Valentine’s Day Gifts aren’t usually a big thing in our family. Valentine’s is one of those minor holidays that we tend to not think about until the last minute. I usually prepare an easy, but special-to-them breakfast for the girls. I add a few decorations to our dining room and serve donuts, sugary cereal and other such items that are easy to prepare but are special because I don’t usually buy them.
But let’s face it, the past year has been rough and we could all use a little pick me up, so why not get your sweetie (or yourself) a little something special. I thought it would be fun to put together a list of last-minute Valentine’s Day gifts, many of which you can pick up and use right here in Spring Hill, Columbia, or Franklin.
One of the things I feel like I’m missing most during Covid and Social Distancing is novelty. This has been the most unexciting groundhog-like day unprecedented time ever. So I’m focusing on things and businesses that I have not tried yet but have been keeping on my list of things to check out. But I’ve included a few tried and true places as well. Let me know if you have any experiences with these businesses and what you recommend. Or if there is something you would add to the list. (Thanks to all of you who commented on my Facebook post asking for recommendations!)
Valentine’s Day Gift Basket Items
These are local businesses that have fun gift items that would be great either in a cute gift basket or alone.
Needle & Grain in Columbia – I actually ordered Christmas ornaments from this place but haven’t been in the store yet. I’m obsessed with all the cute things they share on their Facebook Page. They have a great Valentine’s section on their website and will deliver locally (not sure if they come to Spring Hill). I want a Schitt’s Creek Coloring Book!
Ghostlight Books in Spring Hill – This is a fairly new business here in town that I haven’t made it into yet but is at the top of my list to check out. They have books but also a lot of locally made gift items. I love all the coffee mug choices made by Jennie Lynn Designs.
Ye Peddler – this is another shop in Columbia I’ve been meaning to check out, but you can also order from their website.
Buff City Soaps – I had never heard of this before but someone on my Facebook page recommended it. It looks like they have a store in Columbia and it looks so fun!
River Bend Nursery – live plants would be a fun alternative to traditional cut flowers and would last way longer.
Heavenly Treats 4 U – I’d never heard of this one before, but someone recommended it on my Facebook page and I am in love. It’s a Nolensville based business that creates gift baskets with items unique to Nashville.
These would be great to give as gift cards or to order for take-out on Valentine’s Day.
Mozzarella Bar – We are not currently eating inside restaurants so I haven’t had a chance to check out this new one in Spring Hill. They are in the same building as Martin’s Spring Hill and 55 South – favorites of ours who also have a big patio to eat on when it’s warmer. I just discovered they are doing take-out now so I think this will be perfect to order for Valentine’s Day Dinner at home.
And 3 Foods – this is a local meal prep delivery company that offers super fresh and healthy-looking meals. They have a weekly pickup scheduled in Spring Hill.
T-op – OK this one is not new to me as it’s one of our favorite Door Dash restaurants, but it was fairly new before the pandemic started so maybe it’s new to you. You can also order directly from their website. They seem great at masking and social distancing.
Give the gift of extra time by hiring someone else to do the cleaning or organizing. Here are a few business I’ve had eye on for these type of services.
Nicole’s Concierge & Cleaning Services – this company offers a variety of services and I like their mission of paying a living wage, treating employees well, and giving back to the community.
A Fresh Space – this is a Nashville based Home Organizing company and their photos make me happy.
Travel – the gift of something to look forward to
Surely this will be over soon. Please, please let it be over soon. Give your sweetie something to look forward to (other than vaccines) and plan a trip for when this is all over. Or a secluded socially distance get-away now. You can plan it yourself, or use one of the local travel agents below to help you out.
Contact me about ordering a photo book of photos from a previous session (Pricing varies depending on the number of pages and other options but generally range between $125 and $175 for the 8×8 size. Other sizes are available. )
I’m going to start this off by saying I can’t believe I’ve never been to Point Mallard Water Park before. I had some friends go last summer, but I couldn’t make it. After going there, I don’t understand why it hasn’t been a place that we go several times each summer. I’ve heard a few people talking about it, but in general, it feels like one of the best-kept secrets for a day trip from Spring Hill. Or possibly maybe I haven’t been paying attention and am the last one to figure this out. Either way, I am really glad my friend Christy decided we should go yesterday, despite the iffy chances of rain. (Note: Megan isn’t really into waterparks and had the option to spend the day with her daddy alone, so it was just Kayla and I and our friends.)
