Mrs. Gore’s Hot-off-the-Press Guide to Silver Dollar City

After spending four days at Branson’s Silver Dollar City a couple of weeks ago, I feel the need, not only to jot down some things for us to remember next time we go, but to pass on my newfound expertise for those of you who have never been before.

These sorts of blog posts make all the difference when you’re planning for a trip. I know so because the blogs I read beforehand about how to navigate Silver Dollar City made a HUGE difference in the success of ours!

Thus, without further wordage, I present to you Mrs. Gore’s Hot-off-the-Press Guide to Silver Dollar City (as written in June 2017):

The packing and planning stages:

  • Call ahead (or swing by the day before you go) to talk to someone about all your options during the week of your trip, or ask for an up-to-date newspaper. You need to be armed with all the available info about special deals that might apply to your stay!
  • Likewise, order your tickets ahead of time and look into whether or not getting season passes will be a good deal for you. More on that later.
  • Download the Silver Dollar City app, where you can easily pull up a map, check showtimes, and find special attractions.
  • Study the map the night before and have a game plan. We circled ALL the things we wanted to do on the newspaper map before we went. You don’t want to be standing around trying to figure out where you want to go while everyone else is zipping by you to the fun. Be ready! This is game day, baby!
  • Take your packing really seriously so you’ll have everything you need. If you’re going to be at the park for a long amount of time and have small children…I’d even say children aged 6 and under…some sort of stroller or wagon is essential. There are some crazy hills at SDC and LOTS of walking. This is the collapsible wagon we have and we are superfans. It folds up so easily, it converts into a bench, and we love it. Click on any of the pictures of products below to be taken to the affiliated link at Amazon!
  • If you’re going during the warm months and plan on riding water rides (which you SHOULD, they were our favorite!), make sure everyone has quick-drying clothes and shoes. Our boys wore trunks and short-sleeved rash guards, our girls wore swim dresses from Hanna Andersson, and everyone had a sturdy pair of swim shoes like these. (cheaper versions of this sort of perforated tennis shoe can be found at Gap and other stores).

  • Speaking of shoes, many rides don’t allow flip flops! We took extra flip flops with us in case anyone got blisters, but we were so glad those weren’t the only shoes we brought.
  • Pack your own food and drinks. SDC can become a budget buster if you don’t plan ahead in this department. We saved so much money by taking our own!
  • So you want to pack well, but you also want to pack succinctly. We took two bags with us, both of which stacked perfectly in our wagon, leaving room for two little kids to sit side-by-side. Everyone’s hands were free, except for my husband who was pulling the wagon like an ox.
  • Bag #1 was a small cooler-on-wheels, like this (ours was a red-and-white gingham version of this same bag, but the print is no longer available at Amazon!) 
  • We filled up Bag #1 with frozen Capri Suns (that kept our other drinks cold, but thawed by afternoon for the kids to enjoy), lots of bottles of water, and little cans of Sprite. This bag had mesh pockets on the side that we could quickly slip our electronics into when we weren’t taking pictures.
  • Bag #2 was this medium-size insulated picnic hamper (also red-and-white gingham, also no longer available, but I love this blue version, too!):
  • We put ALL of our other essentials in Bag #2, including a Ziploc of various sunscreens, a Ziploc with hairties and a brush, a small first aid pouch filled with Band-aids (in the case of blisters or any falls and scrapes on the concrete), a Ziploc of medicine for motion sickness or headaches, a small bottle of baby powder (because after four days of water rides and walking, some of our family members had chapping problems, ouch!), my wrist purse, my husband’s wallet, and our kids’ lunch, which included apple juice pouches, Clementine oranges, apples, boxes of raisins, boxes of yogurt raisins, packets of peanut butter crackers (both plain and cheddar crackers), granola bars, and a variety of small bags of chips. Nothing squishy and nothing spillable. Every night before we left, I lined all these goodies up on the counter and let each kid choose which kind of flavors they wanted of everything so we didn’t have any confusion or sadness at lunchtime, plus I’d throw in a couple more of each item just in case.
  • So that was the KID’S lunch. The adults…because we’re adults and we have such fancy tastebuds…got to sample the fare at SDC. Not that we were totally stingy, the kids got to taste pretty much everything we bought without us having to spend our life savings on meals in the park. It worked perfectly, everyone was happy, and it left us with some spending money for afternoon treats like Dippin’ Dots or funnel cakes.
  • Other than that, I packed each of our insulated water bottles, stocked with fresh ice water every morning. When we’d stop for a bathroom break or lunch, I’d refill everyone’s bottle with the extra water we packed in our cooler. This is my own water bottle I bought for the trip. I have the white enamel and I got my mom the copper version because she loves copper and I love her. Another plus, our wagon had two cupholders that held our bottles perfectly! The rest of our family’s insulated bottles snuggled in nicely between our bags and the edge of the wagon.

  • Lay everything out…including the kids clothes and shoes…the night before, pack your hamper, and have all drinks ready in the fridge. Every good pastor’s wife knows that if you want to make it to church on time, you’ve got to start getting ready the night before. The same is true at SDC, people!

