Ruston, LA Two-Fer: Coffee and Parks Galore

Ruston, LA Two-Fer: Coffee and Parks Galore

Our holiday travel saw us up in the small town of Ruston, LA to spend some time with family. But surprise, surprise, one morning we headed to explore some parks and burn off some “bug juice”! On the way back we hit up a new (to me) coffee shop that is a welcome addition to Ruston’s downtown!

We first headed to Huckleberry Park, which has a small, fun, cute play area with lots of picnic tables. The best part in everyone’s opinion, however, were the wooded trails to be explored every which way around it. There were probably several miles of trails, very toddler-friendly (mostly stroller friendly if it was a jogging sort of stroller). We played and walked there for a bit before we hopped in the car to head to another park.

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Our next stop was Cook Park, which is much bigger and more open, with diverse areas, plus a walking trail (no wooded trails, which was definitely the fun of Huckleberry Park!). The kids enjoyed the slides and play equipment. After everyone was thoroughly chilled, we left just as the rain started (success!), and headed to Railway Coffee (the part of the trip some of us were being very patient about).

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The vibe at Railway Coffee is hip and cozy, and their coffee was very good; definitely a place to which we’ll return! Their website is more geared toward ordering beans, so check our their Instagram page for schedule updates and current menu offerings. (Hot off the press! They’re moving their original location and opening a second one at the very beginning of 2019, so definitely check out their pages before you visit.)

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If you’re looking for more places to play, you can find a complete list of Ruston parks and recreation areas over here.

Additionally, if it’s a rainy day, we head to the Lincoln Parish Library’s children’s area that provides an hour’s diversion or so.

We didn’t get a chance to go, but if you’re looking for lunch we got a solid recommendation from a trusted source for Rosemary’s Kitchen.  It looks like it has a kid-friendly porch to eat on, weather permitting. (Again with ye old Instagram, their page will make you hungry.)

 

Addresses:

RAILWAY COFFEE
USE TO BE: (202 W. Mississippi Ave. Ruston, LA 71270)
​318-678-5781

ROSEMARY’S KITCHEN

400 S. Bonner St
Ruston, LA
318.202.5951

 

Greenfield Village, Michigan

Greenfield Village, Michigan

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Along with last month’s visit to the Henry Ford, we checked out Greenfield Village. This attraction was created around the same time as Colonial Williamsburg, but instead of constructing a new town, Ford wanted to bring actual buildings from different locations in America together to make a historical village. How else do you end up with a general store from Waterford, Michigan, in the same area as a covered bridge from Pennsylvania? What’s really special about the village is Henry Ford wanted to fill the town with buildings of historic significance in order to preserve history. So that’s just what he did! He brought in his own birthplace and one room schoolhouse from Dearborn, relocated the Wright brothers’ home and bicycle shop from Ohio, and moved many of Thomas Edison’s Menlo park buildings – and so many more. From Webster’s house to Georgian slave quarters, this is a slice of American town life that spans the country. You can ride Model T’s, 1930’s tour buses, and horse-drawn wagons through the streets and past all the historical buildings.

The Wright Brothers’ Bicycle Shop

A cottage from the Cotswalds

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Slave Quarters from The Hermitage Plantation in Georgia

Buses and Model T’s filled with passengers were constantly driving around and the drivers would honk and wave at the kids.

All of the adults and the older kids loved learning about each building and why it was selected to be in Greenfield Village. Each building had someone in period dress who would show additional pictures, explain about the items on display, and tell the kids what was significant about the structure. For the younger kids who weren’t as interested in history, they have a carousel and a fantastic playground!

In our post about the Henry Ford, we discussed admission costs and discount options. All of the rides within the park are an additional cost, so you’ll want to take advantage of any discounts on admission that you can.

Greenfield Village also changes decorations and events with the seasons, making it worth returning to in the summer, as well as the holiday season. We’ll definitely be back!

The Henry Ford

The Henry Ford

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Ford history runs deep in Detroit! We heard about the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation (know simply as The Henry Ford) and adjoining Greenfield Village before we arrived in Michigan this summer, so we were excited to check them out last month with the kids. The Henry Ford is located in Dearborn, Michigan, just a short twenty minute drive from Detroit. Dearborn is not only the hometown of Henry Ford, it’s where his estate and business operations are located.

