Our trip to Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh, PA

Every year my husband and I take a three-day trip somewhere just the two of us. We have the blessing and good fortune of having my mom watch our boys for us each year so we can do this. We try to go away for our anniversary and this year we chose Pittsburgh, PA!

Why Pittsburgh?

  1. We’ve never been to Pittsburgh.
  2. It was within driving distance.
  3. I’ve always wanted to go to the “Steel City.”
  4. It’s one of the top cycling cities in the country.
  5. It’s known for being a unique city.

And guys, it didn’t disappoint! We had SO MUCH FUN. I’ve written before about the importance of dating your spouse. For my husband and I, getting time away together without interruptions or distractions is so essential for us. We get to unwind, spend solid uninterrupted quality time together, and continue to appreciate why we love each other so much. It’s also so cool to reflect on all that’s unfolded in our lives up to this point. And did I mention that it’s just plain fun? It’s a great experience to discover new places and new things with your spouse.
Here’s the breakdown of how we spent our time and what we did.

Day 1:

It took us a little over five hours to get there. Jose and I LOVE road trips. Particularly without the kids (we love you Micah and Josiah but overly long trips in the car are not fun for any of us) because we listen to new music and have good conversation. In this instance, we downloaded a bunch of new albums, listened to some amazing sermons, and asked silly/random questions!

We checked into our hotel and decided to head down to this spot called The Strip. We weren’t sure if we would Uber there or drive there but we found out that the hotel had a free shuttle where you could call and get a ride within a few miles of the hotel. Um, you had me at free. Waiting for the shuttle took forever and it was the only time we decided to use it! Nonetheless, we headed over to The Strip District and walked around! It was really cool and had a bunch of cool little shops. We had lunch at Bella Notte, a bar that happens to serve really yummy Italian food. After that, we perused some of the shops and headed back to the hotel.

Cambria Hotel and Suites, Pittsburgh, PA

Waiting for our ride to The Strip.

After we relaxed at the hotel a bit, we decided to check out downtown Pittsburgh. We headed over to Point State Park, which is an amazing park located next to the Allegheny River with a great view of the PNC Stadium and downtown. Guys, downtown Pittsburgh was so pretty and clean. What I loved so much about it was that it wasn’t super crowded and crazy. I love cities but HATE CROWDS. Downtown was really relaxing and stunning during the evening.

Point State Park view into Downtown Pittsburgh.

My favorite shot of downtown.

You could walk around the River and look at the stadiums. Loved walking this area while holding hands with my man! Reminded me of the dating days!

Cool fountains at Point State Park.

 

We hung out here at night and then headed back to the hotel. It was a great start to our three-day trip.

Day 2:

Day 2 we decided we wanted to some activities that included us being active. We started our day off with a delicious breakfast at legendary Pamela’s Diner, which came up time and time again when I looked at what the MUST EAT places were. Pamela’s came up every time. Pamela’s was located on The Strip so we had the chance to check it out again in the AM.

The Strip District Pittsburgh, PA

The Strip had a pretty cool vibe.

Parking here isn’t a hassle during the week, but I can see where it would get tricky during the weekends. Anyway, Pamela’s Diner didn’t disappoint! The food was AMAZINGLY GOOD. And I’ll be super honest, I normally hate diner food. The vibe here is retro and you feel like you’re stepping foot in a 1950s diner with tons of original pictures of the owners and all things Pittsburgh.

Pamela's Diner in Pittsburgh, PA

Crepe Style pancakes were to die for!

Pamela's Diner in Pittsburgh, PA

Such a fun, delicious diner!

Pamela's Diner in Pittsburgh, PA

Fueling up in order to be ready to take on the day!

After we had a delicious breakfast here, we headed downtown because we wanted to rent some bikes. We looked into different rental options but decided to go with the City Bikes. They were cheap and got the job done! We wanted to explore Point State Park during the day and ride along the river. We parked easily, rented our bikes, and were on our way!

Riding along the river was a blast! You can rent mountain bikes at an actual bike shop too if you’d like, but we wanted to stay close to downtown so we opted for the city bikes.

Wind in my hair, sunshine on my face, a perfect summer day! Fun fact: it was 70s the whole time we stayed and the weather was extraordinary!

What’s bike riding without a few obnoxious pics right?!

