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Books to Read Before a Visit to Paris {Guest Post by Misadventures with Andi}

Books to Read Before a Visit to Paris {Guest Post by Misadventures with Andi} | CosmosMariners.com


Books + travel = for a bibliophile with wanderlust like me, it's the perfect combination! Today, I'm super excited to hand my blog over to one of my favorite bloggers, Andi from Misadventures with Andi. She's going to be sharing a fantastic post about experiencing Paris through the written word.

I know you're in good hands, as I've been reading her blog practically since I discovered the online world of travel bloggers. Her experiences (including a year-long road trip around the U.S. last year) have been incredibly inspiring for my own travels. I hope you'll find a few new tomes to add to your must-read list!

6 Places Your Kids Will Love in Barcelona {Guest Post by Tiny Fry}


6 Places Your Kids Will Love in Barcelona {Guest Post by Tiny Fry} | CosmosMariners.com

Just as we were thinking about our 2017 travels (which includes a trip to Spain), Samara from TinyFry.com is here to share her best tips for visiting Barcelona with your favorite tiny traveler.

How to Spend 72 Incredible Hours in Germany {Guest Post by Disney in Your Day}

How to Spend 72 Incredible Hours in Germany {Guest Post by Disney in Your Day} | CosmosMariners.com

While I'm taking a bit of a maternity leave to get some snuggles with my new little one (and my preschooler, too!), I asked Becky from Disney in Your Day to share a post about her travels. While she primarily writes about her love of all things Disney--from her visits to the parks to monthly souvenir subscription boxes--Becky also shares her experiences in blogging and community theatre. I'm a fellow Disney fan, so I was so excited to meet Becky through her blog (which has quickly become one of my must-reads!).

Staying at a Hostel with Kids: What to Do to Make Your Visit Easy and Fun {Guest Post by Tripelio}

Staying at a Hostel with Kids: What to Do to Make Your Visit Easy and Fun {Guest Post by Tripelio} | CosmosMariners.com

While I'm off having fun on my sister's bachelorette party weekend (don't worry--we don't get too wild and crazy), I'm handing the blog over to Jess, the travel blogger at Tripelio.

Like many people, she makes use of hostels when she travels. Her article today takes the topic of hostels--which have a reputation for being centered around 20-something backpackers--and shows how they can be an excellent resource for traveling families.

A Walk in the Secret Bratislava {Guest Post by Girl Astray}

A Walk in the Secret Bratislava {Guest Post by Girl Astray} | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via Girl Astray}

The last (but certainly not least!) guest poster to take over the blog while I'm in Ireland is the multi-talented Karin, the travel blogger behind Girl Astray. Hailing from Slovakia, Karin traveled all over Europe, through India, parts of North America, and Southeast Asia before moving to Bogota, Colombia, to teach French at a preschool. A lover of languages, Karin began writing her blog in her native Slovak before switching to English; she also speaks Spanish and French.

Today, Karin is taking us to her home country of Slovakia to show us a lesser known sight in the 18th century city of Bratislava.

3 Hidden Gems of China {Guest Post by Karolina and Patryk}

3 Hidden Gems of China {Guest Post by Karolina and Patryk} | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via KarolinaPatryk.com}

If you love travel, you've probably considered picking up and leaving your old life behind at some point (even if it's just after a particularly bad day at work). After vacationing one weekend, that's exactly what today's guest posters did! Karolina and Patryk, who run their travel blog over at KarolinaPatryk.com, have since explored on 5 continents and live a digital nomad lifestyle, which gives them plenty of flexibility to see the world.

They're sharing their favorite three hidden gems of China today, where you can really delve into the culture and beauty of the country. Let's go!

3 Things that Ireland Spoiled for Me {Guest Post by Kung Fu Princess on the Road}

3 Things that Ireland Spoiled for Me {Guest Post by Kung Fu Princess on the Road} | CosmosMariners.com

Hey, lovely Mariners!

As my husband and I are finishing up our trip in Ireland, I've got a very appropriately-themed guest post for you today. Sabine, the blogger and martial arts lover behind Kung Fu Princess on the Road, has had some incredible experiences on the Emerald Isle; I'm happy to hand over the blog to her today so she can share how beautiful, welcoming, and safe Ireland is with you.

