Philadelphia in a weekend!

ATTENTION avid gardeners, horticulturists, and plant biologists who crave a side of our Nation’s history:  welcome to Philly’s annual flower show with a side of Independence Hall!

Every year, Philly puts on a huge flower show in the Pennsylvania Convention Center. It’s said to be the world’s oldest and largest indoor display of its kind.  This year it was from March 11-19.  It generally lasts for one work week and two weekends.  It varies by theme each year.  This year the last day was for kids and pets!  In addition, there was a garden spa, beer garden, and separate butterfly exhibit as well to make great use of.

Tickets are available online for $28 for adults, $20 for students with valid ID and $15 for children ages two through 16. A service fee of $1.50 per ticket is applied at checkout. Box office tickets are available for $35 for adults, $22 for students with valid ID and $17 for children ages two through 16.  We stayed at a nearby hotel within walking distance that INCLUDED the flower show tickets at a discounted rate.  It was a great way to save money, was able to valet our car at the hotel, and walk over to the show.  Info on the show’s basics as well as nearby hotels are here.  I recommend coat check which if I remember correctly was $3 per item (we had an extra sweatshirt and umbrella).

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Holland was this year’s theme: think windmills and riding your powder blue bicycle through a field of tulips. 17309355_10102540092077142_3413524812341013249_n

It was absolutely gorgeous and like nothing I’ve ever seen. 17353544_10102540092356582_8396886544958749027_nWithin the show are sections of various “mini shows” like centerpieces sitting atop of dining room tables, a small greenhouse, water features sprinkled throughout, headpieces designed using flowers, mini landscaping sets featuring a front stoop and front door like you’d see on the set of a movie or show, and various contests with winning terrariums, centerpieces, or bouquets. 17353137_10102540092256782_9221505993847079577_n

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Something to note, half of the room where the flower show takes place is for vendors.  Here, you’ll see vendors selling homemade crafts and food.  Some flowers and plants were being sold as well but not as many as I’d like.  Of all the vendors, I’d say only 10-20% were selling flowers or plants of some kind. I’ve spoke with others that have attended the show in year’s past, and they have mentioned the entire show used to be only flowers and plants with no vendor booths or crafts.  I was hoping to spend a couple hundred on plants and flowers to find there wasn’t much to choose from and what was there was picked over.  Most flowers to buy were bouquets of roses you’d get at your local flower shop. Other flowers to purchase were bulbs of daffodils and tulips, but I already have these as well from my local Lowe’s.

SATURDAY: Centered around the Convention Center are some typical Philly stops.  One being the John F. Kennedy’s plaza featuring the “Love” sculpture that millions of tourists take pics with.  This year, however, the plaza is undergoing renovation and the “Love” sculpture was removed until renovations are complete in September 2017.  A typical foodie stop is near here as well at the Reading Terminal Market.  We were at the flower show when the Terminal market closed during its regular operating hours, so make sure you plan around it!  This consists of an entire city block and is the nation’s oldest continuously operating farmers’ market, “with food options of all sorts, including a plethora of styles and cuisines that cater to every meal of the day.”  Lastly, a typical Philly stop near the Convention Center, is the City Hall Tower Observation Deck.  Come here for 360-degree views to decide where you’ll go to next.

SUNDAY: After you’ve seen the flower show and soaked in some surrounding sites, you MUST make a stop at the Independence Hall & the Liberty Bell. 17424942_10102540935941032_6974860057088670287_n An Uber or taxi ride is suggested here if you’re staying over by the Convention Center for the flower show.  You can arrive at the Visitor’s Center around 8:30am to get free tickets for that day but only a limited number of free tickets are available or I paid online to secure a time instead, and then I could customize the time and plan around it for only $1.50 per ticket.

In addition to these stops are some great museums to check out, including the oldest art museum in the U.S.  Chinatown is walking distance from the Convention Center and is another great foodie stop.  If you must try a cheese steak, the typical tourist locations are Geno’s Steaks and Pat’s King of Steaks locations.  I took a local’s suggestion, took out some cash, and went to the local’s fave Jim’s Steaks on South Street. 17358897_10102539825621122_3866189055389330624_o

Leave a comment if you’re local to Philly and want people to get the best out of your city in a weekend.  Who else has been to the flower show and has tips to share?