Getting to the park:

  • We had heard about the magic of the season pass before we went, but now we’re believers. If you are planning on going to SDC for more than one day, a season pass is a must. With it, we went to the park for two full days of our trip, and then we decided to go ahead and go every morning the rest of the week until the park got busy. It was season pass early hours week (SCORE!), so we would be IN line by 8:30 each morning, ride all the rides we wanted (with no lines!), go and enjoy one of the little children’s sections for about an hour (with hardly any other people there), and be pretty full up on fun before the park started getting even the slightest bit busy. Then we’d be on our way out by noon, just when the lines were started to get long. It was…AMAZING!!! We’d go every single day if we lived closer, and with a season pass, you could actually DO that. If you purchase your passes before a new season starts in March, you can also get free guest vouchers! We missed that deal, but it is ON our radar for next time! Season passes are just a great deal, all around.
  • If you have a season pass, you can also purchase preferred parking for $7/day. Worth it. My husband would drop us and our stuff off at the door (anything to save little feet and pregnant feet from more walking), then park the car in the adjoining lot nearby. It made the trip that much more dreamy, and we never had to wait on the trolley to pick us up from the more remote parking areas.

IN the park:

  • If you get there early…and it’s a thousand times worth it to do that (even if that means you all wake up at 6:30 every day of your trip to start getting ready!)…do all of the popular roller coasters that you want first. The lines will be minimal to nonexistent.
  • After that, do the water rides, *especially* the Lost River of the Ozarks. This ride will have a HUGE line by lunchtime, sometimes over 45 minutes. By following our routine, we rode this ride (our family favorite) four or five times in a ROW without ever waiting in a line. We usually didn’t even have to get out of our boat! After you’ve had your fill of Lost River, hit the American Plunge (a classic log ride) a few times. Family members can watch from a viewing stand, which is fun, and this ride has pretty fun pictures available for purchase at a hut nearby. If you’re going to buy a souvenir at SDC, I think this is  a pretty good one. This is our little guy, Shep, and his friend, Daniel, who also happened to be at the park that day. They loved it, I promise: 
  • After enjoying the big roller coasters and those two water rides, if you have little kids (ours range in age from 3 to 10), go to either The Grand Exposition or Fireman’s Landing. These are both very large kid-friendly areas that have a ton of fun little rides. Our family especially liked Fireman’s Landing which, aside from a collection of rides that our children loved most, also had a little splash pad and one of the most amazing playhouses ever. I liked to sit on a rock in the sun to dry off after getting drenched at Lost River and just let my kids run amok. The playhouse alone kept them busy and thrilled for nearly an hour every day. And it’s all so clean! And beautiful!
  • Now that you’ve gotten your fill of rides and play areas, let the rest of the folks deal with the growing lines while you go catch some shows! We got to watch an amazing Dog Tricks show one day, the Harlem Globetrotters the next day, a couple of good concerts, etc…it’s a nice way to rest, usually in an air-conditioned room, after racing up and down those hills to get to your favorite rides all morning. These shows change with the different festivals of the year, so be sure to check your paper or the app to find out what’s available to you!
  • Scope out a perfect spot for your lunch as you meander around. We found a little bench outside of The Opera House where we ate our lunch every day. It was covered in shade, very private, and gave the kids room to mill around while they ate. An added bonus to that Radio Flyer wagon is that the side zips down to convert the wagon into a little bench, giving us two places for kids to comfortably sit.
  • SDC has clean restrooms (and several nursing stations!) in every major area of the park. Be smart about your bathroom breaks! Make everyone go when you get to the park, make everyone go when you stop for lunch, make everyone go before you go into a show…otherwise, you’ll be taking someone to the bathroom all day, every day. It’s all about coordination. 😉
  • If you have big kids and little kids, it’s just a good idea to split up, at times. My mom and I would take the two littles to one of the kid-friendly areas while my husband did rides with the big kids, and if you need a place to take your littles in the afternoon when The Grand Exposition and Fireman’s Landing are packed with people, I can’t recommend Half Dollar Holler enough. Our littles went through this play area on repeat, for a good hour, while my mom and I sat and rested in the shade. 
  • You cannot go to SDC and miss out on Grandpa’s Mansion!! It’s a classic staple that must be enjoyed by the whole family.
  • The train is a neat feature that should also be enjoyed once (and once is enough, I recommend going in the afternoon), but be warned that there is a little show in the middle of it that could get long for tiny kids. Ours did okay with it, and so I’m glad we went. It’s especially neat to see the outskirts of the park and get an idea of the land that SDC was built on. It’s in the woods, basically! Amazing!
  • The BEST things we ate all week…the hot dog wrapped in a long spiral of fried potatoes, the funnel cakes (one a day, baby! Sometimes two…), the kids loved the Dippin’ Dots, and NOTHING BEAT the warm cinnamon bread. I thought it sounded good, but it was REALLY GOOD. If you go early, get you some coffee and a loaf of this bread and think of me.
  • Before you leave, have some fun at Tom and Huck’s River Blast, either riding on the boats or shooting at the riders from the sidelines. It was one of my son’s favorite things to do there, and the lines aren’t long here, even during the busier parts of the day. You will get pretty wet on the other rides, you will get DRENCHED on this one. It’s the perfect way to cool off at the end of your day.
  • If you’re a mom of littles and your little park-goers fall asleep in the wagon (ours did, every day), there is a great seating area in the shade near the front of the park. I got to sit in a big Adirondack chair under an umbrella every afternoon and make friends with elderly people while my family enjoyed the park. Being pregnant, this was a dream come true for me. And sometimes a loving family member would deliver a funnel cake to me, so, hallelujah.
  • Finally, as you are meandering your way out of the park, take some time to check our the artisan booths and houses, which are full of educational opportunities for your family. You could even pick a few a day to focus on. We didn’t do so great in this department this go round, but if we went to the park during a time of year when the water rides weren’t open, I think we’d take better advantage of them.
  • Oops, I have one more “finally” to your meandering…Marvel Cave. You’ll need to get the whole scoop on this experience from someone who works at the park, but we heard this hour-long walking tour through a REAL CAVE underneath SDC was a great way to cool off in the afternoons. It never worked out for us timing-wise, but this would be a perfect afternoon activity for the big kids while babies and toddlers nap. We have a raincheck with Marvel Cave.
  • Let your memories be your souvenirs. You could easily spend a thousand dollars on stuff at SDC…there’s even a toy store there!…but you don’t need to. The park is enough. If you don’t believe me, ask my very happy kids. They didn’t come home with a SDC shirt, or a toy, or a craft, or *anything*…but their hearts are bursting with memories.

