Five Best Locations to Snorkel in the World

Snorkeling is an exciting way to see some of the amazing sights the ocean has to offer. It is an easy and affordable method of exploring any tourist destination, and is also a great source of exercise.  Below I’ve outlined some of the top spots to snorkel in the world, and provided recommendations for trusted tour groups who can help you truly appreciate each area’s underwater splendor and diversity.

024

Tahiti

Located in the South Pacific, Tahiti has some of the most densely populated waters in the world. Here, bright, tropical fish swim against a backdrop of warm, shallow waters in vibrant shades of blue – making it no surprise that Tahiti is considered a paradise for snorkelers of all levels. While snorkeling on the islands of Tahiti, you’ll encounter coral reefs, giant manta rays, dolphin, sharks, and even humpback whales. Although Moorea and Bora Bora are among the most popular snorkeling sites in the area, many consider the best diving experiences to be in lagoons located off-the-beaten-path.

Best tour: Windstar Cruises offers lavish week-long tours of Tahiti aboard a graceful sailing yacht. Tours include drift snorkeling among coral gardens, water sports, and local entertainment. For those looking for a more casual snorkel, Tahiti Tourism provides a thorough online guide to diving, as well as suggestions for top tour groups and training centers on the Islands.

 

ultimate-philippines-ethan-daniels-img5050-pano

Philippines

A prime snorkeling destination, the 7,107 islands of the Philippines are a mix of Asian, European, and American cultures.  As the gateway to the Coral Triangle (considered the world center of marine biodiversity) the Philippines offer warm, tropical waters surrounded by miles of gorgeous beaches. Hundreds of classes of coral dwell in the 13,124 miles of coral reefs located within the Philippine archipelago. Snorkelers can expect to see distinctive aquatic life such as gorgonian butterfly fish, giant sponges, seafans, and starfish.

Best tour: Wilderness Travel hosts multi-day snorkeling journeys through two separate UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in the Philippines. Led by marine biologists, these expeditions are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to immerse yourself in the area’s culture and marine life.

Snorkelling-LHI_0

Australia

The shallow waters of coastal Australia contain a world of diverse and scenic underwater ecosystems that are perfect for snorkeling. In these waters, you’ll find everything from giant clams and baby sea turtles to gigantic whale sharks, red bass, and dolphin. Lord Howe Island, located offshore of Sydney, is a prime destination for anyone looking to explore an untouched reef system which is home to over 500 species of fish and 90 species of coral. This World Heritage location is ideal for children, offering a clean and clear lagoon protected by the world’s southern-most coral reef.

Best tour: Lord Howe Island Environmental Tours operates coral viewing and snorkeling tours featuring glass-bottom boats for an optimal viewing experience.

Maui-Snorkel

Hawaii

Hawaii offers some of the most unique marine life in the world. In fact, more than a quarter of the species found in its oceans are unique to Hawaii. The Big Island boasts some of the healthiest reefs in the Islands with stunning coral formations and beautiful tropical fish, shielded by cliffs and breathtaking mountains. Less than 30 miles away, Maui is home to an abundance of sea life – including green sea turtles, pincushion sea stars, butterfly fish, humpback whales, and manta rays.

Best tour: Fair-Wind Cruises provides an array of snorkeling tours throughout The Big Island, with snorkeling gear, lunch, and expertise instruction included.

Classic-Galapagos-sea-lion-beach

Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands offer a snorkeling experience like no other. Since the Galapagos Islands span multiple marine sub-provinces, snorkeling throughout the islands varies immensely from site to site. However, no matter where you are snorkeling on this diverse set of islands, you’ll discover some interesting wildlife – such as sea lions, blue-footed boobies, parrot fish, giant tortoises, iguanas, and even penguins.

Best tour: Natural Habitat Adventures offers private snorkeling tours designed to provide small groups of snorkelers with intimate wildlife viewing experiences.  Affiliated with WWF, the world’s leading environmental conservation organization, these tours are led by seasoned instructor’s who will be sure to show you the Islands prime snorkeling sites.

Visit the Vacation Home Rentals Pinterest page for more photographs of these gorgeous destinations!