So where is it?
The water park is in Decatur, Alabama….which is sort of Huntsville. Our plan for if a downpour began and ruined our waterpark adventures was to go to the Space & Rocket Center instead. It takes about an hour and a half from Spring Hill. Christy picked Kayla and me up around 8 and we stopped for gas and for breakfast and still got there about 15 minutes before they opened at 10 am.
This is the really cool part. Admission is generally $20 for adults (12 and over) and $15 for kids. But Monday – Thursdays (excluding holidays) are half-price days. So it was only $10 per adult and $7.50 per child. (Please check their website before going to double-check prices and half-price days.) Just as a comparison, Nashville Shores is generally $36.99 for adults and $28.99 for kids, though you can sometimes get deals for tickets for $24.99. That’s a big difference. And spoiler alert, I liked Point Mallard better than Nashville Shores.
What we liked about point mallard:
The park was clean and updated. I was shocked when my husband said he used to go to Point Mallard as a kid. The place did not seem old to me at all.
It wasn’t super huge, but had pretty much everything you’d want in a waterpark…a wave pool, lazy river, kids play zone and multiple water slides.
The park is situated on a gorgeous lake. It’s a really beautiful spot, and they even have a little sandy beach on the lake.
It was not crowded at all. Since this was my first time there, I’m not sure if that’s what it’s always like on a weekday (we were there on a Monday) or if the threat of rain kept the crowd down. Either way, it was awesome. The girls never waited to get on a waterslide, and we never felt crowded.
There were several options for food. There was a pizza place, a barbecue place (which I’m not sure was open when we were there) and a place with all your standard park foods. I had a hamburger and fries and Kayla had chicken nuggets. It was nothing special but good enough. We also bought ice cream cones and I remember thinking that the $2 a scoop price was reasonably priced for a place like that.
You can bring your own floats. I didn’t actually know this before we went and I told Kayla she had to leave her banana float at home, but I had I known it was allowed, this would have been a bonus for her.
What we didn’t like about point mallard:
There are two sections to the park and they were kinda spread out pretty far. This is probably good when it’s crowded so it doesn’t seem so cramped, but the first time we walked between the two sections, we did so barefooted and I regretted it. The ground was really hot and there were also sections where the road was gravel and my tender feet did not appreciate it. Then we left out of the exit in the second section and had kind of a long awkward walk back to our car near the first section. Next time we would probably park closer to that second section near the wave pool.
You could only use goggles that didn’t cover your nose. This wasn’t a big deal and I’m sure there is some safety reason I don’t fully understand, but it annoyed Kayla slightly. It was also clearly stated on their website which I didn’t read before we went.
You have to rent wave pool floats. At waterparks I’ve been to in the past, the big innertube floats for the wave pool are just available for anyone to grab. At Point Mallard you have to rent them for $5. One of Kayla’s favorite things to do is to ride on the float in the wave pool so I rented her a float.
We all had a great time at Point Mallard. The ride didn’t seem that long and I thought it was a better park overall than Nashville Shores. We are definitely adding this day trip to our normal rotation.
We went to St. Louis 3 years ago, and I meant to write this post back them. At the time, I had decided that blogging our adventures would be something useful that I could share with my followers. As an ENTJ / Enneagram 1 / Type A personality, planning is something I’m really good at. I love researching vacations in-depth and for me, the planning is a big part of the fun. I know that not everyone feels that way (I have a good friend who practically has a panic attack at the idea of a Disney vacation because of the planning involved), so I had every intention of blogging our trips so that others could learn from my intensive research if they liked. It just never happened. And I always felt like I should do it right after a trip. Like if I waited too long, then it was too late.
But recently, a friend decided to take her family to St. Louis and started asking me about all the details of our trip. I started thinking about how much easier it would be if I had blogged the trip, to share my information with her. Then I thought, why not just go ahead and blog it? Most, if not all, of the information is still relevant and useful. Who cares if it was three years ago? So here you go. I plan to do more if people seem interested. I know I often get asked about our Disney and Universal planning as well.
Why St. Louis?