 

 

Top 10 Hot Spots in Cape Cod

I began the blog a little over two months ago with my first travel post.  I was lucky enough to go on three vacations this summer – well, one being a three-day weekend getaway and one being in April – but they count as summer vacations!  In that first blog post, I wanted to give you tips on seeing the most prominent sites at our Nation’s Capital in Washington D.C. while only having a weekend and while maintaining a budget.

In this post, I want to tell you how you can spend a great vacation in Cape Cod, Massachusetts while still maintaining a budget, including taking a ferry to Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard as well!  Halloween is right around the corner and Massachusetts has some of the greatest ghost and historical tours around the town of Salem.  All in all, I want to share with you some of my summer vacation tips in Cape Cod while keeping the state on your radar for Fall as well.  Look for a Salem post coming up!

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http://www.capeguide.com/beaches.htm

Cape Cod itself is made up of many small towns, so depending on what you’re looking for (for instance, nightlife vs. something for children) there’s really something for everyone that won’t break the bank.  I stayed in Dennis, the middle section of the Cape.  Staying in the middle section is a little more quaint, offering tree-lined streets with multiple mini- golf courses 13782271_10102089612611602_1008756190859885467_nor restaurants to walk to.  There isn’t any chain restaurants, but a lot of mom and pop shops instead. It’s a great location geographically to explore going East and then North to Provincetown or explore going West.  Towns around Dennis, like Yarmouth and Hyannis are very family-friendly.


Top 10 hotspots:

  1. The Scargo Tower in Dennis is worth a visit. A wooden tower built on this site in 1874 was one of the Cape’s first tourist attractions; visitors would pay 5¢ to climb to the top for the views. That tower burned down, and the present all-stone 30-foot tower was built in 1901 to replace it.
  2. West Yarmouth is home to the inflatable water park. Rates here are $31 per person (at the time of this post).  Tip: you can make it cheaper by going in the off-season or even summer evenings from 6-10pm for $17 per person.  These areas offer many beaches popular for teens, parks for the kids, ice cream shops, mini golf, and water sport rental shops.
  3. Hyannis is home to an annual hydrangea festival July 7-July 16, 2017 at $5 per person per garden tour.  13882665_10102089613335152_6122190217929475645_n
  4. The Heritage museums & gardens in Sandwich is 100 acres of gardens, making it the largest public garden in southern New England.  It’s more than just gardens, however, with its museum exhibits and an outdoor Adventure Park with tree-to-tree bridges and ziplines.  Tickets can be for just the gardens or the adventure park or together into a package.
  5. If flowers and plants aren’t your thing, Hyannis is also home to the John F. Kennedy Hyannis museum.  The museum is open Monday to Saturday 9:00 am-5:00 pm and Sunday 12:00 pm-5:00 pm. Labor Day 9:00am-3:00pm.  Tickets are $10 per adult 18 and over.
  6. If interested in lighthouses, click here for info, as they are spread out throughout Cape Cod.
  7. For a guide to whale and dolphin-watching, visit the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce for more info.
  8. A must-see that is decently priced is the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown! 13619989_10102087401417852_166133185728679851_n                    The monument commemorates the Pilgrims’ first landing in the New World and their signing of the Mayflower Compact. It has 116 steps 13680590_10102087401916852_9210864922348897238_n                   and 60 short ramps to the top for a panoramic view. 13872730_10102087403119442_5879987943841480335_n
  9. So, I cheated for #9.  A little far from the Cape, but since Halloween is fast-approaching, don’t forget to check out Salem, Massachusetts.  This town is known for its Halloween tours, centered around the 1692 Salem witch trials.  There’s also foodie tours, street festivals, and must-see locations where the movie, Hocus Pocus was filmed, for the kids (and my 30-something self too).  This blog does a great piece on a self-guided Hocus Pocus tour.  More to come on Salem in an upcoming post!
  10. The islands of Martha’s Vineyard & Nantucket – Discussed more below!

