Roaming Through Rock City

If you’ve been following this blog for a bit, you know my family and I love to travel. We especially love road trips. Well, I love road trips – not so sure about my husband as he does most of the driving.

For the last several years we have covered a lot of territory in the U.S., and recently the southeastern region. We drove from Chicago to Miami. You read that correctly. We drove from Chicago to Miami. That’s a lot of ground covered and things to see. We stopped along the way to see friends in Atlanta and check out a few touristy spots. One of the spots we visited was Rock City in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Chattanooga is a beautiful place located on the rolling green foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. It’s not a place we would necessarily travel to so I am glad it was a stop on our trip. This is why I love road trips! You get to see so many sites along the way.

We had not heard of Rock City until we saw signs along the interstate. I decided to do some research and take a poll on social media if it was worth a stop. With a resounding “yes” from my poll, we added Rock City to our plans.

If you’re in the area or looking for fun road trip destinations, I highly recommend adding Rock City to your itinerary. It’s located on the Tennessee-Georgia border right outside of Chattanooga.

According to their website, Rock City’s history as a world-famous tourist attraction dates back to the days of the Great Depression, but its history as a geological marvel of nature reaches back several thousands of years before that. Each year, more than half a million people visit the attraction to enjoy the many natural splendors that abound. Over the years, several features have been added to the original attraction, including the popular Fairyland Caverns and Mother Goose Village, the Cornerstone Station, as well as a myriad of shops and restaurants. In addition, the annual events such as Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights during the holiday season bring in guests by the droves. And the gardens have also grown through the years to include more than 400 different species of native wildflowers, shrubs, and trees.

You need to plan on spending a minimum of two hours here so you can make it through the entire area. You can buy tickets online or in person.

There are several gift shops and vendor areas with food and beverage right when you walk in, then you make your way over to the entrance which is adorned with this gnome statue and a cute red door. There are red doors throughout the entire gardens.

It’s not a strenuous walk through the gardens but there are some areas the trail gets narrow and you have to walk between two large rocks. I’m not going to lie, a few times it gave me a little anxiety –– but, that’s just me. I always felt safe, just a little claustrophobic.

The trail leading to up to Lookout Mountain was filled with little gnomes, beautiful flowers, and natural waterfalls.

Before you get to the top you have to cross a suspension bridge. I would have been more comfortable with this if the people in front of us weren’t shaking it and trying to take pictures. So, my advice is to stay back and let the people in front of you go first. There may also be another trail leading to the top, but this is the one we took.

After the bridge, the trail circles around the side of the mountain to this stunning view. It makes for a perfect photo op!

Once you reach the top, the views are stunning. The mountains seem to go on forever. You can actually see seven states.

We stayed up on the point for about 15 minutes to take in the views and snag some pictures. There are also more vendors, restrooms and a gift shop at the top. As you make your way down, you think it’s over but you’re pleasantly surprised by the “lands” you enter: Fairyland and Mother Goose Land. It feels very Disneyland-esque. I won’t spoil it with too many details, but it’s so clever and the kids loved it! I didn’t get any pictures of these “lands” as you’re in the mountain and it’s darker.

We loved Rock City and are so glad we made the stop. It’s a treasure and something I would recommend to anyone. There is another attraction nearby called Ruby Falls you can also visit. It’s an underground (like WAY underground) waterfall. You take an elevator down 1,120 feet. Yes, that number is correct. Once we got to the bottom I was a little freaked out. We tried to do the tour, but the caves were way too narrow and we only made it about halfway through before my little one got scared. If I’m being honest, it was a little too much for me too. There aren’t any bathrooms during the 1-2 hour tour either so we turned back and missed the waterfall. I know it would have been worth it to see but I couldn’t wait to get back to ground level. If you visit Ruby Falls, just be prepared on what to expect and if you don’t like close quarters, I would suggest passing this one up.

Rock City was money well spent and I know the memories we made there will last a lifetime.

