Friday, September 22, 2017

Travel on a Budget: Five Free Things to do in Oslo, Norway!

Oslo holds a special place in my heart. After spending nearly a week there with one of my best friends to give me tips on where to go, we were able to see so much of the city. I thought it would be fun to share five awesome free experiences in Oslo since Norway can be quite the expensive place to visit. Don't let that deter you because this city is amazing.

Side Note: I did this entire trip with a toddler, so everything I'm suggesting is kid friendly as well!


one. Explore the statues and wonders of Vigelandsparken


Vigelandsparken is the world's largest sculpture park made by a single artist, Gustav Vigeland. This park contains all of his life's work! There are more than 200 statues made of bronze, granite and wrought iron. Vigeland not only created all of the statues, but he was also responsible for the design and architectural outline of the park. It is one of Norway's top tourist attractions which I can attest to since there were tons of visitors when we arrived around 10:00am on a Saturday morning. That didn't stop us from enjoying ourselves. While you're there, be sure to play around and mimic some of the statues. I was able to capture a sweet picture {that JP failed to mention I was holding Chlo on the wrong side!}, while JP got an awesome shot with Chloe!




Take a moment to look at all of the flowers while you're there! There are tulips in the spring and roses in the summer that fill the park with color. I'm not sure of the exact story, but the flowers themselves play a specific role in the design of the park which is about the circle of life.



The obelisk is the large white granite colomn called "the Monolith" is actually intertwined human bodies. This may sound a little odd, but since the entire park revolves around life from beginning to end, not only is it fitting, it is beautiful.




two. Take a moment to play or relax at Frogner Park 


Vigelandsparken actually sits within Frognerparken or Frogner Park. The park originally was smaller and surrounded Frogner Manor, which you can still see today, but has become a huge, well known park today. It's mostly known for the Vigeland Sculptures, but there is even more. There is a wonderful playground if you have children with you. This was an awesome chance for Chloe to play for quite a bit. It's great for kids of all ages! Frogner Park is the largest park in the city and is a great place to walk around, take in the scenery and enjoy a beautiful day in Oslo! 


three. Visit the Natural History Museum {it's free on Thursdays!}


You read that right! It's free admission on Thursdays, so if you can make it work, try to visit then. If you can't, it's only 80 NOK for an adult {about $10 USD} and children under 6 are free! The museum is awesome with tons to see including a T-Rex skeleton which obviously stole the show for me. I can't help it, I have a thing for dinosaurs! You can also learn about the geography of Norway, animals and their habitats, the island of Svalbard and more. You can read a little more about my experience here. It's definitely worth the visit and it lies within my next location of choice!


four. Walk around the Botanical Gardens


The Oslo Botanical Garden is huge with over 1800 plants! There are tons of different gardens within that enhance different senses. There is a scent garden that was designed for the blind and mentally handicapped. Granny's Garden houses plants that are no longer commercially available that were collected from old gardens and preserved there. There's also a rock garden, herb garden, greenhouses from the late 1800's and a children's garden. If you have young kids, I highly recommend this. It's a great place for your little ones to jump and run around. The entire layout of the botanical garden is beautiful with lots of paths and things to see. You can spend an afternoon walking around or even go for a morning jog or stroll! The Natural History Museum sits within the gardens, so you might as well hit up both while you're there.


five. Walk up the rooftop of the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet

Only picture that isn't mine or my family's! I didn't take one. Photo Cred: VisitNorway.com 

Because the roof is angled to ground level, you can actually walk up the slanted walk way to the top of the Opera House for amazing views of the city, harbor and fjord. It's one of the newer buildings in Oslo {especially compared to the Akershus Festning builting the 1300's} that was finished in 2007. The modern architecture is stunning against the city and fjord!



