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Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the park we’ve visited the most in the U.S., and Clingmans Dome within the park is one of our favorite places we’ve visited. Named for U. S. Senator and explorer Thomas Lanier Clingman from Ashville, North Carolina, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the park, and this mountain provides gorgeous views from 6,643 feet. Not only are the views stunning, but this outing also provided us with one of our longest in-person bear sightings in the Smokies. Of course, you should obviously keep your distance from all wildlife. The general recommendation from authorities is to maintain a distance of 100 yards from black bears. Do not call out to wildlife to entice it to come closer, and certainly don’t offer food. And though your instinct may be to run, that is also a bad idea. Sometimes, though, you may just be hiking along…

Savannah, Georgia, is a beautiful place to visit. While the city may have a reputation as a destination for couples or girls-only weekends, Savannah offers a lot of fun for families, especially if you enjoy mixing family fun with history like we do. The Backstory We made the trek to Savannah after one of our Disney World visits. We drive from Joplin, Missouri, so I’m always on the lookout for somewhere to explore on the drive home. I was first drawn in by Savannah’s beauty and charm. I’d read John Berendt’s book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and I’m also a fan of the movie. Add in the book Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley and the movie Forrest Gump, and I had plenty of reasons to make a stop in Savannah. Arriving in Savannah, Georgia We’d just spent two nights in St. Augustine, Florida, so we were only…

When you think of Estes Park, Colorado, barbecue is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. But if you’re in the area, you should definitely check out Smokin’Daves’s BBQ & Brew. We’re always game to try out a new barbecue place, and when I saw that the menu had bison ribs…well, we couldn’t resist. Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ: The Location 820 Moraine Avenue, Estes Park, Colorado We tried out the original location that sits in a rather picturesque location surrounded by mountains. The scenery is gorgeous, but that is true anywhere in Estes Park. The inside is rustic like you’d expect a barbecue joint to be. It has a sports bar kind of vibe, but it’s totally family-friendly. Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ: The Food We were eager to sample the barbecue, especially those bison ribs since I’d never tried them before. We had some difficult decisions to make. Jeff and…

One of the most peaceful yet otherworldly places I’ve ever been to is Canyonlands National Park: Island in the Sky. Located near Moab, Utah, this national park features sandstone mesas and deep crevices surrounded by the Colorado and Green rivers; it looks like the setting of an old-time western movie.  It’s difficult to explain the feeling of looking out into the vast landscape from the top of the plateau.  If you’re in the Moab area, this is a great place to add to your itinerary! Once you’re at the top, the Island in the Sky scenic drive is a great way to see the highlights of this part of Canyonlands. Mesa Arch, probably the most popular hike, is not difficult and is relatively short. Other great features along the drive have paved walkways, making it a great option for families. Getting to Island in the Sky This park is only…

One of the best ways to get an overview of Rocky Mountain National Park is to take a drive on Trail Ridge Road. You’ll eventually climb 4,000 feet and witness different biomes as you make the ascent from the comfort of your vehicle, though we did see some mountain bikers on our trip. Along the way, you may see animals like elk, deer, moose, and marmots, and if you’re like us, you’ll be excited every time you see one. On our visit, we made Estes Park, Colorado, our home base for two nights. When we traveled to Rocky Mountain National Park, we needed a reservation along with a park pass to enter the park, so if you are planning a trip, be sure to check if you’ll also need a reservation. You may be able to enter the park earlier or in the evening when reservations aren’t needed. Just be…

One of my favorite things to do at Walt Disney World is to eat at the fun restaurants on property, and one of my family’s favorites in any park is the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This restaurant recreates a drive-in movie experience complete with a big screen and tables inside convertibles! If this doesn’t have you sold yet, I’ll explain my three reasons this restaurant ranks so high on our list! 1. The atmosphere inside Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant is just plain awesome. As I explained above, the restaurant had some of the most unique theming anywhere. From the outside, it looks like nothing special. But inside, it’s like a whole other world. Most of the tables inside are in convertibles, and most of them seat six adults. If you have a smaller party, you may end up with some “hitchhikers,” but honestly, you may not…

Pops 66  Soda Ranch is just one of those cool stops that you hope to encounter on a road trip. It’s not a major destination; it’s just a fun place to fuel up, grab lunch, or stock up on soda pop.  As we headed from Joplin, Missouri, towards Tucumcari, New Mexico, we found that Pops was a great first stop on the road. If you need gas, you can fuel up here. Since we were just a few hours into our trip, we will still good to go. Located along historic Route 66, Pops is just northeast of Oklahoma City in the small town of Arcadia. If you’re driving the mother road, you’ll definitely want to make a stop here. As you drive by, you can’t miss the large sculpture out front. At 66 feet tall, the folks at Pops say it’s the largest soda bottle in the world. I…

Santa Monica, California, is a great place to experience the beach if you’re near Los Angeles. Santa Monica Pier is also a fun place to explore and grab some food after your time at the beach. Since our time was limited during our first trip to California, we only spent a couple of hours here, but I’m so glad we did! By the time we’d gone to the pier, we’d already walked along the Walk of Fame, driven and had lunch on the Sunset Strip, and visited Griffith Observatory. Santa Monica was a late afternoon destination for us. Arriving in Santa Monica Since it was our first visit, we weren’t entirely sure what we were doing, which is a pretty common occurrence for us. When we saw a parking garage a couple of blocks from the beach, we went for it. We did have a lovely view of the pier…

If you’re checking out the national parks near Moab, Utah, be sure to make some time for Dead Horse Point State Park. Luckily, if you’re heading to the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands National Park, you’ll be near the entrance to this beautiful state park. To read about our visit to Canyonlands National Park: Island in the Sky, click here. To access these parks, you’ll need to make the drive up towards the entrances to both parks, and this could take about half an hour. The drive itself is gorgeous, and the beauty at the top is worth it. We were glad to make a slight detour and check out the view. Since it’s a state park, there is a fee for visiting separate from the national park fee. Also, there are some campgrounds in Dead Horse Point State Park, and some have yurts, so if you want…

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