When I found out that The Great Sand Dunes National Park was only three hours away from Denver, I immediately made plans to go. I have to give another shoutout to the Women Who Hike Colorado page for the inspiration and for helping me find a new travel buddy (and her pup)!
Our weekend started Friday after work when both of us drove south from Denver. The drive is a short four hours! We had planned to camp at Zapata Falls, but the road was terribly washed out from the recent snow melt. It was a blessing in disguise, because we found a wonderful Bureau of Land Management spot at the base of Mount Blanca. It featured a fire ring and a gorgeous view!
We woke up from a chilly night, enjoyed breakfast around our campfire, and decided to attempt the drive up to Zapata Falls. Good thing we did! The road wasn’t as intimidating in the daylight, but the entire four mile drive to the trailhead was very bumpy and rocky. What lay at the end of that bumpy road was worth every questionable turn we made.
Zapata Falls, in the middle of March, was a frozen masterpiece. The half-mile trail and the views surrounding the Sangre de Cristos mountains were covered in a light layer of snow. It made us feel like we were wandering into a true winter wonderlan, but none of this magical hike compared to the sheer beauty of the falls themselves.
The falls are hidden inside of a small slot canyon. Luckily, in the winter, you don't have to wade through water to see them. Instead, you have to carefully walk across and climb up the ice to see its shimmering sculptures.
We had the falls all to ourselves for about 30-minutes, so we took our time taking pictures and peering at the gushing water that could be see through holes in the ice. When we were done, other groups started to show up, and we decided it was the perfect time to head to the Great Dunes!
Our first stop inside the park was the visitor’s center to try to obtain backcountry camping passes. Sadly, since we had her puppy with us, we weren’t able to camp among the dunes. Dogs are allowed in the backcountry, at any time, but they are not allowed to 'sleep or stay overnight'. Weird, right?) The ranger did give us great advice on how to get up the dunes easily.
When we parked our car at the trailhead, it was snowing hard. We could barely see the dunes, which were only 300 yards away. We debated if we'd be crazy to go out there, but we bundled up and hit the sand.
Within five minutes of walking through the whipping and snowy wind, the sun started to shine and the clouds parted. We walked along the base of the dunes as flatly as we could before heading up the ridge.
We could not believe the views for the entire hike. Not only were the dunes themselves impeccable, but the 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains made the landscape that much more stunning, and the views only got better the more we climbed.
By the time we started to climb the dunes, we both had to strip off a few layers, because we had gotten so hot. Walking up the sand was not easy! For every three steps I took, I'd slide back one. Luckily, the melted snow made the sand a little sticky and made the hike a little easier than it normally would be!
We couldn't tell you our path really. We just tried to not change elevation too often and did it gradually when we had to. There are no trails or markers in the sand, so it will be up to you to find the easiest way up.
We reached the peak of the dune that we had chosen to climb, and we were rewarded with unreal views of the vast park. The dunes went on for as far as our eyes could see. It looked like they went right up to the base of the mountains. It was incredible, and we sat and stared for a few moments. The temperature had dropped, and the wind had picked up at the top of the dunes, so we didn't stay long.
The trek down the dune was much easier than the journey up. In fact, we ran and rolled down half the hill laughing and acting like children. It was wonderful.
When we reached the car, we decided to go back to the same campsite as the night before and get our campsite set up before dusk. It was already around 5:30, and we were exhausted from the long and exhilarating day.
We built a bonfire, roasted weenies, and made s'mores with the stunning views of Mount Blanca in the background. We sat around and made summer plans to climb the looming 14'er and camp in the dunes. Before calling it a night, we both agreed that today had been perfect. From the timing of the weather to the things were able to see, it had all fallen into place perfectly. We both went to bed with big smiles on our faces giddy to get back already!
It is so weird to look back and realize that it has already been three years since I took my senior spring break trip to Breckenridge. Now, my little sister is a freshman in college, and she decided to spend her spring break week with my parents visiting me in my new home in Colorado!
We started our week together by meeting up in Colorado Springs bright and early Sunday morning at The Broadmoor’s Seven Falls parking lot. We said our hellos, hoped on the bus, bought our tickets, and set off on our wonderful week together! Starting at Seven Falls was a great idea, because the park was practically empty, but it did mean that it was still a little icy and chilly.
The hike started with The Pillars of Hercules's epic orange slot canyons. It's just short of a mile to the falls, but it took us quite a while to walk while we were taking pictures and gawking at the massive rock formations. We followed the South Cheyenne Creek to the end of the hike where a platform with a little gift shop, restaurant, and, of course, the falls were waiting for us.
Overall, it's a short hike, but you might end up walking quite far depending on how many flights of stairs you climb or which trails you take at the top. We chose to climb the stairs leading to The Eagle’s Nest, because the other stairwell was very icy. After 224 steep steps up, we made it to the overlook to take in the panoramic views of the falls and the incredible Pillars of Hercules that surround it.
Most of the falls were frozen, but we could still hear water gushing under the tunnels of ice that were hiding it. It was stunning to see, and the views were great, but we were very chilly at that height. We decided to head back down the stairs and the trail toward the car after only about five minutes at the top.
When we got to the car, we decided that our next stop would be The Garden of the Gods before heading into town. It was a 15 minute drive from the Broadmoor to The Garden of The Gods. We drove through the park stopping along Ridge Road to take pictures at every viewpoint or pull off available.
We, mystified by the vibrant red rocks, spent a couple of hours stopping and walking through the park. We all wished that we had gotten there earlier to do a hike and grab a parking spot so that we could have spent longer exploring around.
After my sister and I got an up-close and personal experience with some Mule Deer, we were ready to see what else Colorado Springs had to offer. Our next stop was a tour of The Air Force Academy from a family friend and current cadet.
We met him at The Cadet Chapel at the front of campus to start. It was the easiest building to find and meet at, and it’s pretty famous for its stained glass, so we wanted to be sure that we saw this first.
After the chapel, we wandered clockwise around the large courtyard that surrounds the Air Garden and the Spirit Hill in the middle of campus. Our first stop was Arnold Hall. We then attempted to get into the library and a few similar buildings with no luck, since it was Sunday.
We drove over to the sports facilities to see the lacrosse, baseball, softball, soccer, and rugby fields. We parked and walked inside to see some of the training facilities and wrapped up by driving to the overlook above the fields. It was a great view to end the wonderful day we had enjoyed together.
The next day, my family woke up early to visit the town of Golden and see my sister’s friend who attends the Colorado School of Mines. After grabbing breakfast and strolling through the shops, they stopped by Red Rocks Amphitheater on the way back to Denver.
Later on, we all met up and were ready to go to a Denver Avalanche hockey game at the Pepsi Center. My family loves sporting events, so we had a blast together getting rowdy at the game and hoping for a good fight!
Unforeseen in our plans was a “bomb cyclone blizzard” that was set to hit Colorado Wednesday and drop feet of snow. My family had to be flexible and cancel their plans in Breckenridge which was difficult, but it led to two days of board games, snuggles, and watching movies while we were snowed in.
Finally, the storm cleared up just in time for us to head north to Estes Park and check in at The Stanley Hotel. Before we dropped off our luggage, we decided to take the long route and drive through Rocky Mountain National Park.
We started at the Beaver Meadows Visitors Center and continued up Highway 36. Only certain roads are open during the winter months limiting where we could go, so we made a big loop on 34 heading toward the Fall River Visitor Center.
We stopped every with chance we had just as we had done at Garden of the Gods. We stopped for wildlife in the middle of the road, mountain views, a lake overlook, and other random stops along the way.
When we were out of the national park, we kept driving to Elkhorn Street and checked out the little downtown area. Every store had cute displays in the windows. Most were candy shops, so there were brightly colored, eye-catching arrangements everywhere we looked.
When we reached what looked like the end of the street, we decided to check out the Wapiti Colorado Pub. After filling our bellies with bison burgers and local brews, we finally went to check in and explore around The Stanley Hotel.
We, of course, went to the bar and ordered, “the hair of the dog that bit me,” (but actually ordered shining inspired cocktails and beers). We tried to get on a ghost tour, but they were unfortunately all booked up.
We still got to see where the haunted tunnels were and where a lot of celebrities had been, but we didn't see any ghosts or spirits during our stay.
We woke up the next morning to incredible views of the Rocky Mountains out our window and from the front steps of the hotel. It was the perfect view to have while saying our goodbyes to each other and the week we had spent together.
We parted ways hugging and planning when our next vacation will be. We are very excited to see what else Colorado has for us explore!
Steamboat Springs is one of Colorado’s many quaint and adorable ski towns. It is also home to the WinterWonderGrass music festival that John and I had been looking forward to since Christmas. I had heard nothing but great things about this little town, and, happily, it did not disappoint. Steamboat Springs and the WinterWonderGrass festival were actually more than I could have expected!
We arrived Friday night after a dark, snowy ride from Denver. We were just in time to catch that night’s headlining act, Railroad Earth. As soon as we found a place in the crowd, it started to snow. The stage lights hitting the flakes looked like confetti fluttering around us, and the backdrop of mountains made this scene even more magical.
When they wrapped up playing, one more act, Pixie and The Partygrass Boys, started playing on one of the smaller stages. We jammed out to a few hardcore hits like "Psycho Killer" before heading downtown to check out the nightlife.
We decided to go to the ‘Grass after Dark’ event hosted by WinterWonderGrass at Schmiggity’s. It featured the Jack Cloonan Band covering hit songs in a bluegrass fashion. We had a couple of beers and a few hot dogs while we danced around for the late-night tunes
Since ski towns are so popular this time of year, Airbnb’s and hotels can be expensive. We chose to take the less expensive option. We parked in The Routt National Forest and slept in my car camper. Park regulations state that campers’ vehicles must be two car-lengths away from the road. It didn’t take us too long to find a plowed parking space to back comfortably into. We pulled out our sleeping bags and called it a night.
