My family and I just returned from an epic road trip! We went down to the North Carolina/South Carolina border, through Virginia, drove through New York to Niagara Falls in Canada, to Vaughn, Ontario, around to Sandusky, Ohio, before finally heading home. In all, we drove a little over 2,200 miles. Why? Roller coasters!!
Last year was our first year to get Kings Island Gold Passes as a family. As it turns out, our kids love roller coasters (and rides in general) as much as we do! So at the end of the season last year, we upgraded to Platinum. This allows you to visit all/any of the 13 Cedar Fair amusement/water parks as much as you'd like.
Earlier this year we made two separate trips, one to Cedar Point and one to Dorney Park in Pennsylvania, which we combined with a trip to Harrisburg, Hershey, and Gettysburg to learn more about the Civil War and for chocolate. The kids said it was the most delicious trip we've ever taken...ha!
However, this time we managed to hit 5 Cedar Fair parks in 10 days!
First we went to Kings Island on Thursday. This is only 30 minutes from our house, so we go to Kings Island at least 10 times a year. We had cousins in town and met up with them to ride some rides, including a couple of our favorites, Mystic Timbers and Diamondback. It was a great way to kick off our adventure!
On Friday we drove half way to Carowinds, arriving at the park on Saturday around lunch time. Carowinds is a fun park and has the tallest and fastest giga coaster, Fury 325. We were able to ride it at night and again during the day the next day. It was so fun! Another of our favorites there was the new Copperhead Strike. With the slow corkscrew beginning followed by a double launch, this one was so much fun...and so very smooth! With my son being able to ride everything and my daughter just under the 52" mark, we did the "rider swap" for all the taller rides. My son was super excited to ride everything twice...he's a lucky kid!! That said, there are still lots of roller coasters at the 48" mark. My daughter's favorite at Carowinds was the Carolina Goldrusher, a fun wooden coaster that dips under ground twice. My son loved the Southern Star, a rocking ship that goes completely upside down, and had to ride it twice! We all loved the Seasons of Cirque show and all the amazing talent in the show!
After two fun-filled days at Carowinds, we drove to our next stop, Kings Dominion. Kings Dominion is the sister property of Kings Island. It has a familiar feeling when you enter, including a replica Eiffel Tower straight ahead at the entrance. We were there on a Monday and Tuesday and a lot of local schools were already in session. This meant short waits and lots of ride time! At Kings Dominion we were all able to ride Twisted Timbers, their newest coaster. It was an instant hit with our family! In fact, we ended up riding it 4 times total! Apple Zapple right next door was another family favorite. We rode Intimidator 305 and wow!! That was a lot of fun. Also, I was not able to see for about 5 seconds after the first hill...complete blackout. I've never had that happen before! Of course, I had to try it again the next day to see if it happened again. Yep! Everytime. That is some serious g-force! This happened to my husband and son as well. Monster Jam was going on and we were thrilled to ride in Grave Digger! My son and husband were able to sit in the front seats next to the driver...such a cool experience! We decided to take the second afternoon to enjoy some water slides at Soak City. It was a nice and refreshing. The intertube slides were our favorite. And, of course, the wave pool. We ended the evening with our favorite...a couple rounds on Twisted Timbers.
After 4 straight days of rides, we took a break at Niagara Falls. My husband and I had both visited with our families when we were younger and it was a place we wanted to take our kids. We stayed on the Canadian side in order to have a view of the falls from our hotel room. We were close enough to walk down to see the falls. After our first walk down to the falls, we were ready for a late dinner. One of our favorite places to stop on our travels is the Hard Rock Cafe. Lucky us, it was connected to our hotel! We enjoyed dinner there with some of our favorites and enjoyed looking at all the rock memorabilia.
The next day we embarked on the Hornblower cruise and got right next to the falls, both the American and Horseshoe (Canadian) Falls. What amazing forces of nature to experience up close! We also did the Journey Behind the Falls, which allowed us to explore the tunnels behind the Horseshoe falls and the deck right next to them. Needless to say, we got wet! We also experienced Niagara's Fury, which steps you through some of the history of the falls and the has a theater experience to take you over them.
