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24 Hours in Vancouver, BC

After our cruise to Alaska, we decided to stay an extra day in Vancouver, BC, just to check it out. I heard great things about the food scene and abundance of outdoor activities there and couldn’t wait to visit. We did however only have 24 hours to explore the city. This was definitely not enough to be able to see everything but we were able to pack in a lot in just a day.

When we arrived, it was raining pretty hard so we dropped our stuff off at our hotel and wanted to do something inside. Vancouver has several museums and shopping but a couple on our cruise told us about “FlyOver Canada.” They said it was a must-see while we are here, so we went to check it out. “FlyOver Canada” is a simulated ride that showed us all different areas of Canada as if you are flying. It is a lot like “Soarin'” at Disney World, so of course I was up for it.

We visited FlyOver at Canada Place which is also where all of the the cruise ships arrive and depart from. The tickets are for a specific time, so the wait is not long at all. You can also get the “fastlane” tickets, which are strangely the same price as the regular tickets. This attraction was a great way to see many parts of Canada and get a feel for their culture as well. It is the same type of ride as Soarin’ at Disney however, so if you have been on that then it will be very similar.

After we rode this, we walked to a local church for their noon mass. It was a beautiful church and I couldn’t believe how many people were there for a Friday afternoon mass! When we walked out of the church, the rain had stopped, so we wanted to explore the city more. There was a specific area of Vancouver that I wanted to see because the finale of one of my favorite TV shows filmed there. If you have seen The 100, then you know all about the “City of Light” which was all filmed in Vancouver. We stopped at “Oceanic Plaza” so I could fan-girl about being in the same spot where they filmed.

After spending time exploring the downtown area, we stopped for lunch at the first restaurant we could find. A lot of restaurants were closed until dinnertime, so we did not prepare for this by searching for restaurants beforehand. We ate a delicious and healthy meal, then headed to the waterfront area to visit Stanley Park.

A great thing about Vancouver is the number of walking and bike paths that it has throughout the city. There is a trail that goes from Canada Place all the way through Stanley Park. My favorite must-see parts of Stanley Park are the rose garden, old abandoned zoo and the marina.

After exploring Stanley Park, we were tired after walking so much. We decided to head back to the hotel and get dinner. Conveniently, we found a Pho restaurant attached to our hotel called “Pholicious.” And it was so delicious! The women at the restaurant made everything as soon as you placed your order. The pho was fresh, flavorful and just a bit spicy. This was the perfect end to our quick Vancouver visit. I hope to be back, so I can see what else this city has to offer!

Have suggestions for my next trip to Vancouver? Let me know!

celebrity cruise tips for newbies

10 Celebrity Cruise Tips for Newbies

Thinking about going on a Celebrity cruise? If it is your first time on a Celebrity cruise, there are a few things that are helpful to know. Whether you are going to Alaska, Asia, Bermuda or the Caribbean, follow these tips for a great first-time cruise!

10. Lounge Tip

– The best lounge to relax and hang out in on the cruise (in my opinion) is the Sky Observation Lounge on the 11th floor. The lounge is full of comfortable chairs and panoramic views of the ocean and also tons of natural light.

9. Show/Dinner Tip

– There are usually two showtimes (7 & 9) for the shows in the theater. If you go to dinner in the dining room early, they will get you served quicker to make room for more people at the late dining who are going to the later show. If you want a longer dinner, go later, however you might miss the show.

8. Restaurant Tip

– For meals, there are the included restaurants which on most ships are the buffet, main dining room, grille by the pool and spa cafe. There are several specialty restaurants, however they are not included and must be paid for separately.

7. Food Tip

– In the dining room, you are not limited to the items on the menu or just one entree, appetizer and dessert. If you want something different from what is on the menu, they will gladly accommodate you. Also, if you can’t decide what appetizer or entree to choose, you can choose more than one (the portions are small).

6. Excursion Tip

– If you book excursions before your trip or on the boat, they are typically cheaper than if you wait until you get there.

Traveling to Alaska? Check out my posts on Visiting the Mendenhall Glacier!

5. Coffee Shop

– There is a coffee shop onboard with specialty drinks and sweets. So depending on your drink package, some of these drinks are included. All of the cakes, cookies and pastries are free for everyone.

