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Monday, June 25, 2018

For the love of farms - Stone Acres Farm - CSA Review in Stonington, CT


Living in the beautiful town of Stonington (in the most quaint little borough) has so many perks from dining at its great restaurants to diving off the local beaches and wharfs.  But one of the best parts of living in this little borough by the sea is having access to some of Connecticut's freshest seafood and excellent local farm produce.  While living in Stonington, I had the opportunity to try out Community Supported Agriculture at a local farm just a few miles from my house.  Today's post is my review of a summer CSA from the beautiful Stone Acres Farm. Read about what CSA is, see exactly what you can expect, and see if a CSA is the right pick for you. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

A weekend at Squam Lake, New Hampshire


Its been a month since my last post and I have to admit, this is the longest quiet spell that KW has had in a while.  Life has sent me into a tailspin and I have been living by the motto "when you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on".  After a few stressful weeks, I decided to step away from some of the noise.  I grabbed my dog, my friends, and my camping gear and headed north for a weekend in the woods and on a quiet lesser-known lake in Central New Hampshire.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Arizona Wrap Up - Activities and Video


If you find yourself in Arizona, you will soon discover how much there is to do and see out here in the desert.  In just 3.5 days I was able to go hot air balloon riding, drive Tomcars through the desert, spend hours relaxing in the spa, attend a western chuckwagon dinner (complete with bull riding and line dancing), hike among the saguaros and chollas, and enjoy some of Arizona's amazing Mexican food.   

So like most of my wrap up posts, I figured I would share some of the best things I ate, what I did while visiting this beautiful state, and a video of my short stay in the Grand Canyon State.  


Recap Video 



The best thing I ate was easily breakfast at the Boulders Resort and Spa.  If you find yourself in Scottsdale, stop in to order the chilaquiles.  I ordered this more than once and plan to find a way to recreate this amazing breakfast.  Chicken, salsa verde, beans, and the perfectly fried egg are just a few of the ingredients in this amazing breakfast.  

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Hot Air Ballooning - Arizona


A hot air balloon ride has always been on my bucket list.  It was one of those adventures at the back of my mind, something I would do someday, somewhere at the bottom of my list.  Something I always wanted to do but for many reasons, never actually did.  

It's too expensive... there isn't a lot of it here... I am terrified of heights.... and on and on. When I had to chance to visit Arizona, and one of the activity selections was "hot air ballooning" I couldn't believe my luck.  Heck, I even passed up on whitewater rafting to wake up at 4:45 am and meet a bunch of strangers in a field somewhere in Arizona.   A Sonoran sunrise as seen from a hot air balloon - I finally had my opportunity to cross another item off the bucket list and step inside the basket of a hot air balloon.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Off-roading in the desert - Scottsdale, Arizona


Man, was it nice to be in the warmth of the desert.  After a week in Banff, spending my 30th birthday in negative-something-degrees, I was looking forward to - hell, I needed a week of warmth and sunshine.  And let's be honest, it is so much easier to pack shorts and tank tops than thermals, snow pants, and puffy coats.  After landing in Arizona, I embraced the sunshine and tolerated the chilly night famous to desert life.  But in the morning, it was shorts and sunscreen as we headed out to our first excursion of the trip.  

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

An Intro to the American Southwest

Scottsdale, Arizona
The desert was never high on my radar as a tried and true New Englander with a love of the ocean.  But travel enough and you can change your opinions on just about anything.  Truth be told, Utah is where I first fell in love with the desert and yes, most people forget that Utah is in fact, a desert.  This big state has a climate that varies from snow covered mountains to dry arid desert.  In fact, about 33 percent of Utah is true desert (average annual precipitation is five to eight inches).  It was in Utah that I really experienced my first desert, hiking among the slickrock of Moab and spending nights under a million stars at a quiet campground in the sand.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Guide to Banff in the winter - itinerary, tips, video, and cost

Turning 30 in Banff National Park

The last post of a series is always the best and saddest.  It's the best because I have already spent weeks recapping an amazing trip, detail by detail from what I did to what I ate.  I also get to share a fun video so you can see for yourself just how amazing these places are.  Sad because I can no longer talk about this beautiful destination and the amazing outdoor activities in the area.  But with one return flight home comes another trip planned somewhere else and this month was no different.  After landing back in the U.S. A I was on a plane next week for the American Southwest.  But before we get into saguaros and sunshine, let's talk about snowy Banff National Park one last time.


