Thursday, June 28, 2012

Disney's California Adventure: Carthay Circle

Carthay Circle RestaurantDate of Visit: June 23, 2012

We celebrated Mik's 18th birthday at the new Carthay Circle restaurant on Buena Vista Street in Disney's California Adventure.  We all really enjoyed it, but it is an expensive place.  It was worth the splurge, though, and the $220 for 2 appetizers, 4 entrees, 4 drinks, 4 desserts, and tip  actually seemed like a bargain after spending almost $100 to eat just a regular entree breakfast at the IHOP across the street the day before.

When dining at the Carthay Circle restaurant, you check in on the first floor in the corner of the lounge.  The waiter comes and gets you from the lounge area and takes you upstairs (via elevator for us) to your table.  What is really nice is that they already know there is a wheelchair and they had a chair removed and totally out of the way before we got up there.

Carthay Circle Restaurant

For the appetizer, we got the house biscuits.  Mik really loved them, as he is always a bread and biscuit type person and he really like the bacon in it.  The other appetizer we got was the grilled grape leaves stuffed with chenel goat cheese.  These were okay, but I have had way better at the local street fair not to mention actually in Europe.

Carthay Circle Restaurant

For the entree Mik went with the Kobe beef cheek sliders and he enjoyed them a lot.  He also tried Mom's bacon wrapped shrimp, but was not much into them.  I had the Udon Noodle Bowl, which ended up being way more hot spicy rather than the flavorful spicy I expected.

Carthay Circle Restaurant

Dessert was the best part at least for me.  I enjoyed the Fried Banana Split Monte Cristo Sundae.  It was a fried banana with three little scoops of ice cream and a banana chip shaped like a banana.  I forget what Mik's dessert was called and cannot find it on any of the online menus, but it was something like chocolate chip ice cream with a brownie.  The brownie came on the side, but the picture is of how Mik set up his dessert before digging in.  Looks much cooler the way he did it!
Carthay Circle Restaurant

Destination Info:
Disney's California Adventure 
1313 South Harbor Boulevard
Anaheim, CA 92802

Sunday, May 27, 2012

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park: Espada Aqueduct

Espada AqueductDate of Visit: May 27, 2012

The Espada Aqueduct was our second stop on our visit to the San Antonio Missions.  This was a quick stop, but totally worth it.  It is just cool to see the aqueduct that was used in Spanish colonial times and continued to be used until modern times.  I have read it is still functioning, but it certainly does not appear to be in use with it being totally dry on our visit.  However, that could be related to the whole San Antonio River revival project going on that we noticed a lot of signs for as we drove between the missions.

Espada Aqueduct
Destination Info:
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park - Espada Aqueduct
San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park: Mission Espada

Mission EspadaDate of Visit: May 27, 2012

We started our visit to the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park at Mission Espada. We started our visit at the visitor center to get the National Park stamp.  Entering the visitor center was a little awkward with dad having to hold both the doors open in order for it to be wide enough to push Mik in.  There is a small exhibit in the visitor center.

Mission EspadaAfter the visitor center we walked around to the church, which also had the same style of doors as the visitor center.  The doors to the church were a little more tricky, though, as only one was unlatched to open.  However, Dad figured out how to unlatch it in order to open both for Mik to get inside.

Mission EspadaDestination Info:

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park - Mission Espada
10040 Espada Road
San Antonio, Texas 78214

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Chamizal National Memorial

Chamizal National MonumentDate of Visit: May 25, 2012

It seemed like we were not going to get to Chamizal before the visitor center closed at 5 p.m., so Mik thought we had definitely decided to keep it on the original return part of the trip.  However, it was just not a big deal if we did miss it on the way to Florida, since it was already in the return plan.  Anyways, we got there about 4:30 p.m. and while he was annoyed we still stopped, at least did come around and get out for a picture by the Historic Boundary Monument.

Dad and I went into the visitor center to get the National Park stamps for the memorial and the trail it is part of.  Inside the visitor center there is a small museum, which gives a good background of the border dispute of the area and the final treaty in the 1960s.  We kind of just quickly browsed it, since we were there so close to closing, but we did not really miss much of it, as it is pretty small and even the text is not as much as it seems because everything is in English and Spanish.

Chamizal National Monument
After the museum, we were going to walk to the boundary monument before leaving and gave Mik a last chance to get out and see something.  The trail to the monument from the parking lot is a nice wide dirt path.  It was fine on the day we were there and probably almost all year round, but it seemed that if wet from rain or other water it could easily be quite a muddy trail.

