Jennifer goes to Disney World

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Pandora at Animal Kingdom

After our cruise, we decided to extend our trip and went to Disney World for a couple of days. I primarily was interested in going to see Pandora at Animal Kingdom and I was not disappointed. Disney did a wonderful job recreating the world of Pandora from Avatar.

My first stop at Animal Kingdom was the new ride Flight of Passage, which is in 3D. I felt as though I was riding on the back of a banshee. It was incredible. I also went on the much more relaxing Na’vi River Journey. It is not as thrilling as Flight of Passage, but it’s worth a ride just to experience the bioluminescent rainforest.

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Another view of Pandora at Animal Kingdom

In addition to Pandora, Animal Kingdom added a nighttime show. Usually, we don’t spend a whole day at Animal Kingdom, but we did this time just to see the show and I’m glad we did. Rivers of Light has music and special effects that will keep you mesmerized.

Besides Animal Kingdom, we also went to Hollywood Studios because we had to ride The Great Movie Ride one last time. It is being replaced with a different ride. Stitch’s Great Escape at Magic Kingdom also is being replaced. I didn’t realize when I rode Stitch’s Great Escape that it was my last time. I recently heard that it is being turned into a meet and greet area.

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Me with Rafiki

With the expansion at Hollywood Studios, a lot of the park was blocked off, but the expansion sounds amazing. I saw part of the roller coaster in Toy Story Land. If that land is anything like Cars Land at Disney Land, it will be awesome.

Disney World is always fun and we had a great time.

 

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Jennifer goes to St. Maarten

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View of the French side of St. Maarten

Before the destruction caused by Hurricane Irma, I stopped at St. Maarten on my cruise. My family went on an island tour so we could see both the French and Dutch sides. It was beautiful.

St. Maarten is primarily known for its beautiful beaches. While we took advantage of the beach after our island tour, we also walked around Philipsburg, the capital of the Dutch side. Philipsburg has plenty of shops and restaurants on Front Street.

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View of the Boardwalk in Philipsburg

On the beach, jet skis are available for rent, as are beach chairs. Snorkeling excursions are available, but I saw a lot of people snorkeling right from the beach.

We rented a couple of chairs and an umbrella, and completely enjoyed a couple of hours on the beach. It was the most relaxing time we had on our whole trip.

I’ve heard that at least one cruise line plans to add St. Maarten to its itineraries again in November. This is great news for an island that heavily relies on tourism. If you are looking for a beautiful place to sit back and relax, I can’t think of a better place than St. Maarten.

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The beach in Philipsburg

 

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Jennifer goes to San Juan

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Me at Cueva Ventana

With Puerto Rico on the verge of a humanitarian crisis, I had debated whether I should still write about my time in San Juan. In the end, I decided that I wanted to show everyone how beautiful it was before it was devastated by Hurricane Maria.

This was my second time in San Juan. Previously, we went to Castillo de San Cristóbal and walked around Old San Juan. This time, my family wanted to do something different and a little more adventurous. Until I was handed a hard hat, I didn’t realize how adventurous we were being. We decided to go to Cueva Ventana (Window Cave).

I expected Cueva Ventana to be like Luray Caverns. It wasn’t. I put on my hard hat and climbed down into dark caves. It was slippery because it had rained the day before. There were no railings or stairs. In the first cave, only our guide had a flashlight. We had to be careful not to disturb the bats and we saw a boa constrictor hanging at the opening of the cave.

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View from Cueva Ventana

I was glad when I got through that cave and thought I was done until we hiked to the next one, which was a bit of a climb down. I was handed a flashlight for this cave, but I had to make sure to keep it pointed at the cave floor. Apparently, this cave is home to vicious bats and if they are disturbed, they will attack.

Once I got to the end of the cave, I understood why it was called Cueva Ventana. It opened up to a beautiful valley below with a river. Though the experience was not what I expected, the view was well worth it.

I’m glad I didn’t know what this excursion entailed before we went because I might not have done it. It is out of my comfort zone and I’m proud of myself for going through with it.

After Cueva Ventana, we had time to walk around Old San Juan before returning to the ship.  Old San Juan was beautiful before the hurricane with its bright colors and cobblestone streets. I hope it makes a fast recovery because it has so much to offer, including restaurants and museums that are all within walking distance.

