Great Things to do in Albuquerque

So many states in the US are true hidden gems. In my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states, I’ve been able to visit some of the lesser visited states and found out just how much of a hidden gem they truly are.

New Mexico is definitely one of these states. If you love history, the outdoors and some Mexican culture, then you must book a trip to New Mexico. Albuquerque and Santa Fe are just an hour apart and make for a great long weekend trip.

I spent the majority of my trip in New Mexico’s largest city, Albuquerque and there was so much to see and do in and around the city.

Old Town Albuquerque

Old Town Plaza

Full of history and culture, Old Town Albuquerque is a must visit! While the Albuquerque area has been occupied for thousands of years, it wasn’t until 1706 when Albuquerque officially became a city. At that time, it was under Spanish rule. In 1821, during the Mexican War of Independence, Albuquerque and the rest of New Mexico Territory became under the rule of Mexico. During the Mexican-American War in 1846, the US took control of New Mexico Territory and then in 1912, New Mexico became the 47th state of the United States of America.

Old Town Albuquerque celebrates the rich history of Albuquerque. The three flags from Spain, Mexico and the United States are flown in Old Town to signify the three countries that it was a part of. Old Town was where the city got its start back in 1706 and it’s very evident when you walk around the area. The centerpiece of the city was the Old Town Plaza which was surrounded by homes and buildings made of adobe. As you walk thru Old Town you can still see that the Plaza is the focal point and it’s not only beautiful to see during the day, but it’s definitely not to be missed at night when it’s lit up.

While most of the buildings in Old Town date back to the late 1800s or later, there is one building that while it has been remodeled since, dates back to 1793. This is the San Felipe de Neri Church. This church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the New Mexico Register of Cultural Properties. While the building that you see today dates back to 1793 when New Mexico was under Spanish rule, it’s actually the second building on this site. The first church was built in 1706 when Albuquerque was formed but collapsed in the winter of 1792-1793.

San Felipe de Neri Church is a beautiful piece of architecture mixing in the traditional adobe walls with Victorian and Gothic Revival elements.

Along with the history in Old Town, you will find restaurants and independent shops, not just selling your typical souvenirs but also beautiful locally made products. I was slightly disappointed to see so many empty store fronts and closed restaurants, a sad result of the pandemic. But there was still plenty to see, and you could definitely feel and see the Mexican Influence throughout Old Town, which I absolutely loved, it somewhat made me feel as if I was no longer in the US.

Scattered throughout Old Town there are little side alleys called patios. These patios would include a number of stores and would have fountains, plants and decorations. They were truly beautiful to see.

Albuquerque Ghost Tour

I recommend visiting Old Town in the late afternoon to walk around and do some shopping and then grab dinner. Then you must take a Ghost Tour of Old Town Albuquerque.

Offered nightly at 8pm and 10pm, these ghost stories you will hear on the tour have been heard on such tv shows as the Travel Channel’s Dead Files. In fact, the Travel Channel has called New Mexico the haunted capital of the Southwest and with so much history dating back thousands of years, it’s no wonder!

On the tour, you will hear of ghosts that have been seen in Old Town such as the civil war soldier on his horse, a future bride who was cheated on and known as the hatchet lady, and a prostitute who was killed in a house across from the Plaza. The spookiest thing to me was the burial ground that was 15 feet below Old Town where ghost hunters came and actually heard voices from the ground as if the spirits were speaking to them.

Whether you believe in ghosts or not, it’s an interesting tour to take and brings out some of the history of Old Town as well. Make sure to make your reservations in advance if you can, for this not to be missed tour.

Sandia Peak Tramway

New Mexico has some beautiful scenery and when visiting Albuquerque, you must get out of downtown and head to the Sandia Mountains. Located just east of the city, the Sandia Mountains are just a quick 20-minute ride from downtown.

I never really think about how they come up with names for such things as mountain ranges, but it was pretty interesting to hear the reason behind the name Sandia Mountains. The word sandia means watermelon in Spanish, and at sunset, these mountains turn a pink hue from the setting sun shining on them which reminded them of the color of a watermelon, hence the name Sandia Mountains.

The Sandia Mountains offer your typical mountain activities like hiking trails and even the Sandia Peak Ski Area. Unfortunately, due to a lack of snow and shortage of staff the Sandia Peak Ski Area will remain closed for the 2022/2023 season. This will mark the second year in a row it will be closed.

The big attraction in the Sandia Mountains though is definitely the Sandia Peak Tramway. The tramway opened in 1966 and was the longest aerial tram in the world until 2010 when it lost that title to a new aerial tram in Armenia. To this day it’s still the longest aerial tram in the Americas. The tramway covers 2.7 miles starting at 5,000 feet and rising to the top of the mountain at 10,378 feet. The ride up takes about 15 minutes and passes two towers, the distance between the second tower and the top is a mile and a half. It’s quite the impressive ride up there. As I’m sure you can imagine, the tram is fairly high above the ground as well. At one point the guide in the tram said that we were so high off the ground that you could fit the Eifel Tower between the tram and the ground below.

The 15-minute ride up the mountain seems relatively short, but imagine if you got stuck on your way down just like what happened to a number of the employees of the tramway and the restaurant on top of the mountain did this past New Year’s Eve? A winter storm caused a cable to ice over and caused the tram to stop on its way down the mountain after the New Year’s Eve festivities. The 21 people were stuck in the unheated tram overnight. They were not alone though; they were also stuck on there with the trash from the restaurant that they were bringing down the mountain at the end of the night, just to make the situation not only cold and scary but also probably a bit smelly.

They were able to get the tram to one of the towers where they used helicopters to rescue the people and bring them to a clearing and then they hiked down the mountain. It took 12 hours before they were rescued and down the mountain. According to the guide, of the 21 people, all but 5 (who all still work there) of them pretty much quit immediately. Quite the scary experience!

Definitely do not let that unusual experience scare you away from taking the tramway. The tram is closed every Tuesday for regular maintenance, and they are closed for two weeks in April and November of each year for more extensive maintenance. The New Year’s Eve event was obviously a rare event due to the weather, in fact they do close for bad weather like ice, wind and thunderstorms, so always check the website before heading there.

Once on top of the mountain, the views are absolutely stunning and definitely worth the ride up, especially if you happen to visit in the fall.

The Ten3 Restaurant is located up top and a great place to grab a meal or a drink. They offer lunch in the bar area and in the evenings, they serve dinner in their fine dining restaurant.

When you head back down the mountain, make sure to check out the gift shop and also take a look at the photos on the wall with the history of the tramway, they were pretty interesting to see.

Street Art and Other Interesting Things to See Downtown

Street art is becoming more and more popular in cities around the world and Albuquerque is no different. Compared to other downtown areas, downtown Albuquerque was a bit quiet which made it the perfect place to walk around and enjoy the street art.

From your typical street art to Mexican inspired street art, there was plenty to see as you walk thru downtown. Just take a walk thru downtown and you’re sure to come across quite a few pieces.

Street art is not the only interesting thing to see while walking around downtown. If you happen to be in the convention center, make sure to check out the statue in honor or the famous tv show Breaking Bad which was filmed right here in Albuquerque. I did enjoy the show, but the convention center did seem like an odd spot for the statue.

Breaking Bad is not the only celebrity connection to Albuquerque. Such well known people as actor Neil Patrick Harris and the Founder of Amazon Jeff Bezos were born in Albuquerque. In the Doubletree Hotel, which is connected to the convention center, they have a large mural featuring all the well-known people, places and events associated with Albuquerque.

Albuquerque Beer Tour

If you are a beer lover, then Albuquerque is the place for you. Albuquerque has over 30 craft breweries for you to explore. A great way to check out a few of the best is to take the ABQ Beer Tour. Run by a retired history teacher and homebrewer, Gordon will take you to a few different breweries in town where you will be given a flight at each brewery. Also at each brewery, he will show you each brewery’s brewing process.

It’s a great way to try and learn about some of the local breweries in town. We started off the tour at Gravity Bound Brewery. This local brewery was started by two brothers and focuses on sustainability and also brews kombucha. They also have an award-winning IPA that is a must try!

Next, we went to the Craftroom which is located in an interesting location that oddly enough, many breweries around the country seem to end up in at the start, an office park. While it might be a difficult location to find, I’m sure it gets rather busy with the after-work crowd from the office park. They specialize not just in beer, but ciders as well.

For our final stop we headed to High and Dry Brewing. This small local brewery focuses on small batch brewing and has a passion for the local community and culture. While we were there, they were hosting an open mic night which was definitely interesting.

A beer tour is a great way to help and support local businesses while traveling and definitely a relaxing way to enjoy a city.

Albuquerque – so much to see and do

These are just a few of the many great things you can experience in this wonderful city of Albuquerque. From history to the great outdoors to art to beer, there is something for everyone. Are you ready to plan your trip there?

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Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel

Were you aware that there are non-Disney owned hotels located on Walt Disney World property? The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin resorts are located within the Epcot resort area and are incredibly convenient to the parks. As part of the Marriott Bonvoy program, these hotels are a great option if you are looking to use or earn Bonvoy points while staying within the Walt Disney World Resort.

History

The Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel, along with it’s sister resort, the Walt Disney World Swan opened in 1990 as a partnership between Disney, Tishman Hotel Corporation and Starwood Hotels and Resorts. Both the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotels were operated by Starwood Hotels, who at the time owned hotels from many different brands in the hotel industry. The Walt Disney World Swan was operated as a Westin Hotel (the swan was the symbol of Westin back in the 1990s and the Walt Disney World Dolphin was operated as a Sheraton Hotel (the dolphin looks like an S to respresent Sheraton).