Take The Road Trip….It’s Worth It

I use to love road trips growing up. As an adult, it became easier to just fly because road trips take a lot of time – and who has any time these days? After becoming a parent I wanted my kids to experience the open road and the thrill of seeing all of the in-between of our destinations. There’s something relaxing and methodical about watching acres of cornfields and lush green hills for hours. If only my husband thought the same way. Because he is a go-with-the-flow kind of guy he agreed to make the 14 hour trip to Colorado last summer to see family – and we had a blast! So much so, that we decided to do it again this summer!

One thing I’ve learned since becoming a parent is to take advantage of time. My kids will grow up in a blink of an eye and I want them to have stories to tell and make memories that will last a lifetime.

Even though the 14 hours seemed extremely daunting, I knew it would be easier than flying with a toddler. We also would save a ton of money on flights and renting a car. I’d much rather spend that money on experiences there.

We decided to break the trip up in two days and stop in Omaha, Nebraska – the half way point between Chicago and Denver. Because Omaha is a smaller city we had just enough points for a hotel stay at my alma mater company, Starwood. Win! Nothing better than free!

After the car was packed to the brim – we were off!

Travel mom tips:

  • To save time and prevent upset tummies – pack your own food. We took a cooler lined bag and I made the kids favorite sandwiches and packed healthy snacks for the whole family. This helped my family and I stay on our clean eating path also. Stopping to eat wastes a lot of time and the only places to eat along the way are usually fast food joints.
  • We filled their iPads with movies and fun games to pass the time and also stopped at rest areas to let them run around in the grass for 10 minutes.
  • We took their favorite blankets and a pillow which provided the perfect nap environment in the car while still secured in their seat belts.

We barely heard any whining or “are we there yet” comments the entire trip. I know, miracles do happen I tell ya!

The second leg of the trip is always better because you’re closer to your destination. We planned to head to the mountains for several days so I made sure to drink a lot of water and take aspirin to curb my altitude sickness.

If you haven’t visited Colorado, I highly recommend it! For us, being Chicagoans, the endless outdoor activities in Colorado are a nice change – and the kids love all the nature.

Some must do’s – perfect for kids or adults:

  • Visit Red Rocks Amphitheater – even if there isn’t a concert going on, it’s a beautiful site to see. Bring LOTS of water.

  • Casa Bonita – Yes, I said it. The food is no bueno – but the experience is worth it.
  • Estes Park – Such a beautiful site to see. Lots of cute shops and restaurants, but the views are what you go for. 
  • Downtown Denver – has a great splash pad near the train station, a zoo close by and a phenomenal aquarium. You can even go on a tour of Coors Field if you’re a baseball fan!
  • Colorado Springs – A short drive but features the majestic Pike’s Peak and the Garden of the Gods. Both are a must see.
  • If you head west into the mountains for some hiking:  Booth Falls Trail is a great family friendly trail that features a waterfall. The trail does have a parking lot but there’s only about 15 spots, so my advice is to get there early. The trail is right off of the highway before you get to Vail so very easy to find.
  • Georgetown – an old mining town featuring the Georgetown Loop Railroad. We took the boys on a train ride through the mountains and learned about the mining days. A total hit with the boys!
  • Keystone, Breckenridge and Vail: All equally fun and quaint. Vail reminds me of an old European town stuck in time. The scenic views are breathtaking. All have great restaurants lots of outdoor activities to offer. My boys preferred to stand by the Snake River and skip rocks for hours – I think I loved it, too.


By the time the trip was over – we felt accomplished and were ready to come home. That’s how you know it was a good trip and we made memories.


New Mom Traveling With A Baby? What You Need To Know…

You may love to travel, I know I do! However, if you are a new mommy, you might think your globetrotting days are over. Don’t worry, mommas! Traveling with a baby is not as daunting as you think. Between mom groups, the internet, and this website  – we’ve got you covered! Start packing and don’t be afraid to take the littles along.

Here are some helpful tips to help prepare you for traveling with babies.

 1. Call the airline

Before you even book a ticket, I recommend you call the airline’s customer support team to know the restrictions regarding gate-checking strollers or traveling with any baby gear. American Airlines, for example, changed its policy in 2011. The new system requires collapsible strollers to be not more than 20 pounds.

The last thing you’d want is to have to leave a stroller behind or be stuck without any options. Call before and save yourself any trouble.