So, by the way, is mine.

One last word of encouragement before you leave, while there are so many fun things to do in Branson, if you are on a budget like most young families, let your tickets to Silver Dollar City be your vacation. It has everything that the whole of Branson does…food, shows, crafts, music…so get your money’s worth and stay from opening to closing. I guarantee you won’t run out of things to do, though I can’t promise you won’t run out of energy. They even have an amazing concert at closing time!

Ah, it is easy to underestimate Silver Dollar City if you’ve never been there, but it is a beyond fabulous place to take your family. My husband has been to some of the biggest parks in the U.S., and this place is his all-time favorite. I second that, 100%.

I hope you love it as much as we do! If you have any questions, shout them out in the comments section! And if you have any fun or helpful tips to add to this list, please share! I might just need your advice for my next trip to SDC, which I hope will be sooner rather than later…

I mean, we have season tickets! Maybe we’ll go today!!

Dancing Hearts in Nantucket (Part Six: The Wauwinet)

Phew! We’re plowing through the WEALTH of memories that my mama and I shared on the island of Nantucket, and I just have to say ‘thank you’ once more for joining us for this very special time. Just to remind you of what we’re doing, for my mom’s 65th birthday, I wanted to set aside a month or two to write down all of our stories from her 64th birthday trip, and it has been so fun to have you all along for the journey. (If you need to catch up, here is Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, and Part Five). Your kind words and excitement about the blessing we enjoyed means so much to me. What grace and love you have shown!

Gah, I can’t believe it has been over a week since I posted Part Five; HOW I would love to get these installments out faster, but…I just can’t, apparently. In fact, the reason I first published three posts in one week is because two of my four kids were throwing up all week and I didn’t leave my house for seven days. Ha! All that to say, thank you for your patience as you wait for each part of this story. That you are still here and still engaged just blows me away.

Okay, I am SUPER excited for today’s post. Just…go get you a cup of tea or coffee and cozy up for this one. I think I’ll do the same!..

~

wauwinet

So Nantucket Proper was fantastic, wasn’t it?

Do you remember that moment when my mom and I first left Union Street Inn and were making our way down the sidewalk toward Nantucket’s Main Street? And I said how much I love to go back in my mind during that point because I had NO idea what great things were in store for us, just around the corner?

Well, that same reality, TIMES ONE THOUSAND for this next portion!!!

I’m actually laughing right now, just thinking about it.

Okay, and maybe crying, just a ‘lil.

All the emotions, mostly.

Because, when we had wrapped up our second day of shopping and adventuring and sightseeing in the main part of Nantucket and had returned to Union Street to gather our bags (and have an impromptu prayer meeting with our new friends!), and then began our trek down the streets to find the jitney that would drive us to our next place of lodging, we had no idea…NO IDEA!!!!!…what was in store for us.

Seriously.

No. Idea.

I mean, it felt special enough that the place to which we were going had its very own jitney (aka shuttle), one that came to town on the hour to pick up guests and left town on the half hour to return to the resort.

You have to be pretty important to have your own jitney, don’t you?

I’ve never had my own jitney, that’s for sure.

But, then, I had KNOWN this place was important the first time I saw its website; I didn’t know how to pronounce the name of it at the time – “The Wauwinet” – but it wouldn’t matter, because I was struck speechless.

However, unlike my dramatic internet experience with the Union Street Inn, where I had “instinctively known” we HAD to stay there, the only instinct I had when I saw this new place was that I knew I WANTED to stay there.

But there was no way that would ever happen.

Because it was unreal.

A little TOO unreal for us, if you know what I mean, in that it was a level or two…or ten, maybe…above our heads. It looked like a place that Martha Stewart might live. Or a place that would be featured in a magazine that we couldn’t afford.

You know the ones I’m talking about, right? Those gorgeous magazines that cost $7 to $10 that you can rarely talk yourself into buying, even though you want to…Veranda, and the like…magazines that feature houses and hotels that you wouldn’t even pin on your Pinterest “Dream House” board because they are so out of your reach?

Enter “The Wauwinet”.

