Gingerbread Houses at the Walt Disney World Resort Hotels

Hotels around the world are where you can find some of the most beautiful holiday decorations. And the hotels at the Walt Disney World Resort are some of the most beautifully decorated hotels out there and one of the popular holiday traditions to check out at the hotels is the gingerbread houses. These gingerbread houses have been displayed at Disney World for over 20 holiday seasons.

The most popular gingerbread house is located at the Grand Floridian Hotel. This gingerbread house is so large, that it also functions as a holiday bake shop, so there are literally people working inside the gingerbread house selling baked goods. Could you imagine literally working inside something made with so much sugar?

Another way to put into perspective how large of a gingerbread house it is, here are some of the ingredients:

  • 1,050 pounds of Honey
  • 140 pints of egg white
  • 600 pounds of powdered sugar
  • 700 pounds of chocolate
  • 800 pounds of flour
  • 35 pounds of spices

The pastry team at the Grand Floridian spend hundreds of hours making this gingerbread house each year and it’s truly amazing to see the finished product of their talented work!

At Disney’s Beach Club Resort, there is a Gingerbread Carousel on display.

Each year this carousel has a different theme. For it’s 20th anniversary in 2019, the theme was Peter Pan. There are also hidden mickey’s scattered throughout the carousel.

Although not as big as the Grand Floridian Gingerbread House, there are still a lot of ingredients that go into the carousel, here is a list of just some of the ingredients:

  • 2,019 Gingerbread pieces
  • 100 pounds of honey
  • 300 pounds of flour
  • 100 pounds of eggs
  • 100 pounds of powdered sugar

If seeing the gingerbread carousel makes you hungry be sure to hit up the Gingerbread Counter and the Hot Chocolate Bar in the lobby to purchase some treats.

Just across Crescent Lake from the Beach Club is Disney’s Boardwalk Hotel. The Boardwalk hotel is part of Disney’s Boardwalk which is an entertainment, dining and shopping area. The gingerbread house display at the Boardwalk Hotel is a miniature version of Disney’s Boardwalk. As someone who has spent a lot of time at the Boardwalk over the years, I was very impressed with the amount of detail that went into this gingerbread house display. Not only can you purchase treats nearby in the lobby but you can also sign up to build your own gingerbread house. Like the gingerbread houses at Grand Floridian and Beach Club, there are a lot of ingredients that go into this gingerbread house display as well.

You can also find gingerbread house displays at Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.

If you are in the Orlando area, even if you don’t plan on going to the theme parks, I definitely recommend stopping at the hotels to check out the gingerbread houses. What better way to get ready for the holidays!

Boston Holiday Favorites

Welcome to another holiday post, this one from my home city of Boston!

Many a year, I’ve spent a lot of weekends in December traveling, but this year, it’s home (as in home in my apartment all by myself) for the holidays for the entire month. Boston is a beautiful city during the holiday season and it’s sad that so many things will be different this year and due to my lack of transportation options during covid, I won’t be experiencing the city’s holiday spirit like I wish I could with so much time in the city this year. But there is always the memories, the photos of years past and looking forward to seeing everything in person next year. Here are my favorite things to see in Boston during the holidays.

Faneuil Hall: Looking for somewhere to do some shopping, grab something to eat and see one of the largest trees in the United States, then Faneuil Hall is THE place to be in Boston.

At Faneuil Hall you will find popular retail stores like Coach, Sephora and Urban Outfitters as well as numerous pushcarts selling Boston souvenirs and unique one of kind gifts. A must visit, is the Christmas in Boston store with multiple floors of holiday ornaments and decor.

There are many restaurants available for a sit down meal and multiple options in the food hall, a great place to try some local seafood, pizza and baked goods.

But the star of Faneuil Hall during the holidays is the Christmas tree. At 65 feet tall, it’s the largest tree in the city and also one of the largest in the country. Definitely visit the tree at night to check out Blink. Blink is a holiday light show where the lights on the tree dance along to holiday music. It runs every half hour starting at 4:30pm each night and is a must see! Sadly due to covid this year, there will not be a tree at Faneuil Hall. Thankfully I have this video to get a bit of a taste of Blink this year.

Downtown Crossing: A major shopping area, Downtown Crossing, is a must visit during the holiday season. Here you will find stores like Macy’s, Old Navy, Primark, DSW, Home Goods and Marshalls to name a few. Other than shopping, you can get in the Christmas spirit by seeing the Macy’s Christmas tree or listening the carolers walking the streets. Definitely a festive atmosphere!

Boston Common: While the Boston Common Christmas tree may not be as large as the one in Faneuil Hall, it certainly has a great story behind it.

There has been a tree on the common since 1941, but since 1971 it’s been gifted to the City of Boston by the people of Nova Scotia each year. Nova Scotia donates the tree as a thank you for Boston’s help during the Halifax Explosion in 1917. In December 1917, there was an explosion that destroyed much of the city of Halifax. Boston sent a relief train up to Halifax to help their first responders. And even though the relief train was delayed due to blizzard conditions, they were one of the first cities to respond and were considered a life saver. Not only is there a tree lighting ceremony here in Boston, there is also a tree cutting ceremony in Nova Scotia each year.

But the tree is not the only thing to check out in the Boston Common during the holiday season. There is also the popular outdoor ice rink, Frog Pond. Every year, there is a line to get into this popular Boston attraction as it’s such a beautiful place to lace up your skates. As with many other things, it is closed this year due to covid.

