Black Hills South Dakota

Black Hills South Dakota

The Black Hills of South Dakota are calling!

The Black Hills South Dakota is a perfect destination for outdoor couples that love to explore and experience nature.

You may think since it is a top US destination that it would be very touristy and unromantic, but the Black Hills are a National Forest and you can find seclusion if you plan accordingly.

Here are my travel tips for an adventure packed and romantic vacation for two to the Black Hills of South Dakota:

Where to go:

Hill City, South Dakota

Custer State Parks

Rapid City, South Dakota

Deadwood, South Dakota

When to go:

Summer or early Fall

How long to stay:

7 days

 

Where to stay in the Black Hills:

Recommended:

Newton Fork Ranch in Hill City, South Dakota

Amazing log cabins and there are only 7 of them on the Ranch.

Hill City is close to everything yet you feel so far away from everything.
Sylvan Lake Lodge in Custer State Park

The lake is so beautiful to hike around and the views from the lodge deck are amazing.

Note: The lake is freezing, even on a very hot summer day.

If you want to indulge, stay at State Game Lodge in Custer State Park

You can even stay in the rooms that President Eisenhower or President Coolidge stayed.

For making reservations at the lodges, click here

 

Top things to do in the Black Hills of South Dakota:

Near Hill City, South Dakota

Hike or Climb at Wrinkled Rock Climbers Trailhead off of State Highway 244 on the way to Mount Rushmore National Memorial from the west. Just look for the Wrinkled Rock sign and you can park for free and start up the trailhead.

Eat at the Alpine Inn. This is a MUST-DO. They have only one thing on the menu – bacon wrapped filet mignon either 6oz or 9oz with baked potato, toast, wedge of lettuce and ranch dressing for $9.95 or $11.95! They also have some of the best desserts I have ever had.

Note: They don’t take reservations, but it is worth the wait! They are closed Sundays.

See a show at the Black Hills Playhouse

Bike the 109-mile Mickelson Trail

Visit the Prairie Berry Winery and try some locally made wine

 

Near Spearfish, South Dakota

Drive through Spearfish Canyon National Scenic Byway

Hike to the Bridal Veil Falls in Spearfish Canyon

Stop at the Crow Peak Brewing Company

 

Near Deadwood, South Dakota

Gamble in historic Deadwood.

See one of the outlaw shows.

 

Near Hot Spring, South Dakota

The Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary for nature & horse lover’s

Red Rock River Resort Hotel & Spa for relaxation at the spa or to stay for a night

 

Near Rapid City, South Dakota

Spend a night in Downtown Rapid City

Find the President statues on every corner

Eat at The Red Fire Truck Brewery

Shop at Prairie Edge Trading Co – featuring Native American Indian artwork.

Visit the haunted Alex Johnson Hotel where past President’s and spirits have visited.

 

If you are looking for more fun things to do, see South Dakota Travel Information.

Looking for more information, contact me.

Enjoy your vacation to the Black Hills, South Dakota!

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon

Adventure Sports Destination

 

Red Rock Canyon Rock Climbing outside of Las Vegas, Nevada

If you seek adventure sports on your vacation then you have to check out Red Rock Canyon on your next trip.

There is world-class rock climbing 20 miles from the Vegas strip! Climb by day, gamble by night.

There are 1,700 different routes of all grades and lengths at Red Rock Canyon. Be sure to get the guidebook before you go.

Note: If you forget anything or need any gear, stop by Desert Rock Sports on W Charleston on the way to Red Rock Canyon.

And don’t forget to check out all of the other rock climbing destinations within a day’s drive of Las Vegas. I have listed a few others below to check out on your trip.

Here are my tips for an adventure vacation to Red Rock Canyon:

Where to go:

Las Vegas, Nevada

When to go:

Spring and Fall are the best times to go

How long to stay:

5-7 days

Where to stay:

On the Vegas strip

MGM Grand

The Mirage

Note: These both have easy access to/from the strip and it is easier to stay on the south end of the strip.

Off the Vegas strip

Red Rock Resort Casino

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

There are a lot of other options, check out Trip Advisor for more places to stay no matter what your budget is.

 

 

Local Guide Services are available if you are unfamiliar with the area or new to this adventure sport: Jackson Hole Mountain Guides or Sky’s The Limit

Red Rock Canyon

Climbing Areas

I am just listing a few of the areas, for the full list get the Rock Climbing Red Rocks Falcon Guide or check Mountain Project for more information.

Sport Climbing Areas

Calico Basin

This is a no fee area with easy access to bouldering, sport and trad climbing.

