May 10

Abilene Zoo – Texas

Ladybug
Big or small it does not matter we like to go to zoos.  It has become our vacation ritual.  We had never been to the Abilene Zoo before and finding ourselves in the area decided to go.  Zoo trips with our kids does not get much better.  Our 4-year-old loves animals and has a head full of facts.  Our youngest wants to do whatever the oldest does so it usually makes for a pretty good outing.
Wetlands
The Abilene Zoo is a small zoo at just 13 aces.  Pretty much the ideal size for us when we are on vacation.  Does not take a whole day to visit.  We get up early anyway so we can be there when it opens.  Kids get up moving around and start the day off well before we need to hit the road again.  Even though it was small there were still plenty of animals to see.  The Abilene Zoo has over 1,000 animals from 250 species including several big attraction animals like rhinos, giraffes, and lions.
reptile house
We visited in March on chilly morning and not all the animals were on display.  For the most part that was to be expected.  Not that big of a loss for us because with a local zoo membership we get a pretty nice discount at most zoos we see.  The main thing is letting my girls experience seeing animals, learning from the informational signs, having a good time.  They are little so attractions do not have to have that wow factor yet.  Trying to keep the bored syndrome at bay for as long as possible.  As for my wife and I we like to have the “if we ran a zoo” discussion about the size and types of exhibits.  While we still enjoy seeing the animals it is becoming more interesting to see who does what with the space and money they have.  Almost every zoo we have ever visited has at least something that stands out and something that leaves us pondering on what they were thinking.  The Abilene Zoo was not the exception to that line of thought.
Caribbean Cove
A few areas of the Abilene Zoo that stood out to us were their Wetlands of the Americas area.  Nice collection of birds as well as a large 13-foot alligator.  Nice collection of reptiles in their reptile house.  Their North American area also had a nice variety of animals in relatively natural enclosures.   Our kids favorite area was the Caribbean Cove and their sand box area where they had a good time playing in the sand.
Frog
Now their best area is their large giraffe enclosure where you get a chance to feed giraffes.  This was also the most disappointing area for us.  Our girls have fed giraffes a few times so we don’t always pay the extra money for that experience.  However, like anybody that visits a zoo we like to get the best view of the animals that we can.  That is what we paid the zoo entrance fee for.  Unfortunately, when we went to the railing to get an unobstructed view of the giraffes we were sternly asked to back away.  The reasoning that the giraffes would be teased that we did not have food for them.  We were not pretending we had food.  Did not have our hands out.  Nor were there any signs up that said we could not be there or anything.  I know zoo operation costs are astronomical, but come on don’t take away the best views just to make few extra dollars.  There are many other ways to help with costs.  So we left that area with a bitter taste.
Giraffe Yard
Overall, the Abilene Zoo was a nice small town zoo.  They had enough variety of animals to make it interesting.  Great for little kids.  No wow exhibits but young children do not need that to have a good time.  We will probably never find ourselves back in that part of Texas so I’m glad that we saw it when had the chance.

To see our reviews of other Texas attractions, click here
M at the zoo
Abilene Zoo
Located At 2070 Zoo Ln, Abilene Texas
Hours of Operation 9 to 5 daily with extended hours Thursdays during the Summer
Cost as of this Posting Adults 13 to 59 $7 Seniors 60 and over $6 and children 3 to 12 $4.50
For more information visit their website at http://abilenezoo.org/

