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Review - Texas - Dallas - Dallas Arboretum - Bugtopia and the Pumpkin Patch

2021 marks the 16th anniversary of Autumn at the Arboretum (or what our family likes to call the Pumpkin Patch). This year, the pumpkin village has moved from the wide open field on the right to a more cozy tree-covered area on the left behind the Jonsson Color Garden. And there is Bugtopia (giant bug sculptures) running at the same time which kids will love. You will see the bugs integrated with the pumpkin village.

Pre-registration and pre-purchase of tickets is still required - you can do this at the gate via a QR code. When you purchase tickets on the website, you will select the time slot you desire to enter (sold in increments of 15 minute slots) and it's a great way to see which times are busier than others. Also be sure to add parking to your order and if you desire to visit the Children's Gardens, add those tickets too. Members must also pre-register (and add parking and Childrens' Garden as well). Link to info is at bottom of post.

Pumpkin Village:


The Arboretum has over 90,000 pumpkins/squash/gourds throughout the entire park. You can even purchase one to take home with you (while supplies last). Kids will find a fun little maze to run through. Lots of spots for pictures. It does get busy on weekends so try to come early or late in the day.

Dallas Arboretum website for tickets, hours, directions, etc.
Bugtopia and pumpkins are on display until October 31st 2021.

Overall Family Review:
  • 16 year old - Enjoyed posing with the bugs
  • 12 year old - Enjoyed posing with the bugs
  • 7 year old - Enjoyed posing with the bugs
  • 1 yeaar old - Was fine taking pictures with pumpkins

Info - Walt Disney World's planned Disney Genie+ and how it compares to other parks

Well, the news that Disney is finally moving to a paid fast pass system just broke millions of hearts. It was inevitable considering all the other theme parks charge for fast passes, but with Covid and the millions of dollars in lost revenues, it was the perfect storm to implement it. You can still wait in stand-by lines, but we all know how much longer you will wait in there as fast pass purchasers will be ushered ahead of you making stand-by lines that much longer. It's almost a requirement to get a paid fass past if you want to maximize your ticket for the day.

So how will Disney's new paid pass system work and how will it compare to other parks?

Disney will offer 2 add-on options. One is the Disney Genie Plus(+) which will cost $15/ticket/person and offer fast pass for 40 tier-2 or lower rides. The second is the Lightning Lane for the Tier-1 popular rides (such as 7Dwarves Mine Train, Frozen Ever After, etc) whose prices will vary depending on crowd levels and be limited to 2 options per day per person.

Amusement Park Fast Pass Name Fast Pass Cost Number of Uses
Disney World Orlando Disney Genie+ $15/ticket/person Unlimited per day?
Disney World Orlando Lightning Lanes $variable/person Limited 2 rides per day
Universal Orlando Universal Express $79.99+ per person Once per ride
Universal Orlando Universal Express Unlimited $109.99+ per person Unlimited
SeaWorld Quick Queue® Unlimited $14.99+ per person Unlimited
Six Flags Flash Pass - Bronze $50+ per person Limited options
Six Flags Flash Pass - Gold $80+ per person Limited options
Six Flags Flash Pass - Platinum $115+ per person Unlimited

Hope that helps!

Review - Texas - Waco - Mayborn Museum on Baylor University Campus

I'm slower than a mammoth at posting these reviews from our Waco day trip several weeks ago. *grins* So we visited the Mayborn Museum which is located on the Baylor University campus right after seeing the Columbia Mammoths at the Waco Mammoth National Monument.

Note - there is a lot of road construction in this area right now so take extra caution and time to get through it.

The Mayborn Museum is in a huge red brick building with free parking out front. At the time we visited (May 2021), masks were required. We were able to use our ASTC reciprocal membership to get in for free (for ticket prices see information down below).

Also, please note, the Play Waco Hall was still closed at this time. Some hands-on exhibition components within the Natural and Cultural History Wing and the Bill and Vara Daniel Historic Village may be unavailable. Check the website for the latest re-opening details.

The first thing that will greet you when you enter the museum is the giant T-rex dinosaur (on loan from the Perot Museum) named "Stan".

