Monday, April 24, 2017

Savannah, Georgia

Savannah in the spring is about as perfect a vacation as you can get with the kids. It's got a nice mix of interesting historical attractions, great food, and unique natural environments to explore. And with temps in the high 70s/low 80s in April (and the sand gnat situation relatively under control), the conditions are ideal for everything from strolling through the historic district to hanging out at Tybee Beach. We toured Savannah on a trip to the South that also included the lovely city of Charleston, two hours away.

What to Do

One of the main reasons we decided to visit Savannah was because my daughter became a Brownie this year, and Girl Scout headquarters is located here. You can take a tour of the home of the founder, Juliette Gordon Low, and purchase a special pin for your vest that indicates you attended the tour. I'm a sucker for things like that. The tour itself was very interesting for my daughter, who learned all sorts of things about Juliette, but my son couldn't get out of the house fast enough!

Juliette's birthplace is just one of many significant buildings in Savannah's historic district. We got a sense of that particular area with a hop on/hop off bus tour run by Old Savannah Tours. If we had more time, I would've picked up the Savannah Safari scavenger hunt booklets for the kids so they could look for animals in the architecture around the historic district.

A really interesting part of the city to explore is River Street, which is all restored buildings, historic bridges, and cobblestone streets and steps. There are plenty of gift shops and restaurants to choose from along the river, and the kid-magnet that is Savannah Candy Kitchen is located there as well.

We spent a morning at Skidaway Island State Park, a beautiful piece of land covered with live oak, Spanish moss and salt marshes. Everything about the ecosystem is so different from our hikes in the Northeast. The park offers bike rentals, and somehow we found bikes that fit everyone in our family, even the 5-year-old. We biked the Big Ferry Trail to the Observation Tower, then left our bikes in a clearing to hike a little farther down the trail before turning back. It was the perfect way to enjoy a spring morning in lowcountry.

I'm not a big fan of forts, as I find them to be overrated and fairly boring for the kids, but our experience at Savannah's Old Fort Jackson was the exact opposite  it was an under-the-radar attraction that turned out to be pretty entertaining. The staff does an excellent job of reenacting the history of the fort, particularly with the cannon firings that occur twice a day. It was oddly entertaining to watch a young soldier in full-on period garb demonstrate how to load up a cannon (with a blank) and then fire at a ferry full of tourists sailing down the Savannah River.

Where to Eat

We knew we wanted to eat as much barbecue as possible while down South, and I chose Sandfly Barbecue for its rave reviews, even though it was a bit out of the way. When we arrived at the tiny restaurant located in a strip mall, my heart sank  but fortunately the reviewers knew what they were talking about. The no-frills barbecue is finger-licking good, as are the sides. I had more than my share of the mac and cheese and fried okra!

One restaurant that seems to be on everyone's must-experience list is The Pirates' House, situated in a building that's been operational since 1753, originally as an inn for actual pirates. The restaurant totally looks like a pirate hangout, all exposed brick walls and low ceilings. The food, a hodgepodge of Southern cooking, is pretty good, too.

The old-fashioned Leopold's Ice Cream shop is another popular stop; when we got to it, there was a line down the street. We didn't really want to wait for half an hour, but then we figured when in Savannah! The wait was worth it. In addition to the usual flavors, there were so many interesting seasonal ones such as Japanese cherry blossom, lavender, and Thin Mint (as in the Girl Scout cookies). And the ice cream is rich, creamy and the perfect treat with which to stroll around the historic district.

What's Nearby

About half an hour from Savannah is Tybee Island, which is a great area in which to spend a day. Tybee Beach is beautiful, clean, and family-friendly, and the Colonial-era Tybee Lighthouse is nearby. Anyone can climb to the top (there are no age restrictions, but the 178 steps are no joke) and gaze for miles across all the different waterways surrounding Savannah.

If you're out on Tybee Island and love seafood, I highly recommend lunch or dinner at The Crab Shack, which is an experience worth driving out for all on its own. From the absolutely delicious seafood boils to the festively lit riverfront dining space to the gator lagoon (where the kids can feed the alligators special food using long wooden sticks), this restaurant is just plain fun!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Charleston, South Carolina

There's so much good eating in Charleston. And the best restaurants are casual and kid-friendly, which makes this a great place to bring your kids for a little getaway. We spent just a couple of days here before driving on to Savannah, and I would return for the food alone  but there are also plenty of other things to do with the kids in this lovely, historic city.