Very popular sport climbing area.

First Pullout

Sunny and short approaches make this a great area. Best crags = Dog Wall and The Fixx Cliff.

Second Pullout

Some of the best sport climbing cliffs = Black Corridor, The Gallery and Wall of Confusion are here.

Sandstone Quarry

Mostly sport climbing routes with longer approaches.

Best cliffs = Holiday Wall, The Trophy and Sonic Youth Wall.

Multi-Pitch, Traditional Climbing Areas

Icebox Canyon

Mostly 1-pitch routes

Pine Creek Canyon

Dark Shadows Wall has excellent rock but make sure to bring 2 ropes to get off these routes.

Oak Creek Canyon

Multiday routes. Some of the best routes at Red Rock are here. Long approaches and some require third-class scrambling to reach.

Black Velvet Canyon

The most famous and classic routes at Red Rock are here.

Not too bad of approach hikes. Rough dirt roads, but don’t require 4WD.

 

 

Other Climbing Areas Nearby

Christmas Tree Pass

Within Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

Rock is quartz monzonite. Majority of routes are bolt-protected slabs.

Saint George

There are quite a few small crags around Saint George which is about 2 hours north of Las Vegas.

Crawdad Canyon is 17 miles north of Saint George and hs lots of sport climbs and a huge swimming pool.

Check out Snow Canyon State Park and the Chuckwalla Wall.

Joshua Tree

Only 4 hours south of Las Vegas.

There are more routes here than in any other climbing area in the country.

Virgin River Gorge

Located just north of Las Vegas on Interstate 15 in Arizona.

Limestone area with lots of hard routes.

Guidebook – Rock Climbing Arizona

Zion

Less than 3 hours north of Las Vegas in Zion National Park.

Lots of big-wall routes and canyoneering trips.

Guidebook – Rock Climbing Utah

Have a great adventure vacation and enjoy rock climbing in Nevada!  And be safe in all of your adventure sports!

Amazing Thailand

 Railay Beach

Amazing Thailand

Thailand Vacation for Couples

Travel to Thailand, it is called Amazing Thailand for many reasons, why not find out for yourself.

The Europeans and Australians have already discovered the beautiful Thailand beaches which are some of the most incredible beaches in the world.

Now is the time for you to discover Amazing Thailand!

 

Here are my travel tips for planning some incredible and romantic Thailand vacations:

Where to go

Bangkok, Krabi, Koh Phi Phi

When to go

January – March

This is high season but it also has the best weather

How long

Minimum 2 weeks but go as long as you can since the majority of the cost is the airfare to get there.

Note: When searching for airfare, try to find a site that will allow you to book airfare and part of your hotel stay. We booked only our hotel stay for the first part of our trip in Bangkok and saved a lot.

 

Where to stay in Bangkok:

Highly Recommend = Novotel Bangkok

It is a great location close to shopping and public transportation.

There is wonderful free breakfast buffet included which is a great way to start your day.

Or now is the time to stay in a 5 star hotel, the prices are reasonable in Bangkok compared to anywhere else in the world.

Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok

The Peninsula Bangkok

Shangri-La Hotel, Bangkok

InterContinental Bangkok

Just to name a few of the 5 star hotels in Bangkok.

We splurged for part of our trip and stayed at Anantara Bangkok Riverside Resort & Spa (formerly a Marriott). It was a 5 star resort and it was very luxurious after staying on the small islands with little luxury. It was definitely more of an “American” experience than the Novotel and that may be a little different now that it is no longer a Marriott. The breakfast is not included but it was delicious.

They offer a teak boat to shuttle you on the river to the tram entrance. On the return trip to the resort you are offered a warm towel and water to wipe away the heat of the city, it is quite amazing and refreshing.

How-to get to the Thailand beaches:

Recommendations for flying within Thailand:

We flew to Krabi on Thai Airways – I highly recommend this airlines, they are wonderful.

From Krabi we took a cab to Ao Nang and then a longtail boat to Tonsai.

There are a lot of resorts in Ao Nang with a beautiful beach and lots of restaurants. It would be a great place to stay for easy access to many of the other wonderful Thailand beaches

Note: Travel with backpacks or luggage that is easy to get on and off a longtail boat. Also, be sure to travel in clothes that can get wet since you will be getting in the water to hop onto the longtail boat. There are no docks.

