A Weekend Trip in Springfield, Missouri

*This trip was sponsored in full by the Ramada Oasis and Springfield Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. All opinions expressed are my own.

A few weeks ago, I was presented with a unique opportunity to become a weekend tourist in Springfield, Missouri- an area that is often too close to home to consider for a vacation or weekend getaway. Springfield is the closest city to me (about a 45 minute drive), and we visit frequently- but when we do, our days and evenings are filled with gymnastic meets, basketball and volleyball games, and more boring things like medical appointments and grocery shopping.

It has been a while since my hectic life and work schedule has allowed me to enjoy some of the more leisurely activities that Springfield hasto offer, so I was really excited to visit some familiar places, along with exploring new ones!

Five bloggers attended the event- Stefany from To Be Thode, Bobbi from Living in Retrospect, Fawn from Instead of the Dishes, Erin from Humble Hardy Happenings, and myself. Our host for the weekend was the lovely Susan Wade from the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.  Susan planned a weekend packed full of delicious food and artsy activities.

This post is written as an overview of the weekend, but I will be expanding on several of the stops in the coming weeks.

 

Ramada Oasis

 

Our luxurious accommodations were provided the Ramada Oasis.  It was such a neat and quirky hotel!  It was originally the largest Howard Johnson motel, but has been turned into a hotel that could not be named more appropriately.  The rooms all have a patio overlooking the atrium, which was full of fountains, palm trees, and the pool area.

We began our adventure with a meet and greet dinner at the Fire and Ice restaurant, which is located in the Ramada Oasis.

2016-01-23 10.03.44

We got up bright and early on Saturday morning to enjoy breakfast at the hotel, then headed to Creative Escapes Glass to create suncatchers.  I’ll admit, my creative juices are far from flowing at 9:00 a.m., so I was a bit unsure of what to create.  The technique is great for beginners, and Rebekah taught us exactly how to layer, cut, and secure the glass to make the patterns we wanted.

Once we got started, we had a lot of fun.  I would recommend it especially to groups of friends looking for something a little different and crafty to do for girls night.  Projects start at just $12 and can take as little as two hours to create, so there’s something for almost every budget and schedule.

Creative Escapes

12642703_1290993267595562_2043136669925161058_n

Photo by Susan Wade

I was a bit nervous as to how mine would turn out.  I wanted it to match my kitchen and display a lot of light, so I went with large and bold pieces.  (Have you seen my modern retro farmhouse kitchen?)  I had nothing to worry about- it turned out great!

After we left Creative Escapes, we headed on over to Springfield Hot Glass to watch a glass blowing demonstration and look over their beautiful creations.  Although both, Springfield Hot Glass and Creative Escapes, are focused on glass art, the techniques are so different that each visit was a truly unique experience. Springfield Hot Glass does offer individual classes, but it is a much more labor intensive and time consuming process.  I recommend swinging by and watching a demonstration, it is a truly mesmerizing process.

Springfield Hot Glass

 

 

We headed over to Relics Antique Mall to do a little shopping and enjoy lunch in their tea room.   I had no idea how large the store was!  We spent the better part of an hour and a half browsing and didn’t even make it through half of the store.  We were joined for lunch in the tea room by the owners, Beverly and Matthew Robb, along with the mayor of Springfield, Bob Stephens.

The tea room was very busy, and after we ate, I learned why.  The food was spectacular!  Most of us tried the locally famous Chicken Waldorf Sandwich, and we all ordered dessert.  I indulged in the Lemon Berry Mascarpone cake, which is already tempting me to make a return trip.

Relics Waldorf Chicken Salad

 

While we waited on our desserts, we walked over to see the event center that was debuted last fall.  It was decorated for a wedding show, and it was a beautiful space for any event.

Relics Flea Market

 

After lunch and shopping, we made a quick stop at the Springfield Art Museum, then headed on over to Askinosie Chocolate, where we lucked out and had a chance to talk to Shawn Askinosie, a former defense attorney turned chocolatier, about his products and truly unique mission.

Askinose Chocolate

Askinosie Chocolate is a direct trade company that is highly involved with the farmers and decision making. Chocolate is sourced from four countries: Honduras, Ecuador, Philippines, and Tanzania- each with a highly distinct taste.  Profits are  shared with communities to help create sustainable resources, such as lunch programs in areas stricken with malnutrition.

