Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

An honest review

The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is a dreamy, castle-like structure tucked into the Canadian Rockies on the shores of some of the bluest glacier water you have ever seen.  It’s a place I’ve dreamed of since I was 16, when dear friends of mine traveled there and returned home bearing photographic evidence (before blogs and Facebook existed- oye!).

Lake Louise lies within Banff National Park and is a little over 2 hours from Calgary International Airport.  We rented a car at the airport and first visited Emerald Lake Lodge, then traveled south to Lake Louise.

While Brian parked the car, I headed into the lobby to get our room keys and take a few photos.  Because I’m very mature and refined, the stairway reminded me of the movie Titanic.  Haha. #jackandroseforlife.  No, really, it is a grand staircase.  Stately royal blue carpet says, “this place is fancy” while mounted elk and moose heads say, “but we’re in the mountains, eh.”

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sorry a little blurry- selfie stick woes

The Chateau felt stuffy, but down-to-earth (oxymoron, I know!).  Even though we consider ourselves “travelers on a budget” we didn’t feel as though we didn’t fit in. The staff is overly friendly and accommodating AND there are people visiting from all over the world, so lots of different styles and tastes.  The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is also an outdoor playground in the sense of all the hiking trails, ski trails, and the like, so even though the decor in the resort is very upscale, most people are just dressed for the weather!

Room

The room was adequate. Even though we *ahem* stayed for free, I thought the room was a little small for the nightly rate of $669 Canadian.  When we ordered room service (twice!  also free!), they could hardly even get the table around our bed, and one of us had to sit on the bed to eat it.  Only one chair would fit.  #firstworldproblems

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Teeny tiny bathroom. Shower was to your left.

The bed was super comfy though, and the complimentary robes and slippers were a plus.  There was also a small fridge in the room- just down the road in Lake Louise Village there are a few shops so if you wanted to save money on snacks and drink this could be helpful.

Location

The hotel‘s location right on the shore of Lake Louise can not be beat!  You’re less than a 5 minute walk from your room to kayak and canoe rentals, hiking trails, and more.  Unfortunately we hit Lake Louise right as winter hit Alberta, so we did not partake in any of the guided hikes or activities (mostly because we weren’t packed for snowshoeing, dangit)!

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Dining:

We enjoyed dinner at the Lakeview Lounge on our first evening.  This business casual dining option is great for the scenery AND the people watching (Hey you, people on their phones when you’re at one of the most beautiful places on earth, I’m talking about YOU.  GRRrrr).  The prices are mid-range.

As I mentioned before, we enjoyed the in-room dining for breakfast and appetizers and ate two rounds of poutine.  Have you had poutine?  Your taste buds will thank you, but your gall bladder will not.  I digress.

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Overall

As much as I dreamed of this place, I wasn’t as awestruck by the resort as I was by Emerald Lake Lodge.  While the views and the service are excellent, it felt like really any major worldwide resort.  However, we did find a big perk in those extra amenities like room service, that allowed us just to relax and enjoy some peace and quiet away from the hustle of family life.  We didn’t expect the weather to leave us wanting just to unwind, but sometimes those big resort treasures are worth the extra cost.

What do you think?  Have you been to Lake Louise?  Stayed at a Fairmont Resort?  Eaten poutine?

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*This is not a sponsored post*

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Travel Hacking the Canadian Rockies

A four-night, four-star trip for next-to-nothing.

I’ve been so eager to tell you how we took second-honeymoon style trip to the Canadian Rockies for pennies on the dollar.  We started travel hacking about 2 years ago and using points and miles has definitely helped with our travel game.

After booking our trip to Australia last year, I had a bunch of American Airlines miles left.   Reading Bryce’s blog about how to use the Fairmont VISA gave me an idea- I’d been dreaming of staying at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise since I was a teenager- travel hacking the hotel was the ticket!

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First, I booked our flight from CMH -> Calgary using 75,000 AA miles.  Here’s what I would have paid using the same flights but paying cash.

