Natural Bridge Caverns Review

Emerald Lake is one of many large, natural pools found within Natural Bridge Caverns. The green color comes from the diffraction of light waves passing through the water.

Emerald Lake is one of many large, natural pools found within Natural Bridge Caverns. The green color comes from the diffraction of light waves passing through the water.

My family visited Carlsbad Caverns many times when I was growing up, and I have been wanting to share a little bit of the magic that I remembered from my childhood with my own kids.  Visiting Natural Bridge Caverns has been on my bucket list for a long time, and we finally got to cross it off this last week!

Natural Bridge Caverns currently has four tour options available:


  • Discovery Tour – 75 minute tour where you can see awe-inspiring, ancient formations centuries in the making and still growing today, such as amazing stalagmites, stalactites, flowstones, chandeliers and soda straws.
  • Lantern Tour –  75 minute tour using cave lanterns, available only at 9 am
  • Hidden Passages Tour –  70 minute tour gives guests an up-close view of rare and delicate cave formations illuminated by a state-of-the-art lighting system and includes a total darkness experience
  • Discovery Adventure Tour – 3-4 hour tour, explore the Discovery Passages the way the discoverers did in the early 1960’s on this incredible tour that allows you to follow the path that the original discoverers took. This tour includes a half mile through wild cave and passages that have not changed since the caverns’ discovery.

We took the Discovery Tour, which is the original tour, and you travel 180 feet below the ground.  The total distance traveled during the tour is only 3/4 of a mile, but when our tour guide explained that you are doing the equivalent of going down 18 floors and traveling back up 18 floors, it put things into perspective!

When you arrive at Natural Bridge Caverns, you can purchase your tour tickets at the Visitor’s Center.  During the summer months, they have tours leaving frequently, and we were able to join a tour that was leaving just 15 minutes after our arrival.  The Visitor’s Center also has a concessions stand, restrooms and water fountains, and a gift shop.  My kids found lots of treasures in the gift shop and would have stayed there even longer if I would have let them.

Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 6.34.00 AM

Our tour group had approximately 30 people, and our tour guide told us that on weekends, which is their busiest time, the groups can have up go 60 people.  You have a tour guide for the duration, and ours did a great job of explaining the history of the caverns, details about how different formations were made, and also pointed out key “landmarks” so to speak.  He was informative, engaging, and funny and it went by very quickly!  You will also have an opportunity to take a group photo with a beautiful backdrop that you can purchase for $12 (keep in mind that prices may change) at the end of the tour.  NOTE:  Our tour guide did mention that on the weekends when there are more people, they have tour guides in each of the bigger rooms rather than with individual groups (another reason to go during the week if you can!)

My kids absolutely LOVED this experience!  They saw some amazing formations and it was completely different from anything else we’ve ever done.  They spent a couple of hours as our road trip continued researching the caverns and different formations!


According to their website, the tour is only 3/4 of a mile, but it can be a bit strenuous.  Going down into the caverns was not bad, but coming back up was a work out!  There is a point where you have to climb 35 steps and I remember thinking once we were done with that, the worst of it was over.  Boy was I wrong!  That is followed by a steep, winding incline! I will say that it was totally worth it, but it was a wake up call for me that I need to get in shape. If you have asthma, definitely make sure you bring an inhaler along. They do a great job of having “breaks” in between strenuous periods and there are benches and even water fountains at some points.  Our tour guide checked in frequently to make sure everyone was doing OK.

Their site gives a disclaimer that “strollers are not recommended.”  I cannot imagine trying to navigate with a stroller.  If you have younger children, you may want to wait until they are a bit older unless you are comfortable carrying them for part of the way.  With the exception of one specific spot at the beginning of the tour, you also cannot touch any of the cavern walls or formations.  They do have hand railings throughout the tour, but if you have a rambunctious or curious toddler or preschooler, it may be difficult to keep them from touching things, and a distraction to try to keep up with them, too.  This is a great tour for older children, though.  My kids are 9 and 12 and loved every bit of it!

Here are some of my tips:

  • Arrive early – the temperature in the caverns when we were there was 80 degrees (according to our tour guide) and it was HUMID.  If you visit during the summer months when it’s warmer, you will walk out sweating!  Plus, if you arrive early, you beat the crowds, especially if you decide to visit on a weekend.
  • Visit on a weekday if you’re able too
  • Wear good walking shoes – there are some steep inclines and there is water dripping throughout the tour, so the ground is slick
  • Bring a camera with a flash – you’ll want to take pictures because the views are gorgeous!
  • You can bring water, and there are also water fountains available midway through the tour.  Food is not allowed.
  • Bring a cooling towel to stay cool!