We then headed back into downtown to tour Hotel Vandivort, which is a newly opened boutique hotel located in the old Vandivort Theater.  The hotel was nothing short of spectacular, with intricate attention to detail and highly knowledgeable staff.

We followed with dinner at the newly opened Civil Kitchen and Taproom (due to the lighting, I was unable to get a clear picture of my dinenr), which was fabulous!  Being a new restaurant, they were experiencing an unexpected crowd due to some local events in town, so a few mistakes were made early on during our visit, but they were promptly remedied by a fabulous and hilarious server who more than made up for the mishaps.  I highly recommend stopping in if you are looking for delicious and unique foods and desserts.

Hurts Doughnut

 

Of course, no visit to Springfield is complete without a stop by Hurts Donut, which we indulged in on Sunday morning.  As you can see, I grabbed a half dozen to bring home to the kids!

Fantastic Caverns

From there, we headed to Fantastic Caverns, America’s only ride through cave, located just outside of town.  I was very excited to take a tour that wasn’t as a field trip chaperone, so that I could focus on the story being told, along with hearing some new, darker tales of the cave’s history such as the cave’s strong presence during prohibition.  The most fascinating is that the cave was originally explored by 12 female members of a local athletic club who answered a newspaper ad asking for explorers.

We decided to finish up our trip with lunch at the Aviary, which was fabulous, as always.  My photos didn’t do the food justice, so some things are better left to dream of.  We visited the location at Farmer’s Park, which I had never been to before.  I was delighted to see that they now have a patisserie!

It’s not often that I get to step back and enjoy the local attractions and destinations, especially with such a gracious and knowledgeable guide.  Not only did I get some time to relax and view some of the finest the city has to offer, I gained several new friendships.  I look forward to sharing more local destinations and in-depth stories in the future!

 

 

 

Colorado Vacation: Royal Gorge Bridge and Park

When we were planning our trip to Colorado, many people recommended that we visit the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park.  It was a bit off of the path we had decided on traveling, which almost caused us to skip it. I can speak for everyone when I say that we are so glad we didn’t skip it!royal gorge

Hanging high above Colorado’s wild Arkansas River, the Royal Gorge Bridge is America’s highest suspension bridge and a legendary feat of engineering renowned the world over.   Built in 1929 for $350,000, the cost today would easily exceed $20 million.   It was a world wonder then and still is today.  For those who venture across it, whether walking or driving, the experience is priceless.

The journey up the mountain to the park was along quiet and narrow, winding roads.  Most of the trees and plants were destroyed in the fire.  Once we reached the top, the road opened into a parking lot filled with hundreds of cars.

royal gorge visitor center

Royal Gorge Visitor Center

 

 

The Visitor’s Center is huge, clean, and packed full of cute and unique souvenirs.  There are large screens showing the history of the bridge, along with updates on the recent fire. There is a nice cafe adjacent to the Visitor’s Center that has some amazing gourmet sandwiches.

Royal Gorge Gondola

Royal Gorge Gondola

 

The Visitor’s Center opens almost directly onto the bridge.  General admission includes unlimited gondola rides across the gorge.  A gondola is a small car that travels across the Royal Gorge via a cable.  Each car holds approximately 6 people and is filled with windows so that you can view the Arkansas River- 956 feet below.

I’m not usually scared of heights, but I am often considered the scaredy cat of our family.  I tend to do nothing dangerous, but decided that I was going to step outside of my comfort zone for this trip. The gondola was one of my favorite stops of the entire vacation.

Royal Gorge Zipline

Royal Gorge Zipline

My guys are fearless and my daughter is a bit more cautions, but she will try almost anything once.  While my daughter was too light to ride the zipline, my husband and son anxiously exited the gondola and got in line to ride the zipline back across.  The zipline is taller than the gondola cables, and it takes you back across the entire gorge.  They really enjoyed it and thought that would be the adrenaline rush of the afternoon- boy, were they wrong!

Royal Gorge Skycoaster

Royal Gorge Skycoaster

There is also a Skycoaster, which they thought would be a mild ride in comparison to ziplining across.  In fact, I had to convince them to give it a shot.  Up to 3 people lay on their stomachs in a harness.  They are hoisted 100 feet in the air and then dropped into a free fall to swing out over the Royal Gorge at up to 50MPH.  Needless to say, when they were finished with the ride, they were begging to go again.  My husband admitted that it was one of the scariest rides he’s ever been on.

