LYNCHBURG, TN

My first time in Tennessee! First stop was the Jack Daniels Distillery which is in the small town of Lynchburg. This is the same exact location of where Jack Daniels all started. When I entered the visitor center, I was willing to pay for a tour fee, but I soon realized there wasn't any fee for the tour. There is only a fee if you want to do a sampling. I opted in for just the tour, which lasted for approximately an hour. The tour is opened daily between 9:00am - 4:30pm and you will not be disappointed in any way! At the visitor center, they sign you up to get a number and once your number is called, you go outside and wait for the tour to begin. From there, a bus picks you up and drives you through the town square and then you get drop off at the place where it all started. The guide takes you through the factory where they process their wheat, rye, barley and corn. One of the most interesting parts about the tour is where they get the water to make the whiskey. It comes straight from a spring that flows out of a limestone cave. It's the same spring that Jack used when he first started making whiskey 140 years ago. Lynchburg is in a dry county, which means you cannot buy alcohol at any of the local stores. The only place at the visitor center, so make sure you pick up a bottle before you leave. For an extra ten bucks, they can engrave your name on the bottle! 

ATLANTA, GA

Hello fellow readers! I'm a few posts behind, since I've been visiting family and friends in Chicago & Wisconsin for the holiday. I'm back now at full speed. After Savannah, Georgia, I headed to Atlanta. I only had a limited time in Atlanta so the main attractions I wanted to see were the Georgia Aquarium and Piedmont Park.

Georgia Aquarium (Pictured Above) is by far the best aquarium I've been to. There, you can see up close in person, sea otters, beluga whales, penguins, starfish, whale sharks, and my favorite, the weedy sea dragon. A cool aspect about the aquarium is that it is the largest in the western hemisphere and the only aquarium outside of Asia that houses whale sharks. The most spectacular attraction is the whale shark theatre which you can see the giant whale sharks swim before you in the 6.3 million gallon tank exhibit. The aquarium also focuses on research and conservation to better our sea life creatures. 

Piedmont Park reminds me of Central Park in New York City. The park was redesigned by the son of the architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed New York's Central Park hence the resemblance. Its numerous paths are perfect for jogging and while doing so you can catch a beautiful view of the city skyline. 

Another awesome attraction is the World of Coca Cola, which is literally right next door to the aquarium. You can taste cokes from all around the world and learn everything there is to know about Coke. On a side note, the only time I'll enjoy a coke is when I'm watching a movie and eating my popcorn. Cherry coke, only please. 

 

SAVANNAH, GA

I always wanted to visit Savannah because I heard of the southern charm and beautiful old city. Everything I heard and what I saw, was beyond what I can imagine. The weather was cooling off as I arrived and that night, I went into town to visit Savannah School of Arts, countless of parks (favorite: Forsyth Park). The next morning, I went for stroll at Forsyth Park. Hands down, one of the most charming and beautiful parks I've been to. The oaks covered with spanish moss were glorious! If you're lucky, you can stumble upon a secret garden or gardens down Jones St.

I had some amazing food in Savannah, for Shrimp and Grits go to the Public Kitchen and Bar. If you want to eat somewhere that will be memorable, I definitely recommend eating at Mrs.Wilkes Dining Room. It's only opened from 11am - 2pm. This family owned southern diner serves their food family style, meaning you're seated amongst ten people at your table and you share the food. Everything was excellent. From their biscuits, to lemon cucumber, mash potatoes, baked okra, and the best fried chicken I've ever had in my life. You will always remember this meal. Thanksgiving dinner comes early when you're eating at Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room. Furthermore, I had amazing peking duck noodle soup at the Flying Monk Noodle Bar and if you're not in the mood for soup you can't go wrong with their delicious bbq crispy pork and ginger rice. I love my tea and coffee. I came across Maté Factor Cafe. They use organic maté leaves which are grown in Southern America in their drinks and  it brings out the most delicious flavors in their tea or coffee. I would recommend anything that they serve, but my favorites are the Maya Mocha and their Fresh Green Yerba Tea.

If you have time and want to see some nearby points of interest I highly recommend stopping by the Wormsloe Historic Site and Fort Pulaski National Monument. Both are about 30 minutes from downtown Savannah. The main attraction at the Wormsloe Historic SIte is the 1.5 mile oak lined road that you can drive or walk down to get to the plantation (bottom photo above). It feels like you're in a scene from "The Notebook" movie. Fort Pulaski National Monument is a masonry fortification that was built on an island at the mouth of the Savannah river in 1847. This is where the Union Army successfully tested rifled canons against the enemy during the American Civil War. If you walk around the outside of it you can see a large amount of canon ball holes that riddled the fort's walls.

Ending this post with a quote from Forrest Gump since part of it was filmed here. "Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."

