Chicago Walking Tour

We had a chance to explore the city for a few hours and we got tons of photos as the city is so vibrant and full of life. In addition, it is so windy hence it’s called The Windy City. lol

Tall, historic buildings of Chicago
Trump Tower
Chicago Theatre
Chicago Riverwalk.
Navy Pier
Chicago Skyline
The Bean

Experiencing the Amish Way of Life

I remember the first time I saw an Amish couple. We were in Port Authority Terminal waiting for the bus that would take us to Niagara Falls. They looked pretty normal, black clothes paired with hats yet they remind me of milkmaids, of anything that was old and traditional. They on the other hand didn’t use phones as most of us do while waiting in the terminal, which I later found out that they don’t really own one.

We got the chance to visit the biggest and oldest Amish community in the country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. We availed of the tour to the farmhouse and the Village for 12 USD. Here, one will learn through a tour guide how the Amish people live day by day. W were inside a typical Amish house.

The Amish community practice the virtues of simplicity, family, community and humility. They keep themselves out of the limelight.

Amish kitchen. They live by simplicity which means they don’t use electricity. At night, they would use make shift gas lamps.
Amish bedroom. On the right you see children clothes which are made and sewn by the females. Their clothes style and color are made based on status just like a male’s beard and mustache determine his status in the community.

They raise their own livestock and make their own food.

And they have their own school which teaches fundamental education and Dutch, German and English languages.

The tour was very informative which made me admire their resilience to stick to traditions despite the fast changing society. Being there was like going back to basics.

Clearwater Beach and Universal Studios

So after the fun rides and attractions in Magic Kingdom and EPCOT, our next itinerary is to experience the sun in the sunshine state. The closest beach from Disney World is Clearwater Beach which is only 45 mins- 1 hour drive from Orlando. We didn’t have a car so we took Uber which was a breeze.

Clearwater Beach, Florida

I didn’t expect the place to be huge with hotels and buildings. We met a couple of friends who relocated to Florida from New York City.

We actually swam and enjoyed the warm water until someone from another group though he/she saw a shark making us vanish rapidly from the water. lol (Sharks are actually common sighting in Florida waters). We spent the day strolling along the shores and looking for good restaurants. We found a lot of them actually.

The next day we were supposed to go home but due to a typhoon in NYC, our flight was cancelled and rebooked. A blessing in disguise indeed as we booked a day trip to Universal Studios in Orlando.

UNIVERSAL STUDIOS

Who would have thought right? Unplanned vacations are the best!

Some attractionsin Universal Studios they don’t allow phones or they would just ask you to leave belongings to lockers. We went to The Mummy which was scary! We rode the bus in the Fast and The Furious and we went inside the vault of the Gringotts Bank in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Diagon Alley at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

The Transformers simulator was also a blast.

And we get to watch Universal Studios’ parade of stars. lol

The Happiest Place On Earth

Yes! Finally, Disneyland! My daughter’s only wish for her 7th birthday was to visit Disneyland and without second thoughts we let her wish come true just like fairytales. Also, the adults are a bit excited to visit the happiest place on earth. It’s not just for kids okay? So last year, we went to Disney World Resort in Florida to visit 2 theme parks there (Magic Kingdom and Epcot) and spent a day in Clearwater Beach in Florida. But what would have been a 4 day trip was magically extended to 6 days! Our plane going back was cancelled due to a tropical storm in NY leaving us no choice but to visit Universal Studios in Florida. lol

Just a bit background, there are 2 States in United States with Disney Parks. California has Disneyland and Florida has Disney World Resort which has 8 theme parks namely: Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Theme Park, Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park, Disney Springs, ESPN Wide of World of Sports Complex. It is highly advisable to spend a day at each them park since there are lots of rides and things to do. A day wont be enough actually if you want to try all the rides and attractions. A park ticket must be purchased beforehand through online on Disney’s website.

New York to Orlando, Florida is approximately a three- hour flight, luckily there is no time difference between the 2 states.

We checked-in at the Springhill Suites by Marriott in Orlando, Florida. Note that one can either purchase hotel accommodations inside Disney World. They are a bit expensive given the location and attractions so we decided to choose one that is outside the Disney World Resort. Our hotel was just 10 minutes away via Uber to the park entrance. From the airport, it took us 30 minutes to the hotel though. Florida’s streets are so vast though if you compare it to New York City’s grid-like streets.

Late night yogurt after we landed at the hotel

We visited 2 Disney Parks during our visit, the first day, we went to Magic Kingdom and the second day we visited EPCOT. There is only one entrance to Disney World, all visitors regardless of which park go through the same entrance. And from the entrance, you ride your way to the parks through the monorail.

Inside the monorail. Feels like riding the subway.lol
View of the Cinderella Castle from the monorail.