Where to stay in Tonsai or Railay:

Tonsai – Is only accessible by boat and during low tide you can’t get in or out. It is a climber’s destination and very low-key area. The restaurants line the beach and most of them are squatters that have setup restaurants in the sand. The Thai people on Tonsai were the friendliest we had met in Thailand. Really great people and very laid back, you really get away from it all here. They do not know what ASAP means here.

The beaches are not the best, but you can hop on a longtail boat and get to Railay West pretty quickly for an amazing beach. The accommodations vary widely on Tonsai and are very, very inexpensive. The only place that takes reservations on Tonsai is the Tonsai Beach Resort which we stayed at and it was pretty nice compared to the other resorts on Tonsai. You stay in your own beach house with AC but hot water is not always available.

Railay – This is also only accessible by boat but you are greeted by the beautiful beach.

Recommendation to stay on Railay = Rai Lay Bay Beach Resort

Visit the Railay website for descriptions of each resort and to get help with booking at the resorts.

Koh Phi Phi

From Ao Nang, Tonsai or Railay you can book a boat trip to Koh Phi Phi (pronounced Ko Pee Pee).

This is a must -do! Plan at least a few nights on Koh Phi Phi. You will find the top Thailand beaches here.

 

The Amazing Thailand travel experience:

If you are in Tonsai or Railay you will first take a longtail boat and just wait in the ocean for a larger boat to come and then you will have to jump from the longtail to the larger boat and toss your luggage on up. Then you will be on your way – 1-1/2 hours later – you will arrive in paradise!

There are a lot of places to stay on Koh Phi Phi – check out the island on Trip Advisor.

You can either book ahead of time or once you arrive on the dock, you can find somewhere to stay at the information booth. There is a great market in Tonsai Village (on Koh Phi Phi) and a restaurant right on the beach that is really good.

Note: Travel tip – rent two beach chairs and umbrella on the beach in Loh Dalum Bay for $2-4 for the entire day. Great people watching and a lot of Europeans so expect topless attire on the beach.

Many, many more Amazing Thailand beaches and destinations to find and explore! I suggest the Lonely Planet guide book to help find information on everywhere you want to go. Thailand vacations must include at least one of these destinations for a complete city and beach experience.

Top things to do in Bangkok

Visit the temples:

The Grand Palace

Wat Po – see the Reclining Buddha

Wat Phra Kaew -see the Emerald Buddha

 

Visit the markets:

Chatuchak Weekend Market

Chinatown Market

Night Markets

Floating Markets

Flower Markets

 

Check out the wild nightlife:

Khao San Road

Patpong

Rooftop bar in Bangkok

 

Take the public transportation:

BTS Skytrain

Chao Phraya Express Boat

River taxis and express boats

MRT underground rail

Tuk-tuks and taxis

Get a traditional Thai massage

Take a Thai cooking class at Blue Elephant Thai Cooking School

See a Muay Thai boxing match

Visit the MBK Center for all your shopping needs and go to the food court for a great way to introduce yourself to all the Thai food.

Find the real Amazing Thailand for yourself and travel to Thailand!

Sawatdee Thailand!

Please contact me if you need any help researching or planning your next Great Travel Destination!

Riviera Maya

Mexico Poolside

Romantic Vacation to Riviera Maya, Mexico

The Riviera Maya is a wonderful vacation destination for couples. There is so much to enjoy with the culture, history, beaches, food, nightlife and activities for a romantic vacation in Mexico.

Here are my travel tips and suggestions for a romantic getaway to the Riviera Maya, Mexico:

Where to Go

Riviera Maya – between Playa del Carmen to Tulum area

When to Go

November – April

How long should you stay

5 – 8 days

Recommended places to stay:

If you are looking for romance and a complete getaway for you and your significant other, stay at an adults-only all-inclusive!
I highly recommend El Dorado Seaside Resort
This is a beautiful property for adults only, it is a smaller more quaint resort.
You truly don’t need to leave the resort but if you do you are really close to the Tulum ruins.
It is just under a 2 hour transfer from the Cancun Airport so if you are short on time, try to stay closer to Playa del Carmen or even north of there.

If you are looking for a place that is closer to the town of Playa del Carmen, check out these two resorts:

http://www.realresorts.com/Gran-Porto-Real/

http://playadelcarmen.com/nhotels/mahekalbeachresort/

Check the reviews for all of these recommendations on Trip Advisor.

What are the top things to do at the resorts:

Beaches!

Pools

Water activities like snorkeling and kayaking

Restaurants

Drinking (if you are at an all-inclusive, you have to get your money worth)

Paint pottery (they will make sure to touch it up and make it look like a professional did it)

And lots of other planned activities at the resorts.