The only Relais & Châteaux member in Nantucket (I still don’t know what that means, really, other than fancy!!), housing the top-rated restaurant in all of Massachusetts, just the very pictures of this place screamed luxury and perfection.

Situated on a sprawling private property, hugged by the coast and completely saturated with beauty and care and tranquility, I took one look at the pictures on the website and my mouth went tee-totally dry. It was one of those things that, once you see it, you can’t UNSEE it, but, like, in a good way.

And even as I initially shrugged it off as a pipe dream, I went to bed that night with dreams of The Wauwinet sort of pumping through my blood.

It was calling to me, like a mythical siren calls to the captain.

“Come to meeeeee…” it hissed. “Even though you are a poor pastor’s wife who sells granola to buy cardigans, you beeeelonnnnng heeeere. Your mommyyyy deserrrrrrrves it…”

I’m telling you, I was sort of stuck after seeing this website — it was dug down deep in my heart — and so I did the only logical thing there was to do and I passed the siren call on to my mom.

We looked at the website together. We daydreamed about staying there with a view of the ocean from our window. We talked about our other options and how we really wanted to spend our week.

And, with these things in mind, we made a decision.

Remember our Nantucket motto?

We had all these credit card rewards piled up, we had birthday money from all the family, we were here for four short nights, we might never leave Oklahoma again…

GO BIG OR GO HOME, MAN.

So, laugh out LOUD, we went SO BIG.

Like…

The biggest.

Thus, after that first night at the Union Street Inn, the remainder of our stay in Nantucket would be at…that’s right…THE Wauwinet.

THE WAUWINET!!!

Even the locals we talked to about where we were staying were amazed.

By the way, you pronounce it like this — I know now because I’m an insider — Wah-WIN-it.

Now, get ready, because you’re not going to believe this place. Seriously. Just…eek!…squeal!…giggles!…I’m excited.

Now…where was I in our story?

Oh yes, the foyer of the Union Street Inn. We had prayed with our new friends, we’d said our goodbyes and, loading ourselves down with our tote bags and purses, we lugged our suitcases behind us down the sidewalk, their wheels really making a ruckus on those brick and cobblestone streets.

It was a tourist-y moment, one that I did not completely relish, only because it proved to Nantucket that we two gals did not belong, reminding me that I was a stranger in this town, a backpacker, a sojourner. And here I had been feeling like a regular…

But it was also fun, in a way, setting out with my best friend like this to try and find our next adventure. We weren’t quite sure where we were going, which is actually very normal; even in our own stomping ground, we’re not quite sure where we are going.

Without taking too many wrong turns, though — the hefty load we were carrying motivated us to pay close attention! — we found the Visitor Center which was, not surprisingly, precious and perfect, just like the rest of this magical land.

Peeking through the darling door, we were instructed to have a seat at one of the outside benches and our jitney would soon be arriving.

“Our jitney”.

Tee hee!

We were naturally atwitter. What was this REALLY going to be like? Would we regret leaving the beautiful-but-relate-able Union Street Inn? Was The Wauwinet going to be too fancy for us? What if we looked like hillbillies compared to everyone else? What if all the socialites noticed that my suitcase was from J.C. Penney instead of Louis Vuitton? Would we be sad that we had tied ourselves down to a remote area for the rest of our stay, instead of bunking in town? What if this place was all show, a fancy website, but I don’t know…haunted?! In disrepair? Situated right next to a pig farm?!?! Did they even have pigs in Nantucket??

My feet were tapping beneath me, excited, homeless, and, after our long day afoot, ready to find a place to rest.

Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait long; about five minutes before it was due, a shiny, black bus turned the corner onto our street and I made out the words “The Wauwinet” tastefully inscribed on its side.

Mom and I looked at each other and grinned. This was it. Our jitney had arrived! Roll out the red carpet and take us to our resort, maestro!!

It felt as though we were on the brink of a STORY, and my blood flowed to the siren call once more.

“Coooommeee to meeeeee, Mrs. Gore and Mother!!! Luxury awaaaaittsss…”

A smiling driver quickly emerged from the jitney, and I instantly relaxed. His skin was dark and beautiful, and he greeted us like family, the accent of Jamaica delighting our ears.

“I will load your bags,” he said, taking our suitcases to the back, “and you can sit inside or on the bench while I get my lunch around the corner, wherever you are most comfortable. We will leave on the half hour.”

We opted for inside, and he opened the door of the jitney for us and helped us in. The seats were low and clean and…I was nervous again, all of a sudden. How unusual it was for an unapologetic homebody to be hopping about from adventure to adventure like this! How did I even GET here??

Oh, yeah. The tiny plane.

My mom, though, was still smiling like a child, and I could almost hear the melody of her youth rocking through that adventurous head of hers.

“How different we are,” I mused, “but so well suited to one another. When did we switch places like this, she the girl who wants to see the world and I the one who wants to keep us away from strangers and dangers? Or…were we always like this, deep down, and I just didn’t notice?…”

Before I had too much time to think, our driver returned and, still smiling with an apparent enjoyment in his work, took his place in the driver seat.

“Would you like a drink for the drive?” he asked. “It will be twenty minutes before our arrival at The Wauwinet.”