1 Comment

Top Hiking Trails in New England

Whether you are looking for a fun family adventure, scenic day trip, or rigorous escapade… New England offers its fair share of beautiful hiking trails. From Connecticut to Maine, you can be sure to find a trail that will offer both challenges and rewards for hikers of all ages. I’ve outlined some of the most popular hiking trails in each New England state below.

Connecticut (Pine Knob Loop Trail)

8126376777_1caa1d6328_z

This 2.5 mile round trip trail located on Coltsfoot Mountain in Sharon, CT is a short, but challenging trail. Situated within Housatonic Meadow State Park and Camping Area, Pine Knob Loop Trail covers two peaks – one at 1,120 feet and the other at 1,160 feet. Summit views showcase rolling hills and serene river valley scenes. One of the most family-friendly hikes in the region, this trail is easily accessible by car as parking is conveniently located directly off the highway.

Rhode Island (Jerimoth Hill)

10293926046_5dbcb069d8_z

Located near the Connecticut border in Foster, RI, Jerimoth hill is the highest point in Rhode Island (even at just 812 feet.) While it is hardly a mountain, Jerimoth Hill originally generated interest from hikers because it was so difficult to access. The hill was previously considered one of the State’s most restrictive areas, due to the fact that the owner’s only opened the trail to the public a few times a year. Rumor has it that they even shot at people who tried to trek the hill at times when it was not designated as ‘open to the public.’  Since ownership was taken over by the State several years ago, Jerimoth hill is now open to the public daily, beginning at 8am. Perfect for hikers of all skill levels, the hill’s summit is a large rock, located just 200 yards from the main road.

Massachusetts (Appalachian Trail, Mt. Greylock)

4297134546_10275a4f7a_z

At 3,491 feet, Mt. Greylock is considered the highest point in Massachusetts. The mountain’s Appalachian Trail is located near Adams, MA and transcends through the Berkshires mountain range. Mt. Greylock contains several forest communities and is designated as an ‘IBA’ (Important Bird Area) due to the fact that many of the species of birds found on the mountain are not normally found in MA. Most suitable for experienced hikers, Appalachian Trail is about 15 miles round trip and therefore considered by most to be an all-day affair. From the peak, dramatic views extend 60-90 miles out and encompass 5 states: Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Vermont, and New Hampshire. The trail to the summit is open seasonally from the end of May to the beginning of November.

 Vermont (Sunset Ridge Trail, Mt. Mansfield)

6078513722_551e066666_z

One of the most scenic trails in New England, Sunset Ridge Trail on Mt. Mansfield boasts a beautiful series of cascades and impressive summit views. Situated in the Green Mountains, about 17 miles east of Burlington, Mt. Mansfield is Vermont’s highest peak. The moderately difficult trail runs along a brook and crosses several streams. Along the ascent, hikers are presented with rare alpine plants and flowers and should expect rocky, exposed ledges and a few extremely steep areas (foot-and-hand holds are plentiful for everyone’s convenience.) Sunset Ridge Trail is approximately 6.6 miles round trip and is open daily.

New Hampshire  (Basin Cascades Trail, White Mountains)

riverCross1

Situated in Lincoln, NH, Basin Cascades Trail is part of Franconia Notch State Park within New Hampshire’s White Mountains. While most popular during the autumn months when foliage is at its peak, the trail sees a steady stream of hikers year round.  Hikers are attracted to the trail’s multiple waterfalls and cascades, the biggest being Cascade Brook – which falls 35 feet between a narrow gorge, over two sets of rocky steps. The 2 mile hike takes about 1.5 hours round trip, and is suitable for all skill levels. Picture link

Maine (Hunt Trail, Katahdin Mountain)

top-of-katahdin

As the centerpiece of Baxter State Park, Katahdin Mountain is Maine’s highest peak – standing at 5,269 feet tall.  The mountain is formed primarily of granite and contains 5 separate peaks.  Hunt Trail is one of the most frequented trails on the mountain – a strenuous 10.4 mile round trip trail which was first explored by Henry David Thoreau in 1846. The rugged trail, which was chronicled in Thoreau’s The Maine Woods, includes waterfalls, boulders, and rock staircases. The steep climb offers extensive views in all directions, from start to finish – as the majority of the trail is above tree line. Weather can be harsh and unpredictable, so layers and high-quality hiking shoes are recommended.