 

Nearby activities to do:

Tulum ruins

Playa del Carmen for shopping and real Mexican food

Xcaret Eco Theme Park
http://www.xcaret.com/

Ferry to Cozumel

Day trip to Chichen Itza and Coba

Cenote Chaak Tun
http://www.sac-be.com/chaak_tun.shtml

The Jungle Place – make sure to book in advance
http://www.thejungleplace.com/

Akumal Beach for snorkeling and turtles

Xel-Ha Park
http://www.xelha.com/

Rancho Baaxal for horseback riding
http://www.ranchobaaxal.com/

 

Recommended travel book

Fodor’s Cancun and the Riviera Maya
http://www.amazon.com/Fodors-Cancun-Riviera-Maya-2012/dp/0679009647

 

Have a great romantic vacation in Riviera Maya, Mexico!

Contact me if you have any questions or would like additional information. I am here to help plan your next romantic travel destination.

Las Vegas Travel Information

Las Vegas travel information

Las Vegas Travel Information for a Couples Vegas Vacation

Every couple can enjoy a Las Vegas getaway for two! Find all the Las Vegas travel information you need for your next trip.

The gambling town has so much more to offer that you may forget to gamble. That is how most of our trips to Las Vegas go.

Las Vegas travel information and tips for a great Vegas Vacation:

When to go:

September, October, April or May

Where to go:

Las Vegas, Nevada

How long to go:

Weekend getaway to 5 days

Where to stay:

Top Hotels if you are looking for all out luxury:

Mandarin Oriental

Four Season Hotel

My favorites on the Strip:

MGM

The Mirage

Mandalay Bay

New York New York

Check out the hotel reviews on Trip Advisor!

Top Restaurants:

Wolfgang Puck’s Bar & Grill in the MGM Grand

Eiffel Tower Restaurant at Paris Las Vegas Hotel & Casino

Delmonico Steakhouse in The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino

Gallagher’s Steakhouse in New York-New York Hotel and Casino

Diablo’s Cantina in Monte Carlo for a more casual, fun setting with great Mexican food and drinks. Ask for a table upstairs to get a great view of the strip while you eat.

Lotus of Siam Thai Restaurant

Roy’s Restaurant

 

Top things to do in Las Vegas:

Gambling – you have your choice of over 122 casinos in Las Vegas, take your pick

Hotel Resort Pools – resorts usually have top notch, beautifully landscaped and full of action pools for their guests to enjoy

Spas – each resort has their own exclusive spa to pamper you. Check out all the spas on Visit Las Vegas.

Golf – Yes, there are golf courses in the desert, check out these courses on Visit Las Vegas for all your choices.

Shopping – You can find any style or brand you are looking for in Las Vegas, here is a listing of where to shop on Visit Las Vegas.

Shows – there are shows upon shows in Las Vegas! One for everyone to enjoy.

Cirque du Soleil shows can be found in multiple hotels

For live music shows – check out The Joint at The Hard Rock Hotel or the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay

Be sure to pickup the latest Las Vegas Visitors Guide to see who and what are happening when you visit.

Zipline down Fremont Street – Flightlinez

Check out the non-stop Nightlife in Las Vegas – my favorites are the Ghostbar at the Palms and The Foundation Room at Mandalay Bay. Both have amazing views of the strip!

Get a new tattoo – if you are interested in getting a tattoo, I would recommend Downtown Tattoo or Pussykat Tattoo (you must make an appointment at Pussykat Tattoo)

Note: Do not get a tattoo on the strip at one of the hotel tattoo shops, they will charge you 4 times more.

 

Top FREE entertainment in Las Vegas:

Dancing Waters – in front of Bellagio Casino every 30 minutes daytime (M-F 3pm-8pm and Sat-Sun 12pm-8pm) and every 15 minutes evenings (Mon-Sun 8pm-12am)

The Conservatory in Bellagio Casino open 24 hours

The Volcano outside The Mirage Casino every 15 minutes from dusk to midnight

Fremont Street Experience Light Show – Downtown Las Vegas every hour starting at dusk

Sirens of TI – in front of Treasure Island Casino nightly every hour and a half starting at 5:30pm until 10pm

Fountain Festival – Fall of Atlantis Fountain Show in Caesar’s Palace daily 10am-10pm

 

Things to do outside of Las Vegas:

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is 20 miles from Las Vegas.

There is hiking, mountain biking, and climbing throughout the area. Or take the 13 mile scenic drive through the Canyon. Very beautiful red rocks!

Note: There is an entrance fee = $7.

