I remembered this epic YouTube video I had watched years ago. I pulled it back up and we rewatched it. Less than ten minutes into the 45-minute show, we decided we wanted to attempt The Grand Sawtooth Loop – a 75 mile trail around Redfish Lake and Grandjean.
Watch our own epic YouTube video from our trip, here!
It was definitely not your typical honeymoon and every person who asked us where we
would be going responded with either “why Idaho?” or “y’all are crazy”. The later became a
very accurate statement as we went along the trail and questioned a few times why we weren’t just sipping daiquiris on the beach and instead camping in 45-degree weather. But the first question was so easy to explain to people, “because the mountains are calling us and few
people are bold enough to venture out there”.
My now husband, John, and I have lived in Colorado for the last five years. That was until two
weeks before our wedding in May, when we decided to change our lifestyles completely and
move back home to Mississippi to be closer to family and start a homestead farm. It has been a complete whirlwind since about February with planning the move and our wedding in Mississippi, so our honeymoon was pretty much the first break either of us had while in the midst of packing, unpacking, painting, and then celebrating.
It all seemed a blur until we crossed the state line from Nevada into Idaho and those mountain views we had grown so accustomed to in Colorado, came back into our line of sight. In that moment, I think we both realized how special this journey would be.
It finally felt like the start of our new life together when we talked about how much we had missed seeing mountains and decompressed from the stress of the last few months. It was surreal how calming the site of a mountain range we had never seen before could be, but it felt so welcoming to witness after a few months hiatus in our new home among the pine forests.
Read and watch other things we did during our entire honeymoon road trip from Mississippi to Idaho!
We had spent about a month after our wedding planning and packing for this trip, yet when we arrived at the trailhead I couldn’t help fear that we had forgotten something or not packed
enough. Some of that nervous fear came from the fact that it was only 47 degrees at 10 am when we arrived at Redfish Lake and I grew concerned that the clothes I packed weren’t going to be warm enough at night. The other part of me knew that what we were embarking on was something we hadn’t done in an entire year together, and those first backpacking trip of the year jitters really sunk in after I lugged my nearly fifty pound pack onto my back.
Those concerns of being warm enough quickly faded as we started our first ascent from The Redfish Trailhead up to The Alpine Way Trail. By noon the temperatures were
approaching the 90s and I couldn’t believe that as we were climbing in elevation it kept getting
hotter, but it did.
The wildflowers were still out strong even though it was approaching the end of July. Each
bright yellow, white, and magenta bloom stood out to me. I was so excited because we had specifically delayed our trip in hopes of catching their blooms. Seeing each new flower reminded me how much I truly loved the high alpine summers.
The most surprising part of the start of the trail wasn’t the warmth or how strenuous the initial
grade of elevation felt on my body, instead it was the smells. The sage brush surrounding us
filled my nostrils with the most beautiful aromatics. Then, as we approached the heavily
wooded forests we could smell the pine trees in a way we don’t get in the muggy heat of
Mississippi. These pine trees instead almost stung my nose with a piercing clean scent. It
brought me right back to some of our first trip memories through The Great Smoky Mountains
and other places with little to no pollution, cars, or people around.
I held my husband’s hand as he filled out our wilderness permits at the backcountry line. I
knew that this trip was going to mean something unforgettable to us and help me officially
close the chapter of my single Colorado life, and prepare us for our new journey into marriage. I was both nervous and excited.
Not long after we entered into the wilderness the first views of the peaks we would be circling
came into view. We gawked along the ridgeline with an elderly couple who shared with us that this year was going to be their 39th wedding anniversary. They congratulated us and wished us good luck on both our marriage and the trail we were starting.
The rest of the day, we didn’t see anyone else on the main trail. That was until we set up camp at the base of Thompson Peak and hiked with minimum gear to Thompson Lake. We saw one woman on the thin and narrow trail and one other couple leaving the lake when we arrived after the steep and sketchy scramble.
The bright blue water was unlike anything either of us had ever seen and the pointed rock spires above it jutted out of the ground like a hand reaching for the sky. We stood at the first
viewpoint just amazed that a place like this could exist in the world, and that we were blessed
enough to be standing there together, alone, in such a peaceful place. We had never been in a place so beautiful.
That moment only lasted so long, because my husband decided to strip down and take a nice
cold plunge into the water. When he did, I placed our condensed bag down and accidentally set off our bear spray can. This mistake would become the bane of my existence the entire duration of our trip. We both felt nothing at the time it went off, but slowly throughout the trip different parts of my body would feel like they were on fire when they came in contact with the expelled spray. Including my lips which burnt first as I took of sip of water on our way back down to our campsite.
I slept that night with a burning feeling in my left arm and lips that tingled, but I still felt
refreshed after a night under the stars with our rain cover off, just breathing in the fresh
Our second day was a fairly uneventful day compared to our first. Luckily, this time without any negligent firings of our bear spray. We hiked towards Goat Creek through the dense forest and blazing heat again until we set up camp around 4pm. Exhausted, hot, and hungry.
I forget how strenuous backpacking can be on my very frail 115-pound body, and sometimes I do not eat more calories than I burn carrying my over-packed 85L backpack. So that evening while I complained how tired I was, my husband cooked up a huge pot of homemade dehydrated gumbo. We ate and were in our sleeping bags around 7:45 just waiting for the sun to go down and the temperatures to cool off enough that we could get some rest. We agreed it would be a good idea to get up earlier the next day and to beat the midafternoon heat on our ascent up to Sawtooth Lake.
The next morning we managed to get up and climb the roughly 4-miles up to Sawtooth Lake
before 11am. Our plan was to do a little fly fishing and eat some lunch before heading over
The McGown Lakes to make our descent towards Grand Jean.
After I caught four fish and my husband got fed up and tangled up with his line and lack of
production, a storm started to roll in. We could see lighting and thunder off in the distance
heading our way. It was only about 1pm but we decided we needed to go ahead and bunker
down. We tried at first just setting up a makeshift shelter with our big blue tarp, but when the winds started to pick up we realized that wouldn’t be enough. We quickly got our tent up right
in the nick of time before the rain started.
We cooked up some taco soup that we were saving for dinner and pulled out our map, knowing good and well there was a slim chance we would be able to hike anymore that afternoon. We started to reevaluate our route because I knew that there were a few trail options that led out from Sawtooth Lake.
We had given ourselves a 7-day window to complete the entire Grand Loop, but we had plans on the backside to visit our friends in Colorado at a concert we already had tickets to, so we had to stay firm on this deadline. Having only done 4 out of the 12 miles we had planned for that day, we grew afraid that if we encountered any other storms like this that we wouldn’t make it out in time.
We made a decision that evening to cut about 25 miles off of the route and take The North Fork Baron-Sawtooth Lake Trail to Baron Lakes and circle back to Redfish Lake from there, instead of going all the way around and up from Grand Jean. It wasn’t a decision either of us necessarily wanted to do, but we felt it was necessary.
It continued to rain and storm the entire evening. We woke up early the next morning to get on
the trail so that we wouldn’t get caught in another midafternoon downpour. We were glad we
did, first of all because even though the rain had cooled the temperatures down that morning they began to rise steadily before noon. But secondly, because that day of hiking would turn
out to be one of our favorites, and we had it all to ourselves for several hours.
The views leaving Sawtooth Lake were some of the most spectacular. The two unnamed lakes behind Sawtooth were unexpectedly stunning. Then, as we descended down the trail Moolack Peak popped out from behind the trees and we stood in its glory, just mystified by how an object so tall could be hidden for so long from view until just the right moment.
It was in that reflection I remembered why I loved backpacking and hiking so much. There are some truly remarkable places in the world and you have to be willing to go out of your way to see the most special. That was really how this entire trip had felt. I felt eternally grateful that we both have a love for finding those spots that many people will never see in their lives, just because of the sheer will it takes to get to them. We are also both incredibly lucky to have our health and each other. We overlooked the valley below us and started our descent to Moolack Creek, simply awestruck how vast the forest below us seemed.
When we arrived at Moolack Creek a few hours later we stripped our packs off and enjoyed a
lunch in the shade before removing our clothes and taking a wonderful freezing cold dip into
the small rushing creek. We felt refreshed and recharged after the frigid plunge, so we
decided to keep hiking a few miles to knock off some of the incline we would have the next day.
We got about three or four miles up the Redfish Creek-Baron Creek trail before a few raindrops fell on our faces. Within minutes of the first drops, fortunately, arrived at a beautiful campsite. We set up, threw our bear bag up in a tree, and were settled in right as the rain rolled into the valley.