Though we woke up stiff and chilly, the sleeping arrangement could have been much worse. Properly rated sleeping bags and lots of layers are a must. We were up early, so we decided to head into Steamboat Springs and find a bite to eat.
I had seen recommendations for Creekside Cafe on social media, so we popped in, luckily, before the morning crowd arrived. We enjoyed a hearty meal of waffles, bacon, eggs benedict, and espresso drinks with something extra from the bar. It was probably too much before skiing, but we had yet to rent gear or buy tickets. There was plenty of time to let it settle.
We walked down 11th Street to One Stop Ski Shop for our necessary rentals. It only cost us $25 each to get skis, boots, helmets, and poles for 24 hours. We loaded up all of gear and headed to legendary The Howelson Hill ski area.
We had stopped in earlier to see how much lift passes were. To our surprise, they were only $25. (Compare that to Steamboat Resort’s $199!) The face of Howelson Hill is dedicated to an intimidating black diamond run and the in-use competitive jumping area. The back side of the mountain is low grade, green and blue slopes that wrap around to the front. These slopes were perfect for John and I, since we are beginners. We took almost a dozen runs from 10:30 am to almost 4:00 pm!
It did wear us out, but we weren't going to let anything stop us from dancing our tails off that evening at the stages. We saw Town Mountain, The Shook Twins, and The California Honeydrops before the headliners, Trampled By Turtles. We tent hopped and boot stomped throughout the night, but we left before the final show with hot plans in mind.
We wanted to check out Strawberry Park Hot Springs and have a good soak before they closed the gates at 10:30 pm. We meandered around the different pools in the pitch black, trying to remain aware of other bathers. After almost two hours of being steeped in the piping hot water, we braved the cold and got out to find another place to sleep for the night. (Pictures taken the net day).
It turned out that our parking spot from the night before was only one half mile from the springs. After another chilly morning, we made our way downtown to a warm breakfast as soon as we could. We found solace in a diner called The Shack Cafe where we both scarfed down hearty egg breakfasts and large cups of coffee before we even started planning our day.
Since Routt National Forest and the hot springs are so close to Steamboat Springs, we decided to go back to get a few pictures and explore what we could of the forest. We stopped at one roadside pull off with a wonderful view and a friendly snowman. We decided to set up my recently purchased, compact table and enjoy the views.
We were eventually joined by another couple who was also in town for WinterWonderGrass. They gave us Klondike ice cream bars and went on to meet up with friends. It was a beautiful interaction and we decided to explore more of the forest after they’d left. We packed up and went up another snowy hill.
Little did we know, we were heading toward the Buffalo Pass Winter Backcountry Area. After parking, we grabbed a pass and took a stroll down the well-packed road. There are designated boundaries for motorized vehicles and non-motorized activities, but snowmobiling seemed to be the most popular hobby among visitors. John and I marveled at the pristine snow pack before making our way back to Steamboat for another night of strings.
Before we went to the festival, we stopped at a bar whose lights caught John’s eye. The Back Door Grill is a cozy, funky burger bar with annual awards. We had a quick beer, hot wings, and cajun fries to fuel up for the festival’s finale.
We were greeted by tunes from Picking on The Dead before Billy Strings blew our minds. A smaller set of Town Mountain gave us a chance to warm up with coffee drinks from the tent’s bar before the big headliners of the night, The Infamous Stringdusters. We snagged some pizza before the all-star, late night set, then we hit the road back to Denver.
Three hours and a few inches of snow later, we made it home safe and sound. We were exhausted, but we were in amazement at how incredible our weekend had just been. WinterWonderGrass is a great reason to get out to Steamboat Springs even if you aren’t sure about bluegrass music. Dancing to the rhythm of a stand up bass with hundreds of joyous people can only add to the charm and opportunities of Steamboat Springs.
Max Patch is an Appalachian Trail campsite located on the North Carolina and Tennessee border near Hot Springs, NC. Taylor and I set out one October weekend to camp atop the hill. After we hiked the quick half-mile to the top and set up our campsite, we spent Saturday relaxing and exploring the hill and surrounding area.
Tangled bushes were sprouting with delicate flowers everywhere we turned. Bees buzzed around the flowers while butterflies and moths bounced on the gentle breeze. Brave birds searched our campsite for singing crickets and camouflaged grasshoppers. Woolly worms inched through the same lush grasses where children and dogs frolicked.
I recommend bringing a pair of binoculars to properly appreciate the visible distance from atop Max Patch. Taylor and I counted the fading peaks and admired the many shades of green trees that blanketed every one.
As nightfall neared, the hilltop began to fill with tents and the clamor of campers. Taylor and I set up on the East side of the hill, but the greatest view was had on the West side when our glorious Sun set the sky ablaze.
Max Patch fell into darkness after the massive, glowing ball of fire disappeared behind the mountains. Columns of smoke rose from the campsites into a night sky that was just beginning to bud with brilliant stars, tinted planets, and entire galaxies.
Though Taylor and I are far from experienced with our telescope, Max Patch is a wonderful place to have one. We identified several constellations and marveled at the dust of the milky way. It is truly humbling to see the vast totality of our cosmic perspective.
Sunday morning, we woke up before dawn and began to gather our gear before the radiant, morning Sun cut through the clouds and fog. Everyone else around us started to wake and dozens of people gathered on our side of the mountain to watch the sun peak through the clouds for the first time that morning.
Taylor and I took one last walk around the top of Max Patch and found an unexpected sight. The lush, green valleys were overflowing with rivers of fog that looked undeniably similar to the glaciers we had recently visited in Iceland.
The spectacle of fog at dawn was a perfect way to end an already unbelievable weekend. Max Patch is nothing less than a patch of heaven in North Carolina, and it has inspired me to further explore more of the expansive Appalachian Mountains.
After a long day in Niagara Falls, we drove a quick couple of hours to Cuyahoga Valley National Park. We wish we could have camped in the park or taken the train around the park, but we only spent a few hours driving between viewpoints instead.
Our first stop was Bridal Veil Falls. It was a short but pretty walk from the parking lot to this little stream. The wooden walkway leads through the trees to a wooden bridge and viewing platform. The creek’s bedrock curves to create a waterfall that looks similar to a bride’s veil when the waters are flowing. There hadn’t been much rain when we were there, but it was still peaceful to sit and watch.
We didn’t stay long before we hopped back in the car to see the The Station Road Bridge. The old bridge over the Cuyahoga river was beautiful standing in contrast to the lush trees around it.
The view got even better when a bright red Scenic Railway train came rolling by. When the train stopped, a couple came kayaking down the river, and it became the most picture perfect scene for the national park.
Our last stop was the park’s most visited area, Brandywine Falls. It was another quick walk from the parking lot to the falls, and this time there were different paths we could take. We could have either stayed above the fall or gone to see it from a lower deck.
We chose to stay up above the falls first to get a closer look at the water and see just how fast it was falling. The 65 foot waterfall sends water down a rocky journey that creates choppy, white water along the rock wall before continuing toward the Cuyahoga River.
We followed the water downstream and walked back down the boardwalk to the stairs and lower deck. We admired the unique waterfall and took pictures of each other while discussing how beautiful the entire park had been.
We really wish we would’ve had more time to see the ledges and ride on the train at sunset, but our few hours will have to do until next time. I can’t wait to go back!
The summer of 2018 was a very special one. At the beginning of the summer, John and I were able to see dozens of waterfalls in Iceland, including Europe’s most powerful waterfall. I was then able to wrap up the summer by spending my Labor Day weekend at Niagara Falls, the most powerful waterfall in North America!
Like most of my trips, this one was decided at the very last minute. The trip wasn’t planned at the last minute, and I didn’t know about it until the weekend before we departed. We left Nashville around four p.m. on Friday heading to Columbus, Ohio and we arrived at our friend’s apartment around ten p.m. after a slow ride in the pouring rain.
I wish we could’ve stayed longer in this capital city, instead we woke up and were out of the door by nine a.m. Saturday morning leaving for Niagara Falls. I have to go back to check out the German Village and other cute areas.
We didn’t get to the falls until three p.m., but we parked the car to head straight to the Maid of the Mist. We had an absolute blast getting up close, personal, and soaking wet with all three of the waterfalls at Niagara.
We started with The American Falls, moved on to Bridal Veil Falls, then saw the main attraction, Horseshoe Falls. The Maid of the Mist was, by far, the best part of the weekend. (Click here to see more pictures and read more about our ride!)
After we changed our soaked shoes, we hoped in the car and headed to Canada. The Canadian side was much prettier than the American side. The view of the falls is better, but there are also grassy leisure areas and beautiful foliage all around.
We spent a few hours strolling the walkway around Victoria Park while watching the sun set. We then walked up the street and tried some beers at The Niagara Brewing Company before wrapping up the night watching fireworks over the falls.
We headed to our CouchSurfing host’s cabin about 10 miles from the falls. We crashed immediately after arriving, so that we could wake up early and drive back to Ohio for the next attraction on our road trip.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a wooded oasis outside of Cleveland, Ohio. We all wished we could’ve stayed long enough to hike and camp in this lush landscape, but we drove through the park and stopped at the notable viewpoints instead. Bridal Veil Falls, The Station Road Bridge, and Brandywine Falls are all stunning. We also saw the famous Cuyahoga Valley scenic railway and train!
We only spent a few hours in the park before heading to Cincinnati to watch the WEBN Labor Day fireworks show over the Ohio River. The next morning, we meandered back to Nashville, stopping at The Arc Encounter to see what the hype was all about.
We didn’t pay the hefty $50 fee to tour the recreation of the Biblical feat. We only walked around the outside of the massive boat and enjoyed the petting zoo. It was an incredible structure to see in person.