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Park in Old San Juan

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Cobblestone street in Old San Juan

 

 

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Jennifer goes to La Romana

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Squirrel monkey at Monkeyland

Before the Dominican Republic fell victim to Hurricane Irma, and soon Hurricane Maria, I had the opportunity to stop at La Romana on my cruise. La Romana is primarily known for Casa de Campo, which is a large resort. Visitors can go to the beach, ride horses, play golf, and shop. There is also Altos de Chavón, which is a replica of a European medieval village.

My family decided to skip Casa de Campo and do something out of the ordinary. Our tour took us to someone’s home where we got a taste of the Dominican Republic. We ate fresh fruit, like pineapples and mangoes, and drank cocoa tea. All of it was delicious.

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Where they roast cocoa beans

We then drove a short distance to Monkeyland, which is in the mountains and is home to squirrel monkeys. Monkeyland is an interactive experience. I knew that I would be feeding the monkeys, but I didn’t expect them to be as friendly as they were. I had them crawling all over me and had one even on my head.

The monkeys are adorable and extremely gentle. I found that even when I didn’t have food, they still wanted to interact. 

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Me feeding a squirrel monkey

I’m hoping Monkeyland didn’t have much damage after Hurricane Irma and will make it through Hurricane Maria because it is definitely a once in a lifetime experience. It is something I and my family will never forget.

 

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Jennifer goes to Grand Turk

DSC05436My heart goes out to everyone who has suffered as a result of Hurricane Irma. It is hard for me to believe that I just visited Grand Turk and St. Maarten, and their welcoming people and those same islands have now been destroyed. It took years for Grand Turk to recover from Hurricane Ike, which struck in 2008, and it looks like that might be the case with Hurricane Irma.

Here are a few facts about Grand Turk:

  • It is said that Columbus discovered the Turks and Caicos Islands in 1492.
  • In the 17th century, Grand Turk became a major player in the salt industry.
  • John Glenn and Scott Carpenter trained at the U.S. Air Force base and John Glenn was brought to Grand Turk after he landed in the Atlantic Ocean after his space mission.

While in Grand Turk, I had a wonderful time. I went on a tour of the island. Grand Turk is only 7 miles long. It was beautiful.

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Donkeys are everywhere.

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St. Mary’s Anglican Church

On the tour, I visited the Turks and Caicos Museum, which houses exhibits on Grand Turk’s history and environment. There also are exhibits on the Molasses Reef shipwreck. Additionally, I visited St. Mary’s Anglican Church and the Grand Turk Lighthouse.

I hope Grand Turk is able to rebuild again and that I’ll be able to go back for another visit.

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Me at the Grand Turk Lighthouse

 

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Jennifer goes on a cruise

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This summer, I was lucky enough to go on a cruise out of Miami. I visited Grand Turk, La Romana, San Juan, and St. Maarten. Over the coming weeks, I will share details of my trip.

I love cruising and it has been a long time since I’ve gone on one. The food is great. I can easily eat gluten free. The entertainment is fabulous and it is completely relaxing. I love that my biggest worry is what time I want to go to the dining room for dinner.

Going to sleep and waking up in a new place is exciting. I love going on excursions and did something on this trip that I probably would have never done if I’d known more about it. That is your teaser. The details will come another week.

Before leaving from port, I explored Miami and it is a lovely city. South Beach is just plain fun. The beach is beautiful, but if you’re not a beachgoer, there is still plenty to do. Shops and restaurants line the street. At night, make sure you have your dancing shoes because the nightlife is spectacular with the many clubs.

While in Miami, I also visited Coconut Grove and went through many of the shops at CocoWalk. It is a pretty area of Miami and it’s not as crowded as South Beach (or at least it wasn’t when I visited).

 

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Jennifer goes to San Francisco

I’m back to my vacation and the last stop on our tour of California – San Francisco.

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Vista along 17-Mile Drive

On the way to San Francisco, my husband and I stopped in Monterrey and drove the 17-Mile Drive. This picturesque road is not to be missed. It winds through Pacific Grove and Pebble Beach. We stopped several times on our drive to take in the beautiful vistas and to see the sea lions and otters.

San Francisco was just as I imagined it and was one of my favorite cities on our trip. The weather was nice, but cooler. If you go, take a light jacket because you’ll need it, especially with the breeze coming off the water.

