Adventurers Guide to One Week in Quintana Roo

Cancun, Mexico

Quintana Roo is a Mexican state within the Yucatán Peninsula. The state and the country Mexico in general typically get a bad rap from the American media stations. In fact, just days before my departure from Detroit to Cancun, there was a media story covering several brutal murders on the Cancun beach. My facebook feed BLEW UP with this story… friends warning me not to go to Mexico and to cancel my trip because of the danger.

very dangerous iguana in Mexico (this is sarcasm)

It’s hard to ignore travel warnings your country is publishing, especially when most of your family and friends are encouraging you to stay home. But is home any safer? 7 days after our trip to Mexico, my friend landed home in Chicago. Home- during a stabbing incident at the Chicago airport that day. Despite the danger being very real and very near- Facebook stayed quiet. 

My travels over the years have taught me that there are always multiple viewpoints to the story. I’m a firm believer in “not judging a book by its cover”, and applying that concept to life situations. Was I nervous for my first adventure to Mexico? Hell yes! I could feel that scratchy feeling of uneasiness you get when you’re about to step out of your comfort zone. Experience has taught me- the uneasiness will go away, replaced by the wonder and awe that is travel.

Adventure with me to the Caribbean coastal towns of Mexico as I spend 7 Days in Quintana Roo! 

Spend 2 Days in Cancun

What To Do:Head to the north side of the hotel zone and spend the day beach hopping down to the Caribbean side. There are 11 public beaches within the hotel zone, each unique, but all offering warm turquoise colored water along white sand. 

Go Paddle Boarding!

We spent one full day in Cancun at the end of our trip with nothing planned. We enjoyed wandering the markets and exploring, but wish we would have done a water activity. Next time we come back we plan to rent jet skis, or paddleboards to explore the area further.  

Go Parasailing!

Transportation:We flew in and out of the Cancun Airport, giving us a full day to explore the Caribbean version of Las Vegas. Renting a car in Mexico can get tricky with insurance, some rental centers require high deposits up to $2,500 usd. Do your homework on how insurance works in Mexico prior to arrival. My recommendation if you’re traveling in the off season as we were- wait until you’re at the airport to book your rental car. The rental companies at the airport will have more competitive pricing opportunities then you will find online and will negotiate with you. Have them explain the two different insurance options to you before you agree to rent with them.

Where To Eat: Quieres un, café?Brunch at the delicious Café Huayacán. This was a great first stop for coffee and food after leaving the airport before heading into the hotel zone. The adorable coffee shop had a huge menu of pasteles, and traditional Mexican dishes ranging from sweet crepes to savory huevos ranchero. We had a tough time choosing, so we ordered both (plus a chilaquiles verdes con pollo). 

I took this while sitting on our AirBnb balcony sipping a cerveza, SALUD!

Where To Stay:Our last night in Mexico we spent at an AirBnb listed as “Breathtaking Caribbean Sea View”. Well, the view was just that, putting us right in the center of the Hotel Zone. We stayed in the Hotel Zone to be close to the beach but not too far from the airport for our early flight. 

Sunset view of Cancun Airbnb balcony

Notice the “red tide” or mounds of decaying algae in my Cancun beach photos…Scientists have warned that the algae are a grave new threat to the Caribbean, not just Cancun. In the open ocean the algae support birds and other sea life. But when washed ashore, as they start to decay they become an environmental nightmare. The decaying algae, emit hydrogen sulfide fumes that kills fish, coral and sea grass. Still don’t care?

The black “sand” you see along the beach shore is the old decaying algae. In the water you can see the giant clumps of seaweed being washed ashore.

It also causes headaches and nausea in people- especially those that must clean it each morning before the tourists arrive. When not cleared, the algae becomes piled high blocking endangered sea turtles from reaching the shore to lay their eggs. Oh, and if the ugly, decaying man caused algae wasn’t bad enough- it also prevent the baby sea turtles from migrating to the ocean once hatched. This issue was seen across the region, as we journeyed south. East-facing beaches were the hardest hit, due to ocean currents. Each city we explored during the week as well as Cozumel and Playa del Carmen has been flooded with the red tide. Climate change and human pollution near the shores around the globe has made this red tide outbreak the worst in history.

Day Trip to Akumal 

Akumal is a small carribean community known for its sea turtles! Spend a day swimming with Sea Turtles in Akumal. The town is just a short drive from Playa del Carmen or Tulum making for an easy day trip. You can see the sea turtles on your own or take a guided tour. We decided to try our luck and to explore on our own. Vendors will try and tell you that you MUST join a tour/wear a life vest to see the turtles- this is not true. There are roped off buoyed areas protecting major turtle feeding areas; if you stay inside the designated swim areas you can explore on your own as we did. 

My recommendation would be to arrive at the beach early, the visibility in the water goes down as people swim throughout the day and stir up the sand. I would recommend not going through a guided tour and arrive to the beaches early for your best chances to see some turtles.

Make sure each person has their own mask/snorkel if you choose to search for turtles on your own. Our group had two snorkels/masks for 6 people to share, and only a few of us were able to spot some turtles. There are plenty of vendors along the town center that sell masks and snorkels for your convenience. 

Spend 4 Days in Tulum 

Along the Caribbean coast, the town of Tulum offers seaside Mayan ruins to explore, sandy beaches for relaxing and undersea caves for diving. September is the birth month of my two favorite traveling partners. My best friend Grace, and my boyfriend Logan both celebrate birthdays, just two days apart. This year was a big one for Grace as she turned the big 3-0. Logan would like for me not to mention his new age (it’s old people 😊). 

What To Do:  Explore the many cenotes! A cenote is a freshwater filled Mexican sinkhole. The word Cenote is of Mayan decent originally called dzonot or ts’onot, meaning well. The cenotes played a crucial role in the development of the Mayan civilization. There are over 3,000 unique cenotes throughout the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. The cenotes are mostly found in the crater area that formed from the meteorite impact (the same meteorite responsible for the dinosaur extinction in this area). The cenotes are great for swimming, diving, snorkeling and more! The extensive underground river systems, make this area of Mexico the best place to experience cave diving.