Starwood Hotels and Resorts purchased Westin Hotels in 1994 and Sheraton Hotels in 1998 to form what most of us officially knew as Starwood Hotels for years. Then in 2015, Marriott International purchased Starwood Hotels, creating one of the largest hotel companies in the industry.

My first Bachelor’s degree is in Hotel Management and I spent my 20s working in hotels, specifically Westin and Marriott, so it was fitting for Starwood and Marriott to merge. Little known fact about me, in 1997 when I was moving to Florida after working for a year at a Westin Hotel in Boston, I contemplated transferring to the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel, but decided Orlando was too far from the ocean for me, if I was moving to Florida, I needed to be closer to the beach than Orlando was!

Walt Disney World Dolphin

Advantages to staying at the Walt Disney World Dolphin

I had always wanted to stay at the Walt Disney World Swan or Dolphin, but always held off since I enjoyed taking the free Magical Express from the airport to the Walt Disney World owned hotels. Now that Disney World is no longer offering the Magical Express service, I figured that now is the time to stay at one of these beautiful hotels. So, this past Labor Day weekend, I got a great deal at the Walt Disney World Dolphin for the holiday weekend. I was so impressed and will definitely stay here again when the price is right (sometimes these hotels can be a bit pricey).

Although sometimes the price may be high, if you are a Marriott Bonvoy member, you might actually have enough Bonvoy points to use for a free stay, especially if you are going on a shorter trip where less points would be required. And even if you do not have enough points, it might just make sense to stay here over a Disney owned hotel since you will be able earn Bonvoy points for your stay here. And if you are a gold or platinum member you might just get an upgraded room. I was lucky enough as a gold member to get upgraded from a standard view room (which was probably a view of the parking lot) to a resort view room. It was nice to wake up to this view below each morning.

The biggest advantage of course is the proximity to the theme parks. While staying at the Walt Disney World Dolphin resort, you are able to take the boat or even walk to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios. This is such a great benefit! I don’t know about anyone else but taking a boat to the parks is much more enjoyable to taking a bus, especially if you are like me and get a bit of motion sickness on buses.

Enjoying the parks at Walt Disney World definitely requires a lot of walking and that Florida heat can be killer, but the walk to the parks, specifically Epcot can be quite enjoyable and a rather quick way to get to either Epcot or Hollywood Studios. As someone who lives in a city and gets around mostly by foot, I always tend to prefer to just walk somewhere instead of depending on transportation. Epcot also happens to be my favorite park and more times than not I tend to end the night there, so it’s so nice to be able to walk back to the hotel at the end of the night and not have to deal with waiting in line for transportation.

The walk to Epcot is not only easy, but it’s a very beautiful walk and it will take you by the Boardwalk, Beach Club and Yacht Club resorts. This also gives you options of places to stop along the way if you would like. The Boardwalk is always a great place to stop for a drink or a snack after a day in the parks.

I mean who wouldn’t want to enjoy these beautiful views on their way to and from the theme parks?

The walk to Hollywood Studios isn’t quite as scenic and there isn’t really anywhere to stop along the way like when walking to Epcot, but the walk is definitely a nice relaxing way to start the day. I couldn’t get over the view as I was leaving the Dolphin on my way to Hollywood Studios one morning, what a great way to start the day out!

It’s always nice to take a break from the theme parks midday. The parks tend to get really busy during this time of day and the heat is the worst then as well. The resorts have so many great amenities to enjoy, the middle of the day is a great time to take advantage of this. Having the ability to walk or take the boat back to the hotel makes that midday break that much easier.

One of my favorite things to do when visiting Walt Disney World is resort hopping, which is a great activity for your non-park days. If you are visiting without a car, this can get difficult and take a lot of time to get to the other resorts, it could require taking a bus to a theme park and then another bus from there to the resort you want to visit. Staying at the Walt Disney World Dolphin, you can access the Boardwalk, Beach Club and Yacht Club via boat or by walking. You can also access Caribbean Beach, Riviera, Pop Century and Art of Animation via the Skyliner.

The Skyliner is located outside of the back entrance to Epcot, so it’s just a short walk or boat ride away. The Skyliner is the most efficient mode of transportation in Walt Disney World (pending no thunderstorms in the area, when it does shut down for safety reasons) and is a lot of fun to take a ride on it.

Hopping over to these resorts to walk around, take some pictures or have a meal is always a great time.

The Walt Disney World Dolphin doesn’t just give you the same benefits as a disney-owned resort like early entry to the theme parks, but it’s also included with the deluxe Walt Disney World resorts that gets extra evening hours after park close on select nights, this is a huge benefit that would give you some extra time in the parks with lower wait times.

Amenities at the Walt Disney World Dolphin

There are so many great amenities to enjoy at the Walt Disney World Dolphin. If you do take a mid-day break, you must check out one of the six swimming pools that are shared by both the Walt Disney World Dolphin and Walt Disney World Swan Hotels. From kiddie pool to lap pool to quiet pool to a resort style Grotto pool with a water slide and waterfalls, there’s a pool for every member of the family. The pool area has snack bar where you can order right from your lounge chair. There are also activities like water volleyball, music and games. Cabanas are also available for rent.

Located near the pool area is a beach. Although you cannot swim in the water due to alligators, it’s a great place to dip your toes in the sand and relax on a hammock or lounge chair with a good book or to simply take a nice nap or just enjoy the Florida sunshine.

There are also swan boats that you can rent. These can be rented at the Cabana Beach Hut in the pool area. You can’t miss the Cabana Beach Hut, as it’s right near the pool closest to the Walt Disney World Dolphin. These are fun for the whole family to enjoy!

If the weather isn’t great or you’re just looking to spend some time indoors, the Walt Disney World Dolphin has your covered.

For the kids and adults alike, there’s a game room located on the first floor of the Walt Disney World Dolphin.

If the adults are looking for a little relaxation, head over to the Mandara Spa. This 10,500-foot full-service spa features the usual salon and spa services along with a Tea Garden and sipping room and a Meditation Garden.

Not getting enough exercise with all the walking in the theme parks, training for a race or just trying to keep up with your workout schedule during vacation? The Walt Disney World Dolphin has you covered with their three 24-hour health clubs that they share with the Walt Disney World Swan. In addition to the usual workout equipment, they also offer exercise classes such as Zumba, Water Aerobics and Beach Yoga.

Dining at the Walt Disney World Dolphin

From quick service to a sit-down restaurant by a celebrity chef, the Walt Disney World Dolphin has it all when it comes to dining.

  • Fuel – This grab and go location is the perfect spot to pick up a quick coffee and pastry on your way to the theme parks. They also sell sandwiches, snacks and have a yogurt bar.
  • Picabu – This quick service location is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Start your day with breakfast staples like eggs and waffles. Later in the day, it’s the perfect spot for a family lunch or dinner where they offer pizza, family chicken meals and a burrito and taco bar.
  • The Fountain – This American diner features such diner staples as salads, sandwiches, burgers and ice cream. They even have an ice cream counter that’s open in the evenings.
  • Shula’s Steakhouse – This upscale steakhouse not only features great food, but it also has photos and memorabilia from the Miami Dolphin’s 1972 perfect season under the restaurant’s namesake, Coach Don Shula.
  • Todd English’s bluezoo – If you are looking for award winning seafood and wine list, then head over to bluezoo. From celebrity chef Todd English, this restaurant is a must for foodies.
  • Phins – This lobby bar is the perfect spot to enjoy a custom-made cocktail after a long day at the theme parks. If you’re a beer lover like me, make sure to try a Phins and Feathers Pale Ale. It’s specifically made for the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotels and is only sold at the hotels.

It’s not only the advantages, amenities and conveniences that make this hotel so special, it’s also absolutely beautiful. The lobby of the hotel is beautiful with its gorgeous dolphin fountain as a center piece.

And speaking of fountains, one of the things that makes the grounds of the Walt Disney World Dolphin so beautiful is the massive fountain located outside the hotel. Make sure to check it out both during the day and at night where it’s lit up with changing colors of light.

The Walt Disney World Dolphin is an absolutely stunning resort to stay in. Contact Beyond The Miles Travel to book your stay here for your next Walt Disney World vacation.

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Fall at Pittock Mansion

Fall is a beautiful time of year to travel. And there is no better place to visit than somewhere you can see the fall foliage. While many will go to popular fall travel spots like New England for the fall foliage, there are many other less busy locations you can visit to enjoy the fall foliage. Oregon is definitely a beautiful spot to see fall foliage.

Last fall I visited Portland, Oregon and visiting the Pittock Mansion was a great spot to see the fall foliage.

Pittock Mansion Grounds

One of the things I love about traveling, is visiting historic homes. As someone who loves history, seeing the inside of a historic home, helps bring alive how people lived in the past which helps to appreciate the history of a city. The Pittock Mansion tells the story of how Portland Oregon went from a small pioneer town to a modern city through one of the most influential families from the city.

Pittock Mansion History

Pittock Mansion was home to Henry and Georgiana Pittock. Born in London, Henry Pittock spent his childhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. When he was 19 years old, Henry headed west along the Oregon Trail. He eventually ended up in Portland Oregon where he met his wife and got a job as a typesetter for the newspaper, The Oregonian. Henry was eventually given ownership of The Oregonian. It was thru owning the paper that allowed him to invest such industries as real estate, railroads, silver mining and the paper industry.

In the early 1900s, Henry began to plan his “mansion on the hill” (more on why it’s called that later). In 1912, construction began and then in 1914, the Pittock family moved into the mansion. Sadly, they were only able to enjoy this beautiful home for about four years before they passed away. Family members did continue to reside in the mansion until 1958 when Henry’s grandson put the mansion on the market for sale.