After lunch we headed to Canada's Wonderland. It was such a beautiful park! With a mountain behind the fountain, we really enjoyed the light and music show that ended the night. We were able to ride the newest coaster, Yukon Strike, which was definitely my favorite in the park. We also enjoyed Leviathan, the tallest and fastest coaster in Canada. The favorite family ride was Wonder Mountain's Guardian with it's 3D interactive riding and sudden surprise at the end...watch out for that dragon! Lumberjack was our favorite non-coaster ride. And the show Tundra: A Cirque Experience was truly a fun experience!
A fun side note...we had been anticipating the new ride announcement at Kings Island while we were on our trip. To watch it live from Canada's Wonderland was a fun moment! We are super excited to ride Orion in 2020!
To our pleasant surprise, we discovered that someone bought the Toys R Us brand in Canada and it is open for business! We had to walk through the aisles a few times over. There were two very happy children in our traveling party!!
After two fun days at Canada's Wonderland, we heading to Cedar Point, our last stop. It happened to coincide with National Roller Coaster Day. There is no better way to celebrate than at the Roller Coaster Capital!! We were able to ride Gate Keeper, Magnum XL-200 (the first hyper-coaster), and Gemini...as well as Maverick the next day. We were in line for Steel Vengeance, but did not get to ride. After an hour wait, we were about 2 rides away as storms rolled in and it was delayed for quite a while. We were bummed! However, we'll get to it one of these visits! We enjoyed the Sky Ride a couple times over the Midway and, one of our favorites, Cedar Downs Racing Derby!
Sunday afternoon we headed home.
It was an exciting week+ of riding, screaming our lungs out, giggling, and non-stop smiles. Can't wait for the next round!
Many have asked about our route...here is a map of our stops.
Our family collects magnets from our travels. It's fun to add to our Cedar Point collection!
Jon (my husband) and I went on a Riviera Cruise on the Rhone River at the beginning of April. What an amazing experience!
First thing to understand…there are several amazing river cruise companies. I would love to talk to you and qualify you for the experience that is best for you.
The Rhone cruise was on board the MS William Shakespeare. All of Riviera’s boats are named after British authors. I thought this was a fun theme. The ship is very nice with dark wood finishes. It is well maintained.
The sun deck is very nice and has lots of space for passengers to enjoy while in dock as well as while cruising. Jon and I enjoyed the giant chess set (even though he won every game we played). However, it was very windy and a bit chilly while we were cruising, which meant that the sun deck did not see a lot of use on our cruise.
For this cruise, we started in Lyon, France, cruised up to the Burgundy region, and then south to Arles before returning slightly north the Avignon. It was heavy with Roman history, which we love, so it was wonderful for us!
We arrived in Lyon the day before our cruise. I always recommend arriving a day early in case of travel delays due to outside factors such as airline schedules. It was also nice to explore the city for a bit on our own and get acclimated to the time before setting sail. We were able to explore the Gauls stronghold on top of the hill. It was amazing to see the amphitheater and foundations of a powerful civilization. Also in town, we were able to explore the traboules, a feature unique to Lyon and its history as a center for silk weaving.
Our first night on the boat was also in Lyon. This meant we were able to see quite a bit of the city. The tour ended up not being all that was planned due to traffic delays, so I’m glad we were able to explore on our own the day before.
Our next stop was in the Burgundy region, the wine region known for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. We took a motor coach tour of the town of Chalon and through the vineyards. Afterward we visited Beaune, a small town in the heart of Burgundy. Here we did a wine tasting to explore the flavors of the region. Once this part of the tour was over, Jon and I went to explore the Hospices de Beaune, also known as the Hôtel-Dieu. It was originally built as a hospital for the disadvantage. The colorful roof and architecture was beautiful. It was interesting to learn about the care it gave to so many people of the area.