In addition to the cavern tours, they have added a number of other experiences.  My kids were BEGGING to go on the Canopy Challenge Adventure course, but unfortunately, we just didn’t have time this trip.  You could easily make a day trip out of this, and unfortunately, we had only allotted a few hours.

NBC Canopy Challenge 7-23-12, San Antonio, TX

NBC Canopy Challenge 7-23-12, San Antonio, TX

  • Canopy Challenge Adventure Course – a 4-level, 60 foot high challenge course and zip lines! Climb, navigate and hang while secured from a safety harness before you “zip” over the Hill Country on one of 4 zip lines.
  • AMAZEn’ Ranch Round Up – unique Texas attraction that’s fun for all ages. Our one-of-a-kind maze experience was built to honor 5 generations of ranch ownership history in the Natural Bridge Caverns family.
  • Gem & Fossil Mining – Pan for gems, minerals and fossils like miners panned for gold at the Natural Bridge Mining Company.
  • Discovery Village – Enjoy  new food, beverage and retail spaces along with a beautiful courtyard.

Prices for these additional experiences start at $5.99 for children and $9.99 for adults.  Natural Bridge Caverns is open year round and opens at 9 am during the summer!

We will definitely be returning to check out some of the other tours (hopefully I will be in better shape next time) and hopefully my kids will have time to check out the Canopy Challenge Adventure Course and some of the other activities.


If you’re planning to make the trip soon, don’t forget to grab your money-saving coupons! You’ll save $2 off adult Discovery Tour tickets and $1 off a Child’s Discovery Tour tickets!  They expire on 8/31/2016.

Have you been to Natural Bridge Caverns?  What did you think?

DISCLOSURE:  My family and I were provided with free tickets for the Discovery Tour in exchange for this review.  All opinions are mine.

Sea World San Antonio: Tips for Parents!


Our family first visited Sea World San Antonio when my daughter was fairly young.  It has since become one of our favorite family getaways and we usually get season passes each year!

If you’re visiting Sea World San Antonio for the first time, here are some survival tips:

1.  Plan Your Day – Shows do not run continuously, and there are typically only a few show times for each one daily.  They fill up quickly, so it’s a good idea to come up with a game plan for your day before you go.  Also, check out the feeding schedules for the dolphins and sea lions.  There is limited availability and it’s an experience your kids won’t forget!  NOTE:  You do need to pay for a tray of food (usually $5)  When you’re planning your day, it’s also a good idea to look at the park map!  The park is big and going back and forth across the park with your kids is one way to ensure meltdowns that will ruin your day.

If you are traveling with smaller children, you may want to factor in nap time or a break.  The Sesame Street Bay of Play is a great place for younger kids to get some down time!  If you’re planning to visit Aquatica, the water park, capacity is limited, so get there when they open.

You can access the park schedule online here to help you plan–> Sea World San Antonio Park Hours and Show Schedule


Here are some “must see” shows:

  • Azul® – This show combines beluga whales, acrobatics, pacific northwest dolphins, and birds and the results are spectacular! This is definitely my favorite show and I never miss it!
  • Cannery Row Caper – This is the “sea lion show” and I think the story line on this show has been the same since I was a kid, but I still love it every time, and the kids will enjoy it, too!
  • Shamu Rocks! This is the night show with great rock and roll favorites and a lot of energy.  As an added bonus, by that point in the day, many families have already headed home, so it doesn’t usually fill up as quickly as the regular Shamu show

2.  Parking – General parking is $13.86 if you purchase online or free if you have a season pass.  They also offer Shamu’s Preferred parking, which will give you reserved parking at the entrance of the park.  This is $5 more, but has been worth it every time for us, especially during the summer months.  With kids who are melting down, and especially if you’re loaded down with strollers, diaper bags and other gear, it really does make a difference at the end of the day.

3.  Stay hydrated – During the summer months especially, it will be HOT and it’s important to stay hydrated!  You can bring a small cooler with up to 6 water bottles with you into the park.  We usually invest in the souvenir bottles because refills are just $.99 and you can re-use them on future visits!  NOTE:  If you bring juice boxes, you will not be able to take the straws into the park!  You can also get free ice water at the different dining areas throughout the park.