May 09

 Fort Phantom Hill – Abilene, Texas

Fort Phantom
Lines of chimney stacks is what greeted us as we took in some Texas state history at Fort Phantom Hill.  There was something ghostly about the ruins there.  A sort of uneasy feeling about walking around the grounds of the abandoned fort.  I imagine the soldiers stationed there had a similar feeling.  Kind of out in the middle of nowhere Texas in dry brush country hoping for a good water source which apparently, the soldiers of that time period did not have.  Rough life but somebody had to do it.
Abandoned Fort
Never officially named, probably was not the best of signs, but known as the “Post on the Clear Fork of the Brazos.”  Fort Phantom Hill was first established in 1851 as Texas seek to protect its settlers moving west.  Unfortunately, a water source was hard to establish and the army abandoned it in 1854.  So after it burned to the ground.  Leaving a dozen or so chimneys, stone powder magazine, a stone guardhouse, and an almost-intact commissary.  Some of the buildings were restored in 1858 to be a stage stop for the Butterfield Stage Company.  Once again it became a base of operations during the Civil War, but by the 1870s it days were numbered and eventually dried up when the railroad bypassed the area for Abilene.
Path at the Fort
The ruins of Fort Phantom Hill were in much better shape than I thought.  It offered interesting photo opportunities.  At the entrance to the fort there is an informational stand with an original map of the fort.  Makes it easier to visualize what it was like.  There is short marked trail that weaves throughout the ruins.  The trail is a gravely path but remember this is rattlesnake country so be careful when walking around the stone ruins.  Another visitor gave us a warning about seeing a snake however we did not see any during our time there.
Fort Phantom Abilene
To help make more sense of stop to old ruins I highly suggest taking you time to read the informational map and brochures.  It will give a fuller understanding of the fort and history.  Now I would say that Fort Phantom Hill is an interesting stop if you find yourself near Abilene, Texas.  However, it would not really be worth going out of your way to see.   Unless you have a hankering for the supernatural.  Legend has it that area is haunted.  Now we did not see any apparitions.  Though the ruins of an old fort coupled with an old farming community, Native American land, and just the amount of history in place like that. A person would have a pretty good storyline to an old-fashioned horror movie.

For our reviews of other Texas attractions, click here
Post of the clear fork of the Brazos
Fort Phantom Hill
Located at 10818 FM 600 Abilene, TX
Hours Of Operation: Dawn to Dusk 7 days a week 365
Cost as of this Posting: Free
For more information visit their website at http://fortphantom.org/

May 04

Lucy Park – Wichita Falls, TX

Lucy Park
A get out and stretch the legs spot and with a growing family any area to burn off some of my kids’ energy is a good one.  Lucy Park is a regional park.  Located in the city of Wichita Falls, Texas.  Lucy Park was a fun little spot to take the kids. For a city park, it has a very natural setting lots of trees, winding paths, a couple of playgrounds, views of the river, and a large waterfowl pond.
Lucy Park
Lucy Park sits on a bend of the Wichita River.  It has a 1.7-mile concrete trail that runs along the river circling the park.  The trail also connects to the running/biking trail system in Wichita Falls.  The park also has 3 playgrounds which our kids enjoyed. An eighteen-hole disc golf course.  Two water features a duck pond and manmade waterfall. A rental cabin for gatherings, lots of tables and benches as well as a swinging bridge that crosses the Wichita River.  Our little ones had never been on a swinging bridge before and their faces lit up as the bridge rocked up in down as we walked across.
Lucy Park
From the park there is about a half mile paved trail to the falls along the cities trail system.  The city put in a 54-ft three-tiered waterfall.  Constructed in the late 80s the waterfall was constructed to replace the original falls the town was named after.  The city’s namesake was washed away in serious flood back in the 1800s.  It is an impressive manmade falls and good photo-op.
Lucy Park
Besides a day out at the park or seeing a waterfall Lucy Park has another attraction worth seeing.  The River Bend Nature Center.  The nature center uses 15 acres of the city park.  Has a learning center, butterfly conservatory, and a nature trail.  A visit to the center would top off a fun day to Lucy Park.

