Summer Rush Vacations in Still Sunny Cities

Planning your vacation for September? If you planned late in the summer to try and beat the heat, think again—for most of the U.S. the heat doesn’t break until well into September, if not later in October or even November. If you plan on taking your vacation to someplace that’s still hot, you’ll want to make sure that you have activities planned that will keep you cool—waterparks, indoor museums, casinos, and other places loaded with cool water or cool a/c. Here are some examples:

Fun Things to do in DC—Washington, D.C. can stay hot and humid through September, but luckily, you’ll find no end to the number of museums in the area. You’re also not too far from Maryland and there are a ton of places to visit in Baltimore and surrounding areas, like the Allentown Fitness & Splash Park in Fort Washington or Gaithersburg’s Water Park at Bohrer Park. You should have no problem having fun in the sun if you choose, or seeking shade indoors, if you’re end-of-summer vacation is planned for our nation’s capital.

  1. Fun Things to do in San Francisco—Nights will be cooler these days in the Bay Area, but the days can still be hot. Bay Area entertainment flourishes at the end of the summer and Bay Area tourist spots stay heavily populated…pretty much all year round. Museums will provide solace from the sun, as well as fantastic San Francisco restaurants. Raging Waters Water Park is the biggest waterpark in the area if you decide that being in the sun is where you want to be.
  2. Fun Things to do in Manhattan—Humidity plagues Manhattan through the bulk of September. Need indoor ideas? The Museum of Natual History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art are enough to keep you busy for a few days, as well as indoor rock climbing in NYC, New York City entertainment (Broadway shows, talk show screenings, concerts, etc.), and tons of air conditioned places to paint your own pottery. Eager to brave the heat? Have a picnic in Central Park or head to New Jersey’s Runaway Rapids Water Park for some last-minute summer splashes.
  3. Fun Things to do in Southern California—It’s always summer in sunny Southern California, but it’s not nearly as humid as it is back east. With Disneyland not to far away and a ton of water parks, you should have no time planning a late summer vacation and finding places to visit in Los Angeles, San Diego, Long Beach, and Santa Monica.
  4. Fun Things to do in Florida—Unless you spend your time in the water at the beach or at a waterpark, you’ll want to be indoors during your Florida vacation—that is, if you plan on heading down to South Florida. The northern parts of Florida can be quite nice in September. To stay cool, visit museums, casinos (there are great casinos in Daytona, Florida and Orlando casino cruises), and indoor waterparks.

If you are reading this too late, check out this fall foliage post or this fall foliage blog or just go to a shopping mall, like Battlefield Mall Springfield or Smith Haven Mall

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Buckhead, Atlanta

I just read an article in the New York Times travel section (albeit a year old) about Buckhead, which is just north of Atlanta’s central downtown area—or we say “uptown” since it tends to be classier, more upscale, and a lot more expensive. According to the NYTimes article, it’s “one the of the nation’s wealthiest communities…the Beverly Hills of the South.” Now I don’t know if I’d go THAT far, but it certainly is a very nice area, with beautiful malls, great restaurants and bars (yes, I’ve created for myself a bit of a social life), museums, and stunning houses and hotels.

Here are some places in the Buckhead area that are worth checking out:

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Malls in the Atlanta area

I usually get all my back to school shopping done with well before school actually starts. And I THOUGHT I had done so this year as well, but apparently, as the kids tell me, especially my oldest, I did it all wrong. School supplies are a bit off, shoes are “so last year” and clothes are just “off”. I was getting bored of the mall near our house, so did a little research to compile a list of all the malls in the area (as far as Macon and Augusta). So if you still need to do some back to school shopping, almost one month into the action already, you can check some of these out:

Those are what I came up with, but feel free to add to the list! Happy shopping! (And wish me luck this time…)
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5 Ways to Celebrate going back to School

It’s not easy going back to school after a fun-filled summer. I remember from when I was a kid, but more, I see it every morning during these last few weeks as I try and drag my kids out of bed, into clothes, and to the bus. Here are a few ideas of how to make this transition time less miserable…maybe even fun!

