Harbour City

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Sydney is the gateway to Australia. It is the most well-known location as well as the destination where most international flights arrive into. People often think that it is the capital of Australia, however that is Canberra. Sydney is the perfect city for a mixture of activities such as outdoors, arts, culture, shopping, and dining. There are certain iconic landmarks that make the city famous and attract tourists from all over the world. I recently spent two weeks in Sydney and felt like it was not enough to explore everything.

Snapseed 68Circular Quay is a place that you cannot miss as it is the central tourist area of Sydney. I knew it would be crowded so I made sure to plan our visit according to non-peak hours. On the right side of Circular Quay you have the incredible Sydney Opera House. Although it may seem that there is only one auditorium, there are actually multiple all holding different types of performances nightly.

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On the left side of Circular Quay you have the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge. There is also the bridge climb where you climb up on top of the bridge to experience views of the entire city. However the bridge climb is quite expensive and needs to be booked in advance, so an alternative is the view from the Pylons. There are brick pylons that you can climb for $10 and still get a 360 degree view of the harbor. Near the bridge is a lovely area called The Rocks. Snapseed 19Right in the center of Circular Quay is where all the boats come in and out of. The two most popular stops are at Darling Harbour and Manly.

Snapseed 8IMG_6968.JPGDarling Harbour is a fun place to visit day or night. There are tons of restaurants and bars all side by side. You can find many variations of food and entertainment. In the daytime the Chinese Garden is a beautiful place to explore.

Snapseed 66The Ferry from Circular Quay to Manly Beach (Sydney’s second most popular beach) is awesome. On Manly you can rent a bike and head to North Head. It has a few uphills, however the lookouts are incredible.

Lastly, one other place at Circular Quay you cannot miss is the Customs House across the street. There is a full scale model of the city of Sydney in the floor as well as the best lookout of the Harbour (when a cruise ship is not docked) at the Cafe Sydney Restaurant. Be sure to make reservations as they fill up pretty fast.

Snapseed 21Due to Circular Quay having many sightseeing spots, we were able to do a lot of walking from place to place. However public transportation in Sydney is fantastic and I highly recommend getting an Opal Card which is used for buses, trains, and ferries. We used it for commuting all across the city and for destinations outside.

Snapseed 71Without a doubt the most popular beach in Australia is Bondi and it requires public transportation to get there. You can easily catch a bus the entire way and have a minimal walk once you arrive. The beach has stunning views of the ocean and coastline for miles. I definitely recommend doing the coastal walk to Coogee Beach to enjoy the scenery. Another place you cannot miss is a stop at Icebergs to view their world-famous pool. However avoid Thursdays as that is when the pool gets cleaned and the water is drained out. Bondi is a place you can surely spend all day as there are lots of restaurants and shops nearby.

Another interesting place to check out is Potts Point. It is known as the former red-light district of Sydney. We loved wandering around the area with lots of fun LGBTQ bars and restaurants. It is so lively at night and everyone was incredibly friendly.

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Not too far from Potts Point is the famous Sydney Fish Market. It is the largest fish market in the Southern Hemisphere! In the early morning they hold auctions for fresh seafood. Later on the shops and restaurants open up and you can enjoy your browsing.

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There is a cooking school where you can also take some classes. We enjoyed a Dim Sum Restaurant upstairs on the second floor of the Fish Market, however it was quite crowded making the experience a bit less pleasant, so I would advise eating elsewhere.

 

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The Queen Victoria Building is a great place to hangout during breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The architecture is beautiful and it is located across from the Town Hall. There are many restaurants and shops in the vicinity, making it easy to find anything you are after. The shops are on all different levels including some of them underground.

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No matter how long you stay in Sydney, there will always be more to explore!

 

 

❤ Danielle

 

Crikey!

Located in South East Queensland, Sunshine Coast is known for its beautiful beaches and relaxed lifestyle. But it’s also home to several tourist attractions such as The Big Pineapple, Aussie World, Sea Life and the world famous Australia Zoo.

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The Australia Zoo was made famous by Steve Irwin (The Crocodile Hunter) and his saltwater crocs being the main attraction. What is less known is the zoo’s strong conservation focus and role in wildlife rescue and rehabilitation. Steve alongside his wife, Terri established a non-profit organization designed to support the protection of injured, threatened or endangered wildlife. They also opened the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital which is now Australia’s largest wildlife hospital and has treated over 70,000 sick, injured and orphaned wildlife since opening.