We accepted and, reaching down into the ice chest next to his seat, he handed us each a cold bottle of water, along with a paper cocktail napkin. “It’s the little things…” I thought, receiving this gift, and I had the tingly feeling that we were about to REALLY be taken care of. Maybe like we’d never been taken care of before…

You know, my mom might not believe she deserves anything, an attitude that I am trying to mirror as I grow, but I think she deserves the world, and as we made our way down the streets and then the highways of Nantucket, I slowly began to rest in this amazing blessing that she was surely about to receive. This was her time, her gift, her MOMENT!!!

It was everything I’d ever wanted to give her, but couldn’t.

As such, I couldn’t stop smiling, either.

I was surprisingly finding a home, of sorts, in this place that I never would have sought out on my own, and the blessing was mine, too, but I don’t ever want to forget how completely and utterly focused my heart and mind were on my mama for these five days and four nights; it was a deeply spiritual experience and I was nigh unto bursting with love for her. Her joy was my joy, and then some. I was her happy companion in this place. Her sidekick. Her supporting actress.

And I was having the time of my life!

The drive was indeed twenty minutes, on the button, and it was beautiful. Fresh air was blowing through our row of screened windows, and it was interesting to see that, on the main road with no ocean in sight, the countryside was actually quite familiar. A two-lane highway with trees and fields, sort of like Oklahoma…yet the ocean was just out there, somewhere.

It could have been home, but…no, we were on an island! An ISLAND!! How amazing. How…terrifying! For me, at least. Mom, not so much.

After miles of highway, the jitney took a left turn and, with no further ado, we found ourselves entering the private property of The Wauwinet.

Oh, mercy…

the dazzling place on the internet was now right in front of my eyes and I felt as though I was stepping through the mirror into a place that couldn’t REALLY exist with the rest of the stuff in this world. We had crossed into the Great Beyond, I just knew it.

My skin was literally prickling. This jitney we were in…this inn where we were staying…this entire TRIP…was just not something that two averages Janes get to do very often, if ever.

“Thank you, God,” I whispered. Like a wedding day, my heart was imparting to me the acute realization that this was a “once in a lifetime” sort of moment and that I’d better pay very close attention.

We pulled to a stop outside of a sprawling thee-story estate, the doors were opened, and another man, smiling graciously, extended a hand to escort us out of the bus while the driver retrieved all of our items.

My mouth dropped open as I stepped forward and surveyed the perfectly-manicured front entrance. The pictures I had gazed at endlessly in the planning stages of our trip were coming to vivid life in front of me, and to embrace the scene with all of my senses at one time instead of just my sight, to see and know that this fairyland was actually real and right in front of me…it was just too much.

It’s funny, I only see bright lights in my memory as I try to recall exactly what this side of The Wauwinet looked like – I was blinded, I think, by the glory of it! – but I DO remember seeing a long line of green Hunter rainboots on the front porch, available for guests who wanted to go adventuring.

“Well done…” I nodded, passing by them as we entered through the large and welcoming front door. It was my first time to ever tip my hat to a boot, but what can I say? I was impressed.

We found ourselves immediately in a spacious foyer that housed the most beautiful check-in counter I’ve ever seen and, as the staff carried all of our belongings – all of them, not just our suitcases – up the open staircase to the left, we stood and made the acquaintance of the manager on duty, a precious young man who was obviously amused by the exuberance we displayed about every amenity of which he made us aware.

You have a movie library??”

“You’ll bring us hot, buttered POPCORN?”

“There are blankets we can use in the chaise lounges out front??”

“You’ll bring us COFFEE? Anytime we want it???”

“This place is amazing!!!

We were laughing and clapping like schoolgirls, so excited, which made him laugh, and I knew that, even though we might not be the type of guest that The Wauwinet was most accustomed to, we were going to have a fun time here. I think both of us determined then and there not to worry about how middle-class we were or how Oklahoman and to just be us, and to show love and kindness and gratitude to everyone we met.

I noticed as the week went on that the front desk workers grinned so big when they saw us coming. “Oh boy, here come the enthusiastic girls…” they seemed to say.

Likewise, we also made some friends on the other side of the spectrum that week, including some businessmen and their wives from Boston, and it all just reminded me that people are people and a smile goes a long way toward easing through perceived barriers. It was a good life lesson, one I hope that I’ll remember.

And, oh!! I’m telling you, for the rest of our time in Nantucket, our every need and want was seen to by this eager and attentive staff. After the manager gave us the run-down and handed over our keys, our personal concierge (!!!!!!!), Damian, escorted us to our room and showed us around, promising his devoted service for the rest of our trip.

After conversing with him for some time about his homeland of Jamaica, he left to order us some ice (which was soon delivered in a beautiful copper bucket, with a matching scoop. A COPPER BUCKET!!! Have you ever?), and we found ourselves alone.

Shutting the door behind him, my mom and I finally had the liberty to really SQUEAL!!! This place was a dream! And our spacious and airy room was DIVINE!!

Two taller-than-life queen sized beds completely dressed in brilliantly white linens with a softness to their lines that belied lots of lots of feathers underneath.

A Bose radio on the nightstand between us.

A line of shuttered windows that let in seaside light and beauty.

A beautifully appointed sitting area, including a floral sofa, a cozy armchair, a flat-screen wall-mounted television, and a hand-painted armoire.

Cleanliness and luxury, all about.

And, for the rest of the week, it was OURS, with no chores or responsibilities attached to any of it. Just enjoyment.

