Make the Most of Your Alaskan Cruise: Travel Itinerary and Must-Have Items

We recently went on an Alaskan Cruise aboard the Carnival Spirit! This is definitely a bucket list cruise and I’m still in absolute awe of the beauty that is the Alaskan coastline. 

We saw tons of wildlife – bears, whales, eagles, mountain goats, seals, and wolves! It’s a week I’ll never forget and I would love the opportunity to go back someday. You can see even more of my trip in the Alaska highlight on my Instagram page.

I’ve rounded up all of the highlights and need-to-knows of the week!

I’ve rounded up all of the highlights and need-to-knows of the week – including on board activities, our itinerary, excursions, cruising essentials (and one item I wish I’d brought), and reading recommendations! 

Other Summer Travel Guides:

Ultimate Summer Guide to a Week in Idaho Springs, Colorado

Everything You Must do in Mid-Coast Maine: A Four Day Itinerary

Planning for summer travel? Please consider using my embedded links to purchase. I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you!

Activities On Board

One of the best parts of cruising is the wide variety of options aboard. Whether you’re looking for quiet and serene or high energy and social activities, there is plenty for you to do! 

I lean more toward the quiet side of enjoyment but my family loves group activities, so cruising gave us a great balance of both. 

Some of my favorite activities were a couples massage in the spa, cocktail tasting at the Alchemy Bar, reading on the Serenity deck (21+), and booking a Chef’s Table meal. 

Details for all activities aboard can be found on the Carnival Hub app during your trip.

Alaskan Cruise Itinerary

We had five days of excursions! Here’s what our schedule looked like:

Day 1: Embark from Seattle, WA 

Day 2: Day at Sea 

Day 3: Cruise through Tracy Arm Fjord

Day 4: Skagway, AK

Day 5: Juneau, AK

Day 6: Ketchikan, AK

Day 7: Victoria, BC

Day 8: Disembark in Seattle, WA

Alaska Excursions

We booked all of our Alaskan excursions through Carnival! We were really impressed with the variety of options. While we really enjoyed high-energy activities like hiking and helicoptering, my parents were able to opt for easy-going activities like whale watching. 

These are the activities we booked each day:

Tracy Arm Fjord: We booked a small cruise through the fjord, where we got to explore several inlets that our cruise ship couldn’t access. We saw lots of wildlife, floating ice, glaciers, and even a bear! 

Skagway: White Pass Summit Excursion: We took a passenger train from Skagway through the original Klondike Gold Rush trail into Yukon, CA. This was a great group activity that everyone in the family enjoyed. The train cars were heated with gas stoves and we had access to the outdoor platforms. 

Juneau: Helicopter Flightseeing & Glacier Walkabout: We took a TEMSCO helicopter from the Juneau airport to Mendenhall glacier. Along the way, we flew through mountaintops and got a bird’s eye view of the glacier. The sights were unreal! We hiked a portion of Mendenhall glacier and learned about the glacier’s history. Once we returned, we went to Tracy’s King Crab Shack for lunch and it was 10/10!

Ketchikan: Rainforest Island Adventure: We boated to an island in the Tongass National Rainforest, where we hiked to observe wildlife and plantlife. We ended with a campfire and snacks at base. 

Victoria: We didn’t book an excursion in Victoria. We docked at around 8pm and decided to stroll the downtown area. We went to the Empress Hotel and drank Empress 1908 cocktails. The hotel released the gin to celebrate 100 years. We love this gin, so having drinks in the hotel felt very special! 

Cruise Essentials

We are pretty well-versed travelers and have learned what we’ll need and what we can leave behind. We got some surprised reactions when people saw us arrive for Alaska with just a carry-on and backpack! 

Here are the items I found most helpful and one item I wish I’d brought on the cruise!