What to Do

You can spend an entire day at Magnolia Plantation, a gorgeous, sprawling plantation on the outskirts of Charleston that looks like a scene out of a movie  all charming Spanish moss and ancient live oaks. Included with admission are access to the gardens, the petting zoo and the horticulture maze, all of which my kids loved. We ate lunch on the premises at the Peacock Cafe; the food was tasty, and the view from the picnic tables really can't be beat.

After lunch, we paid extra for the nature train, which was a 45-minute guided tour of the grounds in a tram (the sightings of alligators and blue herons are practically guaranteed), as well as the self-guided swamp hike, which is just so different from our hikes up north.

My kids' second favorite part of Charleston was a park we stumbled on by accident, Waterfront Park, overlooking Charleston Harbor. There are two enormous fountains there, and kids are actually encouraged to splash in them. I've never seen anything like it  dozens of local children in swimsuits, practically doing laps in the fountain bowls. Of course, my kids rolled up their shorts, kicked off their shoes, and joined in immediately. Afterwards, we dried off on one of the benches looking over the water while enjoying some Italian ice.

My favorite activity in Charleston was the horse-drawn carriage tour, although it didn't hold much interest for the kids. Still, it was a good opportunity for them to rest  and for the younger one to take a nap, lulled to sleep by the clip-clopping of the draft horse. There are several companies that run these popular tours, and we went with the Old South Carriage Company based on the excellent reviews. Our guide was charming and informative, and we really learned a lot about Charleston's rich history, architecture and flora during the hour-long ride.

Last but not least, I have to mention Fort Sumter, which is on everyone's must-do list for Charleston  although I also have to add that it's not very interesting for small children unless they're particularly well-versed in the Revolutionary or Civil Wars. That said, the half-hour ferry ride to and from the fort was a nice way to enjoy the ocean breeze, and the old cannons on the fort are definitely a sight to behold. We asked a park ranger for the Junior Ranger packet I'd read about online (a sort of scavenger hunt for kids, where they can earn a badge in the end), but only my son was interested in completing the different sections of the booklet; his older sister couldn't care less.

Where to Eat

We didn't have a single bad meal during our stay in Charleston. For breakfast, there was Callie's Hot Little Biscuit. There was a line out the door when we got there on a Tuesday morning, but fortunately I'd placed my order in advance through their app, so all we had to do was pick up the food. There are barely any seats in the tiny eatery, so take your biscuits across the street to a bench at Wragg Square.

For a dining spot with a breathtaking view, head over to Fleet Landing by the harbor. Definitely ask for a table outside, but if you do end up stuck inside, it's not the end of the world  the nautical decor of the spacious interior is also quite atmospheric.

And then, of course, there's the barbecue. We got tons of recommendations from both friends and locals, so we figured we were probably going to end up with some pretty tasty brisket no matter where we went. Lewis Barbecue did not disappoint, despite my ridiculously high expectations, in food or ambiance. Never have I seen a pile of meat disappear so fast. The brisket, the pulled pork, the sausage  I honestly can't decide which was my favorite. Get some of everything.

What's Nearby

We went to Charleston during spring break, and I knew that my kids would care more about being by a beach than in the historic downtown area, so we stayed in Folly Beach, about 20 minutes outside of the city. We would spend the first half of our days in Charleston, then end with a visit to the beach right outside our hotel. It's a wide, clean and family-friendly beach, with plenty of local dining and souvenir shopping.

For dinner after a day of sun and sand, head over to Loggerhead's Beach Grill, about five blocks from the beach, where the snow crab legs are perfectly steamed, the burgers are cooked just right, and the service is friendly, casual and oh so Southern. There's even great live music (country, of course) on most nights.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Disney World, Florida

Instead of telling you how you should plan your Disney World trip, I'll let the experts tell you themselves. There are so many awesome blogs out there, written by people who've been to Disney more than a hundred times and examined the experience from hundreds of angles. The most useful thing I can contribute is a master list of the best resources for planning, so you don't have to waste your time sifting through the myriad of sites out there. So if you're planning a trip to Disney World, here's where you should start. 

Warning: Get ready to give up a few hours (or days) of your life diving into the rabbit hole that is Disney vacation planning! 