Destination Info:
Chamizal National Memorial
800 S. San Marcial
El Paso, Texas 79905

New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum

New MexicoFarm and Ranch Heritage MuseumDate of Visit: May 25, 2012

This first stop on our trip was unplanned.  After we left Tucson early, I decided to look at what places had National Park stamps and were pretty much on our route.  The New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum ended up being just a few miles out of the way and it has El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail stamp.

It ended up being a pretty interesting museum to visit, although we did not take the time to see it all.  Of what we saw, the New Mexico Centennial exhibit was the most interesting.  Mik and I had fun doing the scavenger hunt in that exhibit and then we used the 10% off from doing it to get some yummy New Mexico grown pistachios in the gift shop.

New MexicoFarm and Ranch Heritage Museum
We looked at the Heritage Gallery a little and the John Deere exhibit.  We certainly could have spent more time there, especially since we did not even venture outside to see the animal exhibits.  However, we still wanted to get the Chamizal National Monument even though it technically was on the plan for the way home.

Destination Info:
New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum
4100 Dripping Springs Road
Las Cruces, New Mexico 88011

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Our Summer 2012 Plans

Tomorrow or Friday we hit the road for the first of four planned trips this summer. This summer was supposed to be just simple seeing the new Miami ballpark to be back up-to-date having seen a game at every current MLB ballpark, but it ended up evolving into more.

First, we decided to add some time at Disney World since our premier passes are good until June 2 and we now have a DVC membership. Then I added some national park trips to the route, since we want to try for the Gold achievement in the National Parks Travelers Club passport stamp thing for this year. At the last minute I tried to revise the plan to catch Strasburg pitch in Atlanta on Saturday, but alas they are sold out of accessible seats. Thus the first trip this summer is 2 weeks long with just one ball game in Miami (still get to see the Nats, just not Strasburg pitch), a week at Disney World, a day at Universal Orlando to see Harry Potter World, and visits to 7 national park units.

The second trip this summer is mid-June and is just Dad and me going to Vegas for the bowling tournament we get to do as part of the league we did this year.

The third trip is Disneyland for Mik's 18th birthday. I celebrated my 18th birthday at Disneyland, so it seemed appropriate to do Mik's there, too, especially since Cars land will be open. We are also finally staying at the Grand California hotel, which especially Mom has wanted to stay out since it first opened. For his birthday meal we got reservations at what will be the very newly opened and fancy Carthay Circle restaurant. We were going to do the Ariel's Grotto World of Color dinner finally, but of course that will be discontinued with the opening of Carthay Circle and now they just have princess things there.

July was supposed to be spent on household projects, but Mom and Dad decided on a two week cottage trip and Mik learning to drive the boat. It will be funner to spend time at the cottage on the island in Michigan. Plus, I am going to make a plan to hit Marceline and at least a few National Parks along the drive to and from the cottage.

It is no All the Ballparks summer, but it sure ended up being more than I thought. That's a good thing, but it will be interesting fitting my weekly discussions and assignments in for my Masters courses. I will be done before summer 2013, but seriously I plan to stick to just the Europe Disney Cruise. Oh, and probably a little Disneyland trip. Oh, and the Arizona national parks we were going to do this summer, but won't get to because school starts beginning of August and everything else that got planned. And thus you can see it quickly evolves into a lot of summer plans. I will say now, though, that I will try really hard to make no 2014 plans so Dad can try and do Alaska like he has always wanted and not the flying through Anchorage checking off the state when we go to Hawaii in October way.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site

Mary McLeod Bethune Council House NHSDate of Visit: March 28, 2012

The Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site was not much of a visit, but at least I did get us National Park Passport stamps for it and the nearby Carter G. Woodson House NHS (not currently open to public).  I could not find any info on whether this was an accessible site or not, so we went fully knowing Mik might not be able to go in.

It turns out that there are two sets of steps up to it not to mention the tour probably is multiple floors.  Of course, I did not directly ask if there was wheelchair access, but there definitely was not a sign and a Park Ranger was buzzing to be let back in and I would think he would have said something if there was because he passed us on the street while we were still taking photos before I went up to the door.

Mary McLeod Bethune Council House NHS
Anyways, it is a historic house and that's just the way it goes sometimes.  Neither of us actually toured the house (I sure was not going to leave Mik sitting out there by himself!), but we count it as visiting it towards out National Parks visited count as we did go right up to it.  Since we had low expectations, it was not a disappointment and in fact Mik still really enjoyed seeing the flowers in the yard.

Destination Info:
Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site
1318 Vermont Ave NW
Washington, DC