  1. This portable charger – this was small enough to keep in a pocket or belt bag and came in handy multiple times throughout the week. Especially if you’re using your phone to take photos and videos, that battery life goes quick!
  2. These Cushionair shoes – they are perfect socially acceptable comfy shoes to wear while walking around the boat. They also make the perfect deck shoes if you plan to spend your time at any of the pools onboard. Pro tip: round up a size.
  3. This small tripod + bluetooth remote – this tool made taking group photos a breeze and fits easily in your carry-on!
  4. This hanging toiletry bag – this is my new favorite travel item! If you get anything from this list, it needs to be this bag. I got the MEDIUM size and it fits all of my bathroom and makeup essentials with room to spare. It comes with a hook that you use to hang it up on a door or towel hook and it keeps the counters clean and clutter free (my ultimate stress).
  5. This waterproof wallet – this is such a simple and practical item. You’re going to be around water for an extended amount of time, your chances of a water encounter just went up significantly. (Also, being in a temperate rainforest, we were exposing ourselves to bouts of rain at any moment.) 
  6. These fleece-lined leggings – I wore these multiple times and they served me very well! Depending on the weather and our excursion, I wore them by themselves or underneath thermal sweatpants. I loved that they also have pockets!
  7. These extra long charging cables – we use these regularly at our house, but boy, was I glad we had them on our cruise! We were on an older ship (no shade) and there was only ONE outlet in our entire cabin. These cables made it possible to charge our phones, while still using them as we rested in bed. 

That last one leads me to the one item I wish I’d brought:

This multiplug outlet extender – We could definitely have used more outlets in our cabin. I know on newer ships this is no longer a problem, but we chose based on the destination not the ship. This tool would have allowed us to charge both of our phones and our portable charger at the same time. 

Click here to see all of my travel essentials!

Reading Recommedations

I chose two “themed” books for our Alaskan Cruise. 

The first was The Simple Wild by K.A. Tucker, a romance set in Alaska. It was wonderful and I can’t wait to read the next! 

The second a young adult thriller based on a cruise ship. The trapped thriller vibes were too perfect not to bring this one along. Ultimately, I didn’t enjoy it but that doesn’t mean you won’t! Linking it here if you’d like to read the synopsis. I’m a firm supporter of trying a book for myself, rather than sheltering to others’ opinions. 

I also brought our Bookcase Beauty Book Club pick, Have I Told You This Already? By Lauren Graham. It was delightfully funny and insightful! She is the only narrator I’ve ever had to slow down the speed to understand! 

If you’re looking for other summer reading, check out this list of all of my five-star reads (so far)  in 2023!

The Reunion by Kayla Olson

The Twyford Code by Jannice Hallett

Maame by Jessica George

On the Savage Side by Tiffany McDaniel

Hello Stranger by Katherine Center

Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano

The Housemaid by Frieda McFadden

The House of Eve by Sadeqa Johnson

Happy Place by Emily Henry

Finding Me by Viola Davis

Leave me a note and let me know if this article was helpful or if you’d like more information on any specifics! I’d love to chat! 

Everything You Must Do in Midcoast Maine: A Four Day Itinerary

Turn thirty, run away to Maine. That’s essentially what I did! I wanted to bring in a new decade in a new and beautiful place! Summers in Maine are legendary and I finally got my *taste* of the beautiful things this state has to offer.

Reasons a Summer in Midcoast Maine Should Be on Your Travel List:

The Lobster: Honestly, I’ve had some pretty pricey lobsters from some very nice steak and seafood restaurants. Before heading to Maine, I thought, “how much better could it actually be?” I sit here writing this corrected and informed. It doesn’t matter how great other lobsters have tasted, there is nothing like a giant, fresh lobster pulled out of the water that morning. It’s divine.

The Blueberries: Summer in Maine means blueberries galore! From late July to early September, you can find them everywhere- even growing on the side of the highway! There are stands on the side of the road selling pints of blueberries, every restaurant is advertising wild blueberry pies, pastries, and cocktails.

After I ate my first one, my eyes were opened. I specifically said, “this is a pocket of sugar.” They’re incredible. Blueberries anywhere else do not compare.

Pie and Ice Cream: Maine is extremely serious about their desserts! Everywhere you look there are ice cream shops and restaurant pie lists a mile long. Even our Bed & Breakfast put out fresh pies for guests each day!