After sitting empty for four years, the mansion was finally purchased by the city of Portland. The city restored the building and in 1965 opened it to the public. In 2007, a non-profit, The Pittock Mansion Society, took over the daily operations from the city.

Touring the Mansion

The Mansion is open daily with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas and select days in January when it’s closed for maintenance. Tours of the mansion are self-guided.

The 16,000 square foot mansion consists of 23 rooms. The large number of rooms was necessary as many members of the extended family lived in the home including, their children, spouses, grandchildren and their two orphaned nieces.

The middle of the mansion was oval shaped and there were wings going off from this at 45-degree angles. The oval shape creates a beautiful entryway. As I entered, I was stunned by the oval ceiling above me. It was almost impossible to capture exactly how beautiful it was in a photo.

The other stunning thing that caught my eye was the view from the window across from the entrance. The fact that it was fall made the view that much more beautiful. The Pittock’s certainly picked a gorgeous spot in Portland to build their home. More on these gorgeous view later.

View from the Pittock Mansion

My self-guided tour of the mansion started on the first floor where I saw the many rooms. There were the standard rooms that you see in most homes like the dining room. But there was also a music room which I found interesting. I’m always so impressed with different and very specific purpose rooms that you will find when visiting historic homes. I guess when you have the room, why not have a room specifically to enjoy music in, right?

Next it was off to the second floor by walking up the grand staircase. I love a good grand staircase, it always reminds me of the last scene in Titanic, where Jack walked up the staircase to meet Rose in her dream. This staircase had a window on the first landing that looked on the fall foliage outside, it was quite the view and worth a stop to take a look outside.

Once upstairs, the self-guided tour took you thru the various bedrooms and it was here that you learned more about the family members who lived here. I always find it interesting how in the past, it was common for multiple generations to live in one house while now most kids count the days to leave their parents’ house only moving back in as a last resort due to financial reasons.

I always love seeing the bedrooms in the older homes, I’m always so amazed at how small the beds are, people certainly were shorter back in the day. I might have been closer to a normal height back then instead of my current short height. It’s also so nice to see that the parents of the house always have their own space, some homes they have separate bedrooms, others they have the master bedroom with separate rooms for each spouse like the sitting rooms for the women.

I really enjoyed viewing the Pittock Mansion, but like all historic homes, it’s not just the home itself that is worth a visit. One must also take a look around the grounds….

Pittock Mansion Grounds

I’m sure the grounds of the Pittock Mansion are beautiful to visit all year round, but I was lucky enough to visit during the fall, at what ended up being peak foliage in Portland, Oregon. As someone coming from New England, I was very impressed with the fall colors in Portland. The grounds were absolutely stunning in all it’s fall colors.

Remember I mentioned earlier that the Pittock Mansion was considered the “mansion on a hill”? Well, that is because it’s located up in the hills west of downtown Portland at 1,000 feet above sea level. Being set that high above the city, the views are absolutely stunning, especially in the fall.

Behind the mansion there is viewing area, where you can see all of Portland, with Mt Hood in the background. It’s the most perfect view and a photographer’s paradise! The views of a snow-capped Mt Hood were so unbelievable, it almost didn’t look real.

But the views aren’t the only advantage to the mansion being located on a hill, there are also multiple hiking trails on the grounds. This makes for a great way to enjoy the outdoors after touring the mansion. And fall is the perfect time for a hike. As with most of the Pacific Northwest, the weather can often be rainy, so be prepared. I was lucky enough to visit the mansion on a cloudy but dry day.

The Pittock Mansion is located along the 30-mile-long Wildwood Trail, which just so happens to be America’s longest forested urban trail. There are many trails to choose from ranging from 3-6 miles roundtrip or if you are short on time, you can just walk part of a trail and turn around. This is what I did, I walked just under a mile and then turned around. Being there on a weekday in October, the trails were very quiet, I only saw a couple of other groups of people hiking. It was definitely a very peaceful fall hike. I’m sure on the weekends, the trails can get more crowded though.

While a visit to the mansion is great any time of the year, I definitely recommend visiting in the fall if you can. The mansion, the history, the views, the foliage and hiking, what more can you ask for?!

If you are looking for other things to do in Oregon, make sure to check out my other posts: Donut Tour of Portland and Chasing Waterfalls and Fall Foliage Along the Historic Columbia River Highway.

And as always, if you need help planning your trip to Oregon, Beyond The Miles Travel is here to help you.

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Halloween at the Disneyland Resort

If you love Halloween and Disney, then you must add a trip to the parks during Halloween season to your bucket list! The season is long, starting as early as August and going all the way thru Halloween.

Living on the east coast of the US, I’ve traveled to Walt Disney World in Florida during the Halloween season many times. The parks are decked out with pumpkins, closer to Halloween, the resorts have cast member pumpkin decorating contests in the lobby. There is the popular Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party taking place on select nights.

On a recent trip to Disneyland in California I realized that Disneyland puts Walt Disney World to shame when it comes to celebrating Halloween! I will admit as a huge Walt Disney World fan, it hurts me a little to say that.

Halloween at Disneyland Park

Just walking thru the gates of Disneyland Park, you are greeted with large pumpkin Disney characters. At Walt Disney World they have two big pumpkins at the gates, which are fun, but these Disney characters on top of the gates were so fun to see!

Halloween at the Disneyland Gate

Once in the park, you will be greeted with a large Mickey Mouse Pumpkin at the head of Main Street USA. Along Main Street USA, there are carved pumpkins on top of the buildings and small Mickey Mouse pumpkins on the lampposts. Main Street USA pretty much screams Halloween as you walk down it.

One of the things about Walt Disney World that I don’t enjoy is that if you want to see the Disney characters decked out for Halloween, you have to pay the extra money for a ticket to one of the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Parties (which also sell out each year). Well at Disneyland Park, you can see the characters right as you walk in the park near Main Street USA. I was so excited to see them in their Halloween costumes, especially my favorite, Donald Duck, who was dressed as a candy corn, he was soooo cute!! Word of note, while most of the characters are out thru the evening, Donald Ducks tends to only be out until about 3:30pm (per the cast member I spoke with).

The lines do get long but are so worth it as these are once a year opportunity for the great seasonal photo, so pack your patience. It’s definitely worth it to get these adorable photos though!

For those of you who love Donald Duck in his candy corn costume, make sure to also grab the special Halloween sipper on sale at multiple quick serve restaurants throughout the park in 2022.

Donald Duck Sipper

As you make your way up Main Street towards the castle, there are carved pumpkins located around the Partners Statue (Walt and Mickey Statue). These pumpkins are carved with Disney characters that represent the different lands in Disneyland.

While seeing the pumpkins at the Partners Statue, make sure to get a photo there. There is a great magic shot available which will show you holding a pumpkin, such a cute photo op!

Probably the best part of Halloween at Disneyland Park is Haunted Mansion Holiday! In late August each year, they shut down the ride for a couple of weeks to transform it into Haunted Mansion Holiday, which is based on the Disney film The Nightmare Before Christmas. The ride stays this way from September thru the beginning of January. It’s the perfect combination of Halloween and Christmas all rolled into one amazing ride. My most recent trip was my first time to experience it and it exceeded all of my expectations.

Haunted Mansion Holiday has been taking place at Disneyland each year since 2001. It can also be found at Tokyo Disneyland. I really wish they would bring this to Walt Disney World at some point.

The holiday theming of the ride starts on the outside, there is so much to look at while you are in line for the ride. I almost feel like I missed out on some of it since I had a lightning lane for the ride. It’s definitely worth seeing during both the day and night.

Inside of the ride itself there are both Halloween and Christmas touches. The storyline of Haunted Mansion Holiday is based on Nightmare Before Christmas character Jack Skellington spreading holiday joy to the grim mansion.

The holiday fun begins in the stretching room before the ride, when you see Jack Skellington above you as the room is stretching. You then move onto the ride after passing portraits of Jack Skellington, Sally and other holiday pictures. At the entrance to the ride, there is a very elaborate Scary Christmas display.

Ride Entrance

You can definitely tell why they need to shut the ride down for such an extended time in late August to transform it, the additions are very elaborate and really bring the ride to life. My favorite part of the ride was definitely the graveyard scene. There were little details everywhere.

I loved seeing Sally sitting on top of a gravestone. And hearing the combination of Haunted Mansion and Christmas music.

Haunted Mansion Holiday Graveyard Scene

At the end of the ride is where you will see Oogie Boogie spinning a roulette wheel to pick which present you take home. In Haunted Mansion Holiday, a present follows you home instead of a hitchhiking ghost.

I am not a fan of the film, Nightmare Before Christmas, although I’m definitely going to give it another watch soon. Regardless this ride was amazing even without being a fan of the film. Definitely a must see if you are visiting Disneyland between September and early January!

Here’s a little sneak peak at part of the ride:

Just like the characters in their halloween costumes, the Halloween fireworks are shown for all park guests, unlike at Walt Disney World where they are only shown during the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.

Halloween Fireworks Show

Halloween at Disney’s California Adventure

The Halloween festivities aren’t just limited to Disneyland Park, across the way at Disney’s California Adventure, there is more Halloween fun to discover.

I hopped over to California Adventure after spending the afternoon at Disneyland Park. Seeing the park with the Halloween decorations at night was just beautiful. One of my favorite things about attending Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at Walt Disney World is the parade, which starts with the headless horseman coming down Main Street USA. Well at Disney’s California Adventure, you can see the headless horseman and it makes the great Halloween photo spot.

As amazing as the headless horseman is, it’s the Halloween decorations in Cars Land that I really love. It might be because I just really love Cars Land to begin with, it looks like you have stepped right into Radiator Springs in the Cars movies. And going with the cars theme, they celebrate Haul-O-Ween there.