MAGIC KINGDOM

Most of the photos you see about Disney (especially those with fireworks) is the Cinderella Castle which is located in Magic Kingdom. This is the most visited of all parks as this is where all the magic happens! Kids and the feeling kids (including me) love this park. Most Disney characters I grew up with are here.

Entrance to Magic Kingdom

Upon entering the park, we were greeted by the parade of Disney princesses. Since this was a time when Disney has just reopened after the pandemic, there was no hugging and meeting with characters. Apparently, these magical characters still has to practice social distancing. lol

Disney Princesses meet and greet at the balcony.
The most fun rides we had at the park were the Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The park’s rides were mostly for kids but we enjoyed the Jungle Cruise and the Pirates of the Caribbean
Before getting wet at the Splash Mountain
Big Mountain Railroad

We most probably rode most of the rides and a day won’t be enough if you want to experience all the rides and attractions in Magic Kingdom.

One of the most memorable was dining at Cinderella’s Royal Table. It was like dining in a castle!

While waiting for our table.
The food was a delight 🙂
Cinderella made an appearance when we were eating.lol

And to cap our day at the MAGIC KINGDOM,

DAY 2 We went to EPCOT, short for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. But prior to this, we had our daughter’s birthday breakfast at Chef Mickey’s

Minnie Mouse is also practicing social distancing

Chef Mickey’s was fun. Seeing Mickey, Pluto, Minnie and Goofy in chef costumes and singing songs is something every kid (also adult) would wish for. lol

EPCOT with it very large golf ball

At first I thought EPCOT attractions and rides was mostly for adults but then it’s not. My daughter is a fan of Elsa and Anna in Frozen and she was so happy seeing them.

One of out favorite rides was the Soarin’ Around the World attraction where you get to go to different tourist attractions all over the world through a flight simulator. I remember we were the only ones screaming Wooow! ahhhhh! ohhhhh… or so we thought?!

EPCOT also has the World Showcase which shows 11 pavilions representing countries around the world, and with each pavilion, there are also attractions and restaurants and drinks! It was so huge that we were not able to visit all the pavilions.

This is France. One of the attraction here was the Beauty and the Beast Sing along. It was so funny as everyone was singing!

We did lots in EPCOT but due to severe excitement, I wasn’t able to snap decent photos

The day was once again capped with fireworks just like Magic Kingdom. We promised to be back again and try a different park, after all, there is 6 more left.

A Glimpse of the Nation’s Capital: Washington D.C.

Washington DC has always been confusing to me as there is also a state in the US named Washington. So here’s the thing, the state of Washington is on the west coast, a 5 hour flight from New York City but Washington D.C. (aka District of Columbia) is just an hour flight from New York. It is the nation’s capital city and federal district which houses the executive (president), legislative (congress) and the judiciary (supreme court) branches of the government of the United States. While Washington State on the other hand houses those red delicious Washington apples. lol

Lucky for us, we got the chance to visit the nation’s capital and made a little side trip to Maryland, Virginia and Philadelphia as these are close to each other.

The photo below illustrates the route we took from New York City to Washington DC. I remember making a pit stop at Maryland. For this trip, we did a rental as we have a friend with us who can drive.

Our first stop was the Lincoln Memorial and it was very surreal for all of us. Imagine seeing it only in movies like Transformers and the National Treasure but now we’re here! It’s actually a memorial made in honor of Abraham Lincoln, the16th president of the United States who had a huge contribution to abolishing slavery through the Emancipation Proclamation. Martin Luther King Jr delivered his “I have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Across the Lincoln Memorial is the Washington Monument built to honor George Washington, the first president of the United States.

Photo of the Washington Monument taken from the Lincoln Memorial. We went there after the US eased its restrictions from the pandemic, as you can see the place is almost isolated.
Closer look of the Washington Monument with the gang 🙂

We got a glimpse of the White House from afar.

We were kinda hoping that the president (Trump at that time) would show up from the balcony. lol

Then we went to the Capitol after. The scenery reminds me of the series Designated Survivor 🙂

US Capitol

The visit made it clear to me that the White House and the Capitol are two different entities I always confuse the two as they seem to look alike. From this photo, on the left side is the Smithsonian Museum (although not seen in the photo), it was closed during that time due to the pandemic.

We had a free accommodation set up in Virginia and on our way there, we past by the Pentagon (sorry no photo).

Going back to New York, we made a stop at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in DC. It is the largest Roman Catholic church in North America and one of the largest in the world.

Then we made a little side trip to Maryland’s National Harbor along the Potomac River.

Another side trip we made was in Georgetown, a quaint town in Maryland where the historic Georgetown University is located.

Last side trip was in Philadelphia, a city in Pennsylvania where the Liberty Bell (iconic symbol of American Independence) and the Independence Hall (were the US Constitution was ratified).

Philadelphia City Hall

The trip was very informative. Coming here was like a two- day educational tour since we learned a lot about the nation’s history.