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.


Disney After Hours at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom



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!

No one in my family can remember how many times we visited Walt Disney World or Disneyland when we were little.  We even did a Disney family cruise when I was in high school, but there is an ongoing debate about which year…

As a mom, I totally keep count:  Walt Disney World 8 times–2004, 2006, 2009, 2011, 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018.  Disneyland 2 times–1999 and 2011 and one Disney cruise in 2004.

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

ONE **amazing** Disney experience trumps every other experience from all of those other trips, hands down–and it happened during our most recent vacation.





And, 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!

Below is everything you need to know about this AMAZING event, directly experienced by me and my 3 children (ages 24, 13 and 12) on January 30, 2018.


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.

From the Disney website, I purchased 4 tickets for $119 EACH.  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.

I printed 4 paper copies of the tickets and carried those with me to the park on our designated night.  The printed tickets allowed me and my children to enter Magic Kingdom at 7:00 p.m.




Under “Event Check-In”, it states that official check-in begins at 7:00 p.m.

We arrived at the front gate and saw a cast member holding an “After Hours” sign.

We checked in with her and took this cute pic.  🙂


She handed us each a lanyard with a hard plastic information card–our passes for the night–and we walked into Magic Kingdom!







After we entered the park, we took several fun Photopass pics (The tangled lanterns!) and rode a few exciting rides before the park closed to the other guests at 8:00 p.m


For the After Hours event, these marvelous lanyards grant visitors the ability to stay in the park AFTER CLOSING TIME!  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.)

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 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.






A brief breakdown:

For January of 2018, tickets for this event cost $119 each.  Prices can vary.

Disney After Hours is a special, ticketed event–it is separate from a theme park ticket and must be purchased separately.  **$119 PER PERSON for 4 hours in Magic Kingdom, 3 of those hours represent the event after closing to the public.  

The price of the ticket allows guests to enjoy 25+ rides and includes frozen treats, popcorn and bottled beverages, like water and sodas.

Our event was from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. (Magic Kingdom park closing time on January 30, 2018 was 8:00 p.m.)  We were allowed to enter the park at 7:00 p.m., one hour before closing time, which gave us 4 hours in the park.

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

Future After Hours events *might* offer different time windows, different rides or different treats, depending on scheduled park closures and ride refurbishments.  Additional food options were available for purchase at restaurants on Main Street.


My final review:

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 most popular question:

If you have a theme park ticket and spend the day at Magic Kingdom, do you still need to spend an additional $119 for this event?  Yes, IF you want to stay after closing AND you want to ride the attractions, you MUST purchase the After Hours ticket (in addition to the theme park ticket).  However, you DO NOT need a theme park ticket to attend this event.  You can just purchase the After Hours ticket and enjoy the park after closing.

Consider this event for a check-in day or a rest day. ** We spent the day at Animal Kingdom and then enjoyed the After Hours event at Magic Kingdom that evening.

***The only thing that could make this event better is if Mickey Mouse and Walt himself were standing on Main Street U.S.A. to say goodnight as guests left the park.  🙂

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.  🙂


Still have questions about Disney’s After Hours event?  Email me anytime!

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.

A review of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge–read it here!

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





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Artisanal Spice Artistry Workshop–Experience Adventure 17 of 100

When I planned our 2018 trip to Walt Disney World, I was SUPER excited to see that the International Festival of the Arts would be at Epcot during the same time.  (I will do a blog post all about the festival soon!)
The festival offers guests a chance to spend the day walking through and experiencing the arts–visual, culinary, music and theatre.  As an extra added fun bonus, Epcot hosts a ton of seminars, workshops and classes at an additional cost.
Hands-on learning at Disney??  Yes, please!  Sign us up!
As Christmas gifts, I gave my children tickets to the P.S. Flavor! Artisanal Spice Artistry Workshop.  My son works in the food industry and my daughters love to cook and bake.  A class all about spices was a perfect fit for the 4 of us and we looked forward to doing something different while at Epcot during our vacation.
Read the description of the class below (taken directly from the Walt Disney World website):
P.S. Flavor! Artisanal Spice Artistry
Pam Smith and Nicole Ramsland, P.S. Flavor! Artisanal Spice Blends
Odyssey Festival Showplace
Workshop begins at 11:00 AM
$39 per person plus tax
Blend your own spices with a “sand art twist” and learn the creative
process of bringing a beautiful artisanal spice blend to life
Unfortunately, the class was not AT ALL what we hoped it would be.  BIG BUMMER.
First of all, the first 20 minutes of the workshop was filled with awkward banter
between the mother and daughter who were running the class.
We did NOT blend our own spices.  We took the spices provided and put them
in a jar.  That was it.  We moved the spices from small containers
into a glass jar.  The spices were pre-measured, so we just poured from the small, black cups into a jar.  FOR REAL.
The “Blend your own spices” was the adobo spice blend sold by the presenter’s company, P.S. Flavor!  Essentially, we WAY overpaid and unknowingly packaged a bottle of the company’s spice blend, which was the only spice we were given.
Pouring the spices from one container to another took about 5 minutes.  Next, and for more than half of the “workshop”, we made “paint” by adding water and painted with another set of spices.  Yes.  Painted a picture.  Where in the description does it
state that more than half of the class focuses on painting?