After Burgundy, we sailed to Vienne, which was a beautiful city! We enjoyed the second amphitheater of our cruise. Also, there is an amazing museum that has another great Roman town with original roads. In fact, the museum at Vienne has the largest collection of Roman remains. It was fascinating to see this history and artifacts.
Our next stop was Ardèche where we took a motor coach to see the Ardèche Gorges, known as Europe’s Grand Canyon. It was a beautiful sight! We also went to the Lavender Museum. The fields are not in bloom in April, but it was great to purchase some local lavender. Unfortunately, we were in a motor coach for several hours only to have 25 minutes at the Gorges and another 20 minutes at the Lavender Museum. We also got out for another view for 10 minutes. I would love to have more time at these locations!
The following morning we woke up in Arles, which was my favorite town! We were here all day, which was great to explore. Arles is full of Roman history, including a fully intact colosseum built in 90 AD and still used today, an amphitheater, and the ruins of Roman baths. In addition to this, Arles is also known for being home to Vincent Van Gogh later in his life. It is in Arles that he painted some of his most famous works including Starry Night and Café at Night. It is also here that he cut off a piece of his own ear. We were there for the Saturday market, which is something to see!
Our final stop was in Avignon. Here we took a walking tour to see the broken bridge as well as the Pope’s Palace, which housed 6 popes during the 14th century. It is one of the largest medieval buildings in Europe. We had a wonderful tour guide! After our tour, we explored the town for the day, visiting the gardens adjoining the palace and enjoying the street performers in the city center while having lunch and, later on, coffee on the square.
The following morning we took a train back to Paris, where we spent one night. We were able to see the Notre Dame Cathedral just a couple hours prior to it catching fire. We went back down to stand with the Parisians while fire fighters worked tirelessly to put out the flames. It was a moving experience with so many praying and singing. While in Paris, we also were able to tour the Pantheon and stop over at the Eiffel Tower.
As for the experience on board our cruise, here are my thoughts.
What I loved about my Riviera experience:
What I did not love about my experience:
Are you ready to take your own European river cruise? Contact me to set sail on the one that is right for you!
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Knowing which documents you need when traveling internationally is essential to having a stress-free vacation. Prepare yourself by learning about the latest travel requirements and important information you need to know before traveling.
What documents are required when traveling internationally?
You are required to have a U.S. Passport Book when traveling by air to any international location.
If you are traveling by land or sea to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda or the Caribbean Region (Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Jamaica, Montserrat, Netherlands Antilles, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Turks and Caicos), you are required to have a U.S. Passport Book or Card.
Please note: U.S. citizens who board a cruise ship at a port within the United States, travel only within the Western Hemisphere, and return to the same U.S. port on the same ship may present a government issued photo identification, along with proof of citizenship (an original or copy of his or her birth certificate, a Consular report of Birth Abroad, or a Certificate of Naturalization). Please be aware that you may still be required to present a passport to enter the foreign countries your cruise ship is visiting. Contact us before your cruise to ensure you have the appropriate documents.
What is a U.S. Passport Card?
The U.S. Passport Card can be used to enter the United States from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda at land border crossings or sea ports-of-entry and is more convenient and less expensive than a passport book. The passport card cannot be used for international travel by air.
How long does it take to get a passport?
Processing times can vary depending on workload and occasional unforeseen circumstances. During busier times, such as the summer travel season, customers are encouraged to expedite their applications if traveling in less than 10 weeks.
How long is a passport valid and when should I renew my passport?
How do I purchase or renew my passport?
Detailed information about passports and international travel requirements, along with instructions for applying for a passport can be found at travel.state.gov.
*For more information about passport requirements, please contact the U.S. Department of State.
Do I need a visa if I am a U.S. citizen?
U.S. citizens don’t need a U.S. visa for travel, but when planning travel abroad they may need a visa issued by the embassy of the country they wish to visit. When planning travel abroad, learn about visa requirements by country by visiting the U.S. Department of State’s Country Specific Travel Information.
*Find out more about both the immigrant and non-immigrant visa process at the State Department’s visa main page. U.S. Passports and International Travel.
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