We woke the next morning with fog still clinging to the nearby peaks and ate our breakfast in a chilly gray setting. Based off our maps we were afraid we would have a tough day of climbing up to the lake, but instead we found the wet and bushy trail easier than some of the other days. The only bad thing was that our boots and pants became soaked by the rain still clinging to the thick low lying underbrush.
This valley seemed so different from the others. My husband said it reminded him of a
scene from Jurassic Park with all the thick ferns and fog surrounding us. He was just waiting for a raptor to pop out and scare us.
We arrived at Baron Lake around 11am without another soul in sight. We couldn’t believe it. We knew this was a popular area for day hikers, backpackers, and horse trail riders alike. Somehow we timed it perfectly where the campers from the night before had already left and the groups for today hadn’t arrived yet. The rain and gloomy weather could have also held off some people, but regardless of the reasons we were so fortunate to enjoy this peaceful lake
The clouds were looming in the air but there was no wind. The reflections of the mountains onto the water were a clear duplication. It was overall my favorite place on the trip
because I had never witnessed the stillness of water like that in an alpine lake. Usually they are so windy.
We ate our fish packs and fruit snacks for lunch, before strapping back in and climbing over the pass to the other Baron Lake and down towards Redfish Lake Creek. The two and a half miles to our campsite felt like the longest miles of my life. Maybe because my feet were wet and the switchbacks were steep and unrelenting, but the entire time I couldn’t wait to arrive at our final campsite and be off the trail for the day.
We finally arrived and found a spot in the crowded creekside area and cooked a hefty
dinner under the thick tree canopy while the rain came pouring down. We played a few rounds
of cards in the shelter of our tent while discussing the experiences we had over the past five
We intended to do a day hike up to The Temple the next day, but when we woke up the fog and mist were still lingering around and our boots were still wet from the day before. We decided to scratch our plans and go ahead and leave the backcountry completely to try and catch a boat ferry at Redfish Lake back to our car. It wasn’t a decision we made light-heartedly but we felt it was going to be the most rewarding and safest.
It only took us an hour and a half to hike the quick four miles to the inlet of Redfish Lake. We
timed it miraculously. Just as a boat was getting ready to pull away we heard, “Hey! Do you all need a ride?” and we quickly jumped aboard.
We rode the ferry back with a sweet family we had met the day before. We shared our stories about dodging the rain and the places we camped, before we fell silent and just enjoyed the luxury of riding on a boat and not hiking the five miles around the lake.
My husband and I held hands and looked back at the shoreline from where we had come, not
quite ready to be back in the “real world” but feeling so proud and accomplished of what we
had done the last six days.
We have never done this many miles and spent this many nights in the backcountry. Even
though the trip didn’t go exactly as we had mapped it out, I felt so grateful to have been able to walk through that wilderness with him and now, as we sat on this boat, I looked forward to our next steps into marriage, excited to see what our future holds for us.
If we can handle the stress, pain, and difficulties we went through on the trail we can make it
through a lot of things life will throw at us. We learned how to support each other both mentally and physically, how to nourish each other, and how important it is to protect the other. But mainly, we fell back in love with each other and our adventurous spirits.
See other places we went in Idaho while on our honeymoon road trip below:
The Bryce Canyon Country parks and protected lands are home to hoodoos (which cannot be found in any other National Park), ancient petroglyphs, dinosaur bones, and thick, wooded forests. There are nearly endless exploration opportunities between the monuments. In fact, the last named mountain and river in America are in these remote areas of the country.
See all the areas Bryce Canyon Country covers here: https://www.brycecanyoncountry.com/
Because of their remote nature, Bryce Canyon only sees around 2.5 million annual visitors, Capitol Reef only hosts around 1.5 million, while not even one million visit Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument every year. Their lack of popularity compared to the nearby Grand Canyon means a much less crowded and possibly less stressful experience for visitors.
There are so many different ways to see Bryce Canyon Country depending on the kinds of activities you like to do or the activities you’re open to trying. You could spend a lifetime exploring this area like John Weseley Powell did, but most people usually only have a few days or a weekend to spare. Here are a few must see attractions and things to do during your journey through Bryce Canyon Country:
On both their two and three hour tour, the guide will share information about how the hoodoos were formed, the bristlecone pines that carpet the floor, and the cowboy legends that have rode through the canyon walls. Not only is it a stunning ride, it is so much more fun to be riding a horse than hiking down then back up the steep canyon trails.
It’s always important to know that even though the bottom of the canyon can be up to 20-degrees hotter, you should wear long pants to prevent rubbing as you ride and you should secure all hats before departure. No bags of any kind are allowed on the tours.
Reserve a horse to take you through Bryce Canyon National Park on their website here: https://www.canyonrides.com/
Make sure to read and sign all of the waivers before arriving, or Rick will not take you out if you have not come prepared and dressed. You must wear long shorts or pants; leggings are not recommended due to tearing, long sleeves can be necessary, and sturdy hiking shoes are an absolute must!
If you are ready to go on an extremely different but rewarding adventure, reserve a day with Expeditions of Escalante here: https://www.excursionsofescalante.com/
An easy way to explore the wonders around Bryce Canyon Country is by ATV or UTV (side-by-side). With Grand Staircase ATV’s Justin and Bree Shakespeare, you can either drive your own four-wheeler or have them show you around on theirs. Regardless, they will share their knowledge of the area and take you to all of their favorite places.
Bree and Justin have been guiding tours for almost 20 years, and both grew up in the small town of Tropic. They truly know the ins and outs of the monument, the public lands, and Bryce Canyon National Park. They have miles and miles of trails they can take you through on one of their one-day expeditions, or you can get adventurous and take a three-day trip that includes lodging and all your meals.
Cover some ground and see as much of Bryce Canyon Country as you can on a customized tour with Grand Staircase ATV here: https://www.grandstaircaseatv.com/
There is so much to do and see in Bryce Canyon Country. It can feel overwhelming while planning a trip. Don’t feel like you have to squeeze it all in, because honestly, you will never truly see it all. No one ever has. With this seemingly endless beauty, history, mystery, and good people, Bryce Canyon Country is a guaranteed great time. When considering a trip to Southern Utah or Northern Arizona, you would be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t consider visiting Bryce Canyon Country.
Read more guides on how to plan a trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, and Capitol Reef National Park below:
The town of Roswell has completely embraced this story. Every storefront, piece of graffiti, and sidewalk is riddled with pictures of little green beings or UFO landings. It is incredibly fun to walk explore.
Here are things you can do to get the most “alien encounters” out of a trip to Roswell:
International UFO Museum
Take a Tour
Try to locate the crash site
Other interesting, but not alien-related things to do close to Roswell:
Atlas Missile Silos
Walker Aviation Museum
The Trinity Site
White Sands National Park
Indiana Dunes National Park is America’s newest National Park. Joining the ranks as the 63rd park across the country, it was designated in 2019 with much debate. It is located only an hour and a half from Chicago and just on the other side of the railroad tracks from Gary, Indiana.
The area was already preserved under the designation of a state park, and the banks of Lake Michigan were classified as a national seashore, but the federal government stepped in and expanded the existing protections for the incredible biodiversity of plants and animals that call this area home.
We did the “The Three Loop Trail” which connects The Long Lake, West Beach, and Dune Succession Trails in a 3.5-mile loop that leads right to a beach on Lake Michigan. We had very low expectations for the park after reading all the mixed reviews online, but we were blown away by the wildflowers and wildlife we encountered on the trail.
Long Lake itself is more of a swamp, at least, it was when we visited in June. It was a vast marsh filled with lily pads and cranes situated along the train tracks. While we were checking it out from an overlook, a freight train passed by killing the serene, peaceful feelings we had looking out over the landscape. Even though it disturbed the serenity of the park, it reminded me why these natural habitats are well worth protecting.
After walking through the trails of The West Beach area, I realized why this place was so important to protect. If we don’t stop and look around us, many of these places will be destroyed if we don’t stand up for them.
Indiana Dunes National Park is a treasure to many, and we thoroughly enjoyed our short time here. I applaud the National Park System for standing up and stepping in to protect areas like this all across our beautiful nation. If not for them, who would?
Tulum, Mexico, was my dream destination for my bachelorette party, and it exceeded all of my hopes and expectations in every way imaginable. The girls I went with made the trip even more special by planning theme nights, coordinating outfits, and decorating our Airbnb with affectations out the wazoo.