Go Scuba Diving in a Cenote

Logan received his PADI certification just weeks before our Mexico departure! Dos Ojos was unanimously the favorite dive of the group. Noted as “The World’s BestCavern Dives.” The name Dos Ojos translates to “two eyes” and refers to two nearby cenotes that connect by a massive underwater cave system that is shared between the two. The two caverns start and end in the same place but are two very different dives. The first dive is 500 meters (1,600 feet) along The Barbie Line and leads divers along the opening of the second eye with plenty of daylight to see the stalactites. The second dive is along The Batcave Line and is a much darker route with little to no daylight entering the cave system during the dive. Divers will ascend up the cave to an open air pocket filled with bats flying everywhere!

 *They also dove in casa cenote and the car wash cenote. Check out my post on 6 Must See Cenotes Here!

Kayak at Casa Cenote

Explore Ancient Ruins

Hangin out in a treehouse at Kin Toh

Where To Eat: 

Budget Friendly: Antojitos La Chiapaneca: Mexican 

Best Tacos: Las Antorcha Food Truck; location varies

Instagram WorthyKin Toh; Mayan-Mexican cuisine in a tree house venue offering guests an experience they’re sure to remember. From the time you enter the restaurant until the time you leave, every one of your senses will be interacted with. Make reservations in advance, $$$$$

Best Ocean ViewMezzanine; Authentic Thai and casual beach menu includes a legendary Happy Hour if you’re looking for a boozey brunch on the beach.

Where To Stay:We spent four nights in a jungle paradise we discovered on AirBnb.The three bed three bath penthouse came with a private rooftop pool. 

Check out AirBnb for other amazing places to stay, and enjoy jungle views! New to AirBnB? Click here for $40 usd towards your first trip!

The Perfect Weekend in Death Valley National Park

Death Valley Sign

Death Valley holds the title for driest, hottest, and lowest National Park of the 59 in the U.S. PLUS it’s the largest National Park outside of Alaska. We had two full days to see as much as we could and we’re already planning our next trip back to explore more of this diverse landscape.

Death Valley Road

The park entrance fee is $25 usd per vehicle per day- I have an annual pass ($80 usd) we used to get in. With over 3 million acres of wilderness, sand dunes, slot canyons, rocky rainbow peaks, and miles of back country roads to explore- where do you begin?! We flew into Las Vegas after work the Friday of MLK weekend and rented a car to make the 2 hour drive through the desert into Death Valley.

Tip: Make your rental car and camping reservations early. Spend the money on a 4×4 high clearance vehicle. You’ll need one if you plan to do the back country drives- that includes the famous racetrack. It’s 27 miles of HARD road to get there, and the ever logical Logan deemed our compact car  unfit for such conditions… preventing us from seeing the racetrack and other park sites (getting a flat or needing a tow truck in the middle of no where sounded not so fun).

Day 1: East Side

Sunset Campground

We spent more time dicking around in Vegas than we anticipated, so we got to the park a little later than planned, meaning we got to drive around in the dark looking for an open site… the campground is first come first serve and there were plenty of spots (it seems we’ve made setting up camp in the dark an unintentional tradition). The campsite didn’t have a fire pit or picnic table but the campground had water and flush toilets (no showers). The sites weren’t very private and it felt like we were in a giant parking lot more than a campground. We set up our tent facing to the darkest side, and watched the sky light up with stars.  

sunset campground

Artists Drive

This scenic loop drive is 9 miles of paved road that takes you through multi-hued colorful volcanic and sedimentary hills. We had the the one way road to ourselves so we took our time as we drove. As the famous Artist Palette came into view we got out at the pull off and explored further into the rock formations for a small hike. Our little compact car did fine on the paved road.

artists pallette.jpg

 

Natural Bridge

We did a few hikes in our time at the park, but this by far was our favorite. The road to get here is rough and rocky, we didn’t think our car was going to make it- thank God it did. The out and back hike took us 1 mile round trip from the natural bridge formation- bbbbbut don’t stop there! We hiked back as far as we could get past the bridge (another mile or so) and the dramatic canyon turned to beautifully colored marble walls glistening around us. You could see the remains of a dried up waterfall, and how the powerful element carved it’s mark permanently into the earth. It was incredibly pretty, and the tall narrow canyon kept us shaded from the sun.

img_8443

img_8440

img_8437

img_8434

chelsea purple rock

img_8431

 

 

Badwater Basin

It was 75 degrees and sunny when we walked a mile out to the salt flats 282 ft below sea level- the lowest point in North America. There was no shade, and in the dead of winter- we were hiking in Death Valley, and for the first time- we felt it. I’ve seen salt flats in Bolivia, and they were miles and miles long. But these were the first salt flats with water I’d seen, and it was an incredible sight (and another reason I FREAKING LOVE MY TEVAS). I walked out into the salty water expecting the lake I saw before me to get deeper as  walked further out. The water never went above my ankle in depth- and from afar it looked to others as if I was walking on water. It was a magical experience.

IMG_8715.jpg

logan salt flat.jpg

couple salt flat.jpg

img_8496

img_8497

me salt 1

me salt 2

me salt 3

img_8481

img_8509-1

 

Zabriskie Point

If you’re looking for the best spot to catch a sunrise or sunset- this is it. The golden colored badlands make for an amazing backdrop to natures free shows each day. Start your day or end your day here- you won’t be disappointed either way you do it. We missed the point coming into the park at night, so we made sure we caught it on our way back out!

zabriskie point.jpg

IMG_8704.jpg

 

 

Day 2: North Side

Stone Pipe Wells Campground

We spent our 2nd night in this first come first serve campground that’s only open during the winter season; the campground has tent only sites everywhere, and a lot of private options; we had a beautiful view outside our tent of the mountains across the desert- there’s flush toilets and water, but no fire pits or picnic tables.

stone pipe wells campground

 

 

Ubehebe Crater

Hundreds of years ago, a massive volcanic explosion happened in Death Valley. Magma mixing with an underground spring caused the explosion that created this 600 ft deep crater. As we drove to the trail head you could see the landscape around us changing from light colored brown tones to dark volcanic black sand. You can hike the full rim of the crater (around 1.5 miles round trip) but we were short on time, so we hiked to see little ubehebe crater and enjoyed the views before heading back down.

couple crater

crater road.jpg

 

Mosaic Canyon

This was the hike I was most excited about. The 4 mile hike took us through polished marble narrows, and required a bit of rock climbing (scrambling). It was beautiful walking through the labyrinth of smooth rock.. The colorful walls changed in color and texture along the hike, making for gorgeous photo opportunities.