The Weather: Maybe the most incredible experience, literal outdoor air conditioning. *heart eyes* Every day was in the low 70’s, sunny with an easy breeze. It was like entering a different world, coming from Texas, where the highs have been in the triple digits for months. Imagine: a place where you *want* to open the windows during the first week of August. It was so ideal, it almost felt like it couldn’t be real. Truly, too good to be true.

The Landscape: My first sigh of Maine was flying into the Portland Jetport. It was like rapid fire of brain processing: lighthouses, island homes, sailboats, calm waters, rocky coastline, greenery, mountains on the horizon. It’s beyond gorgeous- a true escape. There is no doubting why Maine is called “Vacationland.”

The Peace and Quiet: Maine is ranked the ninth smallest state by population and the 12th smallest state by area. With a population of 1.3 million over 30,843 sq mi, there is plenty of breathing room. The summer season is by far the busiest time in Maine, especially on the mid-coast, but even with tourists flocking to the area, it still keeps an easy-going, peaceful vibe.

So, you’ve got a few days in Maine. Let’s talk about the must-dos!

Where to Go and What to Do:

Wiscasset: We enjoyed Wiscasset as a lunch stop on our way to and from Rockland. I’m not sure that it has much to offer an active tourist. There were some nice restaurants and a great view of the Back River, but overall seems quaint and residential. We stopped for two meals at Sarah’s Cafe and Sprague’s Lobster for lobster rolls – both were impressive!

Rockland: Rockland is the lobster capital of the United States, so obviously the restaurants have a lot to offer. The downtown area is trendy with coffee shops and many art galleries. We even saw a pop-up hosting local creators and small business owners.

Have drinks at the bar and get a front row seat to the magic of meal preparation in the small kitchen of In Good Company. The teamwork, attention to detail, and fast pace are beyond impressive to observe.

Make reservations for dinner at Primo. Pricy and reservations are required, this farm-to-table restaurant operates within a Victorian house and is lead by two-time James Beard award-winning chef, Melissa Kelly.

Grab coffee from Rock City Coffee and take time to appreciate the local art within the many galleries along Main St.

Have an amazing lobster dinner at Claw’s. This was my favorite lobster roll of the entire trip- and I had many!

Watch the sunset on the deck of Archer’s on the Pier. Dinner and drinks have never been so peaceful. Don’t forget to ask about the pie list!

Camden: Camden is beautiful and filled with things to do! It has something to offer everyone. The downtown area is more developed than Rockland with many local shops, restaurants, and historical sites. This is a fantastic place to visit if you’re traveling with family.

Stop at Owl & Turtle Bookshop for coffee and a vacation read! They have a great selection of new releases, best-seller favorites, and classic editions. Books make the best souvenirs!

Grab lunch to-go from Camden Deli and picnic in Harbor Park or the Camden Public Library Amphitheater.

Pick up an ice cream cone from River Ducks Ice Cream and take a stroll down Main Street.

Book a sailing cruise with Maine Schooners and get a view of the gorgeous coastline from the open waters.

Eat dinner at Peter Ott’s on the Water– Located on the Camden Harbor waterfront, this upscale dining atmosphere pairs perfectly with a sunset and watching boats travel in and out.

Hike Mount Battie and Camden Hills State Park– Around a two hour hike, you’ll make it to the top of the Camden Hills to find a beautiful view of the harbor village of Camden. With 30 miles of hiking trails, this is the perfect way to spend a day of adventure!

Bar Harbor: Well developed and home to Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor was the most active area we visited. Many different restaurants, vacation homes, hotels, and activities! We spent a day there, but could easily have spent an entire week! Acadia National Park, alone, deserves multiple days. On top of that, there are many lobster fishing and whale watching boat tours that operate out of Bar Harbor. This town definitely deserves your attention!

Hike Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park. It’s a flat trail, just over three miles long. It’s considered an “easy” trail, making it ideal for families with children. If you’re feeling adventurous, take the South Bubble detour on this trail and climb up to the top of the rock! It’s a breathtaking view that was worth the steep incline- definitely not “easy.”

Book a whale watching or nature cruise with Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co. See these wild animals in their natural environment. When choosing Bar Harbor Whale Watch, you help support whale research and conservation.