To see our reviews of other Texas attractions, click here
Lucy Park
Lucy Park
Located at 100 Sunset Dr, Wichita Falls, Tx
Hours of Operation 5 a.m. to 12 a.m. 7 days a week
Cost as of this Posting: Free
For more information about Lucy Park visit their website at http://www.wichitafallstx.gov/69/Lucy-Park

May 02

Jasmine Moran Children’s Museum – Seminole, OK

Maze
A place to let our kid’s imagination run wild.  Jasmine Moran Children’s Museum is one of the largest children’s museums that we have ever been to.  The place is massive.  42,000 square feet of indoor interactive space to explore as well as a large outdoor play area the Jasmine Moran Children’s Museum was the perfect place to let our two girls burn off their extra energy.  A bit out of the way.  However, if you have kids 10 or under they will thank you for taking them to Seminole, Oklahoma.
Diggin up Bones
I was really blown away with the amount and variety of exhibits on display.  Just about every dress up opportunity for the kiddos was there.  Our children pretended to be pilots, fire fighters, engineers, meteorologist and doctors just to name a few.  Besides the many career-based exhibits they also had art, math, and science areas to stimulate the mind.  Very hands on experiences were found in every corner of the place.  Though we were there for a good 4 hours we left still not getting to explore the whole place.
little Shopper
Indoors the Jasmine Moran Children’s Museum is divided up into what we would describe as four main areas.  A natural area with a dinosaur dig sand pit, a large freshwater fish tank, and minerals on display.  A large career imagination area.  Jobs from auto mechanic to dentistry. A great area for the kids to imagine the future.  This area also had a nice size pretend grocery store which was a big hit with my girls.  They also have a traveling exhibit area.  The last zone was a play and splash zone.  A large water table with channels and lifts to move the water and a large complex climbing apparatus and slide.  Like I said this place had a little bit of everything.
Listen Up Class
Our girls loved it.  Both under 5 they appreciate the chance just to explore.  Older kids and adults might find some of the exhibits dated, but we were pleasantly surprised that everything was in working order.  A tough task in a hands-on museum.  The Jasmine Moran Museum was an incredible find for us and our children.  A place that would be right at home in much larger cities.  Though I am glad that it is not.  Children’s museum sometimes get a little too full for our taste.
Flight Control
After exploring the inside make sure you head outside and take in their outdoor exhibits.  For an extra fee, you can take a ride on the Super Sonic Expressway.  We did not partake.  The train runs for a half mile of track including around their pond and nature park.  There is also a miniature town, two playground areas, and a castle maze.  The girls had a blast in the maze and its unique entrance down a slide.  Parenting tip… Have a parent at the bottom of the slide before the kids go down.  Our two-year-old took off like a rocket going underneath the maze walls.  I followed her teasing laugh as she thought she was getting away.  After catching up we made our way out.
Playground
Our visit took place during a weekday while most kids were still in school.  Early enough into the second semester of school that most schools would not be on a field trip.  We basically had the whole place to ourselves.  Could not have asked for a better experience for our two little girls.  The staff was super friendly, our girls got to explore to their hearts content, and no cutting, bumping, rude, or too busy with my smartphone parents to be a parent to ruin our time.  A great day at a great place.

To see our reviews of other, Oklahoma Attractions, click here
Jasmine Moran Children's Museum
Jasmine Moran Children’s Museum
Located at 1714 OK-9 Seminole, OK
Hours of Operation Monday to Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Sunday 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Cost as of this Posting: 3 to 59 $10 and 60 and over $7
For more information http://www.jasminemoran.com/

