Vacation. It’s really the best way to relax, refresh, and recharge. Well, at least when kids aren’t involved, that is. I read a meme once that said vacationing with kids is just parenting in a different state. That couldn’t be truer!
My mothering/disciplining skills didn’t get a break just because we were breathing different air. I can tell you though, we still had tons of fun! So much fun. Seriously.
Much like last summer, we headed south, to the beach. Making a couple of overnight stops along the way, we spent 4 nights in Gulf Shores, Alabama, before making our way back home with a 2-night stay in Nashville, Tennessee.
My husband is an IHG Rewards member, so we try to stay in Holiday Inn’s whenever possible. He had enough points that this trip only cost us $25 for valet parking. The Holiday Inn in downtown Memphis was the perfect location. And we had the most perfect view.
While we were there we explored Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid. My husband travels often for work and has stayed at Big Cypress Lodge which is located inside the Pyramid. He just knew the kids would love it. And they did.
At 5:00 we crowded into the lobby of The Peabody Hotel to watch the world-famous ducks waddle their way onto the elevator back to their rooftop Duck Palace, lead by their Duckmaster. We waited for much longer than it took the hens to make it to the elevator. It was quick but memorable.
That evening we ate at Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous before ending the night watching the Memphis Redbirds play. After a long delay for the game to begin, we only made it through five innings in the 95-degree heat. Maybe we’ll catch a game in the spring sometime when the weather is a bit cooler.
Again, thanks to IHG rewards, we were able to stay at a Holiday Inn Express for less than $100. They are not my husband’s most favorite place to stay (he doesn’t like the beds) but the price always outweighs his comfort for the night.
We didn’t have a lot of time to tour Meridian as it was about a 4-hour drive from Memphis. I did make it a point to stop at Highland Park to ride The Dentzel Carousel. It was beautiful and probably the fastest carousel I have ever ridden. Well worth the fifty cents it cost to ride!
While on vacation we always try to eat at places we wouldn’t be able to enjoy at home. This day it was Chunky Shoals Fish Camp in Chunky, Mississippi. It’s located on the shores of the Chunky River. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a table with a view. The food (they serve cole slaw and hushpuppies like chips and salsa at a Mexican restaurant) was amazing. It was an experience we’ll never forget.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Last summer we stayed at Navy Cove Harbor in the Fort Morgan peninsula west of Gulf Shores. We loved it so much that we decided to stay there again. It’s quiet and less crowded and just a short drive from the fun of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach!
Check out All The Rooms Blog for great Airbnb’s in Gulf Shores!
This year, we took a different route so that we could ride the Mobile Bay Ferry – a first ferry ride for the kids!
Our first evening there we ate at a favorite restaurant from last year – Big Wave Dave’s. The kids love the free popcorn they give you and I love the Hong Kong Tacos. Seriously. The best. We ended the night with another fav – ice cream at Matt’s Ice Cream. I will a-l-w-a-y-s get ice cream from Matt’s when we are vacationing there. It’s just that good, friends.
The next morning we spent soaking up the sun at Fort Morgan Beach. As I mentioned before, this area is not commercialized and crowded like much of the Alabama Gulf Coast, so spending time at the beach is super relaxing. After a couple of hours made our way back to the condo to swim in the pool for a bit, then lunch and a nap. Afternoon naps are the best, right?!
Then bedtime. Vacation is so fun, but so tiring too!
After a morning at the beach and pool again it was the same routine – lunch then nap.
We missed out on LuLu’s last year so we knew we wanted to make sure and eat there this summer. I heard the wait can sometimes be 3 hours, but we also knew that we could beat the wait and get in line online!
I luckily got us put on the waitlist at Lucy Buffett’s LuLu’s before we even left the condo and were seated within 15 minutes of arriving. The atmosphere is amazing. There’s so much to do there if you do have to end up waiting for hours. The food was fantastic too. We’ll definitely be back!
After dinner, we did a bit of souvenir shopping then chowed down on cheesecake at Hope’s Cheesecake. We stumbled upon this yummy shop last year. They sell almost any kind of cheesecake you can think of – by the slice or an entire cake. It’s a dessert must when you’re visiting Gulf Shores!
Our last day we skipped the beach and spent the day at the pool. We love the pool area at Navy Cove. It’s not too big and we almost always have it to ourselves. The kids swam until they couldn’t swim any longer. Then…yes, you guessed it, lunch in the condo…but no nap this time!
We got cleaned up and went to Adventure Island. The kids love arcades and the one here is pretty fantastic. More than $20 later the girls “won” two DumDum suckers each and Jase got a tiny plastic dinosaur and a bouncy ball. The toys may not have been worth the time or money, but watching the kids faces light up when they won a racing game or knocked a mole on the head was priceless.
Then it was off to Fin & Fork for an early (for us) dinner. We got in without reservations and enjoyed the fanciest our meal of the trip.
We decided to skip dessert (I know, crazy, right?!) and head back to the condo to get things packed up for our departure.
At about 9:30 the next morning we loaded up the Yukon, shed a little tear, and headed north to Nashville, Tennessee.
That evening, after driving all day, we made it to Franklin, Tennessee. We love staying in Franklin versus actual Nashville because it’s usually cheaper and it’s so easy to navigate.
Our first stop was the hotel, Courtyard by Marriott, to rest for a bit. Then it was off to dinner at a family favorite, Chicago’s Pizza. The pizza is so good! This time we even got an extra pizza for free because of a slight error on one of the pies we did order. I will tell you, that we were so hungry by then that the 5 of us almost ate 3 large pizzas!
The next morning we slept in, had a late-ish breakfast at Chick-fil-A (another family favorite) and headed to the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere. This was our second visit there. Three years ago (when the triplets were just 2-1/2) we explored the zoo during a stop on our way to Destin, Florida.
My animal lovers loved the zoo, as I predicted. The Kangaroo Kickabout is by far the best part of the zoo. Guests can get an up close and personal experience by walking a winding path through the middle of the habitat. While guests must stay on the pathway, the kangaroos are free to wander the exhibit. If you’re lucky, one will walk up to you and let you pet it!
The bats, the Guinea Pigs (yes, you read that correctly), and the meerkats are pretty great too!
We ended our adventure with some Dip-n-Dots before heading off to explore more of Nashville – specifically the Opryland Hotel and Opry Mills Mall.
My husband and I honeymooned in Nashville and stayed at the Opryland Hotel. It has been since then that I have been there and the kids have never been. So, we decided it was a must-see. For more than an hour, we roamed the 9 acres of indoor gardens and cascading waterfalls. I hear the hotel is even more beautiful during Christmas. Maybe another visit/overnight stay is in store!
By this point, we were all hangry. Just getting that pic of all of us was a nightmare. So, we drove to the Opry Mills Mall or a late lunch at the Rainforest Cafe. Yet, another family favorite, we always order just appetizers (their onion rings are to die for) because my husband always has big dinner plans for us. We are eaters and plan much of our vacation around where we want to eat.
After a short rest in the hotel, we had our final vacation dinner at Chuey’s. And yes, you guessed it, a favorite of ours.
The next morning we scarfed down Krispie Cream donuts and very sadly, started our journey back home.
More than 5 hours later we were home. Dog tired, but I suspect, ready to go back and do it all over again. The kids are finally at the age where vacation is fun and not just parenting in a different state as I mentioned before.
Here’s to hoping we get another beach vacation sooner than later.
Did you go anywhere fun this summer with your kiddos? I’d love to hear about your trip in the comments.