Abandoned places, Day Trip, Eastern State Penitentiary, Family Fun, Family Road Trip, Museums, PENNSYLVANIA, Road Trip, Things to do in Philadelphia

Eastern State Penitentiary

Driving through New Jersey

During the Labor Day weekend my son and I decided to take a road trip from New Jersey to Philadelphia, Pa to visit the Eastern State Penitentiary. Google maps calculated that the drive would be 2 hours. We had only two options to drive Route 202 or Highway 95. They both gave us the same distance and time. We went with highway Route 202. Taking this route took us through the back roads of New Jersey. I enjoyed the ride because we discovered so many hidden gems and passed through towns I never even heard of. We passed several dairy farms, corn fields and farm stands. Along the route we passed through: Duke Farms, Profeta Farms, Meadowbrook Farm, and so many more. Beware~Deer Crossing: Be aware and be on watch for deer crossing the roads. We had a few cross the road while we were driving and it was a scare with one of the encounters. So when driving do your speed limit and be mindful of the animals. 

Entering Philadelphia~Eastern State Penitentiary 

The drive to Philadelphia was not as bad as I thought it would be. We arrived at our destination in the time that was estimated. Eastern State Penitentiary is located 2027 Fairmount Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19130 (215) 236-3300We parked across the street from Eastern State Penitentiary and paid $25 for parking. There is a pay machine in the lot that takes credit cards or cash. We placed our ticket in the windshield and headed on our way. Walking up to the prison that was built in the 19th century looked like a medieval castle. The prison was constructed in 1821, opened in 1829 and closed in 1971 and now held as a national landmark. It didn’t look like a place where the most notorious criminals were held. I purchased tickets online prior to our visit. I was told that it would be a $2 difference if I did so. We walked through a tunnel which passed a gift shop of souvenirs you could take home. We showed our tickets and were given audio devices with preset tours of the prison. It was very hot this day and advise to bring water, comfortable shoes and loose clothing. Although we were inside walking to different sections of the prison, the sun was a scorcher.  There are no air conditioners inside where the cells are located. There are air conditioners inside the education centers.  We walked through the maze of sky lit cells and learned how life was as a prisoner. There were many cells that were in rumbles and deteriorated. Some cells were still in tact and gave you a glimpse of how someone lived in their cell. There was a lot of history given of this prison. Although some who visit say it’s creepy and haunting. I found it to be peaceful and somber. We saw the famous Al Capone cell that was restored to original layout when he was an inmate there. There are signs and guides to help you with anything you’re looking for. There are many exhibits that show case art. During Halloween they hold a big event, “Terror Behind the Walls”. This is listed as a place to see during Halloween. This is a must see when visiting Philadelphia and should be on your list of places to visit.


After spending over 2 hours at the prison we were hungry. I didn’t want to search or pay for parking again so we left our car in the parking lot and walked across the street. There are many restaurants to choose from in the area, some also offer outdoor seating. We went to the Urban Saloon which is located at 2120 Fairmount Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19130 (215) 232-5359. I ordered a Monte Christopher Panini and had a house special drink. The atmosphere was pleasant and the customer service was exceptional. They also have a bar and seem to be a great place to meet up with friends. 

My Philadelphia Bucket List of Places to Visit

  • Philadelphia Magic Gardens
  • Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site
  • Shofuso Japanese House and Garden
  • Cave of Kelpius
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art
Family Road Trip, Local Summer Fun, Museums, new jersey, Road Trip, Road Trip to Virginia Beach, Summer Road Trip, Things to Do in Virginia, Virginia Beach

Road Trip to Virginia Beach

Chesepeake Bay Bridge

I survived my first road trip with my family. We planned a last-minute trip to Virginia to visit my daughter and I wish I took this trip sooner. We had an amazing time, six hours on the road and two rest stops along the way. I wish we could have stayed longer. When taking a road trip with your family, there are a few things to consider. I’m going to share my experience and hope it help you to plan a great trip as well. We checked the weather to see if there would be any storms. The weather said it would be showers off and on, but that didn’t damper our plans. I even searched things to do in the rain. We had a neighbor check on our house and to feed our cat while we were away. Make sure you have someone you can trust stop by your house to make sure things are fine or to care for any pets. If traveling with children it’s great to bring along snacks, water, coloring books, car games. We downloaded movies for the Ipad for our daughter, but she was too excited for her trip and looked out the window most of the time. 