I am so glad that we decided to visit the Royal Gorge, and it’s on our list of places to visit on our return trip.  At first glance, it doesn’t seem like a budget friendly stop for a large family, but we spent all afternoon there and practically had to drag ourselves out at closing time.

Click here more information on the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park

*We received a family pack of tickets to the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.

 

Legoland Discovery Center KC Discount Coupon

While you’re planning your Kansas City trip, make sure to allow time to visit Legoland.  It’s perfect for kids ranging in age from 3-10, but all Lego lovers will enjoy it.  We plan on taking a trip this summer and will post a full review afterwards.  I’ve also got a $3 discount coupon for you guys!

Explore LEGOLAND Discovery Center Kansas City, the ultimate indoor playground for kids ages 3-10 who are the biggest fans of LEGO! LEGOLAND Discovery Center Kansas City is one of Kansas City’s best attractions for kids! Reach out and touch the stars in our 4D cinema, build the fastest car in Build & Test, save the princess at Kingdom Quest Laser Ride, or have the ultimate LEGO birthday party. Plan your family visit and jump into the biggest box of LEGO bricks!

Have you been to Legoland?  Do you have any tips for us?

CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR COUPON

Visit SEA LIFE Aquarium in Kansas City and Save $5 Per Admission

SeaLife Aquarium

The Kansas City area offers some great family friendly attractions.  One of those attractions that my family will be visiting this summer is the SEA LIFE Aquarium.  I’ll be doing a full review after our visit, but if you’d like to make arrangements for your family to visit, I’ve got a $5 admission coupon for you!  

SEA LIFE Kansas City Aquarium will transport you into the amazing underwater world. Come nose to nose with sharks and prepare for astonishingly close views of everything from humble starfish and seahorses to graceful rays. To get any closer you’d have to get wet! Are you a Shark lover or Seahorse fanatic? Perhaps it’s the graceful rays or the clever Octopus that you love the most. Maybe you simply can’t decide! Here at SEA LIFE Kansas City you can make up your mind and see them all – from the curious and the rescued to the rare and the enigmatic. And you’ll be able to get closer to them than ever before.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE AND GET YOUR COUPON

Fun at Copper Mountain + Save up to $20 on Summer Activity Pass

Searching for vacation destinations can be tricky when you have a toddler and teenagers.  Copper Mountain in Colorado Springs has made it onto our list to visit this summer!  They offer plenty of activities in the village that will keep everyone occupied.

In addition to the beautiful scenery and close proximity to local attractions, Copper Mountain also offers activity passes for the following:

  • Bungee
  • Go-kart
  • Zip-line
  • Mini golf
  • Hydro bike
  • Bike haul
  • Diggler
  • Scenic chair
  • Bumper boats
  • Climbing wall

They are currently offering my readers a coupon to save $10 on a Summer Activity Day Pass or $20 on a Season Pass ($49-$109).  Click here to get the coupon.

Save $3 at All 8 Ripley’s Attractions in Gatlinburg- Perfect for Your Smoky Mountain Road Trip

We’ve been gathering suggestions for some summer trips, and the Smoky Mountains was one of the most suggested ones!

Gatlinburg has many attractions, but I had no idea that there were EIGHT different Ripley’s attractions there.  My kids are going to love visiting them all when we schedule our trip.

Experience eight unique attractions including Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium, our 85,000 sq ft Aquarium of the Smokies, a 5D Moving Theater, our bone-chilling Haunted Adventure, the mind-bending Marvelous Mirror Maze, and our two fully themed mini-golf courses!