4.  Food and snacks – If you’ve got little ones, then you probably know the importance of making sure they’re fed!  A stroller, sippy cup, and a few snacks go a long way and you’re actually allowed to bring single serving snacks with you into the park!  There are lots of dining locations available throughout the park as well.  If you’re planning on eating lunch or dinner at the park, you may want to plan to eat earlier or later than “typical” to avoid the crowds.

5.  Bring a change of clothes  – If you sit in the splash zone, you will get SOAKED.  This can be a nice way to cool off during the summer months, but it might also be an unexpected surprise for younger children.  You will also get wet if you ride the water rides like Journey to Atlantis or Rio Loco.  If you visit the Sesame Street Bay of Play, there is a splash pad area, and trust me, your kids will want to play!

6.  Check height requirements for rides – There are two big roller coasters:  The Great White and The Steel Eel along with the Rio Loco and the Journey to Atlantis, which are water rides.  There are a number of “kiddie” rides in the Sesame Street area.  Make sure you check the height requirements for rides before you go so your kids will not be disappointed.  You can view this information online.  It is also on the park maps that you can pick up just inside the entrance to the park and there is a spot to measure your kids just inside the entrance, too!

7.  Deals on Sea World San Antonio tickets – You can find the best prices on tickets online.  You’ll save $10 off a one day adult or child admission.  If you’re planning to visit the park for more than one day, consider a Sea World Fun card, which gives you access to the park for the remainder of the calendar year or a Sea World Season pass, which gives you access to the park for an entire year plus additional benefits like free parking and discounts on food and merchandise in the park.  I usually get a season pass for myself for the parking and discounts and then the fun cards for my husband and the kids.

If you’re a certified teacher in Texas, you can get a Sea World fun card for FREE!  Click here to find out how–> Sea World Texas Fun card FREE for Texas teachers

DISCLOSURE:  I was not compensated in any way for writing this article. My family loves Sea World San Antonio and I wanted to share our experiences and tips with others!  All opinions are 100% mine!

Moody Gardens Hotel Review: fun for the whole family!

If you’re looking for a family friendly hotel on your next trip to Galveston, check out Moody Gardens Hotel!  We’ve stayed here a few times now and have had a blast every time we go!  If you’re a Moody Gardens Season pass holder, make sure you call and ask about discounted room rates!  You can also find Best Available Rates by using the reservation system and saying that your travel dates are flexible.  Check out Priceline, too!

If you haven’t visited Moody Gardens before, make sure you check out this post–> Moody Gardens:  10 Tips for Making the Most of your Staycation

Get tips for saving the most on a hotel room here-> How to Save Money on Hotel Rooms

Moody Gardens Hotel Review

Here are five things we love about the Moody Gardens Hotel:


The rooms – You can get rooms with a King bed or 2 Queen beds.  The rooms include a mini refrigerator (which is always a plus for us) along with a Keurig brewer and an in-room safe.  The best part of the accommodations is the views!  You have beautiful views of the island or of the Moody Gardens Pyramids.  During the holidays, we loved the view of the pyramids because we could see all of the Festival of Lights displays.  During the summer months, we like the island view, and it makes it easy to access the pool, too!


The pool – My kids LOVE to swim, and they loved this pool!  It’s huge and there is a waterfall, which was an added bonus for them!  There is plenty of seating around the pool including cabanas and poolside beds.  There is also a poolside cafe, and they will bring your food right to you (plus you can charge it to your room).  Adults will love the swim-up bar.  We found that the pool got a little bit less kid and family friendly later in the evening.  If you’re trying to stay in shape, there is also a heated lap pool.

Kids Crew – If you’ve got time, let your kids unwind and check out the Kids Crew.  They have different activities each day and you can pick up a schedule of the day’s events at the front desk or you can view it online.  On our last visit, the S’mores were a huge hit.  They have a bounce house and other activities like face painting, Wii challenges, and scavenger hunts.  Your kids will never be bored!


Special Events – Moody Gardens knows how to celebrate the holidays!  I surprised my kids this year with a getaway right before Christmas that included a dinner show and a trip to the Festival of Lights.  At check-in, they got special holiday-themed bags and when we returned from the evening festivities, they also had stockings filled with goodies on their pillows! There were several large, beautifully decorated trees, and a huge electric train set, too.  They have special events throughout the year, and they are definitely worth checking out.  The Christmas getaway will be a new family tradition for us!