Seaport Boston: One of Boston’s newer neighborhoods is the Seaport. The past couple of years they have added more and more seasonal activities to this area. Nicknamed Snowport during the holiday season, this year they are offering a tree lot, Christmas tree, holiday decorations, shops and curling lessons.

New Years Eve Ice Sculptures: The holiday season ends over New Years and what better way to end the season than to check out the numerous ice sculptures throughout the city. If you go early enough, you can see the artist sculpting away at the ice. It is so amazing to actually watch them at work, I could only dream of being that talented.

The ice sculptures have mainly been located in the Boston Common and Copley Square, but the past few years, the Seaport has joined in the fun with a ice sculpture trail of their own.

As someone who loves sea life, the ice sculptures outside of the Aquarium are usually my favorite.

Copley Square is definitely where the largest and most impressive ice sculptures are located. This is also were the big First Night festivities take place each New Years. If you want to miss the crowds, I definitely recommend checking these ones out on New Years Day instead.

What are some of your favorite holiday locations and activities in your home city?

Holiday lights in Christopher Columbus Park in the North End

The Holiday Season in the Big Apple

Each year on Thanksgiving morning, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade takes place in New York City and signals the beginning of the holiday season in the city. Even though it was a different parade this year, I still enjoyed watching it on tv and remembering all the fun things to see and do in the Big Apple during the holidays. It’s definitely a magical place to visit between Thanksgiving and New Years.

Here are some of my favorite things to see and do during the holiday season in New York City.

Radio City Music Hall

Christmas Spectacular starring the Radio City Rockettes: What is more iconic than seeing the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall? The first show was on December 21, 1933. Since then it has grown so much in popularity that there are multiple shows a day from November thru the beginning of January each year. The music and dancing will definitely get you in the holiday spirit. For the first time in 87 years, it’s been cancelled for the 2020 season, but tickets are already on sale for 2021, show dates are November 5, 2021 – January 2, 2021.

Rockefeller Center: Nearby Radio City is Rockefeller Center. This is a must visit during the holiday season. There is no more iconic New York City holiday view than the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center. Every year the Wednesday after Thanksgiving, they have a tree lighting ceremony. The first ceremony took place in 1931 and it has been televised since 1951. I’m sure most of you have seen the photos of the tree arriving in Rockefeller Center this year from upstate New York. In full 2020 fashion, the photos of the tree looking more like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree were all over social media and then there was an owl stuck in the tree. You just can’t make this stuff up in 2020! Well, luckily, the owl has been saved and the tree will be as beautiful as ever for a somewhat different lighting this year. While there will be no public access to watch the tree lighting in person, it will still be televised this Wednesday night, 12/2/20 at 8pm on NBC.

Beneath the Christmas tree is the popular ice rink. Normally open from November until April, the rink is open for a shortened season this year due to planned renovations. It will be open from November 21, 2020 – January 17, 2021. Tickets will be sold for a specific time and limited to 50 minutes of skating with face masks required.

Wollman Rink in Central Park

Ice skating in Central Park: Speaking of ice skating, the Wollman Rink at Central Park is another great place to skate off all the delicious holiday treats. Ice skating is the only thing I enjoy about winter. It’s such a fun winter activity and pretty much the only athletic thing I did as a kid. Ice skating in Central Park with the New York City skyline creating a beautiful city backdrop is just amazing. The rink is open this season until the beginning of April 2021 with covid guidelines such as temperature checks, hand sanitizer available, face masks required and everyone is also required to have their shoes and the rest of their belongings in a bag that they bring with them on the ice as there are no lockers available this year.

Bryant Park Ice Rink

Winter Village in Bryant Park: Ice skating at Rockefeller Center and Central Park can get quite expensive. Thankfully if you are looking for a more economical way to skate, the rink at the Winter Village in Bryant Park is free.

Another great thing to check out at Bryant Park are the holiday shops which are a great place to find unique gifts to buy from local artisans. Great place to support small business and find that special one of a kind gift. Both the ice rink and shops are open this season with face masks required and sanitizing and social distancing protocols enforced.

Shopping: We all have Christmas shopping to do and what better place to do it than New York City. The city has every store you can possibly imagine. From the high end stores of 5th Avenue to the iconic Macy’s in Herald Square to the holiday markets spread throughout the city, there is something for everyone. And even if you aren’t up for the shopping crowds, just walking down the street and checking out the many holiday window displays is a great way to spend the afternoon.

Holiday decorations

Food: No trip is complete to New York City without food! The holiday season is a perfect time to find a great independent cafe and grab a hot chocolate and a sugary snack to warm up from the cold weather and fuel up for more holiday activities.

New York City is the perfect place to visit during the holiday season. It will definitely get you into the holiday spirit! Let the holidays begin!

Thankful for Travel

This week is Thanksgiving in the United States. 2020 has been very different and difficult and as we are in the midst of a second surge of covid-19, just like everything else, Thanksgiving will not be the same as normal this year. Most of us will be staying home and only celebrating with those in our own household. But there are still so many things to be thankful for this year, like the health and safety of our family and friends.

Not being able to travel this year has definitely reminded me exactly how much it means to my life and to my general happiness. It makes me so thankful that I’ve been able to travel and even though it doesn’t feel like it will happen again, I am so thankful that I will be able travel again in the future. I’ve spent a lot of time this year looking back on past trips and thought I would write about the top 5 places that I am so thankful to have visited in the past.

