I first visited Banff in October. It was cold and relatively empty. It was a stark contrast to my most recent trip in early September when there were crowds everywhere and finding a parking space a popular places was pretty much the equivalent of winning the lottery. It hasn’t even been a year since my first trip to Banff, but it’s one of those places that keeps calling me back. Banff is stunningly beautiful and there is something to do in every season.
I received a complimentary stay from The Inn at Entrada and complimentary tour from ATV & Jeep Adventure Tours in exchange for writing a review.
We spent six nights in southern Utah and I still feel like we haven’t even scratched the surface on seeing this beautiful area, but here is what we did:
ATV Tour with ATV &a Jeep Adventure Tours
We started our trip riding ATVs around the desert. The views were gorgeous and our guide was knowledgeable. It was a great introduction to the area.
Most people think of Zion when Southern Utah comes up – and for good reason. Zion is one of the most beautiful national parks I’ve been to. It’s filled with red rocks, crazy drop offs, and beautiful water. The downside to Zion is that everyone knows how great it is, so it can get really busy. To avoid the crowds, we got permits for a technical canyon. Talk about an amazing adventure! It was a tough 15 miles filled with rappels, downclimbs, and sliding into pools. If you have the technical skills, getting permits for a canyon is a great way to avoid the crowds at Zion. We didn’t see another group all day!
The Wave is probably one of the most insta-famous and iconic locations in the world, and we were lucky enough to be one of the 20 people to score a permit one day! For those of you wondering, there are two ways to get a permit for the Wave. The first is to apply online at the BLM website four months in advance. https://www.blm.gov/programs/recreation/permits-and-passes/lotteries-and-permit-systems/arizona/coyote-buttes. The second is to show up to the BLM visitor center in Kanab and enter the drawing for a next-day permit. Either way, your chances of getting a permit are very slim. There are about 2,000 applicants a day for 20 permits. If you do happen to be lucky enough, it’s a fairly easy hike – about 3 miles each way, however the trail is not well marked. Please be careful and study a map beforehand. And don’t forget to bring enough water!
The Inn at Entranada
Last but certainly not least, our beautiful accommodation. We stayed in a casita at the Inn at Entranada in St. George. I cannot recommend this place enough! It’s conveniently located about an hour from Zion and right next to Snow Canyon State Park. The Inn in stunning. The staff are friendly. Every last detail is looked after meticulously. The property blends right in with its surroundings, and you enjoy nature even when you’re inside. If you’re ever in St. George, you know where to stay!
As you probably know, I have done my fair share of traveling. I’ve been fortunate enough to see many places. And Colorado is on the short list of places I want to live. In fact, I think I’ll be moving there in the not-so-distant future. Anyway, here are a few of my favorite places in my favorite state:
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
There’s no place like Kansas. No, really though. When Kansas Tourism invited me to visit, I didn’t know what to expect. I was excited to visit a new state, but I didn’t think there would be much to see. I was wrong. Here are 5 things you probably never knew about Kansas:
-There is a vibrant art scene. From Lucas to Linsdborg to Wichita, I noticed how each town/city had its own slightly different art scene. But they all had one.
-The towns have personality. All of them. No matter how small. And they are proud of it. Talk to any local and they will tell you how great their town is and what it has to offer. It’s always nice to be surrounded by people who genuinely love where they live. People are friendly, too. Lucas is a very quirky little town. And by little, I mean the population is around 400 people. Yet there are quite a few local folk artists, the Garden of Eden with its bizarre history, and the most intricate public bathroom I’ve ever seen.
-The nature is actually quite beautiful. Driving along the Scenic Byway, I found myself turning my head more often than was probably safe. From wide plains to vibrant sunsets to moody storm skies, the views are endless. Bonus: there are waterfalls and hiking in Kansas! I enjoyed a canyon hike at Kanopolis State Park. Oh, and did I mention the dark skies? Kansas has some of the best stargazing I’ve ever experienced.
I hope you all get a chance to make it to Kansas one day! I know I can’t wait to go back. A special thanks to the tourism board and to Charles, Connie, Dave, Amy Kay, and everyone else I met for making my trip so memorable.
It would be fair to say that DC isn’t exactly known for having an abundance of outdoor activities. The majority of people I know consider it “outdoorsy” to enjoy cocktails on a yacht on the Georgetown waterfront. But there are actually quite a few places to get outside and be active within driving distance of DC. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Shenandoah National Park: Shenandoah is my favorite place to get outside in the area. If I’m feeling tired or my ankle is bothering me, I can drive along Skyline Drive and stop to take photos. If I want to get a good workout, I can spend the day hiking Old Rag. If I want an easy hike with a good view, I can hike Hawksbill. Shenandoah offers so much to do and it’s only an hour and a half from DC.