The cars are dressed in their best car-stumes and there are spooky decorations everywhere. I loved seeing the Cozy Cone Motel decorated as quite the spooky motel.

Two of the rides in Cars Land, Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree and Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters, even get a Halloween overlay.

Like Walt Disney World, Disneyland Resort also has a separately ticketed nighttime Halloween Party, and it occurs on select nights at Disney’s California Adventure in September and October. The party is called Oogie Boogie Bash and while I was not able to attend, it looks like so much fun, I’ve even heard many say it’s more fun than Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. This is very evident by the fact that it sells out very quickly., even quicker than Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. This year the tickets went on sale at the end of June and when I went to buy tickets just after the 4th of July, every date had already been sold out for some time. One of these years I definitely must attend.

Like the party at Walt Disney World, guests are encouraged to dress in their favorite Halloween costume for the event that normally starts at 6pm. With your ticket you are allowed into the park up to 3 hours early.

This family friendly event includes trick or treating throughout the park, photos with characters in their Halloween costumes and Halloween shows with your favorite Disney characters.

There is also the Frightfully Fun Parade which makes its way thru the park with not only Mickey and Minnie Mouse but also your favorite villains. And speaking of villains, you can visit them in the Villains Grove, which takes over the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail each evening during the party.

Halloween Outside the Parks

The Halloween fun isn’t just limited to the parks. There is more to see and do outside the parks as well.

At Downtown Disney, you can complete Pluto’s Pumpkin Pursuit. Purchase a game board at any of the stores in Downtown Disney and then search for the character themed pumpkins hidden throughout Downtown Disney. When you have found all of the hidden pumpkins, you will receive a prize when you return your completed game board to Disney’s Pin Traders or World of Disney.

Downtown Disney is also the great spot to purchase your Halloween merchandise or even delicious Halloween treat.

And of course, the Disneyland Resort hotels are all decorated for the Halloween season. At the Disneyland Hotel, Haunted Mansion is the theme! As you enter the hotel there is a huge Haunted Mansion mural.

The hitchhiking ghosts take over the elevators making for a spooky ride back to your room.

Over at the Grand Californian Hotel, Oogie Boogie takes over for Halloween. If you like the Gingerbread Houses at Walt Disney World, then you must see the Oogie Boogie Cauldton Candy Display at the Grand Californian Hotel!

This 4-foot-tall display is made from the following:

  • 260 pounds of powdered sugar
  • 380 eggs
  • 220 pounds of rice cereal
  • 95 pounds of marshmallow
  • 80 pounds of butter
  • 120 pounds of dark chocolate
  • 80 pounds of white chocolate
  • 480 pounds of fondant

Pretty impressive to think of the amount of ingredients it takes to make this display! There are also 13 hidden Mickey’s in the display, can you see any of them?

If you love Halloween, I highly recommend visiting the Disneyland Resort in California for some Halloween fun. It was definitely interesting to see the differences in how Disneyland and Walt Disney World celebrate this fun and spooky holiday season.

Beyond the Miles Travel can help you plan your Halloween trip for next year.

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Quick Trip to Minneapolis

I had been wanting to visit Minneapolis for a while and was excited to check the city out before and after running the Gary Bjorklund Half Marathon in Duluth. Well if you read my post on my weekend in Duluth, you know I encountered a flight delay on the way to Minnesota. I had originally planned to spend a good four hours in Minneapolis before heading to Duluth, but when I was delayed coming in, it turned into just an hour.

After my weekend in Duluth, I had planned to spend half a day on Sunday and then most of the day on Monday in Minneapolis as the original flight I booked wasn’t leaving until 6:30pm. Well, JetBlue updated their schedule and got rid of that flight and put me on a flight that left at 5pm. Not too bad, it still gave me most of the day, but that flight involved a connection in JFK instead of being the direct flight I originally booked.

Well when my outbound flight got so delayed, I got nervous I would be delayed on the return and miss my connection at JFK. Being that I had just started a new job a week before this trip, I just couldn’t risk not getting home on Monday night, so I changed my flight to the only direct flight to Boston on JetBlue which left at 11am, leaving me no time to see anything on Monday.

So in total I think I had less than 24 hours in Minneapolis, but I definitely made the most of it and saw most of the top things I wanted to see.

Minnehaha Park

Gunnar Wennerberg Statue at Minnehaha Park

After sitting in the airport and plane for longer than planned and knowing I had a 2 1/2 hour drive ahead of me, I definitely needed to head somewhere where I could stretch my legs for a bit in the fresh air. So I headed to Minnehaha Park for some exploring before I headed north for the weekend in Duluth.

Purchased by the city of Minneapolis for the state of Minnesota in 1889, Minnehaha State Park (which it was originally called) was one of the first stated parks in the United States. At just over a 167 acres, Minnehaha Park has everything you are looking for to escape the city life of Minneapolis. At the park, you can enjoy walking and biking paths, gardens, historical sights, wading pool, playground, picnic area and a seafood restaurant, but the big draw to the park is definitely Minnehaha Falls.

Minnehaha Falls

The 53 foot tall Minnehaha Falls is probably one of the first things that came to mind when thinking about what I wanted to see in Minneapolis. I love waterfalls and being able to see one so close to the city is just great. You definitely feel further from the city than you are when visiting Minnehaha Falls. I took a short walk to the top and the bottom of Minnehaha Falls to be able to see the falls from different angles. I always really love the view from the top, there is something empowering about being above the raging waterfall.

Top of Minnehaha Falls

After walking around and seeing Minnehaha Falls from different angles, I took a walk along one of the park paths for a little while and then it was time to drive up to Duluth, but I would be back in a couple of days to see how much more I could see in Minneapolis.

Mall of America

Mall of America

When I arrived back in Minneapolis a couple of days later in the late afternoon, I knew I had to see as much as possible, so I had a plan. My hotel was not far from the Mall of America, so I checked in to the hotel to drop my stuff off and then headed straight to the mall. As someone who grew up in a town that is known for it’s mall, I spent my high school years, wandering the mall on Friday nights with my friends. I had dreamed of visiting the Mall of America ever since it first opened in 1992, which just so happened to be the year I graduated high school, so in the height of my Friday nights at the mall!

Located in Bloomington, Minnesota, the Mall of America is the largest mall in the United States at 5.6 million square feet and it even has it’s own zip code! To put that amount of space in perspective, this is how many of each worldwide attraction can fit inside of it:

  • 18 Coliseums
  • 10 Great Pyramids
  • 24 Sydney Opera Houses
  • 53 Eifel Towers
  • 174 Taj Mahals
  • 347 Statues of Liberty

The Mall of America has over 500 retail stores with some stores having multiple locations throughout the mall since if you were to walk just one of the 4 levels of the mall, it would be over a mile walk! All that walking, you will definitely build up an appetite and can choose to grab something to eat at one of the 50 restaurants at the mall.

Bringing kids with you who aren’t interested in shopping? Well there is plenty to keep them busy! The largest indoor theme park in the US is located in the center of the mall. Nickelodeon Universe has over 28 rides and attractions to enjoy. There are also many Lego models located near the Lego store including a 34 foot tall robot which is comprised of 2.8 million Lego pieces and is the largest Lego model in the world!

Also located in the mall is the Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium which includes a 1.3 million gallon aquarium. The Crayola Experience features 60,000 square feet of 25 hands on attractions.

I only spent an hour in the mall just looking around, but you could probably spend all day there, it’s definitely a destination in itself. There are 2 hotels attached to the mall and over 50 hotels nearby that offer shuttle service to the mall. I definitely need to go back and devote an entire day just for the mall!

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is a must see. Who doesn’t love being able to see art while out in the fresh air? It’s located at the Walker Art Center and is free to the public. It features 60 sculptures and you can find a great self guided tour of the sculptures on their website.

Probably one of the most popular of sculptures in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is Spoonbridge and Cherry.

Spoonbridge and Cherry

Spoonbridge and Cherry was made by Claes Oldenburg, who is known for his extra large sculptures of every day objects, and his wife Coosje van Bruggen. The sculpture is located on a pond in the sculpture garden and the reflection of the sculpture in the water just adds to the majesty of this piece.

Another sculpture based on something simple from our every day lives is Hahn (Cock).

Hahn (Cock) Sculpture

Katharina Fritsch created this sculpture. By taking a simple thing like a rooster and making it 20 feet tall and blue, she created a sculpture that more unique than the animal it is depicting.

As seen in many cities around the world, such as Philadelphia, New York and London, the Love sculpture is always a favorite to see.

Love Sculpture

While you can see this sculpture in other cities, the sculptor, Robert Indiana, tends to paint each one a bit differently. The one in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is made of a type of steel that makes it look rusty. This way the sculpture does not need new paint, making it easier for it to survive the harsh Minnesota winters.

Basilica of Saint Mary

Nearby the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is the Basilica of Saint Mary. The outside of the building looked just stunning, I would have loved to have gone inside. They do over both docent-led and self-guided tours. I recommend walking over and taking a tour of this beautiful church after visiting the sculpture garden.

Mill Ruins Park

Next I headed to downtown Minneapolis. The main thing I wanted to see while downtown was Mill Ruins Park.

Mill Ruins Park

Located along the banks of the Mississippi River, this area is known as the historic West Side Milling District. Minneapolis became an international leader in the production of flour with such companies as Pillsbury and General Mills getting their start right here in the West Side Milling District of Minneapolis.

The land that the park is on was acquired in 1985. It took quite a few years, but the park finally opened in 2001. The park includes a walking path along the river as well as ruins from the old mills. The ruins give you a glimpse into the history of the mills that once stood on this site. I was there on a Sunday evening and it was very quiet and felt somewhat eerie looking at the mill ruins, almost as if I was looking at somewhere haunted.