We finally made it back to Nashville, and that’s when it sunk in: We drove to Canada and back in one short weekend. It was quite the trip, and I am so happy to have gotten the last minute invitation. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything!
Iceland is an island of natural contrast. An ancient ocean gnaws at young land, water and ice carve through volcanic rock, and sprawling green-fields are shadowed by snow-capped peaks. I could not have imagined how stunning Iceland would be nor could I have anticipated the wonder it would inspire.
It is estimated that the first land to emerge in the place we know as Iceland did so 12-14 million years ago. This new surface would continue to grow in spite of the raging ocean around it. Jagged island spires, iconic detachments of rock, and heavily weathered cliff faces are all evidence of the ongoing oceanic attempt to subdue this mass of defiant land.
The struggle between rock and water can be seen inland as well. The country’s glaciers and rivers are antithetical to the volcanic rocks they inhabit. The masses of ice grind away layers of rock as the oldest ice is forced down along the slopes, and rivers of melt-water simultaneously shape steep cliffs and mountainsides at every turn. These landscaping forces eventually provide the life-sustaining freshwater streams that permeate Iceland’s lowland areas.
Sheep and shaggy Icelandic horses enjoy the resulting green-fields. The expanse of pastures separate small coastal towns and feature the occasional farm, church, or community. Virtually all of these lowlands exist at the feet of towering mountain ranges. These behemoths are summer sanctuaries for persisting snow, and they shine like beacons in the sky for travelers.
Taylor, her sister Kendall, and I saw all of this beauty as we drove and camped around Iceland’s ‘Ring Road’ or Route 1. The route more-or-less parallels Iceland’s shoreline and encircles a majority the country. We did venture off the Ring Road to explore the Snӕfellsnes Peninsula and find puffins in Borgarfjarðarhöfn. The entire trip took eight days and nearly 1,000 driving miles. Here’s how we did it:
Day One: We arrived at Keflavík Airport and took a cab to the Airbnb where we were staying. We then took the bus to Reykjavik to see Hallgrimskirkja Church, the Sun Voyager Structure, Harpa Concert hall, get hot dogs at Bajarins Beztu Pulsur, and have drinks at The Lebowski Bar.
Day Two: We picked up our Kuku Camper and went snorkeling at the continental divide at Silfra. We then drove to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and cooked dinner under a midnight sun before camping at the Hellissandur Campsite.
Day Three: We went to see Kirkjufellfoss before catching Iceland’s first World Cup game at Laki Hafnarkaffi. After a tie game, we explored around Berserkjahraun Lava Field, admired the horses at Vatnsdalur, and called it a night outside of Akureyri.
Day Four: We started the day on the North Coast by walking through Akureyri before checking out some of Europe’s most powerful waterfalls, Detifoss and Godafos. We then swam in Stóragjá and walked through the sulfuric acid fields of Hverir near Lake Mytavn.
Day Five: We drove off the Ring Road to Borgarfardarhöfn to see hundreds of puffins before following the shore down to the Saxa Sea Geysir. An unplanned detour to the Gallery of Frevilli in Djúpivogur was an awesome stop before got soaked attempting to take pictures at the Hvalnes Nature Reserve Beach. We warmed up with a good, hot meal from Hafnarbúdin before bedding down at the Haukafell Campground.
Day Six: On the East Coast we saw the greatness of the Vatnajokull Glacier first at the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and Diamond Beach, but later we climbed all over Svínafellsjökull - a tongue of this ice behemoth. We later hiked through Vatnajökulspjódgardur National Park to Svartifoss before calling it a night in the town of Vik.
Day Seven: We woke up early to see Reynisfjara’s black sand beach and its hexagonal basalt columns. We then hiked to the abandoned Solheimasandur plane wreck and went chasing waterfalls at Skogafoss, Gljúfrabúi, and Gullfoss. The famous Geysir on the Golden Circle was our entertainment for a long while before making it to Selfoss for the night.
Day Eight: We started off early with a Lave Tunnel Tour of Raufarhólshellir. We then hiked to Reykjadalur for a quick dip in the hot river before our late evening reservation at The Blue Lagoon. Our last campground of the trip was at the Hafnarfjödur site once we'd had a burger from Holtanesti.
Just like that, our trip was over. Eight days in the most spectacular and awe-inspiring country can never be adequately described by words, but we tried our best in the links for each region we visited, where we stayed and ate across the country, and the tours we took. You can see all of them on the Iceland Page!
Iceland is known as the land of fire and ice, and when a glacier melts, it creates a massive flow of water that tears through the ground beneath it. It seemed like there was a beautiful waterfall for us to see around every turn in Iceland. Some were big and powerful while others were tiny and unnamed. We only saw a small portion of the waterfalls across the country, but their beauty is still worth sharing.
Here are the waterfalls we saw, in order, while traveling the island on our eight-day road trip:
Our first day in the Kuku Camper took us to Pengvellir National Park where we snorkeled the continental divide and saw our first waterfall, Öxarárfoss. On our way around the ring road, we stopped at Pórufoss and Sjavarfoss before going to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula to see Kirkjufellfoss.
We continued across the country and saw Godafoss in the northern region near Lake Myvatn.
We continued on to Europe's most powerful waterfall, Detifoss. After a day of Glacier Hiking, we hiked up to Svartifoss. It was my favorite waterfall because of the basalt columns behind the gushing water.
Thanks to The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, we stopped at Skogafoss to get close to this lush, green waterfall. We were able to get much closer to John's favorite waterfall, Gljúfrabúi, after we waded through narrow canyon walls. Our last waterfall was Gullfoss and its accompanying rainbows that stretched down the river.
Iceland's rich landscape provides a great home for several different types of wildlife. We drove around the country for eight-days and were lucky to see the diversity of the country's landscape along with its wildlife. The lush countryside is full of farm animals like fluffy sheep and Icelandic horses. While the island's coast is full of birds, seals, and occasionally whales.
When we picked up our Kuku Camper, we were warned about the sheep. We were told they are a little suicidal and will jump in front of the car for no reason. Truthfully, when some sheep hear a car, they just start running. Sometimes that means they run in front of an oncoming car. We were also warned that if we hit one, we would have to pay the farmer €500, so we made sure to always keep an eye out for them.
Pinterest and friends who had visited Iceland told us that there Icelandic Horses are prominent as well. We stopped several times to see and pet the horses along the ring road, but it turned out that we didn't need to. Several of the campsites we stayed at had barns and stables on the premise!
Our first encounter with marine life was at Ytri Tunga Beach on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. We sat and watched roughly ten seals play in the cold Atlantic Water and relax on the beach. Alongside the seals were squawking seagulls fishing in the waves below.
Kendall, John, and I were treated to an unexpected penguin sighting in the Snæfellsjökull National Park. A crowd of professional and amateur photographers were taking pictures, and we had to see what had captured their attention. I tried to snap a few, but I didn't get any great pictures from that distance.
As as general rule, the northern region of Iceland provides a greater chance of seeing wildlife. There are less people and colder temperatures. It is the perfect summer nesting ground for Arctic foxes and puffins. The Arctic fox is an elusive animal and is difficult to find unless you're in the West Fjords. We did not go that far north but we did get to see one fox during our trip. It scurried across the road near the Saxhóll Crater around 1 AM.
We did get to see hundreds of puffins, though, in the northeast corner of the country. The cliffside of Borgarfardarhöfn is the summer nesting ground for thousands of pairs of puffins every year. We went on a cold, rainy day early in the morning and so we were some of the only ones on the viewing platform.
The last wildlife we saw in Iceland were a majestic couple of reindeer. We were not expecting to see any on our trip, then we spotted them on the side of the road. It really capped off an already great day outside of Vik.
We loved watching these animals interact in their natural environment and going in the summertime allowed us to see more animals than we were expecting. If you leave the city of Reykjavik, it will be impossible not to see some of Iceland's wonderful wildlife.
Iceland has some of the most interesting geology. From glaciers and volcanoes to black sand beaches, there is something different on every side of the country. During our eight-day trip around the outskirts of the country, we stopped at several beaches to see different wildlife and environments on every coast we visited.
Ytri Tunga was our first beach. We sat on the shores and watched seals play around in the crashing waves, while birds circled around overhead cawing and diving for fish.
Saxa Sea Geysir near Stöðvarfjörður was our next viewpoint of the Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunetly you must go at high tide to see the geysir in its full glory. We were not so lucky.
Hvalnes Nature Reserve Beach was one of our favorite places in Iceland. We had the black pebble beach to ourselves for what felt like hours. We chased the monstrous sneaker waves up and down the shoreline as we took pictures of all the bones, shells, and other interesting things they washed up.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and The Diamond Beach were unlike any other beach in Iceland and might be the only of it's kind in the world. Large chunks of the nearby Vatnajökull Glacier have broken off into the lagoon and washed ashore on the black sand beach.
Vik's Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach was our last beach in Iceland. The hexagonal basalt columns, along with its sea caves and nearby cliffs, make this one of the most interesting beaches to explore in Iceland.
When we started to head down the east coast of Iceland, we knew that our eight-day road trip was coming to an end. Our plan was to do the most popular regions at the end of our trip to avoid weekend crowds and maybe save the best for last. While the last few days of our adventure did not trump previous regions or experiences, we had a blast hiking across glaciers, playing on black sand beaches, and marveling at waterfalls.
Our trip down the east coast began with us waking up at the Haukafell Campground next to a 'tongue' of Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull. It excited us to see more of the glacier at Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, where large chunks of ice have broken off and washed ashore. These fragments give the appearance of, "diamonds on the beach." The contrast between the ice and black sand made The Diamond Beach the most unique beach we visited.