May 01

Pedernales Falls State Park – Texas

Pedernales Falls Upclose
Pedernales Falls State Park lies 45 miles east of Austin Texas.  Needless to say, it is a popular state park. Especially, in the dog days of summer when the park becomes a great place to swim, wade, canoe or tube down the river.  However, with over 5,000 acres to explore Pedernales Falls State Park has a lot more to offer.  Home to two waterfalls, hiking, biking, and horse trails.
Deer
Our particular visit to the park took place Mid-March.  So, the water activities were out but I was more interested in seeing their water features.  For as large as Texas is there are not that many waterfalls.  So, a state park that has two of them… sign me up.  The name sake of the park is the larger of the two but the half mile trail to Twin Falls is also worth the visit.  Perdernales Falls is much larger having several short wide drops over the length of couple of football fields.
TWIN FALLS Texas
Like most places, we end up visiting we are there long enough to see the highlights before we need to move on.  Our time at Pedernales Falls State Park was very short.  Just sufficient time for me to hike out to both falls, both less than a mile in length. However, long enough to realize that fall or spring camping or an RV trip to the park would be worthwhile.  I would like to hike some of their other trails like the top of Wolf Mountain and see what Texas Hill Country is all about.
Pedernales Falls
I was there on a cloudy raining day.  This made for a slightly unsettling feeling walking out across the river rock towards the falls.  There were plenty of warning signs up around Pedernales Falls State Park about the chance of flash flooding.  Though after seeing several photographers and their muses out walking around the rocks I felt that since I made the drive all the way out there I might as well take the steps to see it.  If you do visit the state park make sure you are weather as well as conditions aware.

For our reviews of other Texas attractions, click here

Pedernales Falls State Park
Located at 2585 Park Rd 6026 Johnson City
Hours of Operation: 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. 7 days a week
Cost as of this Posting 13 and over $6
For more information visit the Pedernales Falls State Park website at http://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/pedernales-falls

Apr 10

Oklahoma Route 66 Museum: Clinton, OK

Route 66 Signs
Route 66 is Americana at its best.  Located in Clinton, Oklahoma on the western side of the state along I40 is the state’s official Route 66 museum.  The Oklahoma Route 66 Museum is a nice little stop that explains the rise and fall of the Mother Road.
gas station exhibit
Affiliated with the Oklahoma Historical Society.  The Oklahoma Route 66 Museum is the best one that we have been to that tells the complete story of the famous highway.  Divided up by decades.  The museum showcases what made each decade unique.  From its humble beginnings as a series of interconnected dirt roads, to the Jazz Age of excess down to the lows of the Dust Bowl as thousands searched for a better life.  The 40’s and 50’s became the highpoint of the Route 66 experience of the open road.  Followed by the inception of the Interstate Highway System and the end of Route 66 as they knew it.
Exhibit
What really made this an excellent stop was just how well thought out the museum was.  A lot of small museums that we have visited seem to be more of hodgepodge of items.  No rhyme or reason.  Here I could tell they wanted to tell the historical story of Route 66 and they did.  Really interesting stuff.  I could see all visitors young and old enjoying a trip to the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum.
Route 66 Museum
Another thing I liked about my visit was just how aesthetically pleasing it was.  The museum was well organized and clean.  Each decade also came complete with samples of the legendary songs that made up the era. The combination of artifacts, vintage cars, and Route 66 signs, old gas pumps, and pictures from each decade really help explain what the Route 66 experience was all about.  I also enjoyed how they tied in the bigger picture of each decade to the highway.  Having information about the famous celebrities of the day, cost of living, historical moments to help explain the times.
get your kicks on route 66
Overall the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum is worth a stop. A great history lesson to be had.  If looking for a little nostalgia this place has you covered.  Plus, traveling West on I40 once past Oklahoma City there is not a whole lot of quality low cost stops to be had.  There are a few diamonds in the rough out there and this is certainly one of them.

To see our reviews of other Oklahoma Attractions, click here
Oklahoma Route 66 Museum
Oklahoma Route 66 Museum
Located at 2229 West Gary BLVD Clinton, OK
Hours of Operation: Monday through Saturday 9 to 5 and Sunday 1 to 5 with extended hours during the summer months closed the 1st week in Jan, and most major holidays
Cost as of this Posting: Adults 19 to 61 $7, Seniors 62 and over $5 Children 6 to 18 $4
For more information visit their website at http://www.okhistory.org/sites/route66.php