My son was not thrilled.

Pam Smith (the woman that owns the spice company) kept
“sharing” random and incorrect information about paint history–going as
far to say that Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel with spices.
That is simply not true.
The majority of the time was filled with what can only be described as
an infomercial for the personal spice company.  The class felt like a long, drawn-out infomercial, a desperate attempt to get everyone to buy the online spice and cooking subscription classes.  My children and I found the workshop uncomfortable and a complete waste of time and money.
The WORST part–At the end of the class, we were left with these sopping wet paintings
and no place to put them.  HELLO!  We were in the middle of Epcot!
My son and one of my daughters just threw their paintings in the trash, which made my heart hurt a little bit.  So disappointing!
I had to take the other 2 paintings back to our car–a long, long walk that wasted at least another hour of my Epcot park time.
We left the “class” with a small jar of spices and an informational card about the spice company–another sales pitch.  We were all very upset that we wasted our Epcot park time and spent the rest of the day trying to make up for lost time.
We did NOT “Blend our own spices”.  We filled a jar, listened to an
infomercial for a spice company, received false information and painted
some palm trees.  This class was a complete waste of time and money and
we could not have been more disappointed in the false advertisement and
the way we were forced to sit through a sales pitch from the presenters.
I try to find the good in a bad experience and honestly, I enjoyed the painting process–because, well…I am an artist.  But, I did NOT sign up and pay for a faulty art lesson (palm trees?!?) and I would NEVER commit part of our Epcot day for such, especially for my 3 children.  Disney dropped the ball on this one, for sure.
Even though this experience is our 17th of 100 adventures, I did contact Guest Experience Services at the Walt Disney World company and asked for a refund for the price of the 4 tickets to the workshop.  I am still waiting for a response.
***I am very pleased to report that Disney did in fact refund the $166.16 for the 4 tickets to this event.  Thank you Disney for making this right.  We appreciate you and LOVE you!
Good or bad, our experience adventures continue!
Read about another adventure here!
And here.
And here.
Planning a trip to Walt Disney World soon?  You gotta read this!


Hunting For Fossilized Sharks’ Teeth in Florida–Experience Adventure 16 of 100


One of my daughters loves paleontology and she collects all kinds of things–seeds, nuts, leaves, bones, feathers, fossils, rocks and crystals.  My other daughter wants to pursue a career in marine biology–her current passion focuses on cephalopods and a desire to discover a reversal for tetrodotoxin poisoning.  Yep, I can’t make that up.

Read all about my unique family here.

And here.

And here.



We chose to homeschool 6.5 years ago–it provides the freedom for my children to study and pursue their unique passions on their own timelines.

Read this.

And this.

And this, too.


The freedom to do education “our way” partners with the freedom to travel and explore some super cool things, hence our crazy attempt to complete 100 adventures in just 6 short months.

My daughters and I recently took a 3 week road trip that included awesome experiences in Richmond, Virginia, Savannah, Georgia, Jacksonville, Florida and some much needed “playtime” at Walt Disney World and Universal Studios.

What did we do in Richmond?  Read this.  And this. Oh!  And this, too.

Curious about what we did Savannah?  Hint:  It’s a museum with a speakeasy!  WHAT?!?Click here.

Before we headed to Orlando, I booked a few days of hunting in Nokomis, Florida.

What were we hunting???



Searching for fossilized sharks’ teeth is the perfect activity for both of my daughters.  Obviously, it connects one of my daughters to the ocean, but it also fulfills the need to be connected to the past so prevalent in my other daughter.  A WIN/WIN!  This mom RULES!


