“What Happens in Vegas”

Each year my hubby slips away for a safety professionals conference in Las Vegas. Tired of him having all the fun, this year I made arrangements for the kiddos and slipped away with him for a much needed get-away.  I was told by several people before we left that I would either love Vegas or absolutely hate it; there was no in-between.

Me?

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I fell in love with Las Vegas.

Now you know I am not a wild and crazy girl, but guess what?!  You don’t have to be to have fun in Vegas, and “what happens in Vegas” doesn’t necessarily have to “stay in Vegas”

And I had a blast the four and a half days we were there!

So what can you do in Las Vegas if you are not a huge gambler or a late night partier?  Here are seven fun things you can do and still get a Vegas experience!

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1. Take in a show.  As cliche as it seems, you can’t go to Vegas without seeing at least one live show.  There is something from everyone from impersonators to live concerts.  The week we were in town Brittany Spears performed twice and we had an option of no less than FIVE Cirque du Soleil shows!  We opted for a musical and watched Jersey Boys  (the Frankie Valli & Four Seasons story), which was playing nightly at the Paris hotel theater.   The music was fabulous, making it an awesome choice and a show we enjoyed very much!

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2. Enjoy dinner at a high end restaurant!  Enjoy yourself and splurge.  We chose to have dinner at the Eiffel Tower restaurant at the Paris hotel as part of a package that included dinner and the Jersey Boys performance.

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Our reservations were early so that we had prime seating for the sunset and a view of the strip as it lit up for the evening.

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We could also watch the fountains at the Belliago from our table.  Another good reason for dining early was to keep us from being absolutely stuffed while watching our show later in the evening!

Service at the Eiffel Tower was impeccable.  The sommelier was extremely knowledgeable and took his time going over the wine list with us.  The waitress was very friendly, yet professional and efficient.

Our filet medallions were cooked perfectly and dessert…. let’s just say I was very thankful for gym access!

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My Creme Brûlée was sheer perfection.

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Dinner at the Paris

3. Spend a day at Canyon Ranch SpaClub and Fitness Center.  Located in the Venetian Hotel this spa club has everything you could imagine to spoil yourself … which is exactly what I did.

Because I have fitness goals I am still striving to reach, I took advantage of the personal trainers on staff and had my booty handed to me.  It was a humbling experience as a licensed trainer to have another trainer whip you and nearly have you crawling out of the gym.  I told them what I was looking for and for two days got it.  I will definitely use the facility and the trainers again!  The fitness club has every kind of equipment you could possibly want or need for a workout, as well as cardio equipment and a climbing wall!  Fitness classes like spin, yoga, and zumba are available as well.

The ladies locker room is peaceful and calm which really encourages you to focus on the workouts to come!

While at the spa-club I spent the money and took advantage of one of the hairstylists, to “fix” me up for our  evening out on the town as well as a cosmetologist for a dramatic makeover that I’ll never be able to recreate!

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I’m not a “selfie” person …

It was so much fun and extremely relaxing.  Something every wife and momma needs from time to time.

While time didn’t allow for me to enjoy all the activities at the spa, with a spa passport you can use the steam rooms, rainforest aquavana, the sauna, and a hydrospa.  For extra you can schedule a variety of massages, manis/pedis, body wraps and even a couples mud bath!

4. Walk through the many themed hotels and take in the architecture and decor.

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I know, you’re thinking “how boring!”, but I promise you it’s not!  Our trip corresponded with Chinese New Year, so a walk through the Belliago was unique, colorful and so enjoyable!

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During the afternoon at the Venetian you may find a carnival atmosphere taking place right in the Canal Shoppes!

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With live music and colorful costumes, it’s worth taking a break from your day to sit and take in a little Italian culture.

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Stop by Buddy’s bakery or Godiva while hitting the Canal Shoppes in the Venetian. Just be sure to do a few extra reps when you hit the gym!

An if you want a bit of Egyptian culture, step into the Luxor.  You feel like you’ve traveled the world with just a little walking!

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5. Step back in time to the day of gangsters in Vegas with a stroll through The Mob Museum.   Located in old Vegas the Mob Museum housed in the old US Post Office and courthouse built in 1933, the museum shares the history of the mob from it’s beginnings in the United States to its rise in Vegas and the end of several prominent mobsters.  There are many interactive exhibits and plenty of history for you to soak in.  “The Godfather” just doesn’t tell all of the story!