Golly, do you know what? I’m feeling rather intimidated, actually, now that I’m trying to sit down and tell this part of our story.

How can I aptly describe this heaven-on-earth without making it seem like I am a thesaurus for superlatives?

How can I express all the emotions, the joy, the kinship that my mom and I experienced in this out-of-the-way place on the map?

The best way I can describe it is that, at The Wauwinet, hemmed in by the sea on two sides, it felt very much like we had found the edge of the world, just Mama and me.

And this is where the biggest joy of our trip came in because, not only were we free, for a moment…free from responsibility, from stress, from chores… as we’ve rehashed our trip, we have discovered that we also…somehow…miraculously…blessedly…unexpectedly…both felt free from sin.

It was as if, for one tiny week during this journey of life, my mom and I got to stop outside of time for a bit, outside of the fall of man, and wade in the shores of eternity.

We get these tastes of Eden all the time…at birthday parties, in shared laughter, at Sunday morning worship…but this was more than a taste. It was a feast. A week-long feast.

There was no fear of man in my heart. No comparison. No jealousy. No worrying about what people were thinking of me. No worrying about all the ways I’m failing. No keeping our friendship under a bushel. No selfishness. No pride. No self-loathing. No nothin’.

And on top of all these things that weren’t, were all the things there WERE, namely, an abundance of love the likes of which I have rarely experienced; it was all give and no take, on both sides. It was perfect communion, the kind that can only be found in Christ and that I’m so exceedingly grateful to share with my mama.

And so, yes, I loved the decor, I loved the chaise lounges in the back, I loved the private beach, I loved the coffee in carafes and the little bowls of sugar…

but I really loved having a place where the dearest friendship that I’ve had…the one that has been most true, the one that has been the easiest and the most constant and consistently mutual…could flourish and rest and commune and meditate and thrive.

Our hearts were dancing, I tell you.

Dancing in Nantucket.

~

Now…how about some pictures?!?

Here is our room, a big, comfy bed for each of us:

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Sigh…I want to go to there. Note the small box of treats next to the pillow, along with a set of personalized stationery for each of us bearing a watercolor print of The Wauwinet.

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Our sitting room, which had plenty of room for Mom, me, AND my giant Nantucket hair.

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The armoire! Pretty, pretty.

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Fresh flowers in the hallways. There were also bowls of complimentary green apples peppered throughout the inn…

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Can I sigh again? Here is the library. This room smelled amazing…their fireplace logs had magic in them, I think…and  we spent a lot of time in here. You’ll see more pics of this room in a minute.

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Are you ready to see the best part of The Wauwinet, the true highlight of our entire stay in Nantucket?

The huge lawn, with rows of chaise lounges, where lodgers could sit and watch the ocean, the sunrise, the back of their eyelids…

during the daytime, you could pretty much find us here, wrapped up in blankets, snoozing, reading, taking deep, gulping breaths of Nantucket air, and pretending like this was our permanent residence. The staff even brought us coffee here, in a carafe that I have long coveted at Williams Sonoma.

This was Mom’s first sight of the place…I think she liked it. 🙂

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From the lounges, the ocean was straight ahead, and then this was our view to the right. I swear that’s not a painting.

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Home sweet home. At least that’s what I kept telling myself.

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A pristine boardwalk led from the yard down to the dock where the Wauwinet Lady dropped off restaurant guests from town or took lodgers on excursions. We never boarded The Lady during our stay, one of our only regrets during our trip.

Mom was pretty excited just to stroll down the boardwalk like a lady of leisure. 🙂

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Another seating area closer to the ocean. Told ya this looked like a place Martha Stewart might hang out.

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More pictures from the dock and boardwalk:

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After a little poking around, we headed quickly back to the yard where two blankets were procured so we could sit and watch the sun go down.

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This was our heaven-on-earth…we’d found it!…and we couldn’t get over it.

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Hours were spent in those chairs, but when the sun had sufficiently set each night, we’d secret back to our room, share the sandwich we had bought on the cheap that day in town (keep in mind that “cheap” in Nantucket is a relative word), change into our lounging clothes, and skip like children down to the library where a fire was deliciously crackling and perfectly complementing the fresh, chilly seaside air that was permeating the entire inn.

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we usually had the place to ourselves every night

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and we read until our hearts were full which, with a good Jan Karon book, doesn’t take too awful long. Mom had scored a galley copy of Jan’s new book that was being released that week (“Come Rain or Come Shine”) in the town’s (amazing) bookshop and, though I was one book behind her (“Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good”), we were both SO happy to be in Mitford with Father Tim and the whole gang. We’ve spent countless hours in Mitford over the years, Mama and I, and it added to our trip in a very special way.

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When we had our fill of reading each night, we would go upstairs, take showers and put on our pajamas, order some hot, buttered popcorn (that arrived wrapped up in cloth napkins in a ceramic tureen) and watch an episode of BBC’s “Emma”,  which was another shared highlight of our trip. How we laughed at that show together, thrilled to our toes. It was especially funny to us because Emma’s father, scared of everything and always preventing Emma from going to the seaside, was very reminiscent of yours truly.

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Before it was too very late in the night — we wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to get good sleep — we’d turn off our lamps and nestle down into the cocoon of quality sheetage and feathers that I doubt I’ll ever be able to replicate at home.