Surprise, surprise–Before hitting the road, I did some extensive research looking for the best beaches to find sharks’ teeth.  Venice Beach kept coming up, so I joined a Facebook page for that area of Florida.  I asked the locals for personal recommendations and Nokomis Beach was the winner.  Next, I booked a hotel within walking distance of the ocean.  Done and done.


Nokomis Beach sits on the Gulf of Mexico, south of Sarasota and north of Venice, near Casey Key, an 1.6 miles barrier island.




This particular area of Florida features an abundant amount of fossilized sharks’ teeth because the Gulf coast tides carry ancient sediment and the converging currents deposit the treasures on the beautiful shore.  Significant storms and hurricanes erode the beach, so the city dredges sand from the ocean floor to replace and replenish what is lost.


What sinks down into the sand at the bottom of the ocean becomes fossilized over millions of years.   That’s right my friends.  I am talking about dead sharks. 

Most sharks possess 4 rows of sharp, triangular teeth and the state of Florida was once under water.  Those amazing creatures swam on top of what we now call Nokomis Beach and only the fossilized teeth remain.  Millions of them.  Millions of years old.




We found 311 fossilized sharks’ teeth in 2 days.  The most common of these were from sand sharks, reef sharks, lemon sharks and extinct species such as giant makos and snaggletooths.  These teeth represent current and prehistoric sharks that lived during the Cenozoic Era–66 million years ago to present time.


Unfortunately, we never found a megalodon tooth, much to my youngest daughter’s disappointment, but it is not unheard of in the area.  (It was certainly not from a lack of trying.  LOL)

We visited several beaches along the Gulf of Mexico:  Venice, Casey Key, Nokomis and Sarasota. We only found sharks’ teeth at the Nokomis public beach, which also offered a breathtaking ocean view and access to free parking and clean restrooms.  I appreciate that!  Thank you Nokomis public beach!  🙂


Nokomis Beach gives visitors a beautiful ocean view, with a peaceful and relaxing small-town vibe.




At Casey’s Pass, we found a plethora of beautiful seashells. (But, no sharks’ teeth.)







Views at Casey’s Pass are mesmerizing.



So, how did we find so many sharks’ teeth?



Quite honestly, it was super easy.  🙂

We took buckets and Ziploc baggies to hold all of our treasures.  Those were our only “tools”.  Some people prefer to use a large scoop, sometimes called a Florida snow shovel, but we never needed that.

Of course my daughters tackled the experience in a scientific manner, marking off the searchable areas.  LOL



This method proved quite effective while searching in the drier areas of the sandy beach.

They also looked in the water, which mostly resulted in discovering shells, not teeth.


I prefer to search at the water’s edge in the collection of tiny shells brought in by the gentle waves.




The three of us “trained” our eyes to only seek dark, triangle-shaped objects.  Once our eyes committed to the search, the hunt was on and the sharks’ teeth were unbelievably easy to spot.




We really enjoyed the thrilling (and oddly relaxing!) experience and hope we can return when it is a tiny bit warmer.  🙂



Where have you found fossilized sharks’ teeth?

Share your proven methods!



Curious about what we did in Jacksonville, FL?  Click here.

Check out this museum in Florida!  Click here!

How about a company that hires refugee women?  Yep.  That is pretty awesome!

Read this!

This is cool.  Read this.



The Museum of History and Science–Experience Adventure 15 of 100


For our 15th experience adventure, we explored the Museum of Science and History (The MOSH) in Jacksonville, Florida.


The museum sits on the scenic edge of the Southbank River Walk and opened to the public at the current location in 1969.  A planetarium was added in 1988.  The most recent renovation came in 1994, even though the planetarium received a technology refresh in 2010.





The colorful, outdoor space represents a natural habitat setting for insects and butterflies and several signs with information are posted so that the learning begins before visitors enter the building.  🙂  I like that!





82,200 square feet of museum space is divided into three levels of exhibits, including the Bryan-Gooding Planetarium and the Hixon Native Plant Courtyard.  The main exhibit constantly changes and highlights different topics, while the other halls are permanent.

My daughters and I chose this museum because the main exhibit (which rotates) showcased ancient Rome and Roman history until January 28, 2018.






The massive exhibit featured a wide array of Roman history, culture, simple machines, weaponry, statues, art, clothing and architectural engineering.









We found the area clean, organized, well maintained and everything in working order within the main hall, which changes its display often.




