Craving Dole Whip

Disney & museum obsessed, homeschooling mom of 3, parenting to focus on experiences, not possessions. Sharing Disney tips, educational adventures and a few reviews. Constantly craving Dole Whip.


4.2 Mile Hike On The Appalachian Trail–Experience Adventure 23 of 100



Discovering the Appalachian Trail meandered right through the “home base” of our 6 month sabbatical immediately drove me into an obsessive search to learn as much as I could about the famous hiking path.  Several months before we moved to Carlisle, I joined a few Facebook hiking and/or trail groups, read several books on the subject and like always, conducted hours and hours worth of online research.


I don’t know what it is, but the trail calls to me.


When the first day with temps in the 60’s finally arrived, my family and I experienced our 23rd of 100 adventures–a 4.2 mile hike on the magnificent Appalachian Trail, the longest, hiking-only trail in the world. (It will not be our last!)



The Appalachian Trail (A.T.) welcomes an astonishing 2-3 million visitors a year.  First proposed in 1921 by a regional planner named Benton MacKaye, the famous route began with volunteers linking existing trails to create one, long continuous footpath.


In 1925, a group of 24 supporters created the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) to protect and maintain the path. 


Completed in August of 1937, the 2,190 mile long Appalachian Trail winds through 14 states, 8 national forests and 6 national parks.  The trail begins in Springer Mountain, Georgia and concludes in Mount Katahdin, Maine.  It is marvelously beautiful, even on a rare warm day in the middle of winter.

**Fun Fact:  Earl Shaffer, a WWII veteran from Pennsylvania, was the first reported person to hike the entire trail in a single journey.  He completed his first hike in 1948, as a way to cope with returning home from the war.  Mr. Shaffer also finished continuous hikes in 1965 and in 1998, at the age of 79.


Hiking experiences are divided into three main descriptive categories:

  1. Day hikes
  2. Multi-day hikes
  3. Thru-hiking (walking the entire trail within one calendar year)

Our quick 4.2 mile hike obviously represents a very small “day hike”.   🙂






**Fun Fact:  Thru-hikers make up nicknames called “trail names” and rarely use their real names when meeting other hikers on the trail.

2″ x 6″ white rectangles called “blazes” found on trees, posts and rocks mark the sometimes treacherous path of the Appalachian Trail.




Blue rectangles mark trails to shelters built and maintained by volunteers to give multi-day and thru-hikers respite from extreme weather and exhaustion.

**Fun Fact:  In 1968, the National Trails System Act became law, making the Appalachian Trail the first national scenic trail in the United States.





Most thru-hikers finish the A.T. in 6 to 9 month, but the quickest was completed in just 46 days.  Anyone who completes the trail, in any combination or manner, earns the title of “2,000 miler”.   The oldest 2,000 miler was 82 years old–the youngest, just 5 years.


Between the years 1936 and 1969, 59 recorded completions were documented and only ten people finished the trail in 1970.  7,418 hikers reported completions between 2010 and 2017.

**Fun Fact:  About 29% of A.T. hikers are women.








Access to the trail varies, but we drove to an area that provides parking.  We left our car behind, wore comfortable shoes, carried lightweight jackets and water and began our first exploration of the peaceful, mostly undisturbed, natural and historical Appalachian Trail.





Hiking the Appalachian Trail fueled my spirit with a complete and calming submersion in the wonder of raw nature, a tranquil experience that planted an essential seed of eager desire to return for more.


I am currently researching the 14 state challenge and thinking about adding it to my bucket list.  🙂

For more information, visit The Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

Recommended books:

Grandma Gatewood’s Walk by Ben Montgomery

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

A Walk in the Woods on DVD


Why are we attempting 100 adventures?  Read this!

Looking for fun things to do in Virginia?

Check out:

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

The Edgar Allan Poe Museum








The State Museum of Pennsylvania–Experience Adventure 22 of 100


On Valentine’s Day of 2018, and for our 22nd of 100 adventures, my daughters and I spent the day exploring the remarkable State Museum of Pennsylvania.  Established in 1905 and adjacent to the breathtaking and beautiful State Capitol Building, the historical institution is the commonwealth’s official museum located in the state’s important capital city of Harrisburg.


The museum takes visitors through a full range of fascinating regional history, focusing on Pennsylvania’s multi-faceted culture and prominent figures, beginning with prehistoric geology and archeological exhibits and continuing to present time pop culture influences and art showcases.


Four impressive exhibit floors and a full-dome planetarium chronologically organize and display over 3 million items in the museum’s expansive collection.