I went online and looked at hotels that would be close to the beach. The closer to the beach the more expensive the hotels were. So we looked for hotels not too far from the beach. Some hotels even charged for parking. Make sure there is parking on the hotel grounds. I didn’t want to leave my car and have to walk a block back to my hotel. I made a list: hotels close to the beach, hotels by reviews, hotels with a pool, hotels that included parking and most importantly the price. Beware: There are many third-party sites that offer deals, in my opinion it’s best to call the hotel directly and book your stay. I witnessed guests arriving at the hotel and they didn’t have their reservation or the room they requested online. We went directly through the hotel and received a deal, we signed up for their free Rewards program and now we will get points when visiting hotels. The bad reviews can hurt you from staying at a good hotel. There were people complaining about the smallest things, from noise of an air conditioner, to people in the hall, and the list can go on. We stayed at the Spring Hill Suites by Marriott in Norfolk Virginia, 20 minutes from Virginia Beach and the highway is next to the hotel. There are many hotels to choose from, kid friendly to adult fun with roof top lounges. Take your time when choosing the right hotel and don’t spend too much stressing over the “perfect” place to stay. 

My Review of our Stay: (Yes, I had a complaintGreat stay with my family. The bad reviews were over exaggerated. Enjoyed the pool and jacuzzi. Our room and bathroom were clean when we arrived. The bed was comfortable and we had no complaints of noise from guests or our AC. Only complaint was we didn’t have the breakfast that was included. We woke up late 9.30 and there was no hot breakfast. ( There are many low-cost breakfast places to eat, there was a Denny’s in the same lot of the hotel. We went to the Waffle House and had a great breakfast, under $30 for three people). We had maid service come to our room to be services but wasn’t needed. Will stay here again. We even received a Quick Response from the owner: We’re so sorry that you didn’t get the breakfast. That’s not like us at all. We do hope the next time you stay you have an even better experience. We agree the bad reviews are over exaggerated. We’ve tried very hard to hire amazing staff for our busy season in the summer, thank you for staying with us. It was a pleasure having you here with us. We hope to see you again.


Check the rest stops along the way to see how far you will be from the next gas station or restroom. You can drive for miles before your next stop. Fees from the tolls and bridges vary from the weekday and weekend. Make sure to pay attention to the Cash and Easy Pass lanes. Drive the speed limit! There are different rules and speed limits in each state. New Jersey highway speed limit is 65 mph, when we drove through Virginia the speed limit was 45-50 mph. We saw a few cars get pulled over for speeding, don’t let that be you. Be safe.


Plaza Azteca Mexican Restaurant 5209 Providence Rd, Virginia Beach, VA 23464 The food here was absolutely amazing with full of flavor. We had fresh guacamole made at our table. We enjoyed a few dishes: Pina Loka (grilled pineapple stuffed with steak and chicken), Tacos de Pollo (grilled chicken with avocado and chile de arbol sauce) and Camarones al Mojo de Ajo (sauteed shrimp in garlic mojo sauce, onions, tomato and fresh avocado served over rice).We enjoyed their signature margaritas and left full and satisfied. Definitely a great place to come and feel like you’re in Mexico with the decor and music playing.


Waterman’s Surfside Grille 415 Atlantic Ave, Virginia Beach, VA 23451  (Family time-NO PHOTOS-I had to respect my family and put my phone down) We made sure to have some seafood while we were in Virginia Beach and was given a suggestion of the best seafood restaurants to visit. We chose Waterman’s Surfside Grille and couldn’t wait to see what all the fabulous reviews were about.  We were seated by the window overlooking the beach and was not disappointed with our food. We started with appetizers: calamari, crab cakes, chicken tenders and crab dip. Everything was flavorful and fresh. There are many things to choose on the menu from seafood, pasta to burgers and the prices are reasonable. Service was fast and the customer service was amazing from the beginning to the end. This is a restaurant I can’t wait to visit again when I’m in Virginia Beach!


There are many things to do while you’re in Virginia from visiting the Navy bases, museums, Norfolk Zoo, Botanical gardens, the aquarium and the list can go on. Virginia Beach Boardwalk, have many things to keep you entertained for the day. They have a small amusement park with rides, haunted houses, and plenty of places to get a bite to eat. We paid $20 for all day parking and headed to the beach. We rented beach chairs and an umbrella from the cabana on the beach which cost under $40. We enjoyed the soft sand and cool water from the sun. We headed to the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center which is a 10 minute drive from the beach. We enjoyed our visit and it’s a great place to bring the family of all ages. We saw seals swimming in the large tank even before we went inside the aquarium. There were many exhibits which are also hands on. They offer boats trips to see the dolphins and sea turtles, there are different fees, be sure to check online for the prices. The best for me was seeing the huge Loggerhead Sea Turtle and the Sandbar Shark. The aquarium is a must see when visiting Virginia Beach, we spent almost two hours inside and there was even another center to visit but we was tight with time. The grand attraction when visiting Virginia Beach is going to see the King Neptune Statue, that’s located on the boardwalk. 