Road to Hana – Maui, Hawaii

1. Hawaii – For as long as I remember I have wanted to visit Hawaii. Not sure if it was just my love for warm weather and the beach or if watching that episode of the Brady Bunch (one of my favorite shows as a kid) where they went to Hawaii that made me dream of going there. It seemed so far away and I never in a million years thought I’d be able to get there. Back in 2011, I spent a week visiting Maui and Oahu and fell in love, it definitely lived up to expectations, in fact it surpassed my expectations. To this day it is still the most beautiful place I have ever been. I am so thankful to have seen the beautiful beaches, to visit Pearl Harbor, to see the sunrise on top of Haleakala, to attend a luau and snorkel with so many colorful fish. I have a few more years, so hopefully covid-19 will be a distant memory so I can return to Hawaii for my 50th birthday and spend some time visiting the other islands.

Gondola Lessons in Venice Italy

2. Italy – I’m half Italian, could live off of Italian food and was extremely close to my grandparents on the Italian side of my family. I’ve always dreamed of going to Italy and am so thankful to have taken a trip there in 2015. I visited Rome where I saw such amazing places as the Colosseum and the Vatican, I visited the ancient city of Pompeii, fell in love with the city of Florence and the beautiful Duomo, dipped my toes in the Mediterranean while visiting the beautiful Cinque Terre and took Gondola lessons in the dreamlike city of Venice. I spent my week living off of bruschetta, pasta and gelato and just felt so at home as the Italian I am.

Eiffel Tower Paris, France

3. Paris – For some reason, I feel like most little girls dream of visiting Paris, not sure if it’s the romantic feel of the city or the dreams of seeing the beautiful Eiffel Tower in person. Since I was probably 12 years old I have always wanted to visit there, for me it was mostly to see the Eiffel Tower, it just looked so grand and amazing to me, I had to see it in person. Back in 2012, I made that dream a reality when I took my very first trip to Europe to visit Paris. It was a quick 5 day trip but it was so perfect. The weather was absolutely amazing and I loved seeing the Eiffel Tower up close, visiting Versailles, walking along the Seine and seeing Notre Dame. As a huge Disney person, I was so happy to be able to visit Disneyland Paris while I was there as well. I traveled to Paris again in 2017 and hope to maybe return in 2022, seems fitting to try and go every 5 years.

Just me and a monkey In Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

4. Mexico – Milestone birthdays should involve a big celebration and what better way to celebrate than to travel somewhere fun. Back in 2014, I traveled to Playa Del Carmen in Mexico with a couple of friends to celebrate my 40th. It was actually the trip that almost didn’t happen. A couple of weeks before my trip, I realized I couldn’t find my passport, I completely panicked and tore my entire apartment apart looking for it. I’m one of those people who never loses anything, I still have the key to my parents house that they gave me when I was 11 years old and over the 35 years I’ve had this key, I’ve never lost it! As it turns out I didn’t lose my passport, I’m pretty sure that a couple of months earlier while doing a New Years day major cleaning of my apartment I ended up accidentally throwing it out! When you realize two weeks before a trip you don’t have a passport, it ends up being an expensive and stressful experience. Just getting an appointment with the passport office is an ordeal, I called everyday for a week before I finally got an appointment a week before my trip. I actually picked up the passport two days before the trip on my birthday, what a birthday gift! Not only am I thankful that after my dumb, stressful and expensive mistake that I made it on this trip but I am also so thankful to finally visit Mexico. So many amazing things about this country, the relaxing beach, delicious mango margaritas, visiting the beautiful Tulum ruins, snorkeling with turtles and being able to hold this adorable monkey just made this an incredible birthday!

Magic Kingdom Disney World Orlando Florida

5. Disney! – Last but definitely not least, Disney World! I have been going on trips to Disney World since I was 5 years old. For 11 years I lived only an hour away and would visit at least once a month. I tend to go multiple times a year now and it truly is the Happiest Place on Earth! It takes someone who has also been going there their whole life to truly understand how magical this place is. Those that have never gone or have only gone once or twice may not see why someone would enjoy somewhere so expensive with crowds of people and long lines. The thing about Disney is it brings back memories of childhood trips, trips with parents, siblings and grandparents. It gives you an escape from reality. It makes you feel like a kid again. It’s the one place that truly brings me happiness even if it’s located in a state that I’m just not a big fan of. Of all the things I’ve missed this year, Disney is the thing I miss the most. I’m longing for the day I get back there. I have a trip planned in March for my birthday since a trip this past March was one of the three trips I’ve cancelled. I have all my fingers and toes crossed I feel safe enough to take the trip, my mental state and soul just need it more than anything! Regardless on when I make it back there, I am so eternally thankful for all the times I’ve been able to visit and for my parents who introduced this magical place to me and for taking me and my siblings there so often and creating so many family memories.

What are you thankful for? Do you have any specific trips that you were thankful to take and why? Happy Thanksgiving!

Fall in love with the Emerald Necklace

You may be thinking, “is this a blog about a piece of jewelry?” Nope, it’s about the 1,100 acre park system located in Boston named the Emerald Necklace. Why was this park system named this? Well, the original vision of the parks were that they were planned as if they were hanging from the neck of the peninsula of Boston. The shape of the parks were originally planned to be in the shape of a U to make a necklace but the last portion of the parks never came to fruition.

In the late 1800s, landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted designed this linear park system which goes from the Boston Common in downtown Boston to Franklin Park in Dorchester. While these parks are beautiful any time during the year, fall is a perfect time to visit the parks and take in all the beautiful fall foliage.

Boston Common: Starting in downtown Boston the first park along the Emerald Necklace is the Boston Common. Dating back to 1634, it’s the oldest city park in the United States. The park has had many uses over the years: cow pasture, British camp during the American Revolutionary War, site of public hangings and a site for protests. Now people visit this park to enjoy the outdoors, have a picnic, take a walk, go ice skating on frog pond, play tennis and so much more.