Mill Ruins Park

After exploring the ruins, make sure to take a walk along the river on the elevated walkway. You will see great views of the Minneapolis skyline and the Mississippi River.

Mississippi River

Also from this walkway, you will be able to see the Stone Arch Bridge and St. Anthony’s Falls. The Stone Arch Bridge was built in 1883 as a railroad bridge to transport goods across the Mississippi River. It remained a railroad bridge until 1978 and then it was eventually repurposed to a pedestrian and cyclist bridge. While I was visiting the bridge was in the midst of a rehabilitation project. I wish that hadn’t been the case, because from the Stone Arch Bridge, you can get the best view of St. Anthony’s Falls.

St Anthony’s Falls and Stone Arch Bridge

St. Anthony’s Falls played a role in Minneapolis’ milling industry. Dating back to the 1800s, damns were built along the falls to help support the milling industry. Today, they are a beautiful site to see while visiting downtown Minneapolis.

Downtown Minneapolis was pretty quiet on a Sunday evening, it almost felt like a ghost town, but it was nice to have it all to myself. I then grabbed something quick to eat and headed back to the hotel before my flight the next morning.

With such little time in Minneapolis, I still feel that I saw most of what I wanted to see. My only regret is that I had a ticket for the next morning to tour Prince’s estate, Paisley Park. Not only was I disappointed that I didn’t get to go, but I also wasn’t able to get a refund for the ticket which was disappointing. Guess I’m just going to have to head back to Minneapolis another time.

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Run 50 States – Gary Bjorklund Half Marathon Duluth Minnesota

When looking for a half marathon to run in the state of Minnesota for my 50 states half marathon goal, it was clear that the Grandma’s Marathon weekend was the top race weekend in the state.

What started off in 1977 as a small 150 participant marathon run by a local running group and sponsored by the newly opened Grandma’s Salon & Grill located in the Canal Park neighborhood of Duluth, has now grown to a world class running weekend that attracts more than 20,000 runners each June.

The race weekend includes not just the marathon but also a 5K and half marathon. The William A. Irvin 5K takes place on the Friday evening to kick off the weekend and the Grandma’s Marathon and Gary Bjorklund Half Marathon (named after the winner of the first Grandma’s Marathon) take place on Saturday morning. You can even sign up for the Great Grandma’s Challenge which involves running the 5K on Friday evening and marathon or half marathon on Saturday morning. And this is what I signed up to do in 2020.

Photo from my Virtual 2020 Gary Bjorklund Half Marathon

Well, we all know what happened in 2020 and when I was at my computer registering for the challenge back in October 2019, I had no idea that I would be running this challenge alone in Boston instead of with thousands of others in Duluth Minnesota. But that’s how 10 solid months of 2020 went, so I took some inspiration from the words I saw on the sidewalk in the photo above while running the virtual half marathon alone during a heatwave in Boston in June of 2020.

It was definitely tough, I was a bit disappointed that we weren’t able to defer the race til the next year, but I totally understand, permits and medals and swag with 2020 date were all probably paid for already, so I get it. But man was it tough running it alone, it was hot, in the midst of the covid lockdown, no water fountains were turned on in the city and very few options of places were open to buy water (not that I felt comfortable going inside anywhere just a few months into this ordeal).

So I planned out a route that had me stopping at home for a water stop around mile 9 and somehow managed to finish the entire virtual half marathon. I almost feel like I deserve two medals just for stopping at home during the run and actually getting back out there just a few minutes later! I reminded myself of this when I encountered this hill at mile 9 during the 2022 race.

Gary Bjorklund Half Marathon Mile 9

Even though they did not allow refunds or deferments for the 2020 race, they did give us 20% off either the 2021 or 2022 race. I decided to hold out and make sure the 2021 race happened and sign up for the 2022 race. They were kind enough to send another email before registration opened for 2022 saying they were upping the discount to 40% off, which was great. The 2021 race actually happened so I used my discount code and signed up for 2022. I decided to skip the challenge and just sign up for the half marathon.

I was scheduled to fly out first thing on the Friday morning to Minneapolis, but the airlines were in the midst of some massive delays and cancellations due to crew shortages and weather. Even though I thought my early morning flight would be safe, I did not account for the fact that the pilots for the flight had gotten in to Boston rather late the night before and therefore the flight was delayed so they could get the proper amount of rest required by the FAA. Completely understandable, I certainly don’t want to have a tired pilot flying the plane. What I didn’t understand was after the crew arrived and we boarded the plane, they realized that the plane, which was supposed to go to Phoenix the night before but that flight got cancelled, had too much fuel for it to be able to land in Minneapolis. So another hour and a half of waiting for them to get rid of some of the fuel. Maybe it’s just me, but it certainly would have been way more efficient for them to do this while we were waiting on the crew to arrive!

I guess I should just be happy that we arrived safely and that the flight wasn’t cancelled. I had planned to spend a few hours in Minneapolis before driving the 2 1/2 hours north to Duluth, but only really had time to stop off for a quick visit to see Minnehaha Falls so I could stretch my legs a bit.

Minnehaha Falls

I didn’t have much time to eat, so I just got a quick bite at a McDonalds on the drive up to Duluth. Side note: I hadn’t had McDonald’s in over a year and while I know it was awful for me, it tasted delicious. Needless to say I arrived in Duluth and checked into my hotel and was starving. I was also pretty exhausted so I didn’t want to deal with finding somewhere to eat and having a long wait knowing how busy the city was. I headed down to pick up my bib and decided just to attend the pasta dinner offered by the race. Normally I avoid these dinners as I’m just not a fan of mass produced pasta and part of the joy of traveling is trying new restaurants, but my stomach told me to get the quickest food possible. It ended up not being too awful and it was all you can eat, so my empty stomach was very happy. And the ice cream for dessert made me very happy!

When I was picking up my bib, the 5K was just finishing up, I’m so happy that I decided against the challenge since I would have been cutting it close to getting to the 5K on time after the flight delay! After I had dinner I walked around the Duluth Lakefront for a bit before heading back to the hotel to get some sleep before the very early wake up the next morning for the half marathon.

When I say early, I mean early! The race was a point to point course, with no parking at the start line. There were multiple shuttle pick up points throughout Duluth. I was a bit jealous of the marathoners, as they were able to take a train to the start, sounds more fun than a bus!

One of the shuttle stops was at the Duluth mall. When I booked my hotel, I looked for something near a shuttle stop so I wouldn’t have to drive too far that morning. I stayed at the Tru by Hilton Duluth Mall Area which was just down the street from the shuttle stop at the mall. They definitely catered to the runners, they had gatorade and snacks in the lobby and opened the free breakfast early for the runners. It was a great place to stay for the race.

Tip – book as soon as you sign up for the race, hotels fill up right away and expect to pay way more than you want, they definitely up the price for race weekend! You will feel like you are paying NYC prices in the small city of Duluth.

I mentioned how the hotel opened up the free breakfast early, well that’s because we had to get on the shuttle at 4:30am, SO early!! I don’t normally eat before I run as my stomach can’t handle it, but a dry piece of toast and some coffee were much appreciated. I headed to the shuttle and there was quite the long line, but many buses.

Once on the bus, the ride was longer than I thought, maybe around 20-30 minutes. I ended up as one of the last few on the bus, so it was standing room only at that point. The view of the sunrise over the lake was absolutely stunning as we made our way to the start, I wish I had taken a picture, but once we arrived at the start, it was still beautiful, even though not as stunning as during the ride there.

Sunrise over Lake Superior at race start line

The start line was quite busy. The bus driver mentioned that if we needed to use the restroom, that we should walk closer to the front as those lines wouldn’t be as long. I tried to do that, but the lines didn’t seem any shorter and I was afraid I’d get stuck up there and as a slower runner, I needed to start in the back. Needless to say, when the race started, me and many others were still in line for the restroom.

I ended up starting the race late, but I definitely wasn’t the only one, so it didn’t bother me too much. The weather was absolutely perfect for running, it was a nice cool morning, which was lucky, you never know what kind of weather you can get in June, it could have been quite warm.

For most of the race, it went along the shores of Lake Superior, so the course was really beautiful! A beautiful course always helps to keep me running at a good pace.

Views during the race

I was able to keep a good pace thru most of the race even with my now normal walk breaks. The race eventually got closer to downtown which involved running up some hills on a highway. That wasn’t all that fun, but are there even any races without hills nowadays? We ran thru downtown and finished up in the Canal Park neighborhood of Duluth.

Running thru Downtown Duluth

As I was in the final couple of miles, the first of the full marathon finishers were passing by. It’s always fun to be a slow half marathoner and be able to cheer on the marathon finisher as they fly past you!

The finish line was quite busy. There were the typical snacks but also some different snacks, like these spicy dill pickle chips pictured below which I thought were absolutely delicious but it seemed everyone around me was commenting that it was a weird choice and they couldn’t imagine eating them. To each there own I guess.

Post race food

After I had my post run banana and the chips with lots of water, it was time to search for the free beer. I won’t lie, this was my one complaint about the race, it was so difficult trying to figure out where to get the beer. Turns out you had to walk quite a ways away from Canal Park all the way to Bayfront Festival Park, I would say it was almost a mile walk, which normally doesn’t bother me, it’s good to stretch the muscles after running, but I was at the point that I just really wanted a beer!

I finally found the beer and enjoyed it while listening to the free live band they had playing. Luckily the beer was conveniently located next to where the shuttles were located to head back to my car at the mall.

Overall, I can see why this race is the top half marathon in Minnesota. It’s very well run and if you are like me and love larger races, definitely give it a go. And the location of the race can’t be beat. The course was beautiful. They open registration on October 1st each year and it sells out quick, so sign up right away.

