Monday, November 30, 2015

How To Spend St. Andrew's Day in St. Andrews

What could be better than spending a cold Nov. 30th in the town named after the patron saint of Scotland?  I know, nothing, right?   Unless you like the sun, that is, and then you should possibly just stay home.  Otherwise, get your thermals on and find out why St. Andrews is such a popular tourist destination.

St Andrews is located in the Fife region, on the east coast of Scotland and has a long  and distinguished history.   Most people, these days, have at least heard of it as being the town where Prince William met Kate, when they both studied at the University there, which was the first in the nation, founded in 1413 and remains the third oldest English speaking Uni on the planet.  St Andrews is also famous as being the home of golf and boasts several high quality courses, including the outstanding Royal and Ancient Golf Club at The Old Course,  and the world class, 5 star, Old Course Hotel.     

As well as the town’s impressive history, it has a real old world charm and is a fantastic place to explore the historic buildings, eat and drink, and do a spot of shopping in some of the wonderful independent boutique stores.   Also, it has golden, sandy beaches, although November maybe isn't the best time to be visiting them.    If you're looking for ideas of what to do around town, look no further:

St Andrews Cathedral
So, if you lived here you wouldn't be warm, but you would have an amazing view.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

5 Drinks That Just Don't Taste The Same When You're At Home

I love trying new drinks.   I also love trying *old* drinks, if I'm being honest.   But what I love most is combining new drinks and new destinations.   Sometimes, there's nothing better than chilling out after a long day's sightseeing with a local cocktail or five.    If there's something I've been particularly fond of on holiday, I'll often buy bottles of the component parts and bring them home.   This helps me reminisce about my travels and unwind on a cold Welsh weekend.   However, some drinks just can't be recreated and this is mostly about the surroundings rather than the ingredients.  Although, when it comes to frozen cocktails: it's both.  

Different drinks remind me of different travels.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Things To Do In Denver Before You're Dead: Part 1

Denver is the capital city of the state of Colorado and has earned the nickname ‘Mile High City’ because it sits exactly one mile above sea level.    I’m thinking that might be a good thing as it’s unlikely to flood.   It ranks really highly as a great place to live in the US and therefore we thought it only fair to check out just what it was that made it so attractive.   

The city was started in the mid 1800’s during the gold rush and was admitted to the Union in 1976.   Denver is also, famously, the only city to have been awarded the Winter Olympic Games only to turn it down on the basis of cost and environmental impact.  The 1976 games were eventually held in Innsbruck, Austria.   Probably the best thing about Denver, for me and my childhood memories, was that it was the setting for ‘Dynasty’.  It never failed to amaze me, week after week, how those women walked with their heads up while wearing a ton of makeup and those massive shoulder pads.  Clearly, Denver’s women are amazing.   

Amongst the major corporations to base themselves in the city are Molson Coors Beer and Excel Energy.   Also, the city is famous for being the starting point for companies, such as Chipotle Mexican Grill and Quiznos.    I reckon I could live quite happily in Denver just on Mexican food, subs and Coors beer.  It also plays host to the annual Great American Beer Festival.  I mean, what’s not to love about the place?

If you’re in town, you can also check out the following sights:
Ellie Caulkins Opera House (courtesy of

Ellie Caulkins Opera House
Originally built in the 1880’s and Denver’s first opera house, this building is a great example of the culture in Denver and the support its residents give to the arts.   Denver residents actually voted to pay a 1 cent sales tax that help to provide funding for facilities in the city.   That’s not something you hear very often.  

Named after Denver’s First Lady of Opera, and with a donation from her family adding to public funding, the municipal auditorium is the second largest in the US, with only Madison Square Gardens in NYC stopping it from reaching the top spot.   The Opera House sits within a complex of buildings, known and the Denver City Arts Complex and this also boasts a ballroom, theatre complex and concert hall.

Denver Art Museum:
The DAM is the one of the largest in the US and is a collection of buildings located in the civic centre of the City.  The newest of the buildings, the Frederic C Hamilton, is of quite spectacular design and houses the modern collections.  Throughout the complex, you can enjoy a massive range of diverse works from all over the world and an outstanding collection or American Indian Art. 

I like looking at art, even if I don’t necessarily ‘get’ it all.   I am, however, a huge fan of impressionist paintings and I was not disappointed.

