Mom to Iris. Wife to Todd. Our little family lives at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains in Fayetteville, Arkansas. We love it here and I love sharing little bits of our life.

© 2014 sarahfortune.


Category : Travel

Disney World Scavenger Hunt – How to unveil your future trip!

I wasn’t quite sure how we should surprise Iris that we were going to Disney World. This was mostly because we were going over a month away from the big reveal. I searched high and low on the internet on how to make a child excited about a Disney trip in the future, instead of making them confused or disappointed that they weren’t going right away. I wanted to be the mom that woke up Iris and said, “Pack your bags – we’re going to Disney World TODAY!” But our plans just wouldn’t have it. A trip to Disney was her big birthday present this year (she’s six!), but we are waiting until Thanksgiving break when school is out to go.

Whenever I get home from a work trip, Iris asks me if we can do a scavenger hunt with the souvenirs I brought her. I happened to do this one time (after a particularly long trip where I felt guilty for being away) and she’s never forgotten. So while I’m traveling (or sometimes before I’ve left and happen to think of it at Walmart… shhh!), I gather a few trinkets and pieces of candy to surprise her with. I hide them throughout the house and come up with clever clues to lead her to them. I think she loves this more than the actual treats. So knowing how much she loves this game, I decided to take it to the next level because, well, it’s Disney World we’re talking about!

After a little help from the internet and a little brainstorming of my own, I sat down and got my clues in order. Since Iris wasn’t getting her main birthday present until later on, we thought she deserved to find some fun little prizes the morning of her birthday, all of which were hints about our trip. She opened the first present, which was just a simple poem that informed her about the treasure hunt she was about to partake in. From there, it led her to the first clue (with the first prize), and so on.

Inside the initial gift bag, was this “poem”
along with the very first clue.

Clue #2 came with the first hint: A Minnie Mouse cup full of sweet treats.
I accidentally mixed up the printed clues in this photo and the next one, but you get the idea. Thankfully I realized it before I hid everything!

Clue #3 came with a wooden airplane because we’re flying to Orlando.

Clue #4 came with a nightgown for the trip of her favorite Disney princess – Belle!

Clue #5 came with a calendar I found on Amazon,
with the date of our trip marked with question marks.

Clue #6 came with a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt I picked up from Zara when I was in NYC.

Clue #7 came with, what else, Minnie Mouse ears!
(And if you’re wondering, Iris had a very hard time picking up on all of these clues.
She still didn’t get it – even after getting this hint!)

Well, I couldn’t stop there – especially when I found a black light and invisible ink pen in my office. The treasure hunt continues!
(Iris thought this was WAY cool.)

In her playhouse she found a box with a ribbon around it, and when she opened it she found only a safety pin instead of a clue. Looking around, she noticed a ballon and decided (with a little encouraging) to give it a pop.

Inside the balloon was one of the last clues…

And in the mailbox Iris found a package…

Which she put together and read out loud,
“We’re going to Disney World!”

After a slight struggle with reading the Disney font, Iris FINALLY got that we were going to Disney World. She was happy, but not over the top excited because, honestly, she doesn’t fully understand how big of a deal it is yet. I think the true surprise will be how awesome it is when we get there. We travel so much with her, often taking her along on our grown-up adventures, it will be very special to have a trip that is solely focused around her kind of fun. We leave in just a few day, so check back in to see how it goes!

For now, here’s the moment where it finally clicked:

TRAVEL LOVE: Oklahoma City

As mentioned on my previous post, I recently went to Oklahoma City for the very first time. There aren’t many cities left on my “to visit” list within close driving range, but for some reason I had never found my way past Tulsa on I-49. Thanks to the kind folks at the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau, we were able to #seeOKC through some fantastic local experiences. It’s always our mission on a family trip to make it fun for everyone – whether you’re a grown-up or a kid. That means Iris might go to a restaurant or brewery that we really want to try, but we’ll even it out by hitting up a fun spot like a park or zoo.

We drove in on a Friday night so that we could have a full Saturday to explore. So upon arrival on Friday our first priority was, naturally, food and drinks. Situated right next to our hotel, 21c Museum Hotel Oklahoma City, The Jones Assembly was exactly what we were looking for. A lot of folks recommended this spot, noting the atmosphere was very Insta-worthy, but that reservations were hard to come by. Thankfully a table opened up at the very last minute and we were able to wander over for dinner. The food was delish and the atmosphere was a perfect introduction to OKC – very lively with a huge open dinning area, an open-air hangout space to play baggo while we waited for our table, and a swanky bar upstairs. This place was massive – and massively cool.

After an amazing night’s sleep, we woke up and rolled downstairs to Mary Eddy’s Kitchen x Lounge for breakfast, fueling up for a jam-packed day. From there, we ventured off to the Oklahoma City Zoo, where we found lots of wooden paths, curved through trees taking us to the different animals. Iris insisted on riding the train, so we got in a little ride before we left in search of lunch.

