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Things to do in San Antonio: River Walk

San Antonio is one of the most historic cities in the United States, having been founded in 1718 when a Spanish expedition established the Mission San Antonio de Valero, now known as the Alamo. Soon after, a presidio (Spanish fort) named San Antonio de Bexar was established nearby and became the foundation of the city of San Antonio. The settlement served as the seat of the Spanish government in Texas until Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821. Texas won its independence from Mexico in 1836, and at that time San Antonio was home to about 2,500 residents. Today, San Antonio boasts a population of over 1.5 million making it the seventh largest city in the U.S. 

While San Antonio has grown by leaps and bounds, the modern city has managed to hold on to its roots. The culture, the history…it’s all still there, and San Antonio’s residents are proud to share it with their visitors. The River Walk is a great place to begin a tour of San Antonio, and what makes it even better is staying a few nights at one of the beautiful hotels right on the river. 

 A cruise on the San Antonio River is a must, especially for first time visitors who want to get an insider’s view of what the River Walk has to offer. The typical cruise will take about 35 minutes. General admission for narrated cruises cost $13.50 for adults and $7.50 for children. Shuttle boats, which are used to get up and down the 15-mile-long River Walk, cost $20.00 for a one-day pass, and multiple-day options are also available.

Museums, shopping, live entertainment, beautiful hotels, and upscale as well as funky bars can all be found on the San Antonio River Walk. Then there’s the outstanding food! Of course, everyone’s favorite in San Antonio is Mexican food, and there is plenty of that to go around.

There’s something special about sitting outside in the festive atmosphere while enjoying a cold drink and watching the other tourists cruise leisurely by on the river boats. We can’t recall ever having a bad meal on the River Walk, and we’re particularly fond of Casa Rio for Mexican food. It’s pictured at the top of the post with the pretty umbrellas. If traditional American fare is what you’re craving, try Dick’s Last Resort. Touting themselves as the shame o’ the river, Dick’s serves up some pretty good “grub and brews” by the rudest servers you’ll ever encounter. They’re a chain, rudeness is their schtick, and eating there can be a hilarious experience. 

See an interesting timeline about the development of the San Antonio River Walk here: https://www.thesanantonioriverwalk.com/about/our-history/

We love San Antonio any time of the year, but spring is our favorite time to visit. (That’s probably because we went there together in the spring for the first time when we were teenagers.) Summer temperatures can get pretty high, but the mild fall weather can be very nice. We’ve also visited there in December, and even then, the weather was comfortable for sitting outside. 

Nightlife abounds on the River Walk too. From laid-back dive bars to the rowdier dance halls as well as English and Irish pubs, everyone will find a place to eat, drink, and dance the night away. People ask if it’s safe, and we say yes – with some conditions. First and foremost, travelers should always be aware of their surroundings no matter where they are. While we feel safe on the River Walk at night (we have seen police officers patrolling on bikes and boats as well as on foot – day and night), we would not venture into darkened or unpopulated parts of the walk or any parts of the downtown area at night.  

This pretty stone bridge is now known as Selena Bridge. A scene from the movie Selena, starring Jennifer Lopez was filmed on this bridge.

The pretty bridges, the peaceful green-hued water, and the lush trees and plants make this the ideal place for a stroll anytime – day or night. Pop into the shops at Rivercenter, visit an art museum, stop in at one of the bodegas, browse the street vendors’ wares, and check out the restaurants’ menus, most of which are posted on the patios or entrances. Warning: it is very difficult to choose just one place to eat or just one souvenir! 

Tower of the Americas

Did you know that San Antonio was the site of a World’s Fair? HemisFair ’68 was held from April to October 1968, and today visitors can still visit HemisFair park which is just a short walk from the River Walk. The iconic, 750-foot Tower of the Americas is still a thrill for visitors who want to ride the elevator to the rotating restaurant at the top for great food and great views. The park also has a playground and splash pad for the kids, giant chess and checker boards, as well as flowing water features, fountains, walking paths, and green spaces. The park, a designated San Antonio Historic District, is also home to several State Archaeological Landmark buildings, and the Tower of the Americas has been nominated for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.