Denver Museum of Nature and Science:
If you're interested in all things science and nature, you'd be a fool to miss this.    With a quite staggeringly huge collection within its half a million square feet of space (I know, it's tiring just thinking about it), this museum will teach you all about the natural history of Colorado, as well as less interesting things about the rest of the world.    Taking you through various time periods, such as the age of dinosaurs, Egyptian mummies, how single celled organisms got to where we are today, and tons other stuff that will completely confuse Creationists.     I'm surprised they're not protesting outside, to be honest.   And if for this reason alone, you should definitely visit.

Denver Zoo:
So. Many. Cute. Animals.   And who can resist cute animals?  That’s right: no one.   I can’t even resist the not so cute ones, although not in a Minneapolis dentist kind of way, obviously.   

Denver’s Zoo is quite massive, as zoos tend to be, and is home to more than 4,000 animals of more than 600 species.  It even has lions and tigers and bears (oh my…).   It also has a host of animals I haven’t even heard of, which always piques my interest.   I love seeing a new animal and then wondering if LT would let me take one home to keep as a pet.   The answer is usually no, right enough.  Mainly because he doesn’t want to be mauled as he sleeps.   So selfish…

The zoo sprawls across 80 acres of land in the city park area and you could easily spend days just trying to get round everything, carefully making notes as to which enclosures you think would be easier to break into and make away with their occupants when no one was looking.   Penguins are your best bet, I reckon.   They’re slightly easier to conceal under your sweater than a hippo*
Miller Coors Brewery (courtesy of
*Please don’t try to steal animals from the zoo.  It’s very much frowned upon.  Get yourself a rescue dog, paint stripes on it and pretend it’s a tiger**

**Please don’t paint stripes on your dog.  The rescue center will almost certainly take it back.  

MillerCoors Brewery:
I knew that’d grab your attention.  As well as being one of the best known producers of lovely beer, the brewery also has a visitor center where you can go see the magic happen in the world’s largest single site brewery.  A half hour self guided tour is free of charge and gives you an insight into every stage of the process, from malting to bottling to packaging.  AND you can taste a little sample at the end.   Also, absolutely call them beforehand to make sure they’re open, even if it’s just to dial 303-277-BEER, which is possibly the best phone number ever.    

Shopping at Cherry Creek Mall:
I, quite frighteningly, lost my sister during our CCM outing and spent a good while panicking about what I might tell my parents and wondering if losing their baby daughter was good enough cause to cut me out of their will.    As I wanted to raid the shoe counters at Macy’s, we parted ways and arranged a meeting time.   When she didn’t show after 10 minutes, I wasn’t too worried.  After 30, I got a little concerned and, after 45, I was in full blown panic mode.  

As it turned out, I located her an hour or so later, shacked up in the changing room of Urban Outfitters, where she had been busily trying on the entire contents of the store.  She finally emerged, $350 lighter and I assisted her back to the car with her swag.   

Cherry Creek encompasses 160 shops, including the World’s Greatest Ever Store: Bath and Body Works*.  They live happily, side by side, with a number of food outlets, coffee stops and restaurants, and an 8 screen cinema.   Helpfully, there is also a visitor center so, should you visit and find that you, too, have misplaced a member of your close family, feel free to pop in and ask someone to shout over the tannoy for you.   Or, just head to Urban Outfitters yourself and save them the trouble.  

A store directory can be found HERE.  

*Author’s own opinion.  

Suzanne  x 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Road Trip Diary: Dodgy Vehicles and Avoiding Skis in Vail

I don’t always have the best of luck with rental cars in the US.    On this road trip, I’d already driven through the Utah desert in a car with very ropey brakes and had to call the car company before leaving Green River to ask for a swap.   I was informed that I had two choices:    

  • Wait for 4-6 hours for someone to deliver a new to car to me in Utah, or:
  • Drive a mere 120 miles to Grand Junction in Colorado and pick up one for myself, ‘at my convenience’.

I opted for the latter.    Despite knowing that a 120 mile drive to somewhere in Colorado that was not on my list of places to visit was anything but ‘at my convenience’, it won outright over the thought of spending another 4-6 hours in Green River.  No offence, Green River-ettes, or whatever you may be called – I just wanted to be on the road again.