Eat popovers and drink lemonade at Jordan Pond House. Directly in front of the Jordan Pond trailhead, this restaurant is the perfect place to rest and recover after a few hours of hiking. Make sure you get the popovers and lemonade- they’re famous for them!


Day 1: 

  • Flight from DFW>DCA>PWM
  • Picked up our car in a TURO pick up lot
  • Headed “down east” toward Rockland
  • Stopped in Wiscasset for a lobster roll and pepperoni pizza at Sarah’s Cafe
  • Checked into our Bed and Breakfast, The Rockland Talbot House – they keep complimentary homemade pies stocked in the fridge at all times
  • Dinner and drinks on the deck at Archer’s on the Pier

Day 2:

  • Breakfast at our B&B
  • Walked through downtown Rockland and explored a pop-up makers fair- lots of local craftsmen and artisans selling their work
  • Drove up to Camden for the day
  • Went to Owl and Turtle Bookshop
  • Lunch at Camden Deli
  • Walked around the downtown area- there’s a lot to see!
  • Took a sailboat tour around the bay
  • Headed back to Rockland
  • Dinner at Claw’s – get the lobster roll “flatlander style”
  • Nightcap drinks at In Good Company
  • Back home to our B&B for homemade pie

Day 3:

  • Woke up early and drove to Bar Harbor to spend the day at Acadia National Park- it’s about a two hour drive from Rockland
  • Had breakfast on the dock at Sunrise Cafe
  • Hiked around Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park – approximately 3mi – very family friendly path
  • Took a detour while hiking Jordan Pond and climbed South Bubble – while there were some children making this climb, definitely not an easy path. 
  • Lunch at Jordan Pond House
  • Drove to Sand Beach and stuck our feet in the icy Atlantic waters
  • Dinner at Paddy’s Irish Pub in Bar Harbor – not what we had planned, but we were hungry after a day exploring. They may be an Irish pub on the coast of Maine, but they made some Texas-style margaritas that made use extremely happy.
  • Drove back to Rockland and ended the night with more homemade pie at the B&B

Day 4:

  • Breakfast at our B&B
  • Scenic drive back toward Portland
  • Lunch at McLoon’s – lobster rolls were insanely good! Get there right at 11am and beat the long line
  • Drinks at Stroudwater Distillery in Portland
  • Dropped out car back off at the TURO parking lot – bonus: the car owner then drove us to the airport!
  • Flight from PWM>ORD>DFW

There you have it! If you follow me on Instagram, you know we also went on a Lobster Roll Tour through midcoast Maine. I’m working on a foodie blog post that covers each sandwich with locations and ratings. Be sure to subscribe to blog posts so it arrives right to your inbox!

What did I miss?! What are your must-dos when spending your summer in #Vacationland?!

Leave me a comment!

The Ultimate Summer Guide to a week in Idaho Springs, CO

As the summer season approached, Austin and I searched for a vacation destination that would be the perfect place for our family to come together and relax. We knew we wanted to head to the Rocky Mountains, but where?!

After some intense searching, we landed on Idaho Springs! A town, honestly, I’d never heard of. It was established as a mining town in 1859, at the beginning of the Colorado Gold Rush. Idaho Springs is about an hour west of Denver and is the perfect place to enjoy the mountains without feeling like you’re in a commercialized mountain town. It was the perfect place for a quiet family retreat!

The Ultimate Summer Guide to Idaho Springs, CO


We took an early flight out of DFW directly to Denver. We landed in Denver at 7am GMT! After quickly orienting ourselves with one of the largest airports in the US, we found our way to the correct parking lot and picked up our rental car for the week. We chose a new route for car rental and went with TURO, instead of a traditional renting company. 

TURO is essentially Airbnb for cars. Through the app, we were able to search by location, set filters on what we were looking for, add listed cars to favorites lists for later comparison, set our pickup location for the Denver airport, and easily book through the app.

It’s a real person who owns the car and depending on pickup/drop off directions, you may even get to meet them! It was a much less stressful experience than booking through a rental company and this process ensured we actually got the car we booked. It was cheaper, too! We booked a Lexus GX 2020 for about $170/day. We’ll definitely be utilizing TURO on future trips!