Places to stay

Places to stay in Cape Cod vary quite a bit.  If you’re looking to stay a couple of days then a hotel, a motel, or a b&b may be best for you.  If you’re looking to stay a week or longer, then renting a cottage or cabin may be your best bet.  Like with any beach towns, you should reserve something pretty far out for the summer you plan on vacationing.  TIP: We rented a house that was not within walking distance to the beach but still a very close drive to other family members who were walking distance to the beach. 13879195_10102089612551722_398140657628413705_n Our house had four bedrooms and two bathrooms to be able to share and split the cost.  This also works best because you get a full kitchen to buy and make your own food instead of eating out every night with a hotel that doesn’t have a kitchenette. Cape Cod really has unlimited options for any budget.


Ferry to Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket:

There are a few ferries to choose from that transport the locals, daily, to and from Cape Cod and the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.  Day trips for vacationers is a great way to see the sites around Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket while staying in Cape Cod (which is less expensive).  We were only able to get to Nantucket in the week we were staying there, and it was a day trip, so I cannot offer personal advice regarding Martha’s Vineyard.  What I do know from speaking with locals in Nantucket, is that supposedly the people from Martha’s Vineyard are more laid back than those in Nantucket.  The people we spoke with made it sound like they’re two hometown rival football teams, talking smack on one another. 13658924_10102089613684452_6627108959152229101_n Look at this sign I found in a store in Nantucket.  I thought it was extremely fitting!

I compared all of the ferry rates and found The Steamship Authority to be the cheapest. 13882511_10102089612831162_6564189929835656165_nWe took the high-speed ferry so that it’d only take an hour, leaving in the morning and coming back later at night.  They had their own parking lot to keep your car in Cape Cod and then a shuttle to take you to the port – very convenient!  At the time we went, tickets were $49 per person for roundtrip.

The recommendations I would give (and the visitors center gave) was to visit the Nantucket Whaling Museum.  13686608_10102085748076162_7709742697595637636_n13872751_10102085748225862_6799664769724294023_n13782127_10102085748365582_5207958913216326_n

Erotica scrimshaw pictured above in the museum.

The views from the top are nothing short of amazing! 13669821_10102085747936442_2309494433740870567_n13876528_10102085747866582_2645185076633534813_n

The next stop recommended to us by the visitor center was the historic First Congregational Church of Nantucket.  The fee here is a suggested $5 donation.  Once at the top of the stair climb you get another amazing view of the harbor and town.


Back at the Cape = food!

Foodie:

For waterfront views & family-friendly dining, I loved Tugboats in West Yarmouth.  The lobster roll had HUGE chunks of lobster and will not disappoint.13692649_10102079546199772_5612103012509825289_n

For a broad menu (and those allergic to seafood or shellfish), was this cute place that had every inch decorated in a nautical theme, so I couldn’t resist pictures.  We got the seafood tower at Black Cat Tavern.  Below is a slideshow, and I need that anchor carpet for my house!

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Laid back with beach views and the best steamed littlenecks in wine, try Waydowntown in Provincetown. 13891818_10102087223050302_9039039050644785863_n

Oyster lovers: My bf is an oyster connoisseur, and he swears by The Oyster Company in Dennisport.  They are $1.25 each during Happy Hour or before 6:30 (at the time this post was written).

Craving something sweet?  Every time we drove past this place, there were lines outside the building and wrapping around, so I pledged that we were going to eventually stop.  Try the Cape Cod Creamery for homemade ice cream in Hyannis.

Leave a comment letting me know of your go-to places in the Cape.  I have more foodie suggestions as well, so just ask!  Be on the lookout for a Salem, Massachusetts post for money-saving traveling tips!

VOTE! A New Way to Pay for Airfare

Vote below!

Paying airfare ✈️ in installments?! Sign me up! Or maybe not? You decide.  JUST this week, a new idea launched that would take over the travel world, whether you fly for business, personal, frequent, or maybe only in emergency-type situations.