But that’s okay because, though I fancied the notion from time to time, The Wauwinet wasn’t home.

It was a four-day paradise, the very fulfillment of the word “holiday”.

And what a jolly holiday it was.

~

(It was) a day of sheer delight, one of those magical times that are not forgotten while life lasts, a time when it seems as though nothing can go wrong, as though human imperfection were aided and sustained by something outside itself, and just for once allowed to bring to perfection everything that it attempted.”

Pilgrim’s Inn

~

I have more pictures of our stay at The Wauwinet that you’ll see in the days to come – this was just our first day! Until then, check out the gorgeous website here. Thank you so much for joining me today – stay tuned for our next adventure, where I watched with tear-filled eyes as my mama found the beach of her heart. ❤

And you can always keep up with the Gore family on Facebook!

Dancing Hearts in Nantucket (Part Five: Nantucket Proper!!!)

I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels to have that last story (part 4) out of my heart and down on paper (and if you need to catch up, here is part 1, part 2, and part 3). I’ve been carrying around these memories for a year now, trying to remember them, trying to hold them close lest they vaporize with all the other important information in my brain that I’ve lost, like WHERE MY OTHER FLIP FLOP IS!!! 

But it has been recorded now. The story has been told. And I feel like a million bucks! Thank you for your sweet encouragement and for letting me know the tale resonated with you – it means the world to me, and all glory to our great God who does great things.

Today’s post will be less touchy-feely than the rest, an introduction to the HEART of Nantucket. If you like action, if you like architecture, if you like homemade ketchup…

you’ll love this post. Thanks for reading!

~

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To begin today’s installment, we first must rewind 24 hours from our current place in the story and go back to that moment when, after enjoying our afternoon snacks at the Union Street Inn and quickly freshening up in our room, Mama and I set out, on foot, to tackle Nantucket.

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What fun it is to go back into my brain in this moment. I was mostly just SO happy to be alive. I definitely liked what I had seen of Nantucket so far…

but I had NO idea, really, what was in store for us, just around the corner. 

I had no idea that, a half a block down the street from our one-night residence, the manifestation of all of my village dreams was waiting for me, a real-life Mitford, if you will (albeit bigger and less affordable, ha!). We turned the corner onto Main Street and…

WOW. My pictures in no way do it justice, so do me a favor and do a Google image search of Nantucket Main Street.

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It was a sight, for sure, and then some. A treat for the eyes. The ears. The nose. The HEART. I was immediately…home. Not like, home-home, of course. Home-home was waiting for me in Oklahoma, with four little loves and that dashing red head and a wonderful church that makes my world complete. No, this was a sort of heaven-home, a slice of near perfection in a fallen world that continually disappoints me with its consumerism, its billboards, its lack of care and imagination and beauty…

I couldn’t believe this city had been there, all these years, just waiting for us.

My mom most definitely was in agreement. This was it. This was the place she had been trying to find for decades, the fulfillment of a thousand dreams and wishes.

And what we still did not yet realize, as much as we adored this first street we’d found, was that the beauty was never going to end!

You know those special rooms you have in your house where all the junk quickly goes when company is coming? Those last-minute things that you just don’t know what to do with? So you just wad it all up in a ball and throw it in there and shut the door?

Nantucket, as far as I could tell in our short time there, did not have one of those rooms.

Every residence, every yard, every street, every block, ON EVERY CORNER OF THE ISLAND, was beautiful.

I’ve been to many pretty towns in my life and many pretty Main Streets, but the quaintness usually comes to a screeching halt a couple of streets over.

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Not so here.

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It kept going…and going…and going…and going!!!

As such, when Mom and I decided just to walk for a bit to look at the pretty houses, we didn’t know that we could basically keep walking for miles. And who knows? We might have!

Every structure was gorgeous. Every house was different. Every garden was perfect. And every tiny detail was tended to and taken care of. For instance, the door latches! They were darling. Not a deadbolt in sight!

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The yards and pathways betwixt them! I’d never seen such thoroughness.

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The cobblestone streets! The brick crosswalks!

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The flower boxes in every window, each one a different variety of color and _____!

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The churches!

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The movie theater!

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Gulp…THE BICYCLES!!!

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We walked and we walked and we walked and we ooohed and we aaahed and we dreamed and we reveled. I’ll just share a couple of my favorite houses here, but at the end of this post, I’ll share a gallery of all the pictures for those of you who want to see it all.

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After walking to our heart’s content, tummies beginning to rumble, we decided to rustle up some food and, I have to say, this part was tricky for us: there were so many places to eat, but we found that a lot of the restaurants we peeked into were gearing up for their supper crowds and had a reservation-only set-up. It made sense, because the rooms were small and cozy and…well, PERFECT. I could have/would have eaten at all of them.

Finally, though, we stumbled upon a little restaurant that was immediately approachable and easy, that could seat us right away, and that had a menu that felt familiar for us middle-class landlubber gals.

It was called the Starlight Theatre & Cafe and it was the ideal place for our first Nantucket meal.

Yes, it had a tiny movie old-fashioned theatre inside (!!!!!!). Yes, the huge windows were latched wide open, giving us a full view of the street. Yes, Pioneer Woman was on the television, bringing a little Oklahoma to our Nantucket. Yes, the food was DELICIOUS. We shared a simple chicken sandwich (called the D.F.C) and fries, but it was so flavorful and filling and the ketchup…the HOMEMADE ketchup…was so ridiculously good and now all other ketchups are dead to me.

