I’m so happy, I’m so happy, I’m so happy…! 😭✨ I don’t even know how many times I’ve said this over and over during the last 48 or so hours.
Not everything in our getaway anniversary weekend went as expected. Some things were way more amazing than planned, others were kind of disappointing, and others were unexpected surprises that we enjoyed a lot. I took lots of pictures and I can’t wait to tell you about it all. I’ll be dividing my weekend summary in two posts, plus a third one for all the goodies I got. This is day one —the best day, really!
(I should add, our anniversary is actually on May 11th. But the timing worked best for this weekend, so we celebrated it early.)
We left a little after 7:00am and had McDonald’s for breakfast. It was unusually good, we enjoyed it a lot. As a side note, I was really excited for my outfit for this day! I’d never worn my Lazy Oaf overalls until this day. They are my only “designer” overalls:
They also marked the beginning of the pandemic for me: the last thing I did before serious lockdown began, was go to the tailor’s to pick them up after adding some extra buttonholes. It was my last day out without a mask. The world changed a lot right after that.
My companion for this weekend was Coffee Cake:
Coffee Cake was pretty excited for his first-ever road trip:
Our first stop after driving a few hours was lunch at the Whistle Stop cafe (the name appears differently on the menu for some reason). This is one of the places that was a bit of a mixed bag. 🤔 The restaurant felt like much of this little town: run down and with caked-on dirt in places. But it was also so old, established in the late 1800s as a drugstore! A lot of its original appearance was still in place, which I found fascinating.
The food was okay, but because the place was fairly dirty, I didn’t have much of an appetite. I had tuna salad, potato salad and a root beer float:
The root beer float didn’t look pretty or appetizing so I didn’t photograph it. I did enjoy the train theme of the place. It was perfect for our train-focused trip! And the staff was very nice, and there was an old man playing an old, slightly out of tune piano. Honestly if the place had been cleaner I would have liked it a lot more. 🤷♀️
Almost across the street was our next stop, the Robert W. Willaford Railroad Museum:
Compared to the Gold Coast Railroad Museum, there wasn’t much to see here (again, comparatively). But they had a lovely model train display:
I got some video of it as well:
Here’s a couple more pics I took from this area:
Then, it was on to a stop that I was very excited about, but I didn’t really understand how awesome it would actually be. That was…
🌴 🦖 Dinosaur World 🦖🌴
I’m making a separate section in this post to further emphasize how utterly incomparable, amazing, highlight-of-the-weekend this place was. I spent hours since then, thinking how to best describe its magic to accompany the 150-odd photos as well as videos that I took to share with you. I hope I can do my experience justice with words.
Imagine a literal Jurassic Park frozen still. Just as larger than life, just as mouth-gaping incredible. Craning up your neck to look at these massive dinosaurs that look like they could begin moving again any moment. I was LOSING MY FREAKING MIND (and wishing Nate was there to enjoy it with me because he would have lost it just as much). I was grateful for my mask that hid my face because for the first twenty minutes I was so overcome with happiness, surprise and excitement that I was trying not to cry.
For a bit of context… dinosaurs are my oddest special interest because it hasn’t been a special interest that ever had a period of intense obsession, yet it’s always been there, probably since I saw The Land Before Time as a very little girl (to this day, this is still my favorite movie of all time.)
The original Jurassic Park movie would later intensify this tremendously, but when I was younger, dinosaurs were a very boy-centered thing as far as toys, and I never ran into any very interesting scientific books about them growing up.
Later, as an adult, I discovered very charming dinosaur things such as the Gon manga, and the Umasou movies, and realistic toys such as Schleich dinosaurs replicas, which furthered my interest in an intense but quiet way.
So, it’s always been this thing in the back of my mind, I’ve collected a lot of dinosaur things, toys, clothes and books over many, many years, but without it ever being an all-absorbing focused obsession. Even recently, when I got into trains, I looked for dinosaur themed train sets. So it’s always just there, but it’s never been set afire like this weekend.
This is the first entrance you see when you approach Dinosaur World:
It’s followed by a long, tree lined road. The trees are super tall, with hanging vines and moss. Already, things feel larger than life –you really feel like you’re driving into Jurassic Park! Then there is the main entrance:
From the moment you park, there are cute dinosaur friends to see!
This one stands right by the entrance to the gift shop, which then leads into the park:
It was all I could do not to buy everything I saw before going to the park. The gift shop was incredible, absolutely MASSIVE. I wish I’d taken more photos of it. We even came back a second time, on Saturday, so I could go through it one final time.
This is what you first see as you walk into the actual park itself:
I can’t emphasize enough how small you feel next to these things. They’re so big!
A few more dinos from this area:
Right behind them, there was a museum. I liked the museum areas a lot, but my favorite part were the life-size models.
In the museum there were animatronics, though. I loved those! Here’s a still photo of one of them:
And here is video of them all!
