Tag Archives: PA

2015: My Year in Review

2015 was very much a monumental year for us. Not only did I take a new job that will ultimately get me where I want to go, but we also got to travel to so many new places, and see so much. Here are some of our highlights from this  year!

We started off our year with a bang when we went on a cruise with Mitchell’s family; our 7-day cruise visited Grand Turk, San Juan, Saint Thomas, and Half Moon Cay. A mere 2 days after the cruise, we packed up everything and drove halfway across the country to start a new life in North Carolina.

I didn't have high expectations for this beach, which is privately owned by the cruise company, but Half Moon Cay was one of the most beautiful beaches I've been to with sand so soft I swore it was powdered sugar!

I didn’t have high expectations for this beach, which is privately owned by the cruise company, but Half Moon Cay was one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve been to with sand so soft I swore it was powdered sugar!

We spent most of February trying to get settled in North Carolina, and didn’t do a whole lot of traveling. We went to an over-crowded chocolate festival 40 minutes away and made our first trip (of many) to Wilmington. And, oddly enough, I don’t have many pictures of Wilmington despite our many trips there!

March brought our first visitors from Iowa, and we went to Myrtle Beach for the first time. We didn’t do a whole lot of touristy activities due to time, but we did explore the WonderWorks Museum, ate at a nice restaurant, and enjoyed our hotel’s hot tub. We learned the value of having a tourist destination so close to us, something we aren’t used to!

Beautiful Sunset at Myrtle Beach

Our love for gambling brought us on a spontaneous trip to the mountains in Cherokee, where the closest casino is; this is something completely new to us as we’re used to being within an hour of 3 casinos. On our way home from Cherokee, we briefly explored Asheville (didn’t love it) and took in the mountain views.

There's a good view around every turn in Cherokee

There’s a good view around every turn in Cherokee

May brought us our first 3-day weekend together; we obviously took advantage of this time and went to Gettysburg which was such a unique experience and travel destination. On the way home, we took a minor detour and hit up the casino in Baltimore. And even though this isn’t necessarily a travel experience, one of my favorite memories since moving here was in May; on my birthday, we rented a kayak and took it to a sandbar where we fished, found crabs, and drank beer all day.


From about March to August, Mitchell was working 6 days a week with the only exception being Memorial Day weekend. We had to be creative in our travels, and I didn’t want to stretch Mitchell too thin. That means most of our weekends were spent at Topsail Beach, about 45 minutes away from our house. We made an exception one weekend when we took a ferry to Shackleford Banks where wild horses roam the small island!

Horses and a beach at the same time? Um, yes please!

Horses and a beach at the same time? Um, yes please!

We crossed off one of my Bucket List items in July by going to Washington, D.C. for the 4th of July. I have always wanted to see the fireworks at the National Mall ever since I saw them on TV as a kid. Even though the rain made it a much different experience than I had imagined, it was still incredible to cross off such a big thing from my bucket list. We also moved from our crappy apartment to a nice, big house!

Washington, D.C.

In August, we mostly enjoyed Mitchell working normal hours again and finished settling into our new house. We knew that September was going to be a busy travel month so we laid low other than a day trip to New Bern.

New Bern, North Carolina

Labor Day weekend was spent in the mountains. Of course I loved the mountains when we visited in April, but it was this trip that made me fall madly in love. We explored Bryson City and made plans to return when the leaves began to change. Two weeks after our mountain trip, my mom came to visit and together we tackled Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Wilmington, and Topsail Island.

Charleston, South Carolina

October brought us back to the mountains for an incredible weekend. We explored a little more of the mountains than just the casino (only half joking), took a train ride, and just took time to enjoy ourselves. I’m not quite sure how we got so lucky, but the weekend we were there was the most perfect weekend for fall-color-viewing! We also checked out the North Carolina state fair! Iowa is known as being one of the best state fairs, so checking out a different one was a good experience, and it was so weird to be chilly at the state fair, since ours is in August!

North Carolina State Fair

November brought us a spontaneous trip to Washington, D.C. Let me tell you, spontaneous trips here bring you to much cooler places than what we are used to! And spontaneous trips are the best trips, especially when you can get away during non-tourist season (hello, cheap hotels and no lines!). We visited Mitchell’s family in Florida for Thanksgiving and had the best time there, too. They took us to the beach and we went boating every day. Also, this may be surprising, but we hit up the casino in Tampa on our way home.

Path to a Florida Beach!

It would only seem fitting that the year would end the same way it began – traveling halfway across the country. My mom got a new car and sold us her old one, so I flew home for the holidays then drove the car back to North Carolina. It was another check off the bucket list because I’ve always wanted to drive [halfway] across the country solo. Of course, I’d like to do it again and be able to take my time so that I can stop at all the places and do all the things! Before I flew home for the holidays, Mitchell and I took advantage of a huge Southwest sale, and spent our anniversary in Nashville. A post about Nashville is coming, but let’s just say that I did not have huge expectations but it ended up becoming one of my favorite vacation destinations to date.

Nashville, I love you so much!

Nashville, I love you so much!

That’s my year in a nutshell! My whole life, my grandma has said that time goes so fast, and the older you get, the faster time goes. She is so right because I honestly don’t know where 2015 went. I don’t know what 2016 will bring, but I have a feeling it is going to be the best year ever!


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Flashback Friday: Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

I must admit, this is not much of a flashback.We visited Gettysburg over Memorial Day weekend.We were there for two full days and three nights.
Day 1:
We got in late (1:30 a.m.) Friday night. So by the time we got around on Saturday, it was time for an early lunch. We drove around trying to find a place to eat, and couldn’t find parking to save our lives (helpful tip — we later learned that there’s a lot of parking behind most of the businesses in the alley). We ended up at the Dobbin House, and this will probably be one of my favorite vacation restaurants for a very long time.

