It's been awhile since I've been to NYC but nonetheless it is still one of my favorite cities in the world! Caleb and I took our first trip to NYC together after we graduated from Iowa State as my graduation gift to him! We were super in to naming our trips back then and called this was Graduation Exploration, ha! We had such a fun week though exploring all of NYC together and knocked all the touristy things out of the way. When we travel somewhere for the first time we love to hit all the tourist spots on that trip so that when we go back in the future we can concentrate on my local based adventures. For us personally we love the tourist hot spots...for us they are what initially get us excited to go somewhere for the first time! So if you're just like us then this quick guide is definitely for you! Here are our recommendations for all the fun things to do in NYC + some amazing places to eat & drink!
MTA aka the subway - If you are staying in NYC for longer than a couple of days we recommend getting the 7 day pass priced at $32 per person. This will get you unlimited rides on the subway and buses all throughout the city.
Walking - The other great way to get around NYC is to walk! Every block is blossoming with exciting things to see. If you walk a couple of miles instead of taking a cab or the subway you'll get to see so many more highlights in this city!
Cabs - To each their own but we don't recommend taking cabs or Ubers. They are way overpriced and the traffic all over the city is INSANE. You'll waste so much time and money going this route.
City Pass - If you are super in to museums like we are then we recommend getting the NYC City Pass. It's priced at $126 per adult and $104 per child It gets you in to the Empire State Building, American Museum of Natural History, the Met, Top of the Rock or the Guggenheim Museum, Statue of Liberty + Ellis Island or Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise, and 9/11 Memorial or Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum. We purchased this on our trip for the museums alone and the Empire State Building and the Circle Line cruise were just extra perks thanks to it! You will save 42% on admission to these places, so if you are interested in even half of them then we highly suggest going this route because you will save a ton of money. You can purchase this City Pass on their website before your trip or at any of the locations that the pass includes.
American Museum of Natural History - GA: $23 per adult, $13 per child. Open from 10am - 5:45pm daily. Highlights: hall of dinosaurs, Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda, hall of biodiversity, hall of ocean life, Great Canoe. The movie Night at the Museum was shot here.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) - GA: $25 per adult, children under 12 yrs old are free. Open 10am - 5:30 pm Sun-Thur and 10am - 9pm Fri-Sat. Highlights: Marilyn by Andy Warhol, Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze, Water Lillies by Claude Monet, By the Seashore by Auguste Renoir, Marble statue of Eirene by Kephisdotos. The Met steps outside the front of the museum are very well known and it's fun to sit here on a nice day and eat some frozen yogurt.
Guggenheim Museum - GA: $25 per adult, children under 12 yrs old are free. Open 10am - 5:45 pm daily except Thursdays they are closed. Highlights: Thannhuser collection, Brancusi collection. They always have the coolest temporary exhibits, too. The Guggenheim building was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Modern Museum of Art (MoMA) - GA: $25 per adult, children under 16 yrs old are free. Open 10am - 5:30 pm daily and open till 8pm on Fridays. Highlights: Starry Night by Vincent van Gough, Campbells Soup Cans by Andy Warhol, Girl with Ball by Roy Lichtenstein, One: Number 31 by Jackson Pollock, Girl before a Mirror by Paoblo Picasso.
Central Park - Located in Upper Manhattan. Take a walk around to all the iconic areas like The Mall, Strawberry Fields, the Zoo, and the motor boat pond. Have a picnic, read a book, go for a run, pet all the dogs!
Rockefeller Center - Located in Midtown. Go see SNL, Jimmy Fallon, or Seth Meyers. Get on the Today Show and go to the Top of the Rock (it's included in the NYC City Pass!) And of course in the winter go ice skating!
Times Square - Located in Midtown. Go see a Broadway show or all the street performers if you want to go the free route. Enjoy all the lights and if you're lucky enough to visit at New Years see the ball drop!
Brooklyn Bridge - Take a walk across this iconic bridge. Start out by taking the Subway to Brooklyn and then walk from Brooklyn to Manhattan on the bridge. You'll get some amazing views of the Manhattan skyline, a view of the Manhattan Bridge, and the Statue of Liberty.
Empire State Building - Located in Midtown. Day or night, go up to the top for some incredible views of NYC. Daytime is great for photos and night time is great for enjoying the lights. This spot is also a part of the NYC City Pass.