- Travel from Cancun to Tulum
- We arranged transportation from the Cancun Airport with USA Transfers. It’s a 2 hour drive to Tulum, so we were very glad the ride came with a bottle of tequila and a six pack of beer!
- Dinner at our Airbnb
- Read more about Casa Cosmo Tulum in its own post here. We were welcomed with drinks and a four-course meal to get our weekend started right.
Get more details, opinions, and planning tips in my full “Guide to Tulum”, here - where I also share some places we didn’t quite make in our short time in Mexico.
Read more here!
See more about Tulum, Mexico:
Having my bachelorette party in Tulum had been a dream of mine for years possibly even before getting engaged. John and I have been dating over 8 years before getting engaged, so I have been thinking about these things for a while.
I was finally able to take a group of my closest girlfriends in January of 2023, and Tulum was everything I had hoped it would be and even went above and beyond my wildest dreams.
Overall, I could not have asked for a better weekend in the Mexico sun. Here is what we planned, a few tips and tricks, and a couple of additional places I wish we could have made it to but just couldn’t squeeze in during our short weekend vacation.
Getting to Tulum
I had arranged for a shuttle to pick us up and drive us to Tulum. I didn’t know how expensive or difficult calling taxis would be from the airport, and I was very happy with my decision to book both ways, because it made things so easy with our luggage. I will say that we could have easily found a ride, because there were lots of companies offering at the airport, but I have no idea what their costs would have been.
The best part about booking in advance with USA Transfers was that I was able to add on a package to have a bottle of tequila and a six pack of beer waiting for us in the van! That helped ease the small bit of stress we encountered finding the ride and get the party started!
For the return, a driver met us right outside our Airbnb to get us back to the airport. He was even 20 minutes early to make sure we got loaded up in plenty of time for the first girl’s flight home. It was perfect!
*Note* that there are no Ubers or Lyfts in Tulum, so taxis are the only other option. Drivers can charge whatever they want, so be forewarned that you can be up charged while trying to get a ride especially if you have had some drinks. It could be late at night, and you may not understand the peso to dollar conversion rate as well as you do early in the day.
Things to Do During The Day
There are several different places to tour in Tulum’s Archeological Zone and south along the beach. We also could have toured Chicen Itza, one of the wonders of the world, outside of Cancun before our flights, but we just really didn’t plan to squeeze this into our itinerary. We will just have to save these ancient cities for another trip!
Where to Eat
We reserved one of the larger nests which comes at a hefty price of $700, but it was completely worth the price to check this place off my bucket list. We also had a minimum of $150 per person for food and drinks. At the end of the meal, the price for the reservation of the table was taken off the final tab, and we each spent just a bit over our minimum not including tip.
Funky Burrito Garden
This alleyway restaurant is crazy! We were the only patrons in the restaurant when we went, and the servers went all out to show us a good time. They brought us round after round of shots, hookahs, and were pulling us onto the bar to dance with them by the end of the meal. It was a dance party with dinner on the side.
The food wasn’t anything to remember, but the service and experience sure were. The food was inexpensive, the drinks kept flowing, and we all left very happy to have found this funky little place!
I was very excited to see this gorgeous estate, but wasn’t too bummed when we changed our plans. It is a bit pricey, so it helped us save money by not going!
Fortunately, the club wasn’t terribly crowded or rowdy when we were there. This was both a pro and a con, but we were a touch hungover from the night before, so it was nice to not have blaring music and tons of people around. We had ourselves a nice, secluded spot and could get as wild as we wanted without feeling forced. I have seen photos and videos on their Instagram when the place gets lit for certain DJs or events.
Check out their website, here, to see their schedule of events, hotel room pricing, and to make a reservation.
Our trip to Tulum was honestly too short. There was still so much I wanted to explore and see, but overall, what we did and where we went was perfect. I have no complaints or regrets although my bank account was hurting after the trip, but that was expected. Tulum is a magical place, and I hope to come back to explore it and more of the Yucatan Peninsula!
Read more of my Tulum detailed guides below:
Telluride is annually voted as one of Colorado’s most beautiful mountain towns. It is set in the heart of The San Juan Mountains with a picture-perfect backdrop of stunning, snowcapped peaks.
There are many things to do in Telluride in any season. Each month features different festivals, outdoor activities, and unique places to visit.
Before diving into the list, there are a few things to note:
Secondly, Telluride is very far from Denver. It is nearly a 7-hour drive from The Denver International Airport, and weather conditions can make this drive even longer. (You can fly directly into Telluride or make it a shorter trip from Grand Junction or Durango’s regional airports.) It is a mountain town, so please make sure you have a proper car if visiting in the winter and obey Colorado’s traction laws before embarking on your journey. Read those 4WD and chain laws here!
Where to stay:
*If you plan to stay in a van, NO overnight parking is allowed downtown. Do not attempt to sleep in your car on any streets within city limits. You WILL be ticketed!
- The Hotel Telluride
- If you are looking for a very nice, 4-star hotel, The Hotel Telluride is the perfect place for you! Located right in town, The Hotel Telluride is walking distance from all the restaurants, bars, and shopping your heart could ever desire, and it’s just a few blocks from the gondola that will take you up the mountains for sightseeing, skiing, or mountain biking. The hotel has a great restaurant inside plus hot tubs and a bar for all the après activities you crave.
- I stayed on Friday, December 2nd, and my rate was $350. Book a night for yourself at The Hotel Telluride here: thehoteltelluride.com
- The Bivvi Hostel
- For the cheaper, money-saving option, I recommend The Bivvi Hostel! I had never stayed in a hostel before, and The Hostel Bivvi made me feel so safe and comfortable. I stayed in a six-person bunk room but only ended up having one roommate. Each person receives their own locker, ear plugs, and towel.
- Read more about my stay at The Bivvi Hostel here!
- My bed in a six-person bunk room was $55, and a private room started at $120. See what kind of room fits your needs here: www.thebivvi-telluride.com
And finally, things to do In Telluride by season:
Hike to Bridal Veil Falls
- Climb a Fourteener
- Telluride is surrounded by mountains. If you are an experienced hiker and looking for more of a challenge, hike a “14er” like Mount Sneffels. Make sure you are prepared for the weather, check trail conditions, and are well-adjusted to high altitude. Hikes like these are no joke, but very rewarding.
- Watch more from Mount Sneffels and other nearby 14ers here.
- Attend a Music Festival
- Every summer, Telluride builds an incredible outdoor stage for festivals like The Ride Fest and Telluride Bluegrass. The red rock background of the nearby mountains is remarkable. If you can get tickets for a show here, I cannot recommend it enough.
- We attended The Ride Fest in summer of 2019. See more from that amazing Widespread Panic concert here.
- Ride the gondola
- The gondola service in Telluride is free and my favorite way to get around town. The gondola will take you from downtown up to the mountains and to The Mountain Village. It is always free, and when the fall foliage changes, these cars above the trees give you the best views of the town period.
- Take a scenic drive or go off-roading
- If you have a vehicle with 4WD and high clearance, take a ride up a mountain pass like Black Bear or Imogen Passes, and you can visit some other nearby towns by the most scenic routes. Get to places like Ouray or Silverton, but beware. These are some of the most dangerous off-road trails in the state. Hire a guide, or go with someone knowledgeable. These roads are nothing to underestimate!
- Fire Festival
- Try Ice Climbing in nearby Ouray
- This is something I have never done, but I really want to! Ice Climbing looks like an incredibly fun sport, and every year, Ouray hosts an entire festival and competition around it. Ouray is less than an hour away from Telluride and absolutely worth the drive.
- See when the festival is taking place this year here: www.ourayicepark.com/ouray-ice-festival
- When you watch my video below, you might not think I would still recommend skiing, but it’s impossible for me not to. It is the main attraction in Telluride! Plus, I have many friends who swear Telluride is their favorite place in the world to ski. I just do not recommend going in December. January through March are the prime times to ski here.
- Also be warned that it is expensive! If you plan to ski more than 3 days, look into getting an Epic Pass to be able to ski Telluride and other resorts across the world for the same price as Telluride day passes.
- Watch more from my failure of a day in Telluride here.
I hope this guide helps you plan a trip to Telluride no matter when you visit. It is an amazing town full of wonderful people and beautiful scenery with a plethora of activites and scenery.
See other places I recommend visiting in Colorado:
Las Vegas has never quite appealed to me. I am not a big gambler, and I don’t like to spend money in general, so expensive clubs, bottle service, and ritzy clothing just don’t call my name.
