The Chocolate Fun's Not Done Yet: Hershey Chocolate World

Today was all about the chocolate activities. Next to the them park is Chocolate World, where you can partake in a chocolate factory tour, watch a 4D short film, a chocolate lesson called Hershey’s Unwrapped, make your own chocolate bar, or take a ferry around the town. The chocolate tour is free but the other four activities will need tickets. You can get a considerable discount by purchasing one of the packs on their website here.

Ava enjoyed every activity! Her favorite part was eating all the chocolate that they constantly give you during these activities…

Fun at Hershey Park

Hershey Park is a Hershey owned theme park in a little town called…Hershey! Located about 2 hours or so west of Philadelphia, Hershey was the town that Milton Hershey built to support his new chocolate company. Today, not only is the factory there, there is also a museum, gardens, and a theme park aptly named Hershey Park.

Ava and us absolutely loved this park! There were tons of kiddie rides and virtually no wait time at all for them (most of the lines were at the older kid rides). Also, there is a small zoo there that is free if you are already in the park!

Be sure to order your tickets ahead of time and online! They are discounted that way and the only other place that offers a better deal is if you stay at the Hershey Lodge, where you can either get the same price or get one of their family packages that gives you a room, breakfast, and entrance tickets.

We loved this place so much that we would probably come again. Ava approved as a favorite!

Ava's Learning about independence at Philadelphia's Independence Hall

Outside of Boston, there is another city that holds historical significance in the US - Philadelphia! Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution was drafted usually requires a ticket to enter (free) but after about 4:30pm or so, they do a condensed tour that doesn’t need tickets until they close (7pm).

Be careful to not get there too close to 7 though, as there is a line of people to get in and you may just miss the last tour.

Chilling out at Canobie Lake in Salem, NH

We got a day with summer weather today so we decided to hang out at Canobie Lake Park during Memorial day weekend. Surprisingly, it was relatively not crowded at all. They also opened up the water park so Ava was able to go and cool down once the temperature got a little too hot.

Ava’s First Big Ride

After going through all the kiddie rides, Ava decided to go on her first “real” roller coaster ride! The Log flume is very basic, consisting of one small drop and one slightly bigger drop. Kids between 36 and 42 inches had to sit between an adult’s legs, which was perfect for Ava.

She was just a tad scared during the drop, but once we hit the water, she glee’d with joy!

All in all, we’d have to say that memorial day weekend is great weekend to go visit Canobie Lake Park!

Hanging out at the Southwick Zoo in Mendon, MA

It was the first day in spring with actual spring weather, so what do we do? We head down to the Zoo! It was our first time here and Ava loved it. Not only did they have a great selection of animals to see (They had tigers, lions, various reptiles, bugs, deer, primates, and more! no elephants though), they also had a handful of rides and plenty of food/snack options while there. While we haven’t taken Ava to either the Stone or Franklin Park zoos yet to have a good comparison, the experience was good enough that we would definitely come again. Plus, its only ten minutes from Larry Joe’s New England Fire Pit!

Ava's-Still-By-The-Sea at Odiorne Point State Park

A few minutes away from Wentworth By The Sea is a town called Rye, where Odiorne Point State Park is located. The first parking lot had access to walking trails that would take you to the waterbut weren’t sure how long the walk would be and decided to head down to the second parking lot instead, which is right by the water and playground. Similar to Great Island Common, there is an entrance fee but we got in free because it was out of season.

Odiorne Point State Park is a bit bigger than Great Island Common and hosts the Seacoast Science Center, which is like a mini aquarium (really small). Tickets are $10 per adult and Ava was free.

There is a small area where Kids can touch starfish, various shellfish, and seaweed. Ava had lots of fun here!

Ava-By-The-Sea: Hanging out at Great Island Common

Tucked away in Newcastle, NH is a classic Gilded era hotel called Wentworth By the Sea. You might remember it from the 1999 move, In Dreams. No we did not stay there, but the day was beautiful so we drove out to Great Island Common, which is a state park about half a mile from the hotel. There is normally an entrance fee but because it was out of season still, entrance was free. The park was small and not crowded at all; there’s even a playground for kids!