 

mosaic 1

mosaic 2

mosaic 3

mosaic 4

mosaic 5

mosaic 6

mosaic 7

mosaic 8

mosaic 9

 

Rainbow Canyon

We ended our day exploring the west side of the park. As soon as I saw their was a “rainbow canyon” I knew we couldn’t leave without seeing it. The drive takes a couple hours, so we stocked up on fuel and road trip snacks in Stovepipe Wells Village before heading towards the canyon. The drive to Father Crowley Vista was one of the most scenic drives I’ve ever done. A landscape of dark lava flows and volcanic cinders turns to rainbow canyon with an explosion of color. As you’re driving through the mountains you can see the colors start to pop the closer you get.

 

rainbow 1

rainbow 2

rainbow 3

rainbow 4

rainbow 5

raibow 6

raibow 7

rainbow 8

rainbow 9

rainbow 10

 

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Hike to the largest dune field in the park for another great spot to catch a sunrise or sunset. You can walk as far out into the dunes as you want, the hike to summit the highest is about 2 miles roundtrip. We walked through the sand up and down the dunes until we found the perfect sunset viewing peak, all to ourselves.

dunes 1

dunes 2

Furnace Creek Campground

We spent our last night back on the east side of the park (where the only showers in the park were)- it was MLK Day, and the park entry and camping was free for the holiday! We were expecting a huge crowd but we had no issue finding a site on the first come first serve sites. It was our favorite campsite, we had a picnic table, a fire ring, and nobody around us. Of course the night we have furniture the clouds decided to be assholes- we didn’t see one star that night. Instead we were kept awake by the howling of the locals (aren’t they just adorable?!?).

coyote 1

coyote 2

furnace creek camp

Know Before You Go

  • Showers are only available at the privately owned Furnace Creek Resort. It’s $5 per person for a pool pass that gives you access to their pool & showers/locker room. **These are the only showers in the entire park, and if you’re camping and hiking, you will want a shower.**
  • You can rent a 4×4 high clearance vehicle by the hour in the town of Furnace Creek from a privately owned company.
  • There is 1 restaurant (Stovepipe Wells Village) and a few small grocery stores inside the park (Stovepipe Wells Village & Furnace Creek).
  • It is a 2 hour drive to the park from Las Vegas and a 5 hour drive from Los Angeles. The park is located in both California & Nevada.
  • Check out my guide on what to pack for your national park camping trip!

 

 

Packing Guide: Camping National Parks

Michigan winter’s can be brutal. It was in the negative degrees for over a week- making it so cold that my hand stuck to my door knob one day (that’s ridiculous). We decided it was time to go somewhere warm where you can’t see your breath- so MLK weekend Logan & I took off on a weekend camping trip to Death Valley National Park!

 

Jasper National Park

I. LOVE. CAMPING.

Being outside in the nature, soaking in the sunshine and fresh air in the great outdoors is one of my favorite things to do. Camping is the best way to experience a National Park in all it’s natural beauty. Plus camping in the park has saved me hundreds of dollars in accommodations. What’s better than dinner with a view? Camping in the outdoors means cooking meals in cool places.

 

Yosemite National Park

 

Last year I went on dozens of camping trips- forgetting something when you’re camping can be a huge pain in the ass (this one time we couldn’t find fuel, so our meal depended on if we could get the water boiling over a fire- not impossible, just time consuming, and after 5 days- that’s a lot of work) – most times we’re in the middle of nowhere, so you’re out of luck if you do.

I’ve brought friends with me on trips who have never camped before, and their first question is always- what do I pack? It was entertaining to watch them stumble through what they thought they might need (20 lbs of clothes, and no sleeping bag- maybe they were going to just wear lots of layers?)

 

Yoho National Park

 

I’ve created a packing guide to avoid that, broken up into what is a necessity (bare minimum)- down to what is nice to have if you have the packing space/weight. I usually try to fit my gear in a carry on so I don’t have to check a bag on the flight.

Here’s your ultimate packing guide to camping in national parks!

 

Bare Necessities

necessities

Tent

My REI Half dome plus tent is the perfect size for me and my travel companion. With a door on each side it makes it easier to enter/exit without disturbing my sleeping partner  to pee in the middle of the night.

Sleeping Bag/Pad

Sleeping on the ground isn’t always the most comfortable, a good pad can make a huge difference when it comes to a good night sleep- plus it keeps you warm when the temperatures drop. The REI pad I use is nice because it self inflates- and after a long day of hiking, I’m lazy and need all my air.  The marmot sleeping bag I use is awesome- it has a hood at the top that not only keeps your head warm- it keeps your pillow from sliding away at night. Tip: Pack a sleeping pad repair kit just in case!

Head Lamp

It’s always ideal to set up camp during the daylight hours- however somehow I always manage to end up at camp when the sun goes down. Holding a flashlight (or your cellphone) while trying to set up your tent for the night is difficult- get a head lamp. Yes it looks silly, yes you will be extremely grateful you brought one. Tip: its handy to study the park maps and pick out what hikes you’re going to do the day before to see if there are any restrictions before you get to the trail head.

Backpack With Daypack

The backpack I take on my trips is better classified as a travel backpack than it is a backpacking backpack. What I love about it is it opens like a suitcase/duffel is the removable day pack- great for holding your water bladder on your hikes.

Camp Stove/Cook Wear

Food is one of the largest expenses when traveling. Cooking your meals while camping will help cut down costs tremendously ($5 usd a meal vs $15 usd eating out). I bring my stove and cookwear with me on longer hikes and cook my meal with a view at the summit- just don’t forget your spork (that’s happened to me several times). The cook wear kit I have comes with bowls/pots/pans/spork- but the stove is sold separately. Tip: Conserve water and use the leftover water from cooking to clean your dishes. 

 

Still Have Space?

Other Stuff

If you are planning on backpacking and hiking to your campsite every oz of weight matters- you have to carry your bag for miles. These next items are SUPER NICE to have, but you can get by without them if you don’t have them or are trying to save space & weight.

Hammock & Slap Straps

There’s nothing better than kicking back in my hammock after a long day on the trails. I keep telling myself one night I’ll pull in my sleeping bag/pad and sleep under the stars (But then things like coyote’s howling at all hours of the night prevent that from happening- imagine that.) The slap straps I have are easy to use and make set up happen in seconds.