They’ve extended a $3 discount on all adult admission tickets ($2 on each child’s ticket) when you order online and use the coupon code: USFAMILYGUIDE

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE RIPLEY’S ATTRACTIONS

2015 National Park Admission Days

National Park Free DAys

The National Parks system charges admission to over 130 of the parks. In 2015, the admission fees will be waived for the following dates:

  • January 19
    Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • February 14-16
    Presidents Day weekend
  • April 18-19
    opening weekend of National Park Week
  • August 25
    National Park Service Birthday
  • September 26
    National Public Lands Day
  • November 11
    Veterans Day

To learn more about the parks system or to locate a park near you click here: US National Parks

Missouri Day Trips: Warm Springs Ranch

DSC_0905 (2)

Located on the outskirts of Boonville, Missouri is Warm Springs Ranch, the breeding facility for the Budweiser Clydesdales.  I was invited to participate in their media day, which just so happened to fall over Spring Break.  The kids, especially Katie- the horse lover, were very excited to attend- so excited, in fact, that when we woke up to a blustery 30 degree forecast, we packed up and headed out to Warm Springs Ranch anyways!

We went on the VIP tour, which included taking a tractor and wagon through various pens, including a hands on stop with the mommas and their new babies!

DSC_0843The wagon ride was frigid, to say the least, so we had to cut it short, but not before we got to see the foal that was featured in this year’s Super Bowl commercial.

The first stop in our indoor tour was the breeding room, which doubles as a bar for a free beer tasting at the end of the tour.  A mare’s desire for breeding is determined by parading a ‘teaser’ stallion around their pen.  If a mare shows interest, she is then brought to the breeding room.  A different, more enthusiastic stallion is paired with her and brought to the room… a little bait and switch.

DSC_0960

The horses are cleaned regularly, on cold days they are vacuumed instead of washed!

The ranch manager lives on site and all of the ranch hands live within 5 minutes of the ranch.  This is necessary because of the quick duration of labor and delivery.  Each horse is implanted with a sensor that will call the ranch manager when the colt begins to pass through the birth canal.  Delivery only takes around 15 minutes after that!

You can learn more about Warm Springs Ranch and buy tickets here: Warm Springs Ranch

The trip was fantastic and there were a lot of great places to stop along the way.  We stumbled upon the Burgers Smoke House facility and outlet store, located in California, Missouri.  They are only open Monday-Friday, but we got loads of goodies at great prices!

We also enjoyed a drive through Eldon, which is a neat town, with lots of vintage buildings, including an original Walmart store!  There are several long standing restaurants, such as The Philly Cafe, which we will be visiting on our next trip through!

 

$50 for $100 Gift Certificate to Castle Rock Resort and Waterpark

Castle Rock Resort and Waterpark in Branson is offering a $100 gift certificate for just $50 on Half Price Ozarks. Rooms start at just $109 and admission to the waterpark is free for guests. 

This is good though March 7th, 2014.  The link does say March 14th, but it lists March 8-30 as blackout dates.  It is also not valid on holiday weekends. 

We’ve purchased these for years to stuff in the kid’s stockings.  A night away at the waterpark is always a welcome getaway over Christmas vacation!

Head on over to Half Price Ozarks to grab yours.  These usually sell out pretty quickly!

Sign up for Alamo Insiders for Travel Discounts

You would not believe how often I get asked how to save on car rentals.  Car rentals don’t be expensive if you know where to look for the deals!

Alamo has released a new insiders program that will provide members with discounts on rentals.  Typically these types of memberships require a fee, but because this is new, it’s currently FREE!  I expect to see even more discounts as the program grows.

Summer vacations are just around the corner, and Alamo is offering exclusive deals when you sign up to be an Alamo Insider! Join free today and from now on the best deals come to you. Plus, you can bank on special privileges like a 10% or more member discount on every rental, and self-service kiosks that get you on the road to vacation faster than ever. Whether your next escape is one week or months away, Alamo’s got exclusive deals for you.

Free Fishing Days: No Permit Required in Many States

image

Each year, the state fish and wildlife agencies sponsor a free fishing day(s) for those who do not have a permit.

In the state of Missouri, the event will be held June 9th-10th.  You will not need a fishing license or trout tag in most areas. 

You can find out the dates for every participating state, along with a link to more information here:  Take Me Fishing Free Fishing Event

Check Out Gogobot for Fun Trip Planning Ideas

Whether you’re planning a day trip or a vacation, you should check out Gogobot for some ideas.  This is a new service, designed to help you plan your vacation with input from REAL people.  Oftentimes, the only people that review a place are those that are paid to, or those that are extremely unhappy.  This helps you sort through that for authentic opinions from real people.

I found great input on local attractions, as well as destination getaways!  You can even link this with your Facebook account to load your friends’ reviews and track your travels.

Sign up for Gogobot