Marginal Way at Ogunquit

Not so hidden in Oqunquit is a beautiful coastal walk by the name of Marginal Way. There is free/metered parking around (if you can get a spot) but you will most likely have to opt for one of the many lots in the area. Prices range from five to fifteen dollars (We parked in one for five dollars). Doesn’t really matter which parking lot you choose as there are many entrances to Marginal Way. In our case, we decided to take a quick walk around Perkin’s Cove first and to start from there.

The Portland Headlight at Fort Williams Park

Just 15 minutes away from downtown Portland is a little gem called Fort Williams Park. After grabbing brunch at the High Roller Lobster Company, we grabbed coffee at the Speckled Axe and headed over to the park.

Fort Williams Park

The park consists of a walking path, the Portland Headlight, Fort Williams, and a few battlements. The walkway runs by the cliffs and gives an amazing view of the waves. There’s also a beautiful garden that you cut through. Even though the park is stroller friendly, we walked it all (Ava wanted to walk by herself!)

Portland Headlight

Situated at the end of the path is the Portland Headlight. Other than the lighthouse, there is a an old bell which Ava loved playing with.

What did we pack: Maldives, Jordan, UAE 2019 - Gear List

Babyzen YoYo+

As usual, this is our go-to stroller for travel. As much as I love this stroller, I’m going to have to say that while I did use it a small handful of times, it really wasn’t as necessary for this trip. It was too hot in the UAE to stay outside too long so we were in a car whenever we had to go outside and the terrain in Petra and Wadi Rum was not stroller friendly. Finally, in the Maldives, we were either on a private beach or in the water most of the time. If you wan’t to pack super light, I’d recommend that you leave your stroller at home!

Briggs and Riley Baseline Large Expandable Spinner

This has been our go-to suitcase since purchasing and hasn’t failed us yet. Haven’t had to use the lifetime warranty yet even though we’ve been pretty rough with it.

Briggs and Riley Baseline Domestic Carry on

Like it’s bigger cousin, this is our go-to carry on suitcase. Bulletproof and dependable, with these two suitcases, we have more than enough space to hold two weeks worth of clothing and toiletries.

High Sierra Swerve Backpack

I’ve been traveling with this backpack before Ava and it is still solid. While this might not be the lightest or fanciest backpack you can buy, the durability on this is legendary.

Infantino Sash Wrap and Tie Baby Carrier

Ava tends to have issues falling asleep sometimes and needs a bit of rocking still (even at home), especially when we arrive into a new country. This helped immensely! Even if your little one knocks out easily during sleep, we’d recommend this. Ava had fallen asleep in Petra and we had forgotten to bring this with us. I ended up carrying her in my arms for a little over a mile, which left me exhausted and dehydrated afterwards.

Portable fan

Definitely a must-have, it helped cool Ava down when we had to be outside in the heat (Petra and Wadi Rum)

Key Power Universal All in One International Outlet Travel Adapter with USB Charger

This has been with us on every trip and will likely be with us for many more

Watch

This watch was built for conditions like this - virtually element proof and unbreakable. Plus, changing timezones on this watch was a breeze as well (we were in at least 4 different zones!).

Jordan: Day 9

After an early breakfast, we packed up our things and said goodbye to the camp.

Wadi Rum

Water Caves

First stop was a water cave. We got a quick and interesting lesson in how the Bedouin find water in the dessert - they look for a tree line around sandstone stacked on top of igneous rock, then they search for a cave in that area (the idea is that water filters through the sandstone into the cave). We went in for quick look, then got on our way to next location in Wadi Rum.

Canyons with Nabatean Carvings

This is a small canyon that was part of an old Nabatean trade route. Inside, the canyon walls were covered in Nabatean carvings. It was a little tricky to navigate with Ava, but with some help from the tour guide, we were able to make it in and out safely.

Sand Dunes

Last spot in Wadi Rum! Ava has an aversion to walking on sand so I had to carry her up…

Red Sea

A few hours later, we were at the Gulf of Aqaba, which is part of the Red Sea. We didn’t stay at the beach area too long, and went to grab a quick bite of shawarma for lunch.

Dead Sea

A few more hours later, we made it to our last location of the day, the Dead Sea! We had to pay an entrance fee to use the private beach, but it was worth it as you get to use the resort’s facilities (pools & showers).