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The zoo is managed by the Irwin family, and it always has been. The Australia Zoo has expanded over the years and is now spread over 105 acres, and is home to over 1,200 animals from Aussie crocodiles, Tasmanian devils, wombats and dingoes, to dinosaur-like cassowaries, Komodo dragons, otters, lemurs and their newly migrated meerkats. Australia Zoo is also home to safari animals like Asian elephants and Sumatran tigers. The zoo can accommodate ten thousand people on any given day!

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Parking for the zoo was fairly easy as there are many car parks side by side. Inside the zoo the first thing we noticed is how open and relaxed it feels. It was not busy at all and all over the place were zoo keepers holding a variety of animals for us to touch and talk about. Lizards are roaming freely around the park waiting for people to drop food or venturing off into other areas with animals to steal food. Upon entry we were handed a map with a daily schedule. There were many animals, experiences, and shows so it was hard to know where to begin.

31960734_10211108404080135_766440238275887104_nOur favorite part of the day was meeting some of beautiful animals up close. Koalas are a big attraction here in Australia. At the Australia Zoo you can get up close and personal with the Koalas and are able to pet them or observe them in one of several koala areas. Their diet consists of Eucalyptus leaves and when they are not eating, they are sleeping up to 22 hours a day. What a life!

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Another highlight of our trip to the Australian Zoo was the expansive Kangaroo enclosure. We were able to get up close and personal with four varieties of Kangaroos and Wallabies. They are all super friendly and love being given attention.

 

The event we couldn’t miss was the Crocoseum Show. It was quite an experience seeing the zoo keepers bait the saltwater crocodiles by holding a chicken and having them chase their lunch.

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Following the visit to the zoo we enjoyed a nice evening dinner on Lake Kawana. It was a peaceful little getaway where we could unwind and enjoy the quiet evening.

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❤ Danielle

 

 

 

 

Penguin Parade

We rented a car during our stay and decided to head out of the CBD for a road trip. Now let me start by saying that driving in Australia is quite different than in the US. Adjusting to driving on the other side of the road was the easy part – however figuring out what signs mean and where toll roads began, was an adventure on its own.

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28059450_10210604818210803_5280732331856564433_nHere is a common parking sign found in Australia – good luck figuring it out. Another big difference was the toll roads. What we encountered was a small blue light on the highways that designate it has become a toll road, with no other notifications. Thankfully we bought a daily toll pass with our rental car because it turned out we would have had to pay over $50 in toll road charges (more than the cost of the rental!)

27972025_10210604815690740_4969153523061540396_nOur first stop on the road trip was St Kilda. This is a must even
27867993_10210604815170727_3833110568602134904_nif just for a photo op of Luna Park. St Kilda is a beach suburb and one of the most attractive destinations in Melbourne. There you will find people cycling, skating, reading a book or simply sitting by the beach watching the world go by. We strolled down the main road and found a nice little restaurant to get some lunch.

28276620_10210604815130726_3552131017569117702_nNext we were on the road heading to Brighton Beach. We had read about the colorful bathing boxes and wanted to see them in person. The drive was fairly fast from St Kilda and the parking lot made it very accessible to visit the beach for a short time. The entire area was filled with the bathing boxes that are lined one by one on the sand. We wandered the beach admiring all the beautiful designs then headed back to the car to continue our trip.

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28168050_10210604814130701_6694062854993446816_nOur next stop was dinner in the town of San Remo, the last stop before crossing the bridge to Philip Island. It was a tiny village but had a street full of cafes. Most of them were closed by the time we arrived however we found a nice seafood cafe by the water. Walking in I was instantly reminded of Santa Monica Seafood which is one of my favorite places back home. The shop was half market and half cafe, meaning you could buy fresh seafood or order it cooked.