Pillow & Chair

I’m not gonna lie… camping without a pillow or camp chair can make for a pretty uncomfortable night. I use my pillow on the airplanes (and sleep the entire flight like 99% of the time I fly) one time I forgot it- so I made a ball out of clothes (I don’t recommend that). I use a camp chair when we’re car camping – but never have the space in my carry on. Tip: Some campsites don’t have picnic tables so then you’re stuck sitting on the ground or finding a good “butt rock”. I always regret not bringing one. 

Packing Cubes

Packing cubes are perhaps the most genius travel invention ever. If you don’t have a set- pay the $10 and get yourself some. They will change the way you travel forever. The cubes keep your clothes separated, keep your bag organized, and make packing things up fast and easy. Tip: Roll your clothes instead of folding them, you’ll fit a lot more in.

Cocoon & Life Straw

I use my cocoon in the summer months- it’s perfect for warm nights and keeps my sleeping bag clean if it’s a dry shampoo type of day. The life straw is nice to have if you plan on doing longer hikes (6 + miles). My water bladder holds about 3 liters- and I get pretty close to running out on harder treks. I bring the lifeproof straw in case of emergency- it filters out 99.999999% of all the bad stuff, so you can drink from a fresh water source in a pinch.

 

What’s your favorite camping gear? Leave a comment!

2017 Year Review

✨2017 Was an Incredible Year for me ✨

I traveled on 3 international trips with AMAZING people (Thailand, Alberta Canada, and Peru), I camped in 5 new national parks, and I put thousandssss of Michigan road trip miles on the car. 🚙

img_7652
Macchu Picchu, Peru, November 2017

Rocky Mountain National Park, Septemer 2017- Couple Trip

 

California Mother Daughter Trip, November 2017

 

Brimley State Park, October 2017- Couple Trip

 

Yosemite National Park, California, September 2017

 

 

Port Crescent State Park, Michigan, Summer 2017

 

Wilderness State Park, Michigan, Summer 2017

 

Emerald Lake- Yoho National Park, July 2017

 

Jasper National Park, Alberta Canada, July 2017

 

Banff National Park, Alberta Canada, July 2017

 

Thailand Group Pic

 

Thailand, February 2017

 

 

I’ve worn glasses or contacts since I was in middle school. Every year my eye sight would get worse and worse- I made the decision I would get lasik surgery and ditch the contacts & glasses- and it’s one of the best investments I’ve made. This year my body was challenged in so many ways. From eye surgery to zero gravity flying to hiking into the highest altitude I’ve ever experienced- 2017 had it all. ⛰

 

Rainbow Mountain Peru, Altitude around 16,000 ft

Zero Gravity Flying

 

In 2017 I knocked some big stuff off the bucket list including white water rafting, rock climbing, and starting a travel blog. 💻

I have so many wonderful amazing things to be thankful for this year. But these two amazing beings here are what I am most grateful for. They came into my life a year ago and I am so excited I get to start 2018 with them– Happy New Year everyone!

 

The Perfect Weekend in Seattle

When you work full time- you look forward to a couple days off at the end of the week. I am the queen of utilizing my weekends to their full potential (all the adventures). April 2017 I spent a long weekend over Easter with one of my oldest friends in Seattle. We both live in different states- and I arrived a couple days earlier, giving me time to explore the city solo. We spent a couple days in the city and then ventured off for a day trip to Mount Rainier National Park.

Seattle, is surrounded by water, mountains and evergreen forests, and contains thousands of acres of parkland (could you BE any cooler Seattle?!) I gravitate to cities surrounding by nature and scenic getaways close by- Seattle was no different.

Here’s your guide to a perfect weekend in Seattle!

kerry park

Stay in Downtown Seattle

In Seattle, staying in the downtown area is going to be the most convenient. All the prime spots are close by if not walking distance, and staying there will keep you in the center of everything which helps save some cash on transportation.

AirBNB: Before I even look at hotels- I always start with Airbnb. It has some awesome places right in the city center, and you’ll save some cash renting one big house or apartment rather than booking multiple hotel rooms. (Click Here to earn a $40 credit!)

The Edgewater Hotel: Seattle’s only waterfront hotel looking over Elliott Bay and the Olympic Mountains in the distance. Located in the heart of downtown, you’ll be within walking distance to the city’s favorite sites… or you just might decide to relax there, soaking up the view beside a river-rock fireplace.

Four Seasons: This five-star stunner is located downtown near Pike Place Market. Reflecting the Hotel’s appreciation of local art, guest rooms display a selection of 16 works by classic Northwest artists, reproduced from the collection of the Seattle Art Museum.

Kimpton Hotel Monaco: Winner of the 2017 Traveler Readers’ Choice Award- this boutique hotel is PET FRIENDLY (yeyyy fur babies!) and comes with a yoga mat in every room so you can start and end your day with some sun salutations.

the fat hen

Grab Brunch in Seattle

Brunch is my absolute favorite meal when I travel- and just so happens to be the ideal time for planning your adventures for the day. The hard part will be choosing where to go-Seattle has foodie approved eateries across the city. I didn’t have a bad meal the entire trip.

The Fat Hen: Innovative french low country cuisine made with freshly provided ingredients from their local friends and neighbors in the farming community. (Whittier Heights)

Skillet: This award winning diner has delicious stuff like maple braised pork belly and waffle with a fried egg on top. (Multiple Locations)

Americana: Cozy bistro famous for their diverse brunch menu and mimosas. Bonus: dog friendly patio for your fur babies. (Capitol Hill)

Biscuit Bitch: A coffeehouse as funky as its name that serves southern-inspired foods specializing in biscuits, BITCH. (Pike Place Market))

Citizen: Café and bar with all types of crepes (sweet & savory) that serves Nutella hot chocolate- need I say more?  (Queen Anne)

schilling cider house

Drink Local in Seattle

Seattle takes it’s beer seriously. The microbrewing scene has been going strong for decades-with over 60 breweries in the city. With so many options- it’s tough to go wrong when deciding which ones to try. If you’re like me and prefer anything other than beer- no worries, you’re also in luck! Washington state is one of the top five cider producing states in the country (victoryyyyy).

