A few years ago we stopped giving our children gifts of stuff. We have enough stuff. I don't want anymore in the house. Instead, we go on a trip. The kids have not missed opening packages. Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Randi, Uncle Allen, and friends typically give them some box or bag to open. They look forward to our trips, and talk about them for years. But, they cannot remember what year they got the DS, or that toy from Grandma. Ask them about their favorite trip, now that they can go on and on about. They may not be able to tell you which year it was, but they will talk about the week of snowboarding lessons, the week at Great Wolf Lodge, the week of visiting every museum in Houston (the year we were broke - they were all on the free day!) or the year we spent a week in Branson. That was our 2013 trip.
Before going, the kids and I Googled "Free things to in Branson" I acquired a long list of things to do, but watch out, there are no shows and a lot of places are closed between Christmas and New Years. What week did we go? The day after Christmas.
Side of the road plane! This was at a go-cart place (that was closed). There were a lot of neat things like this to see along the roads in downtown. The kids actually had their eyes on the window and not in a book.
I have always loved the Amish culture, so when I saw this little country store, I had hubby stop. Unfortunately I was very unimpressed. I'm sure that the people who own it have ancestors who are Amish, but no one working was. I had to wonder about many of the products too.
Historic Downtown. You don't find a lot of history in downtown Houston, so it's fun to see American History in other towns. The center was closed, so we didn't learn anything that mom couldn't look up on her smartphone.
Right outside of Downtown, there is a great place for hiking. It was difficult to find, but right off the main road.
I personally don't like hiking in the rain, but this would be worth it!
We found caves to explore - just don't go in too far without a flashlight!
The icicles amazed everyone. I haven't seen anything like this since we lived in Colorado. Although it was below freezing, with all the walking (and running) we warmed up quickly.
This cave was big enough to be a living room! We stopped here for a snack. It wasn't tall enough for Hubby to stand up in here, but the girls could. The only thing I didn't like was the graffiti left by some disrespectful visitor.
Here you can see how tall the cave was.
Such a goof.
There were some great trails.
Look at this trail. It's beautiful - even frozen. If you look closely at the wall, you can see the ice dripping.
Finally - some history
Debating on exploring a cave. We decided against this one.
Playing with icicles that fell. There were some icicles that could be dangerous if they fell on someone, so the boys used rocks to make the trail safer.
After a day of hiking we drove around again. This is the Titanic museum. Funny how you can see a giant ship when you are nowhere near the ocean.
This one made me laugh! King Kong!
One thing about Houston - it doesn't get cold. Up here, it does. 23 degrees this morning. Just keep moving and you won't freeze.
Christmas lights were still up, and we found a place to drive through. I wouldn't do it again - too expensive and not very impressive
There is PLENTY of shopping! One of the shops we stopped at was making fudge. This lady was funny and the fudge was pretty good.
We saw a sign that said 'Foot of chocoloate - .99cents' Of course you have to stop!
So many neat, random things to see just driving down the road.
There was a 'car museum' - we thought about stopping, but for the price - x5 people - we decided against it.
Hubby drooled over everything in the parking lot, though.
The worlds largest banjo
Fish hatcheries are so fun to visit. We did that often in Colorado. You can learn a lot about the fish in the area, science in general, and if you have a decent tour guide - you can learn a lot about the area in general.
Nikki feeding the fish
You can't see them n the photo, but Codie is looking at hundreds of fish.
Every ripple is several fish trying to attack the food she has
If you stop to read the signs, you can learn a lot on a guided tour.
Or just take photos of the signs and read them later :)
Here you can see some of the fish
This sight was new to us. Lots of vultures wanting to get at those yummy fish!
Right by the hatchery - a dam waiting for us to go visit- too bad they were closed too
Back inside the visitors center, there are lots of things to see and do
It's not all about fish and conservation - it's all about protecting and saving wildlife in general
After the hatchery, we saw more reasons to 'just drive around'
Who would have ever thought about jacking up a bug? It just seems so Texas!
That's a freaky looking rooster
The view from our condo was great, and we had a great time. This is a trip that we will be repeating - just not in winter