Blog 66: Things to do in Little Rock, part 2

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Last month, we mixed it up a little and brought you Blog 66 — the Natural State version.

Sarabeth Jones of thedramatic.com for shared some insider tips and pics with us about her hometown of Little Rock. She told us all about the downtown/Argenta section of the city.

pdcoverToday is Part 2 about Little Rock, focusing on other areas of the city. These recommendations come from Kyran Pittman, a Newfoundland native, author and Little Rock transplant.

When you’re in Little Rock, you should definitely plan to eat at …

Sushi Cafe on Kavanaugh. It’s our favorite date spot, and besides great sushi, they mix a good Manhattan. Try the wok-seared edamame and the Spice Girls roll.

You do NOT want to miss seeing …

Little Rock Central High School. Central High is a perpetual selection on “most beautiful buildings” lists, and deservedly so. The architecture is spectacular. But its history as a battleground in the civil rights movement is even more dramatic. The site is a National Park, as well as an active high school (one of my sons is a student there), so there are guides and interpretative material to enhance your appreciation for this historic monument.

A few “hidden gems” that only the locals know about …

The Arkansas River Trail, our extensive scenic route for cyclists, runners, and walkers. Our favorite part of the trail is Two Rivers Park Bridge at the western end, but it’s all wonderful.

The most kid-friendly hotels are …

My boys have attended a lot of kids sleepover birthday parties at the Embassy Suites in west Little Rock, and they love it. If a hotel can roll with a suite full of sugar-charged 10-year-old boys playing video games all night, they win at kid-friendly.

For couples-only excursions, stay here …

Anywhere I can get breakfast in bed, and someone else cleans the bathroom is a luxury retreat in my book. But if I could choose from any place in town, it would be the Capital Hotel. I’ve never slept there, but I’ve been in the restaurant, bar, and lobby enough to expect sumptuous bed linens and impeccable room service. When celebrities come to town, they stay at the Capital. If it’s good enough for Johnny Depp, I guess it’s good enough for me.

If you visit when it’s cold, try …

If you visit Little Rock when it’s cold, it’s fun to: shop and eat. The Heights neighborhood is a great place to do both, with lots of indie shops to poke around in. Have warm pastry from Boulevard Bakery for breakfast, and a hot bowl of soup at Cheers for lunch. I hardly leave the 72207 zip code unless I’m in a jet plane, but the Promenade at Chenal also has great shopping and dining, especially if you’re coming from a place without an Anthropologie store or J. Crew.

boulevard

If you visit in the summer, try …

The Cajun Sno-cone shack on Kavanaugh Boulevard in Hillcrest. It takes a long time for them to shave the ice, and the asphalt parking lot will be like the surface of the sun, but it will be worth it. “Homemade Ice Cream” is my favorite, with an extra shot of sweetened condensed milk.

One of the most awesome things about Little Rock is …

The many talented and accomplished people who live here. I’m constantly learning about local residents who are doing extraordinary things. I think Little Rock is a perfect home base for people with high profile careers, who want to be able to live quiet personal lives. It’s a place where achievement is appreciated, but not fussed over. Maybe living with the Clintons for years has something to do with that. I don’t what it would take to make Little Rockers lose their cool and forget their manners over somebody who’s a Somebody. Maybe Johnny Depp.

I would describe the “vibe” in Little Rock as ..

“A big small town.” It’s large enough to have the perks of an urban environment, but small enough to feel neighborly. It’s not a place to disappear…I see somebody I know nearly everywhere I go. It’s a wonderful place to feel at home.

kyransittingfenceMORE ABOUT KRYAN: I come from the near-mythical island of Newfoundland, where I grew up as a poet’s daughter–the child of a crazy bohemian tribe of artists, musicians, writers and absent-minded professors. I thought I would live there all my life, until I fell in love with Patrick, when we met online in early 1995. That’s right, back before chat and pictures, when people online weren’t believed to be real. O pioneers! That story is told in my book, Planting Dandelions. It was quite an adventure. But the real adventure has been everything that happened since: coming to Little Rock, getting married, having three kids (all boys), buying a house, trying to keep a house, staying married, and gradually falling in love with America.