I had wanted to go to St. Louis all my life, so much so that it had become a running joke between my husband and I with me whining about how he’s never taken me to St. Louis. When I was a kid, I had an assignment to do a report on a state. We did not get to pick the state, but it was assigned to us. All my friends got “cool” states like Florida, Hawaii, and California. I was so bummed to have gotten Missouri. This was back in the olden times, and there was no internet to help us do the report, so we had to call the chamber of commerce for the states we got and ask them to SNAIL mail us travel brochures. (Kids, can you even imagine??) For reasons I don’t completely remember, I became fascinated with St. Louis, and in the Arch in particular.
So in 2016, I finally took matters into my own hands and decided that we were going to St. Louis on vacation. I’m not sure why it took us so long. It’s a perfect choice. It’s only about a five-hour drive from Spring Hill / Nashville and there are tons of free or almost free things for a family to do. Our trip was during the week of July 4, chosen only because that was when my husband was on vacation for shutdown. As a point of reference, my girls at the time were 8 and 10 years old.
An Overview of Our Itinerary:
We stayed at the Courtyard Marriott in a suburb called Creve Coeur. We knew that we wanted to stay at a Marriott because that’s where my husband stays when he travels for work and we collect reward points from there. One of my clients tagged a friend of hers from St. Louis in my post asking for suggestions and she ended up messaging me and being so super helpful. She suggested a couple of different Marriotts that would be fairly close to activities we would want to do.
We knew we wanted a pool, and also preferred a suite with a separate living area from the bedroom, so this is the hotel we chose from her suggestions. It was perfect. Nothing fancy, but the room was nice and big and allowed Kayla to go to bed before everyone else, and had an indoor pool and hot tub for the girls to play in. There was a mini-fridge and microwave that enabled us to bring our own food for breakfast. There was a bistro that served food and the staff was very nice…especially when Megan smashed her finger in the hinge part of the public bathroom door near the pool. She screamed bloody murder and half the hotel staff came running to help us and bring us ice. (She was fine…just bruised.)
Sunday: Driving to St. Louis and Magic House
As I said, it’s only a five-hour drive, so we left early, stopped for lunch, and then drove straight to The Magic House – St. Louis Children’s Museum. Admission was $10 a person (now $12 a person). So while the Magic House was really cool, on the day we were there (July 3, so everyone in the world was probably on vacation), it was SOOOO crowded. It’s in this really neat old house with lots of small rooms and hallways so it was not fun with so many people. That being said, my kids loved it. I wasn’t sure they would because it seemed to be aimed at a slightly younger demographic, and there was a big room they weren’t even allowed in because they were not under eight years old, but they seemed to find plenty to keep them occupied.
There was this one exhibit where they had to follow all the clues to see who committed a crime, that even had detective costumes for them to wear. They spent FOREVER playing at that exhibit. They also had this temporary Art & Technology exhibit that Megan (my artist) really loved. She decorated a coloring page with a bus on it, then they put it in a scanner and her bus became part of this 3-D neon digital world that was being projected onto a big wall. She got to watch the bus she designed to travel through the digital town full of buses, houses, and airplanes that other children had designed.
After Magic House, we checked into our hotel, had dinner at the hotel Bistro there and then let the kids play in the pool until bedtime.
Monday: St. Louis Science Museum and Independence Day with Fair St. Louis
My husband is not a big fan of huge events with lots of people…especially the driving/parking part of all of that, so this item on my itinerary took a little persuading, careful planning, and a little luck because I wasn’t 100% sure it would work.
Fair St. Louis is a huge Fourth of July event that included a concert by FloRida (who my 10-year-old at the time loved) and fireworks (which I love). It started at 1:00 at Forest Park. So my plan was to go to the St. Louis Science Center and Planetarium in the morning, which is also at Forest Park, and then leave our car there for the Fair St. Louis event. In my mind, the Science center was really close to Fair St Louis but I underestimated how big Forest Park is. I also wasn’t 100% sure we would be able to leave our car at the Science Center, but we got lucky. They did allow us to leave our car there, and there were buses that took us from the Science Center right to the Fair location.
I had not-so-great point and shoot with me for most of these photos, and wasn’t trying very hard, so please forgive the crummy pics.