There is a whole display dedicated to Baylor University and some of its history. They had a neat video of some amazing sports accomplishments as well as original mascot costumes and some various props. Very neat even if you're not a Baylor Bear fan.

The museum features a really well-done Western history display with a buffalo, longhorn cow, teepee and a log cabin. You can peek into the log cabin.

There is a small space dedicated to the Waco Mammoth National Monument and a replica of the dig site made with glass floor.

There are several natural science areas including Forest-themed room with creatures and plants found in a forest and a Cave-themed room with bats.

Upstairs on the second floor is the hands-on children's museum. Each room has a different theme (such as Colors, Water, Sound, etc). Although it appears many of the activities were removed thanks to Covid, there were still plenty of things to do.

Overall Family Ratings:
  • 16 year old - Enjoyed the interactive area
  • 11 year old - Enjoyed the interactive area
  • 6 year old - Enjoyed the dinosaurs downstairs and the interactive area upstairs

Mayborn Museum
Address: 1300 S. University Parks, Waco, TX 76706
Hours: Monday-Saturday 10am CST - 5pm CST; Sunday 1pm CST - 5pm CST
Tickets: Children (2-12 years) $8.00; Adults $10.00

Review - Texas - Waco - Waco Mammoth National Monument

My youngest son is a big dinosaur fanatic, so we decided to go checkout this neat site in Waco featuring a rare nursery herd of Columbian Mammoths.

Waco is about a two hour drive from our home of Dallas, Texas, so perfect for a day trip. The drive off Highway 35 to the site feels a bit off-the-beaten-path as you leave the city of Waco for a few streets then re-enter Waco again. There are sign posts that will point you in the right direction and you will eventually pass an animal hospital before finding the monument's large signpost on the lefthand side of Steinbeck Bend Road.

In 1978, a bone was found in the muddy area near Bosque River and was taken to Baylor University's Strecker Museum. The scientists at the museum identified the bone as a femur belonging to a Columbian Mammoth who lived during the Ice Age (or Pleistocene Epoch). The museum sent a team to the area the bone was found and, over a period of twenty years, they uncovered a rare nursery herd who appeared to have drowned together. Many of the bones remain in situ (unmoved from their original position uncovered in the ground). A climate-controlled, protective dig shelter was built around the site to keep it safe from damage and erosion which makes the site especially fascinating. Not only can you see the bones but you can get a sense of how the archaeologists uncovered them.

In 2015, President Obama signed an executive order to establish this site as a national monument. There are 128 other national monuments in the United States as part of the National Park System. Even though they are part of the National Park System, they do not accept the America the Beautiful pass.

After you arrive at the park, you will find a small parking lot. Larger vehicles or rvs can park along the roadside. Right now, masks are required inside the buildings (the gift shop, restroom and dig shelter) but not on the trails. The gift shop has moved outside under a tent. You buy your tickets and items from there and not inside the shop.

The person working at the cash register didn't tell us, but if you have children, they can participate in the Junior Ranger Program. Ask at the tent. The book is full of activities for children to do as they explore the dig shelter. The number of activities required depends on the child's age. Once they complete the number of activities, they return to the tent and the waiting ranger to take their oath and earn their badge.

From the gift shop area, it's a bit of a walk to the Dig Shelter but it's paved making it stroller-friendly and wheelchair-accessible. Once you reach the Dig Shelter, a ranger will greet you and give you a brief overview. Masks are required inside the building and you will see stickers on the ground for social distancing. Take as long as you like viewing the dig and reading the signs.

Once you have completed the Dig Shelter visit, you can explore some hiking trails. The Eagle Trail was set up by the Eagle Scouts and is well maintained. The trail is not stroller or wheelchair friendly.

The hiking trails are well-marked with signs and deep in the woods is a camping site used by the boyscout troops.

Overall Family Ratings:
  • 16 year old - Was a little bored
  • 11 year old - Enjoyed the Ranger Program
  • 6 year old - Enjoyed the Ranger Program

Waco Mammoth National Monument
Address: 6220 Steinbeck Bend Road, Waco, Texas 76708
Hours: 9am CST - 6pm CST