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Another great exhibit in Las Vegas is the Titanic display at the Luxor.  Cameras are forbidden in the tour, but the images will be forever etched in your mind.  With actual artifacts from the shipwreck, paired with carefully reconstructed displays of various rooms on the ship and stories of the passengers you will need a box of kleenex.  Very touching indeed.

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6. Take a hike into Red Rock Canyon.  While the Grand Canyon is drivable from Las Vegas (3.5-4 hours), Red Rock Canyon is just an hour out and a day you will find most enjoyable.

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 Start in the visitors center where you will get an idea of the history of the area as well as the wildlife and variety of native plants you will see while you are out and about.

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 Talk with one of the Rangers and pick up a guide showing you the many hikes you can take.  It’s a stunningly beautiful area.  Take a picnic, enjoy a hike, take in the wildlife and soak in God’s amazing creation.

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7. Hit up a gun range for a military experience!  We discovered Battlefield Vegas by accident as I was trying to do something fun for Audley since he had been a good sport by hiking and dressing up for dinner.  Battlefield Vegas is owned and operated by US Veterans which made it even more appealing to us.

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The experience begins when you are picked up at your hotel in a military vehicle and taken to their location.  You can tour around outside and look at old military vehicles which made my veteran hubby quite happy.

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Once you go inside, you have several packages to choose from for your shooting experience.  We choose the Navy Seal package, plus added and extra gun.

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Apparently Audley has missed shooting an AK-47.

We just paid for one package and split it.

Audley had a blast…. and so did I.

The “instructor” assigned to help us with the guns was really great and I think shocked that I knew what I was doing.  You don’t have to regularly shoot to do this shooting experience; you will have plenty of help.  They guys are really awesome and were great for answering any questions you might have.  When you are finished shooting, shopping and touring, the guys will carry you back to your hotel or even a restaurant if you are going to eat.   There are other shooting experiences available in the area, but we really had fun at Battlefield Vegas and will definitely do this again!

For reference, hotels for every budget are available in Las Vegas.  You can stay in the Best Western or in Caesar’s Palace.  We chose a Hilton property (always our preference), using the Elara Grand Vacations for our stay.

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The pulled “shade” over the window was a screen for a TV projection!  We watched the Super Bowl in high definition comfort of our suite.

With a jacuzzi and full-sized living room and kitchen it was like we were in our own apartment instead of a hotel!  I’m not a gambler at all, but for the Vegas experience I did play a couple of slot machines.

With only four days for our trip, as you can imagined we in no way saw all there is to see.  I’m already planning to accompany Audley next year to his conference … I told you I loved it!

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Historic Downtown Denver

When you have a very short window to see an area in which you are traveling hitting the highlights is a must, even if only for a quick tour.  When Audley and I were in Colorado a couple of weeks back we really only had 24 hours to see the area.  On Friday of our trip we visited the Garden of the God’s and Pikes Peak and then we spent our Saturday morning before our flight out in downtown Denver.

I am a total history nut.  Not a glossed over version of history that the media and history books like for us to see, but a dig deep and study all the angles of an event or life.   I am fascinated by the people who came before me and how things have changed and grown over the years, bringing us to where we are today.

That’s why when deciding what to see in Denver we chose to start with the Margaret Brown house.

The lions at the entrance of the Molly Brown property

The lions at the entrance of the Molly Brown property

Who is Margaret Brown you ask?  You probably know her better as the Unsinkable Molly Brown after her heroics on the night of the Titanic sinking.

The Molly Brown House

The Molly Brown House

Margaret grew up the daughter of a poor Irish immigrant and married JJ for “love” after throwing out the notion she would marry rich.  Little did she know that “rich” was on the horizon as JJ discovered a band of gold in a silver mine he was working in Leadville, Colorado.  After they became Millionaires, they moved to Denver.

The simple Victorian that was the home of JJ and Molly Brown

The simple Victorian that was the home of JJ and Molly Brown

Knowing she was a first class passenger on the Titanic and her reputation for being a bit boisterous and gaudy, I expected a monster of a house, similar to the homes of the Astor’s or Vanderbilt’s,  but the Brown home was not much bigger than a traditional Victorian home of the era.  Mrs Brown and her husband, JJ, purchase the house that had been built in the 1880’s for about $30,000 which was a bargain as the previous owners were forced to sell due to financial issues.

The Carriage House gift shop

The Carriage House gift shop

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We were only allowed to take pictures outside the house.  There were no fancy gardens only a carriage house (that now houses a gift shop and video presentation of the Molly Brown’s life) and then the house itself.