Wondering what’s near the River Walk for kids to do? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered:

  • Eat a great meal (they have a kid’s menu) and play arcade games at Dave & Buster’s – on the River Walk at Rivercenter
  • Have some fun building something and riding the rides at Legoland Discovery Center – on the River Walk at Rivercenter
  • Spend an afternoon at HemisFair Park’s amazing playground, giant sandbox, and splash pad – 0.9 miles
  • See what’s in the sea at Sea Life San Antonio Aquarium which is located close to HemisFair Park – 1.2 miles
  • Check out the hands-on interactive exhibits at the DoSeum – 2.8 miles 

Other exciting San Antonio attractions for the entire family: 

  • Get up close and personal with animals at the San Antonio Zoo – 4.5 miles
  • Extend your animal adventures to Seaworld with its sea life exhibits and Aquatica water park all in one place – 20 miles
  • Enjoy the thrills at Six Flags Fiesta Texas amusement park – 23 miles

La Antorcha de la Amistad

In addition to the attractions we’ve listed, there are numerous cultural, historical, and art museums in San Antonio. Many public art installations can be found around town too, such as the La Antorcha de la Amistad (Torch of Friendship) by Mexican artist Sebastian. The 65-foot, lipstick red sculpture was a gift to the City of San Antonio by the Mexican government in 2002 and represents two cultures and languages merging together as one. The sculpture is hard to miss in the heart of downtown, and glimpses of it can be seen from the River Walk.

If outdoor sports are your thing, there are several highly rated public golf courses in San Antonio. Fishing, swimming, and boating can be found at beautiful Canyon Lake located 1 hour north of the city. The San Antonio Spurs NBA team as well and a handful of other semi-professional and college sports teams provide plenty of excitement for sports fans. San Antonio also boasts botanical gardens, historic residential districts, historic churches and other historic buildings, as well as a market district. The UNESCO World Heritage Site: San Antonio Missions Historical Park is a national park site that should not be missed.

Read our post about the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park and the Alamo here: https://oneforthemoneytwofortheroad.com/2022/06/01/san-antonio-missions/

As you can see, there truly is something for everyone in San Antonio. If you’ve never been there, we hope we have inspired you to visit, and if you have been there, go again! The city has so much history and culture to offer, and besides that, it’s just so much fun. Did we mention the food?

We’re going to close the post with some interesting facts about the San Antonio Express-News building which is located a couple of blocks from the River Walk.

Home to the San Antiono Express-News newspaper for more than 90 years, this beautiful Art Deco building was opened in 1929. The newspaper’s parent company, Hearst Corp., moved the newsroom and printing operation to other sites in 2020 and put this building on the market for sale. What intrigued us about the building was not just its historic beauty, but the bas-relief panel above the door. (What can we say…we love art!) It was sculpted by none other than Pompeo Coppini, the same artist who created the stunning Alamo Cenotaph. The carved stone panel (shown below) features images representing labor, education, enlightenment, truth, and justice. It is our understanding that in March 2022, the building was sold to a property development investment group from Austin. We will be anxious to see what they do with this fabulous property.

Thank you for joining us in San Antonio! Until the next trip…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

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As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2022

Tower of the Americas and La Antorcha de la Amistad photos courtesy of Henry Becerra. 

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National Route 66 Museum

Where is it?

On Route 66, of course! Actually, it’s on a stretch of the original Route 66 in Elk City, Oklahoma. We plan to drive the entire route someday, but we’re settling for bits and pieces for the time being. This turned out to be a nice little piece of the route.

What’s it about?

It is a complex of five great museums all in one place. They include:  the National Route 66 Museum, National Transportation Museum, Farm and Ranch Museum, Blacksmith Museum, and the Old Town Museum which contains the Beutler Rodeo Hall. All sections are worth the stop. Below are some shots from the Route 66 Museum where there are different vignettes depicting what travelers would have seen in each of the eight states along the Mother Road.