On arriving, some hours later, in Grand Junction, which seemed like a very pleasant place, we negotiated a rather lovely but rather massive 4x4, hit the interstate and headed in the general direction of Denver. 

After an hour on the road, I noticed that I had a lovely amber exclamation point lit up on the dash.  Without a manual, as I was, I was unsure of what this meant, but was fairly certain it wasn’t a good sign.  Still, it was either no brakes or a funny light and I decided to go with it.  I soon realised that if I placed my hands in a particular position on the wheel, I couldn’t even see the light, so that made me feel a bit better.  


We rolled across the countryside through the quite breathtaking Rocky Mountains and into Vail, which I’d read about on numerous occasions as being a favourite of the rich and famous for its skiing.   I finally got to see for myself just WHY it was so popular.  It was absolutely beautiful and, despite the fact that I hate skiing with a passion matched only by my hatred of homophobes and racists, I figured that I might be able to tolerate it in a place like this.
the beautiful country surrounding Vail 
Vail is a town in within the boundaries of Eagle County in the state of Colorado.   After Big Sky and Whistler Blackcomb, Vail is the largest ski mountain the United States.    The ski resort has been in action since the end of 1962 and has grown year on year since. It is now  well established as the biggest ski resort in North America. 

Located in White River National Forest, Vail attracts visitors from all over the world and you don’t even have to love skiing to go (thankfully….).    Personally, the thought of having to change in and out of all that gear and attempting to plod around with massive planks attached to my feet just makes me tired.  Plus, I’m from Scotland, so if I wanted to ski, I have plenty of slopes at home.    When it’s icy, I have, on occasion, unintentionally gone skiing down my driveway, landing in a rather unattractive heap at my front door.    I don’t recommend it.    What I do like about it, however, is the whole après ski thing.  That’s much more in line with my kind of thinking. 

Vail...without the snow
Although Vail is famed for its world class ski facilities, it is also a massive draw for anyone who enjoys outdoor activities and has a wide range of things to do that don't involve strapping annoyingly massive heavy things to the bottom of your feet and attempting not to die.  

Former President Gerald Ford spent much time running the country from Vail (some people will do ANYTHING to get out of skiing) and there is now an amphitheatre named after him.  There's also a centre named after his wife, for those who enjoy the apres ski a little too much.   I jest, of course. The Betty Ford Clinic is in California.  What Vail has is the much more pleasant sounding Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, which you can wander around and enjoy the plants and flowers.   Once you're done with that, you can head on over to the 10th Mountain and Whiskey Company for a quick drink.   How ironic. 

If you are interested in the *history* of skiing, but not necessarily actually doing any, you can visit the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame.  This will allow you to marvel at the feats that have taken place over the years whilst reaffirming your confusion at why anyone thinks it could possibly be a fun way to spend their down time.   Or that's what I did, anyway.
Eagles Nest Wilderness Area (courtesy of summit
If you neither want to ski OR find out anything about it, you can check out Eagles Nest or Holy Cross Wilderness Areas, which lie outside of Vail. With a quite massive space to explore, you can go hiking, picnicking, or just enjoy the gorgeous scenery.    Don't forget your camera!  

If you fancy some shopping that doesn't involve ski masks and salopettes, you can hop a bus to Minturn, a small but perfectly formed town around 8 miles south of Vail.   Minturn  has a great reputation for its friendly atmosphere, as well as a choice of shops, bars and restaurants.   It even has a winery, which pretty much makes it a perfect day trip in my book. 

Who needs skiing when there's so much else to do??

Suzanne x 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

If You Go Down To The Woods Today...

You're sure of a big surprise...   No, seriously.   If you take a trip to Doon Hill near the Scottish town of Aberfoyle and take a circular walk into the countryside, you will stumble across the magical land of Scottish fairies.     I'm not even kidding.

Fairy Glen
You have been warned...

Apparently, in the 1600s, a local Vicar spotted some sparkly little beings in the woodland and, in honour of this fairy story (see what I did there?), the local authority decided to bring the whole thing to life and carve some dead trees to create some affordable council houses for their tiny little residents.      

And they did it well.   In what is already a popular area for family walks, the council has endeavoured to increase visitor numbers and encourage people to take more exercise in a fantastically creative way.  I'm not sure if the work was carried out by the council's own staff but, if so, they got some serious chainsaw talent in Stiring.    