Wanting pizza, we found ourselves at Hideaway Pizza where we stuffed our faces and tried a couple local beers. The restaurant was in a cute older part of town so we explored a couple of the local shops (Plenty Mercantile was my fave).

Needing a little rest before our next round of fun, we headed back to the hotel for a little relaxation. I mean, looking at our room, can you blame us? For dinner we made a last minute decision to hop in our hotel’s complimentary shuttle and head to a spot called The Bleu Garten. Quite a few folks on Instagram recommended it, so we decided to give it a try. Lined with food trucks, Bleu Garten was completely outdoors and featured a couple different bar areas along with quite a few yard games – kind of perfect for a family. Iris was able to run around and play while we leisurely ordered drinks and food. I opted for the Healthy Hippo food truck and had an amazing black bean burrito (I’ve since tried to recreate it at home to no avail), while Iris and Todd opted for BBQ (our girl LOVES herself some BBQ).

As the sun went down, we weren’t quite ready to call it a night. So instead of heading back to our home-base, we grabbed an Uber and headed over to Bricktown. Right next to a little river were tons of restaurants, shops, and even mini-golf, but our sights were set on one thing – the Bricktown Water Taxi. We already checked riding a train off our list that morning, and now Iris was ready to end the day with a nighttime boat ride. Talk about the perfect night cap!

On Sunday morning we were sad to say goodbye, but since the drive home to Fayetteville was less than four hours we still had time for a little last minute food and fun. I kept hearing about a place for breakfast called Waffle Champion, but after peeking at their Yelp page I saw that sometimes the line wraps around the block. A little nervous about a long wait, we decided to go for it anyway. Thankfully the line wasn’t crazy yet, but sure enough when we left the line was around the corner.

While Waffle Champion would have been a perfect way to end our weekend getaway to OKC, we had one more place to visit before we said goodbye. I kept hearing that Riversport Adventures was a must-see, so we went to check it out. As soon as we arrived I could tell this was a place where you could spend all day – there was a huge river where you could go white water rafting, another spot for zip lining, and an entire adventure area for kiddos. There were also some extreme slides, which I was too scared to do, but Iris jumped at the chance! While I would have liked to stay longer, it made for a perfect last stop because after jumping on the Cloud Bounce and doing the mini-zip line a million times, Iris napped nearly the whole. way. home.

Now THAT’s the perfect way to end a trip.

This post is in partnership with the Oklahoma City CVB, but all opinions are my own.

TRAVEL LOVE: 21c Museum Hotel Oklahoma City

I recently partnered with one of my most favorite hotel brands – 21c Museum Hotels. Earlier this year I fell in love when Iris and I stayed at the Bentonville, Arkansas property. With only seven locations (and a couple more in the works), their boutique hotels are one of a kind. Each one also serves as an art museum that is open 24/7 and is paired with an equally unique restaurant (we love The Hive in Bentonville).

I had never been to Oklahoma City before, so when I realized that 21c had a location there and that it was less than a 3.5 hour drive away from Fayetteville, we had to go. The drive was easy breezy – perfect for picking Iris up when school let out and rolling into town just in time for dinner. This allowed us to stay two nights, making it pretty much the perfect weekend getaway. I’ll share our OKC adventures on my next post, but for now I can’t stop drooling over this property! Our room alone was amazing – the insanely tall ceilings and natural light won me over as soon as we walked in the door.

As a family of three, they couldn’t have put us in a better room – our 1.5 bedroom suite had a king bed for Todd and I, and an adorable daybed for Iris in her own private area (hallelujah!). It’s rare to find something that works so perfectly for our size family, but this was the best set-up. The suite also included a living area, so when Iris inevitably woke up before us she could watch her cartoons and we could keep on snoozing (especially thanks to those blackout curtains).

So while we were tempted to just hang in our room all weekend, we did make our way to the lobby and museum area for a little exploration before a cocktail at the bar. Right outside our room was this amazing installation…

And while we waited for the elevator there was even more art to explore. We got a bit side-tracked and made a stop on each floor just to check out the different art features.

One of my most favorite pieces was right next to check-in. And my second favorite place, naturally, was the lounge area at Mary Eddy’s Kitchen x Lounge . Seriously everywhere you turn (even the bathroom), there is art!

After a stop at, once again, Mary Eddy’s and lots of exploring OKC on Saturday, coming back to our “home base” was nothing short of awesome. Iris was pumped to find that our purple penguin had moved in our room. She remembered the green ones in Bentonville (people move around these huge guys and you never know where you might find one). And Todd was excited to find a great local beer selection in the mini bar fridge. I was impressed with the prices! Usually mini bar items are so high I never partake, but they know what they’re doing because we had a little bit of everything.

So after a night cap and a night bath (I mean, look at that tub!), we were super sad to wave goodbye to our hotel on Sunday morning. Thankfully though we now know just how easy of a road trip it is, so we will for sure be back soon! Thank you 21c for once again an amazing stay!