Hidden Philadelphia: Graffiti Pier {Guest Post by Expedition Jojo}

Hidden Philadelphia: Graffiti Pier {Guest Post by Expedition Jojo} | CosmosMariners.com

We all know how much I love an off-the-beaten-path location (like these spooky ruins in the Charleston Lowcountry), so I'm always excited to find a fellow travel blogger who likes them, too. I'm happy to welcome a new guest poster to the blog: Jojo from Expedition Jojo, another traveler who is all too happy to seek out places that most people don't know about.

Based in Philadelphia, Jojo believes in exploring locally when she's not adventuring elsewhere in the U.S. or abroad. Her guest post today showcases a gritty but beautiful part of her hometown: Philadelphia's Graffiti Pier. Read on for her take on this hidden spot in the City of Brotherly Love!

A Mostly Walkable Tour of Santiago de Cuba {Guest Post by My Gipsy Soul}

A Mostly Walkable Tour of Santiago de Cuba {Guest Post by My Gipsy Soul} | CosmosMariners.com

Thanks to today's guest poster, Sarah from My Gipsy Soul, we're headed to sunny Cuba! I know there's been a lot of buzz about the Caribbean island since the majority of travel restrictions were raised for Americans, and Sarah is here to share her experiences in Santiago de Cuba, the island nation's second largest city.

Strap on your walking shoes, and let's go see what Santiago de Cuba is all about with Sarah!

Why I Fell in Love with Bournemouth, England {Guest Post by Wanderlustric}

Why I Fell in Love with Bournemouth, England {Guest Post by Wanderlustric} | CosmosMariners.com

So, the Cosmos Mariners are headed to Ireland! As a way to let me relax a bit on the trip, I've lined up a few guest posters over the next couple of weeks. Hopefully, you'll be able to learn about some new locales, be introduced to some new and not-so-new travel bloggers, and get inspired for your next travel adventure!

As a declared Anglophile, I'm always excited to read about England (as if I needed more reasons to want to visit!), and today's guest poster was all to happy to oblige with a new locale for me. Mahika, who blogs over at Wanderlustric took a trip to Bournemouth, England, which is known for its Victorian architecture, the action packed Bournemouth Pier, and the beautiful Bounemouth Gardens.

So, let's see why this seaside town in the southwest of England captured Mahika's heart!

5 Secret Must-See Italian Locations {Guest Post by Old World New}

5 Secret Must-See Italian Locations {Guest Post by Old World New} | CosmosMariners.com

To close out my amazing roster of guest bloggers, I'm featuring one of my favorite fellow bloggers today! Addie and her blog Old World New have been an inspiration to me as I've grown as a blogger over the last year and half. 

Old World New focuses on sustainable living and is anchored by Addie's incredible style! Today, she's sharing her favorite hidden places in Italy. Who doesn't love learning more about Italy!?!

Enjoy!




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So you've managed to make your way across the globe and you're finally in Roma!  Rome, Italy - architectural capital of the world, the Pope has his own city here, and the Colosseum.  Need I say more?  

My 2011 study abroad stint in Rome led me to explore a myriad of the well-known sites, as I majored in architecture and interior design. It also allowed me to learn about a lot of places that the tourist guides don't tell you about and places where the double decker buses won't take you.  

So, after you visit the Vatican, snap pictures in the Colosseum and drool over seeing the Pantheon, make your way to these amazing Italian sights.

Calcata

5 Secret Must-See Italian Locations {Guest Post by Old World New} | CosmosMariners.com


This is a city away from the hustle and bustle of Rome - all you have to do is catch a bus, to catch a train, to catch a bus, and either walk or catch a ride a few minutes down the road in order to enter the city.  

It sounds like a lot (I nearly spazzed out because we were running late), but once you get there, all of your worries go away.  You can go hiking on a hill across from the city and end up at an overlook that frames the city perfectly, and you can explore the shops of the city while you are there.  

This trip is perfect for a full day getaway from Rome--just make sure you don’t miss that last bus back!  


Booking.com



Gallese

5 Secret Must-See Italian Locations {Guest Post by Old World New} | CosmosMariners.com

A walled city on a hill, Gallese is quite the charmer.  I was lucky to meet and dine with the mayor on a class trip there, as well as learn about the history of the city from local historians and my professors.  Depending on how you travel there, it could take anywhere from 1 hour (by car) to 4 hours (by train and bus) to get there.  