The concert was fun. There was soooo much mud, and we couldn’t help but laugh at people (mostly drunk) slipping down the hill in it. People were absolutely covered in it. It was sort of Woostock-ish. The kids probably got a little too much exposure to misbehaving adults, but all in all, it was pretty good for their first concert, and the fireworks were AMAZING.
Tuesday: City Museum, Crown Candy Kitchen & St. Louis Arch
The City Museum is one of the neatest places I’ve ever seen. Of all the museums we visited, this was our favorite. It’s a hundred-year-old warehouse in downtown St. Louis in which artists have repurposed the pieces of old cities to build miles of tunnels, slides, climbers, bridges, and castles. It’s really neat and easy to spend a lot of time in there. It’s $21 a person for admission. I would call this a can’t miss attraction if you are visiting St. Louis!
I especially love the photo of Kayla throwing a tantrum in the “Odditorium.” #memories
Crown Candy Kitchen was a place that everyone kept recommending for us to eat, and they were not wrong. So, so good. I’m pretty sure my husband was in heaven with his “Heart-Stopping BLT.”
After dinner, we took an impromptu walk along the St. Louis Riverfront trail – a 12-mile paved trail along the Mississippi River, between the Gateway Arch and the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge.
So, a note about the Gateway Arch: I had mentioned in the intro that I had always wanted to see the Arch. You can probably guess that my main interest was in photographing it. I wouldn’t be opposed to also going up in it, but we happen to have two family members who are pretty afraid of heights. Not to mention any names, but to go up in it, it would have been Megan and I alone. I made the decision before we got there that going was not as important to me as finding a place to view it properly.
Wednesday was our museum day. I also had tentatively planned to go to the Botanical Gardens, but it didn’t happen because everyone was tired and ready to go back to the hotel. The Art Museum and History Museum were both free, which is one of the really cool things about St. Louis – a lot of the activities are free or not very expensive.
Three of us enjoyed the Art Museum. One of us did not. 😂 My only regret was that she didn’t throw her 2nd tantrum of the week in front of a more recognizable piece of art. It’s probably good for me to note that the Art Museum would not be a top choice for any small child, but you know…sometimes grown-ups want to see stuff too.
She enjoyed the History Museum quite a bit more, primarily because they had a section called the “History Clubhouse” that was a hands-on learning play place for kids. If you are choosing between the Art and History Museum for little kids, choose the History museum.
Thursday: St. Louis Zoo
It was raining when we first got to the zoo, but that wasn’t a big deal because they have a lot of indoor exhibits. The Zoo is a really awesome one, and the most awesome thing is that admission is free! There were some things we paid for though, such as feeding the stingrays, carousel rides, and riding the railroad train…which you will want to do because it’s a big place. We got the Adventure Pass to cover all the extras for about $12 a person.
This was Kayla’s happy place and made up for the Art Museum.
One of the girl’s favorite things was playing in a mister fan at the zoo. It’s the little things I guess.
Friday: More Gateway Arch, St. Louis Citygarden Budweiser Plant & Dinner at the Biergarten
So my husband loves me so much that he suggested a second stop by Malcom W. Martin Memorial Park to get more photos of the Arch, and I’m glad he did because it was completely different in the morning light than the first photos I took.
Citygarden is a really neat park in Downtown St. Louis with a fountain the kids can play in. They absolutely loved it. It was a lot of fun and also free, and Bruce and I really enjoyed just relaxing and watching them play. We brought them a change of clothes for afterward so we could head to the Budweiser Plant.
Budweiser offers a free tour of their plant in St Louis which was neat, but the real attraction for the kids, of course, were the Clydesdales. After the tour and hanging with the horses, we had dinner at the Biergarten.
Saturday: Grants Farm & then Drive Home
Usually, on a road trip, I feel like we waste two days of the trip driving. The great thing about St. Louis being so close to Nashville was that we were still able to fit activities in our travel days without being too rushed or tired. So before we hit the road for Nashville, we went to Grant’s Farm. Grant’s Farm is the ancestral home of the Busch family (as in Anheiser Busch) and has lots of fun activities for kids. Admission is free (yay, St. Louis!), but there are a few extras you can buy, such as feeding the parakeets, which was a favorite for my girls.
So was that useful information?
I would love to hear whether or not you found that to be useful information and would like to see more blog posts on our adventures. If so, please post a comment below!