Category Archives: Florida

BlogHer ’13 – The People, The Parties

BlogHer brings about many opportunities to network. Get out there and meet other bloggers who you’ve become friends with online, bloggers who you are meeting for the first time at the event and, as always, the sponsors. Parties are a huge deal. Not only the parties hosted by event sponsors but the private, invite only parties.

I only knew one other blogger that was attending the event, and I was rooming with her. I walked away with so much more. I met her friends, I made new friends and most of all, I made some travel blogging friends!

271Liz from Yes/No Films and I at the CheeseburgHer party in the Presidential Suite at the Sheraton Hotel.


Cracker Barrel Cheese – Not only did we receive a demonstration on how to pair and present food, we also met Top Chef 2012’s Runner-up, Sarah Grueneberg and had a Food Network Challenge of our own! We each received a box and had to make it work. (I had Valentine’s Day)PicMonkey CollageYappem – hosted a party at the Navy Pier. Talk about a place for an event! Two people won $12,000.00 each… just saying.

PicMonkey Collage1Lazy Boy – We had our nails painted, make-up done and chair massages not to mention meet Kelly Edwards (host and co-host of HGTV’s Design on a Dime). Can’t complain about any of that!

241South Fort Walton Beach – If I had to pick a favorite, this would be it. Why? It has to do with travel of course and that’s my favorite! This is also where I met my first travel blogger of the event and I tried out their local beer, shrimp and grits and had some live music from the most popular local, South Ft. Walton Beach band! Like I said, right up my alley!

PicMonkey Collage2These are just a few of the events I was able to attend. Each were unique and a lot of fun!

Looking Back on 2012

Taking a look back on 2012, I really only think – man, where did the time go?! Does anyone else feel that way? I can’t believe that 2012 is already over. There were some great experiences. It’s pretty amazing how every year things happen that completely change your life and who you are. The most amazing thing for me was that I became an aunt. I love that little girl like no other!

Travel wise, I had opportunities to check out some great places. The more I write this post, I really wish I could include every place that I went because they were all awesome. I would really suggest visiting anywhere I’ve been in the last year. More importantly, I would really suggest just jumping in your car on weekends and just taking a chance at the great things you can see along the way!

In 2012, I had the opportunity to visit: Portsmouth, NH, Memphis, TN, Ft. Walton Beach, FL, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Kentucky, Vemont (3 times), and Grapevine, Wichita Falls, Austin, Greune, San Antonio, Ennis and countless other little Texas towns. Even in the area that I live, I had opportunities to explore Texas further, check out some great events and great music shows!

When it comes to traveling, I thought I would do a little recap and share with you some of my favorite spots from 2012 (in no particular order).
The Salt Lick, Driftwood, TX
My mouth begins to water already. We headed to the Salt Lick for my birthday last August (one of the best trips ever). If you are itching for some GREAT Texas BBQ for a very reasonable price, this is your place. The rustic atmosphere is out of this world. It’s BYOB, be prepared for a wait but it’s so worth it.
Rendezvous BBQ, Memphis, TN
The South is known for food and in the deep South, look for pork inspired BBQ. Rendezvous’ atmosphere is on a completely different level, down home feel and the waiters wear bow ties (who doesn’t love that?!). Be sure to pick up a bottle (or two) of the BBQ sauce on the way out. You’ll be craving it the next day.

The River House, Portsmouth, NH

Honestly, still craving the lobster roll. That’s all I need to say.

As soon as I was in Greune, I felt at home and I can’t wait to go back! Authentic, down home Hill Country greatness and did I mention Greune Hall?! The music is amazing and if that alone didn’t do it, Jeff Strahan actually sung me Happy Birthday. (You can see my sparkly earrings in the back.) Of course it’s going to make my list!

San Antonio, TX

Talk about visiting a lost treasure. The Missions in San Antonio are irreplacable landmarks. If you are in town, be sure to capture the beauty of these buildings (plus it’s free so there’s no excuse not to go). While you’re there, also be sure to check out the Riverwalk for a relaxing boat ride and one of the local restaurants along the river.

Portsmouth, NH

If you’re on the hunt for an old, Atlantic seaport town look no further than Portsmouth, NH. I visited last January for an old roommates wedding and completely fell in love. Try out some restaurants, microbrews but more importantly, be sure to soak in as much history as you can! Did I mention lobster rolls?! (See The River House above.)

Places to Stay (Hopefully I can expand this list in 2013)
The Peabody, Memphis, TN
Ok this list is going to be a little short as I didn’t get to stay at that many locations in 2012 but we did treat ourselves to a night at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis. Seriously, it’s so worth splurging a little bit. Seeing the ducks is a necessity as is relaxing and splurging a little on dessert. Do it! You know you wanna! Did I mention it’s on the Registry of Historic Hotels?!


This was my first time checking out a Civil War reenactment and I really hope it’s not my last because I’ve been missing out (and you have too if you haven’t been). Whether or not you pick a side to root for, the authenticity and detail that goes into these events are absolutely outstanding. I really can’t even put it into words but when I saw the Union Army come out of the woods, it really took my breath away. Then the cannons went off and that took my hearing. I hear the Gettysburg Reenactment is the next one to check out. Who wants to go?!


My addiction to soccer began here and its definitely something that I didn’t see coming. I can’t wait to catch another game.


Their first sold out show. Their first encore. One of the best shows that I’ve ever witnessed and it’s bittersweet to say that it will never happen again. The Lumineers have completely blown up over the last six months. They’re all over the radio and TV and rightfully so. If you think they’re great on their album, it’s really nothing until you’ve seen them in person. If there’s one band to check out – it’s these guys. Talk about authenticity!