Interesting and permanent exhibit halls include Life Through Time, Geology, Mammals, Ecology, a Memorial Hall dedicated to William Penn, and Objects of Valor, which features Civil War artifacts.


**Fun Fact:  Pennsylvania was named by King Charles II, who took the Penn family name and combined it with the Latin word “silva”, which means “woods”.






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The Memorial Hall features an enormous mural, state map, and a monumental bronze statue of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania.

**Fun Fact:  William Penn’s forward-thinking policy of religious tolerance and acceptance created a diverse religious and ethnic culture in the state of Pennsylvania.



My daughters and I spent most of our time in the noteworthy exhibits of Pennsylvania Icons, Village Square, the Anthropology and Archeology Gallery, and the Transportation and Industry hall.


**Fun Fact:  Pennsylvania is the nation’s #1 producer of mushrooms, #2 producer of apples and ranks 3rd for eggs and Christmas trees!





**Fun Fact:  Pennsylvania produces 80% of the nation’s hard pretzels.

More than 350 unusual and thought-provoking items fill the Pennsylvania Icons hall, where visitors learn about the national influence of Pennsylvania’s unique places, people and products.




**Fun Fact:  20% of the United States’ production of craft beer is produced in Pennsylvania.


True-to-life historical facades, buildings, a summer kitchen and a general store represent a 19th century Pennsylvania town in the walk-through Village Square Hall.  I wanted to find some hands-on activities, but unfortunately, this is a purely visual exhibit.







The creation and historical significance of the Pennsylvania Turnpike is thoroughly explored within the Transportation and Industry hall.  Focusing on the tools, vehicles and the history of innovative machines, the exhibit gives viewers a fantastic and engaging glimpse into transportation industry and commerce.




**Fun Fact:  In October of 1940, the nations first modern superhighway birthed a new interest in cross-country travel for post-WWII Americans.  That superhighway is the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Native American artifacts and archeological methods are explored in great detail inside the Anthropology and Archeology Gallery.



**Fun Fact:  The Meadowcroft Rockshelter, located near Avella in Washington County, Pennsylvania, boasts the earliest signs of human habitation in North America and has been continually inhabited for the past 19,000 years.

As a lover of the visual arts, we greatly enjoyed the engaging, rotating art exhibit, which featured unique art pieces bought and acquired by the museum through the years.






Overall, we found The State Museum of Pennsylvania educational, interesting and thought-provoking.  It was clean, well organized, thorough, and visually stimulating.  Of course, I prefer a hands-on approach and appreciate exhibits with interactive components, but the museum’s extensive collection makes up for its lack of experiential learning.  My daughters and I left with massive amounts of new and relevant Pennsylvania state knowledge and a greater historical understanding of our nation.


Kudos to The State Museum of Pennsylvania.  As a museum-obsessed, homeschooling mom, I give it a “B++”!

Hours of operation:  Wed-Sat 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and Sunday 12:00 to 5:00 pm.

Please note:  The museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Adults:  $7.00

Children ages 1-11 years:  $5.00

The museum is FREE for military members and military families with ID’s.  THANK YOU!

The State Museum of Pennsylvania is located at 300 North Street, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 17120.  For more information, call 717-787-4980 or visit


For some other fun and educational adventures in the great state of Pennsylvania, check out:

The Turkey Hill Experience

George’s Furniture

The Pennsylvania Farm Show

The National Watch and Clock Museum

The Lancaster Central Market





The Carlisle Ice Art Fest–Experience Adventure 21 of 100



The 2nd annual Carlisle Ice Art Fest, sponsored by CenturyLink, decorated downtown Carlisle, Pennsylvania with over 70 unique and pre-carved ice sculptures.


We walked to the event, which was held February 9-11, 2018, making this local experience our 21st adventure.



Many fun and family-friendly events filled the 3 day ice themed festival:  carriage rides, penguin toss, sing-alongs, a chili cook off, beer tasting, glass blowing, a variety of food vendors, a free showing of Edward Scissorhands, and ice carving demonstrations by ice artist Kevin Gregory.





We spent the day walking up and down the streets of our new city, shopping and visiting the wide range of local, unique stores and meeting a few shopkeepers.  BUY LOCAL!  🙂

My girls found several more Pennsylvania Historical Markers in town, too.





Overall, the Carlisle Ice Art Fest gave our family a very relaxing afternoon to enjoy our little city–and learn a little history!






Other experiences within driving distance from Carlisle:

The National Watch and Clock Museum

The Turkey Hill Experience

The Lancaster Sweet Shoppe

George’s Furniture

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Universal Studios Orlando–Experience Adventure 20 of 100

I honestly think long and hard before I count an experience as one of our 100 adventures. One of the main rules I put into place to keep this journey on the right side of interesting, is that the experience MUST be NEW, something my daughters have never seen or experienced or eaten or heard.