Though I always appreciate hands-on, interactive exhibits, this one lacked information and left me wanting more explanation.  Some “stations” offered awesome gadgets and instruments to touch and examine, but the educational material was minimal, insignificant, or missing altogether.


We enjoyed the permanent Jacksonville and Northeast Florida history hall called Currents of Time.  It leads visitors through an extensive and visual timeline beginning with the Timucuas and ending in the 1960’s, which represents 12,000 years of Floridian history.  We spent the most time in this section.IMG_20180123_111021.jpg













The Jacksonville, Florida history exhibit showcases one of the best visual and educational timelines we have experienced in a museum.  However, the other halls appear gloomy, dark, dingy and significantly lacked updating.

The Atlantic Tails and Hixon Native Plant Courtyard both present dated and “well-loved” displays and need a good cleaning, repairs, updates, and/or re-tweaking.  Even though the touch tank was supposed to be available from 11 am to 2 pm, there was nothing in it except slime.





Other exhibits are simple and very limited, though each section did present several hands-on activities.







The entire third floor focused on a tiny area with brain teaser stations.  My daughters enjoyed the problem solving, but the exhibit is not substantial and only a fraction of what it could and should be.





Overall, I give the Museum of Science and History a mediocre “C” rating.  The regional history hall and Roman exhibit saved it from a failing grade, in my opinion.  Our tickets included general admission and 1 program at the planetarium, but my daughters grew bored quickly and did not want to wait around for the show.  If my girls want to leave a museum, there is a problem.  We left feeling unfulfilled.

Visit the museum for the Jacksonville and Northeast Florida walkthrough-history timeline.


The Museum of Science and History (MOSH) is located at 1025 Museum Circle, Jacksonville, Florida, 32207.  It is open 7 days a week and until 8pm on Friday nights.  For more information, visit or call 904-396-6674.


Want to check out some other museums in Florida?  Read this!  And this!

Heading to Walt Disney World?  This is a MUST read!

Everything you need to know about the 2018 Disney dining plan is right here!



The American Prohibition Museum–Experience Adventure 14 of 100


Savannah, Georgia offers a ton of awesome places to visit–historical sites, meaningful monuments, yummy restaurants, cool bars and shopping opportunities galore.  My daughters and I drove through Savannah at the end of January 2018, and only had a few hours for a brief stop.  A total bummer for us!











(Currently looking for a good excuse to return!)  🙂

We crammed as much as we could into a few, short hours.  While we ate lunch, I did a quick search and learned that the American Prohibition Museum was just walking distance from our restaurant.  So, of course, we went.  🙂


The American Prohibition Museum opened in Savannah, Georgia on May 29, 2017, and highlights American history, pop culture and societal norms before, during and after the passing of the 18th amendment.  As America’s only museum focused on prohibition, the 2-story building features 5,500 square feet of interactive, hands-on exhibits full of historically accurate, alcohol related treasures.


**Fun Fact (or not-so-fun fact, depending on your personal views, LOL) : The 18th amendment was passed in 1919, and put into action from 1920 to 1933–almost 14 years!


Not only does the museum consist of 13 well organized galleries, it boasts 1,100 prohibition artifacts and 30+ realistic, life-sized wax figures.





**Fun Fact:  The first thing visitors see upon entering the museum is a beer truck from 1918!





**Fun Fact:  Carrie Nation was a hard-core, radical member of the temperance movement and opposed alcohol consumption long before prohibition.  To get her message across, she threw rocks, bricks and hatchets into alcohol serving establishments. That’s legit passion.


As the museum walks visitors through a self-guided tour of the early 1900’s, actors dressed in period clothing offer entertaining stories, historical facts, and interesting tidbits of information.  The characters interact with guests and answer questions, instantly bringing American history to life.  (My FAVORITE way to learn!)


Exhibits illustrate a time in American history when dividing opinions circled around the sale and drinking of alcohol.  The passing of the 18th amendment prohibited the manufacture, sale, transport, import, export, and consumption of all alcoholic beverages.  This law affected every citizen one way or another, especially those directly working in the industry.



All of the fascinating facets of prohibition and the side effects, consequences, and results of such a polarizing mandate are thoroughly represented.  This creates a completely immersive and impressive experience where visitors step back in time to walk among prohibitionists, whiskey runners, flappers, mobsters, and gangsters.





There is even a super cool area to learn the Charleston!  Seriously, that is cool.



As the historical experience nears the demise of prohibition, visitors find a door with a “hidden” secret.