ORLANDO, FL

My first stop in Orlando was at Disney Springs! The Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar at Disney Springs debuted around the end of September 2015; the Hangar Bar is themed after Indiana Jones and I would say it's the coolest venue at Disney Springs. The homemade pretzels are served with a side of their semi-spicy mustard and beer infused cheese. So good! Other than that, you can't go wrong with any of their drinks and for those who don't like alcohol, they have a variety of teas and delicious fruity drinks to choose from. The food menu consists of appetizers that are very sharable. Seating is first come first serve and the environment casual and relaxed. There is indoor and outdoor seating (beautiful view of the lake). If you order the "Anything Goes", all the bartenders will shout out "ANYTHING GOES". Do make it a point to swing by this bar whenever you're in Orlando, and one of the good thing about Disney Springs is that you don't have to pay for parking.

For those first timers who will be going to Disney World in the near future, here are some tips for you. November is a very good month to go since the Christmas decorations are up and people are very jolly, but when are people not jolly at Disney... it is the "happiest place on Earth!" I believe that buying the 2 day hopper pass is well worth the price. You get to enjoy the parks within 14 days of when you first visit. I purchased the 2 day hopper pass and went back to back (Thursday and Friday). Pre-purchase your tickets at the Disney's website so you can get your tickets for "will call" or have them mailed to you if you are buying them weeks in advance. Make it a point to download the "My Disney Experience - Walt Disney World" app so you can view the wait times and reserve for the "FastPass+" in advance. Below was my itinerary to give you an idea so you can fully enjoy the four theme parks within 2 days.

Day 1:

  • Park at Epcot (parking is $20). Arrive when it opened at 9 am (hours varies depending on the season).
  • Take the bus to Animal Kingdom
  • Rides/attractions that are a must: Expedition Everest (my fave), Kilimanjaro Safaris, Kali River Rapids, Dinosaurs
  • Take the bus back to Epcot
  • Reserve your Fastpass+ for these rides/attractions at Epcot: Test Track, Spaceship Earth, Mission Space, Soaring
  • Enjoy the food from around the World at Epcot (Germany and French quarters were my favorites) and stay until the light/fireworks show (if you're too tired, save the light and fireworks show at Epcot for the next day).

In order to experience the boat, monorail, and bus (all the complimentary rides to each park that Disney has to offer when you park in their lot), make it a point to park at Epcot. If you don't want to pay for parking, a lot of hotels around the area provide complimentary shuttle buses straight to Epcot.

Day 2:

  • Park at Epcot at 9 am. Take the boat to Hollywood Studios.
  • Rides/attractions that are a must: Tower of Terror, Rock 'N' Roller Coaster, Toy Story Mania
  • Swing by the 50's Prime Time Cafe to enjoy the best Peanut Butter & Jelly Milk Shake
  • Take the bus to Magic Kingdom
  • Reserve your Fastpass+ for these rides/attractions at Magic Kingdom: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Space Mountian, Peter Pan's Flight, Indiana Jones, Splash Mountian, Jungle Cruise
  • Note that you can only reserve 3 Fastpass+ per day, however, once you use all 3, you can get additional (I didn't try it, but that's what I read)
  • Casey's Corner has the most delicious mini corn dogs and don't forget to try the Dole Whip Float near the Jungle Cruise
  • Definitely stay for the firework show that happens in front of the Cinderella's Castle at Magic Kingdom...it's mind blowing and very magical.
  • Take the monorail back to Epcot to enjoy the fireworks and light show. Time varies, but that night, it was showcasing at 10 pm.

Let me know if you have any questions or need any recommendations!

Other than Disney World in Orlando, there are hundreds of activities for those who love adventure. Example, head on over to Wekiva Springs State Park to go swimming in the natural springs (do swim in the area where swimming is allowed since there are gators that will take off a limp or two. Rent a kayak/canoe at the springs and you can paddle amongst gators and turtles!

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL

It's not every day that you get to see a rocket launch into Space! On October 31st, I had the opportunity to do this while at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. I initially thought this was the best place to view the rocket launch so I paid the $50+ admission fee, boy was I wrong. As I entered the Kennedy Space Center "viewing area", I was quite disappointed as it was very dull. I was expecting somewhat of a view of the launch pad, high above, inside one of the many buildings that I saw at the space center. However, instead you're sitting outside on bleachers in the hot sun in what feels like a back alley with a fence and trees directly in front of you. You're only able to see the rocket once it's high enough in the sky. Who thought that this was a great idea? NASA, if you're reading this, I bet its the least of your problems, but please make a better viewing area at the center. For those who want to get a "full experience", I would suggest paying for the VIP viewing area (which was sold out way in advance so I couldn't even get tickets).

If you're on a budget and want to see the rocket launch from Cape Canaveral, drive around and park at destinations such as "Cocoa Beach Pier" along any public beach in the area. You will probably have a way better view than the Space Center. However, there is a plus to paying for admission at the center. You get to experience a space shuttle ride simulator, it's as close to the real thing as you're going to get. It's pretty cool.

Can you guys spot the rocket amongst the clouds image? If you look close enough, there's a tiny red flare. It's actually quite large despite how small it looks. As the rocket ascended into the sky, you can feel the tremendous rumble of the rocket booster. Do check out the website https://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/events.aspx for the next launch and many other things you can do at the center. Hopefully, you will have a better viewing experience!