tulips

Shop at Pike Place Market

Yes- it can be as touristy as you fear… but it’s worth the visit if it’s your first time in Seattle. Pike Place market is WAY bigger than I thought it would be. This nine-acre historic district is filled with local farmers, a crafts market, and over 200 specialty shops- all locally owned. The market was originally established in 1907 to connect citizens and farmers. Farmers markets take place year round with bakeries, fish markets, butcher shops, produce stands, and FLOWERS! My suggestion would be to buy some of the famous tulips while you’re there to color up your life a bit 😊

pike place chowder

Taste Award Winning Chowder

Located within the market, Pike Place Chowder makes the perfect snack while you’re shopping up an appetite. This chowder has earned dozens of wins in regional AND national competitions! Now, I’m not a huge chowder fan, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try this famous chowder, and I’m so glad I did- it was so creamy and delicious! With awards coming out the ass-  it’s no wonder there was a line out the door and around the block!

bubble gum wall

Chew Bubble Gum

I loved the look of the gum colors melting together on the famous gum wall, it almost looked like wax. It wasn’t as gross as I’d imagined it would be, and I found it weirdly fun to look at, while I added my bubble 😊 Grab some bubble gum and make the decision for yourself!

west point lighthouse

Get Outside

Discovery Park: Discovery Park is Seattle’s largest public park at 534 acres. The park is in the Magnolia neighborhood of Seattle, and has around 12 miles of walking trails. It has a lighthouse- and I’m from Michigan (so many lighthouses) so this park was at the top of my list. The West Point Lighthouse was my favorite part of the park. To visit the lighthouse, your best bet is to stop into the Visitor Center- they can direct you to the walking trails that will lead down to the beach of the lighthouse. Warning: The hike back up can be strenuous, there’s a shuttle bus that runs from the Visitor Center down to the beach as well. (Magnolia)

Kerry Park: This park is popular for its incredible view of downtown- the city sky line against the green of the park is just breathtaking. (Queen Anne Hill)

Gas Works Park: What I love about this park, is that it could have been left as a forgotten industrial wasteland, like so many others- but instead was turned into a beautiful park. This park is so unique- the rusting remains of the manufacturing plant that once stood remain. The park has a picture-perfect view across the lake to downtown Seattle that’s worth the visit. (Lake Union)

DSC_0030

Visit the Chihuly Garden & Glass

Located next to the Space Needle, the Chihuly Garden & Glass is a magical place. The glass wonderland is breathtaking and bursting with colors. The venue combines the glass with the natural beauty of the gardens. The glasshouse occasionally closes for private events, but the rest of the exhibition and the garden remain open, so check the calendar before you’re heading over. If you plan on visiting the Space Needle- save some cash, and buy a combo pass for the Glass Garden + Space Needle.

molly moon.jpg

Treat Yourself

I’m obsessed with Molly Moon! It has delicious icecream with rotating seasonal flavors. It’s an easy detour where ever you are with 8 various locations spread across the city.

uneeda burger.jpg

Go Out For Dinner in Seattle

The food scene in Seattle is starting to gain some movement. When you’re there, forget about chain restaurants, and go where the locals go.

Uneeda Burger: Do you need a burger though? Located just .04 miles away from Seattle’s fremont troll, Uneeda Burger is a casual, roadside-style burger shack with seriously delicious burgers, sandwiches, sides and shakes. (Fremont)

The Pink Door: Equal parts Italian-American dining, with eclectic entertainment such as trapeze, cabaret, music and tarot. If it’s a nice day when you visit, opt for outside on the view deck overlooking Elliot Bay. Located on 1919 Post Alley the restaurant has no sign, but look for the pink door on the water side of the Post Alley promenade. (Pike Place Market)

Lola: With cooking styles of Greece; the menu offers modern Mediterranean and North African riffs on local ingredients such as Anderson Valley lamb, Penn Cove shellfish and wild King salmon. (Belltown)

Northlake Tavern – If you crave pizza always like me- then you know where to go. The pizza is an old local favorite, having been around since 1954! The pizza is served with an “old Italian recipe.” Not only is the pizza incredible, but it’s also a local dive bar with cheap pitchers and a laid back Seattle attitude. (North Lake)

How to Cook a Wolf: This rustic Italian-inspired small plates restaurant is sure to impress. Best to go family style and order a couple plates a person to share, that way you get to try a little of everything!

 

Have a couple extra days in the area? Why not spend them in Olympic National Park?

img_0730

The Perfect Weekend in Denver

Some of my favorite trips are the ones that happen spontaneously, that being said- I spend a lot of my time on skyscanner. Almost every single day, I’m looking at flights out of Detroit to see what kind of deals are out there (everyone always asks me how I travel so much= skyscanner). So when I found roundtrip tickets to Denver out of Detroit for under $100 ROUNDTRIP per person- I booked Logan and I tickets .0001 seconds later. (Umm sweetheart, we’re going to Denver next weekend ok?) Did I mention the tickets were for Friday to Sunday? Aka 48 hours? The perfect weekend getaway was officially set into motion.

Thoughts of mountains, road trips, and all the good food started taking over. I started thinking about all the amazing things on my Pinterest Board there are to do in Denver and the surrounding areas (I knew we couldn’t go THAT close to the Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) and NOT explore it.) We only had 48 hours from take off to landing back in Detroit. So with so little time and so much to do how do you choose? Two days. Two ways to spend them, one day in the city, one in the mountains = perfect!

We landed in Denver early Friday morning and picked up our rental car. It was 11 a.m. in Denver but we had been up since 5 a.m. Detroit time and this girl hadn’t eaten yet- that made finding food priority #1. I read everywhere that Snooze was THE place for brunch in Denver. This place certainly lived up to the hype. There was a 45 minute wait for a table (still hungry) and the restaurant was located in an old train station full of cute shops and eateries. We set off to explore a bit, and may have done some snacking while we waited…

Pasty snack, Pigtrain Coffee

Eggs benny classic and chili verde, Snooze

Breakfast Pot Pie, Snooze

After what might have been my favorite meal of the trip and some long over due caffeine we headed out to explore Denver. We popped into a couple local dispensaries to see what legal marijuana was all about. The weed dispensaries are everywhere, on every square block, of Denver. You’re usually within walking distance of one in most parts of the city. Since we turned 21 a couple years ago… (ok so it was more then a couple) we could just walk into any that looked cool. One was located in this older abandoned building… it was on the top floor of this old creepy spiral carpeted staircase. We contemplated turning back each step up we took, thinking surely we were in the wrong spot (we weren’t).