What to Do 

Start your planning by figuring out when to go. This detailed crowd calendar predicts the crowd levels for every day of the coming year. It also includes park hours and average weather conditions for the day. 

Before you book anything, check Disney’s site for their current deals – sometimes they’re pretty good. The best discounts involve free dining for your entire trip or 30 percent off lodging.

Once you've secured your hotel and plane tickets, the next step is to plan out your days at the parks. You could just show up and wander around aimlessly, but remember that you'll likely be mingling with more than 50,000 other guests, many of whom have researched the heck out of the rides, shows and restaurants, beating you to the head of every line. Start by reading about the rides your kids might be interested in going on and making a list.

Next, map out your plan of attack. With the crowds, it can be quite daunting to move around the park, so it's best to group the rides you want to go on by the different sections within each park.

If you'd rather just have someone tell you how to plan your days, the experts have written some excellent one-day itineraries for each park.

A huge component of Disney planning is the Fast Pass, which are free reservations that you can make for each ride – so instead of waiting on line, you just reserve a certain time slot and show up for the ride at that time. Here's a detailed primer on Fast Pass and how it works. 

Just before you go, make sure you check the Disney calendar for their hours of operation on the days of your visit – they may have shifted since you first started planning, which can be a game changer. 

If you have small children, you may also want to consult this guide on the best areas to rest or take a nap in the Magic Kingdom, especially if you intend on staying for the fireworks show at night (here are the best areas to watch the fireworks).

And finally, here's a pretty great list of what to pack – it's where I learned about chilly towels and rain suits. The weather will play a huge part in your vacation, and it really helps to be prepared for extreme humidity or sudden downpours.

Where to Stay

On or off premises? That is the question. If your kids are very young and one day at the Magic Kingdom is enough, maybe you want to consider staying off the premises to explore other parts of Orlando (some suggestions below). We've had great experiences staying at the ridiculously affordable Caribe Cove Resort and the more upscale Marriott's Lakeshore Reserve

But if Disney World is the be all, end all of your vacation, then on premises is probably the way to go. Included are a free shuttle to the parks and airport, extra hours at the parks, magic bands that keep track of everything, and first pick at Fast Pass times. Here are reviews for all the Disney hotels, and here they are sorted by price.

Where to Eat

Disney offers two kinds of places to dine, table service restaurants and quick service (self-serve) restaurants. My preference is to make reservations for table service for both lunch and dinner so you don't have to deal with crowds and lines, but the drawback is that you're bound to your reservation – if you don't show up, you'll still be charged. Here's a list of the restaurants in each park and their menus, plus the pros and cons of each. Or, you can just have someone tell you where to eat. And here's a fun roundup of the best snacks that Disney World has to offer.

What's Nearby

Disney World may be Orlando's biggest attraction by far, but it offers plenty of other things to do, like orange picking, airboat rides and gator parks. The dining scene is surprisingly excellent as well. Here's my kid-friendly itinerary for Orlando.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Santa Barbara, California

Santa Barbara was our third stop on a Pacific Coast tour that started in San Francisco, detoured to Monterey, and wound up in Los Angeles. What makes the view different there from those of the other coastal towns we visited is the dominating Santa Ynez mountain range, which serves as a gorgeous backdrop against the palm tree-lined streets and views of the Pacific Ocean.

What to Do

We wanted to do some kayaking while we were in Santa Barbara, and we hired a great tour company called Santa Barbara Adventure Co. to take us around the harbor. (We'd originally wanted to go out to the open water, but a heavy storm the day before prevented us from doing so.) Our guides were very friendly, professional and flexible, accommodating our requests and tailoring the trip to fit our needs.

Cabrillo Boulevard is the main drag in Santa Barbara, and the best way to experience it is by renting bikes from Wheel Fun Rentals and riding along the shoreline bike path. The rental shop has all sorts of kid-friendly biking options, from tag-alongs to surreys.

We made stops with our bikes at Chase Palm Park for the shipwreck-themed playground, duck and turtle pond, and antique carousel; Stearns Wharf for pelican spotting and ice cream; and East Beach for some wave jumping.

Where to Eat

When one is visiting Santa Barbara, one must eat at Brophy Bros. at Santa Barbara Harbor. Not so much for the seafood as for the view. You simply can't beat sitting on that narrow outdoor deck overlooking the sailboats bobbing in the harbor as you enjoy your clam chowder. It's the quintessential SB experience.

