Showing posts with label vacations. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vacations. Show all posts

Friday, December 9, 2011

"Toes In The Water..."

As I unpack my suitcase, I smile at the remnants of sand that still clings to everything from my shorts to my flip flops. And a little part of me cries as I place each one of my bathing suits back in the bottom drawer. A part of me cannot believe I'm unpacking, while other parts of me cannot believe that I was even there. It's true: St. John's, USVI is a little piece of heaven on Earth. I have never seen anywhere more beautiful in my entire life. The people are amazing. The beautiful turquoises and dark blue of the water is breathtaking. The landscape is truly majestic and awe inspiring. And at night you can walk along the beach with a Bushwacker in hand and think to yourself, "You know, self, despite all of the poverty, heartache, war, and sickness in the world, there are still beautiful places that make you forget about all of that, even if it's just for a little while."

I don't say all of that as someone who spent her entire vacation in the shelter of a luxurious resort or relaxing in the safety of a cruise ship. I say that as someone who spent her entire vacation in a two bedroom, one bathroom apartment with 3 other girls and a cool guy named, Jacob. I say that as someone whose sister works at the smallest, but busiest place in town, so that is where you could find me everyday around 4:00 PM. I say that as someone who met a local homeless guy named Piney, who asked my sisters and I for money everyday, and wasn't afraid to tell us he was going to use the money for a smoke. I say that as someone who walked home to Kasie's apartment every night in the sketchy part of town. There was nothing sheltered about my vacation. I met people who have a totally different perspective on life. I vacationed in a place where time truly does move at a completely different pace. It was a raw and exciting experience. One, I will not soon forget.

Randi and I got into St. John's Thursday night around 7:30 PM. We spent Thursday night out on the town meeting all of Kasie's wonderful friends. There were SO many of them! Later on, we got to spend the night at the most gorgeous villa on Ditleff Point thanks to our awesome friend, Justin, who truly treated Randi and I like princesses the entire time!

{Pictures from Thursday night. Top: Kasie, Randi, and I at Tap Bar,
home of the most delicious pineapple infused vodka EVER;
Middle: Some super cool kids: Abi, Justin, and Kasie at Tap Bar;
Bottom: Me, Kasie and Randi at our favorite hang out: Beach Bar!}


{The view from Ditleff Point where we spent our first night in St. John's!}

Friday, Justin took Randi and I to the best private beach ever: Dennis Beach! We got to lay out and swim for 3 1/2 hours all by ourselves while Kasie was at work! It was heavenly!

{Dennis Beach}

But, Saturday was the best day of all. Kasie was off of work, and we decided to hit up the beach at Cinnamon Bay with one of the coolest guys I have ever met: Ted! Seriously, I love that kid.

When we got to Cinnamon Bay, the first thought I had was, "THIS is the most beautiful beach in the world." Granted, I'm not a world traveler or anything, but I'm pretty sure that Cinnamon Bay could give other beaches a run for their money. It is seriously gorgeous. We spent the entire day (11:00 AM to 5:00 PM...yeah, buddy!) laying out on the beach, swimming, and just talking. I read a huge chunk of my book, while Kasie listened to music. Randi and Ted got to paddle board and skim board, while Kasie and I looked on and laughed (you can see THIS video for proof!). We drew pictures in the sand, we admired the beauty around us and at the end of the day we all looked at each other and said, "Today was a GOOD day. The best." It was a beautiful moment in time, a day that I needed, not just as a wife and mommy, but it was a day that we needed as sisters to just be sisters. To be girls. To laugh. To talk. To relax. It was a day I will remember forever. I will tell my grandchildren about that day. It was perfect. Everything about it.

{Cinnamon Bay}

Sunday, it rained! :( So, we went over to St. Thomas and went to the flea market. We picked up a few trinkets for our friends and family back home, and I got a super cute bag. We ended the day watching the football game at the Caribbean Saloon with Kasie's roommate, Kacie and our friend, Chad. Later, Chad gave us a ride back to St. John's in one of his boats. It was so much fun. Other than the ferry ride, it was the only boat ride we had all vacation.

Monday, Justin picked Randi and I up and took us to the Kaleidoscope Villa while Kasie was at work. We welcomed back the sunshine while we swam in the infinite pool and enjoyed our last day in St. John's. We laid out, we talked, and Justin spoiled us with an expensive bottle of wine and some champagne (Yep, two bottles. You heard right! He's the best!). That night, Justin took all three of out to a really nice dinner at Morgan's Mango, where we enjoyed the best food we had our entire vacation. After we ate, he decided to share with us that Tuesday was his birthday. I then felt terrible that he had paid for dinner, but that's just how Justin is. He's such a good guy. He will make some lucky girl very happy some day.