We suspect there may still be some places like this one in New Mexico and Arizona, live rattlesnakes and all!

Crusin’ through the great state of Missouri. Gotta love those vintage cars!

“Are we there yet?”

Who napped in the back window on family vacations? Was the motel pool your entire reason for living? How about stopping at Stuckey’s for a pecan roll and a cheap souvenir? A&W root beers and burgers in the car anyone? Remember when motels had stationery and post cards in the rooms? And then there were those real live “trading posts” with that horrible-tasting rock candy and “authentic” turquoise jewelry. Oh, and Reptile Village, but our dads wouldn’t ever stop. Those were fun times, and this museum really brought back the memories for us, although some of it was way before our time.

Outside in the sunshine, we walked around the “old town” exhibits and looked in all the windows. Below are a couple of shots.

Wonder what the gas prices were back in this gas station’s heyday?

More of the old town. Each building is furnished with items the businesses would have had way back when, and all can be viewed through the storefront windows. There’s even a country doctor’s office complete with creepy medical instruments.

We fell in love with the sculpture (below) in front of the Old Town Museum. The museum building had once been the home of a family who owned department stores in western Oklahoma. The first floor depicts how some of the early residents would have lived. The second floor is dedicated to the the Beutler family who own a ranch north of Elk City and have raised champion rodeo stock for almost 100 years. This museum was worth the admission fee by itself.

His name was Commotion, and he was the Beutler brothers three time world champion bucking horse.

“Commotion” from a different angle. It is a beautiful bronze sculpture by T.D. Kelsey of Guthrie, Texas.

Click here for an interesting read about this multi-faceted artist: https://www.tdkelsey.com/the-artist

The museum complex admission is (currently) $5.00 for adults and $4.00 for children 6-16. Children 5 and under are admitted free. For AAA members and people over 60, it is $4.00. (We paid $4.00 each, but we’re not saying which discount we got!)

In closing, we would recommend a stop here for travelers who have a couple of hours to spend. And if you’re already traveling the Mother Road (or even I-40), a stop here is a great way to get out of the car for a time, take a relaxing stroll through the complex, and learn something new while you’re at it!

Thank you for stopping by our site, and we hope you come back again for more road trip stops, Quick Stops, Wish We Were There Wednesdays, and lots of other good stuff. We appreciate you more than you know, and we would love to hear from you so feel free to comment below. We can also be found on Facebook and on Twitter @KellyeHefner.

Until the next trip…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

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As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2022

 

 

 

 

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10 Amazing Things to See and Do at Big Bend National Park

Who doesn’t love a national park? How about a road trip? A visit to Big Bend National Park gives you the best of both worlds! Big Bend is one of two national parks in Texas, the other being Guadalupe Mountains National Park, and both are vastly different. The Guadalupe Mountains are the remains of what was once a massive underwater reef. The Big Bend area was the edge of an ocean back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Today, we are sharing our top ten things to see and do at Big Bend in random order, so let’s get going to one of our favorite national parks!

1. The Chisos Mountains

Casa Grande peak as seen from Chisos Basin is one of Big Bend’s most iconic sights

The Chisos Mountains lie entirely in Big Bend National Park. The rugged Chisos were formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago, and erosion has sculpted them into the beautiful hills and peaks we see today. Emory Peak, at 7,835 feet above sea level, is the highest peak in the range. Black bears, mountain lions, a variety of smaller mammals, reptiles, bats, and birds make their homes in the Chisos Mountains.

The well-maintained Chisos Basin Road carries visitors seven miles through an interesting variety of flora and spectacular mountain scenery. The road ends at Chisos Basin where visitors will find a visitor center, campgrounds for RVs and tents, the Chisos Mountains Lodge (the only commercial lodging in the park), a restaurant and gift shop, as well as an assortment of trailheads for all levels of hikers. The Window serves as a pouroff when water needs to drain from the Chisos Basin and surrounding areas during heavy rainfalls

Park visitors flock to the Window for dramatic sunset photo ops. The 5.6-mile out and back Window Trail originates at Chisos Basin. (Note that the trail has a 900- foot elevation gain on the return.) Another trail – Window View Trail – is easy and wheelchair accessible. In our opinion, there are many places in the park that are perfect for watching the sunset and sunrise, but the Window certainly provides a unique photographic perspective.