We did this for quite awhile! Afterwards, we headed downtown. They had a cool Irish Festival going on so we hung out there for a bit. After that, we and then went over to the other side of the river to try our hand at Kayaking. Once you cross over the river, you hit the museums such as The Andy Warhol Museum, The Children’s Museum, and more. PNC Park is located right next to the Kayak rentals as well, and we toyed with the idea of catching a game at night but decided not to. Maybe next time!

Anyway, Jose wanted to go kayaking. I’m not a huge fan of the water because I’m not the most amazing swimmer in the world. That being said, I wanted to compromise and do things he wanted to do and it did seem relaxing, so off we went. Parking on this side of town wasn’t too bad either. Off we went!

Love is all about the compromise!

Smiling because Jose just promised me he wouldn’t let me drown. Hooray!

I’m not going to lie. The first few minutes I was panicky. If you know me, you know one of my weaknesses is assuming the worst. What if a giant boat hit us?! They gave us tips and pointers and Jose was surprisingly good at kayaking like he’d done it a bunch of times before or something! So we stayed safe and soon it was relaxing.

Where you kayak, I will follow *to the tune of Gilmore Girls*

Once we got the hang of it, I pretty much wanted to stay in the water. We did this for about an hour! It was a fun experience! We had some amazing views of downtown.

View from being on the river.

Once we were finished, we walked past PNC park to get to our car. Pittsburgh fans are passionate! There was a certain festiveness in the air. Next time, I think we’ll catch a game.

Outside of PNC park.

We went to Target to grab some things and then came back downtown to have some lunch. We ate at a burger joint called BRGR, a burger chain specific to Pittsburgh,  and had some delicious milkshakes.

Yes please.

At this point, we were tired and ready to head back to the hotel. Once we got to the hotel, we took advantage of the swimming pool. Felt so good! It was time to call it a day.

Day 3:

Sleep in time! Day 2 wore us out. We had to check out by 11 and still wanted to check out the Duquesne Incline. We took our time packing up and headed out to the last place we wanted to see in Pittsburgh. When we were biking downtown and hanging out at Point State Park, we kept seeing people go up the incline in this cable car type of deal. We wanted to try to this before we left. It’s basically a super old cable car that pulls you up to the top of the incline.

Guys, WE WERE SO SCARED being pulled up! This thing is super old and when you get close to the top it starts to slow down and it gets slower and slower until you’re sure it’s about to snap and send you crashing down. When we finally got to the top I urgently whispered to Jose, “GET OUT!” and practically shoved him at the door. I may have kissed the floor.

Moving right along, the view was worth it. From this point, you can see all of Pittsburgh and it’s just plain BEAUTIFUL.

Duquesne Incline, Pittsburgh, PA

Goals: I would like to survive this.

Duquesne Incline, Pittsburgh, PA

Okay, I suppose it was worth it.

This is also located on the South Side of Pittsburgh. The South Side has a very unique feel to it. It reminds me of Philly a bit, without the traffic. Very quaint, cute area and insanely steep hills.

After this, we were ready to head home. We always get the third-day itch, where by the third day we are missing our boys so much and are ready for the comfort of our own home.

We had such a good time! The next time we visit Pittsburgh I want to check out the Andy Warhol museum and the P&G zoo. The next time we go, we definitely want to bring the boys! Overall, Pittsburgh exceeded my expectations and hit the mark when it came to being a place where we could relax and enjoy the city without the stressors of a city.

What I loved about Pittsburgh, PA:

  1. City feel without the drama of a city.
  2. City in the mountains, which made for gorgeous scenic views.
  3. It has a very relaxing feel to it.
  4. Tons of biking opportunities.
  5. Inexpensive city to stay in.

We will definitely be back!

Our Ocean City, NJ Vacation and Why You Should Visit

Ocean City, NJ Vacation

This year for vacation we went to a local spot and one of my favorite places: Ocean City, NJ. This is my absolute favorite beach! We stayed here once before when the boys were around one and it was a fun experience! When I was thinking of places to vacation I wanted to stay local and have a stress free vacation. Ocean City, NJ for us was a no-brainer. We are only about 45 minutes away and yet it feels like a world away. We rented the same beach house we stayed at before and it was AWESOME.

What’s the point of vacation, after all? For my family, it’s pure relaxation. We are the kind of family that likes to breathe and not run from one place to another. You know how some people like to hit every attraction? Yeah, not us. We are lazy vacationers at best, but I’d have it no other way and this year was no exception.