Boston Public Garden: Next is the Boston Public Garden which is the first public botanical garden in the United States. Famous for the Swan Boats and the Make Way for Ducklings Statue, this is a popular park for families to visit. To learn more about this beautiful park, check out the following post: https://beyondthemilestravelblog.com/2020/08/09/make-way-for-the-boston-public-garden/

Commonwealth Ave Mall: Commonwealth Avenue runs from the Public Garden to the suburb of Newton. The section in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston from the Public Garden to Kenmore Square has a park in the middle of the road known as the Commonwealth Avenue Mall. This portion is part of the Emerald Necklace. Walking along the mall, you will come across many statues and memorials including the Boston Women’s Memorial.

Back Bay Fens: Otherwise known as The Fens, this park is located in the Fenway-Kenmore neighborhood of the city and is very close to the historic MLB baseball stadium Fenway Park. In The Fens you will find the Shattuck Visitor’s Center for the Emerald Necklace, World War II Memorial and the James P Kelleher Rose Garden.

The Riverway: This park follows the Muddy River into the neighborhood of Brookline. Nearby this park are many colleges and well known hospitals. The park includes some of the most beautiful bridges in the Emerald Necklace and is a very quiet and perfect spot for a social distanced walk, run or bike ride.

Olmsted Park: Originally named Leverett Park, this park was renamed in 1900 to honor the designer of the Emerald Necklace, Frederick Law Olmsted. This park includes athletic fields and 3 ponds that were created dredging the swampy Muddy River.

Jamaica Pond: Located in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, this 68 acre pond is 53 feet deep at its center. It’s the largest body of fresh water in Boston. It’s a popular area for walking, running, fishing, rowing and sailing. And up until 1929, it was a popular place to go ice skating in the winter.

Arnold Arboretum: Established in 1872 as part of Harvard University, this is the oldest public arboretum in North America. Within the park is the visitor center located in the National Historic Landmark Hunnewell Building and the Weld Hill Research Building. While the Arboretum is beautiful in the fall, it really shines each May when the lilacs bloom. I might be slightly biased as lilacs are my favorite flower.

Franklin Park: The largest of all the parks in the Emerald Necklace, Franklin Park is often considered the “crown jewel” of Olmsted’s work in Boston. It is actually named after Boston born Benjamin Franklin. Within the park there is a golf course, tennis courts, baseball fields and basketball courts. It’s also home to many high school and collegiate cross country meets each year. A popular draw to the park is the 72 acre Franklin Park Zoo. Founded in 1912, it’s the second largest zoo in New England.

If you are visiting Boston, I highly recommend taking a walk along the Emerald Necklace, even if you just check out one or two of the parks. These parks really are a great way to escape city life for a moment.

A historic stroll thru Boston’s Beacon Hill

A couple of weeks ago I took an audio walking tour of Beacon Hill. This historic neighborhood has been home to both politicians and poets as well as some of the most beautiful streets in the city of Boston.

Gas lit lamp post

One distinct feature of the streets of Beacon Hill are the lamp posts. To this day, these lamp posts continue to be lit by gas as they have always been. It definitely adds to the historic charm of the neighborhood.

Walking up the hill, the first stops on the tour are on the beautiful Mt. Vernon Street. This street is home to many historic homes.

A fall day adds to the beauty of this street.

Mt Vernon Street

The first stop on the street is the Nichols House Museum located at 55 Mt. Vernon Street. This home was built in 1804 by architect Charles Bulfinch. Since 1961, this house has served as a museum which gives you a look at the life of Beacon Hill over the 19th and 20th centuries. Landscape architect, peace activist and suffragist Rose Standish Nichols live here her whole life and her family’s original art and furnishings are on display in the museum.

Next door is 57 Mt. Vernon Street, which was home to two different politicians. Daniel Webster who served as both US Senator and Secretary of State lived at this address. You may know him as a character in Mark Twain’s “The Devil and Daniel Webster”. Charles Francis Adams, Sr. also resided in this house. He was grandson of the 2nd US President John Adams and son of the 6th US President John Quincy Adams. He was also in politics himself, serving as a state senator and an ambassador to the United Kingdom during the Civil War.

Next up is 65 Mt. Vernon Street where yet another politician lived. Senator and first unofficial Senate Majority Leader, Henry Cabot Lodge lived in this house. He is best known for his disagreement with President Woodrow Wilson over the Treaty of Versailles. While President Wilson wanted to join the League of Nations without any reservations, which could force the United States into war without the approval of Congress, Lodge was in favor of reservations. These reservations were incorporated into the League of Nations’ successor the United Nations and hence gave the US veto power.

The Harrison Gray Otis House at 85 Mt. Vernon Street is the last remaining freestanding house in Beacon Hill. It was home to Harrison Gray Otis who was the third mayor of Boston as well as a US Congressman and US Senator.

At 88 Mt. Vernon Street, we come to a house, not known for a politician but instead for a famous poet. From 1938 – 1941, Pulitzer Prize winning poet Robert Frost lived at this home. Across from this home is one of the most expensive streets to live in the United States, Louisburg Square. Louisa May-Alcott, best known for her novel Little Women, once lived on this street.

From Mt. Vernon Street, it’s off to the most photographed street in Boston, Acorn Street. The view from the bottom of the street looking up is the best. Being that it’s the most photographed street and with everyone being a photographer nowadays with their smartphone, it’s difficult to get a photo without a lot of other people around. You will definitely see plenty of people there trying to get that instagram worthy shot or the perfect selfie.

