Is A Disney Cruise Worth the Money?

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Sunday Mar 27, 2016 Under Claire, Cobey, Crusies, Disney Cruise, Kid's Corner, Travel

Carnival EcstasyIt was NOT planned this way but we have been fortunate to go on two cruises this year. In January, we went on a Seven Day Disney Cruise out of Puerto Rico on the Wonder that was fabulous. It had been booked for over a year.  In November, my brother decided to get married on a cruise which caused two things to occur. One, we booked a Carnival Cruise which we would probably would have not done. Two, we booked a cruise two months after another cruise.  Last week, we went on a Seven Day Carnival Cruise out of Charleston on the Ecstasy. We have been on several Disney Cruises. I have been on several Royal Caribbean Cruises, including one to Alaska with the kids.  I have been on one Carnival previously but it was a long time ago. Having the two cruises so close together gave me the real opportunity to compare the two cruise lines.  Both ships were older ships. The Ecstasy is seven years older (1991) and a little smaller  (about 350 guests or 130 feet in length).  I think the ships are similar enough to be a fair comparison. I will have another post with more details about a cruise wedding but I have had many questions about is Disney worth the extra money and this post will mainly focus on that issue.

Cabin – Disney Wins



Disney rooms are arranged for families! The smallest inside cabin for Carnival  is 160 square feet and Disney is 185 square feet. Our cabin was 170 square feet. Disney has figured out how to get more out of a smaller space.  Our Carnival cabin was an inside cabin and it felt tight for the three of us. Cobey’s bed was on the floor and Claire had to walk over it to get to the bathroom. Cobey said it was comfortable but it was inconvenient. We had a small chair that was more in the way than used because it barely fit. There was enough space to put away all of our clothes but it would have been hard with four people. The bathroom was a nice size. Disney manages to put a small couch in each of their rooms. The couch turns into one bed and one comes from the ceiling. It is a great way to optimize space. Most of their rooms also have two separate bathroom areas. One area with a shower/tub and a sink and the other with a toilet and sink.  I can’t tell you how nice this is when getting ready for dinner. Our room for Disney was 215  square feet but felt twice as big. When you look for a cabin, layout is key. My guess is that Carnival has figured this out and some of their newer ships have a better layout but for this comparison hands down Disney wins.

They also win with cabin service.  Disney offers cabin service twice a day. They put the beds away in the morning and then back out in the evening. This is really nice so you can use the couch during the day.  On Carnival we had to choose either morning or evening.  I also think Disney did a slightly better job cleaning. They both did a great job with the towel animals that Claire loves. Claire missed the chocolate on the bed. The return guest gift is also better on Disney. On Disney it is usually a bag with something inside it. Our last cruise was a tote with a photo album. Another cruise was a backpack with water bottle. On Carnival, I got a bottle of water and my brother got a lapel pin.

Food – Carnival Wins


Cobey back from Midnight Mexican Buffet

Food is the most important thing on a cruise to Cobey so I am going to go with his opinion the most. We all thought the quality of the food was about the same except for the burgers. The burgers were better on Carnival. The burgers were dry on Disney and I complained I could never get a good burger the last trip. The food at the wedding was the wonderful.  The quality is about the same.  You will never go hungry on either trip.  Cobey liked Carnival better because of the variety. He likes to try new things. On this trip he got his lamb, duck and lobster which he always enjoys but he also got ox tongue and boiled frog legs. Disney has four course meals while Carnival has three. Disney has Appetizer, Soup/Salad, Entree and Desert. Carnival doesn’t have Soup/Salad separate. I really don’t think this matters because you can order multiple and we often did. Cobey ordered 3 Apps, 2 Entrees and 2 Deserts often. He got his money’s worth in food for sure.  He also loved the Midnight Mexican buffet.  We didn’t order room service on the Carnival because we never found the menu and the one time I called everything I ordered cost money so I gave up.  The other downside of Carnival is soft drinks are NOT included. You have to pay per soda or purchase a soda plan. For seven days for a family of four the soda plan would be $170 whereas soda is included on Disney.  Claire was the only one that got the plan this trip. Overall though the win goes to Carnival for food.