Other Amenities – You can take a shuttle to and from Moody Gardens.  If your kids aren’t run down after a day at Moody Gardens, there is a park located between the hotel and Moody Gardens.  Have a picnic or just let them burn off some extra energy!

DISCLOSURE:  I was not compensated for this review in any way.  My family just really loves this hotel and I wanted to share our experiences with others!

How to save money on hotel rooms


If you’re planning a vacation, the cost of hotel rooms can quickly add up, here are some ways that you can save money on hotel rooms!

Make sure you also check out my post about how to save on rental cars here–> How to save money on rental cars

How to Save Money on Hotel Rooms

1.  Be flexible in your travel dates – If you have flexibility in your travel dates, many hotel websites have an option where you can look at a calendar and see the rates for each day.  This will help you select the best travel time, especially if there’s a specific hotel you’re interested him.

2.  Sign up for hotel loyalty programs – If you have a favorite hotel chain, make sure you sign up for their hotel loyalty program.  They will send out special offers throughout the year where you can get discounted rates or earn extra points.  Plus, with your points, you can earn free rooms!

3.  Ask about discounts – Many hotel chains offer discounts to AAA and AARP members as well as discounts for seniors and military.  It never hurts to ask if you don’t see the information on their website!

4.  Consider discounted travel sites – Travel sites like allow you to set your own rates to try to claim a hotel room.  You can also get discounted rates through  Using this service, you can choose a hotel rating (1-5 stars), but you won’t know the actual hotel until you complete your purchase.  To get an idea about what hotels are available and the going rates through discounted travel sites check out Bidding for Travel–> Bidding for Travel

5.  Check out Group Deal sites – Groupon has an entire section dedicated to Getaways!  You can score rooms at resort hotels for rock bottom prices!  Just make sure you read the fine print details before purchasing.  Sometimes there are restrictions, date exclusions, and expiration dates!  Check it out here–> Groupon Getaways

6.  Consider the amenities – Check out the amenities when booking a room.  Does the hotel offer free parking or do you have to pay for parking?  Do kids stay free?  Do they include free breakfast?  Is there a refrigerator where you can store snacks or a kitchen?  Do you get free Wi-Fi?

When we’re traveling with our kids, we always look for places where kids stay free and we prefer places where we can get free breakfast, too!  One of our favorite places to stay as a family is in Drury Hotelswhich are located in the southern states because kids stay free, you get free breakfast, there are free sodas and popcorn as a mid-day snack, and there is an evening Kickstart that has doubled as “dinner” for us a few times!  Plus, we can often get a suite (which means that we don’t have to go to bed when the kids to go bed) for the same price as a regular room at other locations.  And no, they didn’t pay me anything to say that!  I just wanted to share that we’ve found some great deals there!

How do you save money on hotel rooms?  What is your favorite hotel chain?

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please refer to my disclosure policy for more information

Moody Gardens: 10 tips for making the most of your Staycation!


We lived in Houston for 7 years before we decided to visit Moody Gardens for the first time!  After that trip, we were asking ourselves why we waited so long!  It was a huge hit with our entire family and we loved it so much that we bought season passes!

Here is my Moody Gardens review and some of my tips for making the most of your trip:

1.  Call ahead to ask about the day’s schedule or check it out online.  Moody Gardens is a hot spot for weddings and conferences.  On our first visit, the Aquarium pyramid was closing early for a wedding.  Unfortunately, we didn’t know and had decided to make that our last stop, so our trip was cut short and we missed out on seeing a lot.

2.  Arrive early to get the best parking!  There is a parking lot located right in front of the Visitor’s Center, but there are limited spaces and they fill up quickly!  The other parking lots are on the side and it’s a bit of a walk to get to the attractions.  This may not be a big deal at the beginning of the day when you’re just getting started, but at the end of the day with hot and tired kids, it is a big deal (we learned this the hard way!)

3.  Be aware of height requirements before you go.  The water slides at Palm Beach and the Ridefilm all have height requirements.  There’s nothing worse than waiting in line and then having your kiddos be told that they don’t meet the height requirements!  Check out the height requirements online before you go (they range from 42″ to 48″) and figure out how tall your kids are so you know what they can ride!