Outside the Dobbin House

Lunch at the Dobbin House- This place has a ton of history. The restaurant is downstairs (like in a basement), and it looks the same as it did 200 years ago. The building used to hold runaway slaves, and is said to be haunted (like most buildings with history in the town).

This isn’t the best picture, but shows that you eat by candle light, just like ‘back in the day’.

Battleground Tour with a Licensed Professional Battleguide- I had heard that the best way to see the battlefield was to hire a licensed battlefield guide, which you need to reserve at least 3 days in advance (of course I learned this two days before we left for Gettysburg). We were purchasing tickets for the museum and I decided to ask about the guides, in case they’d had any cancellations. Somehow got very lucky because there was a guide available that day! It worked out perfectly.

Our guide was knowledgeable (seriously, I could probably study the Civil War for the rest of my life and not be able to explain everything the way he did), thorough, and professional. Many recommend seeing the museum before the tour, but I think either way you appreciate it all. The tour made me appreciate the museum more, but had we done the museum first, we’d have appreciated the tour more – I don’t think there is really a wrong way to do it, they really compliment each other well. The guides drive your car (if you let them) so that you can look around you while they explain what happened, and they let you get out whenever you want to. I really do not like letting other people drive my car, but I was never nervous with the guide driving it, so that’s a huge plus!
There are monuments throughout the battleground, and our guide explained to us that they were placed there by the units which occupied that space during the war. In fact, the monuments were only allowed to be placed where a unit was stationed. We didn’t stop to read every single monument (that would literally take days I think) but it was very humbling to see them all.
Dinner at O’Rourke’s – Convenient location right in town. They served your typical bar food.
Ghost Tour- I had been on a ghost tour in Key West with my friends, and we liked it so much that we went back two separate times while we were there. So while in Gettysburg, I was really excited to hear stories, and maybe see some creepy stuff, especially because Mitchell doesn’t believe in ghosts. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a good experience. Our guide was very cheesy and hard to take seriously; we weren’t impressed. If you go to Gettysburg, I’d still recommend a ghost tour; I’m hoping our experience was just a fluke since all of the ghost tour companies in Gettysburg have great ratings. Although Mitchell did mention he believes in ghosts even less now than before 😉

One of our stops on the ghost tour. I won’t ruin it for you by telling the story 😉

Day 2:

Visitor’s Center – We headed here to check out the museum. Most recommendations say to plan on spending about 2 hours at the museum, but I think we got out in about 1. We don’t necessarily read every detail, so if your’e more detailed and want to read it all, it will take closer to 2 hours.
Soldier’s National Cemetery-This is where the Union soldiers were buried, and also the location of Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address. I already talked about this place here, so I won’t get into it too much. Just know it’s a must-see.
Statue commemorating Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address
Lunch at Eddie’s – Also right in town in Gettysburg. Good food, and good service.
After lunch, it was about 3:00. We weren’t sure what to do with the rest of our day, and considered a number of different options – there was Sachs covered bridge, Jennie Wade’s house, or we could drive through the battlefields again to make more stops that we didn’t with our tour guide. We then decided it would be cool to go to Crystal Grottoes Caverns about an hour away. We decided to go even though they would be closing an hour after we got there, but on our way we passed a lot of hotels with pools and people enjoying the nice weather.. So we ended up being lazy and going back to our hotel’s pool instead 😉 At the time, I also didn’t know that Hershey, Pennsylvania was approximately 1 hour away; I’m disappointed in myself for not knowing this, because that would have been another neat place to visit!
Jennie Wade House Fun fact: After telling our tour guide that we were from Iowa, he let us know that after Jennie Wade (the only civilian to killed in Gettysburg) died, her sister moved to Iowa and became president of the Iowa Woman’s Relief Corps. This is where the money was raised for Jennie’s monument in the cemetery. Jennie’s house is said to be haunted, and that if you put your ring finger through the bullet hole in the door that you will be engaged within the next year.. So now really I wish we would have made time to go inside and tour it 😉
Little Round Top- We had already been here on our tour; it is a hill where the Confederates tried to take over the Union (they were unsuccessful). It is a beautiful hill during the day, and our tour guide recommended we return to watch the sunset, and I’m so happy we did.
Visible from Little Round Top is Devil’s Den. This is where the Confederate snipers shot many people by hiding in/around the large rocks where they couldn’t be seen. Following the battle, a photographer came and moved bodies around in order to get the best possible picture; it is said that because of this, Devil’s Den is haunted. We had planned on checking it out at dusk, when it is said to be the “most haunted” but it was still pretty crowded at that time, so we skipped it.

Again, not the best picture, but this is Devil’s Den. It was very crowded every time we drove by.

There was a little bar I heard of that is underground and designed to have a “coal miners” feel. We were really excited to check it out only to be disappointed that it was closed. But if you get a chance, I’d love to hear more about it!

The bar is the small door on the right!

Where to Stay:
There are several hotels in Gettysburg within walking distance to almost everything. Unfortunately, those hotels were mostly booked. We stayed about 4 miles away at Aspire. I would highly recommend this place – the hotel rooms were the biggest standard rooms I have ever seen.
How Long to Stay: 

There is a lot to do and see in Gettysburg and we had 2 full days to do and see it all. Many people recommend longer, but 2 days was enough for us. You would really only need more if it is important to you to read every single monument in the battlefield.
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