Mar 29

Historic Fort Reno: Oklahoma

Fort Reno Chapel
Historic Fort Reno has an interesting history that the good people of the Historic Fort Reno Inc., are trying to retell.  A work in progress.  Historic Fort Reno has been undergoing a renovation and restoration since 1997.  Several of the Fort’s buildings have been stabilized and restored.  As well as new projects along the way. You have to really like history to get the full worth of a visit to Historic Fort Reno.  However, with things like Ghost Tours and very knowledgeable caring volunteers /staff Historic Fort Reno can be enjoyed by anybody.
Static Display
Located a few miles outside of El Reno a small town just west of Oklahoma City.  Historic Fort Reno was one of the first American installations in the state. First commissioned by the U.S. Government in 1874 during the Plains Indian Wars.  The fort served as a military post up until just after World War II.  It has a rich history.  From being a fort that helped supervise the Oklahoma Land Runs to being a POW camp during World War II.  Historic Fort El Reno spent many of its years in operation as a cavalry remount station.  Some of those horses would go on to sire many famous horses like Seabiscuit.
Restored Fort Reno
There are several buildings that have been restored.  These include the chapel, the 1936 Officer’s Quarters, and they are currently in the process of recreating one of the stables.  Also on the grounds is the US Cavalry Association Museum.  As well as the Old Fort Reno Cemetery.
Fort Reno Display
It was easy to tell that the people working there really cared about the restoration and history of the fort.  They have been working really hard returning this national historic site to prominence.  However, with limited funds the exhibits on display are all static.  Interesting information to be sure.  Unfortunately, for those that have conditioned themselves to only getting information from interactive displays, touchscreens, or smartphones will find a visit sorely lacking.
Fort Reno Cementary
Historic Fort Reno was a quiet surprise for me.  I really had no expectations going in I just knew it was in the area and wanted to check it out.  I think they are doing a fine job restoring the fort.  A lot more history to the place than meets the eye.  Hopefully in time they will be able to modernize some of the informational areas so the place may be more enticing to the younger generation.

For our reviews of other historical sites, click here
HIstoric Fort Reno
Historic Fort Reno
Located at 7107 W Cheyenne St
Hours of Operation; 10 to 4 Monday through Saturday
Cost as of this Posting: Donation
For more information visit their website at

Mar 26

Stafford Air and Space Museum: Oklahoma

Stafford Air and Space Museum
Not all great museums are found in large cities.  The Stafford Air and Space Museum located in the small town of Weatherford is a fine example of great things coming from small places.  A world class museum that is reasonably priced.  Making the Stafford Air and Space Museum a must see when traveling down I40 in Western Oklahoma.
Apollo Space
The Stafford Air and Space Museum has almost 50,000 sq. feet of exhibit space.  Historical and family memorabilia of hometown hero Thomas P. Stafford.  One of the Apollo Missions astronauts as well as the American commander of the first joint mission between the United States and the Soviet Union.  As the name implies it is not just a space museum.  They also house over 20 historic aircraft that depict the history of flight.  A great choice if you are looking for a fun learning experience about the Space Race as well as the technological advancement of flight through the ages.
Aviation Museum
I knew the reviews of the Stafford Air and Space Museum had the museum well received.  So, I expected a good visit.  However, the museum really blew me away.  The Stafford Air and Space Museum is really top flight very similar to my experience at the CosmoSphere in Hutchinson, Kansas.  Another small-town museum that could rival any big city museum.  Both places are well worth your time to visit.
Rockets of the Space Race
It was amazing the amount of history that could be found between the walls of the Stafford Air and Space Museum.  The incredible life story of Thomas P. Stafford would be in itself a museum.  The Titan rocket on display, the replica ½ scale Lunar Module, Gemini Spacecraft, Apollo X Space Suit and thousands of other objects are worth the price of admission.  Even if Stafford never walked on the moon he and his museum were still considered important enough to have a moon rock on display.
Stafford History
While I knew that they would have a variety of NASA artifacts on display, what really made this museum visit stand out for me was their history of flight exhibits.  Just about every major event was covered.   From man’s early attempts to replicas of the Wright Brothers Flyer.  The Stafford Air and Space Museum is a great place to learn about flight.  It really covered all the basics a replica of the “Spirit of St. Louis” to an F16 Fighting Falcon.  The museum ended up being a lot bigger and better than I had imagined it.
Weatherford Museum
I really enjoyed my time at the Stafford Air and Space Museum it is a real gem of an Aviation Museum.  Of course, I am into that.  As a U.S. history teacher, it is always great to see the objects and learn about the people that made history.  If you are interested in space flight, the Cold War, or the history of flight the Stafford Air and Space Museum is the place to go.  Even if you could pass on some of those topics it would still be worthwhile if you find yourself traveling down I40 and looking for a place to stop and stretch the legs for a bit.  Who knows you might find that flight is a little bit more interesting than you thought.

