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LDW Trip to NC, and Va in Photos

Last weekend I traveled to NC to check out the Outer Banks of NC, the nearby Alligator National Wildlife Preserve, and Chincoteague and Assateague Islands , I’ve been before but not with a long lens to really capture the wild horses roam. I covered it extensively on my social media platforms, but here are the details and more photos. Day 1 & 2

Mike and I planned to leave at 5AM as I the first stop was going to be Alligator National Wildlife Refuge , and it would take 7hrs to get there. Now you might think the ANWR was our destinations to see alligators, but it actually is known for its huge bear population, and the best time to see them was at dawn or dusk. I thought we’d get there for dusk, but because of our late start we settled to see the Wright Brothers monument in Kitty Hawk, NC. Definitely a bucket list stop in my life.

It was high on top of a hill, or at the time a sand dune. From the top you could see the ocean but it was about a mile away. There were two busts of the Wright brothers adorning the monument, and the story of how they executed the first flight – a lot of friends helping to push their glider off the hill. And now we’re all able to fly because of these two inquisitive kids.

As with most of the trips we go on Mike and I don’t make hotel arrangements before we arrive so it keeps us flexible on our timeline, good thing right. 90% of the time we use the app HotelTonight.com to find hotels at the last minute. When a hotel doesn’t sell out, it releases rooms to this app at a 15% to 25% discount, as you get closer to the date, and on the actual date it might even drop as much as 50%. I was checking all week and the final hotel we chose wasn’t even an option until the day we arrived. We got it for $219 a few hours before we checked in, and then right before I walked in the door of the Ramada Plaza by Wyndham Nags Head Oceanfront I noticed it had dropped another $50, but I had already purchased it. Glad I did, it was spectacular.

We sat here at night as well. The night sky was fantastic. The sound of the ocean was so peaceful. I can’t wait to go back.

It was right on the beach, we had a nice balcony room over looking the parking lot, er I mean the sunset, but more importantly the Atlantic Ocean and sunrise was just outside by the back door.

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge – OuterBanks.com – too hot for birds. But it was cool to see Cape Hatteras after hearing about it for so many years after being battered by Nor’easters and hurricane, in fact Dorian is going there tomorrow. Literally for miles Cape Hatteras is like driving through Strathmere NJ, beach on one side, marshes on the other. Very narrow, basically a sandbar with a road. When you get to the end of Hatteras on either side there are houses where the land gets wider, and they are on stilts to allow the highest of tides to flow underneath in storms.

Then we went to this cute island, which sits between the Outer Banks and Alligator National Wildlife Refuge called Roanoke Island. It’s tiny, but has a cute touristy village where we shopped, and grabbed lunch before our next adventure. I didn’t have time to check out the “pirates ship” but it made a great photo.

We got skunked in Alligator National Wildlife Refuge . It was a barren field of nothing for hours, except for those turkeys crossing the street. We went at the wrong time of the year. The grass was high, the corn hadn’t been cut back yet, and it was too darn hot. Yes corn, the wildlife preserve grows corn and soy beans for the sole purpose of a resource for food for the animals, isn’t that nice? A local told us to come back after the first full moon and we’d see hundreds of bears. Next time I’ll go in the spring or fall as I’d love to see the bears safely from my car.

Then we hit a miss on HotelTonight.com, which happens. It was a Saturday night, there were no hotels for hundreds of miles as we were near the NC beaches. I hadn’t read too much touristy stuff about Elizabeth City leading up to the trip, but it was the only place they had two hotels, and then I waited longer, one hotel. The Comfort Inn. It was a dud at any price, we paid $235. It was dirty, the night desk staff was rude, the day staff was nicer and well it was dirty. We couldn’t wait to leave. Our view was the prison next door. Next Week we’ll ChitChat about the rest of the trip. Check back Friday afternoon for HughE Around Town and celeb sightings in Philly, and what’s happening on the weekend for you late planners like me.

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The Florida Keys are for the Birds

Last week I traveled to Florida to visit Mom, and birds. When not photographing people I enjoy wandering around observing and photographing wildlife and nature. It’s peaceful, and quite beautiful. When I go to Florida to visit mom, who lives in the Keys, I make it a point to fly into Ft Lauderdale, or Miami International, the latter is a crazy large airport but in recent years has made it more simpler to navigate. So if you haven’t been there in a while, it’s gotten better, even I was able to go from Rental Car drop off to gate in under an hour. Also did you know if you’re a big guy like me, you can order a seat belt extender from Amazon.com so you can save embarrassment asking a flight attendant when you board.

One of my favorite National Parks in the Florida Everglades, it’s about an hour from Miami. If you’re renting a car, take their option for the “Sun Pass” as Easy Pass doesn’t work on their highways and there are not toll booths. It’s not that expensive about $4 a day, with tolls, which seem to be only $.80 cents every 10 miles or so. If you’re in a hurry you can go to the first nature stop in the Everyglades, Royal Palm. They have a boardwalk that travels around a body of water and you’re guaranteed to see alligators in nature, birds, turtles and get plenty of enjoyment, especially making memories with the kids.

This Anhinga, sometimes called snakebird, darter, American darter, or water turkey successfully swallowed this whole fish.

We were so excited to see a Manatee or Sea Cow. In all the years I’ve visited my mom I never saw one in the Keys. We were so ecstatic.
I kinda like this bike as a trellis instead
The Bahia Honda Rail Bridge is a derelict railroad bridge in the lower Florida Keys connecting Bahia Honda Key with Spanish Harbor Key. Great spot for swimming, or a picnic.