4.  Decide what IMAX 3D movie you want to see before you go!   It had been years since I had seen an IMAX movie, and seeing one in 3D was even more amazing!  They have several different movies available and you have to pick your show time when you get there (if you get a full day pass).  Be prepared and check out the movie schedule before you go–> IMAX 3D movie schedule  

Every seat will be full, so arrive 20-30 minutes before your scheduled start time to get the best seats!

5.  Check out The Garden Restaurant.  Moody Gardens has concessions stands in the Visitor’s Center and in the Aquarium Pyramid.  There is open seating in each of these areas, and they get very crowded during peak meal times.  You would think that a restaurant means a greater expense, but we were pleasantly surprised.  The Garden Restaurant had a full buffet, and they also had a salad and dessert bar option, which was only $5.99!  My husband and I opted for the salad bar and got the regular buffet for the kids (it was only $7.99).  We were able to feed our family of 4 and eat a relatively healthy meal for less than it would have cost us to eat in the food court, including the tip!  Plus, we didn’t have to deal with the crowds in the open areas and fight to find seats.  It was perfect for us to take a short break and recoup.

NOTE:  I don’t know if the buffet is always available and pricing may be different during the dinner hours.  You may want to check on all of this before finalizing your dining plans.


6.  If you’re planning to visit Palm Beach, go in the evenings!  We ate dinner and then went to Palm Beach and my kids had the splash pad to themselves!  There were no lines at the water slides and my daughter was able to just walk right up and ride.  The wave pool and lazy river weren’t overly crowded either.  Don’t forget about the sand toys!  My kids were disappointed that we didn’t have any toys and wanted to build a sand castle.  This was one of the highlights of the trip for my kids and is always a favorite for them when we go back!

NOTE:  Come prepared to spend some extra money to rent a locker.  Rentals start at $5 and a $5 deposit is also required.  Palm Beach hours vary based on events.  Check on this before you go.


6.  Don’t skip out on the Colonel Paddlewheel boat!  That was a highlight for us.  We were able to go on the last trip of the night and had a great view of the sunset plus we watched the fireworks from the boat.

7.  Consider the exhibit in the Discovery Pyramid before taking little ones.  These exhibits rotate and the exhibit the first time we visited showed real human bodies.  The skeletal and muscular system didn’t bother me or my five year old much, but when we got into the room where brains and other organs were on display, I had to leave with him.  I think we were both a little traumatized.

8.  Consider a season pass – The cost of a season pass for a family of 5 is $320.  The cost for a 2-day pass for a family of 5 would be $309.75.  If you live in the area, a trip to Moody Gardens is a great day trip and there are lots of special events throughout the year that make it worth going!  We have loved our season pass.


9.  Don’t miss the special events – Moody Gardens has a number of special events throughout the year including Bands on the Sand during the summer months, the Festival of Lights at Christmas, and the Curt Miller Magic Show at various times throughout the year.    We went to a Curt Miller Magic and dinner show at Christmas and then visited Festival of Lights and that is also something the kids still talk about.

We just visited the Dinos Alive! exhibit that is currently there and my kids really enjoyed it!  There was a lot of attention to detail and they especially liked the part with the baby dinos hatching.  As an added bonus, we had watched the DinosAlive 3D movie at Imax before we went, and I loved hearing my kids share facts about dinosaurs!

10.  Buy a souvenir cup – The cost for a souvenir cup is currently $5.99 and includes $1 refills.  A 20 ounce drink is $2.99, so the souvenir cup will quickly pay for itself, especially if you visit during the hot summer months or if you are purchasing a season pass and plan to visit several times!


My kids LOVE the zoo, but the heat in the summers in Houston makes trips to the zoo unbearable.  We never make it very far before the kids are hot, tired, and cranky.  Moody Gardens gives you the zoo experiences without the heat because everything is enclosed!  One of our favorite experiences in the Rainforest Pyramid was being only a few feet away from a sloth and watching him eat.  We loved the birds, plants, and flowers.  For us it was the best of the Cockrell Butterfly Museum and the Houston Zoo all in one location.  At the Aquarium Pyramid, we loved being able to see the penguins swim up close.   We can’t wait to go back!  I have a feeling that Moody Gardens is going to be our favorite Staycation destination!

NOTE:  I was not compensated for this review in any way.  My family loves Moody Gardens and I just wanted to share our experiences with others!