I had always put Vegas off as a wild place to save for a fun adventure like a bachelorette party or somewhere to go with a large party, but when my parents said they wanted to take us for our first time, we couldn’t pass up the invitation!
After spending four days in "Sin City", here are a few places we feel that for first time visitors to Las Vegas must see, things you shouldn’t do, and a few things we wish we’d had time to do!
It turned out that every single person in line was waiting to get a straight on shot, but you can just walk right around them and take pictures from the side of the sign! We took probably 50 photos if not more and were in and out in less than 15 minutes. No line at all!
The ARIA Resort & Casino
*This is an affiliate link, The Traveling Tacos will receive a commission with bookings*
As I mentioned earlier, gambling isn’t my thing, but it is a fun time to be around people who are willing to spend some money and get invested into the game. Especially when that person is your dad and the game is a Wheel of Fortune slot machine. I must’ve watched him nearly hit the jackpot a dozen times. It was fun, but luckily it didn’t last long!
At this point, we were exhausted from all the walking and decided that we needed to turn it around and walk back to The ARIA before our feet fell off.
We ordered some lunch platters, a few cocktails, and my sister even ordered a poolside massage! It was a very relaxing, stress-free day beating the heat in luxury at The ARIA.
Old Las Vegas isn’t quite what it used to be. The glamor and glitz have been taken over by street performers and cheap tourists looking for loose slots and dollar tables. It was nowhere near what we expected.
We didn’t stay as long as we thought we would at all. We didn’t feel very safe after being accosted a few times, so we left Fremont Street and grabbed a quick bite at Evel Pie.
We decided we would stick to one place on our second night. Our feet were sore from the night before, so we stuck to The Venetian. John and my sister learned how to play craps, and they walked away with a few hundred dollars each. It was so fun to watch them hoot and holler while the dice rolled back and forth. It was the best way we could have spent an evening.
Like I mentioned earlier, we had to attend a seminar at The Hilton Grand Vacations to get our three nights for $99. We attended the sales presentation then parked our very tired behinds at the pool. We enjoyed the slower paced day and eventually got ready for dinner that evening.
This was another steal. For only $38 each, we were able to eat all the bone marrow, crab legs, pancakes, desserts, lox bagels, and steaks we could handle. It was unreal, and we gorged ourselves.
We could not have found a better final stop in Las Vegas.
- We planned to go to Area15 after Wicked Spoon but spent too much time enjoying the food and never made it over to this immersive virtual reality space.
- After Biwon, we had planned to go see the retired neon signs at the Neon Museum, but instead, we hung out at The Nerd and never made it to this nighttime showcase.
- I wanted to visit night clubs like Omnia or XS, but we chose to spend time at the casino instead!
- John really wanted to go to Battlefield Las Vegas and shoot some crazy guns. We didn’t have the time nor the money to really enjoy this excursion.
We had the most incredible introduction to Las Vegas, and we cannot wait to come back and explore more of what this incredibly vibrant city has to offer us. We only saw the parts most tourists see. On our next trip, we will find some places off the beaten path!
This area of Utah and Colorado called “Dinosaurland” is one of the most fascinating, untapped, geologic meccas in The United States if not the world.
I call it untapped, first, because one of the country’s largest oil reserves sits under the shale in this area and is completely untouched. Then, the dinosaur fossils around and near Dinosaur National Monument are only partially discovered. In fact, they have found so many that they stopped digging for new bones; they are currently overwhelmed with the amount of data!
More than half of Dinosaur National Monument is only accessible by raft. I was unbelievably fortunate to have been able to join one of the few charters that gets to enter The Gates of Lodore each day.
Back in Vernal:
When we arrived back in Vernal, Utah, I checked into The Dino Inn. I highly recommend this motel during any Dinosaurland adventure especially the day your river expedition ends. Trust me; you will be tired.
The Dino Inn is conveniently located near the heart of Vernal. It’s within walking distance to restaurants, coffee shops, and the rodeo when it’s in town (read more below).
The Vernal Dinosaur Roundup Rodeo:
For the Fourth of July, the town shuts down its downtown to assemble stages for bands and tents and tables for local vendors. It's a true hometown throwdown!
Every year on the second full weekend of July, Vernal hosts its annual rodeo, The Dinosaur Roundup Rodeo. In 2022, that weekend was conveniently right after The Fourth of July, so the town stayed buzzing. The rodeo is a classic show with bull riding, barrel racing, calf roping, and all the pageantry you could imagine - rodeo clowns included.
Blind Frog Ranch has had “other-worldly” things happen here, but the tour guide from BFR said himself, “Skinwalker Ranch is like the dark energy, and this is more healing”. I wanted the darkness. I was prepared for crazy government conspiracies and wacky stuff, but got a very calm tour much more based around the Discovery+ Television show instead.
I started at The Wall of Bones and worked my way through the Utah side stopping at every scenic viewpoint along the roadside. Then, I circled back into Colorado to enter from the other side of Dinosaur National Monument to hike at Harpers Corner.
I ended this trip feeling amazing, inquisitive, and sheerly dumbfounded. I had never felt like this about another place. Dinosaurland, USA, you stole my heart. I will be back to do some more exploring. You can count on that!
Social media is such a blessing and a curse. Most people who frequent the outdoors know that places are getting more and more crowded, and it’s harder to find places to truly be alone.
This is all because social media has shown us just how truly incredible our planet is, and people are able to highlight and locate some spectacular places.
Utah is full of these incredibly epic, scenic spots.
Here is how we did it:
Thursday evening, we drove from Denver down to Hanksville, Utah, searching for the “Blue Hills”. We arrived right before sunset not knowing where we were really going other than to look for some crazy colored rocks.
These “Blue Hills” are actually called The Bentonite Hills. Bentonite is a type of clay that forms from volcanic ash layering upon itself. That’s what makes the hills so colorful and rainbow-like.
This was at the end of the dirt road where we saw The Bentonite Hills. When we pulled up, we were greeted by a nice but slightly confused man. He explained that this is an active dinosaur excavation site and that he was waiting on the rest of his crew. He showed us a few things that they had recently dug up including a dinosaur joint and a petrified tree. Then, he let us know we were free to walk around, because this is all public lands.
With the very limited knowledge we had of digging dinosaur bones, we walked around this massive, dried up river for hours hoping to luckily find something. Sadly, we did not, but it was still really cool.
We drove as close as we could to Factory Butte and flew our drone where we couldn’t drive. This place featured a bizarre and barren pit at the foot of the Butte. It was actually a big motocross track! It was super cool.
We found even more rainbow colored cliffs, a nice beach area along a shallow creek, and trails upon trails heading into the canyons.
We were not prepared to spend days and days exploring here like some people who passed on dune buggies and ATVs were. Instead, we just flew our drone for a little bit and cooled off in the creek with our dog.
Getting to White Pocket required a long drive down a sandy and windy road. There were multiple signs warning about vehicles needing 4X4 and high-clearance. We thought my Jeep Cherokee was built for it, but the clearance just wasn’t enough.
We got stuck in the sand in the middle of the night. We tried multiple ways to get it out for hours, but decided to just set up camp and wait for help in the morning.
We were rescued by a nice passerby and decided we needed to turn around and not continue down the road.
Sadly, White Pocket will have to wait for another trip.
Next Attempted Stop: The Wave
Learn more about what is required to see The Wave on the recreation.gov website, here!
Next Failed Stop: White Ghost Hoodoo
This was another place whose Google Maps location in the GPS was different from the trailhead, and they were over an hour apart from one another.
When we awoke the next morning back in the city, we both had the weird feeling in our stomachs that we were back in the “real world” and how special our time alone in the desert had been.
Hopefully, our next trip will be just as secluded and even more successful than this one.
Read my other Utah road trip guides here:
Los Angeles, California, is home to Hollywood, movie stars, beaches, and mountains. It’s one of the most popular cities in America, and there is so much to do.
There are so many famous places to see and trendy places to try. It can seem overwhelming to figure out what to do in a short amount of time.
My parents recently moved outside LA, to Orange County, and I frequently fly “home” for weekend visits. Here are a few things I have done during quick trips out to California:
Visit One of California's Oldest Areas -
San Juan Capistrano is a spot often overlooked by many tourists. It is a bit out of the center of Los Angeles and Hollywood located in Dana Point, but it is well worth a visit.
It is home to the oldest incorporated street in the state, Los Rios Street, which is arguably one of the cutest streets in L.A. too!