Booking.com



Villa d’Este

5 Secret Must-See Italian Locations {Guest Post by Old World New} | CosmosMariners.com

If you want to experience an extravagant palace away from the city, visit Villa d’Este.  Renaissance architecture, renaissance garden, and my favorite aspect, a water feature that runs throughout the sloped garden.  Here (link: http://www.roninrome.com/sites-and-attractions/tivoli-villa-deste) is a detailed listing of how to get to Villa d’Este on your own. 


Booking.com

Ostia Antica

5 Secret Must-See Italian Locations {Guest Post by Old World New} | CosmosMariners.com

Once a port city with stations for trading from all over the known world, Ostia Antica is a well-preserved site that hasn’t been used since the 9th century.  It was most active during the first through third centuries A.D.  Visiting today, you can see the names of shops created in tile at the market, the amphitheater and stage, walk through covered areas that housed food shops and apartments, and still see statues that stood at the entrances of homes.  For transportation, you can catch a commuter train from Rome to be transported into the ancient Roman world of Ostia Antica.  


Booking.com



Monteriggioni

5 Secret Must-See Italian Locations {Guest Post by Old World New} | CosmosMariners.com

The last place on the list is not in near Rome, but if you visit Tuscany, you must make your way to the walled city of Monteriggioni.  It is a quiet walled city that seems to be locked in time away from the rest of the world.  You scale stairs to enter the city, and once you’ve entered, you can explore the few streets that it has, and walk around the perimeter of the wall to see the view of the rolling country side.  

I purchased hand-spun wool yarn from the artisans there and I still cherish it to this day, in the form of ear warmers.  Tourism is a major source of income for many of the people in Italy, so I am glad that my purchase went toward the local economy.


Booking.com




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Cities on hills, a million bus rides away, ancient Roman ruins and a unique experience of Italy unlike the one you experience while in the big city.  Take a walk on the wild side, step away from the city for a day or more, and experience the “secret” treasures that Italy has to offer.  You can see more of my Italian travel posts at my blog here.  

Thank you to Natalie for allowing me to share my Italian secrets with you here today!

xoxo, dolls and dudes,
Addie - Old World New

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Get even more of Addie's travel tips, thrifty fashion, and sustainable lifestyle ideas here:


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12-Day Grand Tour of Italy: Rome - Sorrento - Venice - Florence - Tuscany

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How to Visit New York City with Kids {Guest Post by Peaches and Pickles}

How to Visit New York City with Kids {Guest Post by Peaches and Pickles} | CosmosMariners.com

I've never been to New York City. I saw it once from Ellis Island when we had a layover, but I've nver been to any of the Five Boroughs. Carisa from Peaches and Pickles has inspired me to bump New York City to the top of my U.S. travel list with the phenomenal time that she had with her daughter recently. 

Enjoy! 

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I have a confession...

I have not always loved New York.

When I was a kid, I really did. I spent my summers with relatives in Harlem. There are fond memories of having Mr. Swirly cones with my uncle while sitting on the stoop in front of his building, and going to the park...good times.

But then somehow, and I don't know when, I just stopped loving the city. I was disinterested in it. Crazy, right?

Well, I have recently had an opportunity to fall in love all over again, this time through the eyes of my boon companion, Miss Pickles.

NYC with kids can be a daunting task. It's big, loud, and busy. Or as Miss Pickles put it, "There's so much of....EVERYTHING!"

Fear not, travelers! Peaches &Pickles will help you navigate the Big Apple.

A few tips:
  • Plan out your day.
  • Get a New York City Pass and have pre-paid, quick entry into many sites, museums, etc. 
  • Plan for only a few hours of activities with kids- they get bored, tired and cranky and then no one is having a good time.
  • Be flexible!
  • Use Tripomatic. I must recommend this travel app, Tripomatic. With this app, you can plan your trip itinerary, change it on the fly, and estimate travel times between venues.

Our trip...
Day 1: We landed and travelled to Times Square. The M&Ms World! Today was just taking it all in... I introduced Miss Pickles to NYC pizza at Famous Original Ray's Pizza.... Yummy!!! Miss Pickles' first ride on the subway, and the Brooklyn Museum.


How to Visit New York City with Kids {Guest Post by Peaches and Pickles} | CosmosMariners.com
Times Square
Day 2: Saint Patrick's Cathedral, walking Fifth Avenue where the window shopping is almost as good as the real thing...almost! The plaza in front of Rockefeller Center had amazing Easter eggs that were on display. 
How to Visit New York City with Kids {Guest Post by Peaches and Pickles} | CosmosMariners.com

The rest of the afternoon was spent at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA for short). That evening we took on Broadway, and saw the phenomenal production of The Lion King.