- Great Falls, Maryland: Great Falls Maryland is a great place to hike. You can challenge yourself with the Billy Goat Trail, or take it easy and enjoy the view of the falls from the overlook.
- Great Falls, Virginia: The Virginia side of Great Falls is one of the best outdoor rock climbing locations in the DC area.
- Annapolis Rocks: Want one of those epic standing-on-a-rock photos with an unbeatable view and an easy hike? Head to Annapolis Rocks, Maryland. And if you’re into rock climbing, do some sport climbing too.
- Sugarloaf Mountain: I’ve been going to Sugarloaf since I was young. It’s not too far from DC and there are really great views. If you like wine, head to one of the local wineries after you hike.
- Shenandoah Rocks / Nelson Rocks: Want to climb? Drive to West Virginia. Check out Shenandoah Rocks for sport climbing or Nelson Rocks for a via ferrata climb.
- Blue Ridge Mountains near Roanoke: It’s a 3.5 hour drive from DC, but Roanoke is a nature lover’s paradise. It has without a doubt some of the best hiking in the area, like the beautiful McAfee Knob.
- Hike the Inka Trail: It’s more of a workout than you’d expect, but wow. The views are stunning, the history is amazing…it’s the most rewarding hike I’ve ever been on.
- Adventure through Alaska: Climb a glacier, explore an ice cave, go on a few hikes. Alaska is wild and beautiful…not to be missed.
- Marvel at Igauzu Falls: I’ve been to many waterfalls around the world (Niagara, Victoria), but none of them compare to Iguazu. Surprisingly, it’s not very touristy and still feels extremely authentic. The towns near the falls are very backpackerish and laid back. And you can spend hours upon hours walking around the falls – every view is different.
- Go on a safari in Africa: Self-explanatory. Search for the Big Five – lion, elephant, water buffalo, leopard, and rhino (but please don’t kill them!)
- Party at Yacht Week Croatia: Disclaimer – I’m not much of (read: not at all) a partier, but Yacht Week Croatia is SO. MUCH. FUN. Everyone is fun and down to earth. It’s a great way to meet friends from around the world. Added benefit – it’s not all partying, and Croatia is gorgeous. Also, cliff jumping is a great hangover cure.
- Take a roadtrip through the Southwestern U.S.: Go see the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Bryce Canyon, Zion, if you’re lucky enough to get a permit – the Wave. It’s amazing how many beautiful and diverse places there are in this area.
- Find your inner peace in Nepal: Go on a trek, do some yoga, there’s something spiritual about Nepal and you can feel it even in the bustling city of Kathmandu.
- Take a trip back in time in the Middle East: The Middle East has history like nowhere else. And people are more friendly than American news would have you think. Oh, and go sandboarding!
- Take a roadtrip up Highway 1: U.S. roadtrips really are something else. And California is simply gorgeous. The towns and cities along Highway 1 are laid-back, beachy, and everything you would expect of California.
- See…everything in Brazil: From the party see in Rio to the stunning lagoons at Lencois Maranhenses, Brazil truly offers a little bit of everything.
- Explore Turkey: Spend some time in Istanbul – it’s one of my favorite cities. Then check out Pamukkale and Cappadocia. Don’t forget to take a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia!
- Take a roadtrip around Ireland: Drive the Ring of Kerry. Go to Northern Ireland to see the beautiful volcanic formations at Giant’s Causeway. See the Cliffs of Mohr. Irish people are so friendly! And if you happen to be in Macroom, check out my dad’s cousin Con’s shop: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GKLHqREAFR8 He is one of the sweetest and most knowledgeable people I know! He’s sure to tell you a good story or…ten. Haha.
- Check out the Virgin Islands: From the tranquility of St. John to the hustle-and-bustle of St. Thomas to the the baths at Virgin Gorda…the Virgin Islands are diverse and it’s easy to get from one to the other.
- Go to Yellowstone: See Old Faithful erupt. Swim in the Boiling River. Check out the Grand Prismatic Spring. Watch wolves run down the hills. America’s first national park is not to be missed. Bonus: Grand Teton is close by, and well worth the visit.
- Scuba dive the Blue Hole in Belize: It’s a deep dive (130 feet), and you’ll likely feel a little out of it, but wow it is gorgeous! Make sure your underwater camera is made for the depth though. I learned that lesson the hard way. The other dive sites close by are equally amazing. I’ve never been around so many sharks while scuba diving.
- Hike in Vermont and New Hampshire: New England is a special place and the hiking is outstanding. If you’re a skiier or snowboarder, check out this area in the winter.
- See more green than you’d ever imagine in Hawaii: Hawaii is lush, to say the least. Go on a few ridge hikes, relax on the beach, drive the Road to Hana in Maui, cage dive with sharks – or swim with sea turtles if that’s more your style, surf…Hawaii is a wonderful place.