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Coit Tower

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View from Telegraph Hill

In San Francisco, we saw the Painted Ladies and went up to Coit Tower, which is on Telegraph Hill. We also went to Alcatraz where Al Capone and Robert Stroud were once inmates.

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Painted Ladies

Most of our time was spent at Fisherman’s Wharf, which is huge and offers a variety of shops and dining options. The sea lions have their own dock. They are loud, but adorable.

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Fisherman’s Wharf

One of my favorite places was Ghirardelli Square.  We stopped in the Original Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop and got hot fudge sundaes. We also sampled some of the chocolate. This was a highlight for me. It gets crowded — the line was out the door when we went — but it moves fast and is worth the visit.

 

 

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Sea lions on dock

Now, this leads me to what I believe is not worth the time — the cable car. My husband bought tickets for the cable car because it was the one thing he really wanted to do in San Francisco. The line was long, but according to the sign, the wait was supposed to be only an hour. I later found out that the wait can be over two hours in the summer. We waited about two and half hours and, when we finally got on, the cable broke down. No, I’m not joking. It was another half hour before the cable was back up and we got our ride. If, like my husband, the cable car is a must do, then be prepared to wait a long time. I don’t like long waits and, with so many other things to do in San Francisco, I don’t recommend a cable car ride.

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Golden Gate Bridge

You can take the time you don’t spend in line waiting for a cable car ride and go to the Golden Gate Bridge and Walt Disney Family Museum, which is what we did on our last day in San Francisco. I wish we’d planned for more time at the Walt Disney Family Museum. It is an interactive museum, which means you should plan two to three hours. We didn’t have that much time, but I still enjoyed learning about the Disney family and how Disneyland and Disney World came to be.

Have you been to San Francisco? If so, what was your favorite thing to do?

 

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Jennifer goes to Los Angeles

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Me with an Academy Award

A couple of weeks ago, I told you about my visit to Disneyland. After a couple of days at Disneyland, my husband and I hit the road again. Our next stop was Los Angeles.

Los Angeles was fun. In planning our trip, we scheduled a couple of studio tours. We went to Sony Pictures and Warner Bros. Sony is smaller than Warner Bros., but I would recommend doing both tours if you have the time. If you are fans of Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy, they are taped at Sony. Wheel of Fortune wasn’t filming at the time, so they took us onto the set. Jeopardy was filming and my husband and I were lucky enough to get into the audience at the last minute.

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Sony Pictures

At Warner Bros., we were able to walk on the set of The Goldbergs and sit on the couch used in the scenes filmed at the Central Perk on Friends. Those were the highlights for me at Warner Bros. I love both of those shows. We had lots of fans of Pretty Little Liars on our tour and, after seeing where it’s filmed and hearing the rave reviews, I’ve decided I’m going to have to watch it. dsc03643

We also toured Dolby Theater, which is where the Academy Awards take place, and we went to the El Capitan Theater, which is Disney’s theater. Disney premieres their movies at that theater.

Of course, we saw the Hollywood sign, walked the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly Grauman’s Chinese Theater). I had fun comparing my hands and feet to those of some of my favorite actresses. We also went to the La Brea Tar Pits where many fossils from the Ice Age have been excavated.dsc03190

Because we are amusement park people, we went to Universal Studios. It is much smaller than Universal Orlando, but I enjoyed it more. The rides were great, but the best part was the studio tour, which is included with the admission to the park. It is a huge tour because its part of the amusement park, but it’s still worth doing. They film a lot of current TV shows there, such as The Good Place.

One evening, we drove to Santa Monica Pier to watch the sunset. The pier is a popular place to watch the sunset and gets quite crowded. But if you’re looking to add a little romance to your trip, it’s worth the drive.

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Sunset at Santa Monica Pier

 

Have you been to Los Angeles? What was your favorite thing to do?

 

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Jennifer goes to Disneyland

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Paradise Pier

While on our way up California’s coast, my husband and I had to make a stop at Disneyland. Over the years, we’ve made quite a few trips to Disney World because we love it. After visiting Disneyland, I still say nothing compares to Disney World. Overall, we had fun and there are some attractions at Disneyland that I wish Disney World had.

Our first day, we went to California Adventure Park. My favorite part of the park was Cars Land. I felt like I had stepped into Radiator Springs. The Radiator Springs Racers is similar to Epcot’s Test Track, but has some small drops and I found it to be more thrilling.

