Duff’s Famous Wings

On our way back to Cleveland from Niagara Falls, we passed through Buffalo NY and had to stop by Duff’s Famous wings. We got there pretty late (9:45pm) but luckily Duff’s was open until 11pm, which meant we still had plenty of time to enjoy a late night dinner.

We ordered a house salad and fries for the table which were fine but lets get real, we were here for the wings, and we ordered plenty of them!

Their hottness scale can be a little confusing
Their hotness scale can be a little confusing.

Duff’s menu primarily offer two flavors of wings; Buffalo and BBQ with varying degrees of spiciness. Since we were unsure of their “spicy” meter and  some family members don’t like things too spicy, we ordered a variety staying on the milder side (mild medium, medium, medium hot, and BBQ.) We also ordered a side of boneless wings because someone gets grossed out eating chicken off the bone.

Crispy yet still tender, their wings were SO good! By far the best wings I’ve ever eaten.

How spicy?

DSC_0152Our “not too spicy” eater liked the spiciness of the mild medium. The rest of the family enjoyed the medium hot, which made us interested in trying the more spicy options. Instead of working our way up the chain, we asked for a side of the “death sauce” (which is the hottest of them all).  With a smirk on her face, the waitress brought it out.  Death sauce didn’t smell great, but each of us (minus our non-spicy fan) took turns taking a little taste of it. I actually didn’t think it was too spicy.  Forgetting about the time it takes to really kick in, I decided to dunk a wing into the sauce and bite in. It took a little time for the heat to catch up to me, but OH MAN that was hot! After a combination of alternating between ice water and blue cheese dressing with celery, the burning finally subsided and I was able to regain my composure.

Tips

  • Since you can’t guess Duff’s heat scale and your tolerance levels, error on the side of milder sauces and ask for side orders of the hotter sauces.
  • Don’t waste your time with the side orders.  We did not care for the french fries at all. Besides, you are there for the wings! Also, the wings come with a bowl of carrot and celery sticks along with blue cheese, so that is like a side order…right?
  • Google Maps: Duff’s Famous Wings, Sheridan Drive, Buffalo, NY

The “A Christmas Story” house

Before leaving Cleveland, we discovered the house from the movie “A Christmas Story” was near by and might be worth a visit. Since we enjoy that classic movie, and had a little extra time, we decided to stop by.

The house from the movie Vs. our visit.
The house from the movie versus our visit.

The owners of the house have worked above and beyond at recreating the look from the movie. They own two other properties across the street (museum and gift shop) and all three are incredibly clean and well maintained.

The Tour

For a nominal fee (as of this writing $10 for adults | $6 for kids), you get a guided 45 minute tour of the house and entrance into the museum to view movie props.

The special award is still proudly displayed
The special award is still proudly displayed.
Recreating Christmas morning as the "major award" looms in the background
Recreating Christmas morning as the “major award” looms in the background

By tour, what I really mean is the guide takes you into the living room of the actual house and gives a very knowledgeable 10 minute account of the house’s history: explains how the house was chosen for the movie, some of the difficulties in filming, what scenes were (and were not) shot in the house, and how the current owner purchased and renovated the house.

Throughout the house, there are replica props such as hats of major characters from the movie, Red Rider B.B. Guns, Lifebouy soap, The Old Man’s newspaper, Little Orphan Annie decoder pin just to name a few.

The guide makes it clear that everything in the house is interactive and to have fun recreating scenes from the movie. The only stipulation is that you cannot shoot video.

The entire family had fun playing with and posing with the props.

Our youngest recreating the scene where Randy is worried that dad is going to kill Ralphy.
Our youngest recreating the scene where Randy is worried that dad is going to kill Ralphy.
I hope he doesn't go blind!
I hope he doesn’t go blind!
Having dinner with "The old man"
Having dinner with “the old man”.

The Museum

DSC_0258In my opinion, they should have reversed the order of the tour starting with the museum first, then house, and end it with the gift shop.  In that order, it would have helped visitors get the full scope of the work that went into the house, given them ideas of scenes to recreate from the movie, and built excitement for the main event (the actual house).

The museum has a lot of the actual props from the movie; newspaper articles, behind-the-scene photos, and posters. On the small side, the museum only takes 10 – 20 minutes to see it all, which is good because  our youngest (eleven at the time) started to get bored just before we were ready to go.

The Cars

DSC_0166On the property they have a replica of the 1937 Oldsmobile Six and firetruck from the movie. The actual cars used during the filming of the movie were donated by Cleveland’s antique automobile club members. The original car used in the movie is unknown.