With all of our trips down to Walt Disney World, I naturally and occasionally consider a detour to visit Universal Studios. My #1 goal was to wait until my youngest daughter was ready for most of the rides and I think we found our sweet spot in January of 2018. 🙂

Plus, all 3 of my kids are SUPER big Harry Potter fans. SCORE!


For our 20th of 100 adventures, we spent 4 days at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida. I am lumping all 4 days into one “experience” and writing a pretty short post that covers 4 days of endless fun. When time allows, I will write reviews, tips and comparisons about everything we experienced at the park. For now, enjoy a super quick summary. 🙂


Universal Orlando is a theme park destination that includes Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Universal’s Volcano Bay and Universal CityWalk.

We spent most of our time at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, the two main theme parks with rides and attractions. Within walking distance of the two parks, CityWalk features restaurants, bars and shopping venues. Volcano Bay, Universal’s water park, opened on May 25, 2017 and offers guests a chance to use Tapu Tapu, a bracelet with a virtual place holder for long lines. We did not visit Volcano Bay.

For Harry Potter fans, the theming for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is AMAZING and BREATHTAKING. Visitors enjoy the wonders of Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure and the impressive details of Diagon Alley at Universal Studios. The ability to ride the Hogwarts Express is reserved for those who have Park-to-Park privileges, Universal’s version of Park Hopper, because the train travels between the two theme parks.





Butter Beer, served at carts, stands and restaurants, comes in several delicious varieties: regular, hot, frozen, ice cream and fudge. Frozen was my favorite, but I suffered through a beast of a sore throat that week and consumed an embarrassingly large amount of frozen Butter Beer to dull the pain. 🙂 All 3 of my kids unanimously preferred the hot. As you can assume, we spent a crazy amount of money on Butter Beer. LOL




Not going to lie–we LOVED the Harry Potter sections of both parks, maybe a tiny bit more than some sections of Disney World. The rides are top-notch and the environment feels like the real deal. (More on that in a different post!)

Thrilling and sensational roller coasters, like Revenge of the Mummy (my FAV!), Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket, and the Incredible Hulk Coaster proves Universal’s commitment to cater to an older crowd.



Be warned: The two water-themed rides, Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls and Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges will get you mega-wet, like SOAKING, even if you wear a poncho.



Almost all rides showcase amazingly realistic environments and complete immersion for guests. Don’t miss Skull Island Reign of Kong, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon.




My husband and son loved the Simpsons Ride, Kwik E Mart and Duff Brewery.





Cool things not to miss and a few quick tips (more to come when I write the big post!):

Obviously, do not miss the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in both parks.

If you or your child love Harry Potter, buy an interactive wand on the first day.


Try the Butter Beer–let me know which one you like the best!

If you are cool with crazy roller coasters, don’t miss Revenge of the Mummy (my FAV!), Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket, and the Incredible Hulk Coaster.

Splurge for the park-to-park ticket AND the Universal Express Pass. The Express Pass beats Disney’s Fast Pass+ system a million times over. (more on that later!)

Everything is within walking distance–both theme parks and CityWalk. LOVE!

The “people dryers” do not work as well as you want. Save your money.

Some rides require guests to store all belongings, free of charge. The lockers are tiny and crowded. Carry small backpacks, if you need.

Characters walk around freely and can be found inside ride queues and shops. Very cool.




Our fav restaurants were the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Mythos. Get a milkshake(s) and the Brussel sprouts at Toothsome.



Well, I sure made a lot of promises to write more posts detailing all there is to know about Universal Studios Orlando. I better cut this one off. LOL

A super entertaining BlueMan Group permanently runs at Universal CityWalk. Read all about that experience here.

Want other things to do in Orlando? Click here! And here.

How about a list of every character meal in Walt Disney World? Yep! Read this.

Read about some of our other adventures in our attempt to experience 100 new things in 6 months!

The Prohibition Museum

The Lancaster Sweet Shoppe

The National Watch and Clock Museum

The Turkey Hill Experience


Blue Man Group Orlando–Experience Adventure 19 of 100

Blue Man Group is awesome.

You MUST go.

I sort of feel like that statement is enough, but for those who have never seen a Blue Man Group performance, I will give you just a tiny bit more info. 🙂


At the present, permanent Blue Man Group shows reside in Boston, Orlando, New York, Chicago and Las Vegas, but there are also traveling performances currently in Germany, Istanbul, Czech Republic, and Monaco.