Kid’s Club – Disney

Cobey did not even try his Kid’s Club this time but he barely did the Disney one last trip. He would rather read or watch movies. Claire did try the Kid’s Club for Carnival and I looked at the list for both age groups.  There is no comparison, Disney by a long shot has a better program. For starters, Claire’s club was mostly in a conference room, yes the conference room. I guess they were suppose to be having a board meeting.  I guess they tried with the programming but can you really compare Giant Jinga with Boot Camp with Toy Story Soldiers or Wax Museum  with Dancing with Snow White or Would You Rather with a Pajama Party with Goofy. You get my point!  At night you have to start paying for the club which REALLY bothers me. You don’t pay on Disney unless you have someone in nursery less than three. Royal Caribbean was the same way.  They listed decoupage box as an activity and when Claire went it was coloring on a box. Disney on the other hand had some nice crafts last time we went. When they said tiles it was really made out of tiles.    As my kids get older this becomes less important but Club was the highlight of the trip for ALL parties while they were young.

Excursions – Carnival 

Claire Dolphin Swim

I think the actual excursions offered seem very similar. There have been some special excursions on Disney that are very special and unique. We had a tea with Alice in Wonderland in a garden in Canada and that was an awesome excursion. But overall I think they are similar. I am giving a slight edge to Carnival on this one because they offer a price guarantee and they were so easy to work with. I got to watch the Dolphin Swim with Claire and Stingray with Cobey and Claire without paying. They also had a great variety of options at different price points.



Atmosphere – Disney

I was worried about the party atmosphere on the ship. I can only speak to what I experienced on this ship and I was pleasantly surprised.  Yes, I had to explain what a beer bong was to Cobey and there were a few drunk people here and there but overall it was fine. Claire loved the dancing at dinner every night and the over all fun atmosphere on Carnival, but we both missed rotating dining rooms like we did on Disney.  The part that bothered me the most was the smoking in the middle of the ship in a main thoroughfare and that is why I give the edge to Disney. Disney allows smoking but I don’t ever remember seeing it so it must not be in a main thoroughfare. This may be better on other ships with different design.  Overall, Carnival is fun but Disney is Magical. We have so many truly magical moments from our five Disney cruises.

Photography – Disney


This may not matter to some but I love photos on cruises. I love going to all the different backgrounds and getting tons of pictures and coming home with a stack. Claire loves posing for photos. Carnival did have lots of backgrounds probably more than Disney so that was nice. The lady who did the wedding was superb and I loved her but beyond that the photograph was pretty bad. Most of the staff seemed very unhappy and not to like kids.  Claire usually loves to take photos but really didn’t want to on this cruise.  The ship still had the old system where you had to search for your photo on the wall.  Even though this is an old ship they could have updated the system like they have on Magic. I had a stack of our photos together – did I mention that I had to search for them and they lost them. There are no packages and the prices are high. Instead of a package you get free gifts after a certain number of photo. I say keep your free gift and give me a packages. I also like that I can take the disc home with all the photos and decide after the cruise which ones that I prefer.

Entertainment – Disney

Claire Sword Fighting Captain Hook

There is so no comparison to entertainment. Disney is top notch with Broadway level performances each night. I have not found anything on Carnival or Royal Caribbean to compare. Disney has a movie theater on every ship and shows recently released movies throughout the entire day. We go to at least one movie a day, sometimes multiple. They also had much better movies on the TV in your room. During this trip they had  only had one family movie per day and the same movie played for two days. I hear on some ships they do have a movie theater but you have to pay a fee, on Disney it is free. On many of our Disney trips we got to see the movie BEFORE it came out in theaters. The musicians and comedians are comparable.  Disney does not have a casino so if that is important to you then that is a factor. Disney does have Bingo but I am not sure they have it as often. I also enjoyed the Art Auction this trip which they have on Disney put I have never attended. Carnival had a ton of trivia contest and we went to a few that was fun. Disney has a wonderful Pirate Night on all of their ships with characters, shows and fireworks.  It is the only ship that does fireworks. Everyone dresses up and it is so much. Claire having a sword fight with Captain Hook is one of my favorite members.  But overall you just can’t beat Disney entertainment.