Blog 66: Things to do in Little Rock!

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So many times we visit other states and countries, but forget about the great options in our own backyard. We’ll continue to bring you info about travel destinations outside Arkansas, but thought we’d also set the GPS for navigating some of the cities in the Natural State, too.

Today we focus on the downtown/Argenta section of Little Rock. Watch for another Little Rock things-to-do tour next month focusing on other areas of the city.

Thanks to Sarabeth Jones of thedramatic.com for sharing insider tips — and pics — with us today about her hometown (see more about hilarious Sarabeth at the bottom of this post):

When you’re in Little Rock, you should definitely plan to eat at …

Oh my goodness, there are so many wonderful places to eat in Little Rock! Here are a few of my favorites that combine fabulous food with wonderful atmosphere:

Local Lime: lovely fresh Mexican food and margaritas

sarabeth, capital hotelBig Orange: yummy specialty burgers, milkshakes, cocktails. Don’t miss the homemade potato chips!

Capital Bar & Grill: located in the gorgeous Capital Hotel, this place feels like you’re in the middle of everything. The food is delicious & the bar is extensive and excellent.

Mugs Café: Cross the river and come to Argenta for breakfast at Mugs; you’ll love the interesting and beautiful space, coffee and treats.

You do NOT want to miss seeing …

The bridges: The Arkansas River is gorgeous, spend some time with it by crossing one of several pedestrian bridges – Two Rivers takes you out to a peninsula and is short enough for family members of all ages, or the Big Dam Bridge has breathtaking views high above the lock & dam. If you’re downtown, park at Riverfront Park to cross the Junction Bridge, or head down to the Clinton Presidential Library and explore the walkway down by the river, then cross the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge. All 4 of these bridges are open to cyclists as well as pedestrians. At night, the river bridges come alive with beautiful colored lighting.

Downtown: On the Little Rock side of the river, the River Market anchors a vibrant downtown full of shops & restaurants. Wander around, there’s something for everyone here. The North Little Rock downtown area (called Argenta) is much smaller but is home to some great spots, including kitchy Galaxy Furniture, Starving Artist Café, Ristorante Capeo, Crush Wine Bar, and Mugs.

Junction Bridge

Junction Bridge

A few “hidden gems” that only the locals know about …

Tales from the South: This is one of my absolute favorite things – a weekly event that combines great food and drink with music and storytelling. Every Tuesday, Starving Artist Café in Argenta hosts a live reading that’s recorded for Public Radio International. Before the stories, you can eat dinner while local musicians play live music. (pic, below, is of local author Lela Davidson reading one of her essays)

sarabeth, tales from the south, Lela

SOMA (Southside Main Street): Downtown and west Little Rock are well-known, as are the quirkier neighborhoods of Hillcrest and the Heights – but this area is really coming into it’s own as a great place to eat and shop. Grab breakfast or lunch at the The Root, enjoy upscale southern food and drink at South On Main (better yet, make sure you catch one of their live music events), and sit for a few moments and enjoy Bernice Garden. Finish it all off with a treat from Community Bakery or ice cream from Loblolly Creamery.

Stone’s Throw Brewing: stop into this cozy spot for a freshly brewed beer; if you’re hungry, order something yummy from the food truck parked out front.

Be sure to take your kids to (little kids/big kids):

Museum of Discovery: This place is fantastic. My kids loved it when they were little and they still love it now (as middle and high schoolers).

Box Sledding on the Clinton Library Lawn: Get an empty box and head over the Clinton Library, where the landscaped hills make for perfect sledding. Yes, I’m serious – you won’t believe how much fun your kids will have. Best part? It’s free!

Box sledding!

Box sledding!