{One of the many views from Kaleidoscope Villa}

{Randi and I lounging in the infinite pool!}

After dinner, we went back to Beach Bar for one last night. We bought our Beach Bar t-shirts, sat on the beach, and enjoyed our last exotic drink. It was truly the perfect way to end our vacation.


Tuesday, I did one of the hardest things I have ever done. I left a piece of my heart in the Virign Islands. To say that Randi and I's lives are different without Kasie is an understatement. It was so nice to have 5 days where everything was normal...we even bickered a little bit. For 5 days my heart was complete, and it was so hard to come back to the emptiness Randi and I feel without her here. I know that I will always have Randi, and she is truly my lifeline here at home. We do everything together, but despite all of the wonderful times we have, it's just not the same without Kasie, and until she is home we know that it never will be.

But, you know despite the heartache, Randi and I are so proud of her. She is doing something that Randi and I never got to do. She is embracing life and doing something crazy. She is making memories she will never forget. Memories that will forever warm her heart, even on life's darkest days.

My Grandpa used to always talk about the time he and a friend road their motorcycles down the California coast. It was some of the best memories of his life. That was his "something crazy". His moment in time where he felt young and free, and where he made memories he continued to tell us about years later. I have been comparing Kasie's time in St. John's to the stories he used to tell us. She is getting those memories and moments just like my Grandpa did. And because of that, I am proud of her. Because of that, I can live without her for a little while, and I have and will continue to tell her to stay, to stick it out, and continue living. I will not tell her to give up, because I'm selfish and want her here. I won't.

Instead, I will embrace these pictures and the memories they represent. I will count down the days until I get to see her again, and Randi and I will continue to make the best of it (karaoke, anyone?!). We will be okay. Kasie will be okay. And 20 years from now, we will laugh about our first, crazy sister vacation and all the ones to come. It's going to be epic. Our Grandpa would be so proud.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

"We're Here, Because We're Not All There."

Randi and I got into St. Louis this morning at 12:00 AM after spending the day before braving delayed flights and mean flight attendants. After picking up her car and saying goodbye to our friend, Manda, who took us to and from the airport, we decided to drive the 3 hours home this morning. I was in bed by 4:00 AM. To say, I'm exhausted is an understatement, but it's a good kind of exhausted. The kind of exhaustion that comes with having just experienced some of the best days of my entire life. I made memories over the last 5 days that I am going to cherish forever, and some of them I may never be able to put into words.

I have so many pictures and things I want to share with you about our trip, but those stories will just have to wait until tomorrow, when I'm rested and a little more coherent! ;) I have also relished today with Emma. She has been extra lovey today, and I am enjoying every minute of it! So, for now, blogging will just have to wait!

But, I knew I couldn't just leave you hanging. I know you all are DYING to hear all about it and see my pictures of one of the most beautiful places on Earth! So, I will leave you tonight with the funniest moment from our entire vacation. Seriously...we are all still cracking up about it! :)

I hope this makes your night and I will see you all tomorrow!



Thursday, December 1, 2011

Leaving On A Jet Plane...

It's here! It's here! Today is FINALLY here! This morning at 6:00 AM I hopped on an airplane bound for...


St. John's
which located in the U.S. Virgin Islands!
Woot! Woot!

I'm on my way to see this girl:


with this girl:



It's going to be 6 of the most FANFREAKINTASTIC days of my life,
and I cannot wait!

The best part about it is...
that Kasie has no idea that I'm coming with Randi!
It's a HUGE surprise!
So, SHHH!
That's why I haven't been blogging about my excitement!
And let me tell you,
THAT has been even harder than trying not to tell her!
She is going to flip!
I just hope Randi catches the moment on camera,
because it will priceless.

So, I hope you all will forgive me.
I'm going to be a little MIA for a few days:
laying on the beach,
reading my books,
sipping a FEW cocktails,
and enjoying some long-overdue MOMMY time,
as well as,
some of the best sister time EVER.
Ahh...it's going to be perfect.