From the time I was a preteen, Ocean City, NJ has held a really special place in my heart! I used to vacation here with my best friend and her family during my preteen into teen years. I have so many warm fuzzy memories. Long walks around Ocean City, the bay area, beautiful neighborhoods with a Vanilla Pepsi in hand talking about our hopes, dreams, and crushes. When I think back to my teen years, my OC vacations with my best friend and her family are a clear highlight. We always said we wanted our children to love the beach and Ocean City as much as we did and we succeeded.

See, when your life feels like it’s going about a million miles a minute regularly it’s so beautiful to take a week where all of that is on pause. My husband and I literally said we aren’t going to talk work, business, church…anything. We aren’t going to stress or worry. We are going to relax. That’s pretty much what we did as much as possible, except for hubs doing some real estate work (which I have found is practically unavoidable – since he’s become a realtor we’ve never had a trip where he didn’t have to work a little). It was fantastic and we are likely going to do at least one beach vacay a year we are thinking.

If you’re not from the South Jersey Area and aren’t familiar with Ocean City, I’m going to give you some reasons why you should consider an Ocean City, NJ vacation.

Reasons you should consider an ocean city, nj vacation:

  1. It’s family friendly.

    Ocean City - Gillian's Pier

Where we vacationed, the people below us were parents of triplet girls. If you go to the boardwalk or to the beach, you’ll see families galore. There are tons of things to do including Gillians Wonderland Pier, mini golfing, bike riding on the boardwalk, and more. Also, Ocean City is a dry town and smoking is prohibited on the boardwalk.  It’s just so family oriented and you feel it!

2. It’s a Close walk to the beach.

Ocean City, NJ Boardwalk

Ocean City has a fantastic boardwalk that’s really close to its beach. You can walk right off the boardwalk and the next thing you know, you’re on the beach and don’t have to go far to find yourself in the water.  I don’t want to feel like I’m trekking across the great unknown to have my feet touch the water. I love the fact that everything is in close proximity. Let’s face it, the boardwalk food is 95% of the reason I even go to the beach, who am I kidding?

3. It has an Awesome boardwalk with tons to do.


Mini-Golf, Escape Rooms, Rides, Bumper Carts and all of your essential boardwalk activities are available. I never get tired of walking the boardwalk because there’s always something new to do or something new to see. During the summer on Thursday nights, they have ‘Family Night’ where there is tons of live music and a lively atmosphere. My favorite nights of the summer!

4. it’s Budget Friendly.


Some people might scoff at that, but an Ocean City vacation can be quite affordable actually. Here are a few tips: go in with another family or another person on a beach house. When you do that, you can split the cost. So if a beach house will cost you $1250 for the week, divide that by two and you get the idea. What we did was we ate breakfast at the house, usually grabbed lunch on the boardwalk, ate dinner at the beach house and went to the boardwalk for desserts or any snacks we wanted. If you hit the grocery stores and cook half of your meals, you’ll save a fortune. When it comes to the rides, Gillians Wonderland  Pier offers different specials throughout the week. If you hit the rides during the three ticket ride days/hours, you will get more bang for your book. This helped me as a mom of multiples! We bought one book of 150 tickets for $100 and that was enough to last us throughout the entire week with a few tickets left over.

5. fantastic places to eat.

My absolute favorite part of the boardwalk is the food. I don’t care what anyone tells me, it’s the best part of the boardwalk! I’ve had friends try to convince me to go to other beaches and the first question I have is: are there good places to eat? If the answer is no, I’m not interested. I’m not talking about high-end places if you want that go to Atlantic City. I’m talking about simple food that just tastes good in my belly. I have favorites and you can check them out below.

 My Favorite Places to Eat In Ocean City:

  1. Brown’s Donuts. [Expect a line but it’s worth it!]Brown's Donuts - Ocean City, NJ
  2. Prep’s Pizza. [Just as good as Manco and Manco’s but with better seating and they give the kids dough to play with.]Prep's Pizza in Ocean City, NJ
  3. Piccini’s Wood Fire Pizza. [Fab Italian food!]
  4. The Hula Grill. [Probably my favorite! Hawaiin food – yum!]The Hula Grill in Ocean City, NJ
  5. OC Surf Cafe [New spot for me, great for breakfast or brunch!]

My Favorite Boardwalk Food:

  1. Polish Water Ice.
  2. Shriver’s Gelato – THE CREPES ARE LIFE CHANGING.
  3. Monkey Bread.
  4. George’s Ice Cream.
  5. Johnson’s Popcorn.