Mount Charleston Recreation Area is 35 miles from Las Vegas.

There is hiking and camping in the summer and skiing and sledding in the winter.

It is at 11,918 feet elevation, quite a difference from Las Vegas.

You will also find Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort in Mount Charleston. No one will believe you that you skied on your Vegas Vacation!

Hoover Dam is 35 miles from Las Vegas. It is considered to be the world’s largest dam and it brings water and power to Nevada and Arizona and most of the Southwest U.S. It is amazing to see the true size of it.

Note: There is a $7 charge to park plus the cost for the Visitor Center and if you choose a tour.

Lake Mead is 30 miles from Las Vegas. Is is the 16th largest manmade lake in the world. There is year-round recreation – kayaking, jet skiing, swimming, hiking, paddle boats.

Note: There is a $10 per vehicle entrance fee

Death Valley National Park is 2 hours from Las Vegas. Plan on spending an entire day checking out this National Park and bring lots of water and a hat.

Note: There is a $20 per vehicle fee.

Grand Canyon National Park is 278 miles from Las Vegas. You can find lots of bus or helicopter tours that will take you to and from your hotel to the Grand Canyon in a day.

 I hope you have found all the Las Vegas Travel Information you were looking for to plan a great Vegas Vacation!

Travel to Thailand

 Koh Phi Phi Islands

Adventure Travel to Thailand

Travel to Thailand for some great adventure climbing and amazing Thailand beaches!

Southern Thailand was made for climbing with the huge rock formations jutting out of the ocean.  Thailand is the friendliest and most accommodating country I have ever visited, they love farangs (foreigners)!

Here are some travel tips for an amazing adventure travel trip to Thailand:

Where to go:

Krabi Province, Thailand

Includes Tonsai, Railay, Koh Phi Phi Island

When to go:

Dec-April

How long to stay:

Minimum: One week

Where to stay:

Check out Railay site for recommendations and even help with booking a place to stay.

They list all types of accommodations for every budget and traveler.

Where to climb:

Railay – limestone, bolted routes all along the beach and back in the jungle
A few of the climbing areas on Railay = Pra-Nang Beach, Escher Wall, Candlestick, Thailand Wall, Low Tide Wall, 1,2,3 Wall, The Keep, Maui Thai
Climbing areas on Tonsai Beach = Dum’s Kitchen, Cat’s Wall, Tonsai Wall

Climbing areas on Phi Phi Islands = Hua Ling wall, Pile Wall, Hin Taak, Ao Ling, Tonsai Tower, Maya Bay

Other climbing areas nearby =

LoaLiang island

Koh Yao Noi

 

Other Adventure Options:

Deep Water Soloing  – day-trips to Tonsai/Railay, Koh Yao Noi and Koh Lao Liang

Bouldering – on Tonsai Beach and Phra Nang Beach

Kayaking around Krabi

Elephant Trekking tours in Ao Nang

Jungle Treks in Railay

Area Climbing Guides – contact King Climbers Guidebooks Rock Climbing in Thailand and LaosThailand: A Climbing Guide, or King Climbers Edition 51wMgOuokeL._SL110_.jpgThailandSam Lightner Jr.Best Price $13.24
or Buy New $15.72 

Privacy Information

 

Travel to Thailand Tips:

Grab a bite to eat anywhere along Tonsai beach or Railay Beach.

If you are staying on Tonsai (due to low tide you can’t get there at night) make your way along the beach and enjoy all of the great bars, each one is unique and a guaranteed good time!

Railay West has some great restaurants along the beach and inland too.

Enjoy the Rock & Fire International Competition which is held yearly in the winter.

Just remember this is island time and no one is in a hurry. They don’t know what ASAP means so relax and enjoy the laid back atmosphere. It is amazing!

Bring bahts with you, not many places available to exchange money here.

Everything is really inexpensive for a beach location.

Use backpacks for luggage since you are getting in and out of boats and there are no docks at most of these locations.

Make sure to lookup the immunizations needed before traveling.

Stock up your first aid kit and bug spray before traveling.

And remember, you are in the jungle, lots of crawlers and bugs and monkeys everywhere.

Lastly, don’t forget your climbing gear!

 

Enjoy your travel to Thailand! I promise you will go back again.

Keystone and A-Basin

Keystone

Ski Colorado: Arapahoe Basin (A-Basin) and Keystone

Ski Colorado for stellar skiing and awesome mountain towns!

Arapahoe Basin or A-Basin for short is not a typical Colorado Ski Resort, it is more of a local ski area with not too many frills but lots of killer runs!

