Tuesday, June 20, 2017

To see the country and make memories with my spouse and children is such a gift.  We had the pleasure of driving through 14 states in the last two weeks.  We started in our home in ND, and took a road trip to Washington DC for National History Day.  This is a great competition for children from 6th -12th grade which gets them excited about history through projects.  If you are curious or want more info, here is the official website:  https://www.nhd.org/
It is such a beautiful, but such a long drive from ND, and therefore we usually split the trip into three days.  However, seeing sights and research make me want to give out some travel tips if you are ever in the area.
ND- I will start with Fargo.  Being from ND, we go there from time to time, and although we didn’t stop there on this trip, I have some tips.  There is an awesome hotel there called The Element.  It is not only beautiful, but they give you free appetizers and drinks during the evening.  The breakfast at this hotel is original and hot, and they even have veggie options.  As for restaruants, Rhombus Guys has extraordinary pizza, and I have heard and wanted to try a place called Vinyl Taco.  Fargo has many festivals, including a Dylan festival in April and many others. 
MN-When driving through Minnesota, I always want to stop in Fergus Falls and visit the old state hospital building.  It looks like something out of a ghost hunting episode.  It would probably be so formidable to see in real life, but I have only seen the top of the tower from the highway while whizzing by.  The rest stops in Minnesota are just gorgeous and covered in trees.

                                                    Old State Hospital, Fergus Falls 

WI-Entering Wisconsin, we always pass Wisconsin Dells.  They have multiple water park hotels, and even a spooky water feature called Witches Gulch.  You can take boat rides through it.  We always stay in Madison.  What I love about Madison is the University.  I also love to stay at the Hampton Inn across from the East Mall area.  It is a great hotel.  Madison has a children’s museum which is also a school.  I hope this type of learning environment catches on throughout the country.
IL-The next day, we usually head through Chicago, Illinois pretty early, but last year we did spend the night there on our return home and get the best Chicago Style Pizza.  I’m telling you what…my daughter usually likes thin crust, but even she devoured it and talks about it to this day.  We purchased it from Rosati’s.  Unfortunately, when headed east, Illinois is where the toll roads start, so be prepared to stop and pay tolls throughout Illinois.
IN-After passing through Illinois and entering Indiana, you just take a ticket and pay at the end of the state or wherever you exit, so the toll stops aren’t as bad.  We didn’t stop much in the Hoosier State, but we did laugh when passing through Gary Indiana thinking of the song from the music man.  Also, this was where Michael Jackson lived as a kid.  We also passed through South Bend, the home of Notre Dame University.
OH-Next, we came upon Ohio.  I always hear crazy crime stories that happen in Ohio, but passing through it was picturesque farms.   There were many classic red barns. 
PA-We usually save our next stop for Pittsburgh.  This city is so vibrant and beautiful, with large bridges covering the large rivers.   My father in law asked my husband on the phone if he could name the three rivers which run through Pittsburgh.  For those who don’t know, they are the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers.  I always want to catch a Pirates Baseball game while there, but the timing never works out.  This year, we stayed at a new hotel, The Drury, which used to be an old Bank.  It was very nice, which means you must be ready to tip.  Everyone expects a tip, and I accidentally didn’t tip the clerk who checked us in.  I think he may have been offended, so I sent my son with a tip to give him after realizing this was a common practice in bigger cities-especially at more expensive venues.  The good news is this hotel serves a free hot dinner, and you even get a free drink.  They also had a good, hot breakfast.  So unfortunately, I have no good restaurant stories from Pittsburgh, but I was planning on going to Sienna Mercato before we realized we had a free dinner at the hotel.  In the morning, our drive turned quite picturesque while driving through the Appalachian Mountains into West Virginia.

The kids and I walking in Pittsburgh

Dan and the kids in Pittsburgh

DC was our destination as in years past.  The nice thing about DC is most of the touristy sites are free, but DC can be hot and humid, so be prepared.  If you ever want to tour the white house, make sure to request a tour three months in advance or you won’t get in.  We did the touristy sites last year, but I believe the Lincoln Memorial was the most memorable.  Beware of hotels looking better online than they actually are in this area. I have stayed at some pretty gross ones (the screen fell off onto my son’s head while he was using the restroom in the gross yellow bathroom that hadn’t been updated since the 60’s). 
The competition was in College Park, Maryland, at University of Maryland.  This is such a gorgeous campus with huge buildings all with grand white columns.  There is much foliage, and I have a feeling it is simply amazing in the Fall.
 The library at University of Maryland with its grand columns
This gorgeous church at University of Maryland

Outside of DC, we visited a must see, which is Harper’s Ferry.  While driving on the tree shaded road to the destination, you actually cross from Maryland to Virginia and then into West Virginia in what seems like one short mile, including crossing over the grand Potomac.  Harper’s Ferry is such a cute old town, on quite a steep hill.  We ate at the Potomac Grille, and all I can say is the indoors perfectly matched the old town, minus a welcome air conditioner (outside was so hot and humid).  The food and service were both equisite.  There was an old church which has ghost tours at 8pm.  I was sad we wouldn’t be there for the tour.  When we got to the bottom of the hill, the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers met in grand fashion, and we just chilled on the banks and enjoyed the view.  We walked barefoot where W.E.B Du Bois walked along the trail to John Brown’s.  The John Brown Museum brings tears to my eyes when seeing how the slaves were treated.  
 The cool church

 You can see the cute buildings in the background

 These were so sad, but it must not be forgotten how we treated our fellow humans
 My love and I in front of the Potomac
 What a view
 This beautiful ruin reminded me of something from a movie
A dad and his son walking and talking and bonding

I have rattled on an on, and think this must come to a close.  When I blog again, we will visit Antietam, Monticello, and the states returning to ND including WV, Kentucky, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota.
*All of this vacation was paid for by myself, and none of the businesses or sites gave me compensation to talk about them.

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