Front of the home

Front of the home

The simple back view of the Molly Brown House

The simple back view of the Molly Brown House

The house was actually simply decorated without much grandeur at all. As a matter of fact it often stayed rented out as the Brown’s (or at least Margaret and her children) traveled extensively.  Margaret was a huge proponent of education and learned four foreign languages.

The original tile that covers much of the front porch.

The original tile that covers much of the front porch.

Window looking into the foyer of the home

Window looking into the foyer of the home

Despite marrying for love, JJ and Margaret quietly separated in 1909 due to the different paths their lives were taking.  They never divorced as they were both Catholic and didn’t believe in divorce, but she did receive a monthly allowance of nearly $19,000 in order to travel and stay involved in social projects she was undertaking.  She was very involved in social projects that benefitted children as Denver was swamped in poverty at the turn of the 20th century.

With Margaret’s travels she and her daughter found themselves guests of John Jacob Astor and his new bride, Madeleine in 1912. They toured France, Italy and Egypt before Margaret got word about an ill grandchild and decided to head home.  That is how she found herself on the Titanic.

Margaret earned her “unsinkable” reputation for encouraging women to leave their husbands and board the lifeboats before being forced into one herself.  Then, after the ship sank she was quite determined that their lifeboat must go back to the wreck site and search for survivors.  It is also said that she used her knowledge of many different foreign languages to console passengers and see that even the few third class survivors had their needs met.

Molly was known for throwing lavish parties where she would share he adventures from her travels.  The sinking of the Titanic didn’t crush that desire for adventure at all.

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The home was sold shortly after the Great Depression for $6,000.  Molly had used the home for a boarding house to help pay for the upkeep.

The Brown home is on the National Register of Historic Places, The group Historic Denver has been the caretakers since the late 1960’s when the house was slated for demolition.

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Margaret was instrumental in raising money for the building of Denver’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. She could see construction from her house.  I can only imagine the awe at watching this go up in an era without high-tech building processes.

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Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

We walked over to the building ourselves, but were unable to enter due to a wedding. It was a beautiful building with gorgeous architectural elements.

Front of the Cathedral

Front of the Cathedral

Pope John Paul II visited the cathedral and they have this statue to commemorate that visit.

Pope John Paul II visited the cathedral and they have this statute to commemorate that visit.

Love the architecture of the cathedral!

Love the architecture of the cathedral!

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We also stopped by the Colorado state Capital. At one time the Brown’s rented out their home to the governor and his family while their own home was being renovated.  You could also see the capital from her home during the years she resided here.

Colorado State Capital

Colorado State Capital

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I also loved the archetectural lines of the capital as well.

I also loved the architectural lines of the capital as well.

It was so neat to see how so many little things connected like a puzzle once we were downtown.  It was a beautiful day and perfect for strolling the streets of historic downtown Denver.

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Tell me, have you ever traveled out west?  What do we need to see next?

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Rocky Mountain High

As most of you know, Audley and I have been Dad & Mom as well as husband and wife since the day we said “I do”, as the love of my life was a package deal with his 3-year-old daughter I was blessed to raise. I have loved every minute of being Mom, especially as we added three more kiddos to our brood over the years, but I also really enjoy the moments Audley and I can be just husband and wife.

With a last-minute business meeting in Denver thrown into Audley’s schedule a couple of weeks ago he asked me to fly out with him for a mini get-away.  As you can imagine, I immediately started packing my bags!  It was a very fast trip (we flew out on a Thursday afternoon & back on Saturday evening), but we made the most of our time and had a fabulous time!  After Audley’s 1 1/2 hour meeting on Friday morning we drove out to Colorado Springs where we visited the Garden of the Gods, then drove all the way up Pike’s Peak for the most beautiful and memorable sightseeing tour I have ever experienced!

To be honest, words cannot begin to describe the beauty of Colorado.  I’ve always loved the Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina, but those are mere hills compared to the Rockies.  And since I can’t adequately put into words the beauty of our afternoon, I thought sharing some of our photo highlights would be the way to go.

Grab you a glass of sweet tea; this is going to be like an old-fashioned slide show of family vacation from the 1960’s and 70’s.