20150708_122808The school yard scenes were actually filmed in Canada and the firetruck that rescues Flick from the flagpole, is owned and operated by the Chippawa Volunteer Fire Fighters’ Association in Niagara Falls, Canada. We were just there the day before.  If we would have known, we could have stopped by for a visit! However, the firetruck at the museum is a great replica and has some nice hidden touches that honor the movie.

The Gift Shop

a_christmas_story_gift_shop Now, I’ve seen my fair-share of gift shops (and most of them are awful), but this was a great gift shop. They had fun novelty shirts (as you would expect), nice replicas from the movie (like the little orphan Annie decoder pen), and even items from other Christmas movies like Elf, and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

Tips for your visit

  • Make sure your travelers have seen the movie! We were surprised that our youngest two boys had not seen the movie in its entirety (or were too young to remember). Digitally available to rent or own on Google Play (A Christmas Story)
  • It is extremely busy during the Christmas season. We visited during a weekday in July, so it was busy but not crowded.
  • Unless it is crowded, don’t follow the guys flagging you down into the paid parking spots. There is plenty of free parking along the curbs.
  • Known discounts:  10% AAA
  • Google Maps: A Christmas Story House, Cleveland Ohio
  • Their website: A Christmas Story House   http://www.achristmasstoryhouse.com/

Where to stay in Fiji

For the past few months we have been planning a trip to the Yucatan Peninsula. However, some family health issues had us rethinking our plans to Mexico and start looking into other vacation options. Through our research, Kari discovered that Fiji Airlines was having an amazing deal on flights. A few family discussions later,  we end up booking tickets for 10 Nights in New Zealand and 5 Nights in Fiji. Now that we have days blocked out and airline tickets, it is time to start planning our adventures.

What we’ve discovered so far…

image provided by Google maps
image provided by Google maps

This will be our first time traveling to Fiji, so it is very exciting and a little overwhelming trying to determine where to stay and what there is to do.

Fiji is made up of around 333 islands. However, it has two major islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu.  Both major islands contain much of Fiji’s population and offer a variety of activities. It is a 12 hour boat ride between these two major islands, so we’ve decided that our stay in Fiji is not long enough to island hop. There are smaller aircraft to fly, but we were not willing to add the extra expense.  We decided to stay in and around Viti Levu.

What do you want to do in Fiji?

What you want to do in Fiji will play a big part on where to stay and since this will be our first time (and maybe our only time) we want to make the most of the few days we are there. So far, the things that look like fun to our family are:

rivers-fijiRiver Rafting in Fiji

Oh man, this looks like something straight out of The Land of the Lost or Jurassic Park! The company seems really cool too. They provide local employment opportunities, pay a user fee to the native land owners to provide benefits directly to village life, and promote the protection of these natural resources.

jetski_fijiJetski Safari in Fiji

The waters are so crystal clear, riding jetskis  over the coral coast and around some of the small islands to go snorkeling sounds awesome!

The company we are currently checking out is Jetski Safari. We will update the site later if we book with them.

uprising-beach-resort_sunsetSunsets in Fiji

Sunsets in Fiji look amazing and I want to make sure we stay somewhere with a good view!

 

A few other activities that are on our list are:

  • Day trip to a smaller island (we hear that the best snorkeling is out on these little islands) and they seem to have some pretty fun options.
  • Hiking to a waterfall
  • Zip-line courses
  • Scuba with sharks!
  • Visiting museums and learning about the Fijian culture and their history.
  • Experiencing traditional Fijian meals, ceremonies, and activities

Narrowing down a location to stay in Fiji

Based on the kinds of activities that seem fun for our family, it looks like the Coral Coast of Fiji would be a good “home base”.  To be more specific, we are staying in Pacific Harbour.  I’ve read that they still cater to tourism, but it has more of a local vibe with friendly natives that treat you like family.

Some searches for places to stay:

What we found out quickly is that there are not a lot of mid-priced options for a family of five anywhere in Fiji! However, looking at things to do in and around the places we might want to stay made our decision easier about Pacific Harbour, Fiji as our destination.

When to book accommodations in Fiji

It is the beginning of May and our trip isn’t until mid August, so I assumed we had plenty of time to book accommodations. Luckily, Kari did not share my assumptions and started trying to reserve places in Pacific Harbour. After our first choice (a sweet home on the river) was booked out from under us, we stumbled across The Uprising Beach resort! This resort has amazing little bungalows right on the beach with traditional thatched roofs, outdoor showers, plus the entire place looks like it is right out of Adventureland in Disneyland.

uprising_resort_2015

With great reviews, free breakfast, nightly shows with music, and great pics online, we quickly snagged two of the remaining bungalows just before the place was sold out!  Luckily, we reserved one beach and one garden bungalow which will give us more of a variety to experience.

So, if you are planning a trip to Fiji, make sure you start your search for accommodations at least 3 months prior to your arrival date!