Central High National Park Site, Mosaic Templars Cultural Center: take your older kids to learn some of the history of desegregation – both of these places feature fascinating exhibits that will draw in even non-history buffs. A bonus is the beautiful architecture of Central High School and the Mosaic Templars building.

Central Arkansas Main Library, Cox Creative Center: If you need a break from lots of activity, take your kids to the main library, where they will find a whole floor built just for them. There’s a separate floor for teens, too. They can get a snack, play a video game, look out at downtown through the giant windows, or you know, relax in a comfy chair with a book. Be sure to head across the parking lot and stop into the Cox Center, which sells used books and lots of other interesting gifts. My youngest son loves to rifle through the vintage comic books bin.

Heifer Village: On the grounds of Heifer International, kids can tour Heifer Village – it’s full of hands-on interactive exhibits that help kids imagine life in other parts of the world. You’ll love the shop featuring fair-trade items from across the globe.

The most kid-friendly hotels are …

Probably the chain hotels that are good for kids wherever you go, like Embassy Suites in west LR or the courtyard Marriot downtown.

For couples-only excursions, stay here …

The Capital Hotel! This historic, 4-star rated hotel is truly gorgeous, with lovely rooms and incredible service. In all honesty, I would say stay here, for any kind of trip, any time you can. However, I know what it’s like to travel with kids who want a pool. Still, if you can, stay here. Order a Southern Comfortable and enjoy it on the large balcony above the front doors. You can thank me later.

If you visit Little Rock when it’s cold, it’s fun to:

Stay inside! Catch some live music, see a show at The Joint, wander through the current exhibit at the Arkansas Arts Center, or connect with nature indoors at the Witt Stephens Nature Center (great for kids and free!).

If you visit in the summer, try:

Visit one of our farmer’s markets for food, art, flowers, handmade items, and people watching! You can find almost anything at the biggest one housed in the River Market; for a smaller scene where you’ll have more chance to sample wares and visit with farmers, cross the river to the Argenta Farmer’s Market.

One of the most awesome things about Little Rock is …

sarabeth, the repThe Rep (Arkansas Repertory Theater) is an amazing theater, bringing in all types of musicals and plays. It’s truly a favorite; I hate to miss anything they are doing. Seriously, the shows I’ve seen there are every bit as good as ones I’ve seen in New York City – The Rep is a treasure.

I would describe the “vibe” in Little Rock as …

I’ve always thought that Little Rock has the best of both worlds in a lot of ways: it has the amenities of a city without really being big. You can shop at an upscale boutique or hike a trail, buy veggies from a market table or enjoy fine dining.  You can drive from one end to the other in 30 minutes, and anywhere you go, you are probably about to run into someone you know. It’s the perfect combination of small town & big city – I love it here.

Sarabeth JonesSarabeth is a creative at Fellowship North who enjoys all kinds of artistic work: writing, directing, acting, design, photography, and the occasional flash mob. She grew up in central Arkansas and now lives there with her husband, Bryan, and 3 kids, Elizabeth, Jonathan, and Will – she loves the way make her laugh. She blogs at thedramatic.com and her latest Little Rock adventure is bringing the national phenomenon Listen To Your Mother to the stage of The Rep on Mother’s Day, 2014.

Blog 66: San Antonio from a native mama’s point of view

blog66Thanks to Debi Pfitzenmaier of San Antonio Busy Kids for sharing her thoughts about her hometown of San Antonio.

This great city review is making us want to visit SA — ASAP!

When I’m in San Antonio, I should definitely plan to eat at …

Order street tacos at one of the small hole-in-a-wall taquerias. My favorite is in the Deco District. And then be sure to stop by Lulu’s Bakery and Café for one of their monster-sized, three-pound cinnamon rolls.

The best shopping can be found at

Depends on what you are shopping for. We have some phenomenal local artisans. But, if I’m just browsing, my favorite places to wander are The Shops at La Cantera and Pearl (the fabulous redevelopment of the Pearl Brewery into a true urban space).