A few other options for your Oslo trip on a budget are:

  • Visit the Royal Palace and the surrounding gardens. You can tour inside the palace for about $15-20 USD with under 3 free.
  • The Akershus Festning or Fortress which you can walk around the grounds for free and tour the museum for about $10 USD. Check out more here!
  • Shop along the Karl Johans Gate shopping area! Obviously, the less you buy, the cheaper it is, but it's an awesome experience. It's a pedestrian street with tons of shopping in central Oslo!
I fell in love with Oslo while I was there for almost a week. It is a beautiful and clean city! There are flowers and parks everywhere. I had a special kind of experience since my friend lives there and was able to give me tons of options for what to do. We also had the chance to stay with them in their apartment and take each day slowly which made the experience even better. I know I'll be back one day and I can't wait! If you're thinking about visiting Scandinavia, Oslo should be at the top of your list!
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Lilleputthammer

The Scandinavian adventures continue! Today we finally find ourselves moving onto the next city! If you miss our Oslo outings, check out the beginning of our trip, our busy days exploring the city, and finally seeing Vigelandsparken along with some other free things to do in Oslo! After spending Tuesday to Saturday late afternoon in Oslo, we hopped on a train {all of us got on with no problem this time! See the beginning of our trip to read the full funny, but scary story!} to Lillehammer. The train ride was a little over 2 hours and Chloe loved every minute of it! Trains are the way to go when traveling with little ones. If only it was actually a possibility in Texas.


We got to Lillehammer, walked to the house we rented of Airbnb, got our luggage inside and then I headed off to the grocery store with Charlotte and her mom. This experience is a story in itself and I'm already veering off what I want to share today, so I'll elaborate next time! Today, I want to talk about Chloe and her special day. Since we got to Lillehammer close to 7:00pm on Saturday, Sunday was our first true day there. Sunday was a CHLOE Day! We loaded up and Charlotte drove us to a little place called Lilleputthammer.


Does anyone remember reading Gulliver's Travels? You know, the part about the Lilliputians? The tiny humans? Ring a bell? Well if it does, then you'll totally get this. Lilleputthammer is a miniature version of Lillehammer! It has all the buildings along the main drag of the city as they were in 1930 built to a scale 1:4, so they're a quarter of the actual size!


For the kids, each building has something different for them to play with! Some building were set up as little homes, a grocery store, a restaurant and other shops while others had a ball pit, gymnastics mats, a movie theater, books and comics and more!



For the adults, each building had details about the shop what it was in the 1930's, who owned it and what happened to it from there. It was super cool! I loved seeing home the shops changed over the years. It even told us how one shop burned down in the 1960's.


Set up all around the main street were little rides! Everything was meant for younger kids which was perfect for our tiny princess who wanted to do everything! The first ride we hopped on were the old fashioned cars. It took you around a little circle and when you got back to the start they'd ask if you wanted to go around again. I think Chloe took us around 3 times on our first time on the ride.


Her favorite ride by far was the tiny rollercoaster which she called a train! I think she rode it 12 times total, mostly with her daddy. The best part is that it wasn't very crowded, so we didn't have to wait in line at all. We simply walked up and hopped on to each of the rides!


Here are some of the other rides we got to enjoy:

Ferris Wheel


Trampolines


Carrousel


They also had bumper boats, a little drop ride and electric cars but Chloe was either too little or not interested in those. All around the park there were also little playgrounds and sand boxes too. At the back of the park there is a mini ropes course for the older kids!



By far Chloe's favorite ride was the roller coaster train. She never wanted to get off it!


Another awesome feature about Lilleputthammer is that you can bring in your own food or of course, buy some there. We had packed sandwiches, fruit and chips, but ended up getting Chloe some chicken nuggets. That was mostly because she had been living on PB&J for the last week and we knew nuggets were something she would actually eat!


We ended up spending about 3 1/3 hours at Lilleputthammer. Charlotte came to pick us up at 2:00pm and Chloe was not ready to go. She wanted to keep playing in the sand and riding her favorite roller coaster, but girlfriend was tired and needed a nap! She fell asleep on the 15 minute drive back to our house, so I would say that Lilleputthammer was a complete success and Chloe had a blast!

When Charlotte picked us up, she pointed out the Olympic torch man carved out of the mountain trees across from us! I can only imagine how gorgeous this looks in fall when the leaves are changing!