The Dead Sea was super salty, and while Ava was ok at first, her micro cuts started to burn. Some water also got into both our eyes, which really burned (a lot!). Luckily, there was a hose there with fresh water, which allowed us to rinse off immediately. Skin also felt amazing afterwards!

Goodbye Jordan!

After the dead sea, our trip was wrapped up and we headed off to the Airport. Next stop, home!

Jordan: Day 8

This was going to be a long day with lots of driving, so our driver picked us up at 6:30am to start our day.

Midway Castle

We hit this rest stop after 2 hours of driving to grab some breakfast and use the bathrooms. We ended up picking up some snacks as well.

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Petra National Park

We got to the park and entered with our Jordan Passes. To our mistake, we didn’t opt for an official tour guide and just like at the airport, we got bombarded with unofficial guides and other services (you can have the tour guide shoo them away).

After walking 3km through a canyon, you arrive at the first building - The Treasury. This when we wished we had a tour guide because it was non-stop harassment for services from this point.

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Mommy look, I’m on a donkey!

Mommy look, I’m on a donkey!

We walked through the park, admiring the buildings and eventually made it to the last portion of Petra National Park - a pathway up a mountain to see the Monastery. We were running low on time so we ended up paying for some donkey rides up to the top and back to the Treasury.

From there it was a brutal 3km walk through the canyon back to the front entrance with a sleeping Ava.

Wadi Rum

Watching the beautiful sunset in the desert

Watching the beautiful sunset in the desert

After grabbing a quick lunch outside of Petra National Park, it took another 3 hours to get to Wadi Rum. Our driver parked the car in a guest lot and we were all driven, along with our clothing, to the Bedouin camp in the back of a pickup truck, where we would spend the night.

We dropped off our gear and took a short ride to a nearby site where we could watch the sunset.

We walked back after and were served a dinner that was cooked similarly to the Pacific Islanders - on coals under the dirt. The food was delicious; it was far better than the food from the Bedouin camp in Dubai! After dinner, we showered and head to bed.

Yup, we slept in one of those!

Yup, we slept in one of those!

Jordan: Day 7

First day in Jordan and we gotta say, it was chaotic. From getting mobbed and harassed by people looking to direct you to a cab, or drive you, or hold your luggage (all for tips of course), to wasted time waiting for our Careem driver that got pulled over by police, it was not a fun experience.

After getting to the hotel, we had plans to hire a private driver to take us to Jerash but found out that the Roman ruins closed early at 6:30pm, even though the website said 8pm. We then wanted to go to see an old Roman citadel in Amman but turns out everything closed early in Jordan (despite the website’s information).

We looked at this on the brightside - this gives us some much needed R&R to prepare for the next two days. We did just that by lounging at the roof deck pool and sleeping early.

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Just chilling by the water... 

Leaving Abu Dhabi

Ava and Mommy waiting patiently for Daddy =/

Ava and Mommy waiting patiently for Daddy =/

Our last day in the UAE! We had checked out and gotten ready to leave but then unfortunately, I realized I had left my sunglasses in the room =(. This wouldn’t have been an issue except for the fact that we had can hour and a half to get to the airport and checkin. They called housekeeping but it took too long, so they sent someone to the room and we ended up tipping the guy 10AED (he ran!). The taxi driver sped for us and the Etihad checkin was very efficient so we made it with about 30 minutes left. Jordan here we come!

Abu Dhabi: Day 5

UAE, we’re back! We tried getting smart cards this time at immigration but they guy didn’t want to set us up 😑 Guess we’ll never get them…

Sheikh Zayed Mosque at Night

As we rode our cab to the Ritz Carlton Grand Canal, we could see the brightly lit Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. 

There were a few great views of the mosque from the resort as well, and upon learning that we wanted to see the mosque, one of the bellhops drove us around the property and to specific viewing areas. 

View of the mosque from the Ritz-Carlton

View of the mosque from the Ritz-Carlton

Unfortunately, the mosque was closed and didn’t allow anyone on the grounds. We could only admire the beauty from a distance

Too bad we couldn’t enter…

Too bad we couldn’t enter…

We ended our night after this. We needed to rest for the next day!