Follow the directions and the door opens…to reveal a secret:

The Congress Street Up.


Even as a non-drinker, I certainly appreciate a museum with a bar inside, specifically a 1920’s-themed speakeasy.  Full of vintage signs, art and artifacts, a bar serving 1920’s cocktails (IN A MUSEUM!) is even cooler than the chance to dance the Charleston!  🙂


Finally, a small theater features a quick summary film to tie it all together.  Education Perfection.


From a historical and educational standpoint, the American Prohibition Museum is winning at all things that make a museum one of my favs.  It is comprehensive, interactive, and hands-on, with knowledgeable docents, interesting actors, relevant wax figures, awesome artifacts, including original propaganda posters, pertinent memorabilia, and historically accurate audio recordings, papers and film clips.  Oh, and there is a bar.  Hello.


Even though this is the only museum I have visited in Georgia, I am going to bravely state that this one is my favorite.  🙂

Put the American Prohibition Museum on the “Must-Do in Savannah” list ASAP.


The American Prohibition Museum is located at 209 W. St. Julian Street, Savannah, Georgia, 31401.

The museum is open 10:00 am to 5:00 pm everyday.

Admission prices:  Adults $12 and children $9

Discounts are available online and on the museum website if purchased in advance.

For more information visit or call 912-551-4054.



My favorite museum in Oklahoma?  Read about it here!

Want to plan a Walt Disney World vacation like a pro?  Read this.  And this.  And this.  OH!  And this, too!

Visiting Florida?  Check this out!

How about my favorite restaurant in Illinois?  Yep–click here!




The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts–Experience Adventure 13 of 100

My daughters and I spent a wonderful, art-centric day with my cousin and her son at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, our 13th of 100 experience adventures.


My beautiful cousin  (Her mom and my dad are siblings.)


My cousin’s son and my daughters (Does that make them 2nd cousins or cousins once removed?!?  I can never remember!)  LOL


The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is located in the historic city of Richmond, Virginia.  Like most art museums in larger cities, the VMFA exhibits overflow with artwork from around the globe.  However, the interesting architecture of the VMFA building and the breathtaking outdoor sculpture garden make this art destination exceptionally special.


It certainly helped that we visited on a gorgeous day, but the grounds of the museum begged us to stay outside just a little longer.  What a wonderful park and public space for the citizens of Richmond!








My daughters and I are always excited to find an unexpected Chihuly sculpture!

The COOLEST thing about the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (besides the awesome Robins Sculpture Garden) is that general admission is FREE.  Yep, FREE.  This includes ALL permanent exhibits and most collections.  Traveling exhibits and special engagements might cost a little, but seriously…FREE general admission…that is AMAZING.  I visit a TON of art museums–I cannot recall any of them being free to the public.  VMFA, you ROCK!  (And thank you!)






With over 35,000 pieces of art that represent almost every major culture, The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts offers visitors a thorough and immersive art history experience.


We greatly enjoyed the American Art and Early 20th Century European Art halls, as well as the Faberge and Russian Decorative Arts collection.  My daughters love Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Comfort Tiffany and were excited to find several pieces in the Decorative Arts After 1890 hall.



One of our favorite traveling exhibits is secretly following our homeschool journey–we have accidently experienced it at THREE different locations in THREE different states. What are the chances?!?


When I noticed it on the VMFA website before our visit, I laughed to myself and originally planned to skip it (since we have seen it twice already).  But when we arrived, the helpful information desk told me this special exhibit was free for military families.


Ok…you twisted my arm…we will enjoy it for the third time!  Honestly folks…it is AMAZING and quite an unbelievable archeological find and can we really see it too many times???  Apparently not.  🙂


Put the Terracotta Army:  Legacy of the Frist Emperor of China on your bucket list.  It is featured at the VMFA until March 11, 2018, and might be near you at a later date.  Who knows…maybe we will be lucky enough to see it for a 4th time some day!  HA!







The museum boasts two on-site restaurants and we enjoyed a delicious, fine dining lunch at Amuse, which features fresh, local ingredients and beautiful views of the sculpture garden.  Best Café, offering a more casual menu, overlooks the reflecting pool.

General admission is FREE (Yippeeee!) and the museum is open all 365 days of the year.  That is FABULOUS!

Hours:  10:00 am -5:00 pm and open until 9:00 pm on Thursdays and Fridays.  Parking for non-members is $5.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is located at 200 N. Boulevard, Richmond, Virginia, 23220.  For more information, call 804-340-1450, 804-340-1400 or visit

Online museum gallery map and gallery activities (homeschool goodies!) Click here!