For Cal-Mex, many of the locals recommend family-friendly Carlitos in the downtown area (pictured below), which features year-round alfresco dining (warmed by heat lamps in the winter). But our hotel concierge also told us about Romanti-Ezer, which offers Mexican food with an El Salvadorian twist, and it turned out to be a solid recommendation. The milo burrito (with chicken, beans and plantains) is out of this world, and the staff couldn't be nicer.

Our last meal in SB was lunch at Shoreline Beach Cafe, and it turned out to be our favorite. Snag a table right on the beach and let the kids play in the sand while you wait for your fish tacos and burgers to arrive. So relaxing.

What's Nearby

Before rolling into Santa Barbara, we stopped in Solvang, about 40 minutes north. The city was originally settled by Danes and still boasts a Danish flavor in its architecture and landmarks. Case in point: One of the city's major playgrounds, Sunny Fields, resembles a child-sized Danish village and is a wonderland for kids who like to play pretend.

Also in Solvang is a farm called Ostrich Land, which is dedicated to raising dozens of ostriches and emus on open fields. You can feed the big birds using special handled bowls, but tell the kids to hold on tight  the ostriches and emus have a forceful peck and look more than a little intimidating as they approach you (thankfully, you're separated by a wooden fence). The funky gift shop even sells ostrich and emu eggs for cooking up and enjoying at home ($25 each). Yum?

Monday, March 6, 2017

Monterey, California

We stayed in Monterey for a couple of days as part of a longer California coastal trip over winter break that also included San Francisco and Santa Barbara. It's a beautiful coastal town that makes a great home base if you're also checking out nearby Big Sur and Carmel.

What to Do

Monterey's No. 1 draw is the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and it lives up to the hype (and is accordingly priced!). Built right on the bay, the facility is gorgeously maintained, with a clean, modern design and well-presented exhibits.

There are mesmerizing schools of fish everywhere, numerous touch tanks, and the jellyfish section is particularly impressive  who knew there were so many types?

We'd wanted to go hiking at Point Lobos State Reserve in Carmel to get a glimpse of the sea lions, but a severe, weeklong rainstorm flooded the trails and forced us to change course. Instead, we wound up at Garrapata State Park, and the views couldn't be any more dramatically beautiful. We followed the Soberanes Point loop to the left of Route 1 on this map, which took only 20 minutes to complete. The trail is easy to hike, but the drop-offs are steep and sometimes there's only a thin rope separating you from the edge of a cliff, so hold onto the little ones!

If you hop on the famously scenic Pacific Coast Highway (Route 1) from Monterey and head south toward Big Sur, you'll soon encounter some of the most dramatic coastal views in the world. Record-breaking storms, wind, and even mudslides couldn't stop us from making it to the widely photographed Bixby Bridge, and we managed to take some photos from the lookout point before ducking back into the car, completely soaked! 

Where to Eat

If you're looking for a place to grab lunch after a morning at the aquarium, skip touristy Cannery Row and walk about four blocks to Il Vecchio, a restaurant that offers a "worker's lunch" from noon to 1:30. This adorably rustic Italian eatery dishes out a limited prix-fixe menu (basically you choose between two housemade pastas, which rotate by the day) and the food is brought out straight from the stove and plated at your table. It's all very quaint, simple and delicious. 

One night we grabbed dinner at La Bahia, a casual Mexican restaurant (no website, so here's the Yelp page). It was an easy-breezy meal that involved burritos so large, just one could've fed my whole family. The tamales were also fantastic.

What's Nearby

We had many plans for hiking and lunching in nearby Big Sur, but as mentioned, Mother Nature put a kibosh on all that by shutting down that stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway. Big Sur was literally inaccessible to us since the PCH is the only way in and out. Still, here's what we had planned: Pfeiffer Beach, famous for its purple sand and photogenic archway; the restaurant Nepenthe, legendary for its outdoor seating, perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean; and Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, which features an easy hike with a big payoff, McWay Falls. Hopefully we'll make it to these places one day!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

San Francisco, California

My husband and I adore San Francisco, and finally got to introduce our kids to its wonders as part of a longer California coastal trip over winter break that also included Monterey and Santa Barbara.  I love that there's a nice mix of kitschy, touristy stuff to see and do, as well as some beautiful hikes and bike rides.