Safeway- it’s the only grocery store in town! Of course, you could head to Denver for larger stores, but this grocery store had everything on our list and an expansive pharmacy section. You’ll be more than set to purchase all of your groceries once you get to town. Pro tip: Make a rough grocery list before you even get on the plane! It made being in a new environment and shopping in a new store a lot more streamlined and kept us on track, so we could get in and out.

Places to Eat:

Beau Jo’s– This was the top restaurant recommended to me before travel. We actually dined there twice! They’re famous for their Mountain Pies, which feature a large twisted crust. After you’ve finished a slice of pizza, drizzle honey on this magic crust and it’s beyond delicious!

Clear Creek Cidery & Eatery– The perfect place for lunch or dinner if you have a family that loves burgers. Although their menu is large, the burgers are what drew us in. Absolutely delicious! Definitely get the chicharones with queso as an appetizer and the cider flight. We had a blast tasting ciders!

Main Street Restaurant– We visited for breakfast and we’re blown away by the quality. With an expansive menu of pancake options and egg dishes, there’s something uniquely perfect for everyone.

The Frothy Cup– Amazing coffee any time of day. I had a traditional hot cappuccino (it was a cold day), while everyone else enjoyed iced coffees. They have a great selection of pastries too!

Edelweiss Pastry Shop– You need to make a stop here! The ladies that run the shop are having the time of their lives making delicious pastries! Chances are they’ll offer you free sugared almonds while you’re there. We stopped in on Thursday afternoon and loaded up on pastries for Friday’s breakfast. Heads Up: they’re only open Thurs-Sun!

Things to Do:

Hike St. Mary’s Glacier – This hike is rated at a moderate level and is a total distance of 2.4 miles. Get there early because it gets crowded. Don’t sleep on this trail. The views are incredible! Heads up: there is a $5 parking fee.

Drive State Highway 119 to Boulder – You can spend the majority of a day driving this highway. Gorgeous views in every direction! This route will take you through Roosevelt National Forest. This is truly one of those experiences where the journey is greater than the destination. Stop at Ozo Coffee in Boulder before turning around and driving back. On the way back, stop in the quaint town of Nederland before completing your drive. It’s a completely different experience driving the same road in the opposite direction. I was in awe!

ARGO gold mining tour – Save this one for a rainy day! This is a great way to spend the afternoon learning more about local and American history. The tour starts in the tunnel remains of the mine and walks you through the milling process in the building that still stands today. It is such a cool pieces of preserved history!

White Water Rafting down Clear Creek – Idaho Springs is well known for large Clear Creek that runs through town! People from many surrounding areas, as well as tourists, come for the water sports. If you’re looking to ~get your feet wet~ with rafting, check out this booking! Designed for beginners, this experience is also perfect for families with children!

Fly Fishing Lesson on Clear Creek – Interested in fly fishing like Austin?! This half day lesson and fishing experience is essentially all-inclusive. With a prime location on Clear Creek and an expert angler leading your lesson, you’ll learn the best techniques!

Nearby Parks and Forests:

Roosevelt National Forest – Whether you like the more frequented or less frequented parts of parks, Roosevelt has something to attract everyone!

Arapaho National Forest – Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests combine to make up 1.3 million acres of forest.

Rocky Mountain National Park – Rocky Mountain National Park spans 415 square miles! There are over 300 miles of hiking trails for optimal wildlife viewing.

What I read:

I packed ten books for this trip. Hey, no judgement. We are a family of avid readers. You know we weren’t about to spend a week anywhere without plenty of reading options! These were the top ten books I wanted to read this summer, so go ahead and use this as a list for your next reads! While there, I read and LOVED Breathless by Amy McCulloch, The Children on the Hill by Jennifer McMahon, and The Bodyguard by Katherine Center.

Here’s what I brought:

  1. The Sizzle Paradox by Lily Menon

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2. The Bodyguard by Katherine Center

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3. The Bridesmaids Union by Jonathan Vatner

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4. It All Comes Down to This by Therese Anne Fowler

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5. The Lies I Tell by Julie Clark

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6. The Hacienda by Isabel Canas

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7. The Last Housewife by Ashley Winstead

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8. The Children on the Hill by Jennifer McMahon

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9. Take My Hand by Dolen-Perkins-Valdez

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10. Breathless by Amy McCulloch

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You can check out these books and more of my favorite things at my Amazon Storefront!