Spend a Day in Hollywood -
Some of the most famous landmarks in Los Angeles are in Hollywood. You can spend days and days exploring here and only scratch the surface of movie, music, and celebrity memorabilia. All the most touristy things can be squeezed into one busy day.
There are plenty of great beaches to visit in Los Angeles, and this is not a complete list, but these are ones I've visited that I enjoyed:
Plan a really special dinner and splurge on some of the highest quality meals you might ever enjoy at these places. There are always trendy new spots popping up, but these ones have been around for years, so I feel I can recommend them without issue:
- La Brisas, Laguna Beach - Sit right near the water and enjoy some California dishes with a Mexican twist. Reservations are highly recommended especially for outdoor seating!
- Mastro’s, Newport Beach and Costa Mesa - My parents frequent this restaurant for business trips and family celebrations. It is an upscale steakhouse where they frequently see Real Housewives and saw Kim Kardashian once! Reservations can be made on their website here.
If you are looking for a quick road trip from L.A., check out my guide “48-hours in Palm Springs and Joshua Tree” for a fun desert adventure!
Checkout my other California Guides below:
Palm Springs, California, the man-made desert oasis built for movie stars and Hollywood producers, was the perfect place for a mom and daughter trip when I was visiting my family in Los Angeles.
On a Monday morning in mid-June, we loaded up the car and set out eastward from L.A. bound for a girly two days of sightseeing, poolside sitting, and desert exploring.
Where to Stay in Palm Springs: (read more here!)
The Saguaro Hotel came up many times during our quick search for “Best Pool”, “Best Places to go on a Girls Trip / Bachelorette”, and “Best Restaurants”.
We quickly found availability online and booked a weeknight stay for only $200. For Palm Springs, at the last minute, it was pretty reasonable.
Where to Eat in Palm Springs:
In the Saguaro Hotel, there is a great Mexican restaurant, El Jefe. We ordered food from there and had it delivered to us poolside. Later that night, we ordered late night tacos as well!
Make a reservation here!
We did not go here, but it was highly recommended to us. Its rooftop looks amazing and the drinks look delicious. It’s on the list for next time for sure!
See what I mean here!
Another place we couldn’t fit in was Bootlegger Tiki. It looked like the cutest happy hour spot with a nice, light menu and bright, colorful cocktails.
Checkout their menu here!
Things To Do During The Day:
There was an extreme heat wave in the summer of 2021, but on average in the summer, Palm Springs gets freaking HOT.
We should have planned to be inside during the mid-afternoon instead of walking around, but we planned our trip focusing on locations instead of weather. We didn’t get to quite as much stuff done as we planned.
Hours: Monday - Friday 10 am - 8 pm, Saturday & Sunday 8 am - 8 pm
Recommendation: Go during the heat of the day, The top of the tram is sometimes 20 degrees cooler than the desert below! This means it gets chilly in the morning.
We wandered in and out of shop after shop on the main street of Palm Springs. It was so fun looking at all the brightly colored clothing and high fashion stores!
Saw Marilyn Monroe
Right in front of the Palm Springs Art Museum is a brand new statue of Marilyn Monroe. We walked over to see her just two days after the unveiling! We sadly didn’t get to go inside the Art Museum, because it’s closed on Mondays.
Cost: Free to see Marilyn, $6 - $14 to enter the Art Museum
Swam in the Pool
Palm Springs has the highest concentration of man-made pools in the entire USA! I recommend finding a hotel that has one, so you can cool off during the late afternoon.
It was so hot when we were in Palm Springs that all we really did the second half of the afternoon was sit poolside at The Saguaro Hotel. We drank frozen cocktails, listened to the DJ play, and floated on the giant inflatables.
One thing we wanted to do was visit the Robolights Exhibit. It is a quirky art installation by artist Kenny Irwin.
Appointments are required to enter due to COVID-19. Please check his facebook page for contact info!
One thing Palm Springs is really famous for is its architecture. It has a very distinct, modern style of white, sleek houses with colorful accents around their straight lines. The style comes from when the town was booming during the 50’s-70’s.
We could have explored town to just view the beautiful designs, but we wanted to get information from a guide who could share details about the designers and owners of the homes. We especially wanted to learn about celebrities', like Frank Sinatra’s, estates and stories!
Other Things We Did in the Area:
Find The Noah Purifoy Desert Art Museum
The town of Joshua Tree is an extremely eclectic art town. Out in the middle of the desert, outside of what they call the town, is The Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Museum of Assemblage Structure. It truly encapsulated the bizarre spirit of Joshua Tree and even features a toilet throne!
As mentioned before, Palm Springs was built for movie stars and Hollywood producers, because a slew of western films were filmed out near Joshua Tree.
Pioneertown was built for The Silver Screen and to be the set of movies and tv shows for decades. It’s not really used for filming anymore, but you can still walk around the famous, old set that was graced by western actors like Roy Rogers, Bob Nolan, and Gene Autry.
Take a Selfie with a T-Rex
The last thing I recommend doing during your road trip is stopping by the giant dinosaurs in Cabazon on your way home. They have been deemed the largest concrete dinosaurs in the world and are recognized as some of the most famous roadside attractions in the world.
Featured in movies like Pee Wee Herman’s Big Adventure and The Wizard, the Cabazon Dinosaurs are a must-see attraction.
The festivities didn’t end after the coffin races and polar plunges concluded. There were concerts into the night and festivities occurring all around town.
Events continued Sunday too with activities like frozen-hand fix-a-flat where competitors soaked their hands in ice water for 60 seconds then tried to change bike tires, frozen t-shirt contests, and many, many more concerts.
The festival takes place in March every year and be sure to check out their website for the announcement of next year’s dates.
You won’t want to miss this!
Checkout these other Colorado festivals:
Things to do during the day:
Take a tour! As I’ve mentioned, New Orleans has a fascinating history. It is full of voodoo, hauntings, fires, and pirates. Learn from the best historians about what makes New Orleans, New Orleans! Whether you want something scary and haunted or something diving deeper into history, or even about the food or art culture of New Orleans, there is a tour for everyone!
Where to eat:
NOLA PoBoy - For a traditional PoBoy sandwich this is a great shop right on Bourbon Street. A poboy is a sandwich made on a baguette with usually friend seafood, a remoulade sauce, and some greens on it. They are delicious and all over the south. You can get a good one for cheap at this pretty decent hole-in-the-wall restaurant.
Find it on Google Maps, here!
Lucy’s Retired Surfer’s Bar and Restaurant - This fun bar serves some of the best brunch in town! Sip on some strong cocktails while enjoying a good egg skillet inside this cozy little shack.
SoBu - For a nicer sit-down dinner I recommend the hip-creole restaurant inside The W Hotel, Sobu. This sleek spot serves a modern take on classic cajun fares like cracklins, gumbo, and meat pies – and if you ask they will serve you Hooch in a gigantic foot-tall flask!
Book a reservation here.
Where to go at night:
- Saints and Sinners – Channing Tatum owns this fun two-story nightclub
- Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar – this is the oldest operating bar in the COUNTRY. It has a deep history of pirating and debauchery, and the city-saving owner is believed to still haunt the bar. I recommend visiting during the day or as part of your ghost tour to learn all about it!
If you like live music then Frenchmen’s Street is your area. Nearly every bar in this area has live music almost every night. This isn’t as wild as Bourbon Street, but in my opinion a way more fun time. Check out The Spotted Cat for jazz music, Café Negril for Reggaeton vibes, and Adolfo’s for some of the best Italian and creole dishes in the area!
Go gambling! If the thrill of New Orleans hasn’t been enough for you yet, try your luck at Harrah’s Casino at the end of Canal Street. Get a drink, win some money, and stay late becuase the casinos never really seem to close here!
Learn more about Harrah’s Casino, here!
This is by no means a complete list of things to-do, but just a launching point for those who know nothing about Nawlins. I hope this guide helps you plan a successful, fulfilling trip!
Enjoy and Laissez Les Temps Bon Rouler!
Checkout my guides for other U.S. Cities below:
Check out Ski Cooper's website here and Copper Mountain's here!
Checkout these other places to visit in Colorado:
The History of Ski Joring:
The sport of ski joring was brought to Leadville by two locals looking to jazz up the town’s winter festival. They had driven up to Steamboat Springs for the Winter Carnival hoping to get some ideas. The two came back after witnessing ski joring as a mode of transportation and decided to make it into a competitive sport.
The Growth of the Sport:
Leadville has had its ski joring festival since 1949, and dozens of competitors register every year. Skiers, horses, and riders came from across the country for the return of this year’s festival. This year, over 50 people competed in the various events throughout the two days of competition.