Where to Stay

If you're traveling with kids, Fisherman's Wharf is a perfect home base, as it's close to several family-friendly attractions. We stayed at a centrally located Holiday Inn Express with a fantastic complimentary breakfast buffet, but there's plenty of hotels in varying price ranges to choose from in that area.

What to Do

We started the visit at Pier 39 in Fisherman's Wharf, which is a pretty nicely done, as far as tourist traps go. In addition to all the sweet shops and souvenir stores, there's a carousel, a dock for viewing the sea lions, a set of stairs with piano keys for steps and, my kids' favorite part, Magowan's mirror maze.

If you're into biking with the kids, there's nothing like the route from Fisherman's Wharf to the Golden Gate Bridge, then across the bridge into Sausalito (here are more details about that route). Most people take the ferry in Sausalito back to San Francisco at that point, an easy-breezy commute with a closeup view of Alcatraz.

The biking took us approximately two hours, which included many stops for pictures, and to walk the bikes up a handful of hills. Truth be told, it's not an easy ride with two kids in tow, but they loved it and proclaimed it to be their favorite part of the trip. And the views simply can't be beat. We rented our bikes from the ubiquitous Blazing Saddles, which was great for all the great kids' options (trailers, tag-along attachments, baby seats, kids' bikes).

On a rainy afternoon, we visited the California Academy of Sciences, a science museum whose claim to fame is the earthquake demonstration room. It's a pretty neat (and educational) simulation that we all thoroughly enjoyed. There's also a three-story rainforest, an aquarium and a planetarium.

And, of course, a family visit to San Francisco wouldn't be complete without a ride on the trolley. We hopped on the Powell-Hyde car at Fisherman's Wharf and took it to Chinatown, a route that gives you a glimpse of the famously crooked Lombard Street as well as several impressively steep hills  it almost feels like a slow-moving roller coaster at times. Here's a nice map of all three cable car routes. If you want to take the Powell-Hyde cable car, don't begin at the first stop, Beach Street, where the massive line forms (unless you're looking for front-row seats); walk two blocks to the second stop at North Point Street and hop right on. They always enough room for a few more passengers.

Where to Eat

My favorite place to eat was Boudin at Fisherman's Wharf. It's pricey and touristy, but totally worth the money, in my opinion, for the amazing sourdough bread bowls. The kid's menu features a turtle-shaped bread bowl.

Have your meal upstairs for an awesome view of the bay and complimentary entry to the Boudin Bread Museum, a factory tour that gives you a bird's eye view of the bread production. My favorite part was getting a chance to see the 170-year-old "mother dough," from which all the bread at Boudin is spawned. They keep her in a special chamber!

For a taste of everything, the Ferry Building along the Embarcadero is a fun place to visit, filled with delicious sights, smells and free samples. A farmers' market adds to the culinary circus on Saturdays. Be sure to get a scoop or two from ice cream vendor Humphry Slocombe.

What's Nearby

We spent a morning in the hushed grandeur of the Muir Woods, about half an hour north of San Fran, and the scenic drive alone was worth the trip. The forest is filled with redwoods averaging 700 years of age, and they can be a dizzying sight to behold. We took an easy hike following the red trail on this map; the whole thing took about an hour, with lots of breaks for taking pictures and peering through binoculars. The park offers a scavenger hunt as well.

Friday, October 7, 2016

London, England

Our visit to London happened because my son learned about Stonehenge at summer camp and said he really wanted to see it. My husband and I had never seen it either, so I began planning a London-Paris trip for our next vacation. We started in Paris (here’s my itinerary for that part of the trip), then took the Eurostar to London, only two hours away.

What to Do

We were excited to stay at a hotel with a prime view of Big Ben, which turned out to be very grand in person. Right near Big Ben is the London Eye, the huge Ferris wheel that gives you a bird's eye view of London.  

After visiting the spectacular Luxembourg Garden in Paris, we were eager to check out Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens (the two are attached) in the middle of London. The parks are home to the Peter Pan-themed Diana Memorial Playground and please-touch Diana Memorial Fountain, but our favorite part was actually renting pedal boats on the Serpentine. The Serpentine is filled with ducks, geese and swans, and you can purchase food for them in the gift shop. Be warned, however: Once you've established a relationship with these birds, they'll stalk you for the rest of your time in the water. We had no fewer than four swans and about a dozen ducks trailing our boat at one point, and we couldn't get rid of them.