From the time you walk through the entrance, which is a replica of Independence Hall, until you exit near the section on American agriculture, you can see that this is a unique museum. The most famous exhibits are the chair in which Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, a Presidential motorcade section (including the one JFK was killed in), and Rosa Parks’ bus. Our kids appreciated that though some items are displayed in typical museum fashion, there are many interactive artifacts – you can actually sit on Rosa Parks’ bus!

IMG_1560Another favorite was this service station exhibit.

David and the kids building and test-flying paper airplanes.

Know before you go:

You’re going to want to spend some time at this museum! We packed a picnic lunch, but dining options are available inside. The prices at Lamy’s Diner looked reasonable and had we not been on our way out, I think it would have been something the kids and adults would have enjoyed.

If you’ve got littles, you’re going to want to bring a stroller. We walked several miles throughout the complex and were pleased with how stroller-friendly The Henry Ford was.

Admission can be pricey, especially with a lot of kids in tow. The Henry Ford offers combination tickets with Greenfield Village, which can save some money if you’re planning to visit both. It’s worth checking their site as well as the free D Discount pass for current promotions like buy one, get one 1/2 off. In November, the Henry Ford and two other attractions offer $5 day ($5 admission per person, per attraction) to commemorate Henry Ford paying his workers $5 a day back in 1914. Admission is free year-round to active duty military, and on Veteran’s Day is free to veterans and their families.

It was great to check out this museum we’d heard so much about. More on Greenfield Village in our next post!

Christmas Evening in Slidell, LA

Christmas Evening in Slidell, LA

One of the Louisiana Krewe’s Christmas traditions for a few years has been visiting our local Christmas Under the Stars. (A new tradition will be those delightful trains!) It’s a low-key but fun evening where we see Santa, write and mail a letter to the North Pole, and look at decorations and Christmas scenes by people in our town. This year the weather was absolutely perfect (to me, anyway!)– chilly enough to feel like Christmas, but not so cold that we were freezing! (Forgive me, but I have a hard time feeling super Christmas-sy if I’m in flip-flops. South Louisiana problems…)

Up first was our visit to Santa. The baby got bribed to stand still with a candy cane (which was then all she was interested in), and her older brother was having nothing to do with any of it. Strangers observing him were dying laughing; I tell myself that it will bring back memories, right?!

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Up next was a letter-writing session to said Santa; many requests were made, some of the outlandish variety, so I’m pretty sure expectations about what Santa is bringing aren’t too high.

Set up around the park are four scenes inside little houses with glass fronts: a Christmas feast, Santa’s workshop, Papa Noël (Cajun Father Christmas), and a Nativity scene.

The Cajun Christmas scene has crab nets for a tree, and a crab and crawfish boil for the Christmas dinner (as well as gators and other swamp animals). And of course a light sculpture of a crawfish.

The rest of the park is covered with about 50 Christmas trees decorated with different themes, as well as other lights. We spent about an hour there, and made some more Christmas memories.IMG_7639

Santa will no longer be there, but the lights be will up through January 2nd, so if you’re nearby come stroll among the lights and get a small taste of a Cajun Christmas!

Address:

Griffith Park in Olde Towne Slidell

333 Erlanger Ave, Slidell, LA 70458

Gulfport, MS Christmas Trains

Gulfport, MS Christmas Trains

Sunday night the Louisiana Krewe kicked off our Christmas season fun with a visit to Mississippi Coast Model Railroad Museum in Gulfport, MS. We had heard that they went all out decorating for Christmas and we were not disappointed! It is not a fancy building, but it is packed with fun and play for the littles, and is downright magical when all lit up. We arrived right at opening time, 5:00 PM, to maximize our play before bedtime. (The Christmas lights are open from 5:00-9:00 PM on Sunday and Mondays during the Christmas season, and 12:00-9:00 the other days of the week. The rest of the year they aren’t open in the evening.)

 

 

The first rooms we walked into were a beehive of trains running through amazingly detailed sets, and not just train sets, but also Legos. I imagine a train aficionado could spend hours examining it all!

 

Everyone loved looking at the sets in these rooms, but the real magic began outside.

 

Thousand of different colored lights coated the outside and made it all sparkle!

