When grandson Patrick turned 10, we decided our thing would be "Patrick & Nana Adventures." How many new sights could we see before he became 18? Hint - we visited 22 states and saw hundreds of sights!
New Jersey area: Pat's highlight was buying a cake at Carlo's Bakery in Paducah (Buddy Valastro's "The Cake Boss" store!). We took a local train from town to town. We stayed at a hotel in the New York City harbor and ferried over to tour Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. We drove to the Jersey Shore to swim in the ocean; then on to the Delaware Gap in Pennsylvania to swim in it's mountain lake. We went from national parks to dinners at places like Johnny Rockets.
Washington, D.C. area: We stayed at the Washington Hotel and took a bus tour of the city. We went, during the day, to the White House, Capitol, and to visit all the memorials, including the Viet Nam Wall, Lincoln's Memorial and the Washington Monument. We drove to Arlington, VA to the national cemetery to see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and JFK's grave. One day we even drove to Baltimore, MD to see a Midieval Times performance.
Out West: We drove across the U.S. from Chicago to South Dakota to see the Badlands and Mt. Rushmore, where we were on July 4. We visited the outdoor movie set for Dances with Wolves and enjoyed a chuckwagon dinner with a live show. Pat learned how to make a rope. We saw the Town of 1812 and visited the site for the Battle of Bighorn, where Custer died. We went down into Sitting Bull's Cave. We spent a night in Billings, Montana and then took the magnificently scary Bear Tooth Pass through the mountain tops into Wymoming. We spent a night in Deadwood, eating dinner in a casino. We visited Reptile World and a bear conservancy. We stayed at Skyline Ranch and went horseback riding up in the mountains. We spent three nights at Yellowstone National Park and saw magnificent sights -- and we continued visiting tourist sites all the way back to Wisconsin, including the Corn Palace and (of course) Wall Drugs.
Denver area: We "back stage" toured the Bronco's stadium. We stayed at a hotel where Snoop Dogg was, and met his uncle in the elevator (Patrick thought his "perfume" was a little weird and strong). We went to the Denver Zoo, Denver Aquarium, to a carniverous animal sanctury, and we saw a sunflower farm. Then up to Estes Park in the mountains, the Stanley Hotel (where The Shining was filmed), Boulder, and Central City. We went to Bear Lake and as high up the Rocky Mountain National Park as our car and our ears/headaches would allow. We visited his mother's childhood home and her favorite bookstore -- the Tattered Cover -- and we saw the restaurant I had owned when the kids and I lived in Denver.
Dallas area: We stayed at Great Wolf Lodge in Dallas. We took a carriage ride around the Fort Worth stockyards, bought cowboy hats, saw Billy Bob's Restaurant, and visited the FW Zoo. We went to the infamous Dallas Book Depository, from which JFK was assassinated, and on to the Pierot Museum. We went to see a live rock band, courtesy of my famous guitar-making cousin Buddy Blaze, and we ate dinners and hung out with the other three cousins and my Aunt Kitty. Special dinner at the Cattlemen's Club with their famous (huge) angus steaks!
Memphis, TN area: We took in the famous Beale Street night music scene with dinner at BB King's restaurant, where they had a great live band. Of course, we did the VIP tour of Graceland and saw Elvis Presley's estate and museums. Wow!
Nashville, TN area: Saw the Grand Ole Opry building and had dinner in the downtown music district.
Louisville, KY area: We loved the famous "Fourth Street" experience, with dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe and visits to the local shops.
New Orleans area: We stayed in a quaint hotel in Louisiana's French Quarter and had dinners on Bourbon Street, listening to the street players and live music. We ate beignets as often as possible, and took the St. Charles trolley to the Garden District (Magazine Street and beyond), all the way to the end of the line. We spent hours in the Lafayette Cemetery, with lunch at the Ruby Slipper. We were constantly sight seeing.
Fort Myers, FL area: We spent a lot of time on different beaches, swimming in the ocean, and at "Ding" Darling Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island. Went shelling at Tigertail Beach at Marco Island. Enjoyed live music and great shrimp!
Atlanta, GA: We saw my sister Susan's family and toured Coke World and the Atlanta Acquarium. Lots of walking around downtown to soak in the architecture.
Central U.S.: We stayed in a log cabin in Navoo, IL, where we toured an 1800's Morman village and saw the tabernacle. We visited a winery and drove along the Mississippi River, crossing into Iowa for dinner at Keokuk. We toured my cousin's HUGE farming operation in Prairie City, IL. We went to Mark Twain's Cave in Hannibal, MO and for a riverboat dinner tour of all the sites we had read about together in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. We went to Macomb, Illinois and visited with family in Bushnell.
Chicago, IL: Though it's Patrick's home town, we've been on several adventures there, including to see the Blue Man Group, Midieval Times, the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Nature Convervancy, etc.
The Dells, WI: We invited Grandpa along to the Rick Wilcox Magic Theatre to see him perform live. Wow! We've stayed at Great Wolf, at Kalahari, and other (waterpark) hotels with various family members. We've gone horseback riding there several times, and always enjoyed the petting zoo. A favorite stop: The Deer Park, with over 200 deer, and taking a "Ducks" tour of the lake and community.