Duluth is a great spot to spend a weekend, it definitely surpassed my expectations. Check out my post on my Weekend in Duluth to learn more about all there is to see in this beautiful area of Minnesota.

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Weekend in Duluth Minnesota

Duluth, Minnesota is located approximately a two and a half hour drive north from Minneapolis in Northeast Minnesota where Minnesota, Lake Superior and Wisconsin meet. Being on Lake Superior, there are many outdoor activities to explore in and near Duluth making it a great spot to spend a summer weekend.

I will admit I had never thought of visiting Duluth before or knew much about the city. I always thought the only place in Minnesota that I would visit would be Minneapolis. But on my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states, I found that one of the more popular races was in Duluth, so off I went and I am so happy I did as there were so many great things to see in and near Duluth.

The weekend started off a bit chaotic. As it was June 2022, in the midst of the early summer flight delays happening in the US, my flight to Minneapolis was of course delayed even though I thought I would be safe since it was an early morning flight. My flight ended up leaving about the time I was supposed to land in Minneapolis. After I landed I made a quick stop in Minneapolis to stretch my legs a bit and then was in the car to drive north to Duluth.

Duluth Lakewalk

By the time I arrived in Duluth, it was late afternoon and I was exhausted and annoyed from the flight delays, so I only had a limited amount of time to explore. Luckily it was the weekend of the summer solstice so the sunset time was pretty late, which gave me time to explore some of the Duluth Lakewalk after dinner.

The Lakewalk starts in Downtown Duluth where it’s actually along the St. Louis River before the river empties into Lake Superior. The Lakewalk continues for over 7 miles north. Along the downtown section of the Duluth Lakewalk, there are many things to see along the way.

The walk starts at Bayfront Park Pavilion which is the site of many festivals and events throughout the year. From there the walk goes by the convention center. On the west side of the convention center make sure to make a detour to see the replica of the Statue of Liberty. Descendents of the sculptor of the original Statue of Liberty lived in Duluth and the replica statue was put here in 1976.

Statue of Liberty Replica

Probably the most photographed site seen from the Duluth Lakewalk is the Aerial Lift Bridge. Built in 1905, the Aerial Lift Bridge connects the mainland of Duluth to the Park Point neighborhood which is located on a 5 mile long sandbar. The bridge operates 24 hours a day and on averages it lifts 26 times a day to let boats thru.

View of Aerial Lift Bridge and Canal Park

Canal Park is located on the mainland side of Duluth. This former warehouse district has been converted into an entertainment district with restaurants, bars, shops, antique shops and hotels. It’s definitely a great spot to grab dinner and walk around.

Before heading over the foot bridge to Canal Park (pictured above being lifted), you will notice a large ship. This is the SS William A Irvin. Named after William A. Irvin, who was once President of U.S. Steel, this Great Lakes freight ship was in service from 1938 to 1975. Thru all those years in service and many a treacherous winter storm over the years, the SS William A. Irvin remains in great shape and is now open for tours from May thru September each year. In October, it is open as a Haunted Ship on select evenings. Part of me is now wishing I visited in October, as I would love to experience the Haunted Ship!

The Duluth Lakewalk continues on from Canal Park along the shores of Lake Superior passing by Leif Erickson Park and Rose Garden along the way. Once the walk passes the Edgewater Resort at about the 3 mile mark it moves inland away from Lake Superior.

Split Rock Lighthouse

The next day after running the Gary Bjorklund Half Marathon, I took a little road trip north from Duluth to explore more along Lake Superior. About an hour’s drive north just outside of the town of Two Harbors, Minnesota is Split Rock Lighthouse

Split Rock Lighthouse

The North Shore of Lake Superior has a reputation for some really awful storms, so much so that it has been called “the most dangerous piece of water in the world” After one particularly awful storm in November of 1905, which damaged 29 ships, the need for a lighthouse came into fruition. On July 31, 1910, Split Rock Lighthouse was first put in service and remained so until 1969. After that time it became a state park and in 2011, Split Rock Lighthouse was listed as a National Historic Landmark.

The Lighthouse sits on top of a cliff overlooking Lake Superior which makes for a great spot to take in the views of the lake.

But seeing the view of Lake Superior is just one of the great reasons to visit Split Rock Lighthouse. Touring the lighthouse and the other buildings on site including the lighthouse keepers homes are the true highlights of visiting. Everything is self guided except for the lighthouse. When you walk into the lighthouse, there is a guide who will give you some information on the lighthouse and then you can walk up the stairs to the top and get an up close look at the 6.5 ton Fresnel Lens which was built in Paris and then assembled in the lighthouse’s lantern room.

Inside the Split Rock Lighthouse

You can also go into the fog signal building, the oil house as well as the lighthouse keepers homes. Over the years there have been 35 lighthouse keepers. In the first 20 years, the only way to the lighthouse was by boat, so the lighthouse keeper and their family would leave for a few months in the winter when the weather was really bad. In 1924, the highway was built and they could reside onsite year round.

With the only access being by boat and the lighthouse located on top of a cliff, you might wonder how they got the materials up to the cliff to build the lighthouse and get supplies up to the lighthouse. When it was being built and during the first years it was in use, they used a hoist and derrick system. You can see the ruins of this system to the left of the lighthouse. In 1916 a tramway was built to haul supplies to the lighthouse. Make sure to take the trail that leads to the stairs down to the lake. These stairs pass right by the ruins of the tramway and also bring you down to the shores of Lake Superior, where you can get some really stunning views of Split Rock Lighthouse.

View of Split Rock Lighthouse from shores of Lake Superior

Gooseberry Falls State Park

Located just down the road on the drive back to Duluth is Gooseberry Falls State Park. This 1700 acre park includes numerous hiking trails, waterfalls and a campground and is a great spot to spend a few hours.

Gooseberry Falls State Park

There are three sets of waterfalls in the park with a path leading between all three. These are the Upper, Middle and Lower Falls. It’s a nice easy hike between the three. I walked up to the Upper Falls and then made my way down to Middle and Lower Falls.

While the easy hike between the three waterfalls may be enough for you, if you are looking for a more extensive hike, there are other trails to choose from ranging from the 2 mile Fifth Falls trail which will take you to another waterfall to the 15 mile Gitchi-Gami State Trail.

Kayaking on Lake Superior

The following morning I headed to Lake Superior for a kayaking tour with Day Tripper of Duluth. The tour lasted 90 minutes and was located on Lake Superior at Glensheen Mansion (more on that later). At 31,700 square miles, Lake Superior is the largest of the Great Lakes. It’s more than 4 times the size of the smallest of the Great Lakes, Lake Ontario. This seems crazy to me, I went to college near Lake Ontario and it just seemed like such a large lake to me, to think this one was more than 4 times the size was just crazy. The size of Lake Superior is also comparable to the size of the state of South Carolina and the country of Austria. Needless to say it’s a large lake.

That being said, kayaking on Lake Superior will not be like kayaking on other lakes. It’s more comparable to sea kayaking. For one, the tour provided (and required) wet suits for all on the tour. We were given the typical safety talk about what to do if you flip the kayak but it seemed more emphasized than on other kayaking tours I’ve taken. I won’t lie considering my recent kayaking experience has been on rivers and I had only done sea kayaking once in Alaska way back in 2014, I was a bit nervous, which is not usual for me when it comes to kayaking. The fact that the other person on the tour flipped probably 2 minutes after he was out on the water didn’t help.

Kayaking on Lake Superior

Being a bit nervous, I took it slow and thankfully stayed upright and out of the water. The tour took us along the shoreline and the guide shared some history of the area and the nearby Glensheen Mansion and the Congdon family who lived there.

We also kayaked down a private channel that was part of the Glensheen Mansion grounds. It was a spot where the children of the Congdon family would enjoy in the summers. We weren’t able to get too far down it since the water was low, but it was definitely very beautiful. We then finished the tour by taking photos in front of the Glensheen Mansion.

Kayaking in front of Glensheen Mansion

Glensheen Mansion

Since the kayaking tour took place right at the Glensheen Mansion, it was pretty obvious that would be my next stop.

Glensheen Mansion

The Glensheen Mansion was built between 1905 and 1908 by Chester and Clara Congdon. The Congdon family was known for starting iron mining in this region of Minnesota. The 39-room mansion sits on a 12 acre estate on the shores of Lake Superior. The Congdon’s lived here with their seven children.

The family and the mansion have a sinister past as Chester and Clara’s youngest daughter Elisabeth and her nurse were murdered in the mansion in 1977. Her son in law was arrested for her murder. It’s thought that her daughter and him knew that they would inherit millions when Elisabeth died and that was the motive for killing her.

The tours of the house are self guided and there are two different tour options you can take. The Classic Tour includes the first three floors of the mansion, while the Full Mansion Tour includes all five floors of the mansion. I recommend going with the Full Mansion Tour. With that tour you get to see the entire house.

I’ve been on many mansion tours over the years and many feature replicas of items that were in the home back in the day or period pieces. Glensheen has original artifacts that belonged to the family when they lived there, making it a very authentic experience.

The inside of the mansion was just beautiful, I loved seeing all of the different rooms and some of the windows had stunning stained glass.

But my favorite room to see was the luggage room. Maybe it was because it’s not the typical room you see on a mansion tour or maybe it’s because of my love of travel I really enjoyed seeing all the old pieces of luggage. Or maybe it’s the fact that I was intrigued by the thought of a luggage room, how do I fit one of these in my small apartment? Haha!

Luggage Room

After touring the inside of the mansion, I took a walk around the grounds which were beautiful especially on the late spring/early summer day I was there.

The views of the lake as well as the view of the house from the lake shore were also stunning.