1 Comment

Adventures In Breckenridge Colorado

rafting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo©Leonardo Dasilva

The thing I love most about traveling is testing the waters of something new and unknown. It takes me away from the everyday routine and makes me feel alive. A few years ago, I took a trip to Breckenridge, Colorado. When people think of Colorado, they envision mountains, trees, and rivers. My trip was exactly that in the truest sense. I got to literally test the Colorado waters by going white-water rafting for my very first time. On the drive to our location, the butterflies in my stomach made my hands shake with a mix of fear and excitement. I don’t know if my heart could beat any faster; I was sure I would die. As soon as we loaded the raft and hit the water, the fear melted away. At every rapid, I anxiously awaited it and paddled hard to defeat it. I laughed and yelled almost the entire trip, and when we rounded the last corner, I couldn’t help but feel sad that it was over. When I hear of Breckenridge, Colorado, my mind automatically wanders to memories of white-water rafting. Colorado is the place to go for every adventure-lover. It has everything you need to enjoy the outdoors, with its massive mountains and miles of forests and trees. If you and your family are ready to get outside, then here are four activities Breckenridge has in store for you.

White-Water Rafting

After my memorable experience, I can’t start this list with anything besides white-water rafting. It is an activity every outdoor enthusiast will love, but it also has several different skill levels for family members of all ages. If you have younger children, you can still hop on a raft and float on a tame river together. Kids love being out on the water, and visiting during a low-water season will give you a safe trip. Younger children do better with short trips, but an older group can make an entire vacation out of it. You can plan your rafting trip for two hours, an entire day, or even for two or three days. Hit the river with the biggest rapids, or take it easy and enjoy the scenery from the comfort of a boat.

Hikes

The best way to see Breckenridge is from the top of a mountain, and there is no better way to get there than on your own two feet. Pull your best shoes on, and get ready to see breathtaking views. Mohawk Lake Trail is a 7.7-mile hike round-trip and gives you a view of waterfalls and historic ruins. It is definitely tops on the list for travelers who want to experience Colorado. For a tougher hike for experienced hikers, then Quandary Peak is going to work your lungs as you make your way to the top. The view is stunning and worth the hard work to get there.

Fishing

Fishing is one of the best outdoor activities for families. I absolutely loved going fishing when I was younger; catching a fish was like finding a gold nugget. You can schedule a fishing trip for beginners and be taught everything from hooking your fly to how to cast. If you already know how to fish, then arrange a trip for advanced fishers and even float the river while you fish.

Ski Resorts

The winter season is over, but it is never too early to begin planning your next winter vacation. Colorado has some of the best skiing in the entire country. Racing down a mountain is an exhilarating workout that you can do as a family. Yes, I said family! Grab your chance at skiing or snowboarding, and put your kids in ski school while you and your partner hit the mountain. While someone else is teaching your kids the hard stuff, you get to go as fast as you want. If you miss the winter snow by a month or two, then plan a hike right near the resort. You will get the same views you would while skiing but without the cold.

There is something to do for everyone, no matter the season. Breckenridge is truly the adventure paradise for outdoor enthusiasts all year round.

Karen J. Fowler Twitter

Karen J. Fowler Facebook

Karen Fowler Google Plus

Leave a comment

Family Vacation Guide To The Jersey Shore

JerseyShoreImagine a place that locals and travelers visit over and over. It doesn’t matter how many years pass by or how old children grow – families return summer after summer. This special place is the Jersey Shore. For generations, families have found their way to the beaches and piers to soak up the sun and enjoy the entertainment. You can see the history in the rides and the shows and marked on every building. With beach towns spread along the coast, there is always a new beach, roller-coaster, show, or place to explore, and this is what makes visiting the Jersey Shore so special for families. Here is a simple guide on the best places to stay, eat, and play in this great family destination.