Where to Eat
JG Melon - 19291 3rd Ave.
The most amazing burgers you'll ever have! The bacon cheeseburger is our recommendation along with an old fashioned.
Steve's Pizza - 110 Trinity Pl
Authentic New York style pizza! Steve's serves huge slices in lower Manhattan and has great views of the hustle and bustle of the Financial District.
Tout va Bien - 311 W 51st St.
The cutest little underground French spot! Located in the Theater District, it's the perfect spot to grab some dinner before a show or walking around Times Square. The food is so delicious but the best part is the big bowl of sangria that they bring you for free at the end of your meal! Cheers!
Laudree - 864 Madison Ave
The best macarons...EVER. Grab a big box of these delicious little cookies and walk around Central Park. This French bakery is so iconic and a must visit while you're wandering around the Upper East Side.
For all of my NYC recommendations visit my New York City Guide!
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Walt Disney World is probably our favorite place in the world. We've gone the last two years to celebrate our anniversary and have learned a few tricks along the way to make our vacations there so special. One of the ways that made our trip last year 100x better than the year before was thanks to staying at a WDW resort. Staying on property has so many perks to it, it's insane. We didn't know any of this when we planned our first trip, but man do I wish we did know! So I'm here today to share with you all the extras you get if you decide to stay at a WDW resort.
Disney Magical Express
If you book your trip through Disney and stay at a resort on property, you will have the option to take the free shuttle bus from the airport to Walt Disney World. Disney makes all of it so easy for you! They send you luggage tags in the mail, you put them on your bags prior to checking them in at your departing airport, and Disney gets your bags for you at Orlando International Airport. You just get off the plane and make your way to the Disney Magical Express area of the airport and get on the bus. You get to watch some Disney videos and sit back and relax after your flight. The bus brings you right to your hotel where they also drop your bags off for you in your room whenever it's ready! Then at the end of your trip, same thing. You check your bags at your resort and get on the bus at your designated time to go back to the airport. Disney checks your bags in for you at the airport and you pick them up when you arrive at your final destination.
You get your Magicbands for free if you stay at a Disney resort! The Magicbands act as your room key, ticket in to parks, your way to buy food from your dining plan, and your credit card to buy goodies all over WDW.
Book Your FastPasses 60 Days in Advance
When you stay on property, you can book your 3 daily Fastpasses 60 days in advanced compared to 30 days if you're not staying on property. This is a huge advantage if you are planning on going on rides like Flight of Passage at Animal Kingdom, Frozen Ever After at Epcot, and Peter Pan's Flight at Magic Kingdom. You probably won't get a Fastpass for these rides if you don't book them 60 days in advance and will end up waiting in a 2+ hour line to ride them!
The Disney dining plans are about the best thing ever. There are 3 different levels - quick service, dining, and deluxe dining. You have to stay at a resort to take advantage of having a dining plan and I promise it makes your trip 1000x better. All your food is paid for ahead of time (even snacks!) so all you have to do is scan your magicband wherever you're eating and depending on the kind of restaurant or food stand you're at, it gets deducted from your plan. But like I said, you have to stay at a resort to get this perk!
Free Mini Golf
Disney will send you a couple rounds of free mini golf for your whole group when you book a room at a resort! You can go to any of the golf ranges on property that has mini golf and play for free before 4pm! This is one of the great ways to take a small break from the parks.
Extra Magic Hours
Resort guests get to spend extra time in the parks! It's a different park every day and sometimes its prior to the park's official opening time or after its closing time. You can go on all the rides in the park and some food places will be open during the extra magic hours, too.
If you chose to drive to Disney or rent a car for your trip, you get to park for free at all the parks. You can come and go as you please and park hop and not have to pay a bunch of money to park at each park!
So as you can see, there are a lot of reasons why staying at a WDW resort is so worth it, but most of all each one is so unique and fun. There is a price point for every one and when you book a complete vacation package with Disney it truly is just that, a complete vacation. From the time you check your bags at the airport to the time you arrive home, Disney takes care of you.
What is your favorite Disney resort!? Mine is definitely the Polynesian...I love that I can get dole whips all day every day when we stay there!