I Still Love You New York

Ever since I was a kid, I always dreamed of growing up and moving to New York City. I’ve probably been at least eight or so times, with my first ever visit as a child on a family vacation. All I remember about that trip, which was in the mid-1980s, was that there was a ton of garbage on the streets but I attribute that to being small and closer to the ground. My next trip was with school in the sixth grade – by bus all the way from Memphis, Tennessee. While that sounds like misery to me now, back then it was the biggest, most exciting adventure. Once we actually arrived, we stayed in a crappy hotel in New Jersey and then were bussed in during the day to do a little sightseeing and so that our teachers could do a lot of shopping. So my first couple of visits weren’t that great, but as I got older, I ended up with better experiences and more appreciation for the city.

I just got back from a four-night stay for work and I’m able to report that my love for New York is still the same. The smells (for better or worse), the people watching, the parks, the food, the hustle and bustle. I love it all. I still wouldn’t mind living there, but now my requirements include having millions of dollars, as I want to live the heart of it all. Until then, I’ll appreciate our home in Arkansas, which now looks even bigger and the grass looks even greener than before I left.

I wanted to share not only a few photos from my trip, but also the places I ended up eating. I received a ton of great suggestions on Instagram and was able to hit up a few of them. Here’s where I ate that I loved: Quality Meats, Jack’s Wife Freda, Rock Center Cafe, & Trattoria Dell’Arte. Now on the the photos!

TRAVEL LOVE: Hotel Vandivort in Springfield, MO

Whenever we have a rare, free weekend Todd and I try to get out and explore cities nearby. One place that I’ve driven through, but not actually stopped to explore is Springfield, Missouri. Just a little over two hours away from Fayetteville, it made for a perfectly easy one-night getaway.

Hotel Vandidvort played host to our stay and was the highlight of our trip. I thought this would be a post more about our overall trip to Springfield, but I was really surprised at how much I fell in love with this hotel! A four-diamond boutique hotel, the property is situated right downtown so once we arrived, we parked (for free!) and didn’t need our car again until it was time to go home.

If you’ve followed my travel adventures, you’ve probably heard me say this, but I’m a self-admitted hotel snob. In a previous position at my company I was the Meeting Planner, so one of my jobs was to tour and stay at various hotels we were considering for our conventions. Tough job, right? Well, that experience, mixed with my recent travel blogging, has led me to some pretty amazing properties. But I’m not exaggerating when I say that Hotel Vandivort is one of the best hotels I’ve ever stayed in. I love a boutique hotel, but I really appreciate attention to detail, which Hotel Vandivort really focuses on. From the local chocolates given at check-in, to the assortment of “do not disturb” signs, and the local selection of booze in the room honor bar, they thought of everything. Nickelodeon was even set to come on when we entered the room (along with the lights and glowing artwork) – all of which pretty much blew Iris’ mind.

The combo of the historic building, with modern but comfortable features made the experience feel luxurious, yet unique. I was so impressed with the hotel that on the way home I Googled the history. Opening just a couple years ago in 2015, it was already already named Boutique Hotel of the Year in 2016.

While I could go on and on about the hotel (oh and I will later on), we also explored downtown Springfield, so let’s get on to that! After we got out all of our “oohs and ahhs” at the hotel, we walked down the street to grab some lunch.

From there, we walked around the cute little city square. While Iris made wishes in the fountain, I snuck away to The Golden Girl Rum Club for a huge, fancy drink, watching her from the patio. You guys might recognize this spot, as one of the owners is from A Beautiful Mess blog.

After that, it was Todd’s turn for a drink so we walked over to Mother’s Brewing Company where they were having sort of a backyard Fourth of July party. We sat in the shade with a beer, heard some live music, and watched the locals do their thing. Getting closer to dinner dinner time, we made our way back to the hotel.

Before we ventured to dinner, we stopped to have a drink at the bar in the hotel where Iris had the fanciest Shirley Temple I’ve ever seen. Realizing we were still pretty full from lunch, we decided to plan ahead and walk the short distance over to Hurt’s Donuts so that we’d have dessert for later. Freshening up back at our hotel (and maybe sneaking a little bit of donut), we decided we loved the hotel so much that we wanted to try their restaurant too. Our meal at The Order was not only delicious, but beautifully presented. Before we headed back up to our room (and donuts) we of course had to stop by the bathrooms on the bottom floor to take a famous #hotelvandivortbathroomselfie. I didn’t realize this was a thing until I saw the tagged images on Instagram!

The next day we slept in (!!!), taking full advantage of the noon check-out time. If you are near the area, I would highly recommend taking an overnight trip just to stay at the hotel – but of course explore the area as well! I want to go back just to stay in one of their suites, which are actually pretty reasonably priced. How cozy would this one be in the winter with the indoor/outdoor fireplace? So… Who’s coming with?!

Byyyyeee Springfield! See ya soon!