- Walk around Amsterdam: Go look at the IAmsterdam sign. Walk around the red light district at night. Check out the house Helen Keller hid in. I’m not a city person, but I LOVE Amsterdam.
- Explore Switzerland: Go hang gliding in Interlaken. See some small towns. Switzerland is stunning and those Swiss Alps can’t be missed.
- Hike Gros Piton in St. Lucia: St. Lucia is one of the more pristine islands I’ve been to. It has a reputation of being romantic, but I went alone and had the time of my life. I met two incredibly sweet girls hiking Gros Piton, went ocean kayaking with locals, saw a black sand beach, and ate amazing food.
Martinique is beautiful. It’s one of the more untouched and pristine islands I’ve been to. Drive along any road and you will past stunning scenic view after scenic view. There is a lot of green and not many hotels. However, the relative lack of tourism has its drawbacks. Restaurants are never open. And I mean ever. I don’t know how these people pay their rent. We tried going to one place 3 different days at 3 different times and had no luck. Customer service is subpar. You will likely have trouble getting by if you don’t speak French. But it is beautiful and there is plenty to do.
We got a little lost going to Mount Pelée. Somehow we ended up in fields of sugar cane. Talk about beautiful… Obviously we took advantage of the opportunity for an impromptu photoshoot.
We drove by a sign for this place and decided to stop. Château Dubuc is a gorgeous old sugar mill on the water. The history is fascinating and the views are stunning.
Watch the sunset at Le Diamant. It is STUNNING.
It’s cold outside. Winter is a great time to get away to a tropical destination. If you need a warm getaway, but can’t decide where to go…I’ve got you covered:
- For the Scuba Diver: Belize. So, it’s pretty cool to scuba dive the Blue Hole. I’m pretty sure that’s on most diver’s bucketlists. The Blue Hole is an awesome dive, but don’t forget about the other dive sites in the area. After I dove the Blue Hole, I went to a dive site where I was surrounded by about 10 sharks. Remember that the Blue Hole is deep. Really deep. So be careful with your underwater camera. I learned that lesson the hard way…
- For the Nature Lover: Maui. If you love nature, go to Maui and drive the Road to Hana. It’s so incredibly diverse. From bamboo forests to red sand beaches, the Road to Hana has it all.
- For Pristine Beaches: St. Lucia. St. Lucia is still relatively unaffected by tourism compared to other Caribbean destinations. The roads are unpaved and there are potholes everywhere. It is still very lush and there aren’t hotels upon hotels like other islands. I know St. Lucia has a reputation for being a romantic destination, but I went alone and had the time of my life. Also, make sure to hike the Pitons. Gros Piton is the taller and easier Piton. The views are incredible.
- For the Partier: Aruba. Aruba is filled with bars and casinos. People in Aruba like to party and it’s definitely one of the more lively islands I’ve been to.
- For Diverse Experiences: Virgin Islands. The Virgin Islands – both U.S. and British – have a lot to offer. The hustle-and-bustle of St. Thomas is a stark contrast with calm St. John. The Baths at Virgin Gorda are absolutely stunning rock formations. And you can easily take day trips from one island to the other – they are all relatively close.
- For the Family: Bahamas. The Atlantis in the Bahamas could not be a better destination for families. Children can be entertained for days on end with the water parks, and parents can have fun in the casino and at the new adult-only pool. Plus there are plenty of excursions and day activities.
I just got back from a wonderful week in Brazil. It was Carnaval week, but I’m not much of a partier, So I opted for a more laid back trip.
I found very reasonably priced flights direct from DC to Sao Paulo. I spent the week in Lencois Maranhenses, Salvador, and Sao Paulo. I certainly wish I had time for Rio, but I’ll check it out next time I’m in Brazil!
Lencois Maranhenses is a national park in northern Brazil with water-filled sand dunes that are truly out of this world. It’s a bit tricky to get to – I flew into Sao Luis then took a 5 hour bus to Barreirinhas, but the journey is well worth it. This place looks drastically different based on the season – the water level changes. July/August is the best time to visit Lencois Maranhenses, because the dunes fill up with bright blue water, but I believe it is still beautiful anytime of year. A plane tour of the dunes is an absolute MUST! The beautiful photos you will see if you search for Lencois Maranhenses are taken from a plane. Plus, the flight is pretty cheap – about 300 Reals per person.
Salvador is a cute city on the coast. A boat tour to some of the islands in the bay is a great way to see some pristine and untouched beaches. A walk around the old city is also a lot of fun.
Sao Paulo is bigger and much more expensive than other areas in Brazil. You won’t need much time here – a day or two should be enough. Renting a bike in Ibirapuera Park is a great way to start the day. Then make sure to head up to the Italian building for a cocktail at some point and get a beautiful city photo.