Keystone has almost 50% runs rated black or double black diamond for pure diehards.

Are your skis packed yet?

 

Here are my travel tips and suggestions for your next adventure ski vacation to Colorado:

Where to Go:

Keystone or Dillon, Colorado

When to Go:

Ski Season

Recommendation: Spring Skiing, take advantage of the A-Basin Beach scene.

How long should you stay:

4-7 days is ideal

 

Where to stay:

VRBO condos in Keystone

Ski Tip Lodge for more upscale lodging

Arapahoe Inn for budget lodging

Recommendation: River Run Village for night life and an easy walk to the Keystone Gondola

Lone Eagle or the Timbers for ski in ski out at Keystone

Ski Runs to Hit:

Keystone – Snowcat service in Independence Bowl (fee) or catch a $5 snowcat to The Outlook

A-Basin – Montezuma Bowl

A51 Terrain Park at Keystone

Night skiing at Keystone

Elk Run at Keystone for great tree skiing

Flying Dutchman is a blue run but it is a fun ungroomed mogul run at Keystone

LaDonte’s Cabin is a perfect rest spot at Keystone

A-Basin – If you hit the right day and there is enough snow – Hike the East-Wall Traverse to the Land of the Giants

And if you are really lucky, you can hike the Upper East Wall and hit some of the extreme runs at A-Basin

The majority of A-Basin is above the tree-line so the whole upper half is one enormous bowl.

A-Basin is not for beginners!

Note: A-Basin is one of the first to open and one of the last to close for the season.

A-Basin typically gets around 350 inches of snow per year.

Apres Ski Activities:

Enjoy cheap whiskey and $2 PBRs at The Goat in Keystone

Drink at The Sixth Alley at The Basin

Note: Order the bacon Bloody Mary!

The Dam Brewery in Dillon

Grab a burger and beer at Moosejaw, a local hang.

Try Snowbiking at Adventure Point at Keystone Mountain

Take a Snowmobile Tour in River Run Village

Snowshoeing at Keystone Nordic Center

Contact me if you have any questions or would like additional Ski Colorado information. I am here to help plan your next adventure travel destination.

Paris Travel Information

Seine River

Find helpful Paris travel information for the City of Lights and get ready for one of the most romantic vacations in the world.

Paris is full of history, fashion, culture, culinary delights and inspiration. One visit will only entice you to come again.

Here are my travel recommendations for a trip to Paris:

Where to go:

Paris, France

When to go:

Spring, Summer or Fall

Note: Depending on the weather you are looking for. Summer has great weather but lots of crowds.

How long to go:

Minimum a week

Where to stay:

Le Citizen Hotel = small boutique hotel

Hotel Ares Eiffel = amazing decor, convenient location

New Orient Hotel = charming and quaint with a great price

Hotel de Londres Eiffel = the real Paris location

Hotel de Varenne = historic hotel and decorated in a Louis XVI and Empire style

Paris travel information for the top things to do:

Musee du Louvre is a must see, just be sure to leave yourself plenty of time, there is so much to see here. You may need a few extra days.
Note: Purchase a Paris Museum Pass as soon as you arrive and you won’t need to wait in any long lines.

Notre Dame Cathedral – One of the world’s most famous cathedrals. It is free to go in and view the stain glass windows and architecture. Try to attend a high mass or music performance for one of a kind experience.

Eiffel Tower – of course, but take the stairs for at least part of the way to get the true sense of the structure.

Seine River – just enjoy a picnic and your company along the banks of the Seine River or take a boat tour on the Seine River.

Arc de Triomphe – make sure to take the underground tunnel to it, that is one crazy, busy road around it.

Musee d’Orsay for the French Impressionists and 19th century art

Luxembourg Gardens – park in the middle of town with lots of beautiful gardens, a large fountain and a great cafe.

Pere-Lachaise Cemetery – A famous cemetery of authors, writers and musicians. Yes, this is where Jim Morrison is buried.

Montmartre – a wonderful neighborhood to find a place to sit and watch the world go by. Exactly what one should do when in a romantic city like Paris with the one they love.

Parc Monceau – This park was the inspiration for Monet. Non-touristy park filled with Parisians on their lunch breaks or on morning jogs. Feel like a real Parisian here.

The Latin Quarter – Les Bouquinistes is a great place for shopping, you will find everything here. Be sure to allow hours to walk around and explore this area and see the Pantheon, Sorbonne University, Cluny Museum, Place St Michel and so much more.