Themed Meal on the Ship – Carnival

Sam I Am


l can’t believed I am giving the each to Carnival for this one but for value Carnival wins. The Green Eggs and Hams breakfast was only five dollars a person. You got photos with three characters a great fun menu for breakfast and great decorations. Claire and I did a Royal Court Tea on Disney’s Fantasy which was wonderful with a lot of gifts but it was over $100 to attend. This breakfast was economical with great food and fun. We all enjoyed it.

Private Island- Disney

Carnival has Half Moon Cay and Disney has Castaway Cay. Both are beautiful beaches with beautiful water.  I am giving a slight edge to Disney because of the adult only beaches with the hammocks, the character statues in the water you can snorkel and see, the huge play pirate ship in the water for the kids to play on and parasailing. We went parasailing for the first time at Disney’s Castaway and it was fabulous. On Half Moon Cay the kids did swimming with the rays which was better after other locations.

So what it comes down to is it worth. If you have kids 10 and under there is no question Disney is worth every penny if you can afford it. Even for us, our kids will be at least 14 and 12 by the next time we cruise, I would love to go on another Disney cruise.  Did I have a great time on Carnival? Yes! Would I go again? Yes! I would probably get a bigger room and compare prices and weigh options. We are running out of itineraries with Disney. It is easy to see why Disney cost more and I think it is worth the extra money especially for families with young kids and people who love Disney. And no, Carnival is not Disney but it doesn’t have to be because it doesn’t have the price tag.





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Very Special Visit to Surry County with Angie Daoud #29

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Monday Oct 26, 2015 Under Uncategorized

The best way to explore a county is of course with a local. Angie Daoud hit this one out of the park and we had a great day in Surry County.  After the obligatory quick stop at the Andy Griffith statue, we started at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History. This was the perfect start for our visit because it gave a great overview of the county and Angie pointed out several interesting highlights. We particularly liked the exhibit about the rock- the world’s largest open face granite quarry.  The Einstein Monument base and the Wright Brothers Monument came from this quarry. We also  liked the model train exhibit with each of the depots starting with Sanford.

Our next stop was lunch at Snappy Lunch where Cobey had the famous Porkchop Sandwich. This was just the beginning of the eating. The kids had a great time picking candy at Opie’s Candy Shop. Angie and I enjoyed moonshine ice cream at the Hillbilly’s Gluten Free Bakery. Claire had her first malt at Walker’s Soda Foundation while Cobey had a shake.  The downtown has some fabulous shops and we of course got socks at Renfro Sock Factory Outlet. Claire loved seeing all the guitars around town. We then rode out of town to see the rock at the North Carolina Granite Corp.

We visited the grave of Chang and Eng Bunker, who were conjoined twins. The last stop with Angie was to Pilot Mountain where we had a great view. It was absolutely gorgeous.


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Why I love the NC State Fair?

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Friday Oct 23, 2015 Under Claire, Cobey, Kid's Corner, North Carolina, Travel

Blue Ribbon for Digital ScrapbookThe state fair really is not a place one would think I would like. It is crowded and full of food that I can’t eat. And did I say crowded? I hate crowds and avoid them with a passion. I really don’t enjoy rides anymore. So why do I love the fair because there is so much more than rides and crowds and food. First there are all the entries. Claire entered several categories this year. I love that it gives or a chance to try something new or show off her talent. This year she discovered she loved making dish gardens. She also made an apron, did flower arrangement, scrapbook pages, tie dye and more.  So I love going and checking out Claire’s entries and others.

12140570_10205277293552451_574336622841564267_nCobey got a mask of Greg Fishel and loved going around the fair being Greg Fishel all day. I think he liked it because he didn’t have to smile for any of the photos. We also love going around getting all the free stuff and the answer is no you can not have too many bags or pencils or things. Oh and they loved all the free samples to taste.  And while we are on food, the kids got hamburgers, hotdogs, doughnut with strawberries and cream, and funnel cake. The typical fair food but I found a great Mediterranean Place and had a salad with a kabob.  It was delish!