You do NOT want to miss seeing …

The Bracken Bat Flight guided tour during the summer months for an up-close view of Bracken Cave as the largest colony of bats in the world (20 million) head out for dinner.

The Alamo.

And the big cowboy boots at North Star Mall.

San Antonio boots

A few “hidden gems” that only the locals know about …

Pearl Farmers Market on Saturdays and the Scobee Planetarium (which is scheduled to reopen in 2014 after extensive renovations). A little north of San Antonio is the Animal World and Snake Farm Zoo.

Be sure to take your kids to …

SA kiddie parkKiddie Park on Broadway. Generations of San Antonians have fond memories of this historic park. Built in 1925 and renovated in 2009, San Antonio’s Kiddie Park is the oldest children’s amusement park in the country. For an extra dose of fun, ride the San Antonio Zoo’s Eagle Train to the park.

The most kid-friendly hotels are …

The Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort right across the highway from Sea World, the Westin La Cantera Hill Country Resort right next to Fiesta Texas, or the JW Marriott Resort with its spectacular 1,100-foot lazy river.

For couples-only excursions, stay here …

Downtown at the historic Menger Hotel or the (supposedly haunted) Emily Morgan Hotel next door to the Alamo.

Even though it’s a big tourist draw, you can probably skip visiting ….

The Riverwalk Mall as an entrance to explore the Riverwalk itself. Opt instead to explore the Museum Reach of the Riverwalk, which is far more beautiful and relaxing.

If we want to stay warm in the winter, we should ….

It rarely gets too cold, so head outside and experience the holidays in true San Antonio style with Merry Mariachis at SeaWorld and at the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza. Enjoy an unbelievably beautifully lit Riverwalk with millions of lights in the trees and more than 6,000 Luminarias along the walkways. Savor tamales – a holiday tradition – at any of the local tamales shops or at the annual tamale festival at the Pearl.

If we visit in the summer and want to stay cool, we should ….

morgan's wonderlandGet in the water. Take a lazy ride down the Guadalupe River, head to Aquatica at Sea World or spend a day at Schlitterbahn. Or, head underground. It’s a steady 70 degrees or lower inside Cave Without A Name or Natural Bridge Caverns.

One of the most awesome things about San Antonio is …

San Antonio is home to the world’s first ultra-accessible theme park, Morgan’s Wonderland. Designed specifically with special needs individuals of all ages and abilities, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Boots photo courtesy of Kimble Young via Flickr

Debi crownAbout SA Busy Kids: Everything you wanted to know about where to go and what to do with your kids in and around San Antonio, Texas. SA Busy Kids was started by San Antonio mom and writer Debi Pfitzenmaier who was told by her husband to go find a hobby. In her day job, she is a media relations pro and consultant. 

Travel Blog 66: Things to do in Cumming, Georgia (near Atlanta)

blog66It’s vacay time! Where’s your family headed?

For over a year now, we’ve enlisted the help of fellow mamas across the blogosphere to give us the low-down on their hometowns — places you might consider visiting.

Next up is blogger Mandi Holcombe, an awesome mama who runs the hyperlocal website (like nwaMotherlode!) called Cumming Local and lives with her family in Cumming, Georgia, near Atlanta. She shares the scoop about Cumming here on Blog 66:

Q: Tell us all about your hometown, Cumming …

Cumming is just north of Atlanta. We get to enjoy the perks of a big city but are far enough away from the hustle & bustle!  We’re also near Lake Lanier, Amicalola Falls, and the North Georgia Mountains.

Q: Are there any cool annual festivals/activities?

The Cumming Country Fair & Festival is held every October – it’s an annual tradition you don’t want to miss!  Fair food, carnival rides, and lots of entertainment!  The city also holds an annual 4th of July Fireworks Show and Parade,along with special events for Christmas too.