2. Create a packing list

Baby brain exists, trust me! The most important thing you can do before you travel is make a packing list. This way you’ll avoid forgetting something vital for you and your baby. Be sure to include any breastfeeding items, formula, bottles, baby medicines, pacis, teething items like the Baltic amber wonder necklace, or your baby’s favorite toy. It’s better to over prepare than to be somewhere away from home and wish you would have thought to bring an item.

Make those lists! You don’t want him having tantrums while riding a plane or in a car for hours, do you?

 3. Bring snacks

Lots of them! You must not leave your house without bringing snacks for your baby. They’re a travel diversion as they can keep your kids’ hands and mouths busy while you’re on the go.

But ensure that you pack healthy goodies. You can have crackers and cereals or sliced fresh fruits. Protein bars may also be a good option as a travel snack if they are old enough.

 4. Schedule on mellow days

Don’t plan your trip on busy day if possible. If your schedule is flexible it’s best to plan trips more mellow times. There’s nothing worse than waiting in lines or being delayed when you have a tired grumpy little one.

 5. Take your time

Don’t rush through security or feel like you have to accommodate to everyone else. It creates anxiety for you and your baby. Babies cry, that’s reality and you’ll find most people understand and are willing to help.

 The TSA agents can also help you out. In fact, some of them will just advise you to leave your stuff and wait on the bench while they’ll do everything for you.

 6. Bring twice the necessities

If you’re traveling with a toddler, make sure that you bring twice as much formula if you bottle feed and diapers on your trip. You won’t know when an unexpected day will come. Also, most airports do not sell diapers.

By bringing twice the necessities, you don’t have to worry about being stuck in a bind with a hungry child in a dirty diaper. You’ll have everything to appease your baby.

 7. Savor the moment

Your kid won’t be a child forever. So, slow things down. You and your child should savor the moment. Enjoy the time spent bonding with your baby away from home. You’re making memories and those last a lifetime.

 8. Avoid getting ill

Easier said than done, but it’s not fun when you or kids are sick when traveling. Therefore, it’s vital to bring medicines and ointment for you and your family just in case. If you are traveling abroad, make sure that you and your child have gotten the proper immunizations and boosters recommended.

9. Arrive to the airport early.

Airlines recommend that their passengers arrive at least an hour hour before take-off. However, you may want to try to get there an additional hour earlier for peace of mind as you can never estimate security wait lines or lines to check in baggage.

 10. Change diaper before boarding

Right before you board put baby in a fresh diaper. Changing diapers on the plane can be a hassle and most times baby will fall asleep – so you don’t want to have to wake them to change a soiled diaper.

Lastly, don’t stress and enjoy!

My Journey To The Land Down Under: An Experience I Will Forever Cherish

I’m back! I took the summer off from writing to spend time with family, friends and to travel – and what a great summer it was!

My first trip this summer took me to a bucket-list destination. I’ve dreamed of going to Australia since the first time I saw a photo of the Sydney Opera House as a little girl. Seeing this majestic building with my own eyes alone was worth the 20+ hours of travel.

This trip was unplanned and completely spontaneous. The company I work for recently announced our expansion into Australia, and while I thought it would be nice to go one day, myself and three other colleagues decided – why not now?! So, off we went to travel to the other side of the globe to meet our future teammates and have a little fun along the way!


My first leg of the flight was easy as it was from ORD to SFO. One movie and a glass of wine and *poof* we were there. The next leg was from SFO to Auckland. We flew air New Zealand as they have the sky couch upgrade, and it’s an upgrade that doesn’t break the bank. The extra room and ability to prop your feet up was completely worth it! The airline was very nice, I highly recommend them.

Halfway into the twelve hour stretch to New Zealand, the turbulence became pretty intense. Being a light sleeper and an anxious flyer, this was by far the worse part of the trip. I ended up taking a “relaxation” pill (we will call it), and finally was able to sleep through the bumps. Once we arrived in NZ, we had a brief layover, and started our last 2 hours of the journey to Sydney.

Sydney is 15 hours ahead of my time zone, CST. I thought sleeping on the plane would help the jet lag, but I have to admit it hit me hard. REAL hard. Once we arrived, I ate then drank several bottles of water to hydrate and passed out for a few hours. We stayed at the Westin Sydney, which is in the CBD (Central Business District), so a few z’s on the heavenly bed was just what I needed. After that, I was ready to go!