2. Santa Elena Canyon

Santa Elena Canyon

The breathtaking eight-mile-long Santa Elena Canyon features 1500-foot cliff walls that frame the Rio Grande River as it meanders through the big bend of Texas. The Santa Elena Canyon Trail is a fairly easy 1.4-mile out and back hike originating at a parking lot on Santa Elena Canyon Road. The trailhead is approximately 44 miles (1+ hour drive) from the main visitor center at Panther Junction.

View of the canyon wall from the trail

Local outfitters are available to arrange a variety of river trips ranging from one to three days on the Rio Grande and through Santa Elena Canyon. (Note that a backcountry permit is required by the park for overnight trips.) The river forms the border between the U.S. and Mexico. While there is no requirement to have a guide in order to float or paddle the Rio Grande, we highly recommend using an experienced outfitter.

3. Fossil Discovery Exhibit

As we mentioned, Big Bend National Park lies in an area that was once the edge of an ocean. The Fossil Discovery Exhibit showcases some of the creatures that inhabited the area millions of years ago including sea life and dinosaurs. Kids and adults alike will enjoy exploring this open-air museum space which is located approximately eight miles north of the Panther Junction Visitor Center.

Over 90 dinosaur species have been discovered at Big Bend, some of which are unique to the park.

4. Wildlife Viewing

Javelina aka Collared Peccary

Big Bend National Park is home to a large variety of wildlife. In addition to those that live mainly in the Chisos Mountains, many other animals and birds live within the park’s other two ecosystems: river and desert. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to photograph all of the animals that we have seen at Big Bend, but we have been lucky enough to capture a few. We have spotted Barbary sheep, fox, coyote, hawks, and many other birds, just to name a few.

Doves
Rattlesnake

5. Hike, Walk, or Backpack

Big Bend offers a wide variety of hikes to choose from – 79 trails in all – and rather than try to describe them, we are listing a couple of links that should provide complete trail information:

View from Burro Mesa Pouroff Trail
  • Off trail hiking is allowed
  • Backcountry requires a permit
  • Backpackers and primitive site campers are required to have a permit

If in doubt, always check with the park before setting out on any lengthy or overnight trek. Stay conscious of the weather conditions including high temperatures in late spring, summer, and early fall.

6. Scenic Drives

There are over 100 miles of improved, well-maintained roads in Big Bend. The most popular road is the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive which is a 30-mile-long road that takes visitors through some of the most diverse and scenic parts of the park and ends at Santa Elena Canyon.

Mule Ears peaks as seen from the pull-out along Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. There are many places to pull out and view beautiful scenery from Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive.

But wait – there’s more! Spectacular scenery can be viewed from all of the paved roads in the park so driving any of them is a thrill. Note that the only gasoline available in the park is at Panther Junction. 

The Sierra del Carmen seen from Park Road 12 southeast of Panther Junction
View from Chisos Basin Road
South view of the Chisos Mountains from Park Road 12
River view from the Rio Grande Overlook

7. Terlingua Ghost Town

Terlingua is a gateway community to the park but does not lie within the park boundaries. The entrance to Big Bend is approximately 8 miles from Terlingua, and it’s another 22 miles (30+ minute drive) to Panther Junction Visitor Center.

The Starlight Theatre is a restaurant that serves up good food and drinks with live entertainment

And…Terlingua isn’t quite a ghost town in traditional ghost town terms. People do live there, and there are some thriving businesses including a few restaurants and area hotels. Visitors will certainly experience ghost town vibes while walking through the cemetery and when viewing the crumbling buildings in the former cinnabar mining town.