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Instead, here’s what I paid:  75k miles + $123.60 in taxes and fees

Savings on flights:  $1,232.40

You can accrue AA Advantage miles by signing up for 2 Platinum Select Citi AAdvantage cards- if you got the business card and the personal card, you’d immediately have enough miles.  More info HERE.

Our first night of the trip was at Emerald Lake Lodge (review).  Not only was the place exquisite, it’s very pricey.  One night was $329 CAD + taxes.  Our bill at check out for one night + dinner in the lounge and breakfast in the dining room was a whopping $497.89 CAD!

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Before we left home, the Barclaycard Arrival + was offering a sign-up bonus for 50,000 miles after spending $3k in the first 3 months.  We used the card for all of our expenses on the trip, plus  all of our personal expenses and my husband’s business expenses.  After less than 2 months, we hit the minimum spend on this card- giving us 50k points/ $500 in travel credit.

The charge at Emerald Lake Lodge converted to $375.82.  See how I erased the purchase below:

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Showing we hit the minimum spend and all the points we accrued.
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You can only erase purchases that cost over $100 each. These are the options Barclay gave me.

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So for 2 nights and 2 great meals: FREE

A savings of $375.82

Next we spent 2 nights at the aforementioned Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.  This travel hack involved signing up for the Fairmont Visa Signature Card.  We applied for this card over a year ago in order to have time to earn the miles and have open availability for the resort.  This card also requires spending $3000 in the first 3 months, but with that comes a bonus of 2 FREE nights!

After achieving the minimum spend I called Fairmont and booked the two nights at the Chateau Lake Louise (you must book directly with Fairmont resorts to use your free nights).  The resort quoted me a resort fee of $13/night, but I wasn’t charged it at checkout.

Here’s what our nights would have cost without credits:

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$669 CAD is currently $501 USD per night!!  Just having this credit card saved us $1002!

Earning Premier Status also gives you breakfast and dining credits at the resorts.  We were able to use 2 of these at check-out. The parking was $30/night.  Here’s our first bill from the resort and then a second one showing what we paid after the credits were applied:

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We had horrible weather while at Lake Louise (our mountain view room became a fog-view room), so we really just enjoyed the resort and the room service (YES!).  Our bill at check-out (after Fairmont dining credits) was $163.12 CAD.  This came to $123.13 USD and we were able to erase the entire stay using the Barclay points.

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Total cost of 2 nights at the Fairmont + Dining if paid for out of pocket and without credits:  $1002 + $216 USD ($288.12 CAD) = $1218

Total spent for 2 nights at Fairmont + gluttony and room service after HACKS = ZERO

The last night of our trip was in Banff.  I had prepaid for the hotel through AAA.  In hindsight, I could have also booked the hotel with the option to pay at check-out and used the Barclay points to cover it.  However, it was the least expensive option by quite a bit- we stayed at the Banff Aspen Lodge for $133 USD.  The room and amenities were just fine, but I would recommend this more for budget travelers or families.

Total for air and 4 nights before Travel Hacking: $3082.82

Total for air and 4 nights after Travel Hacking: $256.60

Savings: $2,826.22

Bam!!  The Canadian Rockies was one of the most magical places we’ve ever visited.  I think I’ve covered everything, but if you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section. I’m not the final authority on all things travel hacking- I recommend reading 10xtravel.com for more info!  I love them so much, I wrote a blog for them!

Have you done any travel hacking?  Maybe you’ve been the Canadian Rockies?  Maybe you cry, too, when you see a dream come true?

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** I’m undeniably one of the world’s biggest haters of debt.  We only use these credit cards with the premise that the uses are already budgeted for and the cards are paid off EVERY month.  I don’t recommend using a credit card if you lack self-control.  My husband is also self-employed so we can easily hit the minimum spends just by charging his gas and other work expenses along with our household expenses.  More HERE.  End sermon. **

 


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A visit to the Newark Earthworks with kids

Some of the best travel happens right outside your door.