We ventured over to Larimer Square to explore the local shops and see the famous lights (we went a little too early, they weren’t turned on yet). It was September, just the beginning of the fall season- and the weather that day was perfect, cloudy and 70 degrees. Perfect for walking around with a delicious cup of coffee. While we walked around the city, I decided Denver was my favorite city. I loved the vibes, the art pieces (even the restaurant signs were creative and artsy), the cleanliness of the city. This mountain town was someplace I must return to someday.

Larimer Square


The cottage we were staying at in Estes Park (Dripping Springs Resort) was about an hour an a half drive from the city of Denver. As soon as we pulled into the drive way I knew this place was magical. We parked the car outside the cute entrance way and followed the path into the main house to check in. The dogs of the owners of the B&B greeted us with excited barks. We were shown a tour of the grounds, which included a smoking gazebo, a porch with chairs and hammocks (all overlooking the river) a few nature walking paths through the woods, and our cabin.


I felt like I was living a fairy tale. We stayed in the Canopy Cottage B&B Room. The cabin was meticulously decorated, with a warm and homey feel. We had a private porch with soft outdoor lighting overlooking the river that included a jacuzzi tub and bistro table & chairs. I didn’t think we’d be making it to the RMNP. This place was perfect, and I never wanted to leave. At this point in the night we had been traveling all day and the last thing I wanted to do was get back in the car. There was a mini fridge, teapot and wine glasses- but no food. But because this place is perfect- there was an assortment of menus in the room- and a delivery service ($3.00 usd) for any of the restaurants on the list… I’m sorry what? You’ll deliver me food to my cabin in the middle of no where so I don’t have to leave? Did I mention that I love this place? When the food arrived we ate out on the patio and warmed up in the jacuzzi before bed. The canopy bed was draped in sheers with twinkle lights, covered in a mountain of fluffy pillows- it was a beautiful night so we left the door open, and fell asleep to the sounds of the river.

Breakfast was served at 8:30 a.m. sharp in the main house. We were served a home cooked meal family style- of hot oatmeal, potato pancakes, breakfast meat, fresh fruit, and eggs. It was the perfect meal to get us ready for the long day of exploring we had ahead of us in the Rockies. Before we left we were given our picnic basket (you can picnic baskets, s’mores, and other cute romantics) which we enjoyed later that day on our road trip through the RMNP.

Estes Park is only a 10 minute drive to the entrance of the Rocky Mountain National Park. Our plan was to just drive on Trail Ridge Road (highway 34) from Estes Park to Grand Lake. It’s a 48 mile route that connects to east and west side of the rocky mountains. The drive was absolutely beautiful. It was early fall- and the yellow birch trees were in full force everywhere you looked, dotting the green colored mountains.

The drive along Trail Ridge Road (commonly referred to as the highway to the sky) crosses the Continental Divide. Of the 48 miles on this route- 11 of those miles are driven ABOVE the treeline, with elevation near 11,500 feet. The evergreen forest starts to disappear as you climb higher into the windy tundra to the highest point at 12,183 feet in elevation. We parked the car to walk out to the viewing point. With the high winds the clouds and fog made the visibility of the mountains a peep show of peaks popping in and out of view.

A word of caution should you decide to travel the Trail Ridge Road through the park for a few hours- the air is thin at these high altitudes (10,500- 13,000 ft). Traffic is slow- and the blind drop offs along the way make the drive strenuous. The weather is unpredictable- and travel above the tree lines should be accomplished early in the day.

We continued back down in elevation towards the city of Grand Lake to have some dinner. It had started to rain when we arrived, and the temperature had started to drop drastically so we decided to skip the kayaking. Instead we walked around downtown shopping at the little shops and checking out the food scene (not as impressive as Denver) we found a pizza joint and got some coffee for the road trip back.

We headed north on 34 back towards Estes Park. When we arrived at the west entrance of RMNP, the guard informed us that the road to Estes Park was closed due to snow. WHAT. We were just there a couple hours ago and it was beautiful! We had to turn around- we can’t get back home that way… that meant a 4 hour detour AROUND the park- not even through it.

Thankfully Colorado is all gorgeous and the ride home turned out to be more scenic then we anticipated! Despite the turn around- we had an amazing weekend exploring the beautiful Denver and Rocky Mountain National Park. See below for a complete itinerary of our weekend in Denver- what can YOU do in two days?

48 Hours in Denver Itinerary

Friday, Sep. 22 – Sunday, Sep. 24

Friday 9/22: Depart DTW 7:00 am SPIRIT

    • Arrive Denver 8:00 am
    • Pick up rental car
    • Snooze (1701 Wynkoop St #150, Denver, CO 80202)
    • Tattered Cover Book Store
    • Ice Cream Riot (1238 E Colfax Ave)
    • Pig Train Coffee
    • Milkbox Ice Creamery
    • Larimer Square (1430 Larimer St)

Drive 1.5 hours to Dripping Springs Resort

Saturday 9/23: Rocky Mountain NP

Trail Ridge Road: The highest continuously paved highway in the U.S., this 48-mile route connects the town of Grand Lake (on Rocky Mountain’s west side) to Estes Park (the eastern gateway). In between, it scales treeless peaks and crosses the Continental Divide. Trail head pull offs are located along the road to explore deeper into the park.

Grand Lake: Paddle a kayak or SUP across Colorado’s largest natural lake, which affords wide-open panoramas of the surrounding peaks.

Sunday 9/24: Depart DEN 9:30 am SPIRIT

    • Arrive DTW 2:21 PM

One Day Guide | Lima

When we arrived in Peru- it was late, it was dark, and we’d been traveling for over 14 hours. Fortunately for me, I had slept the entire flight like I do most flights, so I was awake and ready to take on this new city!  We made our way through the crowd (I say crowd but it was more like a sea of sweaty humans) of cab drivers to the exit.