We got back to the house where Chloe promptly took a nice long and necessary nap. Meanwhile Charlotte, Ole, Emily, Matt, Meena, JP and I went to the movies while my mom watched after Chloe! We saw Dunkirk which was an awesome movie.


We ended the day walking through town before going home and making a spaghetti dinner!


It was awesome having everyone join us even though Ben and Dad still hadn't quite joined us yet! While JP, Chloe and I were at Lilleputthammer, everyone else spent the day wandering the city and going on a super long hike. Needless to say, we were all wiped after our first day in Lillehammer!

Stay tuned for the gorgeous views from our hikes!

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Oslo, the Places You'll Go!


Life has been quite a whirlwind lately! It's hard for me to keep up with the blog, life, traveling and just everything! I want to keep up with our travel adventures, so today I'm sharing days 3 & 4 in Oslo. {If you missed days 1 & 2, check them out!}


On the morning of our 3rd day in Oslo, we set out for a touristy day! We decided to start by walking to the royal Palace. I had actually seen the palace when I went to visit in 2007, but it was dark since we went in winter!


Luckily this time it was a gorgeous day! The sun was shining and just a few clouds in the sky. We walked around the palace and the gardens before heading off to our next destination.


The thing is, we weren't actually sure where our next destination was going to be. We wandered around a bit. We found several fun shops and even this awesome Norwegian troll that Chloe wasn't too sure about!


Eventually we decided that we were hungry and bought sandwiches that we took to eat over by the Akershus Festning. We had gorgeous views of the Oslo Fjord and plenty of space for Chloe to run around for a bit.


We went to explore the Akershus Festning or Fortress next! The actual outside of the fortress is free to walk around and explore, but there is also a museum that you can visit and learn more about the history of the fortress for just about $10. I wanted to go in so bad {history nerd alert}, so we did!


Fun facts:

  • Akershus Festning is a medieval castle built to protect Oslo.
  • It was built around 1290 after an attack on Oslo in 1287.




  • It currently houses the Norwegian Ministry of Defence and the country's Defence Staff Norway. They share a modern headquarters in the eastern part of the fortress.

  • The fortress is still used for banquets and events for dignitaries and foreign heads of state.


It was fascinating going through each of the rooms and understanding what they were used for during different periods. If you ever get the chance, I recommend going through the actual museum! There is also so much to see around the fortress for free. Chloe spent quite a bit of time playing with and feeding the ducks!


The rest of the afternoon we spent walking around the shopping street before meeting up with Charlotte at the grocery store to get goodies for dinner.

Moving on to day 4! JP had some morning calls, so Chloe and I had an easy morning at the apartment. Later in the afternoon, we went to the Natural History Museum! The first thing you see when you walk in is a T. Rex skeleton!!!



This dinosaur loving momma was super excited. Chloe was pretty jazzed up about it, but maybe a little scared too. 

I thought this little flag below was super cool. It's the flag that flew to the moon on Apollo XVII in 1972! President Nixon gave it to the people of Norway as a gift along with a fragment of moon rock.


Part of the museum was actually under refurbishment, so the portion of the museum we were able to see was primarily different animal. Luckily, Chloe loves animals. She enjoyed walking around and seeing everything.


We loved learning about Svalbard which is a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. It sits in between Norway and the North Pole. There are thousands of polar bears and it is known for whaling and trapping.


We spent about an hour and a half at the museum before taking little Chlo to run around at the park we went to the day before. She loved it so much that it just seemed right!



Later Chloe took a nap and we got ready for dinner! Since it was Friday, Charlotte and Ole were officially on vacation before their wedding and honeymoon. We decided to celebrate by going to dinner at Louise Restaurant.



Naturally we had to order the Norwegian starter platter, Prosecco and seafood soup. The starter platter had many traditional Norwegian foods including reindeer patte, dried whale, fermented salmon, duck, goat cheese, seared scallop, and a few other things that I can't quite remember. I ended up having a taste of everything because it just felt right!


Dinner was perfect end to our final night in Oslo. Next up, our final morning in Oslo and our first few days in Lillehammer! Stay tuned, I'll be back later this week!

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