King BMX ShowWe went to three shows. Claire went to a dog show which she liked. The rest of us could not get close enough to see. Did I say I hate crowds? The other two shows were King BMX Sport Show and pig racing. I was surprised but I  really enjoyed the Sport Show.  I would see it again for sure. The pig racing was corny but fun. You can’t go to the fair without seeing pig racing. Overall, We stayed from about 10am to 6pm. We didn’t ride any rides and there was still plenty we didn’t see.  I gave the kids each $20 for food or whatever they wanted and both came home with extra. I think of the fair as a celebration of our state and its people. I think everyone should go and find something they love!





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Cobey is working on a project about Stonewall Jackson’s Valley Campaign. The goal of this trip was to see and learn as much about the campaign as possible. Well, for me to learn since Cobey already knew a lot about the campaign. We spend about two and half days on this project. We were based out of Winchester at a friends house. I would say you would need at least this much time. We were rushed and didn’t get to everything and plan a returned trip.

Prtitchard House

11947592_10206265273845458_5292582860261259085_nThe first stop was at Kernstown Battlefield where Jackson’s only defeat took place.   I would give yourself at least two hours. There is a small museum, a house and a battlefield walk. The staff and volunteers were very helpful and friendly.  Claire and a friend did a scavenger hunt which I highly recommend for elementary age children. The Pritchard House was built in 1854 and was there during the battle.  You can find a walking tour in the museum and the way winds throughout the battlefield.    The battlefield is only open on weekends so be sure to check times.

Rose Hill Farm

Jackson Headquarter in WinchesterWe had a wonderful visit to Stonewall Headquarters in Winchester. I highly recommend this museum. The costumed guide was very knowledgeable and informative. They have many original items in the house and items used by Jackson.  The only disappointment is there are no photos allowed in the house. We also went by and saw the plaque for the Winchester Battle and the Rose Hill Farm. The farm is where part of the battle of Kernstown took place.

Prospect Hill Cemetry
Warren County, VA Courthouse

After lunch, Cobey and I headed to Front Royal. We purchased a driving tour at the visitor center. I had my laptop in the car which was nice because Cobey could look at the photos and listen in between stops. The tour includes a DVD and a book. It is very well done. There was only one stop, the last one that we could not find the marker. The rest were easy to find if you followed directions and the information was great.  It says it takes around three hours.  We listened to stories in between stops so it took us about half the time that it suggested.  The stops included the one above of Prospect Hill which has a memorial to the Confederates. There is a confederate from every state buried here. The picture to the left is where town square was and urban warfare took place in this area.


The next day we had a full day as we headed South.  Our first stop was at the Harrisonburg Visitor Center where we watched a short film and got some information. The next stop was the Heritage Museum in Dayton. There is a presentation of the Jackson Campaign with an electronic map which is quiet good and a great overview.  This is a small but good historical museum. I wish we had more time to spend in the exhibits but we had a full day planned.


We then attempted to find the civil war markers throughout the area for the Battle of Cross Keys and Battle of Port Republic. Some were hard to find even with address and GPS. There was one on private property that said you had to have permission to see. After the driving tour at Front Royal, this was disappointing and frustrating but we did find a few makers. We did find the memorial where General Turner Ashby died. He was the general over Jackson’s cavalry.  We then ran out of town because we had an appointment at 3pm in McDowell.


The Highland County Museum at The Manson

Inside the Highland County Museum


The road to McDowell not only was a VERY curvy mountain road , it had road construction.  At the Highland County Museum, we saw a film on the Battle of McDowell. We also visited the exhibits and got some helpful tips of other things to visit in the area. The museum is housed in the mansion house where I loved the painting they found under the wallpaper. The walls were painted to look like wood. It was quiet interesting. (although nothing to do with Jackson Campaign) We then made stops at the house down the street that was Jackson’s Headquarters for two weeks and a church down the street which was hospital. We attempted to hike the mile up the mountain to find the battle markers but the trail was not marked and we found one but don’t think we found the one at the top.