We got to see much more of the glacier on the Glacier Hike Tour that we booked through Troll Expeditions and Guide to Iceland. We spent 90 minutes learning about the glacier’s makeup while hiking around the top of 800 year old ice.
After the tour, we stayed inside Vatnajökulspjódgardur National Park to see Svartifoss. This was one of my favorite waterfalls because of the hexagonal columns that frame the flowing water. We cooked a late night dinner in the parking lot before making it to our campsite for the night.
The Eastern region may have been one of the smaller areas we explored, but it was definitely one of the most eventful and unique. It may be the only area in the world where you can hike on top of a glacier then, less than five miles away, hike through lush vegetation to a gushing waterfall.
There was no doubt in our minds, as we were driving south, that the Eastern region's popularity is well deserved. Little did we know, we were on our way to another region of Iceland deserving of similar popularity and renown.
We stayed at the Vik Campsite our first night in the Southern region so that we could get to Reynisfjara Beach as early in the morning as possible. Our plan worked, because we had the giant basalt columns and black sand beach to ourselves for a little while that morning.
Next to this marvelous beach is Dryhólaey Cliff. We checked it out quickly before hiking out to the Solheimasandur Plane Wreck. The wreckage was subject to our investigation for a long while, before we hiked back to continue our day in Vik.
Two quick stops off the Ring Road would conclude our time in the Vik area. Grandurinn Cave was a fun side stop, while the closed Eyjafjallajökull Volcano shop gave us a quick history of the local volcanic eruption in 2010. We continued southeast to hit some of Iceland’s most iconic waterfalls.
We saw the 'Walter Mitty Waterfall', Skógafoss, before visiting Seljalandsfoss and it’s hidden neighbor Gljúfrabúi. The rainbows over Gullfoss were a perfect icing on the proverbial waterfall cake. We ended an already jam-packed day with a different kind of water feature.
On the Golden Circle lies, Strokkur, a geyser that shoots water 30 meters in the air roughly every 10 minutes. It erupts more frequently and higher than Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park. It was very fun to sit and watch the geyser boil up and shoot steaming water right over our heads.
The next day we had an early morning reservation for a tour of Raufarhólshellir Lava Tunnel. We stepped back in time almost 5,000 years as we followed our tour guide into the tunnel. We spent roughly an hour inside the tunnel learning about the formation and current state of the tunnel. It was a very unique, intriguing experience.
After our tour, we grabbed a quick bite to eat and a warm cup of coffee from Kaffi Kraus. The good meal helped prepare us for our hike to Reykjadalur and the hot river. The hike was gorgeous, and we recommend that you set aside a few hours to really enjoy this spot. We hiked the hour-long route but didn't stay long once we'd arrived. We had a reservation at The Blue Lagoon and could not imagine missing it.
Even though our trip was coming to an end, we had big smiles on our faces as we left the the Southern region. We had planned our trip perfectly and saved an area jam-packed with gorgeous attractions and guided activities for last. We returned to the Capital region of Iceland with innumerable memories of natural splendor and joyous friendship.
The further north you go in Iceland, the more sparse the towns and people get. At the same time, the landscape becomes more beautiful and open. After a very busy few days on The Snæfellsnes Peninsula, we were ready to view the wildlife and geography that the northern region would offer.
We started our few days in the northern region in the town of Akureyi. The town has brightly colored buildings that pop in contrast to the mountains that surround them. The harbor had a cruise ship docked, so the streets were packed. We did not give this picturesque, little fishing town enough time. We just parked, walked straight to the church, and looked at a few of the surrounding streets. We were in a bit of a hurry to see as many things as possible that day.
Our next stop was Godafoss. Its turquoise waterfalls and mossy cliff faces makes it one of the prettiest waterfalls we saw on our trip. When we arrived, we stopped to take pictures on the bridge with a smaller waterfall in the background, but the real masterpiece is hidden behind massive canyon walls. We walked along the trail and were able to get much closer to the fall than initially expected. When we started to get a little wet from the mist, we called it quits and hopped back in our Kuku Camper to drive toward our next destination.
Lake Myvatn held an unexpected landscape. We started by seeing a grassy, green lake that was surrounded by hills that turned out to be craters. Then, we swam in a slot canyon grotto before visiting Mars on Earth in Hverir. It was the most diverse place on the Island we visited.
Close to the Lake Myvatn area is Viti Crater. We stopped for a quick picture, but the wind was blowing like crazy. We thought it would be safer to refrain from walking along the edge. It was a very cool spot that we wish we could’ve had more time to learn about and explore, but we had another waterfall to see.
Detifoss is Europe’s most powerful waterfall. It has 500 cubic meters of water falling over its 150 foot drop every second. We came in on the west side of the river where there is a nice pathway and viewing platform built. If you come in on the east, you can walk right up to the raging water. We were truly impressed with the overwhelming size of this waterfall.
We drove quite a long way off of the ring road to see puffins at our next stop in Borgarfardarhöfn. The hour or so journey up the mountain was narrow and gravelly but absolutely worth the pictures we got. You can see more of my pictures in our gallery, here.
When we got back on the Ring Road, we attempted to see the Saxa Sea Geysir, which actually isn't a geyser at all. It’s a rock formation that blasts water into the air. Unfortunately, we didn't go during high tide, so we had a hard time finding the formation. We think we saw it, but we don’t actually know if it was the correct place.
We continued down the coast and stopped in the town of Djúpivogur to see the Eggin í Gledivik sculptures.These sculptures of Iceland’s native bird eggs are very interesting, but we ended up stopping at The Gallery of Freevilli for the most interesting stop of our trip. We looked at the collections of gemstones, bone, and carvings while talking to the owner, before we hopped back in the car for another one of our favorite stops on the trip.
Hvalnes Nature Preserve was an unexpectedly fun and interesting shoreline. For almost an hour, we stumbled around on the black gravel beach, looked at the washed up shells and carcasses, and ran from sneaker waves. We laughed so hard at one another as we tried to run from the waves. It was our favorite beach on the trip if not our favorite spot overall.
After all of our excitement on the beach, we had worked up quite an appetite. We stopped in the 'langoustine capital of the north' Höfn in Hornafirði Fjord. We had some lobster rolls and deep fried hot dogs at Hafnarbúdin. After the great meal, we spent the last bit of our time in the northern region at our campsite in Haukafell.
Our two days in the northern region of Iceland were jam packed with things to do and places to see. We came across waterfalls, beautiful wildlife, and stunning landscapes, and delicious food. Though northern Iceland is not as popular as the southern region, there is no doubt in my mind that it is just as wonderful, diverse, and intriguing as any other region.
The Snӕfellsnes Peninsula is not on Iceland’s ring road, but it is well worth a detour. Taylor, Kendall, and I had planned to explore this peninsula from the first day of planning. Not only would we visit our first hot spring, we would visit our first Icelandic national park, see seals in the wild for the first time, and stand atop a volcanic crater for the first time.
Our first stop once was a small hot spring called Landbrotalaug. The wind cut cold, but steeping in the hot water could not have been more relaxing and comfortable. The spring can become crowded, but luckily we did not have to wait to hop in at 6:30 on a Friday evening. We could not spend too much time at the spring, but the short dip was an intoxicating experience.
Our next stop would be a quick trip to Ölkelduvatn or mineral spring to fill up our water bottles. The spring contains calcium, potassium, sodium, magnesium, iron, fluorine, chlorine, sulfate, bicarbonate, and carbon dioxide in astronomical amounts relative to ordinary drinking water. The water tastes like very strong carbonated water without the fizz. It is suggested that you leave 200 Icelandic krona (~$2) in a payment box for using the spring. Taylor and Kendall didn't necessarily care for the taste, but I was able to finish what we collected.
The Ytri Tunga beach is known for hosting its very own seal colony, and we had to stop to see if they were lounging on the shore. After parking, we walked westward along the beach to where a few more visitors had been enjoying the skeptical company of seven seals. The seals were a joy to watch although their playfulness would often be disrupted by glances to be sure that we hadn’t moved any closer. Chances are supposedly best to see the seals in June and July, and we were all glad to have made the stop.
Our plan was to stop for the night in Arnarstapi, but we were quickly informed that there were no spots available. Instead, we decided to view the Gatklettur rock arch and keep pushing onward toward Snӕfellsjökull National Park.
The next stop we made was at the Londrangar basalt cliffs where we were drawn to a group of photographers shooting a group of huddled penguins. Once we’d marveled at the unexpected sight of penguins and struggled to take pictures from the far distance, we had a quick parking lot meal and headed for the last stop of the evening.
One of the windiest stops of the entire trip, Saxhóll Crater was an uncomfortable but beautiful location. A short climb up a set of metal stairs around 1:30 AM took us to the very top of the crater where we could see the interior of the caldera and miles of the surrounding landscape. One of my favorite activities in Iceland was attempting to mentally simulate the history of each landscape we encountered, and this ancient lava spout was one of my favorites to try to wrap my head around.
Wrapping my head around the next attraction wasn’t as difficult, but the beauty of a waterfall and mountain combination is something special. Some of the most iconic Icelandic pictures frame Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellfoss. Kirkjufellfoss alone may not stand out among the many Icelandic waterfalls, but the two in concert are exemplary of Iceland’s beauty.
The final geological wonder we came to on the Snӕfellsnes Peninsula was the Berserkjahraun Lava Field. The remains of four local volcanoes blanket more than five square miles of area. Seemingly every inch of the once destructive lava flow now hosts a pale green moss. The incredibly soft moss seems to compensate for the jagged rocks that are its home.
A few of our most unique sights were complements of the Snӕfellsnes Peninsula, and the tour of Iceland would not have been the same without it. From hot springs to seals and an expanse of escaped magma, this detour is one full of wonder and beauty. A campsite may be few and far between at times, but a breathtaking view of our Earth’s magnificent features never were.