I would like to ask everyone to keep my sister, Randi and I in your prayers today. We are flying separately to the Virgin Islands, thanks to my last minute booking, and this is the first time either of us has ever flown alone. We are super nervous. Please pray for no delays and that we both end up in St. Thomas in one piece and with all of our belongings. Please pray for safety while we are on the island, and that our return trip home will go smoothly as well.

I would also like to ask you to please pray for my husband, Randy and Emma. This is the first time I have EVER left them alone together for more than an evening or a weekend. Pray that things go smoothly for them, and that Randy remembers everything he's supposed to do. He's not used to playing Mr. Mom, so hopefully he will catch on quick! I know they are both going to miss me, as much as I am going to miss them. But, the awesome thing about my husband is that he understands. He knows that I need this, and that if all I got for Christmas was a week in paradise with my sister, I would be one happy girl <3 I love him!

Well, goodbye, bloggy friends! I will return next week with amazing,crazy stories and the pictures to prove it! I hope you all have a beautiful weekend!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Fall Branson Trip

This past weekend, we went to Branson with my mom, my grandma, two of my sisters: Randi and Faith, two of my cousins, and my nephew. We have had this weekend planned for a few months, so we were excited to finally get to go...especially Emma! She had been talking about going on a "vacation" with Grandma Kelly all month, because she always enjoys spending time with my mom.

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but because of my mom's nursing career, she works tons and tons of hours, so she doesn't get to see Emma or my nephew very much! Plus my sister, Faith, still lives at home, so when my mom gets off work, she has to go home and help Faith with all of her homework. She's definitely a busy lady! So, anytime we get to spend with her is definitely very special.

Anyway, we had a great time in Branson! The kids got the swim at the hotel's indoor waterpark and we enjoyed a beautiful day at Silver Dollar City on Saturday. Sunday we got up and did a little shopping and I got several new books that I can't wait to read from my favorite $5 Christian Bookstore at the Branson Landing.

Probably, the best part of the whole weekend was "sneaking out" with my sister, Randi to get some drinks down at the Landing. It's pretty bad that we are in our mid-20's and we still have to "sneak out", but it was fun! We found a great local bar with a fun crowd, and it was fun to hang out with her and enjoy some great live music.

Here are a few pics from the weekend (the unedited versions, because I'm lazy today!) :

Ready for the pool!
Noah, Mya, and Emma


Train ride at a nearby kiddie amusement park!

Will she EVER be able to take a decent picture with me?!

My mom and Grandma with Noah and Emma.

My sister and I getting ready to "sneak out"!

It was fun weekend, but Emma and I were both glad to get home to our own beds. She has been battling a terrible cough and congestion for almost two weeks, and spending the entire weekend sharing a bed with her in the hotel room was miserable not only for me, but for everyone else in the room (Sorry, Aunt Randi!)! She and I are both going on night #6 of hardly any sleep, and unfortunately my compassion is wearing thin, because I'm so exhausted. Her pediatrician FINALLY decided to listen to me, and called her in some antibiotics last night, so I can't wait to pick those up this afternoon. Hopefully, a good round of antibiotics will help her get over this nastiness before the cough can get any worse...if that's even possible :(

I hope all of you are having a great Tuesday, and I hope to have a post up about our trip to the circus the weekend before last either tonight or tomorrow! So, be sure to come back!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bikes, Blues, and BBQ Recap

This past weekend my husband and I went with my dad and his girlfriend, Angie, to the Bikes, Blues, and BBQ Festival in Fayetteville, AR. After a great ride down there in the morning, we checked into our hotel around 3:00 PM.

Since this was our first time at BBBQ, we knew this year would be a learning experience for us, I guess we just didn't realize how much! We had to learn where to stay, where to eat, and our way around Fayetteville, which is a lot bigger than you think! We spent a lot of time lost, and I, of course, managed to pick the roach motel of all roach motels in the ghetto of Rogers, which means I got A LOT of crap about it all weekend. We ended up staying there, because as gross as it was, it was still sleepable and after all, that's all we were going to be doing in our room...sleeping. We just left our socks on most of the time and Randy and my dad got up frequently throughout the night to check on their motorcycles which were parked right outside. We also learned that Rogers is about a 45 minute ride from Fayetteville ON THE INTERSTATE, which is way too much interstate. We usually try to stick to back roads, because it makes for a better ride, so we will definitely be getting a closer motel next year.