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As if enjoying the Christmas ambiance wasn’t enough, there were hand-pedal trains for the kids to ride, a sit-on train for even the adults to ride, toy battery trains, and train sets to play with.

One of the things I really appreciated about the museum was the plentiful seating they had everywhere (including a gated picnic table!), which made it really easy for the parents to chill while the kids (almost) got their fill of play.

Amazingly, the entire museum is free to enter! Yes, FREE. They do appreciate donations, which we were happy to do given how much fun we all had.

My three year old has asked me every day this week when we’re going back to the “tain zoomini”, and I think the adults of the group loved it almost as much! Add one to our December must-do list, and we’ll be back for train fun before then too!

 

Mississippi Coast Model Railroad Museum

504 Pass Rd

Gulfport, MS 39507

Birmingham, Michigan Winter Markt

Birmingham, Michigan Winter Markt

On Sunday, we checked out another Christmas market in the Detroit area, this time in Birmingham, Michigan. Honestly, we weren’t expecting too much, but we were pleasantly surprised! The first booth we encountered was selling roasted almonds covered in cinnamon and sugar – a favorite of ours from European Christmas markets 🙂 It kept getting better from there, and we actually preferred this market to the Ann Arbor one from earlier in the week (Ideally, you won’t have to choose!)

Setting: The ambience at this Christmas market was more in line with what we were used to from Europe. It’s held along the paths of Shain Park, with booths along each side of the cobblestoned paths, and the setting and open spaces really hit the right chord.

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Three-day event: As this market runs from Friday through Sunday on the first weekend in December, it was easier to fit into our schedule. Plus, if you’re close enough, you could go twice! I’d go once during the day when it’s a little warmer and again at night for the added ambiance that night brings to Christmas markets.

Payment methods: Some vendors only accepted cash, but 3 out of 4 that we visited took credit cards, which was nice. I know it’s not the biggest deal, but if you’re anything like me you never carry cash, so having more vendors accepting cards was a nice plus.

Parking: I can’t speak to availability on Friday/Saturday, but it was easy to find (free) parking in the garage at 333 Pierce St., Birmingham, MI 48009. This was less than a five minute walk from the market and couldn’t have been easier.

Additionally: This was more than a European-style Christmas market – American Christmas traditions were included as well! There was a Santa house for the kids, Santa’s reindeer (live ones!), and horse-drawn carriage rides as well. It’s neat to see the blending of cultures and it was done seamlessly.

The Glühwein was pricier here, but other than that most of the vendors had similar prices, so no biggie there.

One thing is sure – we’ll be back to the Birmingham Winter Markt next year!

Ann Arbor Christmas Market

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Last night, the Detroit crew checked out the Ann Arbor KindleFest, as promised in our last post on Christmas markets. Here are a few things we would have liked to know before we headed out.

Arrive early: Even though we arrived near opening time, we would not have anticipated the importance of this! Although the KindleMarket hours were 4-10pm (according to the website – the local signs said 6), the Glühwein vendors were not allowed to begin selling until 6pm. By 8pm, the majority of the food vendors were sold out, even though the crowds were thick! The Glühwein booths were also sold out but they were making more at the vendor’s brick-and-mortar location (TeaHaus) to replenish the booths.

Bring your ID: We were surprised to see even grandparents being carded. This is America – bring your ID and enjoy that alcoholic beverage in the designated place! 😉

Bring cash: Some of the craft vendors accepted cards but many of them of were cash only, as were all of the food vendors. We were able to find an ATM nearby outside Sweetwater’s, but the line was long, even early in the evening.

Where to park: There are some parking recommendations here. We found ample parking at the P5 parking structure (220 N Ashley St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104) for $3 for the evening.

Dress warmly: Though you can warm up (and use the bathrooms!) at the neighboring indoor Kerrytown Market and Shops, the KindleFest is all outdoors. There were fire pits at one part of the Christmas market, along with a s’mores and hot chocolate booth, which was a highlight for the kids.

Overall: This was a great little Christmas Market! While it doesn’t quite stack up to one in good ol’ Deutschland (but honestly, where can?), it has the right vibe that brought back memories and made some new ones. The food was delicious and authentic – bratwurst with sauerkraut, sauerbraten, and more! The fest only runs one night, so it’s over for this year, but keep an eye out for it next year. Let us know if you find any good markets near you!