The sunset in the keys is a happening. Everyone stops what they’re doing, and they go to a clearing to watch it, even on cloudy days. Then they cheer at the conclusion of a day well spent.

A stop by No Name Bar, on No Name Key for a bite to eat is always fun, everything served is under a dollar, get it?
Had the best week visiting Mom with Mike
PHS Flower Show Saturday Night Dance Party is in 2 weeks 3/2/19
Philadelphia

#VisitPa Hershey Park, PA Renaissance Faire, Jim Thorpe & The Great Allentown Fair

This past weekend Mike and I headed to #VisitPa, a tradition we started last year when we decided to escape Made in America weekend, which takes place right in front of our home on the Parkway.  Last year we went to Scranton, Bethlehem and The Great Fair in Allentown . This year we went to Hershey Park, PA Renaissance Faire, Jim Thorpe & The Great Allentown Fair

#VisitPaSaturday morning we headed to Hershey to visit Mike’s 2nd cousins Tom and Alice. They took us to AACA Museum | Antique Automobile & Motor Vehicle History and gave us a tour of Hershey, the town, the park and the history of the land. It was great. I had no idea about the story behind Milton Hershey. The car museum was amazing too. You definitely have to check it out on your next visit there.

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When Mike and I travel we rarely book hotels beforehand, so we’re at the mercy of the universe to find a decent place to stay that’s not going to break us as we’re really only sleeping there between sites.DSC_0088 (Custom)

We booked the Hojo on Chocolate Way. I liked it but Mike wasn’t a fan. The hotel was more like a “motor lodge” of years gone by, each guest had their own “cabin”, or more like a closet as it was that tiny. Nothing very modern, but a bit steep at $225 for his taste. There’s not a lot happening in Hershey at night, except the park, so bring cards, or games for the kids.

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My dad had this boat of  a car when I was growing up. He had a lot of cars in the early 70s, it seemed every time we went to the Phillies game, we’d come out to find someone had stolen his car. Seriously, it happened twice in a row. At least the Phillies were winning my dad would say.

#VisitPa
Sunday Mike and I took the Hershey’s Chocolate Tour. It was cute. Set up like the ride at Disney World – “It’s A Small World”, you ride in a gondola and learn about the history of Hershey and created the delicious bars.  This is a free attraction, and it’s next to the amusement park. There is a larger museum called the Hershey Chocolate Museum, and it’s on Chocolate Way next to Houlihan’s and Devon restaurant. Which got me thinking I bet that Houlihan’s and Devon are owned by the same company cause the Devon restaurant on Rittenhouse Square used to be a Houlihan’s about 25 years ago. We didn’t go to the park as neither of us are really into rides after a bit of whiplash 20 years ago. BTW Get to the park early. When we left at NOON, the line to get into the first 3 hrs free parking lot, was a mile long.

#VisitPaI’ve been hearing about the PA Renaissance Faire for eons. I just never understood it. I wasn’t a very imaginative kid. While doing research on things to do and see in Hershey, Pa, I came across info on PA Renaissance Faire which is located about 20 miles from the park. I knew Mike would love it cause he has a great imagination, plus he likes eating big drumsticks which seems to be a big selfie moment there.

#VisitPa
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Employees as well as

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guests dress for the occasion. The two on the left waited at the entrance for their friends, who were a bit surprised at first.

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It’s really a fun day, especially for the kids who can play dress up with the parents.

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There are lots of shows happening at every moment. You can find the schedule online or when you arrive they will give you a map with showtimes.

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Comedy shows, that’s a wet rag she’s dropped on that guys head. I’m sure it would have felt better had it been about 75F

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Birds of Prey demonstrations#VisitPa

There was bow shooting, ax and knife throwing, catapult and lots of other manly man stuff from the Renaissance period.

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Did I mention the food. There is lots of delicious choices, and yes there is funnel cake.

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Musical performances

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With plenty of seating. I would definitely go back, there’s a lot to see, do and eat. Did I mention Free Parking too.
Check it our for yourself, as it runs through October.#VisitPa
Later in the day we headed to our next stop Jim Thorpe, Pa. Mike and I had been there before, about 23 years ago. At that time we were really into biking and the area has great trails. When we drove into town we grabbed a bike to eat at the most unforgettable sandwich shop you need to avoid at all costs. It’s across the street from the Inn at Jim Thorpe. The food was terrible, the name forgettable and the waitress charged us double for what was served. DSC_0313 (Custom)
We did stay at a cute, newly renovated Hampton Inn right outside of town. We called on the phone for a reservation, only $188 with tax. The room was large, and had a couch just like I like. There’s nothing better to me then hanging on the couch, drinking my tea, reading Vanity Fair and watching TV. Mike went to the gym and the pool.

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Jim Thorpe is adorable and a must visit, especially in the fall

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There’s a lot to do there, my favorite thing is to take the tourist train on a 70 minute ride through the mountains. We didn’t have a chance to do it this time, but next time we will. We missed the earlier time slot on the train, and were eager to go to our next stop.

#VisitPa
The Great Allentown Fair. It wasn’t initially on our itinerary, but we wanted to visit the goats, pigs and cows once more.

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Mike is holding a “passport” in his hand. At each animal display we were to get a stamp to fill up our passport. Cute idea for kids.

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#pigraces @thegreatallentownfair 2nd year here #cutenessoverload

A post shared by Philly ChitChat (@phillychitchat) on

#VisitPa
All in all it was a fantastic getaway for the weekend.
Best of all these spots are no more than 2hrs away from Philly.
You could check them out in one day, or over a weekend.
VisitPa

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