6. Insanely relaxing.


Have you ever been on a vacation that was so jam packed you needed a vacation after it to decompress? I feel like beach vacations are so relaxing and a vacation in Ocean City, NJ  is no exception. As mentioned for us, we would wake up, head to the beach for a bit, come back to the beach house for a nap, and then head to the boardwalk for the evening if we felt like it. We also incorporated date nights, courtesy of having my mom with us, movie nights, and mini golf nights. No pressure, no time constraints, and a go at your own pace vibe. The epitome of relaxation.

Overall, an Ocean City, NJ vacation was the perfect vacation for us! We had an amazing time, as evidenced by the smiles!

What are your favorite family friendly vacation spots? Share below! We are always looking for new places to visit! 

My Top 10 Places in and Around South Jersey to Check Out if You have a Toddler

Top 10 Places to Visit with Toddlers in South Jersey

I’m the momma to two very active three-year-olds who will be four this summer. As a teacher, summer is EVERYTHING! I try to make the most of my time with my boys and since they’ve been born, I’ve gathered some of my favorite things to do with them and my favorite places to go.  Majority of these places work fine in the spring, summer, fall, and even winter. This list is compiled with things that we’ve personally enjoyed in the past and recently. This is not an all inclusive list though, so share what you love to do with your little people! Most places, except for two, are located in South Jersey! All located in the TriState Area. Please comment and let me know what places you enjoy and what activities you like to do over the summer!

My Top 10 South Jersey Places to Visit if you Have toddlers

1. Ocean City, NJ – the shore.

By far, my absolute favorite place to go in the summer is Ocean City. Maybe it’s because as a teenager I vacationed here with my best friend and her family or maybe it’s just the amazing food – Ocean City is a win and when you have kids, it’s a double win. First off, the beach is reasonable and if you buy beach tags for the summer, you’re good to go. Second off, Ocean City is super family friendly and there is a lot out there for toddlers including rides, strolling the boardwalk, surrey rides, parks, and more. We spend out time on the boardwalk and beach and it’s our favorite!

Toddler Fun in Ocean City, NJ

2. The Cape May Zoo.

It’s FREE. FREE. FREE. You can make a donation of your choice if you choose. Cape May is a fantastic zoo for toddlers. It’s very walkable because it’s not insanely big. It’s perfect. On top of that, it has an awesome park for the kiddos! There are plenty of pavilions so you can pack a lunch or you can buy lunch there. It’s not far from the Cape May beach area either, so you can do a combo day where you spend half the day at the zoo and half the day at the shore. Score!

Toddler Fun at the Cape May County Zoo Toddler Fun at the Cape May County Zoo Toddler Fun at the Cape May County Zoo Toddler Fun at the Cape May County Zoo

3. The Philadelphia Zoo.

We are pass holders here because by the time you add the price of the tickets together, it makes sense to buy a season pass and reap the benefits: free parking, 10% off your food purchases and gift shop purchases, and free parking. This zoo was the FIRST real zoo in the US. It’s spacious, has tons of animals and sites to see, and is really easy to walk – though because it’s so big we bring the stroller just in case! You can spend a good portion of your day here!

Toddler Fun at the Philadelphia Zoo

4. The Garden State Discovery Museum or Please Touch Museum.

I LOVE the Please Touch Museum. It’s a bit pricey at $19 per person (unless your child is 1 and under). HOWEVER, they offer $2 admission on the first Wednesday of each month from 4 pm to 7 pm. My husband and I like to arrive as soon as it opens. By the time we’ve gone through the whole museum and are ready to leave, that’s when it’s starting to get busy. The $2 fee on the first Wednesday of each month from 4 pm to 7 pm is unbeatable at that price, so if you’re on a budget that would be a good time to check this place out. The Garden State Discovery Museum is cheaper and discounts on Groupon are frequently offered. If you don’t feel like dealing with Philly traffic or driving into the city, The Garden State Discovery Museum is a fun spot too!

 

Toddler Fun at The Garden State Discovery Museum

5. Storybook Land.

This place is essentially designed for toddlers and for small kiddos. It’s a load of fun, lines were short when we went in the summer, and it’s not hard to access/park. Tickets are around $23 if you buy them online and are a bit more at the door! I would choose Storybook Land over a place like Six Flags any day of the week. It’s not as packed and my boys could pretty much get on anything. Also, it’s themed after different classic children’s stories. FUN!