Day 3: Brunch at Alice's Teacup, which is just the cutest place for scones and tea. Miss Pickles had her first try at having tea, and now loves Earl Grey, just like her momma. 

Next, we walked to Central Park, went to the Central Park Zoo, and later found our way to the Alice in Wonderland statue. We had dinner at The Loeb Boathouse followed by a walk through the park to my favorite bridge, the Bow Bridge.

Day 4: We spent the afternoon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and took a handsome cab ( a horse-drawn carriage) through Central Park. Lunch at the halal stand- the best hot dogs in the world! Then, we were onto the American Museum of Natural History, where I'd hoped to see my nerd crush, Neil deGrasse Tyson, but it turns out he was somewhere else being brilliant that day...

Day 5: We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge (www.nyc.org), spent some time DUMBO, and concluded our day at the NY Aquarium. The aquarium was still in recovery from Hurricane Sandy, but once repairs and renovations are completed, it's gonna be fantastic. After the aquarium, we sat and took in Coney Island. It was too early in the season, and therefore it was closed, but it was nice to breathe the salt air and feel the crisp early April breeze on the boardwalk.


How to Visit New York City with Kids {Guest Post by Peaches and Pickles} | CosmosMariners.com
Miss Pickles and the Brooklyn Bridge
Day 6: Top of the Rock, the observation deck on top of Rockefeller Center. They should call it the top of the world! The 360 degree views of, well, everything, are just breathtaking! The Statue of Liberty in the harbor, the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, and Central Park. A-MAZING!


How to Visit New York City with Kids {Guest Post by Peaches and Pickles} | CosmosMariners.com
Miss Pickles visiting the Alice statue in Central Park
Day 7: No visit to NYC is complete without visiting the great lady, the Statue of Liberty, and nearby Ellis Island. We once again took on Broadway, this time seeing the fantastical (yes, that's a word) production of Aladdin.

Day 8: The. World's. Greatest. Toy. Store. EVER!!!!! Of course, I'm talking about FAO Schwarz. The Hello Kitty and Barbie collections alone had me making a wish list for Mr. Claus! Sadly, FAO Schwarz closed it's doors in Manhattan in July 2015.) Lastly, we visited the Mothership, aka Macy's in Herald Square. Miss Pickles and I had many an ear splitting squeal at all the wonderful wares. And topped it all off with dinner at Stella 34 Trattoria. I thought they would have to roll us outta there!

Day 9: Sadly, we had to bring our whirlwind romance with NYC to a close. But even our cabbie was a tour guide, driving us past the United Nations.

À bientot, NYC! We love you!!

Have you been to New York City with kids (or as a kid)? What are your favorite family friendly spots in the Big Apple?
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Head on over and show Carisa some love!

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Ways to Save Money at Walt Disney World {Guest Post by Talk of the Trains}

Ways to Save Money at Walt Disney World {Guest Post by Talk of the Trains} | CosmosMariners.com


Hi, again, Mariners! Today, you're in the capable hands of Lauren from Talk of the Trains.

Lauren's been blogging since 2008 and shares everything from her amazing DIY projects to her family's travels. Below, she's sharing her best tips on how to save money on a Walt Disney World vacation. While I love Disney as much as the next person, I'm all for saving money while I'm there--after all, the more I save, the more I can travel!
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If you have ever been to Disney, you know it can be pricey. My family of five just got home from our first trip to see the Mouse and had a blast. Between the trip itself, preparations needed for the trip and then your week actually on property, it can all add up. While most Disney travelers think and plan for the extras, there are ways to save a little along the way and I wanted to share those with you today!

Ways to Save Money at Walt Disney World {Guest Post by Talk of the Trains} | CosmosMariners.com
Lauren and her family on their recent trip to Disney World
For us, shopping smart before our trip and a bit of planning paid off while we were there. Here are five ways that you can save as you plan, travel and play at Disney World.

ONE: Coordinating Clothes and Packing
Lets be honest. Everyone matches at Disney. Whether its for a family reunion, a newlywed couple or just the kids, its kind of like Disney law that you at least coordinate for a day. We saw people who had shirts made for everyday - including the drive to and the day they were leaving - and people who had attire all day and then PJ's at night! 

