, was Soarin’ Around The World. This one had a long, boring queue. There was a trivia game on the My Disney Experience app to play while you waited in line. This ride had about a 30 minute wait. Staff members working the ride wore pilot type uniforms. It was worth wait. You entered the room and there was a huge screen in front. There were 2 sections of seating, with 3 rows of seats in each section. Each row of seats lifted off the ground to make you feel like you were flying (paragliding). Ben and Will were in front of us when we sat down, so we could see their feet dangling above us. It did make you feel like you were moving, so they warned it could cause motion sickness. You flew over Egypt, the Taj Mahal, Great Wall of China, Sydney, Africa, and ended at Disney’s Epcot.

After Soarin’, we headed over to Living With The Land, since they were in the same building. It was about a 5 minute wait and was a boat ride. There were plastic sheets between rows of seats in the boat. It was interesting, more of an educational ride. You got to see a really cool greenhouse and fish farm. Disney paired with the USDA to study ways to grow crops in harsher climates, etc. They use the items grown here in the Land’s restaurants. There was a Behind the Seeds tour, but it was closed currently.

VIDEO: Clips From Living With The Land ride

We headed over to World Showcase and stopped in Mexico first. We went to the Grand Fiesta Tours ride. The app stated it was a 10 minute wait, but was really a 20 minute wait (10 minutes of the wait were outside). We also got to see Pluto, Goofy, Mickey and Minnie drive by while we waited. Inside, the building had a few exhibits to see and then you were right in the middle of a market/town. It was a little confusing where the line started at this point. As you moved further in, the lines were very tight width wise. There were row dividers in place, however not a lot of spacing was enforced inside. This one was our least favorite ride. We were on for only a few minutes when the sound went off. Boats were still moving, but very slowly. They claimed the boats went back online at the very end, but we all ran into each other, which was very jarring. They did not let people stay on and go again even though ride didn’t work for 90% of our time on it. I’m not sure if they shut it down completely or not, as there were still people waiting in line outside.

We headed over to China next. We watched the show Reflections of China. You were in a large room with a 360-degree screen. It is a standing show, although there are row dividers to lean on. They had rows closed to keep social distancing, as well as placement markers on the floor. It was some interesting propaganda, but showed some beautiful views. It showed how diverse China’s landscape is and motivated Ben and Will to want to go to China.

Reflections of China Theater Room and waiting room

We stopped at Canada and watched their show Far and Wide. It also had a 360-degree screen.

Our final ride was Journey into Imagination with Figment. It was ok, not one I would ride again. Younger kids would probably enjoy it.

Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring Florida, Food, Museums & Tours, Sightseeing

Key West: Beaches, Food, Conch Train

Once we made it into Key West, we checked into our hotel (the Best Western Hibiscus). We had two queen beds and I swear we had more room than in the RV! We were only a few blocks from the iconic Southernmost Point Buoy, so we headed down there first and got our picture.

We wanted to experience as much as we could in the short time we would be there, so we took a tour on the Conch Train. We got to see all kinds of fun sites (Truman’s Little White House, Hemingway’s House), interesting architecture, and fun bits of history of the island. For example, there used to be a Coca-Cola factory on Key West. There was no fresh water there, so the plant used to collect rainwater in order to make their product. We also drove past a 3 story bar. The top floor was clothing optional! Video: Conch Train Tour

The boys on the train, Hemingway’s house, original Pan Am office, 3 story bar, different gingerbread, Truman’s Little White House

After the tour, we walked around and saw chickens and a few small lizards. We grabbed lunch at Caroline’s Cafe where we tried conch fritters. We also grabbed a huge cookie at Mattheessen’s.

While exploring the town, we found ourselves down near the piers. We saw some cool boats, jellyfish, and a few different types of fish.

Fish we saw along the docks/piers. Jellyfish and I think a puffer fish and tarpons

Key West also had a historic audio tour you could take from your phone. There were markers around the city with a phone number, location number, and some historical information about the site. You could call the number, input the location, and learn about the spot. It was pretty neat. (See the second collage with buoy. There was an audio tour marker regarding the Cable Hut, location #27 on the tour.)

Painted crosswalks, old theater now turned into a Walgreens
Posted in: Campground Review, Exploring Louisiana, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

French Quarter RV Resort, New Orleans LA: Campground Review

For our visit in New Orleans, we wanted to be close enough to walk into town. Parking can be a pain in the rear, especially with a truck, and New Orleans has limited free parking (even a lot of street parking is paid parking).

