Why Chattanooga with a Toddler is the place you want to be!?!

Early on in Jon and Is marriage he surprised me with a birthday trip to Chattanooga and it’s been a love affair ever since. The walkability, the intimate but enough feeling, the ease of location. It’s become an annual tradition for us to head up there for a few days, but with a toddler it might become more frequent. And here’s why:

  1. Traffic.
    There isn’t much. Unlike Atlanta we felt extremely safe having Elijah follow us along the sidewalks. It gave us some relief from feeling like he was having to be in his stroller constantly, and he got ALL of his energy out.
  2. Walkability.
    From the aquarium, to the pedestrian bridge over the Tennessee River, to the playground along the riverwalk everything is accessible by foot. Taking away the hassle of being in and out of a carseat while you move locations. The only thing we did that we moved our car for was our hike at Lookout Mountain.
  3. Kid Oriented Activities.
    While they aren’t necessarily cheap, if we were to come up more than twice a year it’d be worth an annual pass. Here’s what you have:
    a. The Tennessee Aquarium – maybe an unpopular opinion, but it is way better than the Georgia Aquarium for a toddler. It is a small walkway that guides you through the exhibit, there are multiple floors and buildings but it keeps you from feeling overwhelmed as you are only seeing one or two things at a time. This was truly Elijah’s favorite part. Check out what they have to offer here: Tennessee Aquarium Site
    b. The Creative Discovery Museum – this was partly under renovation when we went, but between the water features, the creative stations, and the giant play/slide structures Elijah could have easily spent all day in here if he wasn’t already exhausted (we spent about 2 hours). Want more info? Click here.
    c. The Riverwalk water feature – this is a true gem. We stumbled upon it walking around one day but is a gently flowing water feature that ends with a shallow pool overlooking the river. You can find it underneath the pedestrian bridge and check out my Instagram Post for a look here.
  4. Ease of travel.
    Getting somewhere that can give us a change of pace and fresh perspective within 2 hours of Atlanta is optimal. Two hours is about Elijah’s limit before he starts getting antsy. The only traffic you regularly is at the I-24 split (I am not sure why on Earth they created it that way especially when there is clearly more space for more lanes but what do I know), but after you get past it you are 10 minutes out from downtown!
  5. Best of both (all three?) worlds.
    You get a little city, mixed with a little outdoor adventure, mixed with a little small town feel. It makes for such a great opportunity for learning and engaging in a variety of sights, sounds, and activities. Plus almost every restaurant has the color sheets for kids which is also key for tired babes who just want to eat and have some quiet time.

One other tad-bit: DoubleTree Downtown Chattanooga has the BEST FREE cookies when you check in and it’s a good bribery piece for a toddler. Alright, so are you convinced enough? Have any questions/thoughts? Let me know!

Until next time Chattanooga,
Jordan

Old Key West, Epcot and Eats

Originally this weekend was supposed to take place at the beginning of January. Time away, solo, enjoying some sunny Florida weather as a way to refresh and refuel. Lately, I’ve learned how to rent DVC points and grab a cheaper option for a nicer resort. Two years ago we were able to experience Saratoga Springs for the first time and this time I decided to grab an Old Key West reservation. I was excited to check out another DVC exclusive resort and eat at my favorite breakfast on property: Olivia’s.

I stayed with some friends on Thursday night in Gainesville and then headed down to Disney after breakfast Friday. The first night I was there I stayed in one of the good neighbor hotels near Disney Springs; I love close proximity to Disney Springs. It’s so nice to have it as an option just to lounge, shop, get some Disney magic, and get incredible eats.

So after a quick nap in my room I headed towards Disney Springs to check out all the new merch, with a few stops at my familiar comforts! I picked up a new pin from Pin Traders (for Disney Visa Holders) and new ring from Pandora, and the regular grub from the Polite Pig, a barbecue joint with some incredible vegetarian options as well! I checked out a few new toys for Elijah and the latest styles and called it a day!