I consider myself very lucky to have attended shows in Houston and Las Vegas in the past.

But, for our 19th adventure, my family of 5 experienced the show in Orlando, Florida.

No pics are allowed during the performance, so my photos are limited. 🙂


Located in the CityWalk section of Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, the 1,000 seat Blue Man Group theater was built in 2006.

The show engages all the senses like no other performance. Unique sounds and musical instruments, active creations of expressive artwork, hilarious (and silent) theatrical moments and audience participation fill the auditorium. It is exciting and interesting and engaging and entertaining.




OH! And just a quick side note: The Blue Man Group shows at each location ARE different, so go see one! (or two or three!)

***If you sit in the first couple of rows, don’t wear anything nice. 🙂

Visit for more information.


Visiting Walt Disney World soon? Read this.

Find other interesting things to do in Florida here, here and here.


100 Experience Adventures–January Summary


By now, most of my readers know that my daughters and I are attempting to complete 100 experiences during our 6 month sabbatical away from our home in Texas.

For newbies, click here.

And read this.

I am super happy to report we surprisingly completed 18 awesome experiences during the month of January and I kept a running list of the events and the cost for reference.

Below is a quick summary and each one is a clickable link to more information about the experience, in case you are curious. 🙂

Experience 1:

The Pennsylvania Farm Show (Free to attend, $15 for parking)

Experience 2:

George’s Furniture in Marietta, PA (Free to visit, we donated $20 for the personal tour)

Experience 3:

Cinnaholic, Vegan cinnamon rolls in Lancaster, PA ($28.04 for four cinnamon rolls)

Experience 4:

The National Watch & Clock Museum in Columbia, PA ($8.40 for four tickets through Groupon)

Experience 5:

The Turkey Hill Experience in Columbia, PA ($45.75 for three people to attend the lab class and the experience)

Experience 6:

Burning Bridge Antiques Market in Columbia, PA (free to visit)

Experience 7:

The Lancaster Sweet Shoppe and Stroopie Co. in Lancaster, PA (free to visit)

Experience 8:

Lancaster Central Market in Lancaster, PA (free to visit)

Experience 9:

Beiler’s Doughnuts in Lancaster, PA ($11.25 for 2 dozen doughnuts through Groupon)

Experience 10:

Sledding in real snow in Carlisle, PA (free!)

Experience 11:

Maymont in Richmond, Virginia ($12 for three tickets to the nature center and $15 “donation” for three people to tour the mansion)

Experience 12:

The Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia ($24 for three tickets)

Experience 13:

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, VA (free for military families, $10 for the audio tour for two people)

Experience 14:

The Prohibition Museum in Savannah, Georgia ($32.10 for three tickets)

Experience 15:

The Museum of Science and History (The MOSH) in Jacksonville, Florida ($30 for three tickets)

Experience 16:

Hunting for fossilized sharks teeth in Nokomis Beach, Florida (free)

Experience 17:

Artisanal Spice Artistry Workshop at the International Festival of the Arts in Epcot, Walt Disney World ($166.16 for four tickets)

Experience 18:

Disney After Hours event at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World ($476 for four tickets)


What is next?!?

Many more adventures to explore in the month of February!


Disney After Hours–Experience Adventure 18 of 100



Me and my “babies” at Magic Kingdom, After Hours, 2018

Everyone on this planet knows how much I love Walt Disney World.  While growing up, my parents instilled in me an unwavering commitment to all things Mickey Mouse and I joyfully pass the obsession down to my own three kids–like any good mom would do.  🙂



Me and my cute sister!  The tradition (ok, it’s a necessity) of matching T-shirts started a long, long time ago!


Honestly, I thought long and hard about this–Would it be CHEATING if I counted every experience we enjoyed during our most recent trip to Walt Disney World as part of our 100, especially since it was our 8th time to visit Disney!?!

Um…ethically…I think yes.

To be transparent and fair, I decided not to use the actual trip as an “official” experience adventure.

BUT, we DID enjoy something totally NEW and it was certainly an ADVENTURE!

And, I am totally counting this one!  🙂

So, for our 18th of 100 experience adventures, we super maxed out the Disney junkie-side of our family and we partied like it was 1999 at Disney After Hours!




I could post 10,000 pictures, but I will resist the urge.  You are welcome.  🙂




OMGGGGGGGGG!!!!  Friends and family, Disney After Hours is a GAME CHANGER!

So…what is this SUPER AWESOME Disney After Hours at Magic Kingdom?