Maldives: Day 4-9

Once we arrived, we got driven to reception and had to sign a waiver for Ava, and then someone drove us to our rooms. We would spend the next four nights here on the island of Meedhupparu at the Adaaran Prestige Water Villas.

The Water Villas

There were only ten villas, with two rooms each. At most, during peak capacity, there would be twenty couples/families. We went during the tail end of the monsoon season, so there must of been only three to four couples. Our villa, #819, had a beautiful view of the sunset and enough coverage for privacy. #820 has a great view of the sunset as well but they are fully exposed.

At the deck, there is a lounge bed, as well as a jacuzzi and a set of stairs that leads directly into the water.

Sunset

Sunset

The Beach

There were a few beaches on the island, but guests staying at the water villas had a private beach. Because there were only a handful of couples to begin with, it felt like having our own beach! Almost every time we were there, we were the only family…just us, the white sand, and the water.

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There’s also plenty of fish in the crystal clear water. We didn’t have to go far to see fish and coral, it was all right at the beach and by the villas!

The Pool

Just like the beach, the pool was virtually empty. We had it all to ourselves!

The Dining

We purchased the all inclusive option, which we highly recommend. The food, especially the seafood, was excellent. We ate multiple entrees each meal, along with tons of fresh pineapple and watermelon juice. Oh, and we drank lots of alcohol as well...

Ava’s dining on the beach while mommy is playing with hermit crabs

Ava’s dining on the beach while mommy is playing with hermit crabs

The Island

The rest of the island includes the beach villas and their respective pools and beaches, a buffet restaurant, a small port for Dhoni rides, an activities center with shops, a spa, and a few beach cubs/bars. Other than the the boat ride, and a massage at the spa, we opted to stay in our private area (we had access to the beach villa facilities, but they were too crowded for our liking).

Hanging out at the spa

Hanging out at the spa

And that was it….

It was simple, relaxing, and easy. I don’t like beaches but I loved it here in the Maldives! This is probably the only beach in the world that I would do a repeat trip to. Our experience at the Adaaran Prestige Water Villas was nothing short of heavenly!

Goodbye Dubai, We're Flying to the Maldives!

We Uber’d it to the airport and which took about 30 minutes due to morning traffic. Four hours later and we landed in Male International Airport.

After Immigration & customs, we proceeded to the service booth of our resort, Adaaran Prestige Water Villas, at E2. They sent someone to take our luggage and to help us book our seaplane tickets. After getting our tickets, we took a short bus ride to the seaplane port, where we waited in the Adaaran lounge.

Not much later, we were finally on the seaplane! We made the mistake of sitting in the first row, right behind the pilots. It was a mistake because it was a bit loud. I had to keep my hands on Ava’s ears the whole 40 minutes. Other than that mild hiccups, we didn’t mind the ride. Just being on the seaplane meant that we were almost there!

Dubai - Day 3

We grabbed some light lunch at a place called Zest and proceeded to walk to the Miracle Garden, which was just a block away.

Miracle Garden

After walking over in the blistering heat, we were greeted with closed signs. We had totally forgotten to check the website but it turns out that the Miracle Garden closes during the summer. Luckily for us, the Butterfly Garden was open so it didn’t feel like a wasted trip.

Butterfly Garden

We were dying in the heat outside and was happy to see that the Butterfly Garden was indoors. There are four areas with different types of butterflies in each, with most of them willing to crawl onto your finger if you are gentle enough. Ava loved butterflies back home but being in close proximity to so many terrified her! I had to console her regularly until we got out.

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The Frame at Zabeel Park

We were running low on cash so we Uber’d it to Zabeel park. The driver knew we wanted to go to the frame so he dropped us off at the entrance. We had to park the stroller by the ticket office and  then walk a bit to get to the Frame itself. There were security checks and they normally don’t allow drinks inside but allowed us to keep it for Ava. 

Inside and at the the top, windows on both sides of the “Frame” reveal Dubai. One side looks at old Dubai, while the other side overlooks new Dubai.

The coolest feature in our opinion is a section of glass flooring that appears white initially but has some sort of motion detection builtin. When you walk on it, the white layer disappears to reveal street level under you.

Ava wasn’t scared at all (probably because she was still young) and ran back and forth on the glass!