Ways to Save Money at Walt Disney World {Guest Post by Talk of the Trains} | CosmosMariners.comPersonalizing clothes (and purchasing them for night and day) can be cute but pricey. While I wanted my kids to match a day or two, I knew I couldn't afford to have monogrammed, embroidered, fancy outfits for every day of the week. 

The Target online clearance had a HUGE section of Disney clothes and then Walmart always has a decent selection for less. We got matching shirts for our family and I snagged the kids a few extra outfits that were on clearance...we're talking $3.50 for an Elsa shirt - which in five-year-old girl world is like winning the lottery. I put the boys in Frozen shirts too (one was $4.50 and the other $3) so for $11 they matched. They were thrilled with their new stuff and it fit the budget.



TWO: Dollar Store and Traveling
The Dollar Store always has Mickey and Minnie trinkets and we stocked the kids car to-do bags with goodies from here. 

They consisted of Mickey stickers, little Disney pencil boxes filled with crayons and pencils, coloring books and more. Totally got us in the Disney mood and my kids were happy to have new things to play with as we drove....Mommy and Daddy were happy that they had things to do and weren't asking over and over,  "if we were there yet!?" 

Also, some friends said that they have purchased toys from the Dollar Store, traveled down with them and when the kids ask to buy stuff in the park, they give them a selection of these to choose from instead. You do have to carry, hide and keep up with that, but it is a thrifty option! 
Ways to Save Money at Walt Disney World {Guest Post by Talk of the Trains} | CosmosMariners.com


THREE: Shopping In the Park? Instead Press Pennies and Trade Pins
All over Disney World are little booths that you can press pennies. They have a variety of designs in each one and my kids loved searching all over the parks for the penny pressers. We took a sleeve of quarters since each machine is around $0.50 and all the way up to $1.25 and my kids loved looking for them, choosing which one they would make and then cranking them. This saved us from going in and out of stores and having the gimmies as we made the penny pressing a game and they were so into that they didn't think anything of shopping. I think we came home with over 20 pressed pennies! 

At Disney World, all of the cast members wear a ribbon around their neck full of Disney pins. You can trade pins with them and this is lots of fun too. Since my kids were into the penny pressing, we saved this for a future trip down. They sell starter kits at Disney for around $20, but one of my Disney loving friends recommended picking up some at the Outlets and said it was cheaper there. I have not tried it, but am filing that one in the back of my brain!  


FOUR: Event Plan with Glow Sticks!
Ways to Save Money at Walt Disney World {Guest Post by Talk of the Trains} | CosmosMariners.comLots of Disney's evening events have lights, fireworks, flashing lights and more. They sell all of the glow stick paraphernalia you could ever want, but its pricey. We snagged a few from the dollar rack at Target and took them with us. The second that my kids asked for one, I pulled our cheap ones out. 

I threw a glowing necklace and bracelet on them and they had wands in each hand and were happy campers. 

FIVE: Dining - Take Food and Drink In
We were on a meal plan so we had two meals covered, but my littles always seem to be hungry or thirsty. You can carry into Disney World soft sided coolers and food and drink and so we did that to save a few bucks on all of the overpriced in park snacks. I didn't want to carry a ton, so we skipped the cooler and just threw snacks in our backpack. 

Great snack ideas include fruit pouches, individual chips, individual cereal packs, Capri Suns, granola bars, oranges, bananas, apples and gummies. I have heard that people take suckers for their kids while they are in line, so if you have antsy waiters, you may want to have a few of those on hand too! 

We also took in bottled water and then just refilled the bottles throughout the day. If you are on the dining plan and have snacks, you can use your free snack at STARBUCKS. WHAAAATTTT!?? Guess who had Starbucks for free while we were there, yup, this girl!! Thanks to the free Starbucks, taking in snacks and the bottled water trick, we spent very little on extra food and drink!

Ways to Save Money at Walt Disney World {Guest Post by Talk of the Trains} | CosmosMariners.com

I hope that helps as you plan your trip and think about ways to save and where to splurge! I am happy to answer any questions you have and I would love for you to come visit me and follow along over at Talk of the Trains! 

xoxo, 
Lauren

What's your favorite way to save money at Walt Disney World?
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Make sure to head over to Talk of the Train and show Lauren some love!