What makes this the most photographed street, you may ask? Well, it’s one of the few streets in the city that has the original cobblestones. These cobblestones and the brick buildings definitely make for a beautiful street, throw in a US flag and some seasonal decorations and it definitely makes for a great photo!

Cheers

Located at 84 Beacon Street is that place where “Everybody knows your name”, the Bull & Finch Pub, otherwise known as Cheers.

This is a great place to grab a drink and some food. But don’t be shocked when you walk inside, it’s ALOT smaller than the bar in the tv show!

44 Charles Street

Another great place to stop for a bite to eat is at the Paramount at 44 Charles Street. Although this is an absolute great restaurant, it’s not the restaurant that makes this building famous, it’s the second floor apartment.

This apartment was home to Mary Sullivan. At 19 years old she was the last and youngest victim of Albert DeSalvo, otherwise known as the “Boston Strangler”. On January 4, 1964, just three days after she moved in, Mary’s body was found in the apartment.

Although the scene of this murder was similar to the other victim’s scenes, there was a striking difference. Next to Mary’s foot was a note addressed to the Boston Police that said Happy New Year. There were not notes left at any of the other crime scenes. Her family argued that she was killed not by the “Boston Strangler” but by an ex boyfriend.

In 2013, they compared DNA from the crime scene with a living relative of DeSalvo’s and it produced a match so they exhumed DeSalvo’s body and ran a DNA test, results of which stated that the odds of the DNA belonging to someone other than DeSalvo were 1 in 220 billion. I guess it’s safe to say Mary Sullivan was in fact his final victim.

Charles Street Meeting House

The Charles Street Meeting House at 70 Charles Street was a major part of Boston’s Abolitionist movement. People such as William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth and Charles Sumner all spoke here.

It became the Charleston Street African Methodist Church, which was one of the largest of the black churches in Boston after the Civil War.

Sunflower House

The Sunflower House is located at 130 Mt. Vernon Street near Charles Street.

In 1904, watercolor artist Gertrude Beals moved into this house. Her studio was located on the third floor of the home. On the outside of the house on the third floor is a sunflower. This sunflower is what gave the home it’s name.

One of Gertrude’s paintings was of her in the third floor studio and it was titled “The Artist’s Studio-Sunflower Castle”.

Close up of the Sunflower

The final stop on the tour was the Liberty Hotel. The hotel is the former site of the Charles Street jail. It was a jail from 1851-1990 and housed inmates such as Malcolm X and Boston Mayor James Michael Curly.

Forced to close in 1973 due to overcrowding violating prisoner rights, it finally shut down in 1990.

It then became the luxury hotel, The Liberty Hotel. It’s a beautiful hotel with a jail theme. The two lounges in the hotel are called The Clink and Alibi’s. At Alibi’s, which is located where the former drunk tank of the jail was, you can enjoy a drink behind steel bars with mug shots of popular celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Mickey Rourke and Lindsay Lohan.

If you’re looking for a place to stay in Boston, definitely check out the Liberty Hotel.

Beacon Hill isn’t normally top of people’s list when visiting Boston, but it is definitely worth a visit. I’ve been to the Liberty Hotel and checked out the restaurants and shops on Charles Street many times, but I never knew much of the history of the Beacon Hill neighborhood. If you are looking for a great audio tour, check out the Atlantis Audio Tours app and let it lead your thru this beautiful Boston neighborhood full of history!

25 Years of Eating and Drinking Around the World In Epcot

It’s been difficult missing travel this year especially the trips to new places and different countries. But it’s the trip to Disney during Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival that I will miss the most, especially since this is the 25th year of the festival. I should be starting to pack now to leave later this week, but due to a combination of my state’s travel restrictions and me being hesitant to fly just yet, here I am reminiscing about past years instead.

There has always been something special about Epcot. Alot of people think of this as an inferior park compared to the other Disney Parks. For me it has always been my absolute favorite! I could literally walk around the world showcase every day and never get bored with it, it just brings me such joy!

I’ve always loved to travel so before I was able to travel to other countries, Epcot was how I experienced other countries, their cultures and their food and drinks. Granted, Epcot is in no way the same as traveling the world, but to young, poor 20 something living an hour away from Epcot, it was the closest I could get.

Epcot is host to 4 different festivals each year that all have their own special qualities, but The International Food and Wine Festival is definitely my all time favorite. Each year it seems to grow in popularity. The dates of the festival get longer and longer and the number of different food and drink booths increase each year.

This year’s festival is longer than past years, but there are not as many food booths as prior years. Less food booths for such a big anniversary, covid-19 certainly knows how to ruin big plans!

The festival offers tasting size food that range in price from $4 – $9 and both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks from $4 – $11. This is on top of the daily admission price to the park.

It can definitely end up being quite an expensive day, but in mind it’s totally worth the price. Definitely something you should set aside some extra money for if you want to be able to try a little bit of everything.

Some of my favorite food and drinks from the prior years of the festival include:

Ireland – Guinness Baileys Shake (seriously craving this it’s my favorite!) and the warm Irish cheddar cheese and stout dip served with Irish brown bread

Canada – Canadian cheddar cheese and bacon soup served with a pretzel roll. As if you can’t tell, I love cheese! Even though it’s soup, it’s still really good in the hot Florida weather.

France – La Passion Martini Slushy – Vodka, Grey Goose Le Citron, Cranberry and Passion Fruit Juice.

Hawaii – Kalua Pork Slider with pineapple chutney and spicy mayo.

Italy – Baked ziti and Italian Margarita, who wouldn’t love a Margarita made with Limoncello?!