We’ve lived nearly on top of the Newark Earthworks for the past 7 years, yet never really fully explored them.  When some nice November weather hit us this past week, I realized that NOW was the time to visit.

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The Newark Earthworks are the largest set of geometric earthen enclosures IN THE WORLD.  The earthworks were built by the Hopewell culture between 100 B.C. and 500 A.D.   Over the years, the growth of Newark destroyed many of the earthworks (very sad), but three major pieces still survive.  We visited 2 of the 3 sites managed by the Ohio History Connection.

The Octagon Earthworks are on the grounds of the Moundbuilders Country Club.  While this is a private golf course, visitors to the earthworks can access this overlook any time of the year (just watch for flying golf balls).  The entire grounds is only open to the public four times per year (see the above link for details).

The earthworks are not considered burial mounds, researchers have concluded that they have some significance in aligning with the rising and setting of the moon.  Covering over 50 acres, the earthworks are mostly 5-6 feet high.

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The Great Circle Earthwork is nearly 12,000 feet in diameter.  The space is vast – it’s hard to see one side of the circle from the other!  Not only are the mounds about 8 feet high, there is an interior moat that’s over 5 feet deep.  It’s believed that this large circle was used for ceremonial purposes.

A small, on-site museum shows the timeline 0f the Newark Earthworks to other great milestones in history.  There are also some Native American artifacts like arrowheads and ceremonial pieces.

In more recent times, the Great Circle mounds were used as a fairgrounds until 1932.  This use of the land is what saved the earthworks from destruction.

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I would set aside 2 hours for visiting the earthworks with your children.  The Newark Earthworks are located 2.5 miles away from each other.  This is a fantastic outdoor attraction because the kids are able to run off energy while still learning about Ohio‘s Native American history.

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Where: Newark, OH – 45 minutes east of downtown Columbus

When:  Best times to visit are May- October mostly for programming.  Check the Ohio History Connection for dates of historian-led tours.

Stay:  The Doubletree by Hilton in Newark has fresh cookies on arrival, an indoor pool, and an on-site restaurant.  Plus, enjoy walking to Newark’s new Canal Market District.  It’s a great hotel for a small city.

While you’re in town:  Check out Dawes Arboretum and Blackhand Gorge.

Have you visited the Newark Earthworks?  Maybe there’s another attraction that is in your backyard which you forget to visit? I’d love to hear!

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The Icefields Parkway drive within an hour of Lake Louise

In researching our trip to the Canadian Rockies, I knew that the Icefields Parkway was something we had to cross off of our list.  The Icefields Parkway is an iconic drive, maybe lesser-known to Americans than California’s Highway 1 or the Blue Ridge Parkway, but lacking nothing in jaw-dropping views.

Icefields Parkway is also known as highway 93 and it begins just north of Lake Louise.  The parkway itself is free, but you do need to have your National Parks Pass for admission.  We paid $80 CAD for a 4-day pass to the parks.  You can take the Icefields Parkway all the way to Jasper, AB but our short getaway just didn’t allow us the time we needed to do this.

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The road is well-maintained and has numerous pull-over spots.

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They were obviously out of neutral colors at the rental counter.

The first place I knew I wanted to see was Bow Lake.

For the best view, don’t pull over at the lookout- but look for the signs for the Num Ti-Jah Lodge.  The Lodge was not open while we were there (it appeared to be under renovation), but you can still park there and walk right up to the lake.

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If it would have been a little warmer, I’d been happy to sit on this bridge with a good book.  The reflections in the lake are gorgeous, if you can get past the tour bus crowds arriving every so often! 🙂

Just a little more north of Bow Lake is Peyto Lake.  This is the stop I’d been waiting for, as the photographic image I’d placed in my mind begged me to see it in person.  The electric blue water against the snow-draped mountains is a highlight for travelers from all over the world (trust me, you’ll see all the tourists even on a snowy day)!