 

photo©flickrtickr2009

Where to Stay

  • Ocean City, NJ: This treasured city is designed for families. Seriously, this place is awesome! They do “family nights” once a week along with concert nights at the music pier. You are guaranteed to see fireworks and theatrical productions on the pier at least once while visiting. There are so many different activities for kids of all ages that you can visit no matter how old or young your children are. Beyond the entertainment, this place offers the dream beach for families. It is huge, long, clean, warm, and open. I always enjoy having my own space on the beach, and this eight-mile beach allows families to spread out and feel at home.

  • Point Pleasant Beach, NJ: Whether you live a couple of hours away or clear across the country, this beach town has “vacation” written in palm trees everywhere you look. Kids will love playing in the sand and splashing in the water, but there is an aquarium and a fun house right around the corner for extra entertainment. If the sun starts getting to you, then take a moment to order ice cream right on the beach for a cool treat.

  • Seaside Heights, NJ: This town is a popular place for families to spend the weekend. The beaches are clean and cleared for swimming and surfing. Depending on when you go, you might get the chance to visit the beach while a movie is playing at night. Besides the beach, there is a large boardwalk filled with entertainment and tons of fun rides for kids.

 

Fun Things to Do

  • Fantasy Island Park: The Jersey Shore has many, many theme parks. Entertainment is the theme, and for families, this is exactly what they need on vacation. There are tons of fun attractions on the Jersey Shore, but Fantasy Island Park is one you can’t miss, with its mixture of shows, rides, food, and games. Make sure you find out what time the magic show is before going.

  • Popcorn Park Zoo: This zoo has every animal a family could ever want to see. While I love exotic animals, my siblings always enjoyed petting animals on the farm, and the Popcorn Park Zoo gets you exposed to a variety of animals so every kid is happy. The turtles, lions, and camels are adorable, but kids will also squeal with delight when they get a bag of free popcorn.

  • Jersey Shore Pirates: Families love Jersey Shore Pirates for its unique style of entertainment. Kids get to pretend and experience what being a pirate is like. With a map, cannons for battle, and hidden treasure, your entire family will be thrilled.

 

Where to Eat

  • The Tick Tock Diner: Diners are the best restaurants for families to get delicious food in a comfortable environment. What families love most about The Tick Tock Diner is the large menu. We all know kids can be picky eaters, but you can find something for every child on this yummy menu, no matter how picky they are.

  • O Bagel: You might wonder why I would list a bagel place, but these bagels aren’t your normal grocery-market-squished-in-a-bag bagels – they are divine. The homemade flavor makes them incredibly addicting, so I recommend buying one for each member in the family and then running far, far away; after one bite, you will involuntarily order a dozen more.

  • Sam’s Pizza Palace: You can’t go to the Jersey Shore without stuffing your face with a deep-dish pizza. Kids go crazy for pizza, and ordering a large one as a family while enjoying the ocean is all a part of the experience. No matter where you decide to eat, you can guarantee two things while visiting the Jersey Shore: good food and a terrific view.

 

Karen J. Fowler Twitter

Karen J. Fowler Facebook

Karen Fowler Google Plus

Leave a comment

Nashville Noms, A Guide To The Best Food In The “Music City”

Nashville

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo©Kyle Simourd

Lately, I have been talking a lot about California and Florida, but today, I would like to take us somewhere new. So let’s travel a few states over and dive right into Tennessee; more specifically Nashville, Tennessee. Nashville is pretty awesome. It has great views, a sense of home, friendly people, good music, art, museums, parks, recreation, and constant entertainment. There are so many reasons to visit this laid-back place, but for food lovers like me, there is the added bonus of great restaurants. From the mood to the food, here are seven Nashville restaurants you are going to love while vacationing in this destination.

Arnold’s Country Kitchen

This buffet restaurant hits the top of my list for popularity and yumminess. Almost everywhere you look, you will find restaurant reviews raving about this tasty place. It has all of my favorites and your favorites, but the chicken and dumplings, banana pudding, and catfish are everybody’s favorites.