Garden of the Gods

20th year of the Visitor Center

Garden of the Gods is a National Natural Landmark (since 1971) located in Colorado Springs.  Original inhabited by native Americans as early as 1330 BC, the red rock formations and how they came to be made for an amazing day of travel and hiking for many a visitor.  Originally known as Red Rock Corral, travelers have been fascinated by the unique area for generations, but the area wasn’t formally named until 1859 when two surveyors were exploring the site.  Much of the area was privately owned until 1909 when it was given to the city of Colorado Springs as long as it was used for a free public park.  The city purchased additional land which has grown into over 1300 acres over the years.

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A visitors and nature center are opened just outside the park entrance.  There you can view a movie telling the history of the area, dine of local game in the small cafe and learn about the animal as well a human inhabitants of the area.

Garden of the Gods Visitor Center

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nature center

Hungry for lunch?  Sounds delicious to me!

Hungry for lunch? Sounds delicious to me!

Entry-way to the Park

Entry-way to the Park

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Snow covered Pike’s Peak in the background

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Native Americans lived in the rock caves of this area to protect themselves from the harsh winter weather as well as using the grounds for hunting.  Now the rocks are explored daily by tourists from all over the world.  People also bike through the park, hike and rock climb.

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Balancing Rock ..... a prime photo opportunity

Balancing Rock ….. a prime photo opportunity

Rear of Balancing rock .... Federal Safety regs required the park to cement the rock into place despite the fact it had been balancing in the same formation for 100's of years.

Rear of Balancing rock …. Federal Safety regs required the park to cement the rock into place despite the fact it had been balancing in the same formation for 100’s of years.

I was totally fascinated by the trees that were literally growing on the rocks; roots exposed and all.  God is so amazing.

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We left Garden of the Gods and headed towards Pike’s Peak.  They quit allowing vehicles to drive up around 6:00, so we were very excited to make it just in time!

Welcome to Pike National Forest

Welcome to Pike National Forest

Of course Pike’s Peak has been around forever, and I am quite sure Native Americans explored, hunted and lived in the area for many generations, but the first Europeans to discover the mountain was recorded in the 1700’s.  The first “American” sighting of the Peak was by Zebulon Pike in the early 1800’s.  He attempted to climb it in 1806, but failed to do so.  He described the area in his journal….

“…here we found the snow middle deep; no sign of beast or bird inhabiting this region. The thermometer which stood at 9° above 0 at the foot of the mountain, here fell to 4° below 0. The summit of the Grand Peak, which was entirely bare of vegetation and covered with snow, now appeared at the distance of 15 or 16 miles (24 or 26 km) from us, and as high again as what we had ascended, and would have taken a whole day’s march to have arrived at its base, when I believed no human being could have ascended to its pinical. This with the condition of my soldiers who had only light overalls on, and no stockings, and every way ill provided to endure the inclemency of the region; the bad prospect of killing any thing to subsist on, with the further detention of two or three days, which it must occasion, determined us to return .”

~Pike, Zebulon M. (1810). An Account of Expeditions to the Sources of the Mississippi.

He never reached the top.  I could only imagine his thoughts if he were to have that opportunity today.  Several have conquered the mountain in the 200+ years since, including the first woman who accomplished the task in 1858!

Apparently there is a lot of wildlife in the area surrounding Pike's Peak!!

Apparently there is a lot of wildlife in the area surrounding Pike’s Peak!!

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The location is actually VERY romantic!  We couldn’t help but pause for a kiss.

Pike's Peak North Slope Recreation Area

Pike’s Peak North Slope Recreation Area

The view as we drove up was so amazing!  Audley and I kept stopping just to take it all in.

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In the Beginning GOD created the heavens and the earth .... Genesis 1:1
In the Beginning GOD created the heavens and the earth …. Genesis 1:1

It’s an 18 mile drive to the top of the Peak; with all of our stops it took just over an hour.  And the views were breathtaking from the top.

Literally.

I felt like I needed and oxygen tank.

WOW!

At the tip top of the peak
At the tip-top of the peak

Little did we know that it would be 35 degrees at the top.  To say we were underdressed is an understatement!   You can see snow in the distance, but you don’t realize how much there really is until you arrive at the top!

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Katharine Lee Bates wrote the song America the Beautiful in July of 1893 after seeing the view from the top of Pike’s Peak.  She originally wrote the words as a poem and those beautiful words were set to music in 1910.

There is a beautiful monument showcasing the words of this now treasured song atop the mountain.

God Bless America

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There is no doubt the inspiration that Katharine Lee Bates gleaned as she basked in the same glorious view that we did.

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Before we were to leave the top of the mountain the clouds were rolling in.  It was very strange feeling to be standing, then driving in the clouds.