Those not arriving by bus have to park about 1/4 mile from the viewing platform and walk up the hill (err, mountain).  The walk is well-paved but it is very hilly.  This is where Mr YT and I determined that we were either dealing with some altitude-related struggles OR we really needed to hit the treadmill when we got home — the answer is probably both!

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Thinking this view alone was worth the hike- not realizing what I was about to see.

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From Peyto Lake, we returned south towards Lake Louise.  We really wanted to get settled in at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise before dark so we could have a look around the property.  I’m so glad we did because we had about zero visibility the next two days!

So friends, you don’t have to have an entire day to enjoy some spectacular Canadian Rockies views.  I’d easily do this drive again with the entire family!

Have you been to the Canadian Rockies?  Maybe the US Rockies?  Where can I find blue water as bright as this?!

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Emerald Lake Lodge – A romantic getaway in the Canadian Rockies

I asked my dear, well-traveled friend where SHE would stay in the Canadian Rockies, “Oh, you must stay at Emerald Lake Lodge!”  Her suggestion was golden- I’m SO thankful for her advice.

Emerald Lake Lodge is nestled in between the stately mountains of Yoho National Park, just outside of Field, British Columbia.  The drive from Calgary airport took about 2 hours. There is no parking at the lodge, overnight guests have to take a shuttle that is over 1/2 mile from the lodges.

The resort is a cluster of cabins, along with the main lodge and other outbuildings.  I haven’t felt so far away from civility since visiting the Australian Outback in my teens.  This is just the place to get away from the cares and affairs of day-to-day life.

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This bridge allows you to enter the peninsula where the lodge and cabins are. The cabin pictured is Cilantro, the upscale dining option.

Room

Our room was a king bed lake view.  I was a little nervous after reading some of the reviews online, but overall I was quite happy with the room.  The king bed was comfortable and the bedding was luxe.  The in-room wood-burning fireplace was romantic.  The lake view balcony would have been much better served in warmer weather, but added to the value.  We talked about how if we were here in summer we’d probably just sit on the deck all day.  There are no TVs or wifi in the room.  (The room also had ear plugs in it’s amenity kit so YOU CAN IMAGINE WHAT YOU WILL). 😉

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Yes, the outside of the cottages and some of the landscaping and decking could have been improved (which is what you’ll find lots of on TripAdvisor).  Absolutely.  However, I’d say your paying for the seclusion and service- not perfection.  The weather here is harsh (we experienced some of that),  so I can see why the cabins don’t look perfect.

Dining-

The main lodge houses Kicking Horse Lounge and the Mount Burgess dining room.  After arrival, we had dinner in the Kicking Horse lounge.  The serving sizes were large and the food was tasty.  My husband had the bison burger and really enjoyed it.  There is a full bar service.ell-7

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A breakfast buffet takes place in the Mount Burgess dining room. It is not included in the cost.  We decided to just order our items off of the menu.

I did think things were a little pricey, BUT understanding the views and the serenity, you see why they can charge top dollar (think $4 for a cup of coffee!  We’re not in Ohio anymore, Toto).

There’s also Cilantro on the Lake, which was not open during our stay.   This is the building pictured above that was right on the lake.

 

Out and about-

There’s numerous hiking possibilities throughout the resort and Yoho National Park.  The Natural Bridge area is just a short drive away.  The grounds also have a fitness center and outdoor hot tub.  The view from the hot tub isn’t too shabby:

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In reality, if I could do my honeymoon over again (i.e. if I could have afforded this at age 20, lol), then this is where I would come.  Secluded.  Romantic.  Inspiring.  The fog made it a a little swoon-worthy.  Men, bring your lady here, she will LOVE YOU FOREVER AND EVER, AMEN.

Book it HERE.

xo

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**This was not a sponsored post, but does contain affiliate links**

 

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The Friday Five- Fall and winter getaway essentials

The hubs and I are about to embark on a little mountain getaway (Canadian Rockies, here we come!), and I was thinking of what I’m packing and how that relates to my readers (hi friends)!