Edley’s Bar-B-Que

When you step inside this diner, you will be pleasantly greeted by the sound of bluegrass music playing. Order your favorite sandwich from the menu board, and then make yourself comfortable in the dimly lit dining room or bask in the sun on the patio. It’s one of the top diners in Nashville; you won’t be disappointed in Edley’s Bar-B-Que.

Hattie B’s Hot Chicken

If you like your chicken both yummy and spicy, then you have to come here. This place is amazing, but you’d better bring a package of tissues because your nose and eyes will be watering from the heat. The sauce is hot, but boy, is it good.

Fido

If you love coffee as much as I do, then you will love walking through the door of Fido’s. The smell is like the freshest cup of coffee you’ve ever had. The food is a mix of Mediterranean and Latin but still has a southern twist to it. I definitely recommend trying the pulled pork tacos with mango salsa.

City House

This restaurant is tucked away in the lush trees of the historic parts of Germantown. The menu is Italian, but when you are in Nashville, you can guarantee that the food will be served with a southern flair. Everything from the green beans to the cornmeal-crusted catfish is beyond delicious.

Etch

I love Nashville for that country feel, but this place strays away from the stereotypical restaurant. It is incredibly elegant, sleek, and adorned with modern decor. The food is cooked to perfection, and the pork loin is so soft and tender that it melts in your mouth.

The Patterson House

This place screams “Nashville” and is definitely one of the restaurants you’ll want to stop at while visiting Tennessee. The vintage chandeliers, wood beams, and old-fashioned style creates an environment worthy of a John Wayne movie. You can probably guess that hamburgers and beer are on the menu.

These seven places are a great place to start your Nashville culinary journey. But no matter where you decide to eat, whether at one of these places or somewhere else, you will be impressed with the food Nashville has to offer.

Karen J. Fowler Twitter

Karen J. Fowler Facebook

Karen Fowler Google Plus

1 Comment

Napa Valley Wine Tours For Beginners

vineyardImagine walking through vineyards with the sun setting peacefully behind you. For miles all you can see are rolling hills carved with perfect rows of vines. As you reach one end you walk peacefully into a large building that holds barrels of exquisite wine. Now you take a moment to breathe in the beauty of it all, and grab a glass of the wine in its freshest form. The taste is pure, delicious, and marked in your mind forever. This is a small taste of what a wine tour can hold for you. The Napa Valley is one of the most popular places in the world to explore the historical culture of wine and its creation. If you plan it right and tackle the best ones, you can experience something not only beautiful but delicious as well.

photo©Chuck Abbe

What is a Wine Tour?

Wine tours are special, and have held a soft spot in my heart for many years. They are a tour of the place that makes the wine and share this information in an elegant fashion. You get to taste the wine, walk or drive through the vineyards, and explore the buildings.

Tips and Tricks for First Timers

When planning your first tour, make sure you do some research on several places. I love to get outside and dive into nature, so exploring the vineyard out of a vehicle is top on my list. You can explore vineyards by car, boat, bus, foot, and even horseback. Time it so you can experience it while the sun sets or while it rises; the coolness of the night air will keep you refreshed, and the sun dusting the surface with its light is stunning. Check what type of wines they serve, cost, and how many tastings you will get to try. Many wineries offer other bonuses like bike rides, cheese, music and appetizers. There are many, many good ones so don’t be afraid to be picky.

The Napa Valley Best Places

The Napa Valley is one of the most prominent places in the world for wine tours. There are dozens of wineries, and people travel across the country to experience this wine region. Choosing the best was a challenge, but I narrowed it down to my favorite three. Each has something unique to bring, and will be a special occasion for any vacation.

Cliff Lede

With 39 vineyard blocks, this winery cleverly named each one after a rock song. The atmosphere is a mix of romance and fun with elegant seating, twinkling lights, and music playing in the background. As you sink into your soft seat, you will get several tastings of fine wine and appetizers. The best is saved for last, and the Rock Blocks red blends will be heaven to your taste buds.

Chappellet

This is definitely my favorite place to explore a winery. The view has everything from mountains, hills, vines, to rivers. The tour is 90 minutes and walks you through the vineyard and buildings; it will be hard to pull your eyes away from the gorgeous landscape. Then you get to sit comfortably as you taste the newest wine releases.