Our eight-day trip through the land of fire and ice started in the capital city of Reykjavik. Iceland is a country of only 300,000 people but its tourism industry is absolutely booming right now. As we wandered around the city on a Thursday afternoon, the streets were filled with people; and every store we went into was overflowing with tourists.
We started our day at the iconic Hallgrimskirkja Church. Even though we were being pelted with cold rain, we stood outside in awe at this house of worship's architecture. The inside of the church was just as beautiful as the outside. The large chapel was filled with sounds from giant organ pipes. The sounds bounced off the high-arched ceiling and stained glass windows as a church member played.
After we sat and took in the beautiful notes, we went back outside to see the statue out front. Viking history and memories of Leif Erickson are found all over the country, but it is especially prominent in the capitol city. After reading the commemoration to the country’s most famous explorer we headed to the Sun Voyager Structure to see more monuments to explorers.
The abstract, stainless steel structure is on the Atlantic Ocean and portrays the native roots for exploration and discovery. The Sun Voyager was created to encompass the idea of new lands yet to be found and the promise of home, freedom, and progress; and it does a wonderful job expressing these sentiments. From the structure we could see the Harpa Concert Hall which was our next stop.
The modern design of the Harpa Concert Hall stands in contrast to the historic city that surrounds it. The design of the façade is very meticulous and strategically planned. The more I read into the architecture behind the oblong hexagonal sides, the more interesting the building became. They were created to mimic the basalt columns that are famous to the country, and each polyhedron fits together perfectly.
Some panes seem to be random, but they are strategically placed to reflect sunlight in different ways during different times of the day and year. Unfortunately, you cannot see the inside of the concert hall without purchasing a tour. There was an upcoming performance, so we weren’t able to see the concert hall itself.
We had worked up quite an appetite by this point, so we went on a hunt for what we had heard were Reykjavik’s best hotdogs. After a quick walk around the Old Harbor, we found the small station that is Bajarins Beztu Pulsur, and we were so glad we did. Our bellies were filled with cheesy hot dogs and coca cola just as celebrities like Anthony Bourdain's, Bill Clinton's, and Princess Diana's had been before.
At this point, we had done almost all of the things to do in the city that I had seen online, but we kept strolling around looking at street art and brightly colored buildings. We were glad we kept wandering, because we stumbled upon the Arcade & Toy Museum. The entrance is underground and barely visible from the street. For a small price, roughly $10 a person, we played old-school games like Pac-Man, Galaga, Street Fighter, and pinball for 30 fun-filled minutes.
When our time was up, we walked across the street to check out some heavy metal punk music that we could hear coming from across the street. The noise was coming from the underground Punk Museum; but since we had just paid for the arcade games, we chose not to pay the entrance fee. Instead, we kept walking around and stumbled upon the last thing I had on our loosely planned itinerary, The Lebowski Bar.
We only stayed at this great, cult-movie themed bar for a few beers then went back on a quest for an inexpensive bite to eat. Weirdly enough, we ended up in the Irish Pub, because it was advertising cheap fish and chips. That’s all I wanted for dinner, and we decided it was time to head to our Airbnb and get a good night’s sleep after filling up on good beer and decent food.
Before we caught the bus home, we grabbed desert at the Volcano Crepes food truck at the bus stop. We topped our night off with a Nutella, chocolate, banana, and strawberry crepe. We got on the bus and knew our trip was going to be great based off our day in the city.
Chattanooga is a city that I often take for granted. It’s only two hours from Birmingham and is full of hiking, climbing, and other things I love to do. When my friend Mackenzie suggested we go for a weekend, Katie (another friend) and I couldn’t pass it up. On Friday, after work, we hit the road toward the quaint mountain city.
A lot of my trips include minimal, last minute planning, but it is always a good idea to book an Airbnb a few days ahead. We were lucky enough to snag two bedrooms at The Beautiful 1930 House in North Shore. Mackenzie had never stayed at an Airbnb, so she was able to save $$$ using this code: www.airbnb.com/c/taylorc1809.
The Airbnb was our first stop in the ‘Noog. We met our hosts for the weekend, unpacked our bags, and got ready for the night out. They gave us great advice and told us to try the burgers at The Tremont Tavern for dinner.
We enjoyed each other’s company at the Tavern, until we decided to venture further downtown. The first bar we tried out was The Honest Pint. It wasn’t quite what we were looking for, so we walked around the block to The Bitter Alibi. It still was a bit more relaxed than we wanted, but the décor and design of the building appealed to our intrigue and convinced us to stay for a beer. We decided to call it an early night so that we could be up early enough for pancakes at Aretha Frankenstein’s.
Taking my friends to my favorite restaurant in Chattanooga the next morning made me very happy, and kicked the day off in the best of ways. I had to explain that the pancakes are always worth the wait, but I didn’t have to explain anything once our bellies were full.
We crossed the Georgia line to go to Rock City next. The combo pass for Rock City and Ruby Falls is the best deal if you have time to see both. We had no idea what to expect from the waterfall and overlook, but it turned out to be so much more than we could’ve imagined!
The history of Rock City is extremely interesting. It was originally inhabited by Native Americans, but it is known now as the birthplace of miniature golf! The 700 acres of Fairyland Gardens were once a private residence and golf course, but now they are home to a carved-out walking trail that leads to the famous Lover’s Leap and High Waterfall. Standing here, you can see seven states: Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Virginia!
The trail also runs through attractions like the Fairyland Caverns and Mother Goose Village. We were so surprised by how much we enjoyed Rock City, and we all agreed that it was our favorite attraction of the weekend!
After about two hours of exploring, we started toward Ruby Falls. We arrived to a very long and unexpected line of people that ended in the parking lot. It turns out that buying a ticket in advance gives you no advantage in the entrance line. Our estimated wait time was 45 minutes, and the estimate was nearly correct. Before we knew it, we were standing in the elevator and whizzing our way underground.
Like most caves, there is an incredible history to its modern exploration. A young Leo Lambert grew up exploring around Chattanooga and was looking for a cave when he stumbled upon Ruby Falls. He romantically named the falls after his wife and reportedly could not wait to show her. Now, millions of people come to see America's largest commercial, underground waterfall.
Surprisingly, our tour was really crowded. We were there in the late afternoon on a rainy Saturday, but I felt as if we were constantly stopping to allow another group to pass. I would suggest trying to go earlier in the day, because the line was even longer than before when we were leaving! After our tour, we were ready for dinner, so we headed back to Tennessee.
Tony’s Italian Restaurant is where we devoured hearty bowls of pasta and had a few brews. We were all too tired to do anything afterwards, so we went back to the Airbnb to get some rest for another day of adventures!
My girlfriends and I consider brunch to be a weekend requirement, and this weekend’s brunch would be at one of my favorite Chattanooga bars. The Flying Squirrel was a perfect stop before the Aquarium, because it has great grub and mimosas.
We thought we had acted like children at Rock City the day before, but our excitement inside The Tennessee Aquarium was at a fever pitch. There were two main exhibits to explore: The Ocean Journey and The River Journey. We started with the Ocean Journey.
The escalator took us up to the top, and we started with lemurs and safe-to-touch stingrays. The butterfly exhibit was really cool, because we could get up-close and personal with the beautiful beings. We were able to get a few butterflies to land on us, but Katie did not like having them on her hands. We finally passed them off to some kids and kept walking down The Ocean Journey.
I have never seen someone’s face light up like Mackenzie’s did when we approached the penguin exhibit. We could have spent hours watching these little guys jump in and out of the water, but we needed to move on and let others enjoy the view. Sharks, turtles, and tons of fish were housed all throughout the Tropical Cove. Our last exhibit in The Ocean Journey was my favorite.
The River Journey starts the same way the Ocean Journey did. You take a couple of escalator rides up to the top where an open exhibit--themed after the Appalachian ecosystem--allows you to touch sturgeons instead of stingrays. We made our way through The Mississippi Delta and on to the River Giants exhibit. Giant sturgeon, stingrays, and catfish are on display here from all over the world.
We spent about 3 hours exploring the entire aquarium and had worked up a bit of an appetite. Puckett’s is just across the street from the aquarium and is one of Mackenzie’s favorite BBQ restaurants. We enjoyed a savory bite before we hit the road back to Birmingham. Our first weekend girls’ trip is in the books, and it couldn’t have been more successful!
John and I seem to work together best when we plan a trip at the very last minute. We booked our reservations for Cloudland Canyon State Park less than 24 hours before we departed just like we'd done for our trip to The Great Smokey Mountains. Our reservation for a 'walk-in campsite' was ideal for the weekend, because they are all within one half mile of a parking area and conveniently connected to the West Loop Trail (we didn't know that until we got there)!
After work on Friday, John and I hit the road from Birmingham to the northwest corner of Georgia with our pup Maria in my newly purchased Subaru Outback. We got to the parking lot of the walk-in campsite area around 7:30 p.m. and were nestled in our tent before nine. We would need a good night's rest to prepare for the hike ahead of us.
The West Rim Loop Trail was once ranked as a 'top ten hike in the U.S.' by Backpacker Magazine. The 4.8 mile “lollipop” loop trail lies atop the western edge of the canyon and provides incredible views of the ravine below. Naturally, John and I had to check it out, and it did not disappoint. A short connector path leads to the trail from the walk in campsites.
The flat and grassy 'Walk-In Campsite Connector Trail' follows the same stream that flows through the walk-in campsite area. We connected to the loop and were welcomed to our first viewpoint after a short climb up a boulder littered slope. As we traced the western rim of the canyon rim, the views continued to become more stunning. All of the main viewpoints have large stone platforms with well maintained railings, but various clearings allowed us to see the entire canyon from nearly every angle. The further south we hiked, the more clearly we could hear the water flowing below us.