Visiting Banff National Park

I bet you now by know my trip to Banff National Park in the wintry month of February was purposely planned to celebrate my 30th birthday.  I wanted a unique destination, affordable pricing, and to see somewhere as beautiful (and popular) as Banff in one of its quieter seasons.  If you still need some convincing as to why you should head to Canada in one of her coldest months, then here are six reasons why.   If you are sold and want to see the beauty of Banff under a thick layer of snow, keep reading as I share fun facts on the park and area, information on getting to Banff, need to know details, and what I spent for 6 days, 7 nights in Alberta. 

Monday, April 9, 2018

Museums, Craft Beer, and Wolfdogs - Last day in Canada


View from the observation area at Cave and Basin National Historic Site (closed Monday Tuesday)

It was a whirlwind week in Banff National Park.  From three days of skiing, scenic drives, snowshoeing, ice walks, to dogsledding, we had seen a lot of different angles of this beautiful area in a short window of time.  Our last day of Banff was pretty open, stopping to see some of the museums and in Banff before making our way back towards Calgary where we would hop on a plane and head back for the states and temperatures above zero degrees.  We were up early, packing up the rental car with our ski gear and luggage with plans to stop at the Whyte Museum in downtown Banff and the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, famed to be where Canada's National Park system began.  Due to some lack of planning on my part, we pulled into the Historic Site to discover the visitor's center and cave was closed on Monday and Tuesdays.  We enjoyed the view and stretched out legs before jumping in the car to head to the Whyte Museum.  


Whyte Museum 



Our first real stop after the major fail at Cave and Basin was the Whyte Museum in downtown Banff, a museum dedicated to the history and preservation of the cultural heritage of the Rocky Mountains of Canada.  This was the perfect indoor activity to escape the breath-froze-my-hair cold and to learn a bit about the area.  You can see the bulk of the museum in an hour or so, learning about the history of the area, the cultural significance, and fun facts about Banff National Park.  We had a free pass to the museum included in our "Ski Big 3" passbook and were excited to spend some time learning more about this park we came to love.  The exhibits varied from bear safety to the foundation, early culture, and the location/access of the park.  If you want to escape the cold and learn about the park and the cultural history of the area, I highly recommend this museum 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

6 Reasons to visit Banff (in the Winter!)


When I planned my 30th birthday in Banff and started to tell my friends, about my upcoming travels, I kept getting the same response over and over.  It went something like "That is awesome, I have always wanted to go to Banff... but in the summer".  Sure, Banff is insanely alluring in the summer with its sunny skies, turquoise lakes, and comfortable temperatures.  But in the winter, Banff is an quiet winter wonderland that should jump to the top of your bucket list.  And maybe, right before "visit Banff in summer". 

There are so many reasons you should visit Banff in the winter, ranging from scenic snowy peaks to budget-friendly options but for the sake of time and typing, I am going to focus on the Big 5. 


1.  The Scenery 

Banff is famous for its turquoise lakes and wildflowers. But Banff needs to be see with its white peaks and snow covered roads.  When I visited in January, it felt like every day a light dusting of snow coated the landscape. You start to feel like you are living in a snow globe featuring the most picturesque mountain town.  There is something about a blue bird day and crisp white mountains and trails that makes a winter day so darn beautiful.   Winter in Banff reminds you just how beautiful those cold months between November and April can be. 




2.  Inexpensive Lodging 

Banff is a town within a National Park.  Because of that, growth is regulated and currently, the town isn't getting any bigger.  What that means is while this place gets more and more popular, the lodging gets more selective and more expensive.  But in the winter?  Not the case.  There are more options for lodging and they are much more affordable.  A room in this resort was $100 a night in the winter, and $255 a night in July.  Its also already mostly booked up for the summer.  If you are on a budget - Banff in the winter is your best option to see this National Park.  



3.  (almost) Empty Streets 

Want to photograph beautiful Banff without all the people?  Winter is your friend.  The streets are quiet and you can walk through downtown without the masses or 54 tourists in the background.  This also means you can easily find a parking space and wont have to worry about traffic backing up on this road through town. 