Different categories of competition include an open division and a sport division awarding competitors for hitting jumps, collecting rings, and staying within the route’s boundaries. Competition moved quickly rotating through skiers and horses all day Saturday and Sunday.
Read about other things to do in Leadville year-round!
Living in Denver gives me many opportunities to see truly incredible places near home, and Estes Park, where Rocky Mountain National Park is located, is one of those magical places. Sadly, I don’t come here enough, but when I do, it is a special occasion.
Know Before You Go:
Permits can be purchased, here: https://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/timed-entry-permit-system.htm
Permits go on sale a month before and sell out quickly. Do not panic!
They release HUNDREDS of permits at 5 p.m. the night before and it is still very easy to get it.
Also, if you enter before 5 a.m. or after 6 p.m. there is no permit required. Please note there is always permits required for any camping or over night stays in the park!
Summer Vs. Winter
To handle the influx of people in the summer, there are more visitors centers and restrooms open, and the towns are bustling with people and open shops. It's a plus and minus to have people and operating businesses, but its nice when you are with other tourists just bumping around!
Things really pick up after Memorial Day and stay busy through August. I personally like May (if you are okay with the chill!)
Driving Around The Park:
I recommend starting from Estes Park and working over towards Grand Lake, or even turning around at The Alpine Visitors Center or at the winter gate of Highway 34. There is a lot more to do near Estes Park, and as of 2020 the wildfires have really closed off the western park of the park.
Hikes I Have Been On Inside The Park:
It was a stunning and steep hike up, but the frozen lake at the top was well worth the confusion and difficult walk! The only thing to note is that the squirrels and marmots are relentless up there and will steal your snacks. Don't be like us and have your food stolen while you're taking pictures!
My next venture into the park was in the summertime and it was a totally different experience than my first time. This time, there were no snowshoes or heavy coats involved, because it was hot--very hot--and buggy, but yet we still encountered the snow and had to hike across it at some points! It was a wild experience and the views were just jaw-droppingly beautiful.
It would be winter again before I returned to the park. Again, I was hiking to a lake, but this time a friend and I went ice skating at Loch Lake! I met up with my good friend Natalie, and we were both prepared for cold temperatures, but we were not expecting the wild storm that greeted us at the trailhead!
See more from Colorado's other National Parks on my "Parks Page"
- Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park
- Great Sand Dunes National Park
- Mesa Verde National Park
The Four Pass Loop is a 26-mile roundtrip hike that entails almost 8,000 feet of elevation gain, passes two lakes, three “14’ers”, and is one of the most scenic places in the entire state of Colorado.
We completed the loop the first weekend of August 2021, and it took us four days and three nights to make it all the way around.
We decided to start our hike from Crested Butte instead of the more traditional route from Aspen, because coming from Maroon Lake near Aspen requires a parking permit or a shuttle ride up to the trailhead.
We really didn’t want to do either, so we decided to add a few extra miles and start form The West Maroon Trailhead outside of Crested Butte.
Day One: West Maroon TH over Frigid Air Pass
(Miles 0 - 7.5)
We could tell things would be a bit different from here on out. The trail became more rocky, and the color of the rocks changed to a deep red. Everything was different than the West Maroon trail we had been on earlier. We could see miles ahead to where we needed to go, but it was gradual, so it wasn’t too daunting.
Frigid Air Pass:
Frigid Air Pass wasn’t the most difficult, but none of the four passes would be easy. I didn’t know this yet. At this point, my friends had gotten quite a far distance ahead of me. I could still see them, but they were pretty much at the top of the pass while I was taking a break and just about ready to start from the bottom.
We had plenty of time before the sun went down to cook dinner, set up our tents, and sit around the campfire for a little while!
Day Two: Trailrider Pass to Snowmass Lake
(Miles 7.5 -15)
We got a bit of a later start than anticipated, and were ready to go at 9 a.m. Our second day on the trail would be all-around wonderful. The trail was fairly gradual at the start, and we had plenty of time to prepare ourselves for the steepness of the second pass.
Just like the day before, my friends got way ahead of me hiking up the trail. They, again, were waiting for me at the top of the pass. This time, we could see down onto Snowmass Lake when we hiked over the pass, and it was remarkable.
I couldn’t believe how different the view was from this pass compared to the last. As beautiful as the view was, I didn’t sit there to enjoy it long. I knew we would continue to have the view for the entire hike down the mountain’s face, so we quickly started hiking again.
Where the trip took a turn...
I walked down to Snowmass Lake right as the sun was starting to set. I probably had about 20 or 30 minutes before the sun went behind the mountains. It gave me enough time to cook dinner, filter water, and find a campsite.
Snowmass Lake requires camping in designated areas which made finding a place to camp a bit difficult. Luckily, a nice group made room for me and my friend who had not yet arrived.
Day Three: Buckskin Pass to Crater Lake
(Miles 15 - 24)
Our alarms went off at 5:00 a.m. sharp, and we were instantly up and moving. We wanted to meet up with the couple camping one and a half miles down the trail before they took off, so we were hiking by 6:30.
We hit the trail without any breakfast to rush to our friends, and this lead to a not-so-great morning.
The first portion of our day was a climb over Buckskin Pass. This was another 2,000 foot climb in less than two miles. It was incredibly difficult. This part of the trail was the most difficult for me. I struggled very much. I cannot deny that I wanted to quit.
I lost my mental stronghold...
I made it over the pass and felt great by the time I reached the top. It felt like I could keep hiking the rest of the day, so I did not give up. I did not quit, and I kept pushing to Crater Lake after a nice, long stop.
My one girlfriend, who I had met at Snowmass Lake the night before, hiked out and took the shuttle. That was always her plan. She only joined for the one night, because she lives in the area and can do the rest of the trail any other time.
We said goodbye, and the couple and I kept going around the lake. Although I was feeling great, this turned out to be another rough portion of our trip.
We took a wrong turn...
When we made it back down, we regrouped and established a goal that we would try to reach to make camp. My friends went on ahead at their much faster pace, and I planned to meet them there.
When I got to the point on the map where I was supposed to meet my friends, nearly an hour after I had last seen them, I started calling out their names, and they came running. They had just found camp and were coming down the trail to help me. We embraced and quickly unloaded my gear at camp. We ate, hung our bear bags, and went to bed before 8:00 p.m.
Day Four: West Maroon Pass to Crested Butte
This last morning, we woke up with a completely different attitude than we’d had on any other day, because we only had a few miles to go. Plus, we knew what the second half of the trail held in store for us. We packed up, quickly made it up the valley in which we were camping, and approached West Maroon Pass.
It was an emotional journey. The last few miles back to my car felt like a blur. I couldn’t stop thinking about how humbled I felt to be trekking by myself and rounding out the last few miles of a 30 mile hike.
When I arrived back at the trailhead, I cried some more.
Most were tears of happiness and disbelief, but I was also sad, because my friends had driven into town.
See more from my other backpacking trips:
Camping inside The Great Sand Dunes National Park
My First Solo Backpacking Trip in Medicine Bow, Wyoming
John and I have had the incredible pleasure of traveling to Ireland twice now. The first time we came to Ireland, we celebrated New Year’s Eve 2017. Our second time, we visited in July of 2021 for a wedding.
Neither trips were centered around exploring Dublin, but we made the most of our short time in the beautiful capital city on both trips.
Here are some places we recommend:
To get an even older look into Irish culture, you can see one of the country’s most prized possessions. The Book of Kells was written circa 800 AD and is now held inside Trinity College in Dublin. The Book of Kells is an elaborate transcript of the first four gospels of the New Testament of The Bible: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. This book dates back to 800 AD. It is intricately crafted and beautiful to see. It really gives a good look into the importance of the Catholic Church in Ireland.
This church was built in 1095, and because of its natural construction, has managed to preserve the dead bodies stored inside. The mummies date back over 800 years. We tried to visit on our last trip, but the church closes for lunch from 12-2 in the summer, so we missed them!
Another thing we missed was The National Leprechaun Museum, because they are closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. This museum was highly recommended by a local who said, “the museum makes you feel like you yourself are a leprechaun, and that everything around you is gigantic!”
Read about the other places we recommend visiting in Ireland:
Things to do in County Kerry
Killarney National Park
Ireland is one of the most magical countries in the world. Not only is it full of friendly people and a rich cultural history, but it’s also absolutely beautiful with lush green rolling hills, ancient forests, and jagged coastline.