Q: If folks want to visit Atlanta, is Cumming a good place to stay? How close is it to Atlanta? 

Cumming is about 30-40 miles north of Atlanta.  But Atlanta is known for having traffic, so Cumming is not convenient if you’re only coming to visit Atlanta.  However there’s lots to do OUTSIDE of the city.

Cumming FairQ: When I’m in Cumming, I should definitely plan to eat at …

A personal favorite is Dutch Monkey Doughnuts – hand made doughnuts from fresh, and local ingredients – yum!!

Q: The best shopping can be found at …

The Collection at Forsyth is an outdoor shopping center with retail, dining, AMC Theatres, and more.  We also have Lakewood 400 Antiques Market – open the 3rd weekend of every month.  You never know what you’ll find there but it’s a great place to stop if you’re visiting when they’re open.

Q: You do NOT want to miss seeing …

Sawnee Mountain is a great place to visit and spend the day with your family.

Q: Be sure to take your kids to …

  • In Cumming: The Aquatic Center, Sawnee Mountain, or Poole’s Mill Park
  • In Atlanta: Georgia Aquarium

cumminglocal_logoQ: An awesome thing about Cumming is …

Cumming and Forsyth County is a great place to raise a family. I love that we’re close enough to Atlanta that we can take advantage of all Atlanta has to offer – the Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Falcons, Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta Zoo, the World of Coca-Cola, plus lots of great concerts and events that include Atlanta in its tours.  BUT we’re also just far enough out to not actually live in the city!  We’re close to Lake Lanier and the North Georgia Mountains and also not a long drive from Savannah, great cities in Florida and even Disney World!

Mandi Holcombe Bio Pic, resizedMandi is Wife, Mother of 2, and Blogger of all things local in Cumming GA and Forsyth County.  Through her website, CummingLocal.com, Mandi keeps families in the loop of things to do, places to go, & ways to support small businesses.

Blog 66: Things to do in Lake Chelan, Washington

Lake Chelan 3

Summer is on the way and we’re already thinking about where we might go for vacation. Do you know where you’re headed?

In this Blog 66 feature, we enlist the help of fellow mamas across the blogosphere to give us the low-down on their hometowns. This month we’re getting some help from Kristi Bonney, blogger, photographer and social media junkie. Kristi lives in picturesque Lake Chelan.

Krist says as far as summer events go, here’s what her hometown has going on so far:

  • Cruizin Classic Car Show in downtown Chelan June 7 & 8: City Cruise, Show & Shine, hula hoop championship. music, entertainment, shopping and activities for the whole family
  • Manson Fireworks Festival July 4
  • Chelan Rockin’ Fireworks Show July 6
  • Lake Chelan Bach Fest July 12-20: The Bach Fest String Quartet will be performing free concerts around the valley, wineries, and at the Riverwalk Park.
  • Lake Chelan Roadeo August 2 & 3
  • Lake Chelan Fine Arts Festival August 15-18: Arts, crafts, culinary arts, food, special events and live entertainment.

Kristy adds: For more events, visit the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce website. It’s jam packed with great info on planning your trip and the girls who work at the office are super friendly. In fact, they helped me plan our move out here to Lake Chelan!

Lake Chelan 1

Next up, the Lake Chelan Q&A!

1. Tell us a little about what it’s like in Lake Chelan: Lake Chelan is located in north central Washington state and is a 55-mile long lake in Chelan County. Clear, pristine and downright breathtaking, Lake Chelan is a popular vacation destination for families, water sport and wine enthusiasts, many of whom return each year. Lake Chelan offers a wide variety of activities and attractions year-round, but is most popular with summer vacationers.

Lake Chelan 2The little towns of Chelan and Manson are nestled on the lake, where vineyards and orchards pepper the hillside.

2. In your opinion, what makes it worth the trip: If you love getting outdoors, enjoy water activities, small town life and wine, then a visit to Lake Chelan is perfect for you! A relaxed and welcoming community awaits you here in Lake Chelan.