  1. Remind your kids that they still have the weekends. Have them look forward to Saturdays and Sundays by having them help you plan little day trips. (Last week we went to Six Flags Over Georgia!
  2. On a particularly difficult morning, set out an ice cream sundae buffet on the kitchen table. Make it healthy with frozen yogurt, fruit toppings, and granola! (We did this on the first day of school, but it’s also great if a birthday fall out midweek.)
  3. “Forget” to pack your kids lunch and then swing by school later with fresh slices of pizza.
  4. The day doesn’t have to end at 2:30 when school is out—bring you kids (and even a few friends) to the mall for a few hours and let them roam around like they did in the summer. (Cumberland Mall and Lenox Square Mall (both in Atlanta) are great for roaming.)
  5. Help your kid’s class organize field trips, like to the local zoo or aquarium. Volunteer to chaperone if that will help the cause. (I’ve already volunteered for Zoo Atlanta and the Georgia Aquarium—must start saving up my lunch hours…no one said back to school was easy for mom!)

And for mom—take advantage of the fact that your kids are going to bed a little earlier and take a bubble bath or catch up on your reading. Or, go to sleep early yourself!
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Atlanta is fun!

Just a quick update on our going abouts in our new hometown. We’re really starting to love Atlanta. The Hammond family has been busy and the kids have each found new activities, new friends, and new places in Atlanta that they love. (Do I smell success??)

Our most recent trip was to Coca Cola World and I don’t believe that we’ve been here already for a few months and that wasn’t the first thing we did. I am not a coke drinker and rarely allow it into the house, however, this was a special treat and it really blew us away. The exhibits are fascinating and the kids came out of there on suuuuuch a sugar high…wow! But it was fun—worth the calories!

I’m a big Jim Henson fan and I literally had tears in my eyes at the Henson exhibits at the Center for Puppetry Arts. What a magical place! The kids loved it too, though thought it was strange that I was getting all dopey on them with nostalgia.

I don’t think that SciTrek, the Science and Technology Museum of Atlanta, was created for kids specifically, but it is definitely a great place to bring kids of all ages. Each of my kids (12, 9, and 4) found something that interested them. Alex was great and took Justin around with her for a little bit so I could spend some extra time with Julia (the 9) who’s going through a surprising science phase. All in all, another great day.

My special treat—I went out with some new work friends to the Atlanta Brewing Company for a free tour and tasting. It had been a long time since I’d “been out” so there was a hint of awkwardness—but nothing that a beer or two couldn’t cure!

So things are good. Now we’re all just looking forward to our family trip to San Francisco. The kids have a few weeks of camp and then we’re off!
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Flashback to my Dolly Parton days…

I was never SO into Dolly, but a few years back I went through a little Dolly phase that brought me around Tennessee to all the famous Dolly hotspots.

So first on the list is Dollywood, one of the cheesiest and happiest places on earth. I don’t know why I’ve been thinking about Dollywood so much lately. I think it’s because part of my wanted to spend part of my precious time in Tennessee (during recent visit) at Dollywood, but I didn’t give in to myself, and now I sort of regret it. I’ve been to the National Gospel Convention there every year for the past few years, and will be sad to miss it this time ‘round. And we’re going to miss KidsFest this year, which bums me out (much more than it bothers my kids). And the kids loved Dolly’s Splash Country.

I was never a tourist in Nashville, but whenever we had friends coming for a visit or passing through, we always sent them (and sometimes accompanied them) on one of Nashville’s music history tours that took visitors to the estates of Dolly Parton, Kix Brooks, and others.

Atlanta’s got great shopping (better than Nashville’s as a whole) but I do miss Broadway Avenue which I grew up with as the best “big city” shopping in the area. I used to love going into old record stores and browsing through piles and piles of old music. And if you go to Manuel Exclusive Clothier, they make a big deal about being responsible for dressing Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash, so that’s fun.