I feel the absolute NEED to tell you about this new option.  As of August 26, 2016, US customers can finance domestic or international airline tickets in payments of 3, 6, or 12 months in place of credit cards or a lump sum up front!  For tickets less than $100 a piece, not all options may be available. Just go to Cheapair.com and in checkout you will be redirected to Affirm, the company handling this service.

Basically, the company claims to do a “soft” check against your credit instantly, and you’re given all the details at checkout of the monthly payments, along with interest, and total cost.  The installment plan starts kicking in once you purchase but doesn’t need to be paid off before taking that flight.  It’s perfect for someone needing to fly in an emergency situation that doesn’t have the immediate funds.

Is it the right fit for you though? What’s at stake for such a convenient and up and coming feature? Oh, I don’t know…just a 10-30% APR interest rate (based on your credit)!!!  If you’re approved for the lower end, then the interest rate may be better than most credit cards 💳 and approval is quicker than personal loans.  They also don’t charge a late fee.

HERE’S WHAT ELSE YOU SHOULD KNOW: Affirm partners with some online stores so you can finance big purchases on the web, like furniture, clothes/jewelry, etc. Check out this blog , updating the list regularly, of stores Affirm partners with.

So, what do you think? Vote now. ⚖

Would you use this service?

Save money on vacation seeing the Nation’s most prominent sites in one weekend? Yes, please.

I do my best work at night. Oh, hi. Hello. Welcome to my blog. This is the first so make it count, Toni! So, it’s summer, in fact, it’s nearing the end of summer here in Pennsylvania, ugh. We all spent the summer either wishing we were on vacation or actually took a vacation… or three. Three. I was lucky enough to take three. Well, two were weekend trips and one I actually took off of work. Why not start the blog out with some travel, let me save you some money, and let me tell you how to do a Washington D.C. trip IN A WEEKEND, hitting ALL of the major sites.

I remember my first trip here, a college class trip, to stand in line outside of the Supreme Court building hoping to get a coveted seat to hear oral arguments. The case was about the postman leaving the mail at the doorstep and the Pennsylvania homeowner somehow injured herself on it – and won. It was a long time ago so the specifics are fuzzy. Anyway, I don’t remember getting to see much else while we were there except for maybe the Lincoln memorial & Washington monument at the time (since they’re so close together).

I wanted to take my boyfriend here for his birthday since he only came once to see the Air and Space Museum. Don’t ask me how someone comes to D.C. and only sees one museum, but that’s alright, he’s cute, he gets a pass.

Saving money: First things first. This is probably already a given but understand that hotel rooms in the city are much more expensive than staying outside of the city limits and riding the Metro in. We stayed in Tyson’s Corner (about a 25 minute subway ride into the city). There are shops and restaurants around the hotel so that helped ease the blow of not being able to walk to the stops we wanted to go to if we would have stayed in city center. We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn, which was a nice stay, and surprisingly cheap at $74.25 for Friday night and $126.75 for Saturday night (without taxes+parking). There’s also three metro stops to choose from and other hotels to choose from as well. Our hotel provided a free shuttle to the metro stops, although they were close enough and safe to walk to. In addition, figuring out the metro color coded lines and which stops each line makes was actually really simple for an out-of-towner & newbie!

Now I’m counting this as a summer trip, but really, it was April. I wanted to go while the Cherry Blossoms were blooming so that anywhere we walked or any picture we took, we would be engulfed in Cherry Blossom trees.
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If you want to see D.C. for the first time, I suggest taking the trip the last week of March to the beginning week of April. There’s actually a website that forecasts when they will bloom each year. If this is something you’re interested in, take a peek at David Coleman’s page, https://cherryblossomwatch.com/peak-bloom-forecast/.

Okay, back to money saving. We purchased a SmarTrip card which was rechargeable and can be used on both the metro and the buses. You can fill it up with any monetary amount and it tracks it instead of constantly buying day passes. All other info on the fares can be found here, http://www.wmata.com/fares/metrorail.cfm. Continue reading “Save money on vacation seeing the Nation’s most prominent sites in one weekend? Yes, please.”