4.  Bear - free

Terrified of grizzlies... or maybe just hyper aware (as you should be)!  Want to hike without worrying about these types of interactions with mother nature?  Go while the bears are hibernating of course!  This may seem silly but it is peace of mind to be in the woods of Canada and know the wildlife threats are greatly reduced.  If you are lucky, you may see some tracks in the snow in the morning.  But you wont have to worry about crossing grizzlies on the trail. 





5.  Popular sites are much quieter

In the winter, you can see some of Banff's most popular sites without all the crowds.  You can hike some of the most popular trails without seeing a single person.  You can make a reservation at the best restaurant in town without calling two months in advance.   I know I keep hammering the "less is more" in terms of crowds but for me, less people always means a better experience. Experiencing some of the most popular sites in Banff without all the crowds is one of the biggest perks to visiting this town in the winter.  




6.  Sled and Ski! 

My last point is the most obvious but is so important.  Visiting Banff in the winter allows you to experience world class skiing at three different resorts.  You get to experience this beautiful National Park, and get some runs in -  does this really need any more explaining?  And then theres dogsledding.  You only have a short snowy window to experience just how magical it can be to spend a quiet morning behind a dog sled making your way through the National Park.  






If you are looking for a reason to visit Banff in the winter, there are many.  World class skiing, budget friendly options, solitude, and of course famous snow.  The skiing, affordable price and the solitude was the reason I visited Banff in January instead of in its more popular seasons.  As much as I would love to see Banff in the summer, I have this lovely idea of a quiet ski town in my brain that just may stay like that forever.  Lake Moraine, you can keep your gorgeous color, I just might keep visiting Banff in the winter, so I can have the park to myself. 

Happy Traveling,




Friday, March 23, 2018

My Banff Dining and Drinking Guide - Budgets, Bars and the Best Meals of Banff

Budgets, Bars and the Best Meals of Banff 



If you are like me, one of your favorite parts of vacation is the food.  Not having to cook for a week and having all these options of new restaurants and places to try makes a vacation or trip that much better.  But the problem for me, is finding eateries and drinkeries worth my time, waistline, and budget.  Why waste a single dollar or calorie on food that just isn't that good?  

Food options are one of my most researched items pre-trip and I look for high quality, best dive, affordable, and the best splurge night option.  I am proud to say I did a lot of research for you while in Banff and the consensus of where to eat (where to skip) and the best place to watch the Olympics with a beer are in.  

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Dogsledding in Banff with Kingmik




We all have that bucket list sitting somewhere in the back of our brains, or on that scrap of paper tucked into their desk. Mine is sort of a mixture of these, stored on a drafted blog post, written down on that piece of paper tucked into my desk drawer, and always growing in the back of my brain. On that list you'll see experiences like - dive the barrier reef- go on a hot air balloon ride - and - dogsled. I rang in my 30th birthday knocking one of those items off my list, dogsledding through a snowy white tundra. And if you are going to dogsled anywhere, you might as well do it in Canada, through Banff National Park. And heck, why not the day you turn 30. 

Once I had my heart set on sledding into 30, I didn't want to just go anywhere or with any company.   I wanted amazing scenery, history, and a company known for their reputation and care of their dogs.  I did a lot of research which led me to three main companies in the Banff area: Snowy Owl, Howling Dog, and Kingmik. 

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Johnston Canyon Winter Hike - Banff, Canada


Hiking in winter takes a little more prep and planning - but with the right gear and the right attitude, it is worth the extra layers and (in this case) sub zero temperatures.  Not only is this canyon worth the scenic drive, but you get to enjoy one of Banff's most famous hikes without the crowds of summer.  More gear, less people, and a whole different perspective of Canada - a winter hike to Johnston Canyon is a must do when visiting Banff. 


Johnston Canyon takes winter travelers down a snowy trail with iced canyon walls and frozen waterfalls.  A 20-minute walk (1/2 mile) will take you to the lower falls and if you have the time, another 25 minutes  (for a 45 minute total with a one way trek of 1.5 miles from the start) to the upper falls (elevation gain of 120 meters) one way.   The trail is well maintained and marked, and follows a steel catwalk and raised trail through the canyon.  There are several lookout areas, benches, and various signage along the trail with information about the canyon and this unique environment.  You will follow Johnston Canyon Creek which runs its course through the canyon, mostly frozen, and exposed in certain spots.  