Terlingua Cemetery
Terlingua

Terlingua is a great place for a couple of hours of roaming and eating if a break from the park is on the agenda. The history of the town is interesting as is the history of the cemetery. Funky souvenirs of all kinds can be purchased at Terlingua Trading Company which is next door to the Starlight Theatre. Terlingua is also the site of the famous Terlingua International Chili Championship which has taken place there on the first weekend of November since 1967.

8. Lajitas

Lajitas is a great place to stay for visitors to Big Bend and is located approximately 12 miles west of Terlingua. While some regard Lajitas as a town, we can’t bring ourselves to call it that because it doesn’t have a post office. It used to have a post office, but it closed in 1939. Lajitas does, however, have a mayor – a mayor who is a goat, that is, and his name is Clay Henry.

We can only assume that the guy with the horns is the Honorable Clay Henry, and the other goat is Mrs. Clay Henry, the First Lady of Lajitas.

Lajitas is actually home to the fabulous 27,000-acre Lajitas Golf Resort and Spa. Touted as one of the best and most beautiful golf courses in Texas, Black Jack’s Crossing is a premier course that attracts amateur golfers and pros alike. The resort is located on FM 170 along the banks of the Rio Grande between Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park. Also known as the River Road or Camino del Rio, FM 170 covers 114 miles between Terlingua and the border town of Presidio and is considered one of the most scenic drives in the state. The Lajitas Golf Resort and Spa features modern, well-appointed hotel rooms with an Old West vibe, as well as a multitude of amenities and activities for the entire family. A general store and a gated RV campground are also located within the resort. Charter air services are available from Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston. For further information, here is a link to the resort’s website: https://www.lajitasgolfresort.com/

9. Stargaze

Photo by Philippe Donn

Pack your telescope! Big Bend is an international dark sky park. In fact, Big Bend has the darkest skies of any national park in the lower 48 states. The park hosts various programs such as star parties, ranger talks, and moonlight walks throughout the year. The summer months are the best time to view and photograph the Milky Way.

10. Cross the River Legally

The only port of entry in Big Bend is across the river from Boquillas del Carmen, usually referred to as Boquillas. A former mining town, Boquillas struggles today as a tourist destination for visitors to Big Bend.

Boquillas, Mexico

Visitors must have a passport and will pass through customs when returning to the U.S. River crossings are done by small rowboat or on horseback, each for a nominal fee. An additional fee ($2.00, last we checked) is required to enter the Maderas del Carmen Natural Protected Area where Boquillas is located. There are a couple of cantinas in Boquillas that serve food and drinks as well as a few places to buy souvenirs and handmade goods. Tours are available for a fee, though a guide is not required in order to explore the town. U.S. currency is accepted in Boquillas, but only in small denominations.

For further information about Big Bend, click this link to the park’s website: https://www.nps.gov/bibe/index.htm

Windmill. Historic Sam Nail Ranch, Big Bend National Park

Those are our top 10, though we barely touched on the park’s features and those of the surrounding areas. Below we have listed some additional things to know if you’re planning a trip to Big Bend.