Location: Toledo, OH, USA
Happy 4th of July friends! I hope you're celebrating our beautiful country with wonderful friends and family with all the fireworks and BBQs today! We're planning on spending a relaxing day with our family and BBQing later tonight for dinner. Kai Bear goes to bed before all the fireworks start so those will have to wait for next year. Always something to look forward to though!
At the beginning of last month, we took our first road trip with Kai and it was for our family reunion that was in Toledo, OH. Toledo is where my dad grew up and the last two years we've been having family reunions with our entire Karavida side of the family. They have been so much fun reuniting with our family and meeting new family members each year! Our family is so big and spread out all over the country that there are actually members that I've never met before so it has been so wonderful to bring everyone together to create bonds with these family members as well as make new memories with all my amazing cousins.
We drove out on a Friday afternoon. Kai did fairly well in the car for it being his first road trip. It got a little sick of the drive around the half way mark but who can blame him!? Five hours in a car seat would be annoying for anyone but it was nothing a little bit of me crawling in to the back seat and entertaining him for awhile couldn't fix. Once we finally arrived in Toledo and got all checked in to our hotel (we stayed at the Radisson at the University of Toledo and we highly recommend it!), we headed out to dinner with some of our family at my favorite spot in all of Toledo, Shorty's True American Roadhouse. This place is so good you guys. We have to eat there every time we visit. They have the most yummy corn bread you can possibly imagine. We discovered that they use cake batter to make it, so no wonder it's so delicious!
The next day was reunion day! The shindig didn't start until the afternoon and now that we're early risers thanks to Kai, we got up early and made our way to downtown Toledo to spend some time just the 3 of us that morning. We drove around and got some Starbucks then hit up the Toledo Farmer's Market in search of some breakfast. While we didn't find any pastry stands we did find the coolest food truck called Big C's BBQ. Caleb got a pulled pork parfait that had pork, mashed potatoes, and gravy in it and I got BBQ nachos. All of it was SO GOOD! We walked around the market for a little bit too and I got some amazing soy candles from Heaven's Gate Soy Candles as well as some all natural bug repellent to use on Kai and even Wrigley!
After our morning downtown, we headed over to my aunt and uncle's house for the reunion. We just enjoyed spending time catching up with family and reminiscing about great times in the past. I truly cherish these events and hope they stay an annual thing! I'm so glad Kai's first little trip was spent with family and full of so much love.
What was your first family trip you took with your little one(s)? I'd love to know! Leave me a comment and tell me your story! Hope you all have a great 4th!
The great natural wonder of the world known as Niagara Falls is located in Ontario, Canada and New York, USA. The Falls and the Niagara River create the border of the USA and Canada and can be seen from both countries. The more scenic side of The Falls is located on the Canadian side. We visited The Falls by driving there from Chicago. We crossed the border in to Canada through Detroit, MI, USA and drove through Canada, which is approximately an 8 hour drive + border crossing time. The other road trip route that can be taken is to continue on 1-80 E and enter Canada on the Rainbow Bridge in New York, USA, which is about a 9 hour drive + border crossing time. The other option is flying in to the Buffalo/Niagara Airport in Buffalo, NY, USA.
There are 4 bridges that will get you across the Niagara River to and from Canada and the US near The Falls.
This bridge is located north of The Falls near the Butterfly Conservatory and Floral Clock in the Niagara Park on the Canadian side. This bridge experiences less border crossing traffic during the day.
This bridge is the famous Niagara Falls bridge that goes through The Falls. You are also able to walk across this bridge for spectacular views of The Falls over the river. Border crossing times can sometimes be high for this bridge as it is the most popular one in the area.
This bridge is located north of The Falls but is a Nexus Only bridge. Do not attempt to cross this bridge unless you have a NEXUS card.
This bridge is located south of The Falls. This bridge experiences less border crossing traffic during the day.
To see live border crossing times visit the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission.
Best Sites to See in Niagara
Obviously the main reason to go to Niagara is the see Niagara Falls. The more scenic side of The Falls is on the Canadian side and from that view you can imagine what the New York side would be. However, if you are in the US and do not have time to cross the border or do not have a passport to get in to Canada, then the NY side will still do the trick as The Falls are spectacular no matter what.