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Winter Summit of Mount Moosilauke via Beaver Brook - New Hampshire (guest post)

I am almost done posting about Banff.  I have a few posts left including an ice walk through Johnston Canyon and my birthday dog sledding.  While I finish off those post, I have a special winter treat for all you lovely readers.  We are in the middle of March and the snow keeps coming.  So today's post is a guest post, inspiring you all to get out there to those snowy summits.  Today's guest post is someone who is out there tackling real winter hikes in New Hampshire's 4,000 footers.  Let's let Chris take it from here.  


My alarm went off at 3am. If this January morning were a Tuesday, and work was on the other end of getting out of bed and into the car, then the scenario would have been about 5-6 hits of the snooze button. But today was a Saturday, and an unchecked summit on my list of New Hampshire’s 4,000ft peaks was calling my name (eleven down). After a final gear check, reheat of the breakfast I pre-made the night before, and a pot of coffee brewed for the road, I was in the car by 3:45am and off. Four hours of driving later and I was at Beaver Brook Trailhead where I had chosen to start my hike up Mount Moosilauke. There was no overwhelming reason I landed on Moosilauke for that day other than it’s a single peak with no others around I would feel guilty not bagging, it’s not a technical peak to bag in winter, and on this day with wind predicted to be 55mph at elevation, it had less time exposed above treeline than others.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Winter on Lake Louise - Banff, Canada

Are you sick of me talking about Lake Louise yet?  You could say I am a little obsessed with this part of the world, tucked away in Alberta.  So far I've talked about Lake Louise Ski Resort and even a hike/snowshoe which starts at the Chateau and takes you above the lake to smaller Mirror Lake with the Big Beehive looming behind.   This post is just going to be a general overview of the lake because a) I am so smitten with this area and b) I have so many gorgeous pictures I want to share with you all.  


Lake Louise is located just off the Trans Canada Highway (Highway 1).  You've probably seen this famous lake on your favorite travel channel or have seen the stunning photos of this turquoise lake on Instagram.  As amazing as these photos are, a trip to Lake Louise is something to experience for yourself.  It sort of stands alone in a secluded area, with the luxury hotel the only thing on the lake's shore.  The charm of Lake Louise in the winter time is hard to entirely capture as you need to see the detailed ice castle, figure skaters, open fires, ice bar, horse-drawn sleigh rides and snowshoe trails for yourself - all while the opera plays on the speakers heard across the lake of course.   Visit after Januarys Ice Magic Festival and you get to enjoy all the amazing ice carvings in front of the lake as well.  


Thursday, March 8, 2018

Snowshoe Lake Louise - Lake Agnes Trail to Mirror Lake - Banff, Canada

Frozen Mirror Lake with Big Beehive in the background

Want to snowshoe to a beautiful frozen lake with a beautiful beehive shaped mountain looming in the background?  Do you enjoy a quiet trail where you will see no one - just the sound of your snowshoes traversing through the snow, deep in the woods, on a well marked trail?   I know just the trail for you.  A winter hike to the Big Beehive and Mirror Lake will take you through the woods high above the lake, granting you a great workout, solitude, and in February in Banff, plenty of snow. 

Monday, March 5, 2018

Skiing Norquay - Banff - Alberta, Canada


Remember all those wonderful things I said about skiing Banff Sunshine and Lake Louise Ski Resort?  Well, this isn't going to be like that...  

Let me start by saying, I wanted to Love Norquay - I mean I really wanted to love it.  I read it was a "locals favorite" full of "steeps" and "great snow".  I envisioned Norquay to be like Utah's Brighton, the smaller local mountain (which truly is a local favorite) known for its cheap tickets, good snow and fun terrain.   I didn't need anything fancy- the beautiful lodges are nice but I am happy to sacrifice the glitter for great terrain, a low key feel, and good snow.  This was just...... sucky. 