To see our reviews of other Oklahoma Attractions, click here

Stafford Air and Space Museum
Located at 3000 E Logan Rd Weatherford, OK
Hours of Operation Monday through Saturday 9 to 5 and Sunday 1 to 5 closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Day
Cost as of this Posting Adults $7, 62 and older $5 and Children 6 to 18 $3
For more information visit their website at http://staffordmuseum.org/

Mar 20

Washita Battle Site: Hike

Washita Trail
While there is much to learn at the Washita Battlefield no trip would be complete without a hike to the site of Black Kettle’s Village.  Just a short drive a half mile from the visitor center on Highway 47A.  While there is not much to be seen on the hike.  I found it important to stand on the harrowed ground and pay respects for the tragedy that took place there.
Washita Trail Informative #
At the trailhead of the 1.5-mile trail is a rock engraving about the events that took place.  After reading about the Washita Battle I headed across the open Plains to the bend of the river where the Washita Battle took place.   Along the trail there were several stops with a number to call to hear about the events of the battle.
Washita River
The trail is unremarkable, but the event that took place is.  A horrible tragedy that some would call a battle and others would call a massacre.  History was forever changed at the Washita Battle a flickering light of a proud nation coming towards its end, and the continuing long burn of a fire that swept from seas to shining sea.
The Battle of the Washita 1868
Washita Battlefield National Historic Site
Located at 18555 Hwy 47A Cheyenne, OK 73628
Hours of Operation The visitor center is 8 to 5 but the park is open from Sunrise to Sunset
Cost as of this Posting: Free
For more information visit their website at https://www.nps.gov/waba/index.htm

Mar 20

The Dust and Fire Trail: Washita Battlefield National Historic Site

Dust and Fire Trail
Outside of the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site visitor center is the short-paved trail that looks at life on the plains.  The Dust and Fire Trail is just .4 miles in length but shows a long history of hard work and turmoil of a settler’s life.
Homesteading
The Dust and Fire Trail has interpretive signs at each stop along the trail.  The information tells about the wildlife, flora, fauna, and homestead that could be expected after the Oklahoma land run.  There was even a working wind mill.  A great little history lesson in addition to the history of the Washita Battle.
Windmill
I liked the fact that the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site tells both sides of the settling of the west.  The tragedy that continued to befall the Native Americans with western expansion.  Also, the fruit that sprung out of the blood drenched grounds.  Having the Dust and Fire Trail at the location that is preserving the battle that started the end of the Plains Native Americans.  By showing what life was like for those that replaced the indigenous people it is allowing the visitors to come to grips in their own mind what took place upon the land.
Washita Battle Site Visitor Center
Washita Battlefield National Historic Site
Located at 18555 Hwy 47A Cheyenne, OK 73628
Hours of Operation The visitor center is 8 to 5 but the park is open from Sunrise to Sunset
Cost as of this Posting: Free
For more information visit their website at https://www.nps.gov/waba/index.htm

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