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Historical Harpers Ferry

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Monday Aug 24, 2015 Under Civil War Sites, Claire, Cobey, Good Eats/Not So Good Eats, Kid's Corner, Travel


We were blessed to have a tour with Scot Faulkner the President of the Friends of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.  This was our second visit to the area but through the eyes of a local historian was more than we could have imagined.  We started with a great overview at Bolivar Heights.  Mr. Faulkner told story of the Great Train Raid of 1861. He did a brilliant job explaining the strategic importance of the area and painting a picture of what occurred.


We then headed to Murphy Farm. This is where we saw some great views. In 1862, General A.P. Hill forced the surrender of 12,000 Union troops here which concluded General “Stonewall” Jackson’s siege of  Harpers Ferry.  This was accomplished with a flanking move on Bolivar Heights. The area has great views and trails. We then headed down to the town.





In the town, we learned more about the story of John Brown through a great exhibit there. We visited the Lewis and Clark exhibit, the General Store and John Brown’s fort. We learned about the different floods and saw the water line for each one.  We also let the kids wade in the river.  I knew there was a possibility of that not ending well and it didn’t. I let Claire go out one last time and she slipped and fell. She was soaked.  A purchase of an over sized T-shirt at the Bookstore saved the day.  The bookstore is phenomenal so don’t miss it if you are in the area.  We learned about the St. Peter’s Church and how it was saved from being burned during the war by Father Costello raising a Union Jack flag. We then stopped for some great ice cream at Scoop’s Ice Cream. This was the fuel to tackle our last stop – Jefferson Rock.


Jefferson RockThomas Jefferson wrote about this place in his book – Notes of the State of Virginia.  The book was like a travel guide.  He stood on the rock October 25, 1783 and wrote “this scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic”. The rock used to rest on a natural rock formation that  you could rock but over the years it became dangerous and supports were added.

We then had a great dinner at the Anvil. They had a great variety of food and everyone was able to find something they wanted. Cobey got the suicide wings which were very hot. The waitress was surprised he finished them and said grown men sent them back saying they were too hot. The food was good and great service. Great ending to a wonderful afternoon and evening in Harpers Ferry.

To top off the day, Scott Faulkner was kind enough to sign Cobey’s book. He is the author Naked Emperors- The Failure of the Republican Revolution which is a great read.




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We have been to Asheville several times and decided to official complete Buncombe County with field trip friends. In previous trips, we have been to Biltmore multiple times. We absolutely love it. We have eaten at the Stables and also Cederic Tavern. They have the best audio for kids staring Cederic the dog. If you go to the area, don’t miss Biltmore it is worth the money. Homeschoolers check out Homeschool Days to save money.  We have stayed in Biltmore Inn also which is nice but not worth the money unless you get a special. Just my opinion. Having said all that, this trip was about exploring different things.


The first stop was a tour of Basilica of St. Lawrence. The tour was informative but not my favorite tour guide. The church is breathtaking. It is open to the public and a must see. There is parking beside the church and a brochure in the church that will give you more information. Raphael Guastavino who worked on the Biltmore House was the architect for this National Treasure. After the tour, we took a walking tour of the Urban Tour in Downtown in Asheville. The tour has 30 stops with whimsical statues. It was a fun walk with a little history worked in. One tip, be careful not to get lost and try to cut through the parking lot of the Federal Building. They really don’t like that.. The photo below is from the trail.


Urban Trail




North Carolina Arboretum We made a stop that evening at the North Carolina Arboretum. I had been wanting to go for a while. It was not a good call. After a morning hiking at Mt Mitchel and then a long walking tour,  we were worn out. Claire loved the Bonsai collection which is phenomenal. We also liked the section that had a quilt pattern with flowers and the one that showed dye from different flowers and plants. There are a ton of trails you could enjoy and spend half a day easy. We were just too tired and hungry and headed out. We had a terrific meal at Stone Ridge Tavern. Cobey liked it so much that he asked if we could come back the next day. Cobey had gator bites, Claire had basil tomato soup and I had Greco Chicken. We had good service and good atmosphere. I highly recommend it and hope to make it back there.