The kids were excited to see London Bridge, but it turns out that there are actually two famous bridges in the city: London Bridge, which is actually quite modern looking after several recent renovations, and Tower Bridge, which is the iconic Victorian bridge that most people think of when they hear the song "London Bridge is Falling Down." So we visited Tower Bridge, and walked across the bottom level to the other side for free. For a price, you can walk across the glass-bottomed upper level of Tower Bridge, and even watch boats sailing underneath if you time your visit right.

On the last day of our visit, we decided to give the kids a break from the city sights to visit Kidzania, a sort of role-playing amusement park. The kids walk around a town that's set up for them and pop into stores, stations or offices where they can work as firefighters, dentists, pilots and other jobs. In addition to working with the very realistic equipment, they earn play money for each of these experiences, which they can later spend in the department store, at the tattoo parlor, or at the jewelry shop, among other places. We'd experienced a similar amusement park in Taiwan called Baby Boss, and my daughter absolutely loved it at the time. She loved it this time, too. Her favorite job was checkout clerk at the supermarket.

Kidzania is extremely well done. The town and all of the equipment involved all look very realistic, and the people who work there (for real) are very nice and obviously enjoy being with kids. I highly recommend a visit if you're in London with small children. It may not be the quintessential London experience, but it's one they'll never forget.

Where to Eat

So of course we had to have afternoon tea while we were in London. I did plenty of research for kid-friendly experiences, and finally settled on the Afternoon Tea at St. Ermin's Hotel. It was a pleasant day, so we got to eat out on the beautiful stone patio. The place settings and food presentation couldn't have been cuter, and you can have unlimited amounts of everything (although this didn't seem like an appropriate place to break into all-you-can-eat-buffet mode).

What you're really paying for here, though, is the lovely ambiance. We each had about three finger sandwiches, a scone, some tea and hot chocolate, and a variety of desserts, and the meal ran us more than 100£ for two adults and two kids. If you're interested in less fuss, more food, I'd recommend the Afternoon Tea at Harrods, which I experienced the last time I was in London.

After crossing Tower Bridge, we found ourselves at a charming waterfront marina called St. Katharine's Docks. There are many good restaurant options here, including the very kid-friendly and yummy Zizzi Italian eatery, which is where we ended up. The kids' menu is a winner, with decorate-your-own pizzas and mini gelato cones topped with popping candy. Also well-reviewed in the area are The Dickens Inn for pub food and Mala for Indian.

What's Nearby

We took an Evan Evans bus tour from London that went to Windsor Castle, Bath and Stonehenge. Windsor Castle is not far from the city and can be accessed by a 30-minute train ride. But Bath and Stonehenge are much farther  about two hours by car. We figured the tour would be the easiest and most relaxing way to get out to Stonehenge. You don't get much time to spend at each locale, but getting a chance to nap on the bus was priceless. It also turned out to be a fantastic way to see the English countryside, filled with grazing horses, cows, sheep and even pigs.

Windsor Castle, the official home of the Queen, was our first stop. It was amazing and a little surreal to visit an actual working castle. We were fortunate to catch a special exhibition of the Queen's wardrobe through the years, which my daughter absolutely loved. We also enjoyed looking at Queen Mary's Doll House and the armory in St. George's Hall.

On certain days you can view the changing of the guards here, and by all accounts, it's a more intimate experience than the one you'll find at Buckingham Palace.

The next stop on the tour was Bath, a city famous for its ancient Roman baths. At the 2,000-year-old bathhouse, you can ask for the kids' scavenger hunt, which turned out to be an excellent way to engage them. My son said it was his favorite part of the day. I liked that you are offered a sip of the water, which contains 42 minerals and is supposed to have healing powers. It tastes quite awful, though!

And finally, we journeyed out to Stonehenge  the reason we planned this trip in the first place. It didn't disappoint. Even though you can no longer touch the stones, you can get quite close to them, and it feels unreal to finally view this mysterious icon that's been standing for 5,000 years. Grassy fields surround the stones, and the kids loved running around and doing cartwheels. It also happened to be a warm, gorgeous day, which no doubt contributed to our positive experience.