We had such a great time,that we can’t wait to visit again. Enjoy your stay in Virginia! 

King Neptune







Hiking Trails & Waterfalls


I’m a nature lover and with that I created a bucket list of trails I wanted to hike and waterfalls I wanted to photograph. Before going hiking you should make sure you have on the proper foot wear. Some trails may be rocky or slippery so you want to make sure safety is your priority. You should bring water and a small snack with you and remember to not leave a trace that you was there. Keep the trails clean! You should check online to see if there is an opening or closing time and check the trails to see how far they are before you start them. Some waterfalls have a fee, something I found out when I went to Bushkill Falls. Many hiking trails will not have bathrooms, I suggest checking local places in the area with restrooms. Getting out into nature and away from the distractions from the city is a great way to clear your mind and relax. On my visit to to following places, the scenery and sounds were so peaceful. I hike throughout the year, be sure to wear proper clothing according to the weather and bring bug spray. All the trails are kid and pet friendly and great for beginner hikers. When leaving the woods you should take off all your clothes, make sure you have no bugs or ticks on you, and shower. Another way to make sure you don’t have bugs lingering on your clothes is to place them in a hot dryer. Have fun exploring the following sites!


Paterson Great Falls Park is located at 72 McBride Ave, Paterson, NJ 07522. There are park tours  at the welcome center (65 McBride Avenue Extension) to give you a in-depth history lesson of the Great Falls. Paterson Falls is 75 feet high on the Passaic River. Paterson Falls was formed 13,000 years ago at the end of the ice age. You may view the falls from Haines Overlook Park. There is a foot bridge over the falls that you may walk over to view or walk down the stairs to get a closer look. 




Hacklebarney State Park is located at 119 Hacklebarney Rd., Long Valley, NJ 07853. There is plenty of parking and restrooms at the site. There is a rocky climb down the waterfall that can be dangerous if you’re not careful. Be sure to wear proper shoes when visiting this park. We visited on a very hot day and climbed into the water to cool off. This is a beautiful place to visit.




Bushkill Falls is located at 138 Bushkill Falls Trail, Bushkill, PA 18324. There is an admission fee to enter the waterfalls. The fee for adults is $16.50, children $8.50 and seniors $15.50. The fee is less during the weekday. Parking is free at the site. Bushkill Falls is a 100 feet waterfalls that also offer hiking trails, fishing, boating and other family activities. The falls were simply amazing to visit. There are wooden stairs along the trails and children and pet friendly. There are several trails to explore.

GREEN TRAIL- View the Main Falls from the GREEN trail. 15 minute walk, no climbing, but there are steps.

YELLOW TRAIL – View the Main Falls, Lower Gorge Falls, Laurel Glen and Upper Canyon. 45 minute to walk.

BLUE TRAIL- View Pennell Falls from the BLUE trail, this will take 1 hour and 15 minutes to walk. 

RED TRAIL- View Bridal Veil Falls from the RED trail. This trail is for the avid hiker that’s 2 miles and takes over 2 hours to hike.




Bushkill Falls


South Mountain Reservation have many hiking trails to visit. South Mountain Fairy Trail is located at the Locust Grove entrance at 197 Glen Ave. Millburn, NJ 07041. Along this hike you will find the Rahway Fairy Trail with tiny fairy houses hidden within the trees and bushes. The Fairy Trail is 2.25 mile long hiking trail. You can find other trails including: Hemlocks Falls and Maple Falls. 




Eagle Rock Reservation is a 400 acre park located at Eagle Rock Ave. and Prospect Ave. in West Orange, NJ 07052. There are many trails that are color coded to follow. Eagle Rock Reservation is also the home to the 9/11 Memorial. Eagle Rock is a great place to see scenic views of New York City and fireworks during the 4th of July. 