3. When I’m visiting I should definitely plan to eat at: Stop by Blueberry Hills Farm for the 400 Mile French Dip – the slow roasted prime beef sandwich served on a lightly grilled baguette that the Seattle Times penned “worth driving 400 miles for!” You can’t go wrong at Blueberry Hills. The Danish Yeast Waffles are light and airy.

The Real Man Burger is for serious burger eaters only – no sissies allowed! If you’re in the mood for dessert, pick up one of their fresh fruit pies or muffins. Have I mentioned that Blueberry Hills is also a you-pick farm? Great family friendly atmosphere. Beautiful location. Fun decor. Awesome food.

* I wrote about my visit to Blueberry Hills. Click here to read more about it!

4. The best shopping can be found at: Visit Downtown Chelan and Downtown Manson and shop in one of the many family-owned gift shops and boutiques for anything from fine art to jewelry, clothing, gourmet fudge, whole food items, local wine, cheese and more.

5. You do not want to miss these local attractions:

  • Blueberry Hills Farms: Pick blueberries, dine in the farmhouse or out on the patio or indulge in one of their homemade decadent desserts.
  • Chelan Riverwalk: Get active and enjoy the one-mile scenic river view loop trail in downtown Chelan
  • Slidewaters Lake Chelan Waterpark: Great place for family water park fun.
  • Vin du Lac Winery: Stop by for a wine tasting, tour, delicious meal in a beautiful setting and live jazz music on Saturdays!

6. A hidden gem: Stehekin, though not hidden, is an absolute must-see. Tucked away on the northwest end of Lake Chelan, Stehekin is accessible only by boat, seaplane or hiking. Simply put, Stehekin is heaven on earth. Take the ferry and stay awhile. There’s lots to do – river rafting, kayaking, horseback riding, bicycling.

Lake Chelan 57. Be sure to take your kids to: Slidewaters Lake Chelan Waterpark. Be sure to take your kids to Slidewaters Lake Chelan Waterpark for a day filled with family fun outdoors. Enjoy some fun in the sun on the rapids, lazy river, hot tub, kiddie area and the many slides throughout the park. Also available: volleyball court, private pavilion, concession stand, gift shop and air brush tattoos!

8. The most kid-friendly hotels are: Campbell’s Resort is a family friendly hotel located right along Lake Chelan with walking access to shops and more. Expect sweeping views of the lake, friendly service and great amenities. Lounge along the private beach, or jump in one of the pools or hot tubs. They have two of each! Dining and spa services located on site as well.

9. For couples-only excursions: There are lots of great couples-only options. Get in on any of the many wine tours and tastings here in Lake Chelan. Grab a game of golf at Bear Mountain Golf Course. Relax and indulge in a couples massage at Campbell’s Resort. Or, stop by the Mill Bay Casino for some gambling fun.

10. The best time of year to visit Lake Chelan is: While Lake Chelan offers a variety of activities and events throughout the year (including skiing at Echo Ridge during the winter months), you’ll find so much to see and do during the summer – boating, swimming, golfing, tennis, wine tasting, farmers markets, fresh fruit stands and more.

11. The coolest thing about this area is: One of the things I love most about Lake Chelan, besides its obvious beauty, is its small town atmosphere. The residents are friendly, welcoming and committed to maintaining Lake Chelan’s charm. You won’t find fast food restaurants or big box franchises within city limits. What you’ll find instead are family-owned businesses run by folks like you and me.

Kristi BonneyKristi Bonney is a 30-something Native Hawaiian transplant living in the Pacific Northwest. Writer. Photographer. Speaker. Social Media Junkie. Author of photography and lifestyle blog, Live and Love Out Loud. Co-creator of the popular Nurture Photography online photo challenge series. “I blog. I take photos. I explore the world around me. I strive to live unapologetically out loud.” Follow her on Twitter @tweetingmama. *All photos courtesy of Kristi Bonney

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