After settling in for a mostly restful night sleep I woke up and hopped out the door for a walk/light jog, definitely humid, but I couldn’t complain about sunny and not freezing. I made it back just in time to shower, checkout and head to my breakfast reservation at Olivia’s Cafe. There isn’t anything crazy special on the menu but if you want a family feel with cozy eats this is your place. Its located near the main lobby of Old Key West and sits on the water. I made sure to grab some mickey waffles, a LOT of coffee and I headed to Epcot for my one park day. The buses are a little crazy at Old Key West, they do not come through often like they do at a resort like the All Stars and the stops before you actually leave are plentiful. That was lesson #1! When we finally made it to Epcot the excitement was contagious. Typically when I’m at Epcot its during a festival so I am after festival food, unique designs and visuals, but this time it was the week in-between Arts and Flower & Garden so I took advantage of rides and character meets that I usually don’t! It was wonderful. Staying on property also has its advantages here since you can get in early – I was on and off Test Track and in the queue for Ratatouille before the park even opened to the general public.

Ratatouille was a one and done for me, but it’s definitely worth doing! By the time I was out of that line I was starting to get hungry so I went over to Regal Eagle Smokehouse. I was going to try the barbecue, we never have and as someone who lives in a place with fantastic barbecue I was skeptical. Rightfully so, if you live in a place that has access to great barbecue this is a no-go, however, if you don’t then you might find this perfectly acceptable. But it was nothing that a good Joffrey’s cold brew and donut couldn’t make up for! So I sipped as I walked the rest of the show case and stopped for photo-ops, all in all a great day.

After several hours taking it all on I took a lap on the monorail as a break. I had no agenda except to enjoy the ride, I stopped at Magic Kingdom to say hi and then hopped on a bus there to get over to All Star Movies where my sister in law was staying. The afternoon was just as relaxing as can be, we chilled at the pool for awhile, got ready in their room and then hopped over to Hollywood Studios for our first time at the Brown Derby. It’s considered signature dining, and the food was good, but I am not sure quite good enough for the price tag, this was lesson #2.

What happened next was extremely unfortunate and continued to paint Old Key West in a less than positive light. While my sister in law and her friend headed off to rides, I was ready to hit the hay. I walked over to catch a bus to the resort and after 30 minutes I was still waiting for a bus to the resort, it continued to paint the picture that the transportation at OKW is less than ideal. An hour later I finally did get back to the resort, moved my car over the room I was staying in (SHOUT OUT TO MOBILE CHECK IN), grabbed my two backpacks and headed up the stairs to my room, EXCEPT my digital key on my phone wouldn’t open my door. So I rustled through my bags to see if I had any of my magic bands with no luck. Thankfully, when you do mobile check in you’ll get an email that gives a number that goes straight to the front desk of your resort, clutch. So after two calls to them I finally was able to get someone to come let me in, but the process was anything but smooth. Lesson #3 : in person is always better. I should’ve just walked to the front desk myself it would have solved all my issues in a matter of minutes instead of the night and next morning ordeal it became. Who knew you could learn so much after so many times at Disney?

I was slightly disappointed in the rooms at OKW, they seemed more bare bones than the rooms at Saratoga Springs, and there is no access to walk to any parks or Disney Springs. I did NOT like the Boardwalk but the ability to walk to Epcot or Hollywood Studios was clutch. Likewise, at Saratoga Springs the ability to walk to Disney Springs puts it above Old Key West for me.

But again, the food at Old Key West is top notch, and that might be reason enough for some people to still stay there, just probably not me. The next morning I went to their quick service place right on the water called Goods to Go. The harvest breakfast sandwich was hands down one of my favorite sandwiches on property. So while some of the logistics weren’t ideal, the eats were 10/10. Pick your poison.

Leaving is always sad for me, other than on major holidays when I can’t wait to get out of there its just such a fun place to dream, relax, try new things, you can really pick your own vacation! And as you saw above, you’ll learn a few things each time you go!

Enjoy the magic!

Jordan