4. Drink Tip

– There are several levels of drink packages, do your research and be realistic about how much you plan to spend on drinks before purchasing a package. If you do not have a drink package, most ships will allow you to bring your own bottle of wine onboard. Bring a reusable bottle to refill with water throughout the day.

3. Seasickness Tip

– Some days are a bit rocky on cruise ships, although most of the time you can’t feel the ship move at all. Bring some ginger tea with you for if you feel a bit queasy. However, if you aren’t feeling well and did not bring your own medication, there is a health center on board that has free medication.

2. Dress Code Tip

– There are two formal nights on board where you are encouraged to dress-up for dinner. They used to be more strict about this policy but have relaxed this rule. Don’t show up to dinner in shorts or jeans though!

1.Tipping Tip

–  Gratuities are automatically added daily to onboard accounts but can be adjusted to your discretion. Be sure to keep an eye on this throughout your trip.

These are just a few tips to help you out on your first Celebrity Cruise! Be sure to do your research before you go to ensure you have the best trip you can. Have more cruise tips? Leave a comment below!

 

ziplining icy straight point alaska

Ziplining in Icy Straight Point, Alaska

If you are going on a cruise to Alaska, one of your stops is probably at Icy Straight Point. This port is beautiful with mountains and rocky beaches surrounding your ship as you dock. The small town of Hoonah is also within walking distance of the port. Overall, this port is very small. The best thing to do in Icy Straight Point, however, is ziplining on the ZipRider!

The ride up the mountain takes you for a tour of Hoonah with a knowledgeable local tour guide. The views on the ride up the mountain are beautiful and can only be seen through this tour. (Tip: sit on the left side of the bus for the best views). The zipline itself was incredible. It is ‎5,495 feet long with a vertical drop of ‎1,320 feet, which is higher than the Empire State Building. The views on the zipline are beautiful and it is a must-do in my opinion.

Watch my experience:

alaska cruise packing guide

Alaska Cruise Packing Guide

Cruises to Alaska take place from late April to early September when the weather in Alaska averages in the 60s. The temperatures fluctuate depending on when you go but it is important to come prepared. Obviously check the weather before you go but be aware that the weather can be drastically different at each destination that the cruise visits. The dilemma with packing for a cruise to Alaska is having to essentially pack for two vacations. You will need clothing and gear for exploring the ports in Alaska as well as different clothing for the cruise. I will break the packing list into two parts, packing for Alaska and packing for the cruise ship.

Packing for Alaska:

-Raincoat

-Jacket with a hood (warmer than raincoat)

-Waterproof shoes & Umbrella

-Hiking boots

-Sunscreen

-Small backpack

-Casual clothing (jeans, long-sleeved shirts)

-Warm socks

-Sunglasses

-Digital/Video Camera

-Hat & Gloves

 

Packing for the Ship:

-Travel documents (airline tickets, cruise documents, passport, etc.)

-Dresses/suit for formal nights (most cruises have 2 formal nights)

-Casual clothing for days at sea

-Nicer clothes (but not formal) for dinner in dining room

-Swimsuit & flip flops for pool

-Gym clothes & shoes

-Binoculars

-Motion sickness medicine (any other medications)

-Reading material for lounging by the pool

 

Want tips for visiting the Mendenhall Glacier? Click here!

 

Tips for Visiting the Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska

So you’re visiting Juneau, Alaska? Well then I’m sure you already know about the Mendenhall Glacier. It is the most popular tourist attraction in Alaska’s capital city with more than 500,000 visitors per year. This 13-mile glacier is truly a natural wonder that has to be seen in person. There are many tour options to see this wonder, however if you are into saving money (like I am) then follow these tips for the cheapest (and best) way to see the glacier!

Tips:

-The glacier is located about 12 miles from downtown Juneau (the cruise ports as well). There is a city bus that goes from downtown to a mile from the glacier for just $2.

-The bus ride is about 45 minutes. However, you will get to see Juneau from a local perspective and get some wonderful views of the mountains.

-If you take a bus with one of the tour companies, you will pay around $45 just for the bus ride there. There is a bit of a walk from the city bus top to the glacier. If you are not able to walk long distances, the tour group might be your best option.

-If you do take the city bus, the walk to the glacier is absolutely beautiful. The road to the glacier takes you through the Tongass National Forest and is such a lovely walk.

-Once you arrive at the visitor area for viewing the glacier, you can walk down to the beach to get a better view.