Mexico – Pork Belly taco and a Mexican craft beer with a liquer floater.

These are just a few of the tasty foods and drinks you can try.

At certain booths you can also get flights of beer, wine or champagne. They come in these not so classy cardboard flights that I think are a pain in the butt to carry. I’ve definitely had my fair share of accidental spills. But hey it’s great to try the different beers if you can’t choose from just one.

Along with the food and drinks to try they have exhibits (normally based on who sponsors the festival) like art sculptures made from chocolate and other candy, cranberry bogs, etc. These are always fun to check out.

Included with your admission to Epcot is the Eat to the Beat concert series that also occurs during the food and wine festival. There are some great performers from the 80s and 90s that they have play each night. Such as Boyz II Men, Starship, Tiffany, 98 Degrees, Smash Mouth, Kenny G and Billy Ocean. It’s so much fun seeing these concerts especially for those of us who grew up when these musical groups/singers were popular. There are three shows each night and they fill up quick. A great way to guarantee a seat is to book a dining package for lunch or dinner that includes guaranteed seating in the show. Otherwise, if you don’t get in, the show is outside, so you can still hear the performance.

Check out my video (sorry for my awful background singing) from seeing Boyz II Men last year, they are so good in concert, if you’ve never seen them and have the chance, definitely check them out!

With so much to eat, drink, see and listen to, who wouldn’t love to check out Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival. The festival usually runs from just before labor day thru mid November each year.

My biggest tip would be to avoid the weekend if you can as it tends to get pretty busy then, a week day visit has much more manageable crowds.

Anyone else hungry after reading this? lol

Ghost sighting and ghost stories in Salem

Growing up about 20 miles from Salem, I have visited this popular tourist city multiple times over the years. There were many school field trips to places such as the Witch Museum, Witch Dungeon and Witch House. I took this for granted as a kid, but now that I’m older and see how many people travel from all over the country and world to visit Salem, I realize how lucky I was to be able to visit these wonderful places so many times as part of school trips.

Visiting Salem during October and specifically on Halloween may be a bucket list item for many, but it’s also the perfect place to visit any time of year. Crowds don’t bother me too much but the crowds in October can get pretty crazy, especially the closer you get to Halloween. If you want to avoid the crowds, I highly recommend visiting in the spring or summer.

Bewitched Statue

There is so much to see and do in Salem. If you are staying in Boston and don’t have a car, there is a train that goes to Salem. It takes about a half hour and it drops you off right by downtown. The first thing you will come to when you walk from the train is the statue of Samantha from Bewitched. This is definitely a great photo op!

From late spring thru October you can also take a ferry from downtown Boston to Salem. This is a great way to get to Salem and enjoy the beautiful weather, who doesn’t want to take a boat ride? When you get off the ferry, check out the waterfront and the historic Custom House which has been in Salem since 1819.

About a year and a half ago, one of my closest friends was visiting from Florida. We headed up to Salem for the day with no plan on what we would do. Little did we know we would possibly see a ghost while we were there.

It all started when we headed over to check out the House of Seven Gables. My friend’s father’s family was from Salem and his aunt had worked at the House of Seven Gables for years.

The House of Seven Gables was made famous by the Nathaniel Hawthorne novel of the same name. It was built in 1668 by merchant and ship owner John Turner and is now one of America’s most beloved historic homes.

We had a late start getting up to Salem and by the time we got over to the House it was closed for the day. We took some pictures of the outside of the house and then walked a couple of blocks away to see the outside of the house that my friend’s great aunt lived in.

Later that night while looking at pictures we noticed a small orb in a different location on each picture. Maybe it was a reflection off of something but it was in a different location in each picture my friend took even though she was standing in the same spot taking the pictures. We really think that possibly it was the ghost or spirit of my friend’s great aunt as it was moving away from the House of Seven Gables towards her house a couple of streets away. It was like she knew my friend was there to take her home. Check out the pictures below and tell me what you think of the glowing green dot in each picture (ghost or reflection?)

Some of the tours can be hit or miss in Salem. One year I took a nighttime trolley tour that spent more time pointing out all the supposedly haunted Dunkin Donuts in town (which there were a lot, anyone who’s been to New England knows there’s a Dunkin or two on just about every corner) than telling any information on Salem. Well luckily we found a much better tour to take this visit. We took the Salem Night Tour which was a walking tour and I highly recommend it.

The tour went to the typical tourist spots The Witch Trial Memorial and the Burying Point Cemetery. This cemetery is the oldest in Salem and is definitely worth checking out both at night and in the daylight.

It also included a stop at the Old Town Hall which was featured in my favorite Halloween themed movie, Hocus Pocus.

We also visited St. Peter’s Church. The present church has been here since 1833, but it’s the chapel that was added on to the rear of the building in 1871 that has a somewhat creepy history. The rear of this church was a graveyard and while the gravestones were moved to the front of the church, the buried are still under the chapel. Sounds like a risky move to build on top of people’s final resting place, I mean we all saw what happened in the movie Poltergeist right?

One of those buried under the chapel was Salem merchant Phillip English. Phillip and his wife Mary were accused of witchcraft in 1692. Being that he was a wealthy merchant, he gained the support of two Boston reverends who helped him and his wife escape to New York. They returned to Salem in the summer of 1693 to find out their belongings had been confiscated. Phillip would spend the rest of his life suing to try and regain his lost property. When he died in 1736 he was buried at St. Peter’s Church, although his remains are under the chapel that was added in 1871, his gravestone was never moved. As this is one of the most haunted places in Salem, it stands to reason he may be the one haunting the place?

