Located in the Houston, Texas area, we are a family of four.  Our weekends consist of playing games with our energetic little girls.  We often play table games that can accommodate all of our skill sets.  On labor day weekend, my husband and I each had our brothers in town, we put our family to the ultimate test.  We decided to challenge ourselves and bring our family game night to the next level by booking a room at Escape Now in north Houston.  This is a real-life interactive game experience.  The room we chose was called The Chocolate Factory.


“There is a lottery to win a visit to the Chocolate Factory that has been shut for many years. In 60 minutes you need to find a golden ticket, explore the factory and escape with the secret chocolate recipe.”- Escape Now


Our mission was clear and simple; find the secret recipe hidden somewhere in the factory and figure out the code to escape.  We should be out shortly with time to spare.  My family and I were up to the task!  As we stepped into our room, I noticed it wasn’t as detailed as I assumed.  I thought there would be a plethora of items covering the entire room to gather information.  This is going to be a challenge.  The girls instantly began investigating while I stood in the middle of the room, wondering where to start.  I decided it was best of me to stand back and let the others scout out the clues while I absorbed their knowledge.  Just incase I could solve the mission in my own mind,  I wanted to be ready.


We were allowed three tips from our host during our time.  He communicated his tips through a computer monitor in the room.  Our host could see everything we were doing and hear every word.  While I felt we needed more tips, our group was steadily figuring out the clues one by one.  I certainly misjudged the complexity of the puzzles. Our team-work and communication skills were pushed to the limits.  Time was running out!  The game was getting more intense.  We were thinking fast, but as our intensity grew our accuracy decreased.  A few of us raced to the door trying every four digit code we found along the way; leaving a few clues untapped.  Our girls especially, wanted to be involved in all the action.  My girls  had a few spats of conflict about which one of them would open something next.  A distraction that should be avoided when attempting a time sensitive game.  Our curious little ones did however uncover several


We were given 60 minutes to crack the codes and escape the room.  The time was up all too quickly.  Did we solve all the mind-boggling puzzles and escape?  Although, we did find the golden ticket, we did not escape.  Our host come into the room, with his bubbly “you were so close” speech.  There were only a few clues left that would have lead us to freedom.


In spite of not escaping, our family gained appreciation for each others hard work.  We each had

our moments to show off our problem-solving skills.   We left Escape Now as a stronger unit plus we noticed how smart we all felt from our contributions.  The family that play together stays together!

The Buffalo Bayou Park’s Cistern can be found below the city of Houston, Texas. My tour group met outside the Cistern entrance on Sabine Street in Houston’s downtown Theater District. In the urban oasis, two large doors in the side of a hill begged me to enter the unknown underground.

It’s noticeable going from the hustle and bustle of the Houston traffic to the silent Cistern.


The corridor in the entryway was lit by bright, thin rope lights on the perimeter of the smooth concrete walls. Once inside the expansive 87,500 square-foot area, serenity washed over me. Rows and rows of 25 foot columns from floor to ceiling covered the room. The age-old columns were perfectly placed in the vast space. I felt as if I were witnessing a long-lost ancient ruin city.


Walking around the edge of the Cistern, I couldn’t help but gaze at the strong, repetitive columns. The columns were sitting in about 6 inches of water. Although, it was quite dim in the room, the slight glow from the rope lights reflected off of the shallow waters, creating a mirror image of more columns. Playing tricks on my eyes, the Cistern appeared to double in size.


According to buffalobayou.org, “The Cistern at Buffalo Bayou Park is a former drinking water reservoir built in 1926 for the City of Houston. After operating for decades, an irreparable leak was discovered and after a few years, the reservoir was decommissioned in 2007. Thanks to support from The Brown Foundation, Inc., Buffalo Bayou Partnership is opening this underground, industrial relic to the public, with future plans to house temporary art installations in this unique public space.”


As the tour guide gave his brief on the Cistern’s rich history, he allowed us to raise our voices and listen for the echo. I hollered until out of breath. The blast of voices carried through the air for an unbelievably long 15 seconds. Amazed by the lingering sound, he gave us another chance to be among the pleasing acoustic environment.


Coming out of the Cistern was as if I traveled back to the present. The glowing, evening sun and the big city noises came back. If living or stopping through Houston, everyone should stop by and witness the wondermint below the surface.