Storybook Land in Mayslanding, NJStorybook Land in Mayslanding, NJ

6. Sesame Place.

In my opinion, if you’re going to go, summer is definitely the time to go! They have awesome an awesome water park! We took the boys here for the majority of the day and we were pooped! Check out my post about Sesame Place for more detailed information about our experience here!

7. Parvin’s State Park.

Located only fifteen minutes away from where we live, we love going to Parvin’s State Park. There are plenty of nature trails that we explore as a family and so many outlets where the kids can skip stones, dip their feet into the lake, and even bicycle. One of my favorite places to go and best of all it’s FREE. I think they charge in the summer to swim/go in the beach area, but I wouldn’t know because we never go to that part.

8. Sahara Sam’s or Diggerland.

We have done Sahara Sam’s in the past but haven’t checked out Diggerland yet, though according to my friend’s, it’s a must. In fact, Diggerland has made it into Redbrook and some other magazines as a destination to check out on this side of the coast! I can speak for Sahara Sam’s and say that we had a fun experience here over the summer. It is an indoor and outdoor waterpark. It’s best to get here early because it gets really packed with different groups and camps coming through. I felt like there was enough for my boys to do at their age and the pool was fun because we could swim with them.

9. Smithville

Smithville is a really cute little historic town located in Atlantic County. When we go here with the boys, we spend maybe about two to three hours here tops. It’s not geared towards toddlers but we still have fun here! It’s quaint, cute, decorative, and a good place to hang for a few hours and do breakfast/lunch/dinner. My kids get a kick out of the ducks that walk around. There’s also a carousel and train rides. They also have different activities and events, so check out their calendar. Price wise: free. Can’t beat that.

10. Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ

This is a new one for us! We literally have JUST had the chance to check this place out. You can spend a good portion of your day here and your little ones will have a blast. This aquarium has plenty for the boys to see and do and they absolutely loved it. Price wise, it’s pricey! $28 per adult and $21 per child. As a teacher, we get discounts through ticketsatwork.com which saved us $30 from the total bill. Definitely worth a visit!

Toddler Fun at Adventure Aquarium Toddler Fun at Adventure Aquarium Toddler Fun at Adventure Aquarium

This summer I’m looking forward to creating new memories with my family and also discovering new places and things to do while revisiting some of the things we’ve done in the past! What about you? What’s your favorite summer activity or place to visit? We love to travel and I’m always looking for new places to check out!

Then they were THREE! A prayer for my boys.

As my boys turn THREE today, this is my prayer for them. Originally wrote it in my prayer journal, but wanted to share!

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Dear Lord,

Thank You for the privilege of parenting not one, but TWO miracle babies. Thank You for the surprise and gift of raising two boys. Two boys that are so clearly filled with purpose and destiny. I know without a shadow of a doubt, that the plans that You have for their lives are special, unique, and beautiful. I pray that my babies would love and pursue You every single day. Let their lives speak of Your miraculous power. Let their hearts love You and love people purely. Let their hearts be filled with a desire to serve you and to serve others.

My Josiah. For Josiah, I pray that you would use His strong will and determined attitude for good things and for YOUR purposes. I pray that Josiah would stand strong against things that are wrong and that he would stand for JUSTICE and freedom for those that are oppressed. That he would be a voice for the voiceless. I pray that He would sing songs of hope and songs that bring joy. I pray that when he plays instruments, heavy hearts, and broken hearts are made whole.

For Micah, I pray that You would use his sensitive, gentle spirit to comfort others. I pray that he would uplift those that are broken. I pray that He would have compassion that burns for the forgotten. I pray that Micah would see those that are ignored by society and offer them that hope that He has within. I pray that Micah’s ability to listen and observe would translate to a person who hears others and leads in humility.

For both of my boys, I pray that they would have an unshakeable bond and brotherhood. I pray that they would be loyal to You and to each other. I pray that they would be men of courage, integrity, and valor. Let them pursue You relentlessly and love You wholeheartedly. May YOU always have first place in their lives. Give them favor with You and with men. I pray that they would dream HUGE God-sized dreams with no limitations, and run after them, accomplishing more than we ever have in our lifetime.

I thank You for the gift of Micah and Josiah. Thank You for choosing ME and entrusting me with the amazing opportunity to raise these boys. Continue to give me the grace I need to parent two world changers. My heart is overflowing. I love You.

In Jesus Name,

Amen

 

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I have truly loved this age. Here’s to onward, upward, and seeing what THREE holds in store for us!