Actually, we will be staying at the Cherokee Casino in West Siloam Springs next year. A friend of ours, Chris and his wife have stayed there the last three years, and they invited us up Saturday night to have dinner with them and play the slots. It was like heaven compared to where we were staying! The buffet at the casino is super cheap, and the rooms are WAY nicer for the same price as my roach motel! Yeah. I was totally beating my head against the wall after that. Chris has already reserved 4 rooms for next year, and he said we could have one. So, we are officially excited about our next BBBQ!

Overall, it was a great trip! We had a lot of fun and it was nice to spend some one on one time with Randy and my dad. I was sad that my grandpa wasn't able to go with us. He had been really looking forward to this trip. But, I'm glad that we still went and we spent the weekend talking about all the things he would of loved and hated about it. He was really missed a lot this weekend.

Anyway, I will leave you with some pictures of the weekend!




Friday, September 30, 2011

Bikes, Blues, and BBQ! Yeah, Baby!

Today my husband and I leave for Bikes, Blues, and BBQ Motorcycle Rally in Fayetteville, Arkansas. We have been looking forward to this trip all summer, and we are so excited to be shipping Emma off to Randy's parents and getting away for a few days! While it won't be very romantic (we are sharing a room with my dad and his girlfriend), we always enjoy every opportunity to just step away from the stress of work, life, and parenting to just be us. I think trips like this are crucial to every marriage and I'm hoping we find time to talk and reconnect even if there isn't going to be much privacy! ;) Our marriage needs this weekend, and I hope that I don't stress about money or worry about Emma so much that it spoils the fun. Pray for me! ;)

I really do love to ride in Arkansas. The scenery is gorgeous, and the Ozark Mountains make for wonderful riding. I think my husband and I have found some summer traditions through the two bikefests that take place in Arkansas. I'm sure that as soon as we get back, we will start making plans for the bikefest in Eureka Springs in June.

I have also discovered that I actually feel sexiest on the back of a motorcycle. Is that weird?! Probably. But, it's the truth :) I am so glad I finally caved and decided to start riding with Randy. It really has made for some awesome one on one time, and it's nice to have a hobby that we can kind of share. What kind of hobbies do you share with your spouse?

I hope everyone has a great weekend and I promise to share lots of pictures when we get back! See you on Monday!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Friends Are Like Bandaids

Yesterday we got home from our weekend getaway to Branson with my mom, my sister, and some dear friends. We had been planning the trip all summer, but I have officially deemed it our "Back 2 School Getaway", because Branson was a busy place, full of families trying to take their last vacation before school. It was crazy! But despite the traffic and ridiculous lines for the rides, it was nice to be able to take a trip with our dear friends, Stephen and Erica, and their kids. Randy and I always have a great time with them! We ended each evening sitting out front of our hotel rooms while our kids slept just talking, laughing, and probably keeping everyone else up! We ordered pizza, hid our beer cans from my mom, and just enjoyed the cooler evenings and the fact that for 48 hours, we didn't have to worry about jobs or bills, because for a moment we had all the money in the world and the best friends life has to offer.

Allyssa and Emma





Lt side: Abby and Faith; Me and Faith; and Randy and Faith




Rt side: Me and Erica; Allyssa; and Stephen and Ethan






Emma and Daddy shooting bad guys!

Lt to Rt: Emma and Daddy; Emma and Faith; and Emma and Grandma Kelly

Our little family

If anything, this past weekend taught me that good friends make great bandaids. Because despite the ache in my heart and the lump in my throat, I was able to set all of that aside to laugh with our friends and let their presence become balm to my soul. This past weekend was the best I've felt in almost two weeks, and it was definitely a refreshing change. I know that I still have a long road ahead of me and I know that a part of my heart will always ache for what I lost, but this weekend offered me the glimmer of hope I needed. It left me with a knowledge that things will get better and I won't always be in such a sad place, and as long as I have that hope, I know I can get through this.

How was your weekend? We are back to the grind! Orientation tonight at school and a week full of back to school activities for me! What about you?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Branson, MO: Things To See

One of the things I love most about Branson is all the things there are to see and do! My family and I have our usual spots, because we have been going on vacation there for so long, but, I would encourage anyone who is planning to visit to get out, and try everything Branson has to offer. You won't be disappointed.

