Join us — Author Chris Oler, Illustrator Amy Oler, and our children Molly and Michael — on our travels and adventures.
San Diego Area, California, 2019
We headed to the west coast in fall of 2019 and enjoyed a beautiful October week in southern California. We stay in Oceanside, and the kids loved the rough California surf. We loved the central location of Oceanside, as it made easy day trips to San Diego area attractions, LEGOland, and Disneyland.
While we could have easily spent all our time boogie boarding in Oceanside, we couldn’t resist taking in the sights in San Diego. Mission San Luis Ray is a mission local to Oceanside with a museum (includes artifacts from Native American, Spanish, Mission, Mexican Secularization and American Military periods), tours, and a lot of history. Also at the top of our to-do list were Balboa Park, La Jolla Cove, and the San Diego Zoo.
We couldn’t go to California without a trip to Disneyland, and we also enjoyed LEGOland — a perfect park for younger kids. We could easily have spent 3 or 4 days at each park!
Southern California is a fantastic family destination, and we ran out of time to do everything we wanted to. I guess we will need to visit again!
We traveled to the beautiful Caribbean island of Curacao in the summer of 2019. Curacao is one one of the Dutch Caribbean islands known as the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao), and is about 60 miles north of the Venezuelan coast. We fell in love with Curacao immediately. The waters were crystal clear, the views from the hills were gorgeous, the trade winds were cool and delightful, and the people were very friendly.
We visited several beaches in Curacao, all of which were stunning and each with its own unique personality. Grote Knip on the west end of the island was our favorite beach with bright turqoise waters–a can’t-miss in our books. We also enjoyed Cas Abao and Laguna beach, both of which had excellent snorkeling. We brought our own snorkels, as there are so many great snorkeling spots around the island.
We spent a fun (and physically taxing) day at Cristoffel National Park, scaling the Cristoffel Mountain Trail. Molly, 8, and Michael, 7, joined in a climb that is not for the faint of heart. We made it about 2/3 of the way up the mountain before calling it a day. The park also boasts an Orchid trail, historic ruins, and a former plantation. Near the park you can also enjoy Shete Boka park, where huge waves thunder into an underground cavern and turtles lay their eggs.
We enjoyed two unique Caribbean meals up in the eastern hills where Molly fell in love with fried polenta; explored the Dutch island culture of Wilemsted, the island’s capital and only major city; tried surfing lessons on the north shore; and took a day trip to Klein Curacao, a nearby uninhabited island paradise and home to an abandoned lighthouse.
A family will never run out of things to do in Curacao; it is truly a Caribbean paradise.
We took a long weekend trip to the Chattanooga/Lookout Mountain area in Tennessee and Georgia to visit Rock City and Ruby Falls. Both are wonderful family destinations. You can see all of Rock City in about an hour, but there is enough to do that you could spend the whole day there. The walking path is filled with beautiful sights, including waterfalls, sparkling gardens, narrow cave passageways, and a swinging rope bridge. Included in the path is Fairyland Caverns, where you take an underground passageway to see miniature fairy tale scenes. The scenes are colorful and beautifully lit, and full of fun and interesting details. They also offer music shows, animal and bird shows, and plenty of food and sweet treats. And of course the famous lookout, from which you can see 7 states.
Ruby Falls is a 145 foot high waterfall located within a cave under Lookout Mountain. A narrated cave tour (in which you learn about the history and discovery of the cave and see some of the interesting rock formations) leads to the spectacular waterfall. It is a great activity for family members of every age, and short enough that the kids stay engaged. In addition to the cave tour, Ruby Falls offers a zipline adventure from their 40′ climbing wall.
We also took a ride on the Incline Railway, climbing Lookout Mountain in a train car inclined at 72 degrees. The wait line was long but the kids loved the adventure. At the top is a gift shop with sweets and a panoramic lookout tower. If you’re into history, you can take the 5 mile walk to Point Park – the site of the 1963 Battle Above the Clouds. At the bottom of the incline is the charming village of St. Elmos, which boasts microbrewery tours, fresh flowers, homemade candle-making, an indoor climbing wall, outdoor local dining and more.
In addition to these wonderful adventures, Molly and Chris took a unique side trip to iGNis Glass Studio where they were able to blow their own glass creations.
We loved our long weekend in Chattanooga, and could easily have stayed a week or two in this city filled with engaging activities for folks of all ages.
We visited Panama in the spring of 2018. We saw as much of the country as we could in the 9 days we were there. In Panama City we visited Casco Viejo, the historic district, with buildings dating from the 1600s, and some great restaurants and ice cream shops. We also saw the Miraflores locks of the Panama Canal; Michael loved watching the huge cargo ships pass through.
A highlight of our trip was a day spent in El Valle de Anton, a gorgeous mountain village nestled in the valley of an extinct volcano. In addition to the natural beauty of lush tropical flowers, waterfalls, and mountain views, there were several great attractions: an authentic outdoor market, a butterfly and orchid house, a serpentarium, horseback riding, and a small zoo with native and non-native species.
There is no leaving out Panama’s beautiful beaches. We visited the black sand beaches of Mechi on the Caribbean Sea; Portobelo on the Caribbean Sea, a city steeped in pirate history; Panama City’s Pacific beaches; and the San Blas Islands, also known as Guna Yala, the beautiful white sand islands of the indigenous Guna tribe.
Look for Molly Goes to Panama late in 2019 to share this amazing country with your children!
Puerto Rico, 2017
We traveled to Puerto Rico in summer of 2017. Puerto Rico is a beautiful island complete with adventures of every kind. We stayed in San Juan for the first half of the trip where we enjoyed the beautiful beaches, the history and tourism in Old San Juan, and amazing restaurants where we ate our fill of mofongo, a delicious dish that Puerto Rico is famous for.
We also visited El Yunque, Puerto Rico’s lush tropical rainforest. We hiked through the trails and refreshed ourselves by swimming in an ice-cold waterfall.
For the last part of our trip we stayed in Luquillo, a small beach town on the northeast side of the island. The highlight of our Luquillo stay was a snorkeling cruise – the kids loved the day-long boat trip and we marveled at the white sand beaches, crystal clear turquoise waters, and the colorful tropical fish (even manta rays!).
Puerto Rico is a wonderful destination for a family vacation. To learn more about the island’s culture and what is has to offer for families, check out Molly Goes to Puerto Rico.
Destin, Florida 2017
We traveled to Destin in April of 2017. Destin is a great destination for families, with so many different things to do. We spent a lot of time at the beach, where they kids enjoyed swimming, boogie boarding, playing in the sand, and hunting for seashells. The water was cool, and a few days it was rough, so we stayed knee-high or lower in the water.
We ate several meals out, and LuLu’s scored a perfect 10 from us for the food and the atmosphere. LuLu’s is a family restaurant right on the beach with a fantastic play area for kids. And unlike the restaurants along the main strip, it wasn’t crowded when we went. We got to watch a small 2-person sea plane coming and going, offering rides to customers while we were there.
On a rainy day we took a drive down scenic highway 30a to Grayton Beach, a cute little town with shops, art galleries, and restaurants. We ate a fantastic meal at the Hurricane Oyster Bar & Grill and enjoyed the small beach town vibe once the rain stopped.
The Destin Harbor Boardwalk is another place you can’t miss while visiting the area. Stretching a quarter of a mile, the boardwalk is great just for walking and seeing sights. In addition there’s tons of shopping, bars and restaurants, and great activities you can book, like dolphin cruises, parasailing, a pirate cruise, and spa activities.
Our Destin trip was a lot of fun for all of us, with family-friendly activities everywhere we looked.