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Visiting the Black Hills of South Dakota with 2 Kids and a Baby {Guest Post by Healthy Happy Thrifty Family}

Visiting the Black Hills of South Dakota with Kids {Guest Post by Healthy Happy Thrifty Family} | CosmosMariners.com

I hope you've been enjoying the guest posters while I've been in Germany. Today, I've got another awesome blogger: Krystal from Healthy Happy Thrifty Family will be sharing her experiences traveling in South Dakota with her family.

When she's not blogging, Krystal can be found having fun with her three wonderful kids or working part-time as a college instructor.  Her spare time is filled with writing, gardening and chasing backyard chickens.
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My 6-year son had been begging to go to Mount Rushmore for years. We told him that he had to be able to name the presidents first! We finally decided to take him this year. I started researching the Black Hills area of South Dakota, and realized that there were a ton of activities in the area. 

We took a five day trip this year and plan to go back in a couple years to see the rest.  We really didn’t have time to fit everything we wanted to do into one trip!

Visiting the Black Hills of South Dakota with Kids {Guest Post by Healthy Happy Thrifty Family} | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via}

MOUNT RUSHMORE
Our most important stop was obviously Mount Rushmore.  We visited twice, once during the day and once for the evening lighting ceremony.  Admission to the National Monument is free but you do pay a small fee for parking that is valid for the year. You can come back as many times as you like during the trip!  We really enjoyed the small but really informative museum area and we hiked up the hundreds of stairs to get a closer view of the faces.  

My 6- and 4-year-olds participated in the Junior Ranger program.  There is a little activity guide to complete and they receive a badge upon completion.  If you’re going in the summer, I suggest going early in the day to find parking and enjoy in cooler temperatures.

Visiting the Black Hills of South Dakota with Kids {Guest Post by Healthy Happy Thrifty Family} | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via}

WIND CAVE NATIONAL PARK
We had a hard time deciding whether to visit Wind Cave National Park or Jewel Cave National Monument. They are both in Black Hills area.  We settled on Wind Cave because we heard that they had their own herd of bison.  And, I was determined to see a bison at some point on the trip. 

Wind Cave offers prescheduled tour times.  We signed up for a shorter tour that was about an hour long because I thought that was all that would hold our interest.   There was a small fee person for the tours.  It was a really cool tour and this particular cave has a unique boxwork formation that is very rare!  There were some tight spaces, but it was really dry inside and beautiful.  I was able to complete the whole tour with my infant in the carrier.  My kids completed the junior ranger program here as well.  


Visiting the Black Hills of South Dakota with Kids {Guest Post by Healthy Happy Thrifty Family} | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via}

 I also wasn’t disappointed in terms of bison.  We found the herd on our way out of the park!  There were probably around 50 bison with lots of calves. We’ll likely visit Jewel Cave when we return, because according to our tour guide, they’re actually very different on the inside.  These are both great choices for a rainy day, as conditions in the cave aren’t affected by rain.

Visiting the Black Hills of South Dakota with Kids {Guest Post by Healthy Happy Thrifty Family} | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via}

CUSTER STATE PARK
There is a ton of amazing scenery in this park.  You pay a fee for a multi-day pass to enter the park per vehicle. We took a swim in Sylvan Lake and hiked around it a bit.  It was serene and beautiful with large rocks protruding out of the lake.  We also drove on needles highway, with some tight corners and really amazing views and tunnels.  


Visiting the Black Hills of South Dakota with Kids {Guest Post by Healthy Happy Thrifty Family} | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via}
I was hoping to see more bison, but we didn’t find any on the loop we drove.  We did find some free range donkeys that were pretty friendly.  I could definitely spend more time here on our next trip.

Visiting the Black Hills of South Dakota with Kids {Guest Post by Healthy Happy Thrifty Family} | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via}

STORYBOOK ISLAND, RAPID CITY
This was the hit of the trip for my children.  There are scenes throughout the park that children can walk up to, play on and pose at for pictures. We happened to stumble upon their annual character day.  So in addition to all of the really cool structures, local teens were roaming around dressed as storybook characters.  They had a magic show and a really cute train ride for the kids.  Admission was free but they do ask for a donation.

I can’t wait to plan another trip to the Black Hills.  We enjoyed the friendly people and have so much more to see!

Have you been to the Black Hills?  What was your favorite attraction?