Once we had crossed over Daniel Creek, we connected to the waterfall trail and began our descent of over 1,000 stairs. The Waterfall Trail is fairly short at just 1.8 miles, but it is more difficult than its length may imply.
John and I chose to go to Cherokee Falls first when the trail came to a 'T'. After about a half mile descent, we arrived at a great opening where the falls had made a nice, wide pool. We didn’t stay long, since we were expecting rain and wanted to make it to Hemlock Falls as well.
Descending further downstream of Daniel Creek lead us to the less trafficked Hemlock Falls. We barely made it down to the viewing platform before the rain started to drizzle on us. Maria and I ran up ahead to snag some pictures before the three of us took shelter under the platform we had just walked down from. After a 30 minute rest, we hopped back onto the trail and continued back to our campsite. The Waterfall Trail is rated 'strenuous', but John and I had no problem finishing this trail and the 'moderately strenuously' West Rim Loop Trail in 4 hours, including a 30 minute rain break!
When we made it back to our tent, we set up our Eno Hammock and relaxed 'til the sun started to set. The rain was persistent throughout the night but our Eureka! Apex 2 tent kept us, Maria, and our gear warm and dry. Even with the rain, we had an easy, fun, and relaxing weekend in the mountains!
Mardi Gras is a huge tradition down in New Orleans, Louisiana, that draws hundreds of thousands of people to the city for the celebratory weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday. I had always told myself and my friends that I would never go, but John and I recently had a blast at Mardi Gras in Mobile, and my friends pestered me for weeks to join them. I was sold.
Our host friend’s house was just off of Tchoupitoulas Street and practically on the parade route, so we didn’t have to go far to see the Mardi Gras action. Our hosts had been invited to a neighbor’s tent, so shortly after we arrived Friday night, we were walking down the street to enjoy some drinks and music before the parades.
I discovered that the only people excited to see the approaching Krewe of Morepheus were those of us who had yet to experience Mardi Gras. We had a blast making fools of ourselves to be showered with beads, toys, and trinkets. We all agreed that the marching bands were our favorite feature when they were actually performing.
Our group went from seven strong to only three almost instantly after arriving to Bourbon Street. My two girlfriends and I went to The Beach in hopes of finding the rest of our friends. We searched but couldn’t find them in the crowd. Naturally, we had a drink and started dancing.
We found our group later that night as they were calling an Uber to go home. My girlfriends and I hadn’t had enough, so we stayed and danced until nearly two in the morning. There was nothing afterward that could’ve been more satisfying than a greasy but delicious slice of pizza from the nearest daiquiri bar pizza.
Miraculously, everyone was feeling well during breakfast the next morning. We enjoyed La Boulangerie from the front porch of our friend’s house and watched the parade crews get their floats ready. Once we had finished our meals, we followed the crowd until we were back in the same spot we had been the night before.
The Krewe of Iris was approaching, but so was the rain. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to stay at this parade for long, but it allowed us time to plan our next move.
We knew that we wanted to head to Mid-City to see the Krewe of Endymion and meet up with some more friends from college. The rain continued to pour, but luckily, we had a friend drive us to the parade to meet our friends. We claimed a spot right on St. Charles Street for the Krewe of Endymion’s parade.
The Krewe of Endymion’s was by far the best parade we saw in New Orleans. Some floats had full-blown LED screen displays. This Krewe must spend thousands of dollars on their floats. The floats were extravagant and the queens who rode them fit right in.
The Queens wear massive headdresses called collars that have to be wired to the actual float so that the Queen doesn’t topple over. Their dresses alone cost upwards of $10,000. The pressure to not sweat must be unbearable! The parade goes on for over six hours. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be unable to move for that long.
The parade was nowhere near over, but we decided to leave around 6 p.m. when the rain picked up again.
We Uber'd down to Frenchmen’s Street so that we could eat and hit up some bars.We picked Adolfo’s above The Apple Barrel Bar. After sharing a plate of buttery clams, the remaining five of us ordered the same delicious fish entrée and were put into a food coma. We somehow managed to pick ourselves up from the table, move across the street to Café Negril, and listen to some live reggae music.
Two more broke off from the group, and the same two girls from the night before and I were the only ones out. This didn’t stop us from continuing the party. The balcony at The Blue Nile was calling our name, and we heard live jazz and knew we had picked a great place when we got to the stairwell. Sadly, this was our last stop for the Mardi Gras weekend. Once the band stopped, we decided to stop too.
The next morning was a quick shuffle out the door to beat the 11 a.m. parade that would block off our road home. We said our goodbyes over king cake and packed up our bags. I feel like I enjoyed my first New Orleans Mardi Gras experience so much, because it was spent with really great friends and the rain reduced crowd sizes.
Our weekend was nothing as crazy as I had mentally prepared for! I think the enjoyable weekend has prepared me for the craziness that is every other year and convinced me that I could come back for a “real” Mardi Gras.
Mardi Gras (also known as Carnival) celebrations take place all across the world in accordance with the religious Lenten Season. America’s Mardi Gras roots lie in the port city of Mobile, Alabama. The city’s Southern Live Oak trees and buzzing nightlife make for a fitting Mardi Gras setting that Taylor and I couldn’t pass up.
We caught our first parade of the weekend at the corner of South Broad and Canal Street after a short walk from our Selma street Airbnb. The Mobile Mystics, Mobile Mystic Revelers, and Mobile Mystical Friends were showing off their floats as bystanders yelled and reached for Moon Pies, Oatmeal Creme pies, various trinkets, and unnumbered types of beads.
Local high school bands, dance groups, and community organizations marched and entertained between floats. Occasionally, a customized go-kart or truck would fill the space between floats with loud music and revving engines.
Once the parade finished, Taylor and I walked on broken beads down Government street to find a place to socialize before our next parade. We stopped into O’Daly’s Irish Pub and found seats on the patio. A Mardi Gras concoction later, a Talking Heads song lured us into the Brick Yard. We enjoyed the bar’s fantastic playlist and friendly atmosphere until it was time to hit the streets for the next parade.
The Maids of Mirth, Butterfly Maidens, and Krewe of Marry Mates made their way down the route and had the Mobile crowd buzzing with excitement. Many more people than earlier in the day were crowded against the parade barriers, and they were a much more lively bunch. The crowd had gathered for a reason. The floats were more impressive, seemed to be larger, and were carrying a more diverse array of goods to be thrown into the crowd. The late parade is a must if your goal is to truly experience Mobile’s Mardi Gras celebration.
The short weekend in Mobile couldn’t have provided a better feel for the city’s Mardi Gras tradition. Taylor and I got to spend time among the people of Mobile, and we ran into out-of-towners who were drawn to the celebration. While New Orleans may be known for its Mardi Gras celebration, the people of Mobile have a historic tradition of their own to claim.
Last year, Taylor and I spent New Year’s Day in our Nation’s Capital. We enjoyed the trappings of Washington D.C. and cherished the time spent with friends. Our 2018 New Year’s trip was much the same. Cork County and the capital city, Dublin, hosted a week full of old friends, new friends, and wonderful experiences.
We reached Dublin city on the morning of December 30th and paid for an Aircoach bus to Cork City. Taylor’s sorority sister and her boyfriend were waiting to take us to our Airbnb in Ballincollig. Once our bags were put away, we headed for a bite to eat at The White Horse Restaurant. A fine Irish meal of Bangers and Mash and Fish n’ Chips prepared us for a night out at Tradehouse Central Bar and Kitchen. After a night of dancing to our favorite American music, "Taco Fries" from Drumbstix satisfied our late night appetites before the ride home to get some sleep.
New Year’s Eve began with Taylor and I moving our luggage to Allie and Rob’s apartment. Allie and Rob were more gracious hosts than we could have ever expected. A delicious breakfast prepared us for a drive out to the fishing village Kinsale to see some of Ireland’s famous cliffs and wander around the fishing town. Night began to fall as we drove back to Ballincollig to prepare for the New Year.
Our first destination in Cork City was The Courtyard on Sober Lane to join Rob’s family for a celebration of his brother’s engagement. After meeting a score of brilliant people, we walked the streets of Cork City to An Spailpin Fanach, where the four of us greeted the New Year with local music and boisterous laughs.
The damp New Year’s Day found Taylor and I exploring the Blarney Castle. After a couple of hours of wandering the beautiful grounds, we returned to Ballincollig to prepare for another night out. We were invited to a celebration at the Ballincollig Gaelic Athletic Association and it would prove to be one of the most enjoyable parts of our visit. The night ended with great burgers and fries at Lennox’s .
The second day of January would see us discover several Cork county jewels. The Drombeg Stone Circle is a little further than an hour away from Ballincollig but worth the drive to see the ancient Druid megalith. After a morning in the countryside, we drove back to Cork City. The fabled English Market was our first stop in Cork where we found shelter from the rain and marveled at spreads of vibrant veggies and choice cuts of meat. The recommended restaurant upstairs from the market was closed, but we were taken to O’Flynn’s Gourmet Sausages for a phenomenal Irish sausage dog once the rain had eased.
Our next and last stop in Cork city was the Blackrock Castle to see the planetarium and tour the old gunnery. Rob’s parents were kind enough to have us all for an exquisite dinner before we took advantage of the opportunity to rest up for Dublin.
After spending a few days in County Cork, Taylor and I took the train from Cork City to Heuston Station in Dublin. After walking our luggage to the Airbnb before venturing to the Christ Church Cathedral near the River Liffey. Visitors were required to pay for tours, so we walked the grounds and stood in amazement of the incredible architecture.
Wonder soon again filled us at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral where we learned about the underground River Podle that feeds the fountain in St. Patrick’s Park. We discovered a toll to enter the church and decided to walk to The Guinness Storehouse to meet a friend.