28056339_10210604818970822_1947360526088095404_nThe fishermen took their boats out daily to catch the items for the menu.Since we love trying local food we decided to get the seafood plate for two, which included a combination of scallops, shrimp, flake, salad and fries. The food was delicious and we were curious what flake was so after a bit of research we found out it was a gummy shark that is found in Southern Australia. Quite interesting as it just tasted like a perfectly seasoned fish.27867785_10210605043136426_5631439096051553189_nNext we got back on the road and crossed over the bridge to the highlight of our day. Phillip Island is a place you head in the afternoon to view the famous Little Penguins Parade later in the evening. At around 9pm every night, these small penguins come out of the water and return to their homes onshore. We arrived quite early as I am obsessed with penguins and wanted to get a great view. Within the facility you can watch videos about the penguins, learn about the experience, and shop for souvenirs. Right at 7pm the doors opened and we were able to go to our assigned section to wait for the adorable penguins to come out.

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We were very excited to see the world’s smallest penguins in their natural habitat! It was fascinating seeing them wait till darkness for their exit from the water. They do this so it is a safe expedition away from the birds who try and attack them. At 905pm we started watching the penguins come up in groups usually with a leader in charge. They waddled their way up the beach in order to check their surrounding, then would continue on. This pattern went on for nearly an hour!

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Melbourne is a beautiful city but it is nice to explore its surroundings as well. We had an incredible time on our road trip and have several other planned throughout the country. Off to explore Queensland next!

 

❤ Danielle

 

 

Four Seasons

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Melbourne is a dynamic cosmopolitan city. It is known for its great arts, sports, shopping, food, fashion and coffee. The city feels very modern European. Melbourne lets you experience four seasons in one day and I mean literally four seasons! It is truly amazing to see the weather change that frequently. But the good part is no matter how cloudy it becomes or how windy the air might be, there will always be a nice and bright sun shinning soon!

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We stayed in The Docklands, which offers a nice little getaway at the edge of the CBD. The beautiful waterfront with cafes and high rise buildings was very calm. We often walked around the area and enjoyed the relaxing atmosphere.

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The main part of the city is the CBD (Central Business District). Within this area you will find fantastic public transportation options, and it’s all FREE. The trams are the lifeline of the City of Melbourne and are well connected with important landmarks, lanes and market areas.

 

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Within the CBD you will find the iconic Federation Square which is full of art and culture. You can check out free exhibitions at ACMI. Across the street is the famous St. Paul’s Cathedral. It is built with Victorian Gothic architecture. Another must-see within the area is Flinders Station that stunningly covers two whole city blocks! It is one of the longest railway platforms in the world and one of Melbourne’s iconic buildings.

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One of the most fascinating attractions we encountered was the colorful street art and graffiti. Melbourne laneways are filled with all kinds of art: abstract, political, pop art, environmental, and social depiction. The best place to check these out would be at Hosier Lane or ACDC Lane. With so many artists living in the city, it keeps changing constantly giving you a new experience every time.

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A place you cannot miss is the Queen Victoria Market. It was established in 1878 and is the biggest market in Melbourne. Upon entering you will see a labyrinth of stalls, where you can fill your baskets with all kinds of meats, fruits, flowers and clothing.

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It wasn’t long before I located my favorite: passionfruit, and stocked up for the week.This market extends through several blocks and has everything you could possibly need.

 

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Another beautiful place is the Southbank where you can enjoy a lovely walk along the river with cafes, restaurants, and interesting statues. This is where the Crown complex is located which encompasses a huge casino and high-end shopping. The area is nice to visit at all hours of the day as you can enjoy spectacular river and city views.

Now after all this reading about places to visit I’m sure you’re wondering when I will begin talking about food? It’s so hard to even figure out where to begin. Melbourne is a food MECHA. You will find just about anything and everything. Rotating Sushi Trains seem to be a huge hit as we saw one on almost street. Spanish churros are also fairly common and you can even get them filled with cream inside.

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The CBD has all types of unique desserts. We found a frozen yogurt shop that puts their soft serve into an actual watermelon! We also wandered into a Kit Kat store where I was able to design my own Kit Kat, everything from the flavors to the box.  Seafood, wine and steaks are also very popular in Australia and I love how fresh everything always taste.

 
I don’t want to go into too much detail on the food as I will be making a blog post focused on it later on. However we had an incredible time in Melbourne and truly fell in love with the city. We also rented a car to take a road trip outside of the city, which was one of the greatest experiences! Later this week I will be writing about it.

