There is nothing like taking a trip to the great outdoors to get back to nature. This trip was to the Shipshewana North Park Amish Log Cabin Lodging and Campground in Shipshewana, Indiana. This is the heartland for one of the largest Amish and Mennonite communities in the United States. We arrived late on Friday and had access to our cabin without difficulties thanks to the set up of the campground. The cabin was perfect with extra amenities that included soap, shampoo, conditioner, toilet paper and tissues. The bathroom was really good sized and I can say from our previous Hershey, Pennsylvania trip, having an inside bathroom is heavenly.
We had two nice full sized beds, a small desk, a small refrigerator and a TV that had some poor reception on some channels but you're camping so why watch TV? The ceiling fan and air conditioner really set you up for a weekend of luxury camping style. The porch also had a porch swing and randomly placed picnic tables. It was truly a great place to camp and not far from all the action in downtown Shipshewana.
As with our last trip to Shipshewana, we took a buggy ride but we went with an Amish person away from Blue Gate Theater and Restaurant mostly because I really liked the people who run it and they have some amazing kettle korn. We embarked on our 30 minute drive around the town and rural areas and received a history lesson on Chief Shipshewana and how the Amish was a spin off from the Mennonites when they broke from their leadership. We learned various facts such as how once a church has 40 members, they have to break off and become a new district. Church service rotates at member's houses and members meet every other week due to schedules. We also found out that you can actually convert to be part of the Amish community.
For lunch, we stopped at the Blue Gate Restaurant and was served by the same server we had the last time. The uniforms are all Amish inspired but I'm not sure if they are all from the Amish and Mennonite community or other locals. The food is beyond delicious and the server was excellent. We had a variety of different dishes among our group of nine and there were no complaints. My favorite was the bacon chicken salad sandwich. After lunch, we went to the Davis Mercantile which is a four level mall of various stores and at the top is a hand carved carousel that appears to be one of the attractions for all.
There are many other activities such as farm tours where you can actually help feed the farm animals and milk the cows to having dinner at one of the family's houses. There are many bed and breakfast establishments all around the area along with hotels. We were told one of the key attractions is the flea market that people drive from hours to shop.
In my next post, I will write about the various events that would be perfect for the homeschool family or just anyone wanting to step back in time.
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Summer is finally upon us and although to me, it doesn't seem like it started yet given the very long winter, I'm ready to get moving with some homeschool and summer vacation plans. Getting to Shedd Aquarium is not so hard thanks to all the public transportation options Chicago has to offer. Chicago has a special sort of unique feel to it given it’s in the Midwest and the culture is different from other big cities. Military life provides a wonderful opportunity to experience many places across the country as well as around the world.
The Shedd Aquarium is a perfect homeschool trip to plan on any day. It’s a great way to introduce fun and education all in one and what better fun is there than to plan an overnight stay in a hotel to relax the night before you venture out to an oasis of activities. The package deal at the Fairmont Chicago is a great way to bring the magic to the children while not breaking the bank.
Shedd boasts its 20th century charm that endures with a modern 21st century attention to ecological awareness, care and interpretation. John G. Shedd was the one time president of Marshall Field & Company and loved the city so much he decided to build the world’s finest and biggest aquarium. As a non-profit, forming in 1924, its purpose was for education and scientific purposes exclusively. The Aquarium has only expanded twice since 1930 cautiously ensuring the original architecture design wouldn’t be compromised thus earning a National Historic Landmark destination.
For more information:
Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park, 200 North Columbus Drive, is making sure every member of the family, including four-legged ones, enjoys summer in the city with three new family and pet-friendly packages. The Bark Near the Park Package caters to every pampered pooches needs, while the Finding Dory - Shedd Aquarium and Family Getaway Packages keep kids of all ages entertained during a stay in the Windy City.
The Bark Near the Park Package, created, in part, by Fairmont Chicago Team Member Chinook (the Hotel Manager's four-year-old Golden Retriever) includes overnight accommodations in a luxurious Fairmont guest room, two hours of dog sitting, Chinook’s Doggie Biscuits and favorite toy, the Tug Rope, plus all of Fairmont’s doggie amenities including a bed, bowls and bags. The package also includes the pet cleaning fee. There’s even in-room dining available from a new, dog-friendly a la carte menu that includes items like rotisserie chicken and poached Atlantic salmon. Finally, should Fido need a suggestion on the best doggie sightseeing spots, Fairmont’s new “dog-cierge” is available to offer recommendations. The Bark Near the Park Package starts from $249 USD per night, is available year-round, and subject to availability.