Behold the fairy houses in all their glory:

who lives in a house like this?

You can park for free at the Aberfoyle Woollen Mill or adjoining car park and wander up over bridge to start the trail. There are so many carvings to discover as you explore the woods and enjoy some fresh Scottish air.   I swear you won't catch the slightest smell of deep fried mars bars as you go on your merry way (you know we don't actually eat those, right?). 

Depending on the time of your visit, you might, as we did, spot families walking with their little girls, all dressed up in pink tutus and fairy costumes.  The kids, I mean, not the adults.  That would be weird.   Even for Scotland.  

Should you make it aaaall the way to the top of the hill, there you'll find decorated trees, with hand written notes to the fairies and lovely, heartfelt messages written to loved ones who have passed.   It's wonderful to see a normal wooded area transformed into a beautiful and serene area for fun or reflection.

And if mingling with the fairies wasn't enough, if you walk a little further past the main event, you'll find yourself on top of the world.   Or, you know, on top of a hill in central Scotland.  Either way, the scenery won't let you down.   

Have you visited the fairy hills?? 

Suzanne x 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, Mobile

We uncovered the USS Alabama on our last US road trip when we were headed from Moblie to New Orleans and decided to swing by and check it out.   I'm so glad we did.  

Built in the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Virginia, the USS Alabama was one of four South Dakota-class battleships constructed in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s.   The Alabama, along with the Massachusetts, are the only two ships still remaining.   The others; the South Dakota and the Indiana, were sold for scrap.  I can’t imagine how much scrap they produced, but I’m guessing it was a fair bit.

A beautiful tribute to fallen soldiers
Alabama residents raised money to have the ship preserved and housed it as a memorial to those that served in the Second World War.   They raised almost  $1m and the battleship was moved to Mobile Bay in 1964.    That’s quite an incredible achievement and it got even better, when it was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1986.  

Don't shoot!  
Not only is the Memorial Park home to an enormously fabulous battleship, it also has so much more to see and do.   Seriously, it's a huge area and it's so thoughtfully laid out, ensuring the ship is the unrivalled centre of attention, but also that the memorials to fallen soldiers are set in beautiful, peaceful surroundings.   

Apologies for the reflection
The USS Drum is a submarine with a long and distinguished military career and is the oldest US submarine on display in the world.  The world, people!  If that’s not a reason to visit, I don’t know what is.   During her work, she sank 15 ships and received 12 battle stars for service during the Second World War.    It’s a really fascinating attraction and it gives you the smallest sense of what life must have been like sneaking around far beneath the sea…

The Military Equipment portion of the park displays a selection of guns and tanks, which are bloody huge and the teeniest bit scary to stand in front of.  This is, of course, despite the fact that, you know, there’s no one in them and they’re not live.  I hope not, anyway.

I could absolutely use one of these some days
It's amazing how it managed to land on that post....
In addition to the USS Drum and the Alabama, other notable features are a river boat and B52 used in the Vietnam War, a Sherman tank, and a medium baltic range missile.   

The Alabama is obviously the main attraction, and it's so vast that you'll need at least a couple of hours to cover everything.   We needed this amount of time so that LT could pretend he was driving.  I also needed to extra time because I have no sense of direction and got lost a few times.    

I'm not a person who is in the least bit interested in war or war machinery, and I was surprised to be quite so impressed with the park.  If you're in the vicinity of Mobile, it's well worth a few hours of your time.

Suzanne x 

Monday, November 09, 2015

How To Keep Your Sanity on Road Trips

When I worked for Visit Scotland, I often found myself on a long car ride, ferry, or even the occasional flight (some of our islands are quite far away) and, for the vast majority of the time, I'd be travelling on my own.   As someone who is socially awkward, this is generally my idea of heaven. However, even me, a woman who doesn't particularly like the company of Other People, finds it difficult to spend 10 days on Shetland with only a few weirdly small horses to talk to.   If it was my choice, that'd be fine.   When it's forced upon you, it's a whole different story.   

There's only so much singing one woman can do

Now that my time with VS has passed and I've moved to North Wales, I only have a 45 minute drive in the morning and I love nothing more than singing at the top of my voice to a bit of Miranda Lambert or Kacey Musgraves in the car.    I no longer have to endure a 6 hour commute to Skye where I tried desperately to amuse myself by spotting feral goats for 250 miles.   True story.   In case you're wondering, I spotted ONE feral goat in FIVE months of working there.  It was the most boring, goat-less journey ever.    