Silver Dollar City

Okay, this is the big one! My family and I have season passes to this theme park and we LOVE it! My favorite thing about Silver Dollar City is that it transports you to a town in the 1700's. The rides, the food, and the shops all mimic this same theme, and there is plenty of gospel, bluegrass, and country music playing all the time. When you visit, be sure to ride Wildfire and Powder Keg, their best rollercoasters; eat some home cooked skillet and a funnel cake; and get your kids a junior sheriff's badge from the town's sheriff. If you go in July, their Kid's Fest is going on, and there are lots of free crafts and activities for the kids, plus all of their free shows in the park are kid themed. They also have lots of coupons on their website for admission and food, so be sure to check all of that out. This is a really fun theme park, and I guarantee your entire family will have a great time.

Shows

There are lots of great shows in Branson and not all of them are country or bluegrass themed! Several of the performers try to switch it up, and play a little of everything for everybody in each one of their shows, which is nice. Some of our family's favorites are The Haygoods, The Presley's, and The New Shanghai Circus. We've also had the privilege of seeing Noah's Ark, a huge indoor production that everyone should take the time to see. I've also seen the Glee production at the Branson Variety Theater, but it was only a seasonal show. However, I've heard the other shows in this theater are great as well. There is also a show called Legends in Concert, where actors and singers impersonate famous people...kind of like the one in Vegas, and every couple of weeks they switch it up and bring in new people. I have ALWAYS wanted to see this show! I think it looks fabulous!

Other Attractions

My family and I frequent The Track in the evenings. Sometimes we even stay close by so we can walk to this small family fun park that offers go-carts, laser tag, bumper boats and an arcade! There is something for everyone, and it really is a great place to end your day.

Another great attraction is a fun water park located in Branson called White Water. I think they are owned by the same company as Silver Dollar City, because you can buy a "city-hopper pass" that gets you into both theme parks for one price. White Water is a great family activity, especially if your motel pool is just so-so. My younger sister loves White Water, but we are usually so busy doing other things that we don't get go very often. Maybe again next year.

One of my favorite attractions is the Hollywood Wax Museum. If you want to see some very realistic replicas of your favorite stars and not pay the Madame Tussauds price, then this is the place you want to go. The stars are usually set in the movie scenes you remember them from, and there are also several music artists and famous politicians replicated as well. It's definitely a must see when you visit Branson.

I'm also a big fan of the Titanic in Branson. It's the world's largest Titanic museum, and it's full of interesting artifacts and information. The actors that guide you on the tour, dress as 19th century maid and they speak with British accents, which make the tour really fun. If you're a history buff, like I am, this should definitely be on your must see list.

Shopping

Now onto the good stuff! There are two malls in Branson that I would recommend. Branson Landing would be my first pick by far! This gorgeous outdoor shopping center is situated right on Lake Taneycomo and it's full of everyone's favorite shops and restaurants. There are beautiful fountains and a nice outdoor play place for the kiddies. It's definitely an all day thing, so be sure to set aside plenty of time to check it out.

The other mall is for the more serious shopper: The Tanger Outlets. This outdoor outlet mall has all of your favorite stores with all of the best prices like Coach Factory, Fossil, Loft Outlet, Polo Ralph Lauren, Wilson's Leather, Aeropostale, American Eagle, Ann Taylor, Old Navy, and Banana Republic just to name a few! This is a great place to go school clothes shopping or to get that new fall look you've been dying to find. I love the Tanger Outlet, because it has all of my favorite stores in one place in a nice outdoor setting, which saves you from having to visit a crowded indoor mall.

So, as you can see, there is absolutely a TON of things to see and do in Branson, MO. If you haven't booked your vacation, you should. I promise that you won't be disappointed!

Now, I'm off to get ready for another weekend in Branson with my little family. I'm so excited that my hubby is actually able to go this time, and so is Emma! It's going to be a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Branson, MO: Places To Eat

My family LOVES food. Except for the fact that I spent 90% of my life eating fast food, my grandma makes these amazing lunches every Sunday and almost all of them are from scratch. We know good food. My tastes buds have not been tainted by the millions of McDonald's chicken nuggets I have consumed. We especially like to eat when we go vacation. Sure my mom tries to save money by pre-purchasing snacks for the kids, and we eat more than a few of our meals at Wendy's. But, when we do get to eat some awesome deliciousness, especially while we are in Branson, MO, here's what we eat:

Grand Country Buffet


This restaurant is located inside Grand Country Inn. It's a buffet style restaurant that runs about $15 per person for adults. We eat here frequently, because we often stay at this hotel. We like it because the kids can actually get a home cooked type meal with plenty of fruits, veggies, and meat. My daughter always eat a ton of food when we go here. She really enjoys it!