For families looking to entertain to the kids, the Finding Dory - Shedd Aquarium Package includes overnight accommodations, four VIP tickets, including Express Priority Entry, to the nearby famed Shedd Aquarium and a $100 AMC gift card so families can end their day of sea creature fun by relaxing and watching the new and largely anticipated Disney sequel, Finding Dory. Rates for this package start at $419 per room per night, and is subject to availability.
Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park is also offering a new Family Getaway to Chicago Package that includes overnight accommodations for up to four guests, breakfast for two adults (children 12 and under are complimentary), and valet parking (a $70 value). Rates for the Family Getaway to Chicago Package start at $309 per night. This package is also available year-round, subject to availability.
More information on Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park or any of its packages, please visit http://www.fairmont.com/chicago/.
About Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park
Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park is an AAA Four Diamond luxury hotel located in downtown Chicago. With 687 guestrooms and 63,000 square feet of meeting space, the hotel provides contemporary elegance and gracious hospitality. Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park is also home to THE BAR in the Lobby and aria restaurant and bar, taking guests on an “east meets west” culinary experience. In addition to uniquely inspired dining and stylish accommodations, the hotel features an exclusive lifestyle spa. mySpa affords eight treatment rooms and provides the perfect urban sanctuary from the busy and bustling Chicago streets. For more information on Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park, call 312-565-8000 or visit fairmont.com/Chicago.
Fairmont Hotels & Resorts connects guests to the very best of its destinations, providing travelers with memorable travel experiences, thoughtful and attentive service and luxury hotels that are truly unforgettable. Each Fairmont property reflects the locale’s energy, culture and history through locally inspired cuisine, spirited bars and lounges and distinctive design and decor. With more than 65 hotels globally, and many more in development, the Fairmont collection boasts some of the most iconic hotels in the world, including The Plaza in New York, The Savoy in London, Fairmont Peace Hotel in Shanghai and Fairmont Le Château Frontenac in Québec City. Fairmont is owned by FRHI Hotels & Resorts, a leading global hotel company that operates more than 125 hotels and branded residential properties under the Raffles, Fairmont and Swissôtel brands.
For more information or reservations, please visit fairmont.com.
My first thought was it had to be bad because it was part of a gas station but I couldn't have been more wrong. It has a great atmosphere from when you walk in with the instant greeting from the friendly staff to walking up to the front to place your order. If you are military, don't forget to show your ID for a discount too. My younger girls and I always enjoy the pulled pork barbeque sandwiches and with the sauces on the table, you decide if you want saucy or original and how much you want. Rudy's Bar-B-Q is the best that I've ever ate across the many states I have traveled from the tenderness of the pork to not finding endless amounts of fat riddled among the sandwich. My eldest and her husband prefer the brisket.
When my sister and her family visited, we first went to White Sands in New Mexico and on the way home, we had to stop there so they could experience it themselves. My sister loved it so much that she bought sauce to take home and three year's later, she still reminiscences about how amazingly good it was.
We have moved away from El Paso but whenever we drive close enough to Tyler, Texas, it's our destination and several times since moving, we have contemplated making that now nine hour drive just for a very long rewarding Rudy's Bar-B-Q roadtrip.
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In a tiny town tucked away in southern Indiana, near the border of Illinois, is one that holds huge historical value to the way of life in the 1700's. Unfortunately, not enough American history is taught in the school systems due to standards and requiring too many other subjects to be covered. It would be nice if there were other choices to study either different time periods or specific state history for students pending their individual interests. Many have not heard of Vincennes, Indiana unless they are actually from the area but one thing that anyone who drives through this tiny town will notice is the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park. It's size and grandiose nature sits perched above the muddy Wabash River overlooking Illinois. Second in size only to the national monument in Washington, D.C., the massive granite contains a memorial rotunda depicting seven murals of Clark's expedition. Each oil on canvas murals stands 28 feet tall and 16 feet long by artist Ezra Winter and six assistants. In the middle is a commanding bronze statue of Clark by Hermon MacNeil. The inscription at the base reads, "If a country is not worth protecting it is not worth claiming."
The site is believed to be where Fort Sackville was. It was President Calvin Coolidge who authorized the Memorial and President Franklin D. Roosevelt who dedicated it in 1936. In 1966, Indiana transferred the Memorial and property to the National Park Service which also houses a Visitor Center to learn more, watch a film about Clark and purchase additional history books and items for children to learn.