We stayed at the French Quarter RV Resort. It is outside of the French Quarter (on the other side of Rampart, the dividing line), but within walking distance to things. Most places were within a 20 to 30 minute walk, and Cafe Du Monde in the Quarter was a 22 minute walk. The RV Resort was on one of the bigger streets and by the highway, so we didn’t have to try to navigate around the French Quarter (which really would not work with bigger RV’s). Being so close to the highway made it easy to get to places, even if New Orleans loves one-way streets and U-turns.

French Quarter RV Resort in relation to the French Quarter. Outlined area is the French Quarter (per Bing).

Everything in the RV Resort was paved/cobblestone. It was mostly flat, although we did have to adjust a little. There was a lamp post between each spot with a number for the site. Each site was a 20/30/50 amp with full hook-ups and cable. The connection boxes were cute and also had a light around the top. All spots were back-in. There were not garbage cans around the park; you put your trash by the lamppost and someone collected it. There was a dumpster outside the gates. Each site had a little bit of grass and/or a palm tree (not enough for shade). Each site had a bump-out of sorts for vehicle parking. We fit without a problem.

Map of the French Quarter. Campground Map and TV guide.

Behind the office was the pool area. The pool was open, although it was not heated. There was also a hot tub and several lounge chairs and other seating in the pool area. The pool area also granted you access to the gym (had snack and drink vending machines), breakfast area (microwave, table/chairs, free coffee), laundry room, bathrooms/showers, and the pool and hot tub.

The laundry room could also be accessed from the campground street. The washers and dryers were some of the more expensive ones that we have used: regular sized washer $3.25/load, larger washer $4.50/load, and dryers were $2.25/load. The washers and dryers only accepted credit cards. There was a sign on the washers that said no American Express. There was not a vending machine for detergents/dryer sheets, so bring your own supplies (or there were several grocery stores within walking and driving distance). TIP: If you use laundry pods, I found that they did not dissolve on cold water cycle here. Sometimes they worked on warm, and on hot they dissolved. We ended up with several items with the pods stuck on after they went through unnoticed in the dryer. It is not fun trying to get a dried on laundry pod off of your clothing.

Pool, Breakfast area, bathroom/shower, gym, vending machines in gym room
Laundry room

They do accept mail, which made it really nice since we had some things we needed to order. However, they will not hold mail that arrives before your visit, so I would wait until you are there to start ordering. There was a spot for outgoing mail (envelopes/postcards) on the office counter.

FQRV was tucked into its location. Claiborne Ave and I-10 run along the entrance of the park. St. Louis Cemetery No. 2 and a processing plant was on one side, with a park on the other. The lot on the backside of the campground was under construction. It looked like they were building either a hotel or apartment buildings. It could be a little loud from air (helicopter/plane) and street noise.

The campground was gated and you needed a code for the car gate and the pedestrian gate. There was a night time security guard, although from our experience you still need the gate code to get in as you do not get an identifying hanger for your rear-view mirror. Due to its location (being near the highway and downtown area), it was not in the best area. However, the walls, entrance gate, and spikes on top of the walls, made us feel safe inside the campground. The underpasses frequently had homeless camps as well. The campground does recommend not walking back in the dark, and I would agree with that. If we were going to be out late, we drove. There were Ubers/Lifts/taxis around as well.

Although the campground did not have a camp store or restaurant, DoorDash and UberEats did deliver to the campground, you just needed to meet them at the gate.

The office had a book exchange shelf and tourist brochures by the poolside door.

WiFi is available, although it was listed as available mostly to the common areas, not through the campground. We were close enough to the pool/office, that we could get the signal. It was spotty at times though.

One con for us was the price. This was by far the most expensive campground/RV resort so far. When we booked in January 2020, we knew it would be more expensive as we were going over part of Carnival season. We paid half at booking and would pay the other half the day of check-in. However, when Mardi Gras was cancelled, the campground did not adjust what they charged us (even though the other days were more expensive due to Carnival/Mardi Gras season).

