A visit to see the Biltmore Estate was on my list for years and I was really excited when we were invited to experience what the Biltmore offered for families during a weekend stay. The Biltmore also happened to be the last destination that my mom was able to visit before she died. She absolutely LOVED her visit there and her face would light up when she would talk about it. I knew that I wanted to experience and get a sense of why it was such a special experience for her.
El Paso, Texas is ones of those cities that I instantly fell in love with. The landscape is so different from what I see in the Midwest and yet it had a few similarities. I live in a Tri-State area where it is common to cross state borders daily and El Paso’s location is a Tri-city with access to both New Mexico and Juarez, Mexico. It almost feels like it’s own distinct place because the landscape is so different from the flatter parts of the Texas.
When you visit the Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville, make sure that you take advantage of the 30 minute guided historic walking tour at Churchill Downs that is included with your admission.
I absolutely LOVED my visit to Annapolis, Maryland. There are sooooo many reasons why it’s a city that I want to bring my family back to. It’s a city that appeals to all of your senses. Beautiful historic buildings that provide architectural eye candy in every direction, a walkable downtown that makes it almost feel like a small town, a city rich in history and tradition, and a wonderful culinary scene located in close proximity to the water.
Living in a house of boys, I knew of Canton, Ohio because of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but I honestly didn’t know much about what else the city had to offer. To my surprise, Canton can be a great destination even if you are not into football.
There is SO MUCH to do in the city of New Orleans and it can be intimidating to know where to start, where to go, what to do, and where to eat…especially if you have a limited amount of time to try to cram everything in. That’s why I asked a New Orleans local to share insider tips to help you make the most out of your next visit to The Big Easy.
Unapologetically Cajun. Those two words sum up what it’s like to experience Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou. The people there know who they are, they know where they come from and they are proud of it… not in an arrogant way, but in a way that exudes authenticity. Life revolving around the Bayou has not changed in many ways and yet the area continues to grow and evolves as more people become interested in becoming part of its story in the type of community that really knows its neighbors.
Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill has been a popular tourist destination for generations of families. In fact, I remember visits to Shaker Village from my childhood. As an adult, I got to experience a visit with a fresh perspective and appreciation. One of the first things you will notice when you step on the property is how peaceful it is there. It looks like an old New England town with 34 of the 260 original structures still on the property. The road between the buildings was once the main road that took travelers to Lexington into the 1970’s. Shaker Village has become a recent Discovery Destination because of all of the hands on engagement opportunities available to visitors.
So who were the Shakers?
The Shakers were America’s largest and best known 19th century communal society. A small group of them came to Central Kentucky in 1805, and on a small farm near Harrodsburg they started a community called Pleasant Hill. By 1823 it had grown to Shakers and 4500 acres.
I learned several interesting things about the Shakers during my visit. They were a celibate community which is why the community died out over time but they were not opposed to alcohol. At the peak of it’s day there were around 6,000 members. 3/4 of the kids in the community eventually left. They received an 8th grade education and a trade. The Shakers believed that their work was worship and were known for their quality craftsmanship. They were also known for their quality livestock, packaged seeds (which they invented) medicinal herbs, and brooms (they sold about 50,000 brooms a year).The name “Shaker” was a description of how they moved during their services. Their official name was “United Society of Believer’s in Christ’s 2nd Coming.” They were progressive for their time because they believed in gender and racial equality. They also avoided a lot of epidemics because they were so clean and lived on average 20-30 years longer.
Make sure that you don’t leave the property without enjoying a meal. The farm to table restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you have never tried the lemon pie, I would highly recommend it. They still use the original Shaker recipe and it’s unlike any lemon pie I’ve ever had before. It’s made with the entire lemon rind and has no seeds. While you are dining, take note of the pegs in every room. The Shakers were very practical in their simplicity and the pegs offered a lot of solutions for keeping areas clean and tidy. They could even adjust the light in a room by adjusting their candleholder up or down on the peg.
While you are on the property, there are several buildings to explore. I encourage you to ask lots of questions when you encounter a historical reenactor. It is also a good idea to get a schedule of activities going on that day so that you don’t miss any of the hands on demonstrations, performances, or tours.
If you are looking for a unique gift to remember your visit, there are two areas on the property where you can purchase gifts.
That afternoon we took a tour of the property by hayride. We enjoyed a Bourbon Mulled cider, gorgeous scenery, an education on communal farming, and a beautiful Kentucky sunset.
That evening we took a candlelight tour led by visitor engagement coordinator, Elsa Wachter. This experience gave us a unique perspective and the opportunity to ask as many questions as we could think of. She was a wealth of information and made the tour very interesting.
That evening, I stayed overnight on the third floor of the Trustees’ office which gave me a nice view of the other buildings. My room had a Keurig, private bathroom, and television. I decided to stay partially unplugged by keeping my tv turned off that evening. I really enjoyed the quiet. There are 72 overnight guest rooms throughout the village. If you have younger kids, you might want one of the options that is more private. There are some buildings where you could be the only guests.
The following day, I took a few final views of the grounds before we departed.
I was sad to leave this charming destination but I definitely want to come back again to try out some of their more unique adventures that Shaker Village offers like the GLOW Paddle. I really want to try their Paddle + Yoga Weekends too. Shaker Village offers lots of opportunities to connect and explore for ages young and old year round. You can find out more for planning your visit to the 3,000 acre Shaker Village by visiting their website.
Athens, Ohio has been described to me as a hippy college community where many students fall in love with the area so much that they end up staying. In fact, many adults love the vitality of being around the college atmosphere even if they were never alumni themselves. Located in southeastern Ohio along the Hocking River, Athens is surrounded by beautiful mountainous scenery with access to incredible hiking at nearby Hocking Hills along with a community that has maintained a passion for serving up locally served food long before it was trendy.
Nelsonville, Ohio may be a small town but there are many reasons for travelers to stop and explore. If you are visiting the Athens area you will want to allow some extra time to stop by this destination located about 20 minutes away.