In a celebrated campaign, Lieutenant Colonel George Rogers Clark, older brother of William Clark, and his frontiersmen captured Fort Sackville and British Lt. Governor Henry Hamilton on February 25, 1779. The heroic march of Clark's men from Kaskaskia on the Mississippi River in mid-winter and the subsequent victory over the British remains one of the great feats of the American Revolution. Clark, a Virginia native, was sent to protect the northwest territory. After capturing Fort Sackville, he learned that the British recaptured the force so his campaign began. His other campaign of 1778-1779 included the founding of Louisville, Kentucky and the capture of forts in the lower Ohio and Mississippi valleys. This allowed the United States to claim control of what would become Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin in the 1783 Treaty of Paris.
Other prominent features in the park include Johns Angel's granite statue of Francis Vigo (born Giuseppe Maria Francesco Vigo), a 4-by-9-foot (1.2 by 2.7 m) monument overlooking the Wabash River erected in 1934 that honors the Italian-American merchant who assisted the American forces to include then General Clark during the Revolutionary War. He also helped found the first public university in Vincennes, Indiana.
Born in Mondovì, Italy, he served with the Spanish Army in New Orleans. In 1772 he established a fur trading business in St. Louis. In 1783 Vigo moved to Vincennes and operated a fur trading business there.
Also adjacent to the Park's grounds is the Roman Catholic church Basilica of St. Francis Xavier that holds a 1934 bronze statue by Albin Polasekhonoring Father Pierre Gibault, another figure in the Revolutionary War. Raoul Josset designed the Lincoln Memorial Bridge across the Wabash River to compliment the memorial aesthetically. It includes relief carvings designed by a monument by Nellie Walker on the Illinois side of the bridge and celebrates the migration of Abraham Lincoln. A concrete floodwall that protects the memorial and Vincennes from Wabash flooding is also designed in a complimentary Classical style. The grounds also hold a memorial to the soldiers from Knox County who served in World War I, a marker denoting where Clark's headquarters probably stood during his siege of Fort Sackville, and the original Daughters of the American Revolution memorial, which has moved several times due to construction of the main memorial. (WIKI)
|A photograph of my father at the George Rogers Clark Park in 1938.|
1. Kentucky: Entering the great valley
2. Cahokia: Peace or war with the Indians
3. The Wabash: Through wilderness and flood
4. Vincennes: The British barrier to the west
5. Fort Sackville: Britain yields possession
6. Marietta: The Northwest, a new territory
7. St. Louis: The way opened to the Pacific
Places to stay overnight have grown thanks to the University with more modern chains being added in the last 10 years or so. My favorite place to stay was the Marriott until I've had two incidences with my daughter suffering allergic reactions to prior guests allowed to have pets in any of the rooms. Unfortunately, this particular chain of the Marriott does not have designated floors or rooms and shifts the pets around which is not too favorable to children and adults with asthma and allergies. What is nice about the hotel, it provides a kitchenette full equipped and you can choose from a regular room to a one or two bedroom suite. They also provide the Paul Mitchell brand of hair care products which is one of my favorite things about the hotel not to mention the price is right.
I have stayed at the Best Western, Comfort Suites and Holiday Inn previously which I also liked but none of those chains provided the kitchenette.
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine
I have found my love for traveling has transcended into my children to where they don't mind hopping in a car for over 20 hours to a destination that holds unknown memories for them. I have found some of the best trips involved little preparation and more just sheer spontaneity to create the most fun. Whether a trip is set for a purpose such as educational, it does not have to be stuffy, boring or dreary because in my opinion, everywhere I have traveled has been a learning experience. When this trip was spur of the moment planned, I couldn't think of any better way to explain some of our country's heritage with the sacrifices our men and women partook along the way in the military. Arlington National Cemetery is an experience both from a profound emotional level but also from the ability to see such beauty in an area that often involved great tragedy.
It proved to be a wonderful homeschooling lesson.
As many know, Arlington is a United States Military cemetery that sits across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. Orginially, George Washington Parke Custis, grandson of George and Martha Washington acquired the property and build what was to become Arlington House. Mary Anna Custis, George's daughter, married United States Army Officer Robert E. Lee and eventually for life inherited the Arlington House. Robert and Mary's son inherited the property. In 1864, faced with a shortage of property to bury the mass causalities from the Battle of the Wilderness among prior battles, Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Miggs ordered an assessment and Arlington House was the most likely candidate. The first military burial was on May 13, 1864.