Don't get me wrong, driving across parts of Scotland is truly beautiful, but you soon tire of the scenery when you make the same six hour journey every Monday morning and do the return leg every Thursday evening.    Even the sight of Eilean Donan Castle gleaming in the sun, or the Cuillin Mountain range shrouded in mist gets old after a while.   This is exactly why you need to find something constructive (and I use the term very loosely) to pass the time.  

Yeah, yeah, I know it's pretty, but the best thing about it, after a while, is the fact that it has great public toilets.

This is what I stick to on fairly short journeys.   OR, for trips that I take early in the morning (say, for work) where I don't have the brain capacity to do anything else but a spot of singing.   I always go for something upbeat in the morning, because I need a bit of cheering up if I've been prised out of my warm bed and into my cold car.

Audio Books:
I have a massive pile of audible titles in my library which, if you've read my post about my insomnia, you'll know I simply cannot live without.   Not only are audio books excellent for stopping me hoovering in the middle of the night, they're also great for tuning into and whiling away the hours as the countryside passes by your window.    The only thing I don't advise is listening to Swedish crime fiction on narrow, winding, country roads on dark winter nights.   Seriously: don't do it.   It's terrifying.

Don't listen alone late at night.   You have been warned.  

Language CDs:
I would like to thank VisitScotland for being the catalyst for me learning Spanish.   Gracias, a todos!   No, seriously, if it wasn't for all those endless journeys around North Uist or Kelso, English would still be my first and only language (that doesn't include the bastardised version of Klingon I speak after I've had too many glasses of wine...) It is a great way to ensure that your travel time isn't wasted and you, dare I say it, improve yourself?   I hate myself a little bit for even writing that.   However, that doesn't make it any less true.  

I listened to my Spanish CDs for months on end and still put them in if I need a bit of brushing up.   I can now ask LT for stuff in English and Spanish.   He can ask me for stuff in English, Spanish AND Cantonese, so he still wins.   Damn him and his three languages.   Such a show off.

Te quiero, Espana.... 

The Alphabet Game:
The previous suggestions were all things I did on my own, but this one really requires you to have a travel buddy.   A car companion, if you will.   Basically, you can choose any topic (my favourites are cities and football teams), and you go through the alphabet, picking a letter each, and see what you come up with.   Or, if you're me, to see who caves in first, swearing and getting annoyed because, FORGODSAKE THERE ARE NO CITIES BEGINNING WITH X!!!  Or, at least none that I can pronounce.   ARGH!

This can be seriously funny if you promise never, ever to go for 'something beginning with G (grass) or R (road)'.   If you're going to play, you have to be inventive.   My personal favourites are 'I Spy with my little eye, something beginning with S.   To which the answer is, obviously, 'that Steel clad building we passed, like, ten minutes ago'.   Nothing will annoy your travel buddy more.    Do throw in some easier ones, though, or the next time you suggest a game you'll be told, in no uncertain terms, that you should 'go away'.   Or, you know, words to that effect.   

The Yellow Car Game:
This is a game perfected by my nephews and it can cause riotous laughter in the car.  It has also likely been the bain of my sister's life from time to time, as she listens to her three sons yelling at each other from the comfort of their seats as she desperately tries to navigate through the hell that is Tesco car park.  

Basically, you drive up and down the nation, keeping your eyes peeled to the oncoming traffic (and finally making use of those pesky side mirror things) before you scream at the top of your lungs when you finally clap eyes on a lesser spotted yellow car.    To be honest, there are more of them on the road than you think.   And I'd like to take this opportunity to thank each and every single driver who ever thought: 'You know what? Yellow cars are awesome and I simply must have one'      I love you all.    My sister would like a few words with you, though.

5! There are 5!  I'm claiming them all!!  

This is purely a last resort, you understand.   I jest, of course, as you might be a chatty type who loves nothing more than talking for hours on end.  Me?  I'm all out of chat after about 10 minutes.   And that's on a good day.   Otherwise, I need something else to save my sanity that doesn't involve continually checking my phone and sending snapchat messages of The Travel Bug to my poor friends and family.   Honestly I do it, like, every five minutes.     I'm not popular anymore.  