-You will see signs to pay a fee to see the glacier, that fee only applies if you enter the visitor’s center. There is no need to go inside the visitor’s center however since there are public restrooms outside.

-The best view of the glacier is by Nugget Falls. You will see signs for the fall and the hike to get there is not long.

-Bring waterproof shoes with with you! Since parts of the trail can be covered in a few inches of water and if you want to get close to the falls, you will have to wade through a bit of water. I did not bring waterproof shoes but I successfully jumped from rock-to-rock and made it across dry.

-Since it is usually foggy in Juneau in the morning (if not all day), planning your trip to the glacier in the afternoon is better.

-The National Forest in the surrounding area has several great hiking trails. So be sure to leave time to explore those as well!

Have anything to add to this list? Let me know here!

Check out a few of my pictures from the Mendenhall Glacier:

 

12 Great Hiking Spots Near Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh has so many things to offer from the booming art scene, unique restaurants to the great sports teams and variety of festivals. But did you know that there are an abundance of great hiking trails within driving distance of the city? Here are 12 of my favorites!

Laurel Mountain State Park – Ligonier, PA

-Laurel Mountain is a ski area in the winter but a beautiful hiking spot in the warmer months. Although this hiking area is smaller, there is a beautiful outlook at the top that makes it worth a trip. More info!

Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail – Rockwood, PA

-The Laurel Highlands hiking trail is a 70-mile trail in Western PA with several scenic overlooks and rock formations throughout. There are camping areas every 8-10 miles if you want to stay overnight on your hike. More info!

Ohiopyle State Park – Ohiopyle, PA

-Ohiopyle is a large state park with several trails that run along the Youghiogheny River. There are many waterfalls and beautiful picnic areas. Ohiopyle is connected to the 318-mile Great Allegheny Passage for hiking between Pittsburgh and Washington D.C. More info!

Moraine State Park – Portersville, PA

-The main feature of Moraine is a man-made lake called Lake Arthur, however, there are great hiking trails throughout the surrounding park. There are 6 hiking trails that accommodate every skill level. The North Country Trail also passes through this park and runs from New York to North Dakota. More info!

McConnells Mill State Park – Portersville, PA

-Another great park in Portersville is the smaller 2,546 acre McConnells Mill State park. There are several trails throughout the park that lead to a waterfall and the scenic gorge with the restored watermill and a covered bridge at the bottom. More info!

Duff Park – Murrysville, PA

-Duff Park in Murrysville is a small hidden treasure in Westmoreland County. There are several trails with different difficulty levels but the main trail runs along a beautiful stream and up into the lush forest. More info!

Raccoon Creek State Park – Hookstown, PA

-The park has several trails and waterfalls to explore. The most unique aspect of the park however is the Wildflower Reserve that has over 700 different species of plants. More info!

Riverview Park – Pittsburgh, PA

-This park, located just four miles from downtown was actually the first park in the city of Pittsburgh. Although this park is much smaller than others on this list, it is worth a trip for the Allegheny Observatory at the top of the hill. More info!

Three Rivers Heritage Trail – Pittsburgh, PA

-This trail runs along the riverbanks in the South Side of Pittsburgh. The trail has wonderful views of the city and runs for about 25 miles. More info!

Baker Trail – Freeport, PA

-The Baker Trail is a 132-mile hiking trail that goes across the Allegheny River. This is a popular backpacking trail due to it’s length but can also be a beautiful day hike. More info!

Forbes State Forest – Laughlintown, PA

-Forbes State Forest is another trail located in the Laurel Highlands. It is home to Mount Davis, the highest point in Pennsylvania. More info!

Rachel Carson Trail – Pittsburgh, PA

-The Rachel Carson Trail is a 35 mile hiking spot that runs through varied terrains. The great aspect of this hike is the diversity of sites throughout the hike from forests to parks to suburban neighborhoods. More info!

eat healthy while traveling

How to Eat Healthy While Traveling

Traveling can be hard on our bodies with long periods of sitting in a car or plane, a lack of sleep and an increase in activities, depending on where you travel to. Many trips require our bodies to use more energy than we typically do in our normal routine. This is why it is important to maintain a healthy diet while traveling. I am guilty of eating whatever is convenient while traveling, especially for work. It is easy to gravitate towards fast food but with a little planning, that can be avoided.

Plan Ahead

– If you research your travel location in advance, you can seek out local restaurants and view their menu before you arrive. Most people plan out their activities for their trip but neglect to plan where to eat. With websites like Yelp and UrbanSpoon, finding great restaurants in any city is easier than ever.