Friday, March 2, 2018

Winter on Canada's Icefields Parkway - Snowshoe Bow Summit & Peyto Lake


Day 3 in Banff was all about famous scenic drives and snowshoes.  After two days straight on my skis, I was looking forward to some different footwear and a change of pace.  My third full day in Canada was all about the XM radio Billy Joel Station, the heat on full blast, cozy layers, lunch packed in the car, and a car full of the gear needed to explore a different spot of Alberta - the famous Icefields Parkway


Map from Parks Canada

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Lake Louise Ski Resort - Banff/Alberta- Canada



Day 2 in the Birthday Banff week had my tired legs back in the car for another full day of skiing, this time at to Lake Louise Ski Resort.   Not only was I excited for another day of on the ski hill, but I was going to check out a new area of Banff and truth be told the area I was most excited to see - Lake Louise.  Lake Louise Ski Resort is about a 45 minute drive from downtown Banff, traveling northwest along the Trans Canada Highway.  While the farther trip required an early bed time and earlier alarm, the ski resort is located just a mere 3 km from the lake, meaning you can knock off two activities in one day.  You can skate in front of the Fairmont chateau on a frozen lake and ski the beautiful mountain and ski resort in the same day.  Winter dreams do come true.  


Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Skiing Banff Sunshine - Alberta, Canada


Most people celebrate their 30th birthday with family and friends at a nice restaurant, or a gathering of sorts with those you love.  Maybe the bold book a weekend getaway or a nice trip somewhere warm.  I on the other hand planned a week long trip to Alberta, Canada to ring in 30 dog sledding, skiing, and snow shoeing through Banff National Park.  

As crazy as it sounds, I booked a trip to Northern Canada in February when temperatures consistently stayed in the negatives and single digits - and not celsius.  There is nothing wrong with celebrating at home and a trip to the Caribbean always sounds good.  But when you want something unique, within your budget, and to explore a beautiful place in the off season (less crowds, cheaper), you head to Canada in February.




In true KW style, the itinerary was packed and my first full day in Canada was spent on a ski mountain.  Jet lagged and on 5 hours of sleep but none the less, out on the mountain.  The alarm went off at 7am and it was a quick shower and coffee before loading up the car.  We heading downtown to the Adventure Hub on Main Street to pick up my lift tickets, stopped at the Visitors Center to pick up a National Park Pass, and Wildflour for (another) coffee and breakfast sandwich.  By 9:15 we were on the road for the 15-20 minute drive to Banff Sunshine to spend the day skiing in the sunshine fresh snow.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Trip Planning -- B a n f f

The amount of planning that goes into a trip is hard to really get across.  Once I pick a destination, the real work starts.  The best flights, airport parking, rental cars, hotels, restaurants, bars, planning excursions, museum times and fees, weather, what to pack... is your head spinning yet?  It is a lot of work.  And if you want to do it on the more affordable route, it takes even more planning, comparing prices, watching flights, and doing a whole lot of research to find out where quality and price come together.   An example I tend to use is my Iceland post.  If you could see my 15-page master sheet (or the bible as Amanda and I called it) you would be shell-shocked.  I figured I would share my planning notes for my upcoming trip - spending 1 week in Banff/Alberta area celebrating my 30th birthday 

Here is what planning for a week (and turning 30!) in Banff/Alberta Canada looks like. 
 



Flights
Round trip Hartford, Connecticut to Calgary, Canada 

2/13 to 2/20  
$313.86
Air Canada
7301, 136
      Depart      
              Layover                   
      Arrive            
   Duration      
BDL  2:30
Layover YUL 3:00
9:39 YYC
9h 09m
YYC 8:00
Layover  YYZ  2:46
6:07 BDL   
8h 05m


Thursday, February 8, 2018

A Visitors Guide to St. Augustine - Sites, Video, and Where To Eat!


A long weekend in historic St. Augustine, Florida was just what I needed to kick off 2018.  Some sunshine, exploring, and Katie Wander-esque sites to see.  Add in some fantastic food and a road trip to see some manatees and you have a wonderful four days away.  Why visit St. Augustine?  The history and the charm of visiting the oldest continuously settled City in the United States, St. Augustine.  Stay for the food, the alligators, the historic lighthouse, and the free boozey tours.  

You probably know my favorite way to give you a taste of a new place is A) through a post like this and B) through a recap video.  Here is my video recapping a fantastic four day in Northern Florida.  




And after that video got you all excited to visit, here is my guide to whats worth seeing, whats worth eating, and the few extras I did not have time to do (but maybe you do!). 

Monday, February 5, 2018

St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park




It's not every day that "trip to alligator farm" makes it to the top of your daily itinerary.  In fact, that has never appeared on my "must see" list until my trip to St. Augustine, Florida.  It seemed educational and something to do (and I love a good zoo/aquarium) but alligators aren't always the cutest or cuddliest of creatures. 