Clif Family

This place offers an entirely different experience than other wineries. You can rent a bike and travel a 24-mile loop around the entire vineyard and landscaping. The ride begins with a cup of espresso and allows you to fully experience life at a vineyard. When you reach your destination, you get to enjoy a relaxing wine tasting. No matter what place you decide to taste, you can’t go wrong in the Napa Valley.

Karen J. Fowler Twitter

Karen J. Fowler Facebook

Karen Fowler Google Plus

Leave a comment

Colorado, A Hiker’s Paradise

ColoradoHiking on trails is one of the best ways to experience a state’s natural beauty. I love the beaches and hot sun in Florida, but Colorado offers something I don’t get to see every day. When I visit a new place, I always plan to spend at least one day enjoying the scenery. You cannot visit Colorado without the yearning to get outside and see the mountains covered in trees. This place is gorgeous, and the best way to see all that beauty is diving right in it. Here are the best hikes for anyone who enjoys the outdoors.

photo©Daniel Boyd

Waterfall Hikes

Boulder Falls

If you are looking for a short and easy hike that offers great rewards, then this hike is one of the best waterfall hikes you can quickly explore. Located just outside Boulder, Colorado, you walk a quick 100 yards to this breathtaking scene. If the hike is not quite long enough, follow the trails surrounding it and explore the trees, rocks, and water.

Bridal Veil Falls Hike

If there is a waterfall nearby where I am staying, then I am going to be there. Hikes are all about exploring, but having a waterfall at the end motivates me throughout the climb, and this waterfall is worth the 6.6 mile hike to get there.

Alberta Falls Hike

Located in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, this beautiful 1.2 mile hike is only a 2 hour drive from Denver. You can get to the waterfall in less than a mile, or you can add some length by taking the longer trail. The location is prime for spending an entire day with family and friends exploring the rest of the National Park.

Lake Hikes

Bear Lake Hike

Right in the center of Rocky Mountain National Park is this gorgeous lake that you can walk around and explore. The hike is a little over a half-mile, but there are several trails around the lake you can enjoy with the constant view of the lake.

Echo Lake Trail

Mt. Evans is one of the prettiest places to hike and drive. This easy hike is short enough to bring young kids and eat lunch while enjoying the view. After finishing the walk, drive up to the top of Mt. Evans and take in the stunning view.

Silver Dollar Lake Trail

This moderate hike is 4.8 miles round-trip and is a steady incline upwards. My favorite thing about this trail is the small lake it has along the way. This smaller lake called Naylor Lake is a small taste of the beautiful lake you get to enjoy when you reach the top.

Moderate Hikes

Continental Divide Trail at Berthoud Pass

Located in the little town of Empire, this trail has several length options depending on your skill level. You can do two miles, four miles, and even a 16 mile hike making it one of the best Colorado hikes for all ages. Between the peaks, rivers, and lakes, there is plenty to see along the way.

Chief Mountain Trail

This is one of the most popular hikes in Colorado and located off of Squaw Pass Road. Although the hike is only two miles, it takes you right along the edge of the mountain tops. The views are more than incredible, and truly describe Colorado.

Handicap Accessible

Mt. Evans Summit Hike

Anyone can enjoy nature, and this hike has a road that takes you almost to the summit. The trail is short and can easily be taken by wheelchair, stroller, or on foot. The mountains work as a backdrop to a beautiful lake and should be seen by everyone. There really is no excuse to not get outside and enjoy the fine views of Colorado.

 

Karen J. Fowler Twitter

Karen J. Fowler Facebook

Karen Fowler Google Plus

 

Leave a comment

Best Ways To Have Fun In Seattle

gumwall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo©Anupam_ts

When people start planning their vacations, they automatically think of sunny locations and white sandy beaches. While I know how wonderful it is to relax in the sun, there is something about escaping this typical trend and experiencing a city that is completely unique. When I think of cities that stand out among the rest with diverse culture and a distinct atmosphere, I picture Seattle.