Now I’m just going to add a whole bunch of photos. I took too many to add commentary to everything, but I do feel all are worth sharing here.
The dinosaur you see in the last photo above was to the right of this arch. It went into a different area of the park:
See the “river” down there, near number 5? Those arches are what you see above.
The boardwalk it goes into was beautiful, kinda rickety in a good, fun way. All around you found yourself surrounded in this scenery:
To the right of the boardwalk bridge, there was this:
Some more dinos to see as you continued to walk…
Then it was time to visit the mammoths!
The covered picnic areas were cute:
Nearby, I saw a squirrel friend in their tree-stump home:
Here’s all that was to be enjoyed as you made your way to the Skeleton Garden:
Here are some photos of the Skeleton Garden:
The moss hanging everywhere really added to the atmosphere for me…
After saying goodbye to one more friendly dino, we enter the Carnivore Boardwalk…
This area was interesting. It had a sign warning that it could be too graphic for younger children. In fairness, it WAS kinda graphic, but also dynamic, detailed and extremely interesting. Some dinos were well-camouflaged, and it was fun finding them.
As you will see in the photos below, the dinosaurs were depicted hunting, fighting, and defending their nests. I’d “content warn” this, but… there were several toddlers looking at this without batting an eye, so I assume my followers can handle some dino-on-dino “gore”.
Every once in a while Christopher would take a photo of me with the models. 😊
Another photo batch…
To give you an idea of how tall some of these guys were, here I am next to one of them:
Another big batch of pics…
I even saw an Argentinean dinosaur! Given the name, I guess remains were originally found in Salta? But this wasn’t specifically clarified.
Last batch of random pictures…
And a couple more “just for fun” ones:
That was it! After this, I went absolutely bonkers in the gift shop, and I can’t wait to share what I got with you, but I’ll leave all my treasures for a separate post. This post is so, SO long already, definitely the longest ever on my blog, and it’s not even done! So… let’s move on to the next topic!
After Dinosaur World we went to a few hobby stores. One of them, Toys+, was in University Mall, and next door to the hobby store area (by the same owners) was a normal toy store. This toy store had a lot of wonderful toys, including a respectable Thomas Wooden Railway section! Unbeknownst to us this would be the best selection we would find in the entire trip. We bought two battery-operated engines here —Percy and Diesel. We didn’t buy anything else (yet) because we expected to find so much more at the train stores.
We also went to a record store, where we got a few Laserdiscs, a vinyl record of the Tales From the Crypt soundtrack, and I got a vintage kid’s magazine.
Shortly afterwards we arrived at the hotel. The town wasn’t too promising. The hotel, called The West Wing and described as a “boutique” hotel, wasn’t like, dirt cheap, but it wasn’t expensive… it seemed like a good middle-of-the-road hotel though. Despite the area it was in, from the outside it didn’t look too bad…
Later, after seeing ants all over the place, a roach, and noticing the general layout of the hotel, we noticed the old sign, which they’ve yet not managed (or bothered to) take down. 😐
So I guess this used to be a cheaper motel, with a poorly slapped-on coat of paint. 😫 I cannot recognize the shape of the logo. The top makes me think Super 8, but it’s wider? I don’t know. Anyway this kinda sucked. Because it showed, too. It doesn’t feel great to stay in a hotel where you saw a roach, and piss ants all over the tables. Plus our bed smelled like the sheets had been left sitting while damp a long time. Overall it wasn’t great, but we were happy together, and we made do.
The hallway was… creepily long.
After some rest, we changed and went to Terra Gaucha, a Brazilian steakhouse. This would be another highlight of our trip! ✨
In spite of what I read in reviews, and in spite of mask wearing, this place didn’t exactly take COVID seriously. 😅 To my horror AND delight, the buffet/salad bar was open normally! The tables were all very close together and the place was PACKED. So basically if I’m destined to get COVID I got it here, for sure. I guess time will tell.
We were already there, so I decided to just enjoy what (other than masks) really felt like a normal, pre-COVID experience. I knew that wasn’t great to encounter at this time of our country’s struggle with this disease, but I decided to let myself enjoy it and had my most enjoyable meal in probably a year or more. Definitely made up for that awful experience at Gulfstream’s Texas De Brazil.
Everything was amazing. Everything. I ate until I couldn’t eat anymore. I drank too much. I was in a stuffed, half-drunk haze of the most utter, intense bliss.
Even writing it I go back to it and I’m so glad it happened. It was an expensive meal, but it’s a memory I’ll hold very dear.
As you can see in the photo above, for dessert we had a Crème Brûlée, the most perfect one I’ve ever tasted. They knew it was our anniversary and decorated it very beautifully. It was a very nice touch:
Then we went back to the hotel and, after such a long day, finally rested, relaxed, and watched TV together on Christopher’s laptop. It was a lovely end to our tiring day. I’ll share the next one in an upcoming post!