Let's be honest, I had just spent the day before swimming with manatees..... hard to beat, reptiles.   I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised to see how much there was to do and see at the Alligator Farm Zoological Park.  This trip to the alligator farm came in a close second with its own unique aspects and opportunities.

My attitude entering: Eh, alight, and then (in my best mock southern accent) going to see some 'gators - Goin' to Gator Country. 



Of course, this is not a real alligator 

My attitude leaving: Did you see how adorable those little crocodiles were? I just fed one. Well like seven. Did you see Mad Max begging for treats, did you know alligators beg for treats? 36 species of crocodilian? Croc facts for days. And finally, DID YOU SEE THAT PARROT? Can we bring him home?

Conclusion:  When given the chance to visit an alligator farm, always say yes.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Swimming with Manatees - Crystal River, Florida


Northern Florida is full of history from ancient ports to historic forts (see what I did there?).
But, I bet you didn’t know northern Florida was also home to one incredibly unique marine mammal encounter.  I’m not talking a dolphin swim in a closed exhibit type-of-experience at Sea World, but instead a chance to get in the water with one of Florida's most famous critters in their natural environment, the manatee.

Crystal River on the west coast of Florida is famed to be the only place in the U.S. where you can (legally) swim with wild manatees.  It's here in Florida where manatees seek refuge from the cold Gulf of Mexico, spending their winters in the warm 71 degree springs.  This unique opportunity to see manatees up close and personal is possible through a collaboration between U.S. Fish and Wildlife and various tour agencies around the area.  

Monday, January 29, 2018

St. Augustine Distillery, Florida

My trip to St. Augustine was meant to be a mix of (some) relaxing and classic Katie Wanders sightseeing.  If you know me, you know that relaxing is not something I... excel in.  As my sister loves to remind me there are two types of "holidays" - one is if the vacation variety and one is a trip (see and do everything).  She goes on vacations where the main goal is to relax somewhere, anywhere, usually not far from home.  I however always go on trips.  I have a full itinerary planned weeks before which typically involves far more activities than time allows for.  

St. Augustine Distillery in a historic renovated Ice Plant 

During my long weekend in St. Augustine, we did so many great activities from touring forts and wine tastings to swimming with manatees and feeding crocodiles (more on that later in the week).   While there wasn't a ton of time spent lounging around or sleeping in, I do try to balance the active-on-the-go type of activities with the more leisurely variety.  Like tour a distillery, drink some spirits, and have a fantastic lunch sort of leisure.  After a busy weekend and lots of sightseeing, that is exactly what I did. 

Going in, I didn't know a lot about the distillery. I knew they made whisky rum, gin and vodka all virtually next door to the winery.  I had tried the wine and how could I leave Florida without trying the local gin?  

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Castillo de San Marcos Fort/National Monument- St. Augustine, Florida

Entrance to the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument/Fort

Keeping in theme with touring St. Augustines historic structures (starting with the lighthouse), I spent Sunday morning strolling through a sunny fort on a beautiful coastline.  Fifteen year old me would hate to be dragged around a decrepit looking building in Florida when there beaches were to be sunned on.  But, thirty year old me is all about the history, guided tours and educational pamphlets. Oh, how times have changed. 


When wandering, I love to dig into the history of where I am staying, attempts to extend my research a bit further than "best place to eat".   During my trip to Puerto Rico, I spent some time at Castillo San Felipe del Morro, a fort designed to guard the entrance to San Juan Bay dating back to the 1500's.  I have even toured the local historic Fort Trumbull right here in my own "backyard".  Wherever I am, these forts perched at the waters edge are often the perfect place for a history lesson and of course, a photo opportunity.  While visiting St. Augustine, we spent some time wandering through Florida's Castillo de San Marcos the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States.

About to cross the drawbridge and enter the fort

Run by the National Parks Service as a National Monument, everything is very organized, educational and well done.  I opted for the self-guided tour with the pamphlet and map provided at the entrance.  The signage was fantastic throughout and the rangers informative and engaging.  I was also able to watch the musket drills and firings (in full garb), as well as the cannon firing.   The view from the gun deck was fantastic (albeit a bit chilly).  Fun place to explore and learn about some of Florida's history and walk within the walls of a famous fort.