11954810_10206275918111558_122406355404593091_n11232129_10206275914111458_4375354067668124217_n The next morning we started with a tour of Vance Birthplace in Weaverville. The Vance family purchased the property in 1795. There is a small visitor center with information where we learned more about civil war. In the house, we learned more about Governor Vance and about how it would have been to live during that time. The program was well put together. They recommended we had lunch at nearby Stoney Knob Cafe. This place was out of this world. They handled a large group seamlessly. The food was fresh and delicious. Go check out Vance Birthplace and then grab a bite to eat at Stoney Knob Cafe.

Thomas Wolfe HouseWe then went to Thomas Wolfe House for a tour.   Thomas Wolfe was a famous writer who wrote “Look Homeward, Angel” in this home which was a boardinghouse his mother had.  The house was built in 1883 and the second owners called it Old Kentucky. Thomas had a troubled childhood with an alcoholic father, distracted mother and a brother that died. We watched a film and had a tour of the house.  There is also a small museum which we unfortunately did not have time to enjoy. The photo on right was taken by Kim Biglow.

11951869_10206275903471192_8679276978285113411_nThe final day tour was at Asheville Botanical Gardens which is on the campus of UNC-Asheville. We started a talk by the director of the gardens. He did a great job of telling us about things to look for in the gardens and gave some background. It was clear that he was passionate about his work and I love for my children to be exposed to people like that. Some of the highlights of the gardens were bullfrogs, the moon tree from a seedling that went to the moon and a hummingbird moth.  I actually liked this place better than North Carolina Arboretum. I loved the native plants to the Southern Appalachia and natural feel. It is a beautiful area. Our last stop for the county was Ultimate Ice Cream. We had been hearing that it was the best in town. Cobey tried the Brown Sugar Maple and Bacon Ice Cream which they are famous for and he said it was great. He said it did not disappoint. They were not stingy with the samples and everyone enjoyed the ice cream.

Ultimate Ice Cream

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11987104_10206301221544128_466116147548740139_nBecause of scheduling issues, we ended up doing  Yancey County in two parts – Sunday afternoon and Tuesday morning.  We arrived in Burnsville at lunch time on Sunday. We soon figured out Sunday may have not been the best day to visit. We had a hard time finding a restaurant that was open. We finally found Sam’s Regal Beagle and decided to give it a try.  After we sat down, we began to hear a table in the next room loudly complaining. They complained about how long it took to get food, the waitress, and the quality of the food. The restaurant ended up charging them very little for a large party. We couldn’t help but wonder if this was a bad decision.  We stuck it out and ended up pleasantly surprised. They were out of some items but we were happy with our orders. Our waitress was the same one and she was friendly and attentive. Our food came out in a timely manner. It was not great but good.  Glad we had a better experience.

We then rode around the town looking for something open without much luck. We did enjoy looking at the quilt squares and the many murals in the area. The photo above and the photo to the right are all from the area.


11902497_10153453222548950_1943773066144332891_nOn Tuesday morning, we had a foggy but beautiful drive to Mt. Mitchell.   It gave the background about the tallest mountain not only in North Carolina but the Northeast. The mountain is named after Elisha Mitchell who measured the mountain three times. The last time he fell to his death. There are several great trails.  We split up into several groups and tackled several different trails. Cobey had a great time and Mt Mitchel helped saved Yancey County from the bottom to closer to the top. Claire and I went on a shorter hike and then went to lunch at the Mt Mitchell Restaurant. I had a burger and Claire had soup. It was a good lunch with a nice view.  Mt Mitchell makes Yancey worth the visit.

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The Blowing Rock

Moses Cone ManorI went to Appalachian State University for college. I love the area and I wanted my kids to love it also. I was determined to have Watauga shine. We took the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway into the area. We stopped at one of my favorite college hangouts – Price Park. It was a nice day and there were lots of people but we finally found a place to park and walked around a bit. We decided against renting a boat at Price Lake and headed on to Moses Cone Manor. We enjoyed the views from the house and the beautiful crafts. If you have never been this is not your average crafts, the quality is excellent.  Moses H Cone was a textile magnate who built this 20 room, 13,000  square foot home in 1901. It is a must stop when you are on the parkway.