Liberty Science Center, library, Local Summer Fun, Museums, Rainy Day Indoor Activities, Sky Zone Trampoline Park, Thomas Edison Historical Park, Trampoline

Rainy Days… Fun Indoor Activities

We went from having a heat wave to a week of rainy weather. With that, it became the feeling of having cabin fever and wanting to get out but staying dry from the rain. I visited a few places during the summer trying to beat the heat and also thought, “hey, these are great places for a rainy day as well.” There’s so many great places to visit alone or if you want to bring the family with little to no cost. We took trips to our local library to read some books and they also offered free arts and crafts for children, we went to the movies (some movie theaters have a free movie day, check with your local theater) and visited our local supermarket for a free cooking class. Check out your local museums, indoor golf, Funplex, and our next adventure Adventure Aquarium (blog coming soon) which offers a ferry ride over to Philadelphia Pa. Below are more adventures we took to beat they rain. Have fun and stay dry!

THThomas Edison National Historical Park is located 211 Main Street, West Orange, NJ 07052. Take a blast into the past as you walk into Thomas Edison laboratory and see where his inventions were created. They have Park rangers who offer an educational tour to the life and times of Thomas Edison. There are several buildings to visit on the property. You will spend one to two hours exploring the grounds. Free parking is available. Ticket prices are $15 per person, you can sign up for an annual pass as well. The museum opens from 10 am – 4 pm.


Liberty Science Center is located at 222 Jersey City Boulevard, Jersey City, NJ 07305.  The Science Center is open daily from 9 am 5:30 pm with plenty of free parking space. Liberty Science Center is a science museum with exhibitions that are interactive, a planetarium, movie theater, and also hold camps throughout the year.


Sky Zone Trampoline Park is located in many towns so you can Google the closet park near you. Sky Zone is an indoor trampoline park that let you get your bounce on! They hold private birthday events and is opened daily. Check Groupon for local deals on prices.

Local Summer Fun, Rahway Fairy Trail

Fairy Trail

Fairy Trail

The Rahway Fairy Trail is located at 197 Glen Ave. Millburn, NJ 07041 in South Mountain Reservation,  across from the Millburn Public Library.  Take a walk along the trail and open up your imagination to see the tiny fairy homes. You will find the fairy homes hidden between the trees and along the path. The houses are made of twigs, moss, seashells and other items to make their fairy home cozy. I suggest you wear comfortable shoes and bring bug spray. You will enjoy this trail young or old. Enjoy your visit and be sure not to disturb their homes. During your visit or on another day you can walk through the Rahway River Loop and pass Hemlock Falls and Maple Falls Cascades.

Local Summer Fun, Waterloo Village

Waterloo Village

Waterloo Village is located on Waterloo Rd. in Stanhope, NJ 07874. Opening hours are 6:00 am- 6:00 pm. Being new to the area I was curious to take a visit to this abandoned village. My first trip to this 19th century beauty was during a peaceful walk during the winter afternoon. I enjoyed looking at the homes and walking along the Morris Canal. With the snow covered trees it looked like a winter wonderland. Waterloo Village was a small town that serviced the Morris Canal through the Hudson River to the Delaware River. Waterloo Village had a general store, an inn, church, and a blacksmith shop. There are many events held here throughout the year including private events and even weddings. There’s a walking trail throughout the village and it’s free to the public except when events are held. I couldn’t wait until the spring to come back and visit the grounds. It was just as beautiful with the trees and flowers full bloom around the property. Check online for events that take place during the year. Take a step back into time and enjoy your visit.


Smith Store









Local Summer Fun, Sterling Hill Mining Museum

The Sterling Hill Mining Museum

The Sterling Hill Mining Museum is located at 30 Plant St., Ogdensburg, NJ 07439. It was an educational tour that showed us how mining was done and the dangers the miners took each day when they came into work. I was simply amazed at all the artifacts around the museum. It’s best to arrive early before your tour times. We started our visit at the Rock Discovery Center where the children and myself  searched and collected coal, slate, marble, and basalt. We walked the grounds to discover all the mining equipment. We saw a huge stamp mill, compressors, track drills and steel used to mine. The Zobel Exhibit Hall used to be the Change House where miners would come to change their clothes. There are many things on display from meteorites, artwork, crystals, stones and fossils. They have a scavenger hunt while your’e touring Zobel Hall,  so be sure to check off all your items during the visit.

It was time for our two hour tour of the Underground Mine. The mine stays at a temperature of 56° so bring a jacket. We walked through the tunnels and saw the lamp room, shaft station and mine gallery. The best part of the tour was traveling through the Rainbow Tunnel of fluorescent zinc ore. Under ultraviolet light the walls and the minerals glow. The mine is opened to the public and also for private events. Sterling Hill Mine opens from 10 am-3 pm. Please call or check the site for tour times. There are prices for the tour or other activities on the grounds I suggest visiting their site to plan your day.