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Radiator Springs

This might seem like an odd one, but I absolutely loved the Animation Academy, which is located in Hollywood Land. At the academy, a Disney artist teaches you how to draw a Disney character. I learned how to draw Winnie the Pooh. I used to line up for this attraction at Hollywood Studios in Florida, but Disney World decided to close this attraction. I really wish they would bring it back.

Paradise Pier is California Adventure Park’s boardwalk-themed area. It is also home to Toy Story Midway Mania – one of the most popular rides. On Toy Story Midway Mania, you shoot at targets to rack up points. At the end, you find out who has the highest score in your car. My husband always seems to be on top.

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World of Color

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Sleeping Beauty’s Castle

We stayed long enough to see World of Color and it was worth it. It is a water and light show that takes place at Paradise Pier. Images from some of Disney’s movies come to life right on the water and are accompanied by Disney’s fabulous music. I highly recommend sticking around for this one.

Our second day was spent at Disneyland. While it is similar to Disney World, there are some differences. Disneyland still has Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and Snow White’s Scary Adventures. These rides don’t offer lots of thrills, but they are fun nonetheless. It also turned what used to be 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea into the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. I never got to ride 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea at Magic Kingdom because it was closed before my first trip to Disney World, but my husband used to ride that one a lot and really enjoyed the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage.

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Haunted Mansion

Of course, we had to ride Hyperspace Mountain. As Part of Disneyland’s 60th anniversary, they transformed Space Mountain into a Star Wars high-speed adventure. It was fun being put into the middle of a battle.

No trip to Disney is complete without the fireworks. Because of the 60th anniversary, the fireworks were quite the spectacle. Images were shown on the buildings on Main Street as fireworks exploded overhead. It was beautiful. I found out that Disneyland’s usual fireworks show will return on September 5, 2016.

Before leaving the park, my husband and I made a stop in the theater to watch some of the old cartoons. We had a few good laughs.

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Main Street

Disneyland and California Adventure Park are both great parks and are much more laid back compared to Disney World. We never ran into the long lines that we run into at Disney World. That being said, I still love Disney World because I am completely immersed in the Disney experience as soon as I land in Orlando. On the highway, there are signs everywhere that welcome you to Disney, which build that Disney excitement. Anaheim is missing that. We basically drove off the street and right into a parking garage. The build up isn’t there. Despite that, if I were out that way again, I’d make a stop at Disneyland.

Have you been to Disney World, Disneyland, or both? If you’ve been to both, d0 you prefer one over the other?

 

 

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Jennifer goes to San Diego

DSC02582Last week, I shared some details and photos from my time in Las Vegas. After a few days in Vegas, my husband and I hit the road and went to San Diego.

Over the years, I’ve met many people from San Diego and they have always commented on the weather and how wonderful it is. I now know why. I couldn’t have asked for better weather. If you like temperatures in the high 70s to low 80s and lots of sunshine, you’ll love San Diego.

I happened to be in San Diego at the same time as the MLB All-Star Game. My husband and I couldn’t get tickets for the game, but we got tickets for FanFest and had fun stealing bases, batting, and visiting the various vendors.

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Me on the Star of India

 

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Star of India at Maritime Museum of San Diego

We also walked through the Gaslamp Quarter and visited the Maritime Museum of San Diego. The most interesting ship at the museum is the Star of India, which is the world’s oldest sailing ship and the most haunted. I was fascinated by the tales of this ship and highly recommend that you speak to the person in the ticket booth if you go. I wouldn’t have known about the ghost stories without talking to the man in the ticket booth. He was chock full of stories about all of the ships. It was evening when we went and the ticket booth wasn’t that busy, which made it easier to ask questions.

Additionally, I recommend the B-39 submarine, if you can handle tight spaces. It has an interactive experience that will take you into the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

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View of San Diego Zoo from Skyfari

The San Diego Zoo is a must see. Not only are there animals to see, but there are 4D theaters and shows. The zoo is celebrating its centennial and has some special events, including the Centennial Celebration Show. The Centennial Celebration Show is quite entertaining. I enjoyed walking all of the various paths to see the animals and riding the Skyfari.

 

 

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Koala at the San Diego Zoo

 

Have you been to San Diego? If so, what was your favorite thing to do?

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