Friday, March 21, 2014

Spring Break Road Trip

Spring break is this week and of course we had to take the opportunity for a mini getaway. We didn't want to go too far and wanted plenty of options for indoor activities if the weather didn't is March in the Midwest afterall. After reviewing our options and nixing a trip to the Wisconsin Dells, we settled on Dubuque, Ia.

It took us just over four hours to reach Dubuque. I hink that's pretty good considering we had stops for gas, lunch, potty break, and an impromptu shopping trip at a Wal-Mart when our portable DVD stopped working. We are now equipped with a brand new portable dvd for all future adventures thanks to the Wal-Mart in Independence, Ia.

We stayed along the Mississippi River at Grand Harbor Resort. The resort had an excellent water park, within walking distance to the Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium (we chose a package deal with our hotel suite that included a 2 day pass to the museum/aquarium), and the resort sat right along the Mississippi River Walk with plenty of activities and dining options around.
Looking at the view from our room--it just happened to be a casino across the street with the Museum and Aquarium across the street. We went with a hotel suite, which included a mini kitchen area, living room with pull out sofa and a bedroom with a king size bed and plenty of room for the pack n play set up. Definitely worth the money for this oversized suite that didn't make us feel too cramped.
The Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium was an easy walk from our hotel across the parking lot. The kids were super excited to see that one of the water park slides went outside of the hotel. Matt and Max informed me later that day that it was pitch black inside and super fast. It should be of no surprise that Max wanted to go down several times.
There are two parts to the Museum and Aquarium. We did one part one day and the other half on our second day.
Matt taking the time to explain about early life along the Mississippi River. The boys didn't care much about taking the time to see this portion of the museum. They were more interested in seeing the fish, hands on activities, and the boats.
My little Adventure Girl.
The museum and aquarium had some very cool water displays and activities for the kids. It should be of no surprise that my kids immensely enjoyed getting soaked.
Where the River Meets the Gulf tank. The tank had the coolest eel I have ever seen (it was a green grass color), a shark, sting rays, and several other varieties of fish. We got to witness feeding time for the fish. Right before the feeding started, the shark and the eel were fighting each other and the sting rays were swimming wildly around. As soon as they were all fed and had eaten, a definite calm came over the tank.
Elizabeth discovered drinking fountains while we were there...
The view of the frozen Mississippi from the top of the museum.
The exploration water lab for kids. These hands on activities explained how water flows, a bit about the animals along the river, and the impact they have on the river.
Ribbon snakes. Harrison was pretty psyched about these and informed me he wanted one. These are called ribbon snakes because these snakes like to intertwine with each other. We almost didn't spot the third snake (just chilling under the other two) until Harrison pointed it out.

After part 1 of the museum, we came back to the hotel, relaxed a bit (which of course involved jumping on the bed), had a pizza party, and then we were off to the water park.

Max was soooo excited he couldn't even wait for me to take a picture! He was moving so fast that I failed to get any pictures of him running around the water park. He loved everything about it and told me that we need to go to more water parks.
Harrison loved the water park too--he just wanted to have me by his side. This time, he was able to do all of the water slides and loved them.
Even Elizabeth loved going down the kiddie pool water slide all by herself. She did go down a couple of the bigger slides on daddy's lap and loved those too.

Notice Elizabeth's lips turning purple. We were at the water park a few hours. Towards the end she and I made our way to the hot tub to warm up. After nearly 3 hours of non-stop water fun, we went back to our room for showers, a snack, and then bundled up for our night walk along the Mississippi River Walk.
The Mississippi River Walk sat just outside of our hotel. We could see the current moving under the icey river despite it being pitch black out. The kid's favorite part was a train that went by just on the other side of the river. We couldn't get any good pictures, but the kids loved seeing it all lit up at night and hearing the train whistle.

After the walk, we played a few games in the arcade. 

The boys still managed to fit in some Disney Junior before dozing off.
Woke up at 3 a.m. to snow falling. It was all completely melted by the time we left the hotel at 10:00 a.m.
So we were gone for two days and we still needed a cart to move our baggage to the van......I'm convinced there is no packing light when you have three young kids.
Elizabeth DID NOT want to leave the hotel and have "cation" end. Lucky for her, we still adventured all day long and didn't get home until bedtime.
National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium part 2. The kids liked seeing all of the boats and the outside exhibits the best.
The kids exploring in the Kids Lab. They got to look at water particles under the microscopes, pet a crab (which they were both too scared to do, so I did it instead), touch the furs of animals living along the Mississippi River (I could not do this part since the wolf skin still had it's claws on the paws), and see the trees that grow in the area.
Harrison was scared of the huge fish in this tank. We noticed several of the fish swimming around were bigger than him!
Elizabeth pushed Harrison is her stroller. 
The turtle exhibit. I thought this would be the kid's favorite part of the aquarium, but they informed me they can see turtles "lots of other places at home."

They had several scaled down versions of boats that were built there, replicas of boats, and outside they had several old boats that were once used. I would definitely recommend going to the museum and aquarium in the warmer months so you can fully enjoy everything that's outside. We did not get to go on the old cruise boat and look around because it was too wet and muddy out. Some of the other outside exhibits weren't open this time of year.

After the museum and lunch, we had plans to head to the look out at Eagle Point Park, but we were very disappointed to find out almost everything else in Dubuque is closed this time of year, including city parks. We were rebels and ignored the 'Closed for the Season' signs on this river front park so the kids could get some energy out before hitting the road.

The park had great views of the river. We also drove to the Cable Car District to have a look at the shops in the area only to discover a good majority of the shops were closed because the cable cars were closed for the season.
On the way home to Des Moines, we explored the Amana Colonies and of course had to stop in Williamsburg at the outlet mall. Looks like Elizabeth has my successful shopping genes.

The biggest downside to the trip is that it was not the best time of year to go. The weather was actually decent, but nothing that we wanted to do opens for the season until April or May. We were hugely disappointed to find that even the city parks were closed for the season. If you're looking to make a trip to the area, I highly suggest doing so between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Even with the disappointments, it was a pretty great getaway that exhausted the minis!
The many sleeping styles of my minis.