Glensheen Mansion

While walking by the lake shore there were some interesting things to see including a diving bell which was lifted from under the estate in 2019 and is said to be a century old. And also the only shark on Lake Superior.

After touring the mansion, I left Duluth to head back to Minneapolis in hopes of exploring a bit of the city before flying home the next morning.

With it’s location on Lake Superior, Duluth makes for a great weekend vacation spot. There was more to see than I realized and I really enjoyed my time there. I highly recommend a visit here to others.

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Boston Lighthouse Tour

Located on the Atlantic Ocean, Boston has no shortage of boat tours that you can take. During the summer months, a popular boat tour to take is the Boston Lighthouse Tour. What’s better than spending an afternoon on the water seeing lighthouses and learning some history of the Boston Harbor?

The 2 hour lighthouse tour is offered during the summer months at 1pm and 3:30pm on Saturdays and at 5:30pm on select Friday evenings. The Friday evening cruise states that it’s a Sunset Cruise, but due to the later sunsets during the summer months, it usually ends prior to sunset most weeks it’s offered. The boat does not have any food or beverage, so make sure to bring any snacks or water you may need for the two hours, especially if it’s a warm day, water is a must! To check out the current prices and available dates, check out the Boston Harbor Islands website.

Even though I knew I would not be able to see the sunset, I opted to try the Friday evening lighthouse tour. I checked in at the Boston Harbor Islands Welcome Center on the Rose Kennedy Greenway just across the street from the New England Aquarium 30 minutes prior to the cruise. From there they gave us directions to the right side of the aquarium where we would be boarding the boat for the tour.

We boarded the boat and it set off into the harbor. The view of the Boston skyline is always impressive when setting out into the Boston Harbor, but more on that later. As we cruised thru the Harbor, the tour guide pointed out all the points of interest along the way including giving some history of the Boston Harbor.

The first thing with came across was the Seaport District of Boston. This fairly new neighborhood of Boston is one of the fastest growing and up and coming neighborhoods in the city. What used to be an industrial area with nothing more than some old buildings and parking lots is now filled with new office buildings, shopping, restaurants, bars, condos, apartments and parks to enjoy. The area would be unrecognizable to my grandparents generation! As we were going by, there was quite a large yacht docked in the Seaport that evening.

View of the Seaport

After the Seaport we passed by Castle Island. Located in the South Boston neighborhood of Boston. Castle Island is an extremely popular spot for locals but is somewhere that I think tourists should also visit if they can. Once an actual island it is now a peninsula and home to the historic Fort Independence which was built in 1634 and played a role in both the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. During the summer months, free tours of the fort are offered on weekends. Also at Castle Island there is the popular snack stand Sullivans, a beach and a 2.2 mile walking/running loop. It’s also a popular area for kiteboarding and watching a sunrise or sunset.

View of Castle Island

After passing Castle Island, we headed further out into the harbor passing by Spectacle Island, which is one of the most visited of the Harbor Islands as it’s accessible via ferry. What used to be a landfill for the city of Boston, the island now features a beach, picnic areas and hiking trails. Many activities are offered on the island like clam bakes, live jazz music and kayaking, making it a popular spot to visit in the summer.

Long Island Head Light

After passing Spectacle Island, we made our way to our first lighthouse of the tour, Long Island Head Light. This lighthouse was actually the hardest one to see as it was obscured by trees. Located on Long Island, this lighthouse was built in 1819 as a stone tower. In the 1840s it began to deteriorate and was replaced with the first cast iron lighthouse in the US. After storms damaged the lighthouse in the 1860s, the lighthouse was replaced again in 1881. This third lighthouse only lasted 20 years before it was replaced in 1901 with the current lighthouse which is located a bit further west on the island.

In 1982, Long Island Head Light was discontinued by the Coast Guard, but that lasted just 3 years when the lighthouse under went renovations and to this day is still in operation. In the photo below, you can just see the tip of the lighthouse poking out of the trees.

Long Island Head Light

Nixes Mate

Next on the tour wasn’t a lighthouse, but a navigational marker in the harbor with an interesting history. Nixes Mate is a black and white striped hexagon shaped marker that serves to help boaters to avoid the sand bar and rocks that the marker sits atop. Interestingly the rocks at the marker actually form the shape of a question mark, something I’ll need to look for next time I have a window seat when flying out over the harbor.

The history of the island dates back to the 1600s and involves piracy. As someone fascinated with pirates, my ears perked up to hear this story. When I think of stories of pirates from that time, I assumed it was all in Florida and the Caribbean and never thought that piracy occurred right here in the Boston Harbor. But I guess back in the day, where ther was water and ships, there were pirates.

Once a 12 acre island, it gradually eroded and legend has it that it was because of a pirate named William Fly who was on a ship led by Captain Nix. He was left on the island to await his execution and just prior to being executed, he cursed the island stating it would disappear beneath the waves proving he wasn’t guilty of the crimes he was accused of. Nixes Mate is on a small 1 acre island today. Makes you wonder, was this pirate William Fly actually not guilty?

Nixes Mate

After Nixes Mate, we passed by a couple of the harbor islands. First was Lovells Island, which is a popular island for camping. This island has hiking trails, the remains of Fort Standish and even a shipwreck. One of the lesser known facts about this island is that it was considered as a location for the Statue of Liberty!

The next island we passed by was Georges Island. This is one of the most visited of the Boston Harbor Islands. It features the historic Civil War era Fort Warren, which is said to have a resident ghost, the Lady in Black! The fort served as a Prisoners of War camp during the Civil War and Melanie Lanier went to the island to help her husband escape. During the escape, they got caught by Union soldiers and Melanie’s gun accidentally went off killing her husband. Melanie was charged with being a spy and was hanged to death in a black robe at Fort Warren. Over the years there have been many sightings of the Lady in Black. In all my times on the island since I was a kid, I’ve yet to see or hear her.

Lovells Island

Boston Light

Next we came to the second light house of the tour, the historic Boston Light located on Little Brewster Island. Built in 1716, Boston Light is the oldest continuously used lighthouse in the United States. The current lighthouse is the second one built on this site. The first one was damaged by a fire and multiple storms, but it wasn’t until the American Revolutionary War when it became completely destroyed when it was blown up as the last of the British troops were leaving Boston.

The lighthouse as it is today was built in 1783 and had many renovations made to it since that time, from revolving Fresnel Lens to upgraded fog signals to electricity to run the lighthouse which was originally run by generator and batteries.

A lighthouse keeper’s house is also on the island, as Boston Light is the only manned lighthouse in the United States. The current lighthouse keeper is the 70th for Boston Light, her name is Sally Snowman and she is the first woman to become lighthouse keeper of Boston Light. And chances are that she will be the last lighthouse keeper of Boston Light under the stewardship of the US Coast Guard. It was announced in 2020 that the US Coast Guard would be looking to transfer stewardship of the lighthouse. Two years later, this still has not occurred as they search for someone to transfer it to who will preserve the historic lighthouse and continue the public access to it. It will definitely be interesting to see who will take over Boston Light from the US Coast Guard.

Boston Light

We then were further out in the harbor past most of the Boston Harbor Islands off to the third and final lighthouse of the tour. On our way, I looked back at Boston Light and got a great view of the lighthouse with the city of Boston in the background.

Boston Light and the Boston Skyline

Graves Light

Graves Light is located the furthest from the city of Boston at 9 miles, it’s also the most recently built lighthouse in the Boston Harbor. Built in 1905, there used to be no more than a a buoy at this location. The nearby Broad Sound Channel began to be used by larger vessels into the Boston Harbor which caused there to be a need for a lighthouse in this location.

When the lighthouse was finished in 1905, it included a 12 feet high and 9 feet in diameter Fresnel Lens which was made Graves Light the most powerful light in Massachusetts. In 1976, the Fresnel Lens was stored at the Smithsonian after the lighthouse was automated.

Graves Light is no longer in use and is privately owned. The only way to see it is via boat, which is one of the great things about this tour. While going by Graves Light, they pointed out the red door in the picture below. This was the door to get into the lighthouse when it was still operational. As you can see there are no steps to this door, so to get to the door, a letter would be necessary.

Graves Light

Since the island is so far out in the harbor, there were a number of birds sitting on the rocks and it was such a beautiful sight to see, from a far it kind of reminded me of seeing the puffins out on the rocks in the ocean while kayaking in Alaska. Sadly they were not puffins, but I did feel for just a moment like I was much further than 9 miles away from the city of Boston.

Birds at Graves Light

We then started heading back into the harbor towards the city of Boston. As someone who grew up in the Boston area and moved away for 11 years and then moved back, I have a large appreciation of just how beautiful the city of Boston is. It might be small and not compare in size to skylines of other cities like NYC or Chicago, but the beauty of the Boston skyline more than makes up for it’s size and seeing it from the water is an absolute must.

Boston Skyline

The views of downtown Boston alone make a boat tour a necessity when visiting Boston. There are many to choose from, but if you are wanting to see the lighthouses and hear about the history of the Boston Harbor, the Boston Lighthouse Tour is a must, you will not be disappointed.

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Revere Beach International Sand Sculpting Festival

One of my favorite things to do in the summer in Boston is to check out the sand sculptures at the Revere Beach International Sand Sculpting Festival. This weekend festival is held each year in July. In 2022, the 18th annual festival was held Friday July 22nd thru Sunday July 24th.

Revere Beach – America’s First Public Beach

Before we talk about the sand sculpting festival, I’d like to go into the history of the beach that the festival takes place at, Revere Beach.

When the pilgrims came to America, they settled in Massachusetts so it’s not at all surprising that Massachusetts is home of many firsts. Revere Beach has the honor of being the first public beach in America.