Lima is the capital of Peru, and the airport was bustling at 9:30 p.m. like you would expect to see at 7:00 a.m. back in the states. We were immediately approached by several men screaming TAXI! My travel partner spoke about 3 words of spanish- but looks like he could be of Latin American decent- so as I responded to them in broken but decent spanish- they answered back in spanish… to my partner, completely ignoring me, despite his attempt at “no hablo espanol”. The whole interaction was frustrating and humorous at the same time. Eventually we “bargained a deal” (we totally got hosed) and we were loading our backpacks into the cab to check in at our AirBnb in Miraflores (along with a Swedish backpacker hitching a cab with us). Take it from a couple travelers that learned the hard way- DO NOT pay more than 50 soles for a cab from the airport, I’m not even going to tell you how much we paid because it will just upset me. Thank goodness we had an incredible AirBnb waiting for us to do some cheering up 🙂

Our balcony view from our AirBnb

You can do A LOT in 24 hours, and when you’re traveling on a roundtrip ticket-you make sure you do as much as you can in the time that you have. So whether you’re in Lima as a stopover until you head to Macchu Picchu like we were, or this is your final destination … here’s how I spent MY 24 hours in Lima.

 PAN DE LA CHOLA

Starting my morning with coffee is a must, so the first stop of the day is almost always somewhere with coffee. This adorable shop was a perfect first stop to fuel up for the day. From tasty treats to savory sandwiches, Pan de la Chola of Miraflores is said to be Lima’s best panaderia. The sandwich breads are baked from local grown grains like kiwicha and my personal favorite- quinoa!  Get anything with avocado- you can’t go wrong, I’m pretty sure the avocados in Peru are all magical. I had this sugary, soft croissant type pastry and a Peruvian latte (I also sampled off my friends plates) everything I had was delicious.

EL MALECON

This is a six mile stretch of parks that winds along the coastline with breathtaking views the entire way. The parks are so pretty, and the fitness vibes of the city are abundant along here- there’s paved running and biking paths surrounded by beautiful flower gardens and built in workout equipment. People everywhere were either working out or walking their dogs (the dog watching of pure breds is more fun then people watching). We watched locals playing soccer in one park, while we made our way to the lighthouse. As we passed through the parque del amor i’m not sure what I liked more, the colorful mosaic walls, or the romantic love quotes they were covered in?

Logan lost his mind when he got to pet his dream dog for the first time

MAC MUSEO DE ARTE CONTEMPORANEO

My love for contemporary art grows with each new museum I visit. Located just at the entrance of the Barranco district, MAC was my first international contemporary art museum visit. It was a little on the small side- with bright, colorful pieces, the artists were all Peruvian or Latin American. I’m an amateur photographer, and i’m always looking for unique opportunities to practice, this was a perfect opportunity! For 10 soles ($3 USD) it was time to take a break from the crazy city and better yet- support the local community.

img_7814

AMORAMAR

Barranco was my favorite district for many reasons, and the food was just one of them. Amoramar has an outdoor bar and dining area with a mix of peruvian and mediterranean type dishes (yes they have Ceviche and pisco sours). Dine like royalty, for an affordable price. We went family style- and just ordered a ton of random dishes to pass around the table so everyone could try a little bit of everything.  It’s a little on the fancier side so I wouldn’t recommend showing up in your yoga pants (even though you’ll eat so much you’ll wish you had). In the order in which we ate them, check out all the deliciousness we ate.

Cebiche clasico… S/.66

So. Many. Pisco Sours.

Duck, with cilanto rice

Isla de frutos del bosque … S/.26

OCEAN SUNSETS

What better way to wrap up your day then a stunning oceanfront sunset? There’s really no bad spot along the coast to watch the day come to an end. We walked off our food babies down to the beach a little early and watched the surfers catch the waves as the sun went down behind them for a 2 for 1 show. And I gave Dan a new photo tradition of me running away from the waves before they get me (which puts me up to 3 total photos (all different trips)).

Rainbow Mountain Peru Trek

 

Rainbows and mountains are both beautiful. And I’m obsessed with anything colorful/shiny/that sparkles. So when I heard you could hike to a RAINBOW MOUNTAIN (rainbows + mountains = Chelsea’s favorite things) in Peru, I knew I had to go.

Vinicunca (Rainbow Mountain) is in the Willkanuta Mountain Range, located in the greater Andes Mountains, the mountain is around 3 hours away from Cusco. The altitude STARTS at 4,326 m / 14,189 ft. with the peak of the mountain sitting at 5,200m / 17,060 ft …that is HIGH. And just so happens to be the highest altitude I’ve ever hiked in.

I was nervous for the ascent up rainbow mountain- Instead of acclimating like most people I had been sick for a good majority of the trip from the altitude in Cusco (for whatever reason my body absolutely HATES altitude, and anything over 9,000 ft makes me nauseous and uncomfortable). This trek would be pushing my body to limits i’d never pushed it to before- and I worried these beautiful mountains could very well be the death of me.

The morning of the hike starts EARLY, or late if you want to look at it that way- the van picked us up from our Airbnb in Cusco at 2:30 a.m. We all instantly regretted not bringing a pillow for the 3 hour ride ahead of us. Blankets were provided for us, so we attempted to sleep on each other and catch up on some zzz’s (we didn’t get to sleep till 10 p.m after the Machu Picchu trip ). The rough ride made that difficult, and nobody got much sleep. I’m pretty sure there are more speed bumps in Peru than the entire continent of South America…

We arrived at a village 15 minutes from the trail head where we were fed a light breakfast by the locals. Breakfast consisted of breads, jams/butter, a plate of scrambled eggs, and some tea (it’s highly recommended you drink the coca tea- it will help with the altitude sickness). I was nauseous from the van ride and/or altitude so I skipped breakfast.

When we got to the trail head around 6:30 a.m. we were at 14,000 ft and it was cold! Layers on layers was key to this trek. There were locals selling wool gloves, hats, scarves, parkas and other souvenirs- a couple people from the group bought some hats and gloves. We still had 2000 ft in elevation to gain and it was already cold…

There were horses for rent that you could ride up the mountain for 60 soles (about $18 USD). SOLD. And that was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Half our group decided to rent horses, while the other half decided to brave the mountain on foot.

The horse came with a local guide who led the horse up the mountain for you- these guides were the real heros. They were wearing sandals on their feet- and made the trip up and down the mountain MULTIPLE TIMES A DAY, sometimes running past other hikers… it was impressive and made me feel like a whimp on my horse- but then I’d try to take a deep breath, and considering I was having a hard time breathing just sitting there, I knew the horse was a wise decision. Riding the horse up the mountain allowed me to relax, and enjoy all the incredible views along the way. These views included cuteness overload, with thousands of alpaca, llama, and farm animals.