It’s not yet ski season, and let’s be honest, I mucho sucko at skiing, so we’re hoping for a nice combo of outdoor adventure mixed with sitting by the fire and enjoying peace and quiet!

Here are my five essentials for an early fall or winter getaway:

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  1. A sturdy hiking boot that doesn’t look like a hiking boot.  These can still be worn to a casual dinner.
  2. I don’t know about PSL season, but it’s definitely dry shampoo season!  Dry shampoo helps me eliminate the need to wash my hair everyday- or get rid of the post-flight grease- which is soooo handy when traveling!  I’ve tried a few different kids and would you believe this cheap one from Suave is my favorite for scent and not leaving white streaks in my hair!
  3. Clif energy bars are a favorite among my husband and I.  All-natural ingredients + curbing our hunger without a crash!
  4. Here’s my packing tip for summer & winter.  Lean in close: Pack. Scarves.  You can wear the same outfit for 2 days straight if you change your scarf!  (You’re now questioning my personal hygiene)!
  5.  I’m pretty obsessed with the Kindle Fire HD.  It’s affordable, the battery has a good life, and I can listen to podcasts while I workout, or read a book on the plane.

What do you pack for a fall getaway?  Have you  been to the Canadian Rockies?  Maybe you struggle to wash your hair everyday, too?

**This post contains affiliate links**

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Hotel Breakers at Cedar Point

My honest review

Last weekend I attended a blogging conference at Cedar Point- THE Roller Coaster Capital of the WORLD.  (See Ohio, you are important!)

I was pretty jazzed that as an attendee of the conference I was able to get a sweet rate at the Hotel Breakers at Cedar Point, as well as some tickets to use for HalloWeekend.

So off I went to Sandusky, ALL BY MYSELF, for a weekend of learning (and fun)!

My initial sight of the hotel surprised me.  Seriously?!  Wow!  The hotel was built in 1870, yet it had never made my radar as a travel-obsessed Ohioan.  #thingshavechanged.  The outside reminds you of a northeastern seaside escape.

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The parking was a breeze and the entrance to the hotel is pretty spectacular.  The lighting was dimmed, I assume for their spooky, Halloween theme, so I didn’t get any good photos.

The outside of the hotel is spotless.   I loved the clean beach, the view of the parks, and the pool/kiddee pool area.  Next year I’m definitely bringing the whole family.

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Room

The hotel just went through a major overhaul in 2015.  The rooms are fresh and clean!  I had a 2 double beds room with fantastic views of the park!  At times though, the room felt a little noisy.  I heard the screams of riders on the Top-Thrill dragster until close to midnight!  However, I just turned on the fan unit in my room and that helped drown out the noise. It was never so loud I couldn’t have slept.

Conference friends that stayed in the king suites said that most of them faced towards the beach and have a screened-in porch!  These rooms reminded me of beach vacations we’ve taken to the Southeast. I saw many families out on their screen-in patios playing cards and boardgames.  How’s that for time well spent?

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I liked that there were 2 chairs at the desk- and there was a microwave and a fridge in my room!

The bathroom was a little on the small side, but the vanity had plenty of room for make-up and hair accessories (Major A+ from this lady).  Bath & Body Works toiletries were an exciting bonus!

The only thing the room was missing was a coffeepot.  I’m sure the hotel would like you to visit the in-house Starbucks (I did!), but I could really use an in-room cup of joe before I hit the sights of others.  🙂

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The view from my room- really spectacular!

Location, Location, Location

The resort’s location really can’t be beat.  It took me under 10 minutes to walk from my room to the park entrance next to the WindSeeker.  This would be the ideal place to stay for families visiting Cedar Point that have younger children or grandma & grandpa with you, as it’s easy to get a hand stamp and go back and forth from the park.

Restaurants

The hotel has restaurants to suit every budget and lifestyle.  There is a Perkins and a Japanese steakhouse just off of the Lobby.  I dined twice at the T.G.I. Fridays because I was able to sit at the bar and be served right away.