Here’s the Breakdown of Our Trip:

Day 1: We picked up our rental car, explored downtown Idaho Springs, CO, got coffee from The Frothy Cup, ate lunch at Beau Jo’s, picked up pastries from Edelweiss Pastry Shop, shopped for groceries, and then headed to our Airbnb for the evening.

Day 2: We hiked around the Alpine Lakes in our neighborhood, spent the day leisurely reading, fishing at the cabin, and enjoying the scenery. W canoed around the lake and ate dinner at the cabin.

Day 3: We woke up early and hiked St. Mary’s Glacier. We drove to town for lunch at Beau Jo’s. Spent the rest of the afternoon and evening enjoying our time at the cabin.

Day 4: Austin and I drove State Highway 119 to Boulder. We stopped for coffee at Ozo Coffee and of course the Boulder Bookstore. On our drive back, we stopped for lunch at Busey Brews in Nederland. We spent the evening enjoying our time together at the cabin.

Day 5: We spent a rainy and VERY windy morning at the cabin. Once the weather cleared, we headed to the ARGO gold mining tour. We dined at Clear Creek Cidery & Eatery for dinner.

Day 6: We stopped downtown one more time for breakfast at Main Street Restaurant. We did a little shopping along Miner Street before heading back to DEN airport.

So, there you have it! My guide to a lowkey summer mountain week in Idaho Springs! It was peaceful and restoring. There is so much to do in each season that make this destination one you’ll want to visit again!

Where should we go next?!

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Children’s Art and Literacy Festival

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Children’s Art & Literacy Festival in Abilene, Texas! You may not know that Austin and I used to live in Abilene. He grew up there and we met while both attending Abilene Christian University. Over the last decade, we’ve seen this beautiful quiet town take off in development! The people are what make this place so special and the secret is finally getting out! This year the C.A.L.F. set a new attendance record, hovering around 5,500 registered attendees!

What is the C.A.L.F.?

To start, Abilene is the Storybook Capital of America. It’s home to the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, a museum that rotates installments of original illustration pieces from some of the most renowned artists in the industry.

The Children’s Art & Literacy Festival is an annual event that emphasizes the importance of families, art, and literacy. It takes place the second weekend in June. 

The C.A.L.F. celebrated its 10th anniversary this year by honoring the work that Sophie Blackall has given to children’s literature. This three day event consisted of dramatic readings, interactive shows, educational workshops, hands-on extension activities, and community involvement all centered around children’s literacy. The joyful smiles and giggles were impossible to miss.

Here’s an outline of what I did in two days. . .

If it seems like a lot, that’s because it was! This festival was packed with activities!

  • Dramatic Reading of Finding Winnie
  • Meet and Greet with Sophie Blackall
  • Musical Performance by Joe McDermott
  • Cookie Decorating
  • Petting Zoo
  • Kornpop Balloon Art Interactive Show
  • Nancy & Her Friends ventriloquist show
  • Dramatic Reading of Hello Lighthouse
  • Birds of Prey presentation
  • Puppet Show by Gepetto’s Marionette Theater
  • Dinner with Sophie Blackall
  • Meet the Storybook Characters in the Sculpture Garden
  • Dramatic Reading of Wombat Walkabout
  • Dramatic Reading of The Mighty Lalouche
  • Dramatic Reading of Big Red Lollipop
  • Dramatic Reading of Negative Cat
  • Dramatic Reading of No, David Read and Dog on a Bicycle (previously honored author/illustrator David Shannon)
  • Hands-on activities and experiments connected to Blackall’s books
  • Reading aloud to therapy dogs
  • Storybook Train Ride
  • Live performance “Wild Boars Cook: Live!”
  • Instrument Petting Zoo
  • Live performance “Ivy + Bean: The Musical”


I started the morning in the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (NCCIL), where we listened to a vibrant reading of Finding Winnie, the book for which Sophie Blackall’s sculpture was created. More on that later!