The luck of the Irish is truly with those who call this place home and the special ones who get to visit.
Though while you are in Dublin, there are some places you should visit (in alphabetical order):
Discover one of Ireland’s Crown Jewels, the 25,000 acre preserve of Killarney National Park. We took a horse drawn carriage ride through the park on a beautiful summer afternoon to see the Muckross House and Torc Waterfall.
- Cliffs of Moher and Galway
- Jameson Distillery in Dublin
- Skellig Islands - This former monastery was the filming location for Star Wars The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.
- Northern Ireland - Though this is technically an entirely different country, I really want to visit here to see The Giants Causeway, a natural rock formation that looks like stepping stones and stairs built for giants.
See more from our adventures around Ireland HERE:
Every summer, John and I enjoy taking one long trip across the United States to visit some place we have never been. Most of our summers have been spent together in the American Southwest, and the summer of 2021 was no different. This year, we took a road trip to Sedona, Arizona.
We have been to Arizona many times including most recently for Memorial Day to kayak the Colorado River, which you can read about here, but we have never been near Sedona. When my Aunt and Uncle informed me they would be there for vacation, we timed our annual road trip to tag along for a portion of their trip.
Where to Eat:
The only place we ate dinner out in Sedona was at Sound Bytes, a large music joint with a big patio and a great view! We chose it, because they didn’t have a wait, and it was recommended by a neighboring restaurant owner.
The food was better than expected, and the wait staff was a fun crew. We had a great meal taking in the stunning scenery around us.
Warning - Sedona is HOT!
I highly recommend that you check the weather and warnings every single day before going out. Not only is heat an issue, but when it does rain, flash floods are also a major concern. Not to mention wildfires which hindered our plan to take a dip in Owl Creek.
Sunrise at Airport Mesa Trail:
Our first morning in Sedona, we woke up as early as we could and tried to chase the sunrise at The Airport Mesa Loop Trail.
We left our rental home at 5:15, and the sun was just starting to peak out over the horizon. We hurried as quickly as we could to get onto the trail.
Overall, it was a wonderful morning for us to see all of the valley's towering formations we would be hiking throughout the week.
Again, we got up well before sunrise and started hiking Boynton Canyon before the heat of the day began. This time, we left before 5 AM and were starting The Boynton Canyon Trail in the rays of first light.
This was hands down our favorite hike of the trip. The view started incredibly and only improved the further in we went.
Our last morning in Sedona, we woke up well before sunrise again. We knew we had to go early to beat the crowds, because we had saved the most popular location for last.
We arrived at the Devil’s Bridge trailhead just before 5 AM and there were already a slew of cars in the parking lot. We quickly booked it up the trail to get to the bridge before the sun broke free from the mountains.
Slide Rock State Park:
We were so lucky to get into Slide Rock State Park in the late afternoon we went. This insanely popular swimming hole was understandably packed.
The rock formations here create natural slides and waterfalls, and the park is essentially a giant natural waterpark. We managed to walk away from most of the crowds of people, and discovered a sweet cliff-jumping spot.
We had so much fun!!
One evening we made one last stop at Crescent Moon Ranch to try to see the reflection of Cathedral Rock on the water.
This was a great spot to stand in the water and wade around while we took in the view. During the heat of the day it would have been the perfect place to take a dip.
Sedona is home to the world’s only McDonalds sign that cannot claim the famous “Golden Arches”. Instead, the arches on this worldwide chain location are turquoise blue because of a strict city ordinance on maintaining aesthetics.
We didn’t eat here, but it was definitely an interesting and quick stop!
Our house was near the Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park. We quickly walked the short trail to the temple and managed to explore before the sun went down.
While walking around the religious grounds, we learned about the Buddhist community in Sedona and Buddhism generally. Many triangular and colorful flags hung between trees, and a large infographic peaked our interest.
We appreciated the silence of the place, before heading home for a good night's sleep.
We walked around outside while a mass was being held inside, before we finally went in and saw the stunning crucifixion and stained glass windows.
We cannot wait to come back!
Over Memorial Day Weekend 2021, John and I traveled down to Page, Arizona to accompany our good friends on their annual Colorado River kayaking adventure.
We would spend two days kayaking from Glen Canyon Dam down to Lee's Ferry boat ramp, aka the start of The Grand Canyon, along a 15-mile stretch of The Colorado River.
Our friends reserved everything for us!
She reserved our backhaul with Steve Kelly from Kelly Outfitters and our kayak rentals through Kayak the Colorado. We had to arrange these beforehand because one, they fill up pretty fast, but two because no private boats are allowed up the river and three, you cannot get in from the dam!
Kassi knew all of these logistics and laid it all out for us before we left.
Before heading to Page, we also read up on both Kayak The Colorado and Kelly Outfitters’s webpages. We found Mr. Kelley’s article “Top 10 Backhauling Tips” extremely helpful. There was information on the water and route, fishing advice, and resource maps. We highly recommend reading both sites before booking a trip.
All we had to do was show up... at 6 a.m.
See the highlights from our trip in my video below!
We hopped in our kayaks, and away we went!
Fly fishing wasn't successful the first day.
The freezing cold water under our kayaks was crystal clear. Even though it was clear, it was a glowing, neon green from the thriving algae and plants below the surface. We could see fish weaving in and out of the tall grasses and we, right away, tried our hand at fly fishing. We didn’t have any success the first day, but the second day was an entirely different story!
We camped at the Ferry Swells Campground.
We pulled our kayaks out of the water and setup near a fire ring in the campground. We spent the rest of the daylight hours exploring up, down, and around the canyon cliffs. When the sun set, we headed back down to start a campfire and have dinner.
Fly fishing success.
Hiked to Waterhole Canyon.
I flipped my kayak and we had to stop...
I was the only one to flip all weekend, but luckily, I was in shallow water. I stood up and walked to shore, and nothing was lost! It was scary for a second, but once I gathered my wits, everything was fine. We were nearing the end of the trip, so once the weather calmed down, we were able to paddle onward and get off the river within an hour or so.
Good thing my brand new iPhone 12 was in my Stash 7 Waterpocket. It protected it during my fall, and let me kept taking pictures afterwards! Thanks for the great gear Stash 7!
Read more from our other trips to nearby places:
With Colorado’s springtime in bloom and it's summer on the way, Taylor and I took our first weekend fishing trip of the season to Salida, Colorado.
Unlike our usual tent-camping arrangements, we were able to camp luxuriously thanks to Kuku Campers. We took one of their Class C-Lux, a Mercedes Sprinter van, to try to catch a famous-among-anglers insect hatch.
Picked up our van!
We drove to the Kuku Campers Denver location to pick up our rental. After meeting the Kuku staff, we signed the necessary paperwork, inspected the vehicle, and took a tour of its features. Neither of us were familiar with Mercedes Sprinter vans, but the Kuku staff showed us every little detail.
Found a campsite!
Once we’d arrived, we wasted no time getting ready for bed. We quickly discovered that the lower level sleeper would be preferable to the top bunk sleeping platform. We began dismantling the dining table and setting up the bed.
Our first night in the Kuku Camper Van was much more comfortable and restful than either of us expected it to be. We actually slept in for a while after sunrise because of the van’s sleeping curtains.
Made stops in Salida.
First thing, we visited a fly shop in Salida to purchase some necessary fly fishing gear. Then, we stopped at Steam Coffee Caboose for a hot drink to enjoy as we scoured the area for the perfect fishing spot.
Went fly fishing!
After scoping out several spots, we found the Mount Ouray State Wildlife Area by chance, and it was perfect. We spent most of the day wading in the river, trying different flies, and watching kayaks and rafts float down river. We didn’t have much luck fishing, but any time on the water is time well spent.
Made lunch in the van.
In the mid-afternoon, it seemed like a storm might be rolling in, so Taylor and I packed up our gear and walked back to the van. In the parking lot, Taylor used the kitchen amenities of the Kuku Camper to make lunch.
Got ice cream downtown.
We eventually packed up and drove the campervan into downtown Salida. The town was buzzing with the Saturday evening crowd and live music. Taylor and I couldn’t resist having ice cream and a shake from Salida Pharmacy & Fountain, and it only made our walk about town more enjoyable.
Soon after finishing our treats, we headed back to the van to drive to our campsite once again.
Stargazed around the campfire.
We’ve been to Canon City to ride the Royal Gorge Route Railway Train and to visit the Royal Gorge Bridge Park, but this time, we only stopped for breakfast.