VIDEO: Campground Tour French Quarter RV Resort

SUMMARY OF CAMPGROUND:

Our rating: 3.5 out of 5 hitches

Cell Phone Reception: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile

Laundry: Yes (credit card only, no American Express)

Bathrooms/Showers: Yes (4, separate rooms)

RV Sites: Back-in

Pop Up Tents/Gazebos/Outdoor Rugs On-Site: No (no stakes allowed in ground)

Amenities:  gym, cable, free ice at ice machine by courtyard, premium sites have other things (outdoor furniture, gazebo, or grill)

Cabins: 1 condo available to rent (top floor of office)

Tent Camping: No

Full Hook Ups: Yes. 20/30/50 Amps at each site

Pool: Yes, not heated

Food On-Site: No

Camp Store: No

WiFi: Limited to common areas

Accepts Mail: Yes, but will not hold prior to arrival

Fishing: No


Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring Louisiana, Hiking, School, YouTube Video Link

Lake Pontchartrain Causeway and Fontainebleau State Park

One of the things we wanted to see while in New Orleans was the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. It holds the Guinness World Record of the longest bridge over water (continuously).

There was a toll on the north side of the lake heading south (back to New Orleans) for the bridge. The toll was $5/2 axles, or $3 if you had a toll tag. You could also take a different highway home to avoid the tolls, but it does add additional time to your commute.

When we went, it was a little overcast and cloudy. Luckily there wasn’t too much traffic on the bridge. The causeway has two bridges, one going North and one going South. Each side had two lanes. Around the middle of the bridge, there was a drawbridge to allow water traffic through, although we did not see it in action. The drive was fun. We saw a few birds roosting and a few motor and sail boats out on the water. At one point, we couldn’t see land in either direction! Lake Pontchartrain is large at 629 mi² and 39.77 miles in length, but averages only 12-14 feet in depth. VIDEO: Driving On Lake Pontchartrain Causeway from New Orleans to Mandeville (South to North)

Although the drive itself was our mission for the day, we also stopped at Fontainebleau State Park to stretch our legs. Admission was $3/person (daily), not the normal per car fee. The park had several offerings: campground, cabin rentals, playground, beach, walking trails. We headed to the Visitor Center first and learned some interesting information about the park. It was at one point a sugar plantation and was named Fontainebleau by its owner after a park in France. Located in front of the Visitor Center were the remains/ruins of the sugar mill. They were fenced off with a short picket fence, but they are in bad shape, so be careful walking near them. The Visitor Center had a campground map that had a park map printed on the backside. The Visitor Center was smaller, but worth a stop if you are in the park.

The windows looking out had an etching of the sugar mill. It is a little hard to see in the pictures though.

We drove down to the beach and it looked like a soft sand. There were alligator caution signs throughout the park. The beach also had a nice large parking lot, several picnic bench areas, and a large building with changing stalls, showers, and bathrooms. There was also a pier you can walk out onto, located at the beach area.

Walking trail to Marsh Boardwalk

It was a little muddy, so we only took the shorter trail near the beach area to the marsh boardwalk. We saw a few birds and ducks, but no alligators. It was a nice enough park, but I wouldn’t go back for more than one visit with the entrance fee. I would definitely prefer to go Barataria Preserve to get a look at bayou type of areas. However, their rental cabins did seem nice and were right on the water, so it would be a nice place to stay. (Click here for my Barataria post.)

Fontainebleau Park Details:

  • TICKETS: $3 per person for daily pass
  • PARKING: Lots of parking at beach, Visitor Center and near trails
  • BATHROOM: Yes, at Visitor Center and Beach
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: 1-3 hours

Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Information Links:

Posted in: Exploring Louisiana, Hiking, Sightseeing

Woodlands Conservancy

New Orleans is great for outdoor activities, which we tend to gravitate towards. Not only do the outdoors give the boys a chance to wear off some of their endless energy, but it helps keep us active while being able to socially distance during these COVID times.

We have found a lot of parks near the city. Some of them are walking distance depending on where you are, and some require a drive to get to them. The trails have varied from dirt to wood boardwalks to paved paths. One of the last parks we explored was Woodlands Conservancy. It is tucked between two schools off of a dirt road. There is a faded sign as you get closer, but we missed it the first time we drove by. The park has a couple of walking trails and one horse trail.

We got there a little late in the day, so we only took the Uplands Trail, which is a little over a mile long. It had rained earlier in the week, so it was pretty muddy in spots (all the trails are dirt). We saw a few animal tracks in the mud and found a tree swing in a clearing.

There are ten WWII ammunition magazines at the end of the Bottomland Trail! I am hoping that the weather dries out and we can hike to go see these. That trail is 5-6 miles long, so doing that in the mud does not sound fun.

Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring Louisiana, Hiking, Sightseeing

We Found Crescent Park! (French Quarter, New Orleans, LA)

Crescent Park is located near the French Quarter, right on the Mississippi River. The park is a little over a mile long. One of the entrances is by the French Quarter Market; it is tucked behind a wall, on the other side of the train tracks. If you are anything like us, you probably walked right by it and didn’t even realize it was there. There is also a parking lot at the other end of the park.

Two of the bridges you can use to access the park. The tall cement one has an elevator and stairs, and is by the French Quarter Market.

The park has several tables and chairs, lots of lawn space for a picnic, great views of the river, and a dog park. There were a lot of runners, bikers, and roller skaters. There is a large covered concrete pavilion of sorts on the French Market side where kids were practicing their on bikes and roller skates.

Foggy morning. Same views: top picture is at the beginning of our walk, bottom is at the end.

It was extremely foggy when we got to the park. We were standing on the walkway right next to the Mississippi River and couldn’t see the water, much less the city. Eventually it started to clear up. Towards the end of the park, the skies were pretty clear and blue, but on our walk back there was still some fog closer to the city.

It was a really nice walk and we enjoyed the park. It seems like it would be a nice green space to walk and enjoy some beignets. 😉 (Note: It would probably be pretty hot in the summer, as there were trees by part of the path, but it didn’t seem like they would really provide shade for the trail.)

Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring Louisiana, Hiking, Sightseeing

New Orleans: City Park

City Park is a pretty large park. You can drive and park there, or take one of the streetcars.

The park has a lot of things to do! Free things include playgrounds, walking trails, and picnic tables. Paid items include: Storyland park ($5.47, under 36″ free), Art Museum, Besthoff Sculpture Park ($5/adults, 19 and younger free), City Putt (starts at $10/ages 13+, $8/ages 4-12). There were also soccer fields, tennis courts (reservations/fee), and a dog park (permit required).

We really enjoyed walking around the park under the Spanish Moss.

On our last visit to the Park, we explored the Couturie Forest. It does not have a large parking lot, so you may have to park farther away. There is a little library nearby and a creek with a bridge to cross over. The trails are dirt/mulch. We did get to complete the arduous climb to the highest point in New Orleans: Laborde Mountain. It is a whole 43 feet above sea level! There were even chickens roaming around.

Walking around Couturie Forest: Trees, platform at top of Laborde Mountain, wild chickens, stick shelter, ibis

I would definitely get a copy of the park map on your phone before you go! It is a large park and we did not see a lot of signs with a map on them. It is a nice park to spend the day at.

Posted in: Exploring Louisiana, Hiking, National Park, National Parks, School, Sightseeing

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve: Chalmette Battleground and Cemetery

Chalmette Battleground and Cemetery is another part of the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park. When we were there, the Visitor Center was only open on the weekend. The park itself was open until 4:00 pm most days.

It is a battleground site. This was our first battleground visit on our trip. There is not a lot to see: a Visitor Center, the obelisk monument, a memorial urn statue, and a plantation house. If you climb the levy, you can look at the river. There is a nice paved walking trail around the monument to the house. There is also a driving path (I did see lots of people walking it too) that leads further back on the battlefield and to the cemetery.

Pano of the Park grounds

The Rodriguez Plantation house is still on the property, although the second story staircase is gated off with a danger sign. We saw that the second story balcony was missing several boards.

The Park’s grounds also contain a National Cemetery, although only 4 from the War of 1812 are buried there. I didn’t know until after our visit, but there is also an audio tour available by calling on your cell phone (number is 504-799-0803 per their website) and there is also a virtual tour.

Cemetery: Can be accessed by walking or driving on the “self-guided driving” path

As a side note: Will saw one of the paintings featured on an informational plaque at the park in his history textbook. He thought it was pretty funny that the image included in his textbook had a National Park Service plaque memo that the image was inaccurate, as the river “was not crowded with ships during the battle”.

Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring Texas, Hiking

Exploring San Antonio, TX: Brackenridge Park

We wanted to find a new place to explore and walk around. After Googling for a little bit, Ben found a park with a 4.5 star rating, Brackenridge Park. It definitely earned its rating! It was a really neat area to walk around with trails, water, picnic areas, and lots of neat bridges and buildings.

It was on the San Antonio river, near the zoo, so parking could be a little busy.

The area had been used as a swimming area in the early 1900’s and there are still several buildings from then, including the Pavilion (which is gorgeous).

It was a really nice day to walk on the trail and around the area. If you are in the San Antonio area, I would definitely check it out!