As for the quality: I think I'd give it 3 out of 5 stars. The restaurant is clean, the service is pretty good, but the food is just so-so, nothing spectacular and in my opinion it is over priced.

Joe's Crab Shack

If you've never eaten at Joe's Crab Shack and you love seafood, you are really missing out. Joe's Crab Shack of Branson is located in the beautiful Branson Landing shopping center and is situated right near Lake Taneycomo to give you that beachy vibe you need when you eat at Joe's. It is rather expensive to eat at Joe's Crab Shack. Most entrees are $10 to $11, but they are large, delicious portions. My absolute favorite thing to eat at Joe's is the coconut shrimp. They are huge shrimp served with this delicious mango sauce! Joe's is best known for the crab leg buckets, which also look delicious.You'll actually see tons of people around you slapping on their bibs to enjoy the crab legs!

Fuddruckers


This burger joint is actually a favorite of my husband and I's. We eat here a lot when we come to Branson for the car show. Fuddruckers burgers are TO DIE for! It's pretty reasonably priced, for the fact that you get the option of beer or soda with your meal! How cool is that?! And they make your burger to order, which means if you want it rare, you're getting it rare. Once you get your burger which is served on a scrumptious homemade bun, you get to file through a buffet of toppings for your burger. Anything you could ever want on your burger is in that buffet line! YAY!

This place will fill you up! So go hungry! My husband and I just cannot get enough of their delicious burgers, and we always try to stop at least once while we are down there.

El Charro's

If you like Mexican food. There are several Mexican restaurants in Branson. I have tried several of them with Randy's family and I think this is one of their favorites. El Charro's boasts that they serve Tex Mex, but most of their entrees are traditional Mexican food. They are reasonably priced and it is a great place to get your fajita fix.

Silver Dollar City

If you weren't planning on visiting Silver Dollar City, you must simply visit for the food! Sure the food is all ridiculously priced like at any theme park, but it is delicious! I always spend WAY to much money on food every time we go, because I gorge myself on funnel cake, turkey legs, homestyle skillet, and kettle corn! I also love to sip on homemade frozen strawberry lemonade the entire time I'm there . I just love, love, love their food...especially the skillet. You must go and try it!

I'm sorry there isn't many local restaurants in this review. Branson is full of chain restaurants, because they are a tourist destination, so you won't have many opportunities to sample the local flavor. Plus, I'm from Missouri, so I get plenty of local flavor at home!

How about you? What are some of your favorite restaurants when you go on vacation?

I hope everyone is having a fabulous Wednesday! I'm preparing to enjoy my first FULL DAY home in over a week! YEEESSS!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Branson, MO: Places To Stay

Okay, so usually one of the first things you worry about when going on vacation is where you are going to sleep. Right?! Right. Well, one of the most wonderful things about Branson is that there are A TON of places to stay that will fit any budget. In the 24 years I've been vacationing here with my family, we have stayed lots of different places. Some of them have been dumpy, some of them have been really nice, and some of them are somewhere in the middle of both. It really just depends on how picky you are and what you are looking for. But, here's what I know:

For The Shmancy Fancy Family

Branson offers several higher priced hotel options such as The Hilton Promenade at Branson Landing which is reallyclose to some of Branson's best shopping and dining. The Grand Plaza Hotel which is situated at the heart of Highway 76 and is within walking distance of many shows, eateries, and Branson's large outlet shopping center. And if dad's a golfer, you may want to consider staying at Thousand Hills Golf Resort. This resort offers cabins, rental condos, and even 5 bedroom town homes for large families. They have plenty to do on the grounds, and they are safely nestled away from the hustle and bustle of Highway 76.

I have actually stayed at Thousand Hills Golf Resort. My grandmother and her husband own a time share with the company and we spent a week there two summers in a row. It really was a nice place to stay with its private pools and game room for the kids, but since my parents divorce, we have not been back. However, if you are looking for a nicer place to stay, I would recommend it.

For The Family With Small Kids

This is the category my family seems to always fall under, and I know a lot about these next two hotels. Both hotels are waterpark hotels, which means they both have indoor waterparks on the grounds! This is great if you have kids and we actually go down sometimes in the winter to swim, just to give the kids a break from the winter blues.