Our day ended with a fantastic, personal tour of my cousin’s pre-Civil War home, where I saw a new-to-me picture of my grandparents, who left this world long before I was an adult.


Kind of an amazing day.  After we said goodbye to my gracious cousin and her family, my daughters and I continued our journey south.


Want another cool thing to do in Richmond, Virginia?  Read this!

How about Edgar Allan Poe?  Yep, everyone loves his work AND there is a Poe Museum in Richmond!  So cool!  Click here.

Do you love Dale Chihuly too?  Check this out!

Glass blowing on your bucket list?  Read this!

Are you a Salvador Dali fan?  Click here


The Edgar Allan Poe Museum–Experience Adventure 12 of 100

I registered my youngest daughter for the SAT test before I knew about this exciting Pennsylvania sabbatical, so I swapped the testing site to a location a tad bit closer to PA than Texas–and Richmond, Virginia won.

During my “What to do in Richmond, Virginia” search, I found the Edgar Allan Poe Museum and I immediately started collecting curriculum to create a unit study for my daughters.  I bought several books, a biographical DVD and an audio collection of his stories and poetry.  (I will provide a list at the end of this post.)

The girls read many of his pieces, including The Pit and the Pendulum, The Tell-Tale Heart and The Raven.  Along with the readings, we focused on vocabulary, writing responses, discussions and literary devices.  We studied his timeline in a historical context, illustrated his poetry, re-wrote sections from other characters’ views and dissected his works as detective-based, science fiction and psychological horror stories.

I love nothing more than finishing up a great unit study with a relevant museum trip.  It is the icing on the homeschooling cake.  🙂


Even more AWESOME:  When we arrived at the museum, we happened upon the COOLEST thing EVER!


Edgar Allan Poe was born on January 19, 1809.  We visited the museum on January 20, 2018, and guess what?!?  The museum was hosting a huge 209th birthday bash to celebrate Mr. Poe.  Complete happy accident on our part–we were only there that day because my daughter took the SAT that morning in Richmond.


I LOVE when this happens!


The Edgar Allan Poe Museum began as an enchanted garden shrine to Poe and opened to the public on April 26, 1922.  (April 26th is my b-day!  Not really relevant, just fun!)  James Howard Whitty and a group of literary enthusiasts originally wanted to honor Poe by restoring the Southern Literary Messenger building, where Poe began his work as an editor.

Unfortunately, the historical landmark was demolished.  Whitty collected and salvaged the building materials and Annie Jones used the bricks and granite to create paved walkways and peaceful paths, which became the garden and Edgar Allan Poe shrine.  Mrs. Jones used Poe’s poem, “To One in Paradise” as inspiration and filled the garden with plants from Poe’s mom’s grave.


Today, the land and museum consists of the garden, an old stone house and several buildings that display relics, artwork, personal letters and furniture from Poe’s life.


Photography is limited to certain areas, so I do not have a ton of pictures.  But, the museum is considered the most comprehensive in the world and showcases a large collection of Poe related items, including a staircase from his childhood home.


I took this picture of one of Mr. Poe’s desks.


We were thankful to be able to take advantage of the unique, birthday-themed events offered by the museum.  We toured the museum, ate cake, visited the garden and listened to knowledgeable docents explain exhibits.


Our favorite event–hands down–featured an intriguing mock trial, presented by a talented stage actor, portraying the narrator from Poe’s psychological thriller, “The Tell-Tale Heart”.  His performance brought the short story to life for my daughters.



The Edgar Allan Poe Museum is located at 1914-16 E. Main Street, Richmond, Virginia, 23223.  Admission is $8 for adults and $6 for children and seniors.  For more information, visit or call 804-648-5523.


The museum has a wonderful gift shop and educational resources can be found on the website at



The resources I used to create an Edgar Allan Poe unit study are listed below:

The Edgar Allan Poe audio collection preformed by Vincent Price and Basil Rathbone.

Edgar A. Poe, Buried Alive, PBS American Masters DVD

Who Was Edgar Allan Poe, written by Jim Gigliotti

The Complete Poetry of Edgar Allan Poe, book

The Best of Poe, book

Poe–Stories and Poems, a graphic novel adaptation by Gareth Hinds

Several Brain Pop and YouTube videos on Poe and literary devices

The educational resources listed on the Edgar Allan Poe Museum website:


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