Pack Healthy Snacks

– Having healthy snacks with you while you are traveling is a must for me. Meals while traveling can happen later than usual or you might have to wait longer to eat. By having healthy snacks with you, you can avoid binging on junk food while waiting for meals. If you don’t have room to pack snacks, stop by a store in your destination if possible.

Choose Vegan-Friendly Restaurants

– Even if you do not practice a vegan diet, vegan-friendly restaurants tend to have healthier options. While searching for restaurants before you go, looking for vegan-friendly places can be a great start.

Avoid Fast Food

– It is easy and convenient to eat fast food while traveling, but it is difficult to find healthy options at the chain fast food places. If it cannot be avoided, look for healthier options as all restaurants are required to provide their nutritional facts.

Try New Things

– A lot of local cuisine in different areas is made with fresh, local ingredients. Try some new dishes at local restaurants and truly experience the culture of a different place!

Any other tips for eating healthy while traveling? Let me know!

10 Must-Do Things on a Weekend in Chicago

So you’re headed to the Windy City for a weekend getaway. Chicago is filled with beautiful architecture, unique restaurants, top-rated museums and a booming comedy scene. A weekend in Chicago just scratches the surface of what the city has to offer. Here is a list of the top 10 must-do things in Chicago (in my opinion of course):

10. North Avenue Beach

A great aspect of Chicago is that it is right by Lake Michigan. There are several beaches for the public to enjoy the sand and blue water. North Avenue beach has a beautiful view of the city on one side and the lake on the other. The beach offers several sand volleyball courts as well as a bike path that is nestled between the city and sand.

More info

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9. Riverwalk

The Chicago Riverwalk is one of the newest attractions in the city. It was completed this year and offers a beautiful walk along the Chicago River. The walk is also home to several outdoor bars and restaurants as well as kayak and boat rentals. The views of the city architecture are truly beautiful from this point of view.

More info

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8. Lincoln Park Zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo is great for guests of all ages. The zoo offers indoor and outdoor exhibits that each have interactive aspects. It is also free all year round!

More info

 

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7. Buckingham Fountain

Another incredible view of the city is at Buckingham Fountain. The fountain is one of the largest in the world and is just a short walk from downtown. Several events are held here year-round due to the exceptional skyline views.

More info 

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6. Take a Boat Tour

The best way to learn more about Chicago and see the incredible architecture up close is through an boat tour. You will get to see the city from afar and also cruise down the Chicago River to get a more intimate look at the city. We went on the Seadog Cruise which was both a speedboat and river tour. I would definitely recommend it!

More info

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5. Wrigley Field

A trip to Chicago isn’t complete without a visit to historic Wrigley Field. The area surrounding the park is filled with restaurants and is a great place to find a lunch spot. If you’re lucky, The Cubs might be playing while you are in town!

More info

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4. The Bean (Cloud Gate)

A popular tourist attraction is Cloud Gate or more commonly known as The Bean. It is a large reflective art sculpture within Millennium Park that is a great photo-op. The park is also a great place to visit with several other art pieces and beautiful city views. Also, make sure to walk under The Bean and look up!

More info

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3. See a Show

Chicago offers so many choices for shows, that a trip there isn’t complete with seeing at least one. The comedy scene is huge there with several comedy theaters and the famous Second City Improv comedy troupe. We saw Bye Bye Liver: The Drinking Play and it was such a fun time!

More info

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2. Chicago-Style Pizza

Everyone knows that Chicago is know for several iconic foods. The best however is the deep dish pizza. The best Chicago-style pizza can be found at Giordano’s. The cheese alone is worth the trip!

More info

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1. Navy Pier

My favorite thing to do in Chicago is visit Navy Pier! There are several shops, restaurants, bars and attractions on Navy Pier but the views alone make it one of the best spots in the city. There are a plethora of events throughout the Summer and fireworks every Saturday night. The Ferris Wheel also offers one of the best views of the skyline and Lake Michigan!

More info

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Check out my weekend in Chicago here!