We caught up with one another and enjoyed the rich taste of Guinness before moving our conversation to The Stag’s Head. Soon after, we were invited to join in on a bus ride to Celbridge for a more quiet atmosphere. The Village Inn was the pub of choice, and Thai food from Delhi Darbar complemented stimulating political discussion. A taxi couldn’t be hailed quickly in Celbridge at two in the morning, but the wait was well worth the time spent in Celbridge.
The next day in Dublin was filled to the brim with planned events and a few stumble-upons. To start the day, Taylor and I wandered the halls of Dublin Castle. After the tour, we worked up a fierce appetite that was soon quelled by an unbelievable breakfast from Hatch and Son’s.
Our ravings over breakfast were soon replaced with quiet enjoyment of a perfect walkabout of St. Stephen’s Green. A stroll down Grafton Street on our way to the splendid Trinity College was filled with window shopping and music from a few street performers.
We marveled during our tour of the Book of Kells exhibit and wandered up and down the immense Long Room library before pondering the remainder of our night. The first move was toward Merrion Square to see the relaxed statue of Oscar Wilde before the gates of the park closed
Nearby we found the sprawling exhibits of the Natural History Museum and National Gallery of Ireland. A touch of hunger reminded us of the time, so we decided to find our taxi driver’s recommendation from the night before. Trocadero is a fine dining restaurant that Taylor and I weren’t exactly dressed for, but the three course meal fueled the remainder of our last night in Dublin.
A short walk to The Temple Bar involved crowds and relatively expensive pints, so we took a longer walk to O’Donoghue’s Irish Pub. Surrounded by frames from the past, Taylor and I enjoyed the local scene and music at O’Donoghue’s until it was time to rest up before our early morning flights back to the States.
Both Cork and Dublin County proved to be welcoming sites of intrigue, history, and beauty. Taylor and I never failed to be astounded by the offerings of Ireland and the kindness of her people. I speak for both of us when I say that we are already looking forward to our next visit to the Emerald Isle.
The south side of the Appalachian mountain range in October is a roller coaster of colors. Blushing red and vibrant yellow leaves fill the distance between farmhouses of all ages and conditions. Towns like Floyd, Virginia, and their surrounding communities are sparse reminders that Virginians have settled some of the most beautiful mountains in North America.
Taylor's aunt, uncle, niece, and nephew met the two of us at the Buffalo Mountain Getaway in Willis, Virginia. Soon after making re-acquaintance, we enjoyed a delicious homemade stew and a competitive board game. Taylor's aunt took the victory before we all rested for the day ahead.
The next morning, our homemade breakfast of bacon, eggs, potatoes, and preserved pears prepared us for our day of exploring Virginia's countryside. We headed into the town of Floyd to start the day.
The Floyd Farmers Market was our first destination. Despite the October chill, local folks were selling hardy vegetables, various cuts of meats, and handmade items. We set out into the countryside after exploring the town and having lunch at The Floyd Country Store.
Driving toward the Rocky Knob Recreation Area after lunch revealed several beautiful views across Southern Virginia. The hills seemed to ripple away into a vast, green sea sprinkled with islands of bright change. We pulled into a few viewing areas before driving to the Mabry Mill. The property featured an overshot mill constructed in 1908, a blacksmith shop, and the home of the family who owned them.
After our walk about the Mabry property, we made our way down the mountain to the Chateau Morrisette Winery. The massive winery featured tastings, cheese samples, and tours of the facility. It was a wonderful way to end a beautiful day in the mountains.
Our night ended after a homemade enchilada meal, a game of Catan, and reflection on the day. It was a quick but wonderful weekend with family in a the foothills of Virginia.
Our first excursion stop from our 7-Day Royal Caribbean cruise was Cozumel, Mexico. Our day started early and it was our longest excursion day overall. Our ship docked in Cozumel, but we took a ferry boat to Playa Del Carmen where we met our tour guide, Manuel.
We took an hour and a half long bus ride through the Yucatan Peninsula to The Coba Archaeological Site. Manuel lead us through the ruins that had already been excavated. We walked across ball parks, where we saw engravings and the hoops used for scoring, ancient roads used for trade, and walked up the stairs of a pyramid.
The main highlight of the tour was climbing the Nohoch Mul pyramid. We climbed 120 steps to get to the top of the pyramid, the steep climb in the dense humidity was well worth every bead of sweat. When you arrive at the top you get an almost eerie feeling of what this temple was used for thousands of years ago.
When we were finally brave enough to climb back down, we hopped back on the bus and drove about 10 minutes to a local cenote, or underground swimming hole. We arrived at Multum-Ha, we showered off and headed down their stairs underground to the water.
The water was crystal clear yet a bright turquoise color. We could tell the water would be cold, so Kendall and I jumped right in off the pier and swam around the hole to keep warm. We could really only stay in the water for about 15 minutes mainly because our tour was almost over and secondly because it was getting cold.
We dried off and started on the two hour trek back to the boat. This was the only port and excursion we weren't able to have a shopping break, which was disappointing because they seemed to have the most interesting hand made items for sale. After making the ferry boat wait for us, we made it on and found our seats and made it back to the ship in plenty of time.
Our day in the Grand Cayman, was my dad's favorite part of the trip. This was my parent's 25th wedding anniversary so I don't think anything could have dampened their moods. We had a much more relaxed day. We got up in time for breakfast from the buffet and made it on the first ferry boat to the port.
We had a little over an hour to kill, so we wandered in and out of the shops looking at things to come back and buy. We then decided to grab a couple of local cocktails right by the dock. We each tried different drinks and took them with us when we heard our tour guide calling our excursion.
We took a couple minute bus ride along the coat line to The Governor's Palace, where our catamaran was waiting on us. We were able to snag a spot on the netting that covered an open space right above the water. We relaxed and sun bathed on the open water until we were told to grab our snorkeling gear and have a quick lesson.
The first place we were to snorkel was the USS Kittiwake. This boat was purposefully sunk in January 2011, after an almost 50 year life span in the military, to create an artificial reef. Its most famous mission was recovering the Blackbox from the Challenger space shuttle explosion. Interestingly enough, the ship actually had just moved almost 20 feet deeper just a few days before from Tropical Storm Nate.
We swam the length of the boat a dozen times over, watching the fish and scuba divers down below swim in and around the shipwreck. Our next stop was just a few miles away so we took off our gear and got comfy on the ropes.
We stopped next at a very fragile shallow reef. We were given special instructions on how to stay above the coral and, of course, were told not to touch anything. Once we were prepped, we hopped in to the water. I immediately broke away from the crowd and went to see as much as I could. I swam over brain coral, rainbow fish, sea urchins, and lots and lots of finger coral. It was my very own "Planet Earth" moment, and I loved every moment of it.
When we heard the three air horns signaling us back, we hoped on board and sailed back to the port. Here, we were able to shop a little bit more than the other ports before having to head back to the boat, so I grabbed John a gift and we grabbed a ferry boat back to the ship.
Our day in Jamaica was my dad's birthday and our last day of excursions on our 7-day Royal Caribbean cruise. Early that morning we docked at Falmouth, Jamaica, before our 8 a.m. tour we had a quick breakfast and hopped right off the boat to find our tour guide under a gazebo on the dock.
We followed her to a bus where we took an hour long ride to Dunn's River Falls. On the way, our tour guide gave us a history of the land, pointed out where Bob Marley and Usain Bolt were from, and told us a lot about the local culture.
One big part of the culture is music, and the famous song "Day-O" featured in Beetlejuice has a rich Jamaican history, talking about the banana man coming to count their bunches so they could hit their quota for the day and go home. We sang this on the bus and at both of our excursions. Also be prepared to say, "yah mon" a whole lot, because that was almost always the answer to every question they asked us.
We arrived at Dunn's River Falls and it was a bit different than we expected, its way more commercialized than we imagined. You arrive at gates where you get wristbands or buy tickets, and it makes you feel like you are at Disney World. Until you actually get to the water and meet your tour guide, the entire walk down their is different commercial stops with vendors and shops.
Our guide's nickname was "Big Foot' because he walked everywhere barefoot and his feet were huge. He was super energetic and gave us great instructions and did different silly things each time we stopped. (For example: since it was my dad's birthday, at one stop we circled around him and sang him Happy Birthday and splashed him with water). He also guided us under the water falls and down natural slides and let us swim through the water.
You start at the bottom of the river and climb your way to the top, some of the rocks were really slick or had big drop offs, so it was really important we pay attention to Big Foot and yet we each managed to slip a couple of times, but nothing was major.
The falls are an incredible display of natural beauty. The rocks break the water in to the most picturesque shapes, yet they flow so smoothly over the jutting stones. The water was surrounded by incredible tropical trees with ginormous leaves, letting in just the right amount of sunlight. It was the most tropical hike I have been on thus far.
Once we made it to the top we exited the park, trying not to shop at the stands so that we would be on time for our tubing tour of the White River. We arrived at the little shack check in spot, grabbed our inner tubes, and waited at the end of the pier for our guide to help us get in to the water.
We continued as a group down the river, through rapids and whirlpools, using the tour guides to save our butts when we got stuck. It was so much fun letting the water take hold of you and just seeing where you would go. The scenery was incredible all around, it felt like a tropical paradise. But what looked more like a paradise was the bamboo float tours we passed, they looked so romantic and luxurious we were all a little jealous.
But after our tubing adventure concluded and we arrived at our bus, we were off to a true Jamaican lunch at the Shaw Park Beach Hotel and Spa. We arrived to complimentary Rum Punches and were lead down to the patio where the buffet was laid out.
We requested a table by the water, in the sunshine, and ordered a round of Red Stripes before we got food of the buffett. Each of us tried everything they had to offer; curried jerk chicken, Jamaican jerk pork, steamed rice, and traditional beef patties filled our plates. Our plates didn't stay full for long, we each wiped them clean and thought about getting seconds.