Trocadero – the best view of the Eiffel Tower

Paris Horse and Carriage Rides from the Eiffel Tower to see the major tourist sites, what a great way to see the city.

 

Or just sit and enjoy watching the world go by at one of the many cafes in Paris!

Looking for more Paris travel information? Contact me!

Ft Myers Beach and Sanibel Island

Ft Myers Beach

Ft Myers Beach and Sanibel Island

These are at the top of my favorite family destinations for our family vacations in Florida.

The “Sunshine State” seems to be exactly what we need when we need a break from the Minnesota winters.

Florida Sunset Video

Here are my travel tips and suggestions for your next family vacation to Ft Myers Beach and Sanibel Island:

Where to go:

Ft Myers Beach, Sanibel and Captiva Islands

When to go:

Fall or Winter is the best time to go

How long should you stay:

A one week vacation on the beach is perfect!

Recommended places to stay:

Budget place on Ft Myers Beach: The Outrigger  The Outrigger has a beautiful and very large white sand beach. Perfect for families. They have efficiencies with full kitchens which I always opt for when traveling with kids. I suggest the Beach Front Efficiency – the views are worth it.

Note: Make sure to check the size beds in the room you are booking if you are tall. The standard guest rooms only have double beds.

High End on Ft Myers Beach: Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina The Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina is a large resort with all the amenities you could need: spa, marina, watersports, kidds kammp, sailing and shopping to list a few. The beach is amazing and the pool is what a kid dreams about. This resort also offers kitchens in all of the villas.

Mid-Range Options: VRBO or Vacation Rentals I have always had good luck finding a vacation rental property through a private owner.

The price is always better than a hotel plus you get the convenience of a kitchen or entire house. You may not always have all the amenities of a resort but you will like you are in a home away from home.

Note: Most Sanibel Island condos has a minimum booking of one week.

Check the reviews for all of these recommendations on www.tripadvisor.com

What are the top things to do and travel tips:

Beaches, beaches and beaches!

Ft Myers Beach Pier has great white soft sand. It is wonderful family beach.  Good family food option = Citrola’s Times Square Grill & Pizzeria

Sanibel Island is world renowned for shelling and the secluded beaches. There are no mega resorts here and no huge beach crowds. Parking is sometimes tricky and you do have to pay $6 to go over the Sanibel Causeway but it is well worth it!

One of the most beautiful is Bowman’s Beach. There are a lot of shells in the sand here, bring your watershoes to protect your feet when walking on the beaches.

Arthur Frommer’s (Frommer’s Travel Guides) Favorite Travel Destination Sanibel Island, Florida
This destination topped Bali and Paris, that says quite a lot from a guy who has been everywhere!

Sanibel is a wonderful quaint island with great restaurants (no fast food), shopping, and no traffic lights. Speaking of traffic, it can get really backed up. Get on the island early in the morning and don’t leave the island between 4-6pm, stay and enjoy the sunsets!

Our favorite family restaurant on the island is Cheeburger Cheeburger or the Bubble Room. Our favorite place to shop (no young kids or you will need to keep a close eye on them) is She Sells Sea Shells. Must go through the J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge – spectacular birds in the refuge. There are a few alligator lookouts but we didn’t see any.  

Captiva Island is very similar to Sanibel and you just have to keep driving on Sanibel-Captiva Road to get to it.
This island is even less crowded and more secluded. Some of the beaches on Captiva have pretty big waves, you can even surf. If you want to get away even further, head to North Captiva Island. After a day at the beach, The Green Flash Waterfront Restaurant on Captiva is great for lunch or dinner.

Lovers Key State Park has a beautiful two mile long beach that you can ride a tram to the different beach areas or walk on a boardwalk. The beaches are great for swimming and there are many picnic areas. You can rent kayaks, canoes and even bikes.  There is a small gift shop with snacks and ice cream treats but you should be sure to pack a picnic and make it a day trip with so much to do here.

Lakes Regional Park is one of the top things to do in Fort Myers that is not at a beach. Great family park for all ages of kids. Free entrance, you only pay for parking. There are two splash water areas, one is geared for smaller kids and the other for older kids (under 12). There are two playground areas. There are two ice cream stops. Go to the one by the train, real ice cream is served there and don’t order ice cream if you are going to rent a bike because your time will start but you can’t use the bike until the ice cream is gone. The bike rentals are a fun way to get around the entire park.

Go on the miniature train ride through the north end of the park. We even saw an alligator in the lake while riding on the train. You can go in the Train Museum with a purchase of a train ticket, it has a lot of history in it and the kids love to see all of the train sets. Check out the reviews on Trip Advisor for Lakes Regional Park

Have a great family vacation to Ft Myers Beach and Sanibel Island!