Arlington Memorial Amphitheater
The famous Tomb of the Unknowns is part of this feature within the cemetery. The structure is mostly built of Imperial Danby marble from Vermont. The Memorial Display room, between the amphitheater and the Tomb of the Unknowns, uses Botticino stone, imported from Italy. The amphitheater was the result of a campaign by Ivory Kimball to construct a place to honor America's servicemen/women. Congress authorized the structure on March 4, 1913. Woodrow Wilsonlaid the cornerstone for the building on October 15, 1915. The cornerstone contained 15 items including a Bible and a copy of the Constitution [Wiki].
|Field Marshal Sir John Greer Dill GCB, CMG, DSO was a senior British Army officer with service in both the First World War and the Second World War is among those buried at Arlington.|
The Tomb of the Unknowns contains unknown soldiers from World War I, World War II, the Korean War and had an unknown soldier from Vietnam until the identity was determined and was removed to be returned to his family by order of President Bill Clinton.
Tomb of the Unknown Ceremony
The Tomb of the Unknowns has been guarded by the US Army since July 2, 1937. The Old Guard also known as the the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment ("The Old Guard") began guarding the Tomb on April 6, 1948. The exact routine includes:
- Marches 21 steps down the black mat behind the Tomb.
- Turns, faces east for 21 seconds.
- Turns and faces north for 21 seconds.
- Takes 21 steps down the mat.
- Repeats the routine until the soldier is relieved of duty at the Changing of the Guard.
After each turn, the Guard executes a sharp "shoulder-arms" movement to place the weapon on the shoulder closest to the visitors to signify that the Guard stands between the Tomb and any possible threat.
Twenty-one was chosen because it symbolizes the highest military honor that can be bestowed—the 21-gun salute.
Each turn the guard makes precise movements and followed by a loud click of the heels as he snaps them together. The guard is changed every half hour during daylight in the summer, and every hour during daylight in the winter and every two hours at night (when the cemetery is closed to the public), regardless of weather conditions. [Wiki]
There are several other memorials on the grounds of Arlington. Unfortunately, we didn't get to visit each of them but the trip was a must see for anyone.
Get Your #Travel On: West Baden Springs Hotel in French Lick Indiana Dubbed Eighth Wonder of the World
Every now and then and it really doesn't take long to find that diamond in the rough. Among the most unlikely places, one can find a treasure whether it's a natural feature or man made, there is charm to behold if you look. I enjoy finding those little unexpected gems and will drive even the most inconvenient roads to find that one moment that takes your breath away or makes you just be in awe. I am from Indiana and I have seen this "eighth wonder of the world" but from afar. I never ventured inside until this past Christmas. A story my father likes to tell whenever I bring up French Lick or the West Baden Springs Hotel as this was the place to be during it's hey day. The well to do made this a place for relaxation with their springs and beautiful landscape among the rolling hills in Indiana. If the thought of Indiana conjures up that thoughts of basketball or corn, a road trip to the southern part of the state will yield numerous photogenic memories to include fascinating historical facts.
|West Baden Springs Hotel 1913 Postcard|
In May 1994, life was given back to the little town that housed the biggest feature in the area. Not only was the West Baden Springs Hotel saved but so was its sister property French Lick Springs Hotel.
We decided to visit the West Baden at Christmas for the elegance and beauty that the resort offered. The beauty of the two properties is there are complimentary shuttles to go everywhere so you can pull up to valet and leave the worry with them from parking to getting your luggage inside the room. The valets were professional yet engaging. The check in was effortless but due to the busy time of the year, the clerk wasn't able to spend as much time providing more background on the significance of the resort nor on anything special available during the holidays but she was courteous and friendly. The view above is the view you see as you enter from the valet station. It was breathtakingly beautiful and the lighting was just perfect to really soak in the Downton Abbey feel of sheer elegance from the past. The architecture beauty could be found everywhere and left you feeling magical.
With four types of rooms to choose from, you can decide your level of luxury. I stayed in the Deluxe Countryside View Guest Room which was beautiful and the bed ... oh the bed! Pure luxury as I can't recall sleeping in more comfortable bed than this. If you stay at hotels and don't always stay at the five star hotels, this place will spoil you. Since I did have my two younger girls, having a solid floor that didn't create noise for my neighbors below is important to me as I don't want to ruin someone else's time. Another feature that I feel hotels are overlooking is the ability to rent on-demand movies. Although pricey at over $17, you still get to rent a newer released movie and enjoy the comforts of the room. The picture does not do the room size justice nor does it show the large bathroom with separate toilet room. With the complimentary robes and bath salts, I was all prepared for a nice hot soak but unfortunately, the bath plug was broken so I was not able to enjoy that.