Walk Across the Rainbow Bridge
For 50 cents a person, you can walk across the Rainbow Bridge and get to see The Falls from both sides of the river + be directly over the river in the process. How cool is that!? Don't forget your passport though because you need it to actually get off the bridge on both sides.
Maid of the Mist
Take a ride on the famous Maid of the Mist where you ride in a boat on the Niagara River right through The Falls. Don't forget your rain poncho though as you get soaking wet on this adventure.
Visit the Floral Clock in the Niagara Park on the Canadian side. It is one of the most visited attractions in all of Canada every year!
The Botanical Garden is located in the Niagara Park on the Canadian side, as well. Take a stroll through the beautiful garden as a nice break from the hectiness near The Falls.
Clifton Hill is like the Las Vegas Blvd of Niagara Falls. You can find everything bigger and better on this street. You can visit Ripley's Believe It or Not, the Guiness Book of World Records, tons of shops, restaurants, and lots and lots of lights at night
Things to do in Niagara
The Niagara Wine Region is quite incredible. There are 100s of wineries to choose from and many of them have tasting rooms. Each side of The Falls has plenty to offer with the USA side having what they call The Niagara Wine Trail and the Canadian side being called the Ontario Wine Country.
There are plenty of trails on the Canadian side to walk along the river but to experience some great hikes it is best to venture over to the American side and go to the Niagara State Park. Go for a hike in the Devils Hole State Park for some of the best views of the area.
Visit Niagara-on the-Lake
This quaint town is something that you don't want to miss. You'll discover some of the cutest shops you'll ever find and some of the best eats in this little town. Plus Queens Royal Park is right on Lake Ontario and a wonderful place to spend an afternoon relaxing.
Where to Eat
Il Gelato di Carlotta
This gelato is incredible! This shop is located in Niagara-on-the-Lake and is perfect for an afternoon snack lakeside. Try the pistachio or strawberry and you won't be disappointed.
Stromboli's Pizza Ltd.
A little pizza shop located in St. Catharines. Get the pizza combo for a ton of food and remember that if you order bacon on your pizza that you're in Canada...and it's not their fault ;)
This bakery/gelato shop is located in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Grab some breakfast here in the morning and some treats or gelato for a snack in the afternoon. We highly suggest their chocolate strawberry crepe and pasteries in the morning and some macarons in the afternoon.
Lococo's Fruit and Veggies
Grab some groceries at this fruit and vegetable store to have a picnic. A couple of perfect spots are right across from Niagara Falls on any of the lawn areas right on Niagara Parkway or in Queens Royal Park on Lake Ontario in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
This cafe is located in St. Catharines and is the perfect spot to grab a quick cup of coffee and a breakfast sandwich to start out a morning. Whether you grab and go while you're heading out of town on your last day or for a quick stop before you do a full day of exploring the area, their breakfast sandwiches are delicious.
Where to Stay
This gorgeous B&B is located in St. Catherines in Ontario, CAN. It is a dog friendly B&B. Their hospitality is mind blowingly wonderful and the house itself is gorgeous. Make reservations on their site here.
Any of the B&Bs in Niagara-on-the-Lake seem incredible. They are all located within walking distance of the main street and Lake Ontario.
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Woo sorry I've been a little MIA this week friends, we had a quite the week. We had a minor health scare with Wrigley and I'm not going to lie, I've been kind of a mess. He started acting very strange yesterday morning, so we quickly made an appointment with our vet. Thankfully after a thorough exam, it's been narrowed down to some kind of sprained muscle in his abdomen or back. He's on pain meds and already seems to be better. It was a very scary experience though because he's always been a very healthy pup. Please keep him in your prayers and send him some good vibes to heal up quickly!
On to happier things though...like trips to Disney! I know from experience that all the things Walt Disney World has to offer can be overwhelming sometimes. They try to make your life easier by having all these perks but sometimes it is just too much if you've never been before or taken advantage of them. Well, I promise you, all the things that WDW offers to vacation goers really does make your life so much easier and ensures you will have the best time ever! There's a lot that goes in to an amazing Disney vacation but today I'm going to break down the travel logistics of getting to Walt Disney World by plane and how to get around WDW.