Nashville’s public transportation system is called the Music City Star—I’ve even feeling nostalgic for that, and barely ever rode it!

Dolly Parton was born in Sevierville, Tennessee (near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park which is a beautiful place to visit, if you’ve never been) and at an early age was making TV appearances and performing at the Grand Ole Opry. In Tennessee, that’s a huge accomplishment for a child. In Dollywood there’s a replica of the house where Dolly and her 10 brothers and sisters lived, it’s tiny and inspiring, how someone who grew up with so little of what we now consider necessities made it so big in the world and now provides so much for others who grew up like she did.

Dolly is not just a sex icon and a country singer, though. I’m most impressed with her Imagination Library project which sends one book a week to children from the time they are born until Kindergarten.

My heart breaks when I hear the song Just Because I’m a Woman, one of Dolly’s first hits and one of my favorite songs to listen to when I’m feeling down. Here are the lyrics (from http://www.dollyon-line.com/); I’m sure every woman can relate:

I can see you’re disappointed
By the way you look at me
And I’m sorry that I’m not
The woman you thought I’d be

Yes, I’ve made my mistakes
But listen and understand
My mistakes are no worse than yours
Just because I’m a woman

So when you look at me
Don’t feel sorry for yourself
Just think of all the shame
You might have brought somebody else

Just let me tell you this
Then we’ll both know where we stand
My mistakes are no worse than yours
Just because I’m a woman

Now a man will take a good girl
And he’ll ruin her reputation
But when he wants to marry
Well, that’s a different situation

He’ll just walk off and leave her
To do the best she can
While he looks for an angel
To wear his wedding band

Now I know that I’m no angel
If that’s what you thought you’d found
I was just the victum of
A man that let me down

Yes, I’ve made my mistakes
But listen and understand
My mistakes are no worse than yours
Just because I’m a woman

No, my mistakes are no worse than yours
Just because I’m a woman

So just a little reminiscing…we all need that sometimes. By the way, I came across a fun blog post that has great pictures of Dolly’s model house in Dollywood and some fun facts about Dolly Parton. Julia (the author of the blog, a self proclaimed real-estate junkie) also gives a list of other famous houses, in fact that’s the theme of her blog—fun!


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Ambivalent in Atlanta…?

It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? Time is really flying, which I guess is good—no hurdles slowing down time is always appreciated. We’ve already been to Antioch and back, which was both fun and relaxing, but also difficult—Alex cried so hard when she had to say goodbye to her friends again, and it just broke my heart. But kids are so resilient, aren’t they? Only one week back and already she’s involved in intense middle school drama with an entirely different group of kids.

So the kids hung out with friends and I got some free time to meet up with some of my girlfriends at Hickory Hollow Mall and even spent an afternoon BY MYSELF at Cheekwood (a mansion/museum in the area), where even I got a little emotional (or a lot). My parents took us all to a High Kings concert at the Ryman Auditorium & Museum, in Nashville, which was great, and Justin fell asleep in the isle like he always does.

I’m getting a little sad now as I write this – maybe taking this job in Atlanta wasn’t the best idea. I’m starting to regret the fact that my kids aren’t going to grow up with their grandparents down the street from their house like I was able to do. I really felt like I needed to go, though. The job promotion was a big part of it, but also, everywhere I looked I saw a past that I could not escape from. I was born, raised, educated, married, mothered, and divorced all within a 50 mile radius of Antioch, Tennessee. And I just started to feel…trapped.

A few days ago I took Alexandra to the High Museum of Art, and just – Wow – even compared to Cheekwood which I love so dearly, this place…it’s incomparable, really. And that’s how I feel every time I get in the car and drive to work or to the kids’ schools, or to the mall – and it’s a great feeling. And I’ve been reading a lot about the rich history of the area and geography (can’t wait to go to the Golden Isles).

And these are reasons why we moved here. I guess it’s normal to go back and forth for a while.