The downtown square in Bentonville, Arkansas is hopping with an array of things to do. On the northeast corner sits a chic museum that doubles as a hotel. Award-winning 21C Museum Hotel displays contemporary art from living artists both local and international. The “21” stands for 21st century. Its founders Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson had the desire to share their passion for the latest forms of art. The Museum is free to enter and open 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

A flock of green penguin sculptures stand tall throughout the museum. They can be found moved in different locations giving their viewers something to chuckle about. The green penguins can be seen viewing other art, surprising its overnight guests in the elevator, or simply staring out the window. There have also been sightings of the flightless birds in the guest rooms playing dress up and getting read bedtime stories. According to the 21C Museum Hotels’ website, “21c fans and residents of Northwest Arkansas selected green as the color to best represent the region. The mission of Cracking Art Group is to raise awareness of environmental issues and the use and misuse of natural resources by creating artworks with materials derived from petroleum products. The name Cracking Art refers to the chemical reaction that occurs when converting raw crude oil into plastic, or the moment when natural becomes artificial. Founded in 1993, Cracking Art Group has created over 600 exhibitions worldwide.” These cute creatures also love to join guests during meals at The Hive.


The Hive restaurant adjoins the hotel serving up sophisticated, home-style country cooking. Contemporary art doesn’t stop in the museum lobby. A gallery of pictures charm patrons as they dine. From the dining room, the open kitchen design allows glimpses of the food preparations. The Hive offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as a full bar to entertain the tastebuds. Quality freshness is important to The Hive. Head chef, Matthew McClure purchases ingredients from local farmers and producers. The restaurant provides grits as one of their delicious offerings sourced from War Eagle Mill located in Rogers, Arkansas, built in 1832. The mill still uses a waterwheel to power the turbine grinding grain into flour. 


If adventurous guests enjoy the outdoors, 21C Museum Hotel offers free cruiser bicycles. The beautiful biking trails allow room for everyone to relish in their own style, from walking trails to the all-terrain mountain bike trails. The paved trails allow guests of all ages to walk or ride in comfort through the lush grounds. Visitors can savor more attractive art at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, one of Bentonvilles popular museums, is less than a mile away from 21C.


It’s usually a challenge for most to sleep in an unfamiliar place, but guest rooms are clean and comfortable at 21C. Everyone can have a good night’s rest; sleeping in the smooth luxurious linens. The memory foam mattress allows for partners not to be disturbed. The bathroom lighting has three illuminations to choose. Great for those who like to leave a small glow just in case of nighttime bathroom visits. The Malin+Goetz toiletries are infused with an exclusive variety of herbs such as cilantro, peppermint, and bergamot. Perched behind the shower curtain sits a rubber duckie smiling back at happy tenants.

Arkansas is known for being the Natural State. Hot Springs, Arkansas is chock-full of natural spring water steaming up from the earth. Used for medicinal purposes, the springs have been popular for centuries. Downtown Bathhouse Row is lined with eight historic bathhouses where affluent goers once stayed during the 19th and 20th century. Now a visitors center, the Fordyce bathhouse was the most popular and expensive. The spa included separate bathing quarters for men and women, locker rooms, roof garden, gymnasium and several public rooms for gathering with friends. High-society patrons were treated with the mind, body and spirit considered. The center allows visitors to walk through the variety of wellness rooms of the once operational bathhouse. In the men’s bath hall, elegance and luxury dominates with marble benches and a stained glass ceiling. The community believed that the mineral water was the elixir to better health. The spring water lost some of its popularity in the mid-20th century, which closed the bathhouses doors. The remaining bathhouses are now museums, restaurants or gift shops in the historic national park.


Hot Springs National Park offers its guests and residents free spring water from a few spigots in the downtown area. Whether it’s a tiny paper cup or a five gallon jug, the public still line up to indulge in the geothermally heated spring water. During a cold evening, the downtown is filled with steam rolling out from the spring water pools.


Hot Springs is piled with steamy history. The Gangster Museum of America takes its visitors to the early 1900’s where big time gamblers could soak up the miner water and satisfy their mischievous pleasures. Dueling gangsters fought for the control of the town during the 1880’s, which led to gunfights. Hot Springs became the top destination for gambling. Big time gamblers like Al Capone stayed in Hot Springs for awhile, owning a suite in the Arlington hotel. Although Capone was considered a crime boss his days in Hot Springs were peaceful. The locals also claimed he was a good tipper.
Walking trails surround the