The food was delicious to include room service in spite of having issues with my first order, the manager did everything in her power to make up for the order not being received and taking so long. They even provided their complimentary Signature Chocolate Dome Dessert.
Some of the other features of the resort include:
- Indoor/outdoor pools
- Fitness center access
- Casual and fine dining options
- Retail shops
- Historic tours
- Formal gardens
- Concierge service
- Carriage rides
- Spa services and much more
Whether you drive or fly in, it's only a couple of hours from Indianapolis and well worth the visit.
They say that White Sands National Park is "like no place else on earth" and after visiting it many times, I cannot disagree. It's an eye opening phenomenal that leaves you in awe with the amazing landscape. It's in the middle of nowhere, rising from the heart of the Tularosa Basin in New Mexico and it is one of the world's great natural wonders. From wave-like dunes consisting of gypsum sand, it encompasses 275 miles of desert. You will not find a larger gypsum dunefield in the world. Not only is it picturesque but it provides many opportunities to make great memories from camping to trail walking to star gazing and most importantly, sledding!
This is truly a highlight of White Sands. Just find a dune and either bring your own sled or you can purchase or rent one at the visitor center. We have been sledding many times and accompanied my family to the site as you can't go anywhere near this location without taking the trek to visit. My family had a very memorable time and still continues to talk about it years later.
One of the events that I did not get to participate in are the one hour guided sunset strolls. The guides provide information on the geology, plants and animals that you might encounter. They have Junior Ranger programs for the children and many more events for the whole family.
One thing to note, they do close the park when there are missile tests by nearby White Sands Missile Range so make sure you check the park alerts before heading out!
A little background about White Sands National Monument Park:
We just returned from a whirlwind vacation that started in El Paso, Texas and took us through Westminster, Colorado to see the Jessica Ridgeway Memorial Park being built to Mt. Rushmore, over to Yellowstone with a stop at Eagle Ridge Ranch in Island Park, Idaho. We stayed at many places along the way with the worse being a Holiday Inn in Cody, Wyoming but the very best place was Eagle Ridge. We found them via a brochure at the visitor center for Yellowstone and what caught our eye were the activities. It was a one stop fun fulled vacation stay over for everyone. What started out with giving the girls a trail ride turned into an overnight relaxing stay.
The area was beyond beautiful and the owners and staff were very pleasant and accommodating. Our primary decision for staying other than the beauty was in fact the niceness of everyone there. Our stop first included purchasing the trail ride which is set for certain times but you can pay extra for a private tour guide which we did because of the number of other visitors who showed up. 30 isn't an unmanageable amount but we wanted to ensure the girls would get more personalized attention. After seeing the cowboys (aka guides) split up the groups into smaller sizes, I realized it wouldn't have been a problem but I still liked the idea of us having our own cowboy guide. The ride was longer than expected and too long for an inexperienced little six year old. Our cowboy's name (have to call him that because it sounds better - wink) was Tyler and I can tell you that my six year old really liked him. I never saw her talk to anyone as much as she did him. He was very gracious and good with her as she started to get a bit whiny wanting to know 'how many more hours we had.' He played along with her and even noticed she needed some water so made sure she took a drink.
The scenic trail ride was full of such beauty and we took in many different views of the ranch since they had over 2000 acres. Our guide answered all of our questions and exhibited such professionalism and kind manners. He was very patient with my little ones and even offered to stop and take photographs of us experiencing this memorable trip.
Later, we tried our hands at fishing eventually retiring for the night in the cabin that was loaded with everything one would need. It was rustic yet modern and had a microwave, refrigerator, stove, coffee maker and toaster along with linens and dishes. It even had Direct TV, a VCR/DVD player and your phone would actually work. I mention this as we stayed at a cabin the night before and we had no phone service or TV. You couldn't ask for a better place than this and the price is right. There are hot tubs on each porch and a grill for a fun filled night of dinner and s'mores. Much to our surprise, we also enjoyed complimentary paddle boats, regular fishing boats, canoes, fishing poles and another area to swim that included more paddle boats and a giant inner tube looking thing that looked like it could fit around 20 people to sit, lay on or to jump off into the lake to swim. While fishing, you get the beauty of seeing free roaming horses who might even greet you as a delightful experience to my children.
Everything about Eagle Ridge is breath taking and beautiful! I've already told my friends and family that this IS the place to plan your next vacation. I have no complaints other than we had to return home as this was a stopping point on the return back. We went a little down the road to eat at a lodge and the people there were also very nice and the food was delicious with no wait. This was the perfect vacation spot and they have activities for summer and winter!
Check out Eagle Ridge in Idaho here by clicking the link.