I met Sophie Blackall and had my copy of Finding Winnie signed. It was such a treat meeting her!

After leaving the NCCIL, I walked down Cypress Street to find Stilt Walkers entertaining kids with exciting costumes and dance moves.

My next stop was at Minter Park, where I saw Joe McDermott perform his original silly songs and poems. He had both kids and adults captivated with his wit and humor!

Did I mention that it was a weekend of record breaking heat?! Well, next I stopped at Monks Coffee Shop, an Abilene staple, and ordered an iced lavender vanilla latte. Amazing, 10/10 def recommend. 

With my coffee, I headed across the street to McKay’s Bakery, another unofficial Abilene landmark, for cookie decorating. McKay’s set up a decorating station within their bakery for kids (and adults) to try their hand at the culinary arts!

As I made my way to the next scheduled event, there were so many examples of community involvement. Students from a local private school volunteered to host a face painting and hair chalk station that STAYED BUSY! This was the place to be in between readings and performances!

Once I made my way to the Convention Center, I spent a few minutes outside before heading in. Along with a petting zoo, there was chalk galore on the front patio, an invitation for children to express their creativity throughout the event. There was also a chalk art installment by a local artist that represented the lighthouse from Blackall’s illustrations in the book Hello Lighthouse.

Inside the Convention Center, I watched the adorable Kornpop Balloon Art Interactive Show. Kornpop (yes, that is his real name) had every kid mesmerized with balloon art and magic tricks. They loved him!

After the silliness at Kornpop, I walked to the historic Paramount Theater to watch an educational show titled “Nancy & Her Friends.” This was my favorite show of the weekend! Nancy is a skilled ventriloquist and kept her audience (kids and adults) captivated with interesting facts about butterflies and spiders and funny jokes from her puppet children. 

Next up was a short walk to Nora Hall to listen to a read aloud of Hello Lighthouse. After each read aloud, there was a related craft for children to complete!

I had a quick lunch at The Local before heading over to Frontier Texas for some outdoor fun! There, I learned about hawks, vultures, and owls, and the Birds of Prey show. I also got to get up close and personal with the most adorable warthogs I’ll ever see! Remember, each event connects to Blackall’s books. These two were extensions of The Crows of Pearblossom and Meet Wild Boars.  

Last event of the day was a marionette show at The Well put on by Gepetto’s Marionette Theater from Dallas. 

I was lucky enough to be invited to dinner at the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literacy, where we all got to observe a Q & A with Blackall. It was spectacular! 


First up on Saturday was Meet the Storybook Characters in the Sculpture Garden located next to the Convention Center. I found Winnie, as well as many other characters!

I stopped for another coffee at Monks and headed to the Grace museum for two dramatic readings: Wombat Walkabout and The Mighty Lalouche.

Next were two more dramatic readings at the Community Foundations Center: Big Red Lollipop and Negative Cat.

No, David Read and Dog on a Bicycle dramatic readings (honoring David Shannon from years past) were presented at the Majestic Theater.

At the Center for Contemporary Arts, was a “STEAM Room” full of hands-on activities and experiments that were extensions of Blackall’s books. “STEAM” stands for Science Technology Engineering Art and Math.

They also had an area for children to practice reading aloud to therapy dogs provided by Hendrick Pets.

I stopped for a quick turkey sandwich at Cypress Street Café and then was off to the Storybook Train Ride at the T & P Depot!

One of my favorite shows was the Wild Boars Cook: Live! Show presented by Abilene Christian University’s theater department at the Abilene Public Library! 

The afternoon ended with a unique experience, an Instrument Petting Zoo at the Wooten! This event allowed children to explore all kinds of instruments, providing early exposure to musical arts.

I wrapped up the weekend’s event on Saturday night with a live performance of Ivy + Bean: The Musical at the Paramount theater. It was the perfect way to wrap up a weekend of children’s literacy and honor Sophie Blackall’s work.

What a fantastic experience! This event is incredibly centered around the child’s experience, making it the perfect family friendly summer bucket list event! If you’re a parent, grandparent, teacher, or bookworm, the Children’s Art and Literacy Festival is a must!

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