Mystery HillI lived in the area almost five years but never made it to the tourist traps. I decided this was my chance.  The first stop was The Blowing Rock. There is a town called Blowing Rock but there is also a tourist attraction. There is a Cherokee legend about the Blowing Rock that explains why there is a perpetual wind from the rock. It has fabulous views and I got a great but scary photo of Claire. (the photo at top of blog) But honestly, there are places like this throughout the area and you don’t have to pay but you may have to hike a little bit. Glad I went once but don’t know that  I would pay to go back. The same goes for Mystery Hill. The kids liked it and had fun but it was a little hokey.  You also get to visit the museum with your admission. It includes a huge arrowhead collection and the 1903 Dougherty House that once stood on the campus Appalachian. The house shows life in the 19th century.


The New Public House and HotelAfter Mystery Hill, we headed for Kilwin’s in downtown Blowing Rock. Downtown is cool and quaint and fun to walk around. One of my favorite downtowns in the state.  The kids liked the ice cream at Kilwin’s but they loved the orangeade. They claimed I had been depriving them.  We walked around and stumbled upon the The New Public House. Fortunately. they had room for us at a table in the bar. This was one of our best meals during our challenge. The kids shared Jambalaya and I had Free Range Chicken.  The service was great and the atmosphere is neat.




11986560_10206307243454672_7717610121499515213_n 11934993_10206307244054687_2976234478314856014_n


After dinner, we drove to Boone where I showed them the stadium and my old dorm.  The second dorm I lived in has been torn down.  Claire got a photo with “The Rock” and the footprints.  We got a photo of what is the ugliest courthouse we have seen so far and then headed to the hotel.


Foggy Mountain Gem MineThe next morning we ended up going gem mining at Foggy Mountain Gem Mine. They both enjoyed it, worked together and ended up with a bag full of gems.  The staff was friendly and helpful. I would go back for sure.  Of the three paid attractions we did in the county, it was by far the best.  They both decided that Watauga County was pretty good even if their mom liked it and it is still tops for me.

View from Blowing Rock

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We just finished this book as our family read aloud. Everyone enjoyed the book and I highly recommend it.  The book is well researched and well organized. It contains heroes you would expect and ones long forgotten. We have a deeper appreciation for many and added more to our list of conservative heroes. It also gave me hope that we may be able to return to a more conservative government.   I loved that it gave the kids insight of what a real conservative looks like. I am grateful for the leaders in the books and pray that more conservative leaders will be raised up. Read this book for the history. Read the book for great leadership sketches.  Just read the book.

My question is why does the Republican party continue to have Lincoln-Reagan Day dinner.  I propose we have a Taft-Reagan Dinner or Cleveland-Reagan Dinner.

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We had a fabulous day in Clay County. The kids had previously been to Clay’s Corner doing work on a history project but I had never been. It is the smallest county in the state but it is well rounded. It had something fun to do, preserved history and great places to eat.  Our first stop was Chucky Gal Stables. We had a two hour ride that was great. We took a trail up the mountain.  We had a break by a waterfall that was nice but not great. The ride would have been even better if we had a great view at an overlook or of some falls. We were at the side of the falls at the top which was just okay.  I would ride with them again because they were great to work with and the horses were wonderful.




Old Jail - Clay County

We then headed to the Old Jail where the Clay County Historical Museum is located.  The museum has many exhibits including one of a local doctor,  a jail cell, moonshine, Native Americans and kitchen. Claire especially liked the exhibit of fabrics from old feed sacks. Down the hill there is small Indian Village replica with information on wayside boards. We checked out the the old courthouse and the square then headed for lunch.



11745599_10205991138192238_2103406100570381214_nThe true test of every county is can we find something good to eat. Clay County did not disappoint. We ended up at Chevelle’s 69. Do not be scared away with the Biker’s Welcome Sign although it did give me pause. This place is great! They have a fun atmosphere not scary, prodigious menu and great service. Cobey was thrilled with separate menu with all burgers and selected a Greek Burger. Claire got pasta and I got salmon. Claire said there was too much Parmesan cheese on her pasta. How can you have too much cheese? Otherwise, every thing else was great. Who knew you could get great salmon at a Biker Bar.  They have great specials throughout the week.  If we are ever anywhere close, we would go back for sure. You should also.


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