Grand Country
is the waterpark hotel where my family stays the most. It is a little cheaper than the other one we have stayed at, and it has tons of stuff to do on the grounds like the waterpark, an arcade, a huge buffet style restaurant, an ice cream parlor and even a theater where they show kid friendly shows. The waterpark is indoor and outdoor here, and they also have two regular outdoor pools on the grounds.

Overall we stay here for the kids, and the kids love it! Emma talks about it ALL. THE. TIME. But, as an adult here are some things I will warn you about: The staff is rude and ALL the rooms smell like mildew. My mom says, and I agree with her, that the staff doesn't have to be nice to you, because if you are going to stay there, you will stay there whether they are nice or not. Everyone there definitely seems to have that attitude, because they know that 90% of the people that go there, go there for their kids and it's really not about getting great customer service, which is sad. As for the rooms, they are clean, they just smell like mildew. It's probably from all the wet bodies tracking pool water into the rooms, but the rooms also feel "moist". Like it's humid...in your room! I always wash all of our clothes after we stay there, even if we don't wear them, because I worry they smell like mildew. I think if they would remedy their attitude problems and work on their rooms, this would be the perfect place to stay!

Castle Rock Resort and Waterpark is another one where we have also stayed. We actually stayed here for the first time last winter. It is a little more expensive and the waterpark is only indoors. They also have a diner-style restaurant on the grounds, and their rooms are MUCH cleaner and nicer. I also thought the staff was really friendly here, and if it wasn't more expensive, I think my mom would go back here.

If Your Wanting Cheap, Cheap

There are tons of these types of motels! We've actually stayed in a few of them, because my mom can't always afford for us to stay at the waterpark, and sometimes in the spring or summer, we are just down there to go to Silver Dollar City anyway. All of the ones I have ever stayed at have been clean and a nice place to just lay your head. Here are two that I would recommend: Ramada Inn and Queen Anne II Motel. The Ramada Inn is where we have stayed when we go to Branson for the car show every year, and the Queen Anne II is located across from a huge arcade and go-kart track that is open late. It's great for kids! Both of them are pretty clean, but they aren't anything fancy! So don't get your hopes up!

These are just a few of the places I have had experiences with and would recommend. I have only stayed at one of the nicer hotels, but I wanted to put them in this post for families who prefer to be treated like royalty when they are on vacation (Trust me, if I had the money, the Hilton Promenade would be one of the first places I would stay)! There are also many other motels and resorts I have never stayed at, but would probably be just as nice. I have also heard that the camping on Lake Taneycomo is amazing! So, if you're a camping family, there is something there for you too!

Family Vacation Destination: Branson, MO

I promised about a week ago that I would do a series of posts about why my family and I love to go to Branson, MO. If you're not familiar or are only semi-familiar with Branson, you may think of it as A.) A huge retirement community B.) The Little Country Music Capital of The World C.) A place where crafty old people go to shop and watch The Presley's. But, in all honesty, Branson is a lot more than that, and as my mom has discovered over the years, it really is a great place to take your family! Not only is it close by for us (we only live about 2.5 hours away), but it has also offered a wholesome family vacation destination without breaking the bank. Simply put, we love it (and my husband cannot understand why)!

So, before I get started with my various posts, I wanted to leave you with a few random facts about Branson, MO that you may or may not know courtesy of wikipedia.org.

1.) Harold Bell Wright's book The Shepherd of the Hills is set in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas. The book is also acted out at a popular outdoor playhouse in Branson known as The Shepherd of the Hills Outdoor Drama & Homestead.

2.) Paul Henning's show The Beverly Hillbillies was inspired by his Boy Scout camping trips to the Ozarks. The first five episodes of Season 8 were actually filmed in Branson.

3.) Andy Williams from The Andy Williams Show has one of the the most popular shows in Branson.

4.) Scenes from the movie Gordy were shot here in 1995.

5.) Branson is the home of America's largest Veterans Day celebration, "Veterans Homecoming Week" , which is a seven day tribute where Branson entertainers and community members come together to honor our veterans.

By writing these posts, I hope to introduce you and your family to a more affordable vacation destination that is just as fun as the beach or Walt Disney World.

The thoughts and opinions in this post are mine. I was not given monetary compensation by Branson Chamber of Commerce for a positive review. We just really love to vaca here. Period.

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I do not receive monetary compensation from any of the products, companies, or organizations I promote through my blog, unless otherwise specified during a giveaway or promotion. I am just your average mom trying to share products that I enjoy with other moms, as well as organizations and charities I believe in.