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The ride down the mountain was much quicker as we were trying to beat the fog that was rolling in.  The park service were setting up the fog lights and turning them on as we began to descend.  I can imagine the danger of driving it at night in the fog and so glad we didn’t have to experience it!

Our time in Colorado Springs and the surround area was short, but totally unforgettable!  I would truly love to take our entire family out to see this area.  I know they will love as much as I did.

Next on our trip was taking in a little history in downtown Denver.  I’ll share that with you next week!

Have a fabulous weekend!

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Two Days Away: Nashville Zoo

Our summer is rather hectic trying to balance family, work and pleasure time.  This is the first summer I have ever worked since having children and to say that they are unhappy is an understatement.

Audley and I have put a lot of thought into things we can do to enjoy family time together as well as visit our families who are six hours away.  Recently we ran away for the weekend to Nashville where we enjoyed quite a lovely day at the Nashville Zoo with my parents, siblings, nieces and nephews.

We have always loved visiting the zoo and even though our kids are teenagers, the fun that comes with a zoo trip is still a joy to us all!

Before visiting the Nashville Zoo, it’s important to note that this is not the Chicago, Atlanta or St. Louis Zoo.  The Nashville Zoo is smaller and set up as a beautiful park perfect for picnicking and strolling through.  The zoo features an adorable wild animal carousel as well as a super fun playground area known as the “Jungle Gym”, just perfect for my little nieces who joined us.

Welcome to the Nashville Zoo

Welcome to the Nashville Zoo

The day we chose to visit was absolutely beautiful and quite warm for a June day.  But, this is the south so I honestly wouldn’t have expected it to be any other way!

I hope you’ll enjoy this little walk through the zoo with my family!

Ticket gate for the Zoo

Ticket gate for the Zoo

An exhibit of tropical birds greeted us first .... absolutely beautiful without a doubt!

An exhibit of tropical birds greeted us first …. absolutely beautiful without a doubt!

My girls and nieces ... aren't they all so beautiful?

My girls and nieces … aren’t they all so beautiful?

 

And the boys .... they stayed as far away from the girls as possible, including for pictures.

And the boys …. they stayed as far away from the girls as possible, including for pictures.

With the day being so hot and humid (a typical Southern, summer day), many of the animals want to nap, but were able to enjoy almost all of the animals anyway.  Several were quite photogenic and posed, just for us.

I'm a meerkat lover and this one just kept posing for me.  Isn't he a doll?

I’m a meerkat lover and this one just kept posing for me. Isn’t he a doll?

The kids loved the kangaroos & hanging out in their habitat; these guys were so awesome and would walk right up to you.

The kids loved the kangaroos & hanging out in their habitat; these guys were so awesome and would walk right up to you.

I'm a bird lover and the lorakeet habitat was one of my favorites.  They would land on you if you had nector for them to enjoy.

I’m a bird lover and the lorikeet habitat was one of my favorites. They would land on you if you had nectar for them to enjoy.

Several species of the cat family live at the Nashville Zoo

Several species of the cat family live at the Nashville Zoo

A much prettier version of the "pink flamingo" than I normally see in the south.  hehe

A much prettier version of the “pink flamingo” than I normally see in the south. hehe

The entrance to the Savanna exhibit where the elephants and giraffes live

The entrance to the Savanna exhibit where the elephants and giraffes live

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We never quite figured out WHAT kind of animals these were!!
We never quite figured out WHAT kind of animals these were!!

After enjoying the animals, the smaller kids had a little fun riding the carousel and playing on the Jungle Gym playground.  So much for everyone to enjoy and most relaxing indeed!

I love carousels ... they take me back in time.

I love carousels … they take me back in time.

Entrance to the Jungle Gym

Entrance to the Jungle Gym

I loved all of the landscaping around the zoo, from the planters to the garden areas.

I loved all of the landscaping around the zoo, from the planters to the garden areas.

My brother’s company in Nashville has done a lot of work at the zoo (including a current project that should be finished in the fall).  I think they have done a wonderful job helping create such a family space, just perfect for a fun day out.

My girls with my little niece, Kynlee in one of the small decorative garden areas.

My girls with my little niece, Kynlee in one of the small decorative garden areas.

As I said, this isn’t your major metropolitan area zoo, but still a wonderful way to spend the day with the family.  There is plenty of space for picnicking and playing as well as relaxing trails to explore and even interact with so much of God’s creation.  I definitely recommend the Nashville Zoo for an activity and part of a quick get-away.

Have a wonderful week!

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