My favorite part of the tour was actually the last stop. The Gardner-Pingree House was built in 1804, is considered a National Historic Landmark and is part of the Peabody-Essex Museum.

In April 1830, wealthy retired sea captain Joseph White went to bed one night. His relatives that lived with him awoke the next morning to find a window open and went upstairs to find Captain White bludgeoned to death.

It turns out his nephew by marriage and his brother hired someone to murder him as they snuck into his room and stole his will. They figured if they steal the will, all of his money would have to be divided up amongst all the heirs. The murder and trial was something that really shook up the city of Salem. It also inspired two literary works, Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter”. The house also inspired the Parker Brothers (which was founded in Salem) board game Clue. Does anyone have Captain White murdered in the bedroom with a club?

Since his death, there have been numerous reports of hearing footsteps in the house. The ghost of Captain White lives on.

I won’t lie, I swear I saw something in the windows while listening to the story. Might have been my imagination getting the best of me or just a reflection, but maybe Captain White was just saying hello.

Definitely an interesting day in Salem. Who says it has to be October for fun visit with witches and ghosts?

Have a Happy Halloween!

Fall Activities and an actual in person race in New Hampshire, state 32!

Last weekend, I headed up to the capital of New Hampshire, Concord for a weekend full of fall activities! I’m so eternally grateful that living in Massachusetts means there are so many states close by and also on the very short list of states we can visit without having to get tested or quarantine for 14 days when we return. Also, very thankful to my parents who drive their car over to me so my carless self has a way to getaway for a few days.

Start line photo

As some of you know, I’ve been trying to run a half marathon in all 50 states, with a goal of completing this before I turn 50. Covid has definitely messed up the timeline of this goal, depending how 2021 goes, the date to complete the goal may be pushed out. Anyways, I had been keeping my eye on smaller races to see which ones in the New England states I still had left might end up happening in person this year. As luck would have it, I found one in New Hampshire which was originally planned to be my final state, but I’m now going to do Rhode Island as my final state since my race there this year went virtual.

The New England Half Marathon was being held by Millenium Running who had just held a successful socially distant 10 miler the week before I signed up. On their website, they had a very detailed plan along with a video that showed all of their safety protocols. These included things like face mask requirements at the start and finish of the race, a time trial start where each runner would start by themselves every 10 seconds and marked cones 6 feet apart to line up at the start. After watching the video, I felt very comfortable with signing up for the race. State 32 here I come!

I am so glad that this was my New Hampshire race, October is the absolute perfect time to run a race in New Hampshire. Who wouldn’t want to run thru the beautiful fall foliage? It was like accomplishing two things at once, running a half marathon and leaf peeping at the same time. If you are planning to run all 50 states, definitely pick a fall race for New Hampshire.

Not only was the scenery amazing but the weather was great for running. It was pretty cold waiting to start, the temperature was 48 degrees and it was really windy, but once I started running, it was just perfect, in the 50s thru the entire race. It was good it was a cooler day, due to the timed trial start and me being on the slower side, it was almost 10:30am by the time I started, had it been a warm day, it would have been a little too warm by the time I finished after 1pm.

We were all given an estimated start time and a time to load the bus from the finish to the start area. It was all extremely organized and I never felt like there were too many people around me. Millenium Running definitely did an excellent job and have proven that smaller races can happen during this time.

Check out the gorgeous fall views during the race below:

View from Gould Hill Farm

The race started at Gould Hill Farm in Hopkinton, NH, not to be confused with Hopkinton, MA where the start line of the Boston Marathon is.

This beautiful farm has been around since the 1700s and is a great place to go for apple picking, checking out the farm store, getting some apple cider donuts and also cider samplings. I definitely have to get back there some day for the cider sampling!

NH State house in Concord

The race ended in the state capital of Concord right in front of the New Hampshire State House. Opened in 1819, it is the oldest state capitol in which both houses of the legislature meet in their original chambers. It was a beautiful site to see at the end of the race. Oddly enough, even though it’s only located an hour drive from Boston, I think this may be the first time I’ve ever been to Concord. With the amount of time I’ve spent in New Hampshire over the years, it’s crazy to think of how many times I’ve driven right by the state capital without stopping.

Clock Tower

Concord has that small town New England city feel. One of the striking features of this downtown that I saw was the clock tower.

In 1873, this clock was installed on the top of the 4 story Board of Trade Building on the corner of School and North Main Street. In 1950 the top two stories of the building were taken off the building and the parts of the clock were lost.

Years later, local architect Duncan McGowan decided to bring back the history of the downtown area and went for a search for the missing parts of the clock. The bell was found thousands of miles away at a flea market in Michigan. In December of 1998, the bells of the clock tolled once again 48 years after it’s removal. What an amazing story on how important history is to a city.

Now that the race was over, I was ready to celebrate with all the New England fall activities!

Carter Hill Orchard

First up was my favorite fall activity, apple picking! Like everywhere else in New England there were multiple orchards to choose from. I checked out all the websites and settled on Carter Hill Orchard in Concord. Carter Hill is family owned and has been around since the 1700s. The current family that owns the orchards lives right on site. The orchard includes apple picking, farm stand, bakery (cider donuts!), observation tower, playground and a cider mill.

After picking apples I headed into the farm stand for my post race treat! What better way to celebrate finishing a half marathon than the true fall classic, an apple cider donut! (I also celebrated walking 4 miles today by having two of them, so running a half marathon not required to enjoy these delicious donuts lol) I also bought some fresh maple syrup and pancake mix, since I don’t feel comfortable going out to brunch, I started treating myself to brunch at home this weekend!