Disney After Hours first appeared in the spring of 2016, at the Magic Kingdom park inside Walt Disney World in Florida.  As always, Disney constantly tweaks the original offering a little here and there, but the glorious premise remains the same:  It is an extraordinary “Disney After Hours” experience.

In other words, guests purchase a ticket to the After Hours event (separate from a theme park ticket), and the ticket grants the unbelievable freedom to enjoy Magic Kingdom after it technically closes to the public–with some super awesome perks!

SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!  This event has our names written allllll over it!



Disney After Hours is NOT offered every night.  In fact, the dates are VERY limited.  At the time of this blog entry, the posted dates for 2018 were only January 19, 26, and 30, February 8 and 15 and March 1 and 8.  Pretty rare.

No one knows the exact number (except the all-mighty Disney people), but Disney enthusiasts estimate somewhere around 1,000 tickets per date are sold.  Obviously, it sells out quickly.  Super exclusive.  We are fancy like that.  🙂





More than 25 popular rides remain operational from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., with little to no wait.  (Times for this event can vary depending on seasonal park closing times.)

Once the park closed to the public at 8:00 pm., only lanyard sporting guests were allowed on rides.  **I did see other people walking around the park for a little while, but they were turned away at the entrances to the attractions and rides.


I hope you are sitting down for this.

From 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., my kids and I rode the following rides:

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad–3 times

Pirates of the Caribbean

Haunted Mansion

Under the Sea–Journey of the Little Mermaid

Peter Pan’s Flight

Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin

Mad Tea Party

Tomorrowland Speedway

Space Mountain–3 times

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train–7 times

Tomorrowland Transit Authority People Mover

All in 3 hours!  Unbelievable!








We focused on riding all of our personal favorites, but other rides were open, such as the Astro Orbiter, It’s A Small World, and Jungle Cruise.  I also noticed Mickey’s Philharmagic and the Princess Fairytale Hall were both accessible.

The event also gave guests an unlimited amount of frozen treats, popcorn and bottled beverages, sold from carts stationed around the park.  If you possess the elusive lanyard, you just walk up, flash your card and get ice cream!


For real.

Disney heaven on Earth!





The event produced my own personal, magical Christmas morning–my kids and I were laughing and skipping like carefree, unattended children in a candy store–going merrily from ride to ride–without the stress of crowds, long lines and posted wait times–freely eating an obscene amount of Mickey bars and cookies-n-cream ice cream sandwiches.

We wanted to stay ALL.  NIGHT.  LONG.

OH!  And I noticed a SUPER cool phenomenon:  For those 3 short hours, all of the guests in the park were members of a special, exclusive club–everyone was OVERLY friendly to one another, all interacting like old college roommates that just won a shared lottery jackpot…a feeling of blissful celebration that I honestly find difficult to accurately describe.

The opportunity to truly act and feel like a kid again.

No stress.  No sadness.  Free from the weight of our crazy world.


Pure joy.

With a little hint of elated disbelief.






We found little to no wait and NEVER a line at every ride we approached.  In total, the kids and I rode 21 times (some repeats).



My final thoughts:

I LOVED every single minute of this experience.  What else can I say?

Was it worth $119 a person for only 4 hours?  Absolutely!

Would I do it again?  Yes, in a heartbeat.

Do I think this ticketed event could replace an entire day at Magic Kingdom?  Maybe.  It depends on your personal ride preferences and priorities.  We rode everything we loved and felt fulfilled when we returned back to our resort.


***The only thing that could make this event better is if Mickey Mouse and Walt himself stood on Main Street U.S.A. handing out Dole Whips.

I will say, this event is best suited for kids and adults that can easily and effortlessly stay up late without a break.  Time flies when you are having fun! 🙂  It was the shortest 3 hours of my life!  Go!  Go!  Go!


Once we enjoyed this amazing experience, the rush and urgency to ride the most popular rides on our next day at Magic Kingdom completely disappeared.  No more pressure!  It opened up our schedule to focus on other attractions and relax longer at our table service dinner at Be Our Guest.  For a full restaurant review, read this.


Side note:

I booked our 2018 vacation 8 months in advance, long before special event options are posted, so the dates of our trip were already in stone.  About 2 months before check-in, I noticed a list of dates for Disney After Hours on the Disney website–and one of those dates–January 30th–fell right in the middle of our stay.

Luck or pixie dust?!?  You decide.  🙂



Why are we attempting 100 adventures in 6 months?  Read this!

How do I plan our Walt Disney World vacations?  Click here.

Everything you need to know about the 2018 Disney Dining Plan–Read this.

A list of all of the Disney character meals?  Yep.  Right here.

Free things to do at Disney?  Yes, please!  Click here!