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Make sure to show Krystal some love!
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Five of the Many Reasons to Visit Natchitoches, Louisiana {Guest Post by Southern Hospitality Traveler Magazine}

Five of the Many Reasons to Visit Natchitoches, Louisiana {Guest Post by Southern Hospitality Traveler Magazine}

On my trip to Louisana a few years ago, I only broke the surface of the history, mystery, and food of the state. Apryl Chapman Thomas, who writes over at Southern Hospitality Traveler Magazine, is here to share the wonders of Natchitoches, Louisiana!
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Five of the Many Reasons to Visit Natchitoches, Louisiana {Guest Post by Southern Hospitality Traveler Magazine}
Beau Jardin

It may be the sight of Cane River Lake viewed from picturesque Beau Jardin, fun festivals, rich history or something else that travelers find enchanting about Natchitoches, Louisiana. Whatever the reason may be, it doesn't take anyone long to realize there is something special about this town.

Pronounced "Nack-a-tish," it was established in 1714 and is the oldest permanent settlement in the Louisiana Purchase. Throughout the years, Natchitoches has received numerous accolades and recognition, including Oprah Winfrey's proclamation in 2002, naming it the "best little town in the whole U.S.A. "­

Natchitoches holds the designation as "the B&B capital of Louisiana," offering well over 30 establishments for discerning travelers. It was also the setting for the 1989 movie "Steel Magnolias" as well as a few others.

While there are plenty of reasons to visit, here are five that'll appeal to every interest.

Five of the Many Reasons to Visit Natchitoches, Louisiana {Guest Post by Southern Hospitality Traveler Magazine}
Fort St. Jean Baptiste

1. The 33-block National Historic Landmark District features a mix of historic sites, homes and structures. Some of the notable points include Fort St. Jean Baptiste Historic Site, situated on Cane River Lake, with a replica of a French fort built near the original fort site. The replica was built from actual fort plans found in France.

Five of the Many Reasons to Visit Natchitoches, Louisiana {Guest Post by Southern Hospitality Traveler Magazine}
Steel Magnolia House

The Steel Magnolia House/ Herman Taylor Home is perhaps best known for its role in the movie. Opt to stay in the pink "Shelby" room, featured in the film or choose one of the other rooms named after the characters.

Located on the riverbank in downtown, adjacent to Beau Jardin, is the Roque House. Built by a freed slave around the 1800s, it is a prime example of French Creole architecture.

The shops downtown include Kaffie-Frederick General Mercantile, the state's oldest general store.

Five of the Many Reasons to Visit Natchitoches, Louisiana {Guest Post by Southern Hospitality Traveler Magazine}
Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame
2. Located within the historic district is the relatively new Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum. The architecture pays tribute to the area's rich culture.

Five of the Many Reasons to Visit Natchitoches, Louisiana {Guest Post by Southern Hospitality Traveler Magazine}
Northwest Louisiana History Museum


As for the museums themselves, the Sports Hall of Fame highlights the many athletes who have called Louisiana home. Learn more about them as well as view jerseys, memorabilia and artifacts.

The Northwest Louisiana History Museum provides an overview of the history, people and traditions that have made an impact on this part of Louisiana.

Five of the Many Reasons to Visit Natchitoches, Louisiana {Guest Post by Southern Hospitality Traveler Magazine}
Yucca House at Melrose Plantation

3. Tour plantations within Natchitoches Parish and learn more about the Creole culture. Places like Melrose Plantation, and Oakland Plantation and the Magnolia Plantation Complex, both a part of Cane River Creole National Park provides insight into the daily lives of all the residents.

Five of the Many Reasons to Visit Natchitoches, Louisiana {Guest Post by Southern Hospitality Traveler Magazine}
Meat pies

4. Like every Louisiana destination, Natchitoches doesn't disappoint when it comes to food. From meat pies from Lasyone's to étouffée at Maglieaux's on the Cane, no one leaves the town hungry.

Five of the Many Reasons to Visit Natchitoches, Louisiana {Guest Post by Southern Hospitality Traveler Magazine}

5. Celebrate the holiday season with Natchitoches Christmas Festival of Lights, the oldest holiday celebration in the state. Downtown and the riverbank take on a glow for 45 nights as 300,000 lights and animations are lit at dusk. However, that's not all. Festivities also include fireworks, special shopping hours, the annual Christmas Festival and much more.

Accessible off Interstate 49, Natchitoches is about an hour from Shreveport, and four hours from New Orleans.


Apryl Chapman Thomas is the feature writer for Southern Hospitality Traveler Magazine. Follow her on Twitter or at Instagram.
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