Instead, Kendall and I decided to go swim in the ocean and wait to be called back to the bus. We waded in the bath warm water for a few minutes until we decided to dry off. We still had an hour bus ride back to the port, so everyone slept on the bus while it started to rain.
October is always a special month for my family, but October 2017 was extra special. We chose to celebrate both of my parents' 50th birthdays, their 25th wedding anniversary, and my sister's 18th birthday on a 7 day Royal Caribbean cruise. Our port stops included Cozumel, Mexico; George Town; Grand Cayman; and Falmouth, Jamaica.
Our time on the boat between port stops was delightful. We enjoyed delicious meals in the dining hall, warm rays at the pool, and games of chance in the casino. We made sure to explore as much of the boat as we could during our six nights there. Here are all of the things we managed to squeeze in:
Sunday and Monday - Galveston and sea:
Upon our arrival to the Liberty of the Seas we checked in, went through customs, got our room assignments and keys, then got settled in. Our first two days were very casual. We started each day by claiming a pool spot and having daiquiris. We spent both days sunning by the pool, racing each other down the speed slides, and surfing in the Flowrider. We had an assigned 5:30 pm dinner time at Botticelli's, so we headed to our rooms to get ready for a delicious meal.
After our meals, we went to music themed trivia at The Schooner Bar and then went to karaoke at the sports bar. After a few painful acts, my dad and I ventured to the casino to play a little roulette.
Tuesday - Cozumel:
We had a very early wake up call that morning for our Climb the Coba Pyramid and Cenote Swim excursion in Cozumel, Mexico. After our thrilling and busy day of ancient Mexican history, we got back on ship and got ready for our 5:30 dinner time.
We stayed out late in the casino after a game of 80's music trivia. We didn't get off the boat until noon the next day, so we were able to sleep in.
Wednesday - The Grand Cayman:
My dad's favorite tour was the Catamaran Sail and Snorkel tour in The Grand Cayman. We swam over a shipwreck and a shallow coral reef while basking in the Caribbean sunshine. After our tour and a little bit of shopping at the port, we got bak on board to get ready for another dinner at Botticelli's.
This night we decided to switch things up, so my dad and I went to the ship's pub to grab some beer cocktails before checking out The Love and Marriage Game Show. After getting some pretty solid laughs, we played a little bit of roulette and called it a night.
Thursday - Jamaica:
This day was our most casual excursion, yet we did a lot on our Inner Tubing and Dunn's River Falls Tour. After our adventures through the country's incredible natural wonders, we grabbed a local lunch and did a bit of shopping before getting back on the boat.
My dad's birthday celebration was at Botticelli's with the ice show Encore! after dessert. We enjoyed the show and boogied our way to a 70's disco party afterwards. When that ended, we went to the casino and had a particularly long but successful night.
Friday - at sea:
Since it was a sea day, we were able to sleep late before taking in hours of sun rays and each others' company at the pool. We relaxed until it was time to get ready for lobster night. That’s right, the main dining hall had a lobster night, and we got our money's worth. The feast included an appetizer, salad, two lobster entrees, and dessert. This was the perfect way to celebrate my little sister's birthday.
After the meal, we went to see El Gaucho, a comedian; musician; and impressive ball-swinger. After his terrifying acts of discipline, I drug Kendall down to another stage to play The Quest Adult Game Show.
I ended up being our team's spokesperson and had to do some really weird challenges while searching for ridiculous items. In the end, we lost, and my face was covered in another woman's lipstick.
Saturday - at sea:
Our last day at sea was very relaxing. We took our time getting up before starting to pack our things and return to the pool. That night, we decided to splurge and go to dinner at Sabor.
This Mexican restaurant was not included in our meal package, but we filled up on fresh guacamole and chips, tacos, calamari, and a variety of desserts like churros and flan before watching the cast production of Saturday Night Fever! After the final number, we headed back upstairs to get a good night's sleep before disembarking.
Sunday - Galveston:
We got up early that morning to grab one last breakfast from the Windjammer dinning hall. Even though we had a 10:30 a.m. depart time, we found out we were able to grab our suitcases and go around 9:00 am.
As we waved goodbye to our week long home at sea, I couldn't help but become emotional. The week with my family had flown by so quickly, but our trip was full of great memories that fill me with happiness.
With Atlanta only two hours away from Birmingham, I grew up going there for lacrosse tournaments, Falcons' games, the Coca-Cola Museum, and, of course, Six Flags Over Georgia. I had no idea our weekend in 'Hotlanta' would be John's first, but I am glad that it was such a great experience.
We arrived to our Airbnb around 7:30 PM on Friday night. Our early evening arrival gave us just enough time to shower and meet my friends for dinner in Midtown at Pasta Da Pulcinella. After splitting a bottle of wine and indulging on the wonderfully fresh and homemade ravioli, we took our waiter's suggestion and headed downtown to check out the Atlanta nightlife.
A strip of bars overflowing with people was our first impression of downtown. After giving up on the line at Joystick, we walked across the street to the Georgia Beer Garden where there was no crowd or cover. The four of us grabbed a round of local beers and enjoyed each other's company while we drank and started looking around for a more lively scene.
Our friend Katie had recently moved to Atlanta and suggested we Uber to the Buckhead bar Big Sky. We wandered around the crowded, two-story bar until we found a table on the outside patio. We laughed and danced the night away until our friend Megan got annoyed with awkward attempts at conversation by the Buckhead boys.
We got a bit of a late start on Saturday, but that didn't stop us from having a jam-packed day. A solid brunch and a couple of breakfast cocktails prepared us for walking The Beltline to Piedmont Park. After we finished our biscuits and cocktails, we went outside to hit the trail.
Our stroll started at The Krog Street Market, but we were still too full to indulge in all of the wonderful food stands. Instead, we shopped around the clothing and knickknack vendors. With a lot more places to see, we didn't hang around for too long.
We leisurely walked along The Beltline stopping to take pictures of the artwork along the way. The walk was lined with sculptures, interactive pieces, and lots of graffiti. After writing messages in the chalk on one exhibit, we walked in to Ponce City Market to cool off and see what it had to offer.
We ended up enjoing a cocktail at The Mercury while we planned out the rest of our afternoon. The rooftop came highly recommended by a bartender for its carnival games and bar, but once we found out it was $10 to get up there, we chose to continue on The Beltline.
We ended our walk at Piedmont Park where we walked past napping patrons, watched dogs play in their very own designated parks, and marveled at a man guiding a large airplane through the sky. After all of our walking, we had built up quite an appetite, so Megan suggested we do the most touristy thing in Atlanta and go get burgers at The Varsity.
We inhaled our delicious burgers and chili dogs while wearing our Varsity paper hats like all of the kids in the place. Once the only thing left on the table was leftover ketchup, we ditched our hats and hopped in an Uber. We took it to the suburb of Marietta to watch an Atlanta Braves baseball game.
It's pretty cool that we were able to see a Braves game at Suntrust Park during its inaugural season. Zeta Tau Alpha was hosting a philanthropy to raise money for breast cancer research, so we were given adorable, pink tomahawks to chop with during the game. The new stadium is a marvel of sports stadiums. There are gourmet food vendors and world-class merchandisers around every turn. Although our general admission tickets didn't technically provide seats, we met our friends in the upper level and took an open seat to watch the game.
The game's lack of excitement left plenty of time for our big group of friends to catch up and have some laughs, until we wandered down to the lower levels to catch a better view. The Braves were down by a few runs going into the sixth inning, but after one homerun and an awesome double RBI, the Braves took the lead! The lights in the stadium dimmed, as the fans broke out their cell phones for a 'lights out' chop.
Before the end of the game, the announcer stated that there was a post-game concert on the field, Entrance to the field had to be purchased, but everyone in our group was given free wristbands due to low attendance. Fitz and The Tantrums play a rocking set, but we hadn't gotten our full feel for dancing, so we walked out of the stadium and into the bars.
A few more of our friends were already at PBR Atlanta, so we headed over there to meet up with them. This massive bar had music for everyone's liking. It ranged from country to 90's punk to throwback rap. We sang along to just about all of it. Everyone else started to crash once the bands stopped, but I wasn't ready for bed just yet.
I drug John and Megan to a late night spot called R. Thomas. Our waiter at Pasta Da Pulcinella had recommended it the night before. He described it as, "a psychedelic restaurant with breakfast food and great quinoa bowls." He also said that he had seen rappers like Ludacris and Lil Yachty there. Although we didn't see anyone famous, we did enjoy the interesting decor with our late night food.
We eventually made it back to our Airbnb and got a couple of hours of sleep before waking up for the main event of our weekend - The PGA Tour Championship. This was mine and John's first PGA event, so we were glad to have Megan, a regular PGA volunteer, there to show us the ropes.
The first tee off was around 11:30 AM. Before the first pairing, we walked around the grounds, played some games, and grabbed 'breakfast' at a BBQ stand. We got to the first hole right after the first group had teed off, but we were just in time to see Ricky Fowler tee up in his typical bright orange attire.
After we watched a few more golfers tee off, we claimed a spot on the 7th green so that we could watch each pair come through. Sitting at 7 allowed us to watch everyone play through, and left us just enough time to get to the 18th hole to claim a spot near the green.
Getting to see players like Jordan Spieth, Matt Kuchar, Justin Thomas, and Sergio Garcia was an unbelievable experience. Even though Xander Schauffele won this PGA event, Justin Thomas earned enough points to claim the coveted FedEx Cup. It was an awesome ending to a great weekend, and we we're glad to have been there to see it.
I'm not sure how any other weekend in Atlanta might top this one, but we will be back soon to see what other adventures await us in this hot, southern city.
About the Author:
I'm Taylor, aka Tacos! I am just sharing my journeys and experiences across the world. Hoping to inspire travel and adventure in all who read!