We dropped into the Happy Endings Caboose Cafe and couldn’t have had a better meal or a happier ending to our weekend in the mountains.
Monday / Return Day:
Moab, Utah, is a very popular place for very good reason. This desert playground is home to the world's highest concentration of natural arch formations and is one of the most geologically stunning places in the country.
Moab is also home to two national parks, Arches and Canyonlands National Parks . Which see millions of visitors every year.
We traveled down to Moab for the first weekend of May, 2021. We met up with some friends who have been dozens of times before and really knew some of the best places around town. We followed their lead, discovered some places of our own, and had one of the best weekend trips yet!
Tip #1: Visit public lands - like Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Land
It was not only easy to camp near our car. It was also spectacularly scenic. We didn't know what the view was like until morning, but we were blown away when we stepped out of our tent.
When the road near our campsite got too popular for our liking, we drove out and found some hidden hiking spots not far from our campsite.
Tip #2: Have a plan, and don’t be afraid to break it
Normally, John and I have big plans for the places we visit, but this weekend, we really tried to stay open and flexible to whatever the group wanted to do. That didn’t last long. It turned out that everyone else was pretty well set on what they wanted to do, so groups broke off, and John and I found ourselves adventuring alone!
While looking on Google Maps, I noticed a few interesting stops along our route, so I made John pull over every time I saw the name of something I recognized. This was,. hands-down, the best way we could have explored.
Thanks to the maps, we found petroglyphs and a hidden, massive arch near our campsite on BLM land. Then, closer to Corona Arch, we found dinosaur tracks and more rock art in the Poison Spider / Potash Road area.
Tip #3: Don’t be afraid to ask!
John and I saw a spot on the map that intrigued us, but we couldn’t find any information about the trail’s length, how long it took to get there, or its difficulty.
We pulled into the small parking spot and started talking to another couple who was parked and packing their day packs.
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Thank goodness we stopped and talked to the couple, because this was our favorite place we visited on our trip. It was an absolute oasis in the middle of the desert.
Tip #4: If you want to preplan a hike, go for the most difficult rated trail - most others won’t!
If you want to pre-plan a hike and you are trying to avoid crowds, I recommend choosing the more difficult, less traveled path.
This advice might not be the best if you can’t actually handle a difficult hike, but we found some of the trails weren’t as difficult as their rating made it seem.
Be warned that Moab is in a desert, so most hikes are hot, sun-scorched, and waterless. Not all hikes are suited for dogs or unprepared people. If the heat is a concern, tip #5 might help!
Tip #5: Hike at weird times and on off days
Hiking at sunrise and sunset are always the most beautiful times to be out in the desert anyway, and most people either haven’t woken up or are worn out from the sun. Plus, in the Utah hiking at early or late hours can be the safest and coolest way to explore the rock formations and canyons.
Check out my other guides to Utah:
My parents have always dreamed of celebrating Christmas like “The Kranks” and skipping the holiday fuss by going on vacation instead. Finally, in 2020, their "Christmas with The Kranks" dream became a reality.
We booked flights to spend the week leading up to the holidays in Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i and were unbelievably excited for our vacation to start.
Before we left, we were tested for COVID-19 by a trusted Hawaiian partner testing location . We had to take a very particular test, within a 72-hour timeframe, and upload it to a specific website in order to get onto the island. It was an entirely new process to all of us and honestly, we struggled a little bit through all of the confusion.
You can see exactly what the process was like in my YouTube video below.
Where we stayed:
Our hosts turned out to be amazing too! Every night, they gave us recommendations for things to do in the area. Without them, we would have missed out on many incredible things!
Day One, Thursday: Downtown Kona and Kua Bay
First we checked out the Kona Farmers Market to get some breakfast and fresh produce for the week!
The market was located downtown off the Main Street in Kailua-Kona, Ali’i Drive.
We picked up some star fruit, apple bananas, rambutans, mangoes, and several other fruits. Then, we grabbed coffee from Papa Kona and sat on the beach to enjoy our fresh breakfast.
We got there around 10 a.m. and were immediately in love. The little white-sand beach was beautifully strewn with stark, black volcanic rocks. We claimed a private spot with an outcove into the water and laid down our stuff right away. We ran into the water and couldn’t stay out of it the entire day.
Day two, Friday: Petroglyphs and Snorkeling with Manta Rays
Puakō Petroglyph Park -
To start the day, we drove over to Puakō Petroglyph Park and walked the trail marveling, questioning, and admiring the carved images. It was amazing to learn about the people who seemed ancient but lived only hundreds of years ago. When we had seen all that we could, we walked out and drove to our next stop, Queen’s Bath.
Queens Bath -
Queen’s Bath is a small, fresh water spring, tucked away right off the beach. We walked along a sandy trail for a few minutes before we found the secret little pool.
My mom really wanted to find it, yet I was the only one who got in! It was freezing cold, and full of little shrimps, but very, very cool to hop in and look around for a bit.
When we left we walked to the water and almost instantly discovered sea turtles swimming in the water!
It was incredible to see them in their natural habitat. The turtles would only be the first wildlife we saw that day, because that night, we had scheduled a night snorkeling excursion to see manta rays!
It didn’t take long, after we were in the water, for us to start seeing the humongous creatures.
I keep emphasizing their size because their wingspan can be up to 14 feet!!! Theses rays came so close that we were within, what our guides called, “licking distance” of them. It was CRAZY!
Day Three, Saturday: South Point, Green Sand Beach, and Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park
Before our day started, we downloaded an app called “Big Island Hawaii Gypsy Guide” to enjoy some educational audio while driving around.
This was one of the best decisions of our trip. The guide provided great information and told us where we should stop for good views, interesting information, and historical points.
South Point -
We only hung out here for a couple of minutes to take a few pictures and watch some cliff jumpers dive into the ocean. None of us were brave enough to take the plunge ourselves, and also we had other places to be! So we hopped back in the car and drove to our next nearby destination.
Not far from South Point is Papakōlea, and it's Green Sand Beach. This was on my dad's list of places to see so we really planned our day around here. We planned to spend most of the afternoon on this, almost, one of a kind, beach.
We had been advised to hire a driver instead of walking the exposed four-miles-long road, so we did just that and paid $20 per person for a round trip ride to the volcanic crater.
Punalu’u Bakery and Black Sand Beach -
When we were done at Papakōlea, we rode back out and drove ourselves towards a different colored beach! First though, we made a quick stop at Punalu’u Bakery. This is the southernmost bakery in the U.S. and their malasada came highly recommended!
We arrived at Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park and sadly realized we did not plan things correctly. We arrived just before sunset, and it was already starting to get dark. Plus, it was so foggy that we couldn’t see a darn thing.
Day four, Sunday: Back to Kua Bay with a Luau at Night
We had booked a luau at the famous Umeke’s Restaurant. We got dolled up and ready to go have a fun, traditional Hawaiian night!
The luau told many stories about the surrounding mountains and where the people and the land of Hawai’i came from. It was very interesting, and the food was great!
Day Five, Monday: Snorkeling at Two Step in Captain Cook
After we took it all in, we eventually moseyed down toward the beach and got ready to walk around Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park to learn all about Two Step before snorkeling in it.
It was beautiful and so interesting to learn about!
It is called “two step”, because the volcanic shelf literally makes two steps into the ocean! It makes it a perfect place to snorkel especially for beginners - and it was by far the best place we snorkeled on the island!
Check out my YouTube video below to see just how incredible the entire area truly is and read my article "The Best Snorkeling Spots on The Big Island", here!
Day Six, Tuesday: Chasing Waterfalls in Hilo & Back to Volcanoes!
We got to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park just before sunset, and it was perfect timing. As the sun set, the glow from the lava started to show, and it was the most incredible thing I had seen.
Even though we weren’t close and couldn’t actually see any lava, it was one of the unique sights I may ever see.
Day Seven, Wednesday: Kua Bay, again, before Heading Home
We spent our final day in our own little paradise swimming, snorkeling, and soaking in the sunshine. Eventually, we had to make our way to the airport to catch our overnight flight home.
We sat on the plane rehashing all we had done over the course of the week, and we just couldn’t believe how incredible the entire vacation had been.
We decided that we might consider having a Mele Kalikimaka in Hawaii every year!
Read these other related Hawai'i blog posts:
Where We Stayed In Kona, Hawai'i
Snorkeling Spots On The Big Island
Talkin' 'bout Tacos:
I'm Taylor, aka Tacos! I am sharing my journeys and experiences from across the world hoping to inspire travel and adventure in all who read.