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The weekend I visited was designated as a HalloWeekend.  After 7 pm all of the creepy clowns, zombies, and ghosts make their appearance.  The area by FrontierLand is full of fog machines and it is difficult to see.  You can purchase a “No Boo” necklace for $10 for younger ones who don’t want approached by one of the costumed workers.  I think that you’ll have to know your kids— my 6 yr old would not be able to venture into FrontierLand with or without the “No Boo” necklace.

If you do have little ones, The Great Pumpkin Fest is currently taking place on Saturdays from 11am-7pm.  The Planet Snoopy area includes Trick-or-Treat, crafts, and a pumpkin patch.  I saw lots of small children with big smiles lining up with their bags of candy!

All in all, I had a fantastic weekend at the Hotel Breakers.  I can’t wait to go back next year and take the entire family!

Check Current Rates!

Have you stayed at any of the properties owned by Cedar Point?  

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*This is not a sponsored post, but may contain affiliate links.  All opinions are my own.*

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A walking tour of Pittsburgh – with kids

{Bus and Subway is optional}

Andrew Carnegie said, “Pittsburgh entered the core of my heart when I was a boy and cannot be torn out.”

It only takes a foot tour of downtown Pittsburgh to fall in love with the architecture, the city scape, and the river views.  A city that has survived the rise and fall of steel is one that charmed our young family on our weekend stay. My hope is that I can give you a taste of this modern city, one that surprised me.

A graphic designer I am NOT, but here is a map of the route our family took (but I corrected it to make better use of the subway and bus- we walked a LOT)

pgh-mapThe Allegheny County Courthouse was a great place for us to begin because it was a brief walk from our room at the Doubletree by Hilton.  Designed by H.H. Richardson, one of the most prominent American architects of the late 19th century, the courthouse reminded me of a building you’d see in London or Oxford, not in a midwestern city.  Tours are provided of the interior during weekdays, but we arrive until Friday evening.

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Take a glance northeast and you can’t help but see the US Steel Building.  The 64-story tower is Pittsburgh‘s tallest building- and the COR-TEN steel used on the exterior causes the rusty color.

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Next up is the City-County Building.  Here you’ll find a statue of Richard Caliguiri, who was Pittsburgh’s mayor from 1977 until his death in 1988.  They decided to put his statue on the steps of this building because he was often seen here talking to people.  The entry way to this building really is breathtaking.  Don’t forget to look up!

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If you position yourself to walk down Forbes Ave to the west, you’ll eventually run into Market Square.  This area was just renovated in 2011 and contains one of Pittsburgh’s most noteworthy dining locales, Primanti Brothers.  Primanti Brothers has been in business since the 1930s and now has 17 locations all over the city of Pittsburgh.  They are famous for appearing on Man v. Food because of the way they stack their coleslaw and french fries ON the sandwich.  I’ll be honest, my husband and I weren’t impressed with the Pittsburgher (their #2 best seller- after beer), but I’ve heard good things about the sandwiches made from cold cut meats.  So, maybe we should give it another go?  I see there are now 3 Ohio locations (no way!)

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When you’re on this corner by Primantis you follow a alleyway that opens to the PPG place.  PPG Place is a 6 city block complex and obelisk.  The PPG buildings have over 231 glass spires all covered in mirror glass.  The spires are to represent the way three rivers come together at Pittsburgh.  In the winter, this area houses an outdoor skating rink, and in the summer it’s the perfect place for children to cool off in the fountains.  Our boys loved the rhythm of the fountains, it was definitely a highlight!

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From here I’d recommend heading towards the Gateway Metro Stop- but instead getting on a bus and taking it to W Carson/Duquesne Incline.  Buses in the city cost $2.50 per adult and we’re free for our kids.  $5 to save your legs (and let your Primanti Bros settle)!