The horses do not go up the last quarter mile of the hike- the mountain is too steep, and the air is too thin- so you know what that meant? It was up to us to make it through the hardest part of the hike. Since we had left at 2:30 in the morning- we were the first tour group to arrive to the mountain. There was only 4 people in sight, and we had the opportunity to be some of the first people up the mountain that day. So I moved as fast as I could before the other tour groups started arriving to summit. The key was slow and steady, I would take 5 steps and be panting and out of breath.

The photo above doesn’t make it look very daunting, does it? I remember being so frustrated I couldn’t breathe, my stomach was rolling with nausea, and I was in tears just 10 feet away from reaching the top. I didn’t think I was going to make it, I thought for sure I was going to die by asphyxiation right there on that mountain in Peru.

**This hike is extremely difficult regardless of how great of shape you’re in, there was a range from people that never work out to people that compete in fitness competitions – and everyone struggled in the high altitude. It is recommended you not spend more than 30 minutes at the peak (the air is too thin)**

Making it to the top of the peak was a huge accomplishment for me. I fought through physical and mental exhaustion not allowing myself to give up (believe me, I wanted to) Everyone cheers each other on at the top, those that’ve reached it, know that it’s those last few steps where people hit their wall and almost give up, and they NEED that encouragement. When I finally took my last step to the top- I collapsed to the ground, gasping for air, trying to catch my breathe for a couple minutes. I felt like a fish out of water. Finally my breathing slowed- and as I lifted my head to look up at what I had just worked for- a smile of pure joy spread across my face, and I knew instantly it was all worth it.

We were offered the horses again on the way down. I was confident enough that I could make it down on my own, so I declined the assistance. The trip down as always- was easier than the trip up. When we got to the bottom we were served a homemade authentic Peruvian lunch, and I had no issues stuffing my face this time around. It was after all, Thanksgiving 🦃

 

CONSIDERATIONS

Our group of 6 did a tour package with Flashpacker Connect- they were awesome, and our guide Johnathon was extremely knowledgeable. Our package was for the 2 day inca trail hike, 1 day Machu Picchu, and 1 day rainbow mountain. They provided transportation to and from each expedition, an over night stay after the inca trail in the town aquas calientes, and a good majority of our meals.

The Rainbow mountain trek takes place above 4000 meters; the terrain is challenging, and weather is unpredictable ranging from hot and humid to rain and wind. Hikers should be in reasonable shape, and healthy. Ensure you have proper gear and be prepared for variable weather conditions throughout the day.

**If you area concerned with the altitude please consult your doctor for proper advice.

WHAT SHOULD I BRING?

  • Day Pack with Rain Cover
  • Trekking shoes
  • Warm clothes
    • Thermal base layer
    • Fleece/ Sweater
    • Insulated jacket
    • Hat, gloves, scarf
  • Buff/ Handkerchief
  • Rain jacket or poncho
  • Sunhat and sunglasses
  • Sun cream
  • Lip Balm
  • 1 Liter of water (per person)
  • Personal snacks
  • Motion sickness tablets (for van ride)
  • Toilet paper
  • Camera/ extra battery
  • Cash
  • Dry change of clothes, shoes and plastic bag to store wet items

 

5 Reasons to Love Ludington

Ludington is a harbor town bordered by one of my favorite great lakes, Lake Michigan!  This adorable town sits on the west side of the state (Michiganders: right by the pinky knuckle) – and is just a 4 hour drive from Detroit or Chicago, which is great for weekend trips. The town draws visitors year round (despite the bitter winter Michigan is infamous for) with a ton of recreation activities and adventures. Ludington is easily one of my favorite summer camping spots. The Ludington State Park is the most popular park in the state, so if you plan on camping there, make your reservations early! You’ll need a recreation passport or day pass to enter (both can be purchased at the park entrance). Go pack your bags, and take a road trip-  Here’s 5 reasons I absolutely LOVE Ludington.

Sunsets

You know the best part about sunsets? THEY’RE FREE. And no matter how many times you see them, no two are the same. What makes Ludington’s sunsets so amazing? Take a look for yourself…

Lighthouses

With 3,200 miles of shoreline, the state of Michigan has more lighthouses than any other US state (Alaska holds the title). Ludington has not one, but TWOOO lighthouses that are both active. An easy 3.6 mile round trip hike brings you to Michigan’s tallest and most iconic lighthouse-Big Sable Point Lighthouse. Not up for the hike? Take a walk down the breakwall leading out to the North Breakwater Light instead.

Sand Dunes

I hope everyone likes sand! Ludington State park is covered in sand dunes. You’ll hit the sand before you’re even in the park. I like to pull off M-116 before getting into the park. There’s spots all along the road where you can walk down the dunes to Lake Michigan (and essentially your own private beach). If you decide to make the trek to the Big Sable Point lighthouse- you’ll experience the dunes AND a lighthouse!

Water

This is Michigan, so I understand “water” is pretty ambiguous.  First there’s Lake Michigan- whose turquoise blue waters make you feel like you’re on a tropical island (except way more cold- even in July/August the water temperature will only reach highs of 60-65 F.) If you’re looking for something a little warmer- head 4 miles north of Ludington over to Hamlin Lake. This inland lake is 12 miles long! So you can hang out at the beach, go boating, or picnic without feeling crowded. Go burn your picnic calories and get some exercise-there’s a Canoe Trail that starts at Hamlin beach. The trail is around 4 miles, and you can canoe or kayak through marshland to check out the wildlife or towards Lost Lake where you can explore some small islands. For those who just want to spend their time relaxing and not paddling- there’s tubing down the Sable River (Expert Level: bring a floating cooler full of adult beverages).

Trails

Ludington has trails EVERYWHERE. Hiking trails? Check. Biking trails? Check. Water trails? Double check. There’s 8 trails that cover around 18 miles of the state park. The landscape of the trails varies- I found myself in giant sand dunes at the head of a trail that eventually led into the thick of the forest- finally popping me out on a paved walking path. Pack a backpack and get lost on the trails for a couple hours, I promise they won’t disappoint.