If you have never been here, it is worth traveling to experience the assortment of fun things to do. The views are breathtaking with the mixture of cityscape, dotted islands, ocean water, and mountains. It is a city you can visit on a budget, and I can’t help but share how awesome this place is without spending a fortune. Here are five ways you can have fun in Seattle.

Pike Place

You don’t have to spend a dime to explore this farmers market that runs every day of the year. The shops are unique, the food is diverse, entertainers are every few feet, and the fish go flying through the air. Seriously, stop by the fish stand and watch as the workers toss giant fish across the area. The first time I experienced the art of throwing fish, I couldn’t help but wince and make strange faces. I was positive they would drop one of these slippery things, but they didn’t drop a single one. While I didn’t buy anything that day in the market, I still got to enjoy the excitement of people yelling, loud laughter, lively crowds and ongoing entertainment. Don’t forget to hit up the shops across from the main area and visit the original Starbucks.

The Gum Wall

The first time I heard about the Seattle gum wall, I kind of lost my appetite. The thought of hundreds of thousands of strangers placing their germy gum on a wall sounded disgusting. This yucky place, with gum squished in every nook and cranny, was the first place I wanted to see. I guess my curiosity overpowered any germ phobia I might have. While it was gross, it was also beautiful. The mixtures of tiny bubbly colors intertwined together were beyond fascinating. I think I stood there for fifteen minutes just taking it all in. Then, without thinking, I spat my gum into my hand. I walked to the wall and squished my blue piece of gum right next to pink, red, green, and yellow pieces. It was fun, but I felt an inner proudness knowing there was a little piece of me forever in Seattle. This gum wall is just one of the many unique things to see in Seattle.

Art

There is art everywhere in this city. I have traveled around the country many times, but I have never been to a city so drenched in modern art. Stroll from Pike Place to the Space Needle and you will understand what I am talking about. There are fountains, giant red stacked tubes, glass art, talking flowers, sidewalks, and even artists creating work right there on the street. You can even see a troll under the bridge on your drive in the city. Make sure you visit the giant splash park that is a concave dome that shoots out thousands of gallons of water.

The Space Needle

You can’t visit Seattle without a stop to the Space Needle. If you are on a budget, walk around it from below, but if you can make it to the top, wow, you will be amazed. The view is astounding during the day and even more beautiful at night. I have to recommend eating in the restaurant that goes in a slow circle. While the price is fairly expensive, the food is fine dining quality and you get free admission to the top.

The Views

Seattle is in the Puget Sound so you get the smell of ocean water with the view of islands and land surrounding the area. Take a stroll along the docks, ride the Ferris wheel, and go for a daily cruise beside the shore to truly see everything. While people give Seattle a hard time for gray skies, the weather really is the perfect mild temperature to enjoy the city without melting or freezing to death; even the rain is only a light sprinkle. If you want to avoid the clouds, any chance of rain, and get a clear view of the scenery, visit during July and August. Seattle is a blast, and if you haven’t been here yet, you better start planning your next vacation to this lively place.

Karen J. Fowler Twitter

Karen J. Fowler Facebook

Karen Fowler Google Plus

 

Leave a comment

Inside The One And Only Exploratorium

bridge

photo©Jeff Gunn

If you are traveling to California or looking for someplace new to visit, there are some pretty spectacular places to see in San Francisco. While I could write pages of attractions you can enjoy in this sunny location, today I am going to focus on one: the Exploratorium. I am pretty excited about this new museum in San Francisco. Actually, excited is an understatement of how I truly feel; I am ready to catch the first flight to California and dash like a crazy woman through their doors at opening. The Exploratorium really is one-of-a-kind and a must on every itinerary.

What is it?

Before I start spilling my enthusiasm all over the place, let me start by explaining what an Exploratorium even is. Looking at the name, you can probably guess it has something to do with “exploring.” The word really gives a small glimpse of what this place really has to explore. This museum is a hands-on place that gets you learning about science, art, human phenomena, and nature.

What types of activities does it have?

The museum has hundreds of exhibits to explore and the activities range from marble machines, shadows, and bubbles, to jumping into a colorless world. The one I am especially looking forward to seeing, or I should say not seeing, is the Tactile Dome. This dome is for anyone 7 and older, and is completely black. As you navigate through the area you will physically crawl, climb, slide, and feel your way through. There is so much to do that an entire day isn’t enough to experience it all.