  • Unfortunately, people have been led to believe that Big Bend is not a safe place to visit. We believe it’s very safe. We are more afraid of encountering a rattlesnake than having a border issue there. Travelers should always be aware of their surroundings no matter where they are.
  • Early spring and late fall are great times to visit Big Bend, but those times are when the park experiences the most visitors. With that said, it is an enormous park with plenty of room to spread out so crowds shouldn’t be a problem.
  • There are several campgrounds at Big Bend. RV camping with hook-ups book up fast so make reservations as far out from your visit as you can. The same goes for booking a stay at Chisos Mountains Lodge.
  • The park is remote so cell service can be very hit and miss.
  • The closest major airport is in Midland/Odessa, Texas which is approximately 242 miles (4+ hour drive) to Big Bend.
  • Alpine, Texas is 82 miles (1+ hour drive) north of Big Bend and serves as gateway city to the park. Hotels, restaurants, and the Museum of the Big Bend are all located in the pretty city.
  • Marathon, Texas is 73 miles (1 hour drive) north of Big Bend and serves as another gateway to the park. The historic Gage Hotel is the centerpiece of Marathon and delights visitors with its 27-acre Gage Garden botanical area and fine dining at the 12 Gage Restaurant, among other amenities. Shopping, art galleries, additional restaurants, a museum, and a city park can also be found in Marathon.
  • Marfa, Texas is home to the Marfa Lights, Marfa Prada as well as other art installations, and the historic Hotel Pisano. Marfa is located 30 minutes west of Alpine on US 90, and approximately 1.5 hours from Big Bend National Park.
  • Fort Davis, Texas is approximately 1.5 hours from Big Bend and features Fort Davis National Historic Site.
  • Big Bend Ranch State Park, Texas’ biggest state park, is located approximately 13 miles west of Terlingua (20 minutes from Big Bend National Park) and is home to 238 miles trails for a variety of uses. Off-roading, horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking, and backpacking are just a few of the activities that visitors to Big Bend Ranch State Park can enjoy. Click the link for more information: https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/big-bend-ranch

We could go on, but we’re going to close the post here. Our purpose in posting is to give our readers a comprehensive overview of the places we visit. We hope that we have inspired you to visit the U.S. National Parks because they really are our country’s best idea. If we can help you with planning your trip or answer questions, please leave us a message in the comments section below.

Happy, safe travels, y’all!

Mike and Kellye

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2022                                      

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Wish We Were There Wednesday: Feathers and Fur – The Sequel

We’ve got more feathered and furred animals for y’all from our latest Texas Hill Country road trip. Enjoy!

Trees full of buzzards. We have no idea what they were doing. Probably just waiting for their next public service project. Did a U-turn on a skinny little backroad to photograph them. Don’t tell anybody, but we’re kind of intrigued by buzzards.
We’re not real sure what longhorns do these days except lay around and wait for somebody to take their picture… At least they posed even if they didn’t smile. (We know the correct word is “lie”, but we don’t really care about proper grammar when we’re talking about lazy cows.)
Mrs. Cardinal! We were excited to get a picture of her because we don’t see that many girl cardinals. When we do see one, they are too busy to sit still long enough for us to get the shot. Isn’t she a little darlin’?
Not exactly what you’d expect to see on a Texas ranch, but there it is in black and white…
These little birds are so cute – until some interloper tries to eat from the same feeder, then all heck breaks loose, and the little beasts turn into dive bombing, raging, fighting machines! Is its tongue out? Are their beaks like straws? Do they ever stop flying long enough to sleep? Hello…any hummingbird experts out there?
Now this is what you’d expect to see on a Texas ranch – the LBJ Ranch specifically. If you look closely, you’ll see that it has a number on its horns. We want to know how they get them to sit still long enough to be numbered. Wait…do cows sit? If you have ever seen a sitting cow, raise your hand.
Neither feathered nor furred, it is a ‘dilla butt! Armadillos might have some fur somewhere, though. Have any of y’all ever picked one up and looked?
This is a fish. It does not have feathers or fur either, but it does have fins.
These sheep…
We think you’re a real handsome guy, but we’re not lady turkeys… sorry 🙁
You don’t see too many bison around central Texas, but here’s one at LBJ State Park in Stonewall. Still think they would stink. Not getting close enough to find out…
Just a plain ol’ mallard, but we thought he was pretty. And he let us take his picture. And he hangs out on the San Antonio River Walk… so, yeah…
Some of y’all might think this is a weird picture – we do. But how often do you get a cell phone shot of a White-lined Sphinx Hummingbird Moth at a grocery store? Uh-huh, that’s what we thought…

Thank you so much for stopping by! We hope you will come back again for more road trips, Quick Stops and other good stuff. Subscribe to become a follower so you never miss a post – just hit that button on the right side of the page. Likes, shares, and comments are very much appreciated.

Happy hump day, everyone!

Mike and Kellye

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2022