Contact me if you have any questions or would like additional information. I am here to help plan your next family travel destination.

Key West Florida

KeyWestSunset2

Come to Key West Florida for sunsets, beaches, nightlife, great food, shopping, biking, kayaking, boating, snorkeling, historical places and most of all exploring!

The Florida Keys has it all. There is truly something for everyone here.

Florida Sunset Video

Florida Keys travel information and tips to plan your Key West vacation

Where to go:

Key West Florida

When to go:

Oct – May

Note: stay away during hurricane season and it may be cool in December/January but at least the crowds would not be there.

How long to stay:

3-5 days is perfect, it is a small island

 

Where to stay on your Key West vacation:

Recommendation: Southernmost on the Beach/La Mer/Southernmost Hotel/Dewey House

They are all owned by the same company and are all wonderful places to stay. La Mer and Dewey House are B&B’s right on the ocean. The beach is not the best there but they have 3 pools you can also use

Westin Resort on Sunset Key the Sunset Key Guest Cottages

Ocean Key Resort right by Mallory Square, enjoy every sunset without leaving your resort

The Reach for a sophisticated resort and beachfront location and to get away from the crowds

Casa Marina Resort is an upscale option with a swimming beach

Sheraton Suites an all-suite hotel across the street from Smather’s Beach. You would need transportation to stay in this area since it is pretty far from the main Duval St

Top things to do in Key West Florida:

Mallory Square for the Sunset Celebration or try a Tall Ship Sunset Cruise for one of your sunset nights

Duval Street for shopping and people watching

Higgs Beach or Smather’s Beach are perfect beaches to sit back and enjoy a warm Florida day (rental chairs & umbrellas available)

Bike around the island or rent an electric car from Tropical Rent-A-Car, a perfect way to explore the island and you can fit in any parking spot

See the Southernmost Point for the most photographed spot on the island

Take a snorkeling boat tour or you can snorkel off of Higgs Beach and at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park beach

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park – has a great beach with amazing emerald water and pine trees everywhere for shade (great for snorkeling, bring beach shoes for the rocky bottom)

You can also explore the fort that was built in the mid-1800s to defend the southeast coastline. There is a snack hut and beach chairs & umbrellas available for rental.

If you have time, book a trip to Dry Tortugas National Park

Key West Lighthouse – you can climb the 88 steps to the top to get a great view of Key West

Hemingway House – visit Ernest Hemingway’s home and his famous six-toed cats

Take a tour of Key West on the Old Town Trolley

I have heard you have to parasail in Key West so if that is on your list of things to do, try it here

 

Bars to hit in Key West Florida:

Irish Kevin’s for a comedic musical act

Hog’s Breath for a fun outdoor bar with live bands

Garden of Eden for a clothing optional bar experience

Schooner Wharf where you can find happy hour 3xs a day

Willie Ts for great mojitos and where you can leave a dollar on the wall to find on your next visit

Margaritaville for the Jimmy Buffet parrot heads

Sloppy Joes a famous hang for Hemmingway and always a good time to be had at this fun bar

The Smallest Bar in Key West is so small only about 5 people can fit in but it can be so fun to talk to everyone in the bar

The Bull & Whistle Bar – check out the Whistle Bar and enjoy people watching on Duval St from the wraparound porch.

 

Top restaurants:

Latitudes for a special occasion or to make it a very special dinner. Be sure to book dinner during the sunset for an even more amazing experience

Seven Fish for a very simple yet great dining experience, order the fresh fish of the day

Thai Cuisine for surprisingly good Thai food in Key West Florida

Sarabeth’s for a laid-back dining experience on the patio

 

Travel Tips to get to the Florida Keys:

There are many ways to get to Key West Florida, none exactly easy or direct.

Drive from Miami along U.S. Highway 1 for the most scenic but time consuming.

Take a charter flight from one of the other Florida cities.

Fly through Atlanta or another large hub nearby and you will fly on a larger plane.

There are boats from Ft Myers and Marco Island that will take you to Key West on the Key West Express but I do NOT recommend this option. They overbook the boat and unless you show up hours before you are to leave you will not get a seat inside. Which means you will be stuck on the top level with no protection from the wind or weather and it is not suitable for anyone to withstand for the 3-1/2 to 4 hour boat ride.  If they allow you to reserve your seat when you book then I would say it is a good option but if they don’t, skip this option.

Enjoy your Key West Vacation!