Who is it for?

This is my favorite part about this museum; it is for people of all ages. With a vast range of exhibits, they have done an incredible job at reaching to all crowds. Some exhibits will be too complicated for children to understand, but adults and teenagers will be open-mouthed at the ingenuity of it. Then there will be areas aimed at younger crowds that have activities that are so much fun and age appropriate, kids won’t realize all the learning they are doing.

What does it cost, and what are the hours?

For an entire day of mind-blowing fun, you can expect to pay $25 for adults, $19 for youth ages 4-17, and nothing for children 3 and under. It is open every day, except Mondays, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. On Thursdays it has special hours for adults from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. There are also five free days spread throughout the year, and might be the times you plan your vacation around. I personally would love to visit on Pi Day or Groundhog Day, but you can get in free Mother’s Day, Engineering Day, and Founder’s Day too.

If you are within driving distance, I would strongly recommend swinging by and exploring the Exploratorium a few times a year. For those of us who live further away – I live clear across the country – planning a trip to visit California is a way to entwine this gem into your vacation. I love a good museum, but this one is on an entirely new level. I am not kidding when I say that it makes learning fun, exciting, and quite addicting. The moment I get through that door I will be exploring, playing, and soaking my mind with information.

Karen J. Fowler Twitter

Karen J. Fowler Facebook

Karen Fowler Google Plus

Leave a comment

9 Incredible Pieces Of History You Can Only See In Philadelphia

bell

photo©Chris Brown

Take a moment to think about the history of America. Think about the wars, the Declaration of Independence, and the houses people built to settle and make their home. What city comes to mind first? While most people think of Washington, D.C., when discussing history, Philadelphia is a city that holds some of the most powerful artifacts and pieces of history. So much happened in and around this special place. From wars fought on its land to buildings of significance, Philadelphia played a huge role in the colonization and freedom of America.

1. Eastern State Penitentiary

When I think of a prison, thoughts of pretty architecture are the furthest from my mind. Benjamin Franklin, eager to help instead of punish prisoners, had this stunning penitentiary built. With castle features, stone walls, and isolated cells, this building is a mixture of beautiful and creepy.

2. Independence Hall

When I think about the start of America, my mind automatically thinks of the Declaration of Independence. So you might say that this building is where America all began, when that life-changing piece of paper was signed.

3. Franklin Court

Fall back in history with a stroll down Franklin Court. In the early 1800s, Benjamin Franklin’s house was torn down, but in its place is an outline of his home built with a steel frame. There is an adorable original post office where you can send some mail to loved ones back home.

4. The Liberty Bell

The Liberty Bell is a piece of history that signifies America’s freedom. At the Liberty Bell Center, you can get historical information and see this storied artifact for free.

5. Valley Forge National Historical Park

While pondering our freedom, I am always reminded of the lives lost at war to obtain this luxury. Here on the open fields, you can be reminded of the deadly battle fought at Valley Forge.

6. The Betsy Ross House

This house is really old — I am talking a 250-year-old house. With furniture created for the time period and a Betsy Ross re-enactor, this place gives you a real taste of what life was like back then, along with a remembrance of the first sewn American flag.

7. Elfreth’s Alley

This street is a fun sight to see. It’s the first residential street in America, and you can believe that American history really did begin here. There are original homes and a museum along the road to see and even explore. Some homes even have people living in them. How amazing would it be to live in one of the first homes ever built in the United States? Amazing!

8. Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site

Whether you have a soft spot for literature or not, this house, lived in by one of the first American writers, is worth a visit. With red brick and an authentic city feel, this house will charm your heart.

9. Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion and the Grange Estate

With design on my mind, there is nothing more fun than looking at historical mansions. The Victorian era is one of my favorites for architecture, and these homes captures every tiny detail with eloquent touches. Homes like these add to the overall authentic history of Philadelphia.

Karen J. Fowler Twitter

Karen J. Fowler Facebook

Karen Fowler Google Plus

Leave a comment