How do you amuse yourself on road trips?  

Suzanne x

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Helix Park, Falkirk: The Kelpies

If you’ve never heard about The Kelpies, then you’re probably not from Scotland.  We’ve been hearing about them forever.   Seriously.  When an extension was built to the Forth and Clyde Canals in Central Scotland, it was decided that a sculpture would be put in place as part of a new park that would connect communities within an area called Falkirk.  

Helix is the name of that park and has been open to the public since April 2014.   In October 2015, the shiny new visitor centre opened and it helps to finish off the attraction and provide some background to the Kelpies structures, as well as a lovely gift shop and coffee shop.  

Helix Visitor Centre
Helix Park's shiny new visitor centre
Helix Park visitor centre interior
Coffee time! 

Saturday, November 07, 2015

A Fresh Perspective: Shopping in Livingston

I've been visiting family in Scotland this week and it's been interesting to see how much more willing I've been to visit some of my local haunts. When I lived in Mid Calder, if you asked me if I wanted to go to the local shopping mall, I'd have rolled my eyes and wondered why we were friends when you clearly know *nothing* about me.    I hate shopping.    And I hate doing it in Livingston.  

livingston designer outlet
Look!  Livingston's shopping mall has fancy moving things in it...

Monday, November 02, 2015

Magnolia Plantation, Charleston

Located on the Ashley River in South Carolina, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is a museum and garden and is one of the oldest in the Southern United States. 

The plantation dates back to 1676 and was reconstructed after being damaged during the American Civil War.  Thomas and Ann Drayton built a house and garden on the site in 1676 and the family still controls the estate today.  

Originally, Magnolia was used as a rice plantation, with slaves from Africa brought in to do all the work.   The language, ‘Gullah’, comes from the mixture of their original African tongues, with a bit of American-English thrown in.  The language is very much still alive in this part of the US.  

magnolia gardens charleston
Magnolia Gardens
Present Day Magnolia:
The Magnolia Plantation and Mansion House is now operated as a tourist attraction and charge a reasonable entrance fee.  Some of the elements of the estate have been restored, including the plantation house, which was torched during the American Civil War.    

Aside from the glorious mansion house, there are many other attractions within the boundaries of the estate.  These include the plantation gardens; camellia collection, wildlife refuge, a fabulous wooden tower that provides views out across the river, a tropical garden, biblical garden, and a maze, amongst others.  There is also the lovely outdoor Peacock Café for snacks and drinks under the beautiful shade of gorgeous live oak trees.  

magnolia plantation house
The perfect spot for enjoying a mint julep on a sunny day
We wandered around the grounds in baking heat and the colours from the flowers, the lovely little bridges across the water, and the live oaks were fabulous.   Magnolia is so spacious and peaceful that it sometimes slips your mind that some of its history really isn’t all that appealing.  

Magnolia does have the title of the oldest public gardens in the US and has also been named as one of America’s most beautiful gardens.  Given the sheer size of the country, that’s not a bad shout.    I haven’t been in all the other gardens in America, so I can’t really comment.  It is gorgeous, though. 

magnolia plantation
bridge over not so troubled waters
such a pretty setting
Apart from having a good old wander around the gardens enjoying the views, you can pay an additional fee to participate in the Slavery to Freedom Tour.   You can hop a shuttle bus to the slave huts and learn more about the history of the plantation, as well as showing a film of the history of African-American culture.   

The Nature Train will, if you're lazy or short on time, whizz you around the gardens and show you things you may not otherwise have the opportunity to check out.     The Rice Field Boat Tour will also whisk you away, but this time down the Ashley River for an hour of sightseeing and panicking about the size of the local gators.     Obviously, you can also take a tour of the mansion house and swan around pretending you're Scarlett O'Hara for 45 minutes.   That's what I did, anyway.    

Although these attractions are all charged for (in addition to the basic plantation admission fee), entry to the Zoo is free of charge, so it'd be rude not to go say hello to the animals.  You can also feed and pet them.    I love a good cuddle with anything that's cute and doesn't like the taste of human flesh, so it was heaven for me.  

Magnolia's entry free is $15 for adults and, even without adding on the extra tours, there's plenty to see and do if you're on a tighter budget.    

Have you visited Magnolia?   What was your favourite part of the experience?