Disney Magical Express
If you're flying in to Orlando, take advantage of the Disney Magical Express. It is a bus shuttle service that takes you from MCO airport to your WDW resort. The best part about it though is, it's free! No other shuttle/transportation service in the Orlando area is free to other hotels, so for us this is a huge perk and a way to save some cash. This also eliminates needing to rent a car. Sometimes a car is worth it if you want to go explore other parts of Central Florida, but if you are strictly doing Disney, then the Magical Express is the way to go. An added perk for us now is not needing to bring a car seat for Kai, too, since we would just be on the bus with him! The bus picks you up right at the bus depot at the airport and drops you off at your hotel. They also grab all your checked luggage for you from baggage claim, too! So you can get off the plane and go straight to the bus, not having to worry about waiting for your bags. When you book your Disney vacation and if you select using the Magical Express, Disney will mail you luggage tags to put on your bags so that the service knows to grab those bags at baggage claim. Disney will then deliver your bags to your room at your hotel. It's a very similar process for going home, too. You check your bags in at your resort when you're checking out of your room and Disney will bring them to the airport and check them in for you with your airline. You catch the bus at your resort at your designated time that Disney will give you via a slip of paper with your check out information for your room. It's usually around 3 to 4 hours prior to your departure time. The bus drops you off at the airport and you're on your way home. For any additional carry on items you want for your plane ride home, you can just leave them at the concierge desk and get them before you leave for the airport on the bus.
The only downside to this is you will need to pack anything you need for your first day at the parks in your carry on bag. I don't like to wear shorts on airplanes because I get cold, so I pack my outfit for the day and anything else I need for the parks in my backpack that I plan on using at the parks. I use that as my carry on with any additional items I want for the plane. When we get to our resort, I either empty those plane extras out in to our room or leave them at the concierge desk to get later if our room isn't ready yet and get them after we get back from the parks. I personally feel like this is a very minor downside to all the convenience Disney is giving you otherwise.
Disney Ground Transportation
I'm just going to come right out and say this, please don't drive from park to park. You'll waste so much time getting to your car in the parking lots and driving around the resort to another park. The best way to hop from park to park and back to your hotel is by using Disney's bus system. You can catch a bus to all 4 parks, both water parks, and Disney Springs from every resort and every park. So if you start at your resort and you want to go to Magic Kingdom, just go to your bus depot and catch the MK bus. Then if you want to hop over to Animal Kingdom, you can catch a bus to AK at the MK bus depot. Then to get back to your resort you would just simply catch a bus back to your resort from the AK bus depot. Pretty simple right? The buses start picking up for the parks about an hour before they open and run for about an hour after the parks close. Buses to Disney Springs start at 4pm and run till about 3am. The only thing to keep in mind is you can't get buses that go from resort to resort. So if you have a dining reservation at a different resort than the one you are staying at, then you will need to take a bus to a park and then catch another bus to the resort you are dining at or want to visit. I'm not going to sugar coat it, the buses can sometimes take awhile. Plan on about 45 minutes to an hour one way for waiting for the buses to come and driving to wherever you're trying to get to. It is still better than driving around in a car though!
The easiest way to get around Disney though is by using the Monorail. The Monorail stops at 3 resorts, the Contemporary, Polynesian, and Grand Floridian and goes to Magic Kingdom and Epcot. It is fast and fun. It goes around the lake and has some amazing views while you ride it. This is the best way to get to those 3 resorts from MK and Epcot, which I highly recommend checking them out because they have some of the best restaurants, spas, and things to do outside of the parks. The Monorail will also take you to the MK and Epcot parking lots. There is also the option to take the ferry across the lake, but from experience, the Monorail is much faster.
If you must drive, here is all you need to know about parking. Disney has recently decided to start charging guests for overnight parking. For budget hotels it is $13 per night, moderate hotels it is $19 per night, and deluxe hotels it is $24 per night. It is still free to park at the parks during the day for resort guests. Standard parking for non-resort park goers is $22 per day and $45 for preferred parking. Parking at Disney Springs and ESPN Wide World of Sports is free all day.
That about covers all your transpo options for a vacation at Walt Disney World! When is your next trip to Disney? I'd love to hear about it, so leave me a comment below!
I’m Diana; curator & author of Tiny Dapper Fox. Here you’ll find posts on motherhood, home life, travel, & fashion/beauty as well as City Guides for places all around the world. Make yourself cozy and let’s be friends!
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