As always thank you for reading!

 

❤ Danielle

 

 

The Move Down Under

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On January 29th we will be boarding a one-way flight to Australia. We are uprooting our lives and moving to the land down under.

We have both recently quit our jobs and are very excited for this new adventure. We have been talking about this for years and its surreal that the time is almost here. We will both be furthering our education and careers as we envelope in a completely different atmosphere.

We are going there without knowing anyone in the area. We don’t have relatives or close friends in the country, so we are pretty much taking a dive into a relatively unknown world. However with enough research, moving shouldn’t be so difficult for us.

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Thankfully these days with all the various social media platforms it will help void the feeling of distance. We will be able to communicate and keep in touch with loved ones no matter where in the world they are located.

There’s no doubt about it that the first few months will difficult and most likely lonely as we will only have each other for comfort. However we have an incredibly strong bond and know that we can withstand anything.

We appreciate all the love and support we have gotten from family and close friends that have known about our move and thought it was best we share with everyone else at this time. We love you all and will miss everyone back home tremendously. You are always welcome to come visit us! Here’s to whatever comes next.

With love,
Danielle and Casey

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7 Days in Tennessee

Here is a suggested itinerary for Nashville and Memphis for a weeklong trip.

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Nashville

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♥ Day 1 –
 Music Day 
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Grand Ole Opry House

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Ryman Auditorium

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Country Music Hall of Fame

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Musicians Hall of Fame

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Johnny Cash Museum

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George Jones Museum

Bluebird Cafe

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♥ Day 2 – Family Fun ♥
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Gaylord Opryland Resort

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Nashville Zoo

Adventure Science Center

Opry Mills Mall

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♥ Day 3 – History Day ♥
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The Hermitage

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Belle Meade Plantation

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Belmont Mansion

Lotz House

Carnation Plantation

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♥ Day 4 – Tourist Attractions ♥
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Centennial Park

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Tennessee State Museum

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First Center for the Visual Arts

Cooter’s Place

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Memphis

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♥ Day 5 – Music Day 
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Stax Museum of American Soul Music

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Sun Studios
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Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum

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Gibson Guitar Factory

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Music Hall of Fame Museum

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♥ Day 6 – History Day 
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Civil Rights Museum

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Graceland

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♥ Day 7 – Tourist Attractions 
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Beale Street

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Peabody Hotel

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Pyramid Lookout

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Crystal Shrine Grotto

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St Jude

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Soulsville

Memphis, Tennessee is the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll and the home of the Blues.  It is also very popular for the barbecue, amongst other notorious things which is why in May they host the World Championship Barbecue Contest. The city is also home to Graceland, the residence of the legendary Elvis Presley.

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The mansion sits on a 13.8-acre estate where Elvis lived for over 20 years. You have to take a bus across the road and up the hill to the house itself. The house is beautiful and you are given an audio guide upon boarding the bus. The audio guide comes with an interactive iPad that is hosted by John Stamos and features commentary and stories by Elvis and his daughter, Lisa Marie that helps you tour the mansion. In total the building consists of twenty-three rooms, including eight bedrooms and bathrooms, and was renovated by the Presley’s. Most of the rooms are decorated out it in a very 70’s style.

During the self-guided tour you are able to see the living room, kitchen, dining room, tv room, pool room, the famous Jungle Room, his father’s office, trophy building, racquetball building, and the meditation garden. Elvis Aaron Presley, his parents Gladys and Vernon, and grandmother Minnie Mae are all buried there. There is also a memorial of Elvis’ twin brother Jesse Garon who died at birth.

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Elvis loved cars and the Car Museum displays some of his favorites. You can also enjoy viewing the outside and inside of two Elvis’ private planes. The Lisa Marie, named after his daughter, includes a living room, conference room, and private bedroom. It also had very unique features such as gold seat belts and sinks.

 

Now after a long day at Graceland, the place you want to go to experience great food, nightlife and music, all on one street – is Beale Street. It is full of shops, restaurants, bars and clubs. You will find just about everything you need here.