What do you love to do in Chicago? Let me know!

weekend in chicago

Weekend in Chicago Vlog

I spent this past weekend in Chicago visiting a childhood friend. We were only in the city for three days, however we were able to pack many things in our short visit. We were able to explore the city, take a boat tour, enjoy the local restaurants and also attend a comedy show. Check out our vlog from the trip:

Any questions or suggestions of more things to do in Chicago? Let me know!

disney world

48 Hours in Disney World

Since I work full-time, I have to make the most of the vacation time that I have. I enjoy taking weekend trips to fit in more travel without having to take time off from work. My most recent weekend trip was to Walt Disney World! I went with a group of 6 other ladies who are also Disney fanatics and were up for a whirlwind weekend in Disney. Obviously, a trip to Disney can be a week or longer since there is so much to see and do there. I will tell you what we did to fit in all 4 parks in 2 days so you can have an idea for your trip if you’re up for the challenge!

We arrived late Thursday night and checked-in to the condo we were staying in. We rented the condo through Airbnb which was pretty cheap since we split it between 7 people.

Day 1

We woke up very early and headed to the Magic Kingdom for a Winnie the Pooh character breakfast. If you make a reservation for an early character breakfast, you get to enter the park before the general public. This makes taking pictures on Main Street and in front of the castle much easier since there aren’t many people there yet!

The character breakfast was delicious and gave us much needed energy for our long day. The characters each make their way around to every table so you can sit, eat, relax and not worry about missing any photo-ops.

After breakfast, we had reserved fast passes and went to ride those rides. Right after breakfast is the best time to ride the more popular rides that you weren’t able to get fast passes for as well. The rides towards the back of the park are less crowded earlier in the day since the crowds haven’t made it to those rides yet. It was a bit of a cooler day when we went so it was great to have ponchos for Splash Mountain. Even with the poncho, if you sit towards the front you will still get wet.

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After riding several more rides in Magic Kingdom, we headed over to Animal Kingdom at 2:00PM. We ate a late lunch in the car on the way there to save on time and money and had snacks with us in the parks.

We rode several rides here and used our fast passes on the Dinosaur ride (a definite crowd-pleaser). The Lion King show was also one of my favorites, it is definitely a must-see! Make sure to leave some time to walk around Animal Kingdom, it is such a beautiful park with many unique parts.

At 7:00PM, we headed back to Magic Kingdom for the Wishes fireworks show. We got dinner to go at the Starlight Cafe in Tomorrowland and ate it on the sidewalk while watching the show. After the fireworks, there is a huge rush towards the exit, this is a great time to go back into the park and ride anything you might have missed. We rode Pirates of the Caribbean and only had to wait for about 10 minutes to get on.

Day 2

We got a little bit of a later start today since everyone was pretty exhausted from the day before. We got to Epcot around 9:30AM and headed over to Soarin’ to use our fast passes. I would definitely recommend getting fast passes for Soarin’ since the wait can reach 2 hours pretty quickly. We rode several rides in Epcot and spent some time at the World Showcase. We all had lunch in Paris, grapefruit beer from Germany and wine from Norway.

After the World Showcase, we rode TestTrack then headed over to Hollywood Studios. As soon as we got there, we waited in the single-rider line for the Rockin’ Rollercoaster. Waiting in single-rider lines can significantly cut down your wait time. It is also a fun way to meet new people. I sat with a family from Brazil and got to hear about their trip and get some tips from them! After that, we waited in line for Tower of Terror. I would suggest getting fast passes for these two rides if they are available. We definitely waited the longest for these. We rode a few more rides there and explored a bit.

After dinner, we got seats for Fantasmic. This was probably my favorite part of the trip. Fantasmic was an incredible show with so many characters and special effects. Getting fast passes for Fantasmic is not necessary since the arena is so large and can fit many guests. If you sit further on the right side when you walk in, you can sit closer to the stage. The left side and middle fill up quickly. We also caught the end of the Star Wars light and firework show after Fantasmic. It was a wonderful end to a whirlwind weekend in Disney!

We walked a total of 26 miles over the two days!

Tips for doing Disney in 2 days:
-Make an itinerary before you go. Planning out your rides and times for meals just makes it much easier to ensure you see and do everything you want to in the short amount of time
-Bring 2 pairs of sneakers! After walking all day in the same shoes, you won’t want to wear the same pair the next day, believe me
-Bring your own snacks and water to save on time and money
-Reserve your fast passes as soon as you can, they fill up quickly
-If you want to get the most out of your trip, wake up early and stay up late, you can sleep when you get home!

Have more tips for a great Disney vacation? Let me know here!