The Duquesne Incline is a must-do for families staying in Pittsburgh.  There are actually two inclines, the Monongahela and the Duquesne, but I’d researched that the Duquesne offers the better views. Oh, it did not disappoint.  The trip up was a little hairy.  I may or may not have told my husband to stop pointing out how old the incline was or how rotten the boards were (aaahh), but the view was so so worth it.  Also, total cost- $12.50.  (Adults were $5 each, our 6 yr old was $2.50 roundtrip).  You won’t find anything else this cheap in Pittsburgh.

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Now it’s time to burn off your Primantis so when exiting the Incline, cross the road and walk towards the Fort Pitt Bridge back into the city.  Pittsburgh is truly a city of bridges and crosses one of these giants makes you appreciate the city a little more (and maybe understand all the traffic drama we had getting into the city?).

After crossing the bridge, take the ramp down into Point State Park.  This area is designated as a National Historic Landmark.  The land was considered a strategic location in the Ohio Valley.  The French built a fort here.  The English built a fort here.  The Native Americans were here first (obviously).  The park was renovated in 2006 and now contains an outline of Fort Duquesne and Fort Pitt into the grassy area.  Our boys loved the fountain, especially when the wind would pick up and we’d all get a good soaking!  It really is a pretty area.  If we weren’t running after 3 little ones, I think Mr Yoder Toter and I would lay around on a blanket and… read a book (;)).

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After you enjoy the park (and maybe take a nap), work your way back to the Gateway Metro Stop.  From here you can take a free subway ride to the North Shore.  It will save you more walking– and it’s FREE.  We used the T to get from our Steel Plaza stop to the North Shore. On a Sunday morning it was nearly vacant, so much so that at first we worried it was closed!

Geek alert- Forget Heinz Field and PNC Park, I wanted to see Mr. Rogers.  The 2009 Sculpture and Arch is called “Tribute to Children” and now takes the place of where a bridge was removed.  Mr. Fred Rogers was from nearby LaTrobe, PA. There’s even a speaker in the arch playing music and stories from Mr. Rogers.  I wish I could put a heart eye emoji, I definitely got verklempt when it started playing, “It’s you I like.

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I can’t think of a better way to end your evening in Pittsburgh than walking by PNC Park when there is an evening home game.  I’m a sucker for the sounds and smells of the ballpark, anyhow, and this is one of the best.  Even better if you pay for admission and can watch the sights of the city as the sun fades.

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If you get back to the Wood Street Metro stop you could either continue walking to your hotel or take the subway to the nearest location.

If you go:

Stay

We enjoyed our stay at the Doubletree by Hilton.  The room was huge and the beds were comfortable for the cost.  If you’re budget allows, I’d stay somewhere closer to Market Square that includes breakfast, like the Embassy Suites or Hilton Garden Inn.

Eat

We had a yummy pizza dinner at Milano’s on 6th Street.  The place was casual and affordable, perfect for kids.  Try the garlic knots!

With the kids

This was another trip that proved to us that the best $100 we ever spent was this lightweight, affordable, double umbrella stroller.  It says it’s only rated for 40 lbs per seat but we can easily push our 46 lb, 6-yr-old (plus another kiddo) and the thing is still in one piece!  It also made it to Australia and back in the underside of the plane!

 

Much of the information on Pittsburgh’s architecture and art came from a FREE downloadable guide provided by the Pittsburgh Art Council.  You can find that guide HERE.

Have you ever been to Pittsburgh?  Maybe you have an emotional soft spot for Mr. Rogers?  What’s your opinion on Primanti Bros?

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*This is not a sponsored post.  All opinions are my own*

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No thanks, Pittsburgh: Your museums cost too much for my young family

I booked our last minute trip to Pittsburgh without doing something I preach over and over:  Cost planning.

I used Chase Rewards points we’d been accruing for YEARS and booked the Doubletree by Hilton for a whopping $57 total.  I had a total budget for the weekend, but completely overlooked the cost of experiences.

A few blogs and friends mentioned some different museums.  Which was all hunky dory UNTIL I looked at the prices.  How are these museum prices family-friendly?!