Medal photo in the corn maze

Another great fall activity which I have always wanted to try is a corn maze. Beech Hill Farm & Ice Cream Barn is a great place to check out in the Corncord, NH area.

Another family owned business, this farm has been owned by the Kimball family for 9 generations since 1800! If 2020 has taught us anything it’s that we should all be supporting small family businesses more than ever.

There was so much to do at this farm! They have two corn mazes, an ice cream barn (which seems to be a big draw, it was in the high 50s and the line looked so long, you would have thought it was a hot 90 degree summer day!), country store, gardener’s barn, farm museum, picnic area and all sorts of farm animals! It’s definitely a great place for families to check out!

I had more fun than I thought I would in the corn mazes. They had signs within the maze to make it a little scavenger hunt where you learned some interesting facts on the theme of each maze. It definitely made it more fun and who doesn’t love learning some interesting facts? The corn mazes run from August thru October each year and are then harvested and fed to the cattle in the winter.

After finishing both corn mazes, I checked out the farm animals, they had cows, horses, sheep, goats, alpacas and even baby goats and a baby alpaca, they were so cute!

I’m a total city girl and I don’t have a car, so it’s rare that I make it out to a farm, but I must admit, I was very impressed with this farm it was just beautiful and definitely what I needed for me to be excited about fall since I’ve been spending too much time mourning summer ending.

If not for covid, I would have been doing my typical busy fall traveling and probably wouldn’t have been able to appreciate a true New England weekend. It was definitely a weekend I needed, along with the fall activities and the race, I also met a good friend for some shopping at the outlets. This was the first friend I’ve seen since March and it was definitely something I needed. What a great fall getaway!

Have you taken any wonderful local trips that you normally wouldn’t have taken if not for covid?

Liebster Award

I’ve been nominated by Salsa World Traveler’s Blog for the Liebster Award. What a wonderful surprise! Please check out the blog for all sorts of interesting travel all around the world!

Rules: 

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you. 
  3. Nominate 11 bloggers.
  4. Ask your nominees 11 questions.
  5. Notify your 11 nominees .

Salsa World Traveler’s Blog’s Questions and my responses:

  1. Describe the best vacation you have taken? My best vacation was to Maui in 2011, Hawaii has been the one location that I have always dreamed of visiting since I was a child and it beyond lived up to expectations! At some point I’ll get around to blogging about it, it will definitely end up being a few posts, so much to see and do there!
  2. What is the best vacation you want to take? I actually want to go back to Hawaii and visit the other islands, especially Kaui! I’m planning on hopefully taking this trip to celebrate my 50th birthday, that’s still a few years away, so hopefully covid will be a distant memory by then!
  3. What are the three best blog posts you have published? My most popular blog post was on Glacier National Park, Acadia National Park and White Mountains in New Hampshire . Obviously my readers love the outdoors!
  4. How do you measure success with your blog? I’m fairly new at blogging, so my biggest success so far is getting over 100 followers! I also measure my success by seeing if my views are increasing each month, which they are, yay!
  5. What do think about using miles and points for travel? I love using points! I just used some Marriott points last week for a free two night hotel stay. I want to feel more comfortable traveling again, I have so many JetBlue points waiting to be used!
  6. Are you no longer travelling?  If so, what will it take for you to resume travelling? I’ve done a couple of trips to neighboring state of New Hampshire. I’m a little hesitant when it comes to being indoors during covid and although I have faith in the airflow on planes, the airports are what bothers me most. Plus my state of Massachusetts is requiring either a negative test or a 14 day quarantine when returning from just about everywhere with the exception of a few states, most of which are nearby. They are going to put a testing site in the airport though, so I’m starting to book trips for 2021 though, a year without travel is about all I can take!
  7. What do you look for in deciding which blogs to follow and read? If they are things that interest me or things that will help me grow as a person and/or a business.
  8.  Who is your favorite author?  Stephen King
  9. What is favorite musical album? My all time favorite is Slippery when wet by Bon Jovi. I’m a total 80s music girl!
  10. If you had a favorite sports team in the city you lived in and moved to a new city with its own team, who would you root for? Definitely my hometown team. I am from Boston and moved to Tampa for about 11 years, never stopped rooting for the Red Sox or Patriots, they will always be my teams!
  11. What is your favorite non-blogging activity? Well obviously travel, but also running and I of course combine the two and am trying to run a half marathon in all 50 states, 32 done, 18 more to go, hopefully before that 50th birthday trip to Hawaii.

And now I nominate the following 11 blogs:

  1. Brizzy Mays Books and Bruschetta
  2. Lannie’s Food and Travel
  3. Jojo’s Cup of Mocha
  4. The Gen X Travels
  5. Carpe Diem Eire
  6. Lyssy in the City
  7. Travel Bugs World
  8. Adventuring Woman
  9. Meandering My Way
  10. Chalk and Cheese Travels
  11. WattWhereHow?

My Questions:

  1. What made you start blogging?
  2. Have you been blogging more since covid started?
  3. What do you miss the most about pre-covid times?
  4. Has anything changed for the better for you since covid?
  5. What do you do for a living?
  6. How many places have you lived?
  7. What is your favorite type of vacation to take?
  8. Do you tend to take one or two big trips a year or multiple smaller trips?
  9. Do you plan your own travel or use a travel agent?
  10. Is there one place that you continue to travel to on a regular basis?
  11. Will your holiday plans later this year be different due to covid?

No obligation to answer if I tagged you. Thanks again for the nomination Salsa World Traveler’s Blog!