Sydney, just as I imagined it, is absolutely stunning. It reminded me of Europe and San Fransisco combined in one. Architecture, the water fronts, and the combination of new and old made Sydney a fun city to explore. The best part of Sydney, however, was the people! Everyone is very friendly and gracious, even when marching through the busy streets during rush hour. Also, I will add, if you’re a single woman I would recommend moving there immediately. The men were all VERY nice on the eyes. Very nice. Trust me.


The first night we arrived we attended the yearly festival, Vivid Light Festival. Vivid Light Festival is a major event in winter and is recognized as the largest event of its kind in the world combining light, music and ideas. Vivid Sydney is owned, managed and produced by Destination NSW, the NSW Government’s tourism and major events agency. A must see for yourself.



The festival just enhanced the beauty of Sydney and was truly amazing to witness. Once I saw the Sydney Opera House in person, I linked arms with one of my friends and whispered, “Can you believe this? Here we are. And there IT is. We made it!” It was one of those moments where I was completely taken over with emotion and gratitude for the opportunity to be there, one I thought would never be possible.

Indescribable. Truly, no words.

The next morning we were off to watch the sunset before grabbing breakfast, which is a meal the Aussies take very seriously. Their breakfast is on point. Once we made it to the bay, the views were more than worth the 24 hours of travel the day before. Just see for yourself.



“We’re the Queens of the World!” Just kidding, we didn’t say that – but it was exactly how we felt when we snapped this photo.

The first stop of our food exploration was a little breakfast spot in a boutique hotel, QT Sydney, called Gowings Bar & Grill. The food did not disappoint and I completed the meal with a traditional Flat White.



After breakfast, we were off for more exploration. During the week we packed in as much as we could. We explored Darling Harbor, which if you’re there with your kids, is a great place to take them. We did a red bus tour to see the botanical gardens and different neighborhoods in the city. We traveled to Manly Wharf to have lunch, drink some champagne (because why not in the middle of the day?) and explore the beaches.


Touring around by boat is the way to go in Sydney. How else would you get these beautiful views?


Or get the chance to take this cool selfie!


Our next beach tour was of Bondi, where you can take a coastal walk along the shore line. Again, pictures cannot do this place justice. Along the beach are cool eateries and shops to pick up some local favorites and souvenirs.



Back in the city, we walked around The Rocks, which is a historical part of Sydney. The Rocks provide an opportunity to experience an environment where buildings and public places of the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth-century still remain. We ate at Saké, which is a popular sushi place in The Rocks. The food and overall environment was a great experience. Highly recommend.

Another place, I would highly recommend is Mr. Wong. Do yourself a favor and fit this dining experience into your itinerary. Make a reservation because it’s almost impossible to get in without one, and the wait is hours long, even on a Tuesday! The food and service were phenomenal and dining in a timeless colonial atmosphere was an experience in and of itself.

After you finish up your delicious meal at Mr. Wong…. head down to the super secret prohibition setting bar, Palmer and Co, located under the restaurant down the alley. We shared after dinner drinks with some new friends and soon-to-be partners, and it was a perfect setting for intimate conversations and relaxation.


To top the night off, our new friends took us to see the best views in the city where we shared a toast to our lovely and successful trip to Sydney – at 360 Bar. Talk about having the best seat in the house! Check out these views!


One of my last restaurant recommendations is Bambini Trust. Again, great food, service, setting and wine. My only complaint of this night was that I dropped my iPhone in the toilet after forgetting it was in my back pocket! Don’t worry, a bag, some rice and 24 hours later – it worked again! Phew. Total buzz kill.


My only wish of this extraordinary trip was that I could have stayed longer. Or, if I had built up the courage in time, to conquer the bridge climb. One week was just not enough time to take in this remarkable city.

We ate, drank, made new friends with future colleagues, and left a piece of our hearts in Australia. The moral of this story – dreams do come true when you have the courage to chase them.

I encourage you to lace up those running shoes.

Until next time, Sydney – because we WILL be back!