You know, just typical vacation stuff, where you find something you will forever crave that you can never have again. 🙂

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I went out onto the sidewalk to get a picture of my mama at our table. Take note of the window boxes, please, and let us all swoon in one accord.

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After this wonderful meal – at the early hour, we basically had the place to ourselves! – we set out once more, this time towards the wharf, to see what was on the other side of Nantucket. The sound of the sea was beckoning us and we walked, in a trance, water-ward.

On our way there, though, something came up that quickly interrupted our trance and I’m speaking, naturally, of a little place called “The Juice Bar”.

“We have to stop here!!!” I told Mom, immediately recognizing it as one of THE highest rated eateries on Trip Advisor, “I’ve read about this place…”

And, boy oh BOY, do we now know why it has such high ratings!

Imagine, if you will, a vast variety of homemade ice creams. Then imagine seeing the ice cream of your choice being piled into a waffle cone that is not only homemade on the spot, but that is STILL WARM (!!!!!!!), and wrapped at the bottom in lightweight foil.

I have never in my life seen anything like it. Like the poor woman in this Babylon Bee article, I lost my ability to even once I was standing in this shop, and I don’t know that I’ll ever recover; during our short stint in Nantucket, Mom and I stopped by for an ice cream cone as often as we could — mostly because we’re not dummies — and what I would give to be able to run down the street and have another one.

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Funny story, though, when it was my turn to order, I could not for the life of me decide which flavor I wanted — they all sounded delicious — and, panicking under that awful spotlight of being in the front of the line and not knowing what I wanted, my eyes just landed upon the word “cookie” and I blurted out the flavor that was attached to it. Because I do like cookies.

“I’ll have the…uhh…cookie monster!!

“Okay,” the clerk said, “but I have to warn you that it is dyed blue. Are you okay with that?”

“Oh, sure!” I brightly replied. “No problem…”

As she put my ice cream together, though, and I was able to relax into a less-blindingly-anxious state of mind now that I was no longer being put on the spot, I began to process what I had just done. A bright blue ice cream. A bright blue ice cream named “cookie monster”. Ohhhhh…as in…Sesame Street. As in, THE Cookie Monster.

As in…this was an ice cream flavor for children!!!

Me dumb-dumb. Me like cookies.

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So there I was, walking next to my mommy down the streets of Nantucket, with my bright blue ice cream cone. I wonder if people thought I had just had my vaccinations and had been “a brave girl” about getting my shots? Or that I had been to the dentist without crying?…

I certainly felt like an overgrown child.

Especially when my mom got tickled at me because my LIPS TURNED BLUE.

And my teeth.

And my tongue.

And, of course, the white undershirt that was peeking out from my v-neck tee. It had been white before The Juice Bar.

Now it had a big blue blob on it.

Because I’m a 33-year old Cookie Monster.

Anyhow, regardless of my momentary shame (that was soon replaced with uncontrollable giggles), I pray that I will never, ever forget what it felt like to walk beside my mama in this city of her dreams, ice cream dripping down our hands, the ocean to our left, the cobblestones under our feet, the cold, invigorating wind whipping our hair all over the place.

It was the stuff of dreams.

The wharf wasn’t so bad, either…

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~

The next morning, after eating our breakfast at the Union Street Inn, with a free morning and afternoon to spare before heading to the next leg of our adventure, we walked again to Main Street, this time as Nantucket was waking up for the day. Mom was, obviously, excited.

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Now…I don’t want to continually sound like an overly-dramatic gushing exaggerator, but…IT WAS LIKE A MOVIE!!!

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People greeting each other in the streets, sellers turning over signs in their windows and opening doors to customers, dogs out for morning trots with their owners, bicyclists getting in an early round of exercise, and…brace yourselves…a Farmer’s Market TRUCK setting up produce.

I stopped right there on the sidewalk and rubbed my eyes.

“This can’t be real…” I murmured to my mom.

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But it WAS real. And, in Nantucket, it was just daily life.

I wanted to sit on the sidewalk all of a sudden and cry my eyes out.

In fact, I want to cry right now, all over again.

I collected myself, however, and Mama and I managed to squeeze a lot of sightseeing and shopping into the rest of that day.

We visited the library. (sniffle sniffle).

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We shopped and shopped some more.

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More house swooning.

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Aunt Leah’s Fudge Shop. (Don’t even get me started. Best fudge I’ve ever had, and we’ve even ordered it online since! Get the Sea Turtle flavor and thank me later).

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Boat watching.

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(here’s Mom when she realized I was taking ANOTHER picture of her as she watched boats – I told ya I photographed her like she was my baby! And you haven’t seen nothin’ yet!).

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Fish n’ chip eating.

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Dock walking.

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Sigh. It was a fabulous, wonderful day, the birthday celebration of the CENTURY.

I think we should go back, maybe tomorrow.

Want to come with us??

~

Oh, boy, you guys, stay TUNED for the next installment, when Mama and I find ourselves smack dab in the middle of the playground of the rich and luxuriating. So, so, SO out of our normal mode of living…but SO FUN!!! Until then, here are some more pictures for you to enjoy! Thanks for reading!