Located just 5 miles north of the city of Boston, this crescent shaped coastline along the Atlantic Ocean was the perfect spot for a public beach. In 1896, three miles of private land along the beach was given to the Metropolitan Park Commission and landscape designer Charles Eliot was chosen to design America’s first public beach. Eliot trained under famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead, known for designing New York City’s Central Park and Boston’s Emerald Necklace.

On July 12, 1896, Revere Beach opened as the first public beach in America. On Opening day 45,000 people came to the beach. The beach became quite the vacation destination, complete with restaurants, ballrooms, roller skating rinks and even a few roller coasters including the Cyclone which as the tallest wooden coaster ever built when it opened in 1925.

But the popularity of Revere Beach didn’t last and in the 1950s, less people were coming to the beach, and everything there started to go downhill. Then the infamous Blizzard of 1978 destroyed much of the structures that remained at this once popular vacation destination. In the 1990s, the city began to revitalize the beach and while it isn’t a popular vacation destination like it was at the turn of the century, it has grown in popularity among locals in the Boston area. For people like me who live in the city of Boston and do not have access to a car, it’s a great beach to visit as there are not just one but two stops on the subway line just across the street from the beach. In recent years, there have been more developments opening near the beach including apartments, condos, restaurants and even a hotel.

In 2001, the Revere Beach Partnership was formed to help bring more people to the beach. The biggest event of the year held by the Revere Beach Partnership is the Revere Beach International Sand Sculpting Festival held each July.

As the largest sand sculpting contest in New England, the Revere Beach International Sand Sculpting Festival draws sculptors from around the world. This year’s festival featured sculptors from the US, Canada, Poland, Belgium, Netherlands and Japan.

The festival has taken place each July since 2004, with the exception of 2020 when like everything else it was cancelled due to covid. In 2021, it was held later than normal in the beginning of August due to uncertainty earlier in the year on whether they would have the festival that year or not. As of 2022, it was back to normal like so many other things in life.

The festival not only features the sand sculptures, but there are also food trucks and vendors, some of which give out free samples, like Yasso, which gave out free frozen yogurt treats. On a day where the temperature reached the high 90s, the free frozen yogurt was very much welcomed. There are also a couple of small carnival rides, live entertainment and on the Saturday night, they have a fireworks show. What better way to spend a summer night than watching fireworks on the beach!

If you visit on the Friday or Saturday, you are able to see the sculptors at work finishing up their sand sculptures which is always interesting to see. I usually attend on the Saturday for this reason, I really enjoy seeing these talented people at work! This year I attended on the Sunday, and it was a nice experience to see the fully finished sculptures and see which ones won the competition. Here are some of the winners below:

Each year there is a theme for the centerpiece of the festival, which isn’t part of the actual competition. This year it was a great theme for a travel loving person like me! The theme was Wonders of the World! It was fun to look at the sculptures and try and count the number of world wonders included! How many can you spot?

The details in these sand sculptures are just amazing, it takes the sculptors hours over multiple days to create these beautiful sculptures. Some sculptures are sponsored and are a great way to advertise your company. Yasso, who I mentioned earlier gave out free frozen yogurt treats, had a sculpture sponsored as did the King Tut exhibit which is currently taking place in Boston now thru October 2nd.

The weekend of the Revere Beach International Sand Sculpting Festival, I was reeling from a long week of dealing with an injured cat so that being said, my favorite sculpture of the festival was the Cats Mew as it reminded me of my poor hurt little cat Indy who I had left at home alone for a few hours for the first time in days. Luckily, he is fully healed and back to his normal self, my wallet not so much though.

The Revere Beach International Sand Sculpting Festival takes place over a weekend in the latter part of July each year, usually somewhere close to the 20th of the month. Keep an eye on the website for future year’s dates. It’s definitely worth checking out if you live in or are visiting the Boston area. If you are visiting Boston it would make for a nice break from the busy city for the morning or afternoon. If coming from the city, I highly recommend taking the subway, the Blue Line (which just so happens to be the line with the least number of issues) goes directly from downtown via the Government Center, State and Aquarium stops to the beach which you can get off at either the Revere Beach (this is closest to the sand sculptures), or Wonderland stops. With all the new developments in the area, there seems to be less parking than in the past and the beach traffic is definitely something that is worth avoiding if possible.

Who’s planning to check out this amazing festival next year?

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Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary Gold Statues

Walt Disney World Celebrated its 50th Anniversary on October 1, 2021. As part of the 18-month long celebration, they have placed gold statues of the “Fab 50” Disney characters around all four Walt Disney World theme parks.

It’s a fun challenge to find all of the statues while visiting the parks. If you aren’t heading to the parks or are looking for a cheat sheet, this post will describe where you can find each statue in the four parks. The gold statues in Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Epcot are mostly all in a central area and easy to spot. In the Magic Kingdom, they are a bit more spread out and I won’t lie there were a couple I had a bit of a difficult time locating.

Another thing to make note of, it’s 50 Disney characters, not 50 gold statues as some of the statues feature more than one character.

Animal Kingdom

We’ll start our search for gold statues at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park. These are fairly easy to find. When you walk into the park head towards the Tree of Life. As you walk in front of the Tree of Life from one side to the other, you will see three sets of statues featuring a total of 7 of the Fab 50 Disney Characters. Keeping with the theme of Animal Kingdom, all of these statues are of Disney characters from movies involving animals.

1-2: Bambi and Thumper

3-4: Nemo and Dory

5-7: Simba, Timon and Pumba

Epcot

Heading over to Epcot, there are 5 sets of gold statues totaling 9 of the Fab 50 Disney Characters. If you walk around the construction in Future World and arrive at the center walkway leading towards World Showcase Lagoon. You will come to the first gold statue on the left-hand side by the walkway that leads you towards Test Track. Here you will find Epcot’s own Figment!

8: Figment

The remaining statues are located at the end of the center walkway just in front of the World Showcase Lagoon.

9-10: Miguel and Dante

11-12: Olaf and Bruni

13-14: Pua and Heihei

15-16: Rockett Racoon and Baby Groot

Hollywood Studios

At Hollywood Studios, there are 6 sets of gold statues totaling another 9 of the Fab 50 Disney Characters. It just so happens, what I consider the most impressive gold statue is located here at Hollywood Studios. The statues in Hollywood Studios are from popular Disney and Star Wars movies. The statues are all somewhat close to each other in two locations.

Walking into the park towards the Chinese Theater on the right-hand side in the grass in front of the Hollywood Brown Derby are half of the statues. My favorite is the one of Joe Gardner from Soul. I don’t know what it is about this gold statue, but I absolutely love it!

17: Joe Gardner

18-19: Flounder and Sebastian

20-21: Bo Peep and Woody

On the grassy area on the left side of the walkway is where you will find the remaining gold statues in Hollywood Studios. You will need to walk around the trees, as the statues are located around the area on all sides.

22-23: BB-8 and R2-D2

24: Edna Mode

25: Frozone

Magic Kingdom

Being that the Fab 50 Gold Statues are in honor of the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Magic Kingdom, the remaining half of the gold statues are located right here to celebrate the 50th!

These 25 are a bit more spread out thru the park and there are a few that I will admit were quite difficult to locate. I was literally searching in rainstorm (and we all know those Florida rains aren’t light!) for one of them! More on that one later.

The first gold statue is located just inside the park in the center at the head of Main Street USA by the flagpole and the bench with Roy Disney and Minnie Mouse. I found it a bit odd that there was just one statue located here, seems like a great spot to put a few of them.

26-27: Lady and the Tramp

From there head up Main Street towards the castle. In front of the castle around the Walt and Mickey statue is where you will find the classic Disney characters like Mickey Mouse and his main friends that we all know and love:

28: Mickey Mouse

29: Minnie Mouse

30: Goofy

31: Pluto

32: Daisy Duck

33: My personal favorite Disney character, Donald Duck

34-35: Chip and Dale

When facing the castle, if you look in the turret on the right, you will find Gus and Jaq from Cinderella on the wall in the form of a gold plaque. This was one that I had a bit of trouble finding.

36-37: Gus and Jaq

Heading to the right towards Tomorrowland not far from the popcorn stand, you will find the next gold statue.

38-39: Dumbo and Timothy

In Tomorrowland on the infamous purple wall that is between Monsters Inc. and Tomorrowland Terrace, you will find that crazy character, Stitch!

40: Stitch

Walk from Tomorrowland into Fantasyland where you will find 4 gold statues. Located in front of the Tea Cups you will find two Alice and Wonderland themed gold statues.

41: Cheshire Cat

42: Mad Hatter

Continue walking thru Fantasyland. Located in front of the entrance into the newer part of Fantasyland just behind the Carousel, you will find two statues featuring three Fab 50 Disney Characters.

43: Pinocchio

44-45: Lumiere and Cogsworth

From here, walk back thru the castle. Once thru the castle, stay towards the right-hand side, keep your eyes peeled to the trees after you pass the walkway to Liberty Square. Here you will find the hardest to spot gold statue, it’s definitely on the smaller side. I seriously was walking back and forth in a heavy rain trying to find it. Hopefully it’s easier for you to find!

46: Tinkerbell

Along the walkway to Adventureland, you will find the next gold statue featuring two characters.

47-48: Pooh and Piglet

Another somewhat difficult gold statue to spot is the one that is right as you are entering Adventureland. As you enter, make sure to look up at the sign.

49: Abu

And last but definitely not least, on the wall just after Sunshine Tree Terrace in Adventureland, you will find that infamous Florida bird….

50: Orange Bird

And there you have it, all Fab 50 Gold Statue Characters for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary Celebration. Have you tried to find them yet? If so, have you found them all?

The 50th Anniversary celebration will last 18 months thru March 2023 so you still have some time left to try and find all 50 characters.

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