Al Fahidi

A short Uber ride took us to Al Fahidi, the historical district in old Dubai. This area represents traditional life in Dubai during the mid 19th century.

This is also where the restaurant “Local House” is located. It is one of the few places that serve camel meat. Of course, we grabbed dinner there and had a nice camel burger.

Burj Khalifa 

After dinner, we Uber’d it to the Burj Khalifa. Since there is no direct entrance outside, we got dropped off by the ice skating rink again and made our way to the Burj Khalifa by following the signs in the mall. 

Observation Deck

The Burj Khalifa offers two observation points: “At the Top” & “SKY”. The former is the cheaper option and allows access to the 124th and 125th floors, while the latter is the luxury (and more expensive) option and allows access to not only the 124th and 125h floors, but access to the 148th floor as well. We initially wanted to just do “At the Top” but tickets were sold out, so we ended up doing the “SKY” option.

Lesson of this story? If you’re planning to visit the Burj Khalifa, purchase tickets in advance if possible!

The Fountain Show

The fountain shows runs every half hour or so and the length of the fountain show depends on the song chosen. The show we saw was to hero by Enrique Iglesias in Spanish, and for us, it felt perfect. We caught another show while leaving and they were playing an Arabic dance song which, while still awesome, didn’t have the same magic for us.

Largest fountain show in the world

Largest fountain show in the world

That’s All!

And thats it...our last night in Dubai!

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Dubai - Day 2

We grabbed breakfast and the hotel grabbed a cab for us. We wanted to hit multiple spots before our desert safari. The hotel was helpful as they communicated all this to the cab driver, and then off we went!

Jumeirah Beach

Due to the proximity of the water, the weather out here was much more humid than where our hotel was. It was also scorching at a nice 110 degrees Fahrenheit, which would explain why the beach was totally empty. Despite the allure of the white sand and turquoise waters, we didn’t stay too long either as just a few minutes out there was already very uncomfortable.

Burj Al Arab

This is the seven star resort in Dubai. Due to time constraints we did not go inside. 

The Atlantis on the Palm Jumeirah

One of two palm shaped islands, the best way to see the palm jumeirah is to skydive from ...unfortunately, we can’t do that with Ava (maybe in 16 years or so 😏). We decided to drive out to the Atlantis resort instead, which is located at the farthest edge of the island. You have go through an underwater tunnel to get there.

Desert Safari

We booked this tour online via Viator and was in constant communication with company via email. The description on the website did not mention dune bashing so this is the one we picked out of numerous competitors. 

We got picked up by our driver at our hotel and upon seeing Ava, he said in his words “100% she will be ok” during the dune bash, which already started to raise alarms. He also said he would take us directly to the camp if it bothers her. How did it go? Read on...

Dune bashing

The driver told kept telling us that kids love it and that it’s not bad and that if we don’t do it, we would affect the trip for others. After some more peer pressuring, we agreed to try it out. What a mistake; the guy blasted music so he couldn’t hear us and then went on “extreme” mode. We eventually managed to get his attention and he ended up leaving us in the middle of the desert at a photo spot while he went and drove off with the other guests. They eventually came back to pick us up and then drove to a camel feeding spot. We made the best of the situation by taking some photos in the desert, and Ava enjoyed feeding the camels at least.

Just feeding some camels with Mom!

Just feeding some camels with Mom!

Bedouin camp 

The camp itself was not as crowded as some of the other ones we drove by. We put our stuff down at our table and grabbed some water, then proceeded to partake in the activities of the camp.

Henna

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We tried convincing Ava to get some Henna, but she refused. KK ended up getting some done on her instead.

Camel Ride

The ride itself is maybe a minute at most. Still loads of fun for Ava though!

Food

We didn’t have any pictures of this but it consisted of samosas for appetizers and various side dishes (i.e. rice, hummus, etc.) along with Arabic style barbecued meat. The food was overall, pretty decent, with a small desert at the end of it.

Performances

There were three performances; a guy that spins, a fire-breather, and a belly dancer. They were spaced throughout dinner. The spinning guy was a bit boring but it got Ava spinning as well. The fire-breather and belly dancing was pretty good though, and made the night go by faster.

This picture was taken by Ava!

This picture was taken by Ava!