If you’re looking for a little relaxation during the most stressful time of the year, look no further. Taking a couple hours to unwind on a vintage train and enjoy some local flavor is one of the best decisions you can make. It’s so totally worth it.


If you’ve followed my blog, you would know I’m a huge fan of the Texas Steak Cookoff in Hico. This year, I was asked to be a judge and I couldn’t have been more honored (and stuffed). Every year it seems like this event grows a little more but some of the faces are still familiar for those competing. My suggestion, go to eat (all day), bring your own beer and if you’re a good cook – just sign up and join in on the competition. Seriously, can’t go wrong! Plus it’s affordable and the whole family will love it!

Looking back, I can’t believe the opporutnities that I’ve had in 2012. I feel truely blessed and am so excited to see what’s to come in 2013! Wishing you, your families and loved ones the very best in 2013! Get out there, check out what there is to see and by all means – please let me know what you run into along the way or if there’s a certain place that I should check out! I can’t wait to hear about your adventures!

Family Travel Conference, Dallas

After I moved to Texas, I was taking road trips and attending events however I felt as if I couldn’t fully share how great these adventures were with my family back in Vermont. In 2011, Down Home Traveler was born. Since then, it’s generated into not only a way to share my adventures with my family and friends but with all readers alike. Still, something was also missing. I didn’t feel as if I was really connecting with other travel bloggers who shared my same passion. Lately, I’ve felt like I’ve been in a bit of a “traveling rut”. I’m so glad those days are over!
Let’s fast forward to last weekend. I had the privilege of attending the Family Travel Conference at the Omni Hotel in Dallas. I’ve spent the last couple days trying to find a way to put my experience into words. The event opened my eyes to the world of other travel bloggers, educational and business training but I most importantly I gained new relationships with not only businesses but with other travel bloggers. I can not tell you how grateful, excited and proud I am to be a travel blogger!
The Family Travel Conference was held at the Omni Hotel. Although, I didn’t stay at the hotel during the conference, the Omni staff was phenomenal during my visit. I will need to write more about the Omni in another post in order to try to even touch upon how great they made this experience. One special event was when the bloggers split up into groups and went on a different tour of the hotel. Keep an eye out, I’ll be letting you in on my special tour!
We had some great speakers! Not only did they present and speak to us regarding their successes and passed on their wisdom, they stayed all weekend. This provided us with an opportunity to not only know and learn from their experiences but gather connections that we probably wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. We touched upon how to use social media to grow brand / blog, how to capture our audience thru storytelling and video, learned how to edit and create our own video (which was terrifying as I am NOT tech savvy) and travel trends.
This probably sounds like a lot of “work” related experiences, but the entire weekend was filled with a whole lot of fun! For starters – let’s talk about the Dallas Zoo!
The Dallas Zoo was open just for us. We got to see various animals, feed the giraffes, attend the lion show and eat dinner next to the elephants!
I have a friend who literally just got back from running the half marathon at Disney World this past weekend and I had to tell her that Saturday there was more than one “happiest place on Earth”. The second place was in a conference room at the Omni. Not only did we get to meet these two but Disney gave away two trips to Disney World / Disney Land!
Saturday evening we took a little field trip up to the Galleria Mall. Did you know it’s one of the most visited places in Texas?! I surely did not but I do love the mall this time of year. You are about to see why.
Although there are palm trees on the outside, within the doors you will see the World’s largest indoor Christmas tree! (You can read more about the tree and events from when I visited the Galleria last year.)
Finally, what did we eat? Well, it felt like we were royalty and it was all fat and calorie free (so I told myself)! And yes, it was all more delicious than it looks! Believe it! At one point during dinner, I found myself at a table where others were also taking pictures of the food. I pointed it out as I’m usually the only one. Grace Duffy said “You’re with your kind now.” It felt so good!
What resonated with me the most is something that Krista Parry (SnowMamas) said – we are doing this “for the greater good”. We’re not here to compete with one another, to see who can get the most sponsorship or make the most contacts. We’re here to encourage each other as bloggers and to encourage our readers to get out there and experience travel with family and friends. I love blogging because I love to travel. They go hand in hand for me but more importantly I hope that I encourage my readers to go out and try something new. I try to provide the resources and references so anyone can do that, families, couples, single people, girls getaway weekends, etc.. I hope that I am able to do that for all of my readers.
Thank you to Family Travel Conference for inviting me to attending this conference as a local. Thank you to the sponsors and organizers for creating an absolutely amazing event and unforgettable experience! Thank you to my fellow bloggers for getting me out of my blogging rut and giving me the encouragement that I needed. I look forward to continuing my relationship with so many of you. Finally, to my readers –  thank you for letting me do something that I truly enjoy!
Family Travel Conference is founded by Kim Orlando (Traveling Mom), Kyle McCarthy (Family Travel Forum), Eileen Ogintz (Taking The Kids) and Joanne Vero (Travel Media Showcase).
The speakers of the event were outstanding. If you have an opportunity to visit their blogs or look into their work, please do. Genevieve Brown (of ABC News), Rob Burgos (Full Circle Post), Valarie D’Elia (Travel With Val), Paul Eisenberg (Micato Safaris and Shermans Travel), Christi McNeill (Southwest Airlines), Melanie Nelson (Blogging Basics 101), Krista Parry (Snowmamas), Wendy Perrin (Conde Nast Traveler) and Kaleel Sakakeeny (New Media Travel).