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Memphis has several fascinating museums where you can learn about the music history of the city. There are many different styles that became popular and emerged. The museums will give you an inside look at the start to present day of many musical icons.
One museum that is a bit different than the rest is the Gibson Guitar Factory. They offer daily tours showing you exactly how they make guitars and all the steps in the process.
You can’t miss a visit to Stax Museum of American Soul Music. Stax Records was founded in 1959 by two siblings, Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton. They combined the first two letters of their last names in order to form the company Stax, one of the most popular soul music record labels of all time. It launched the careers of many great artists such as Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Rufus and Carla Thomas, Booker T. and the M.G.s. Other artists to record at Stax were Isaac Hayes, The Stale Singers, the Mar-Keys, the Bar-Kays, William Bell, Johnnie Taylor and Albert King. Stax Records is to soul, what Sun Records is to rock ’n’ roll.
Sun Studios was founded by Sam Phillips in 1952 when he rented a small studio space for himself. The label Sun Records, started to gain momentum in Memphis because of how respectful and non-judgmental they would treat local artists. Sun Studios is where legends like Elvis Presley, Johnnie Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis all recorded their music.
From Sun Studios you cantake a free shuttle to the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum. This museum is one of the few Smithsonian museums that is outside of Washington DC. Upon arrival you are presented with an audio guide so that you can go at your own pace. You will learn about the complete story of the music scene in Memphis.
Memphis Music Hall of Fame is another wonderful museum. It honors many of the greatest musicians of all time, who created the city’s music legacy. It began as a trbute to legendary musicians and then transformed into a museum. You can see a lot memorabilia, rare video performances, and there are area to answer some trivia questions.

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FullSizeRender-2The Peabody Hotel is a grand old hotel in downtown Memphis and it has some unusual guests – five ducks live in a suite on the penthouse floor. Apparently this bizarre tradition started in the 1930s – the ducks were placed in the fountain of the Peabody Hotel as a practical joke (after a night of drinking), however it somehow stuck, and in the 1940s they enrolled a circus animal trainer to start the “Duck March”. The animal trainer is now known as the “Duck Master”. Every day at 11am the ducks come down the elevator with their duck master, walk down the red carpet and go into the fountain in the hotel lobby, where they swim for half the day. In the evenings at 5pm, the cycle is reversed and they walk along the red carpet back to the elevator in order to take it up to their suite.  It is definitely a fun attraction to see in person!

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Memphis, Tennessee was named after the ancient capitol of Memphis in Egypt due to its location on a major river. Throughout the city you can see different icons that resemble Egypt, such as the pyramid. Inside the pyramid is the world’s largest Bass Pro Shop. You could easily spend hours looking around as the interior is HUGE. The observation deck is the main attraction and its definitely worth the view! It costs $10 to go up the elevator (free if you are staying inside the hotel) however if you decide to eat at the restaurant they take $10 off your meal. Inside you will also find a delicious fudge factory that makes fresh fudge daily as well as some crocodiles and fresh fish.
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One hidden gem to discover in Memphis is the Crystal Shrine Grotto. It is a beautifully created cave that dates back to the 1930s. Natural rock and quartz crystal collected from the Ozarks form the background for the nine scenes from the life of Christ. The art recreates history and literature. The cave is located inside a cemetery so please be respectful when paying a visit.

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There is no complete trip to Memphis without learning about the Civil Rights Movement and knowing how important this city was. The Lorraine Motel is the current site of the National Civil Rights Museum. Inside you can spend many hours learning about the history and struggles of African-Americans. It is designed to take you on a journey through time – from the earliest days of slavery to the present-day Black Lives Matter Movement, with everything in between. You learn many things from the founding of our nation, the civil war, reconstruction, the Jim Crow era, Montgomery Bus strike, the Freedom Riders movement, college sit-ins, and much more. The museum is very interactive making you feel as if you are witnessing everything first hand. It is a very emotional experience but far more educational than any history class could ever teach you. It is great to set aside a whole day for the museum as there is a lot to read and learn, and it is a self-paced walk through. The last part of the museum you are able to see the room that Dr King stayed in the night before he was assassinated. Martin Luther King Jr’s words hang proudly on the Lorraine Motel marquee. He had traveled to Memphis to lend his support for a sanitation workers strike. He gave his last speech at a church not far from the hotel the night before. This very place is where he was shot. May we always honor his legacy.

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Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

– Dr Martin Luther King Jr