5 Ways to Explore the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument in St. Augustine, Florida

The oldest masonry fort in the United States, Castillo de San Marcos National Monument was built from 1672 to 1695 (with various interrupted breaks due to disease and conflict) to guard St Augustine, the first permanent European settlement, from both pirates and English troops. The fort was made from local coquina shell stone quarried in the area that is now Anastasia State Park and is up to 19 feet thick in some ocean side walls. The shell-stone walls helped up against cannon firing and helped the Spanish protect the fort.   In 1821, the United States acquired Florida from Spain and renamed the fort Fort Marion, later adding Florida’s first golf course on the grounds in 1895, and then declared a national monument in 1924. After being deactivated in 1933, the 21 acre fort was used as a US Coast Guard training base during World War II. The fort celebrated its centennial in 2016.

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Enjoying a New England Fall With Kids Without Looking at Leaves

I love that I grew up in New England, and recent travels have confirmed I will always be a New Englander. One of my favorite things about living in New England is the change in seasons, and there is (arguably) nothing more beautiful than fall in New England. However, I would argue that it takes a more “mature” desire to spend significant time looking at foliage. I don’t know too many toddlers, children, or teenagers who enjoy going for long drives in the country just to look at leaves. If your children are anything like mine, they like to do things, especially when the weather is still warm enough to be outside for extended periods of time.

Here is a list of some of my family’s favorite things to do in the Northeast during the fall and links to full, detailed blog post. Yes, you’ll still see plenty of beautiful foliage while traveling to these spots, but your children will be happily engaged, entertained, and energized:

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Highlights of 2017

My 2017 was filled with lots of fun travels. My family and I stayed mainly in New England, but we still managed to cover over 5,000 miles from northern Maine to New York City, and many places in between. For all of my new readers and followers, I thought I would highlight some of my favorite places and my most liked (and shared) posts from 2017:

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Newport, Rhode Island

Growing up on the South Shore of Massachusetts, and having an avid sailor for a father, my family took many a day trip to visit Newport, Rhode Island. I can remember touring the mansions as a child, admiring the boats at the Newport Boat Show with my dad, and enjoying the beaches, restaurants, and various outdoor recreational activities during the summer. As an adult, I have returned to Newport many time, with my husband for a weekend getaway and with girlfriends as an escape from the duties of motherhood. Recently,  my family spent Thanksgiving weekend celebrating the start to the holiday season in the “City By the Sea.” You can read all about our holiday celebrations here.

However, you would need months (possibly years)  to explore every place in the city, so I think Newport should be on everyone’s list; better yet, if you live within a few hours, it’s worth making visits each season. The city is filled with visitors during the summer months and you absolutely should visit during the summer. However, there is also plenty to do during the winter.

If you need help planning a visit to Newport, DiscoverNewport.org is the perfect planning tool. It’s extremely easy to navigate and full of ideas based on your preferences for activities, food, accommodations, and budget. There is also a massive directory for weddings planning. The online calendar was up to date and quickly linked me to websites and phone numbers. It also covers more than “just” the city of Newport, by including both Newport and Bristol Counties. I’ve organized suggestion based on two popular areas of town:

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Fort Adams in Newport, Rhode Island

This is the 3rd post in a series detailing my recent visit to Newport, Rhode Island. To read about celebrating the holiday season in Newport, click here and to read about the International Tennis Hall of Fame, click here.

Fort Adams has the honor of being both the largest fort in the United States and the only fort never attacked. Although, because it was never attacked or “officially in use”, it is not part of the National Parks program like many other forts throughout America. Fort Adams, located in Newport, Rhode Island, is one of twenty fortresses built after the War of 1812, took over 30 years (from 1820-1850) to complete, and is named after the second American President, John Adams. It was most effectively used as a training facility for West Point graduates before their official postings.

The entire complex is a state park and open to the public, free of charge.  The public is welcome to use the restrooms, walk (leashed) dogs, fish, picnic, and even use the public beach. Sail Newport, housed on the property, rents sailboats and also gives lesson.

On a recent visit to Newport, my family took the 90 minute, guided tours. We loved it. All of us, adults and children alike, found it interactive, informative, and even a little scary.  Steve Marino, our tour guide, made sure to engage our children throughout the tour.  You’ll need to start in the Visitor’s Center to purchase tickets. They offer a AAA discount. There are restrooms and a gift shop with snacks, drinks, and souvenirs. Strollers are allowed on most aspects of the tour, and you can leave strollers outside some “indoor” and tight spaces. 

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Fort Sumter National Park in Charleston, SC

There is plenty of architecture, southern cuisine, and water views to check out in Charleston, South Carolina but no trip would be complete without reliving a major turning point in our country’s history.

Fort Sumter National Monument is the only structure on the man-made island, which was created in the early 1800s as a defense for the city of Charleston. In April of 1861, the Confederate army bombed the still incomplete Fort, signaling the start of the Civil War.

Operated by the National Parks Service and Fort Sumter Tours, access to the island is by tour boats docked at both Liberty Square or Patriot’s Point. I would leave from the Liberty Square Visitor Center so you can spend some time checking out displays which chronicle the history of the fort and check out a small gift shop. Make sure you stamp your National Parks PassportNote: There are restrooms located at both locations and I would recommend using them before boarding the boat to the island. The Visitor’s Center at Liberty Square is located on the second floor, but there is an elevator.

The 40-minute narrated boat ride to the fort explains many details about the start of the Civil War.  Once you’re on the island, you can explore the fort on your own. There are park rangers stationed at various points to give short lectures and to answer any questions. There are also placards that give detailed information about structures and objects.  I would plan on spending 45-60 minutes at the fort. When you go, be sure to look out for:

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