Let’s review the total prices to visit each museum for our family of 5:

  • Pittsburgh Children’s Museum: $74
  • Warhol Museum: $60
  • Phipps Conservatory: $63
  • National Aviary (for entrance + one show): $92
  • Carnegie Science Museum: $111.60

A weekend at the museums could literally set you back just over $400.

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I haven’t even fed my children yet.  Or paid for city parking.

Guys, I am a free-market capitalist.  I don’t want anything for nothing.    But, holy heck, this is not even realistic.  I look at these prices and think, “no wonder people think that travel isn’t worth it…or completely unattainable.”

On top of that, the Children’s Museum, the Phipps Conservatory, AND the National Aviary all charge for my 2 YEAR OLD.  It’s not significantly lower, either.  The National Aviary price for admission + one show is $19 for adults and $18 for kids 2 and up.  Geez, thanks for the $1 markdown for my child who may be sleeping in the stroller throughout our visit.

I really hate sounding angry, but I was so disappointed.  I’m not typically a museum person (especially when I’m wanting to read signs and kids are eager to go from station to station), but I’m sad that it literally costs so much for a visitor to see the inside of a building.  I know these museums and zoos have lights to keep on, and try to persuade people to get memberships, but the typical middle-class, out of town family, is going to just stay away.

So as much as I enjoyed our time in Pittsburgh, I kind of have a bad taste in my mouth.

Maybe our next trip will be to Washington, D.C. where most of the museums are free…  you know, courtesy of my tax dollars. (I crack myself up)!

What do you think?  Please tell me I’m not the only one thinking this is absurd!

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The Good Zoo is a good zoo for children

I’d never heard of Good Zoo until I read a blog (ahem:  that’s your warning to keep reading blogs!) where the writer shared about the zoo and their Australian animals.

Knowing we’d yet to cross zoo off of our Summer Bucket List AND being a complete sucker for the word Australia, I figured that it’d be as good as time as ever (see what I did there?) to make a roadtrip stop at a newfound destination.

For most of us Ohioans, Oglebay is a household word.  The 1,700 acre resort just outside of Wheeling, West Virginia offers summer and winter activities and is well-known for it’s Christmas Festival of Lights.

We arrived just around lunch time and purchased our tickets.  The zoo is priced for families at just $33 for our entire brood (parking was free + C was free because she is under 3).

We packed a picnic lunch and had no problem entering the zoo with our sandwiches and drinks.  It appeared as though they do offer a lunch counter, but it was not open on the day we visited.  We were competing with no one to get picnic table space, I’m not sure what a normal weekend is like, but a Friday while school is in session was definitely quiet.

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I loved this zoo because it’s highly walkable for little kids.  We had the double stroller with us, but for our ages of kids we wouldn’t have required it.  And because the zoo is in a park-like and hilly setting, many of the areas and walkways were shaded!  (Thank you, thank you- no Coppertone required)!

The zoo offers only 50 species of animals, but what I enjoyed about it was you could get through it in a day and didn’t feel rushed to get from one thing to the next.  We all know that the attention span of a 2 and 4 year old is about 2 hours TOPS, and we were able to fully see the zoo (and eat lunch) in about that timeframe.

The Australian area has a gated space where you can walk in with the kangaroos.  The adjoined Lorikeet Landing was something I was really looking forward to, but it wasn’t open on our visit.  Waaa.

The zoo also has cheetahs and farm animals and a red panda!  We’ve been learning about the continents in homeschool and this trip helped cement some of those geography concepts while also reminding our kids what kind of fun (and funny) animals live in different parts of the world.

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Me:  “So kids, what was your favorite part of the zoo?”

J:  The train…and the playground

O: The hills- and those like monkeys things.  (the tamarins)

C:  The elephants!!!  (there weren’t any elephants!)

Another day of making memories with our kids!  The Good Zoo was good to us.

 

What’s your favorite zoo?

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** This is not a sponsored post, but may contain affiliate links**

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