Tips For Your First Trip to the Grand Canyon

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The Grand Canyon is a popular tourist destination for a reason – it’s awesome! Like most national parks, it’s massive and you cannot see it all in a day. Here are a few recommendations based on my first visit.

Reserve a room early. I happened to be staying at an Airbnb a couple of hours away and drove to the Grand Canyon on a day trip. If you want to stay in one of the Grand Canyon’s eight lodges, booking your room a year in advance is recommended. You may also want to check into which restaurants require reservations. When I go back I want to stay at the El Tovar.  I would love to enjoy breakfast on the balcony with a view of the Grand Canyon (and a cup of tea of course).

Weather. Check ahead – plan accordingly. The temperature is regularly in the 100s in the summer. Monsoon season is mid-June to mid-September. During monsoon season be prepared for strong winds, thunder storms and possible flash floods. These rainstorms can be dangerous if you’re hiking.

It’s not free. Be prepared to pay to get into the park. According to the National Park Service website. “Effective June 1, 2018 the park entrance fee will be $35 per vehicle or $30 per motorcycle, for a seven day pass. An annual park pass will cost $70.” Check this link for current fees.

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Shuttle buses. Keep in mind that certain parts of the park are only accessible by shuttle bus most of the year. You will park your car in one of the main lots. I liked the shuttles. They ran often and on time, but it will not be a quick trip back to your car. So take a back pack with any essentials you may need during the day.

The View. If you want to take in the classic Grand Canyon view where you can peer over the edge of the rim go to the South Rim. If you want a quieter experience with less people and more nature head over to the North Rim.

Take a hike. There is so much more to the park than the South Rim view. To really experience the Grand Canyon leave the crowds behind.  If you do go for a hike, start early so you can make it back before dark. There are multiple restaurants in the park, but you are going to want to bring your own food and a water on the trail. There are water bottle filling stations along the way. I decided to hike the Bright Angel Trail. Climbing down was a little challenging for me and it actually got hotter as I descended the canyon. When I got to the three mile marker I looked back up the trail and thought, “What did I just do? I have to climb back up.” Since I’m not an experienced hiker, I decided that was far enough. The climb up was even tougher and it felt longer. In the end only hiked six miles, but it was an experience that left me with a real sense of awe and accomplishment. Plus, I can now say I’ve hiked the Grand Canyon.


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Looking back up from the 3 mile marker.

There is wild life. Be respectful. Give wild animals their space. The pictures I took may look like I was close, but trust me I’m all about the zoom feature.



Bring your camera, but be present too. You could not ask for a more dramatic back drop for pictures than the Grand Canyon. The sunset the day I went was just beautiful. Even though there are huge crowds there every day, you can still manage to take pictures that look like you are the only one visiting the park that day. My travel companions also figured out how to have some fun taking pictures that looked like they were hanging off the cliff. If you only visit the Grand Canyon once, it would be a shame not to capture “all” those moments, but take some time to “live” in the moment too. I had no cell service while hiking down the canyon. Sometimes a visit to a national park will force you to unplug and that’s a good thing!

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The “I look like I’m hanging off a cliff” picture

I always travel with these guys (gummy bear adventures).

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10 Places To Talk Like a Pirate


September 19th is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. What started off as a joke between friends (John “Ol’ Chumbucket’ Baur and Mark “Cap’n Slappy” Summers) has gained international exposure. If you need some fun in your day, talk like a pirate with your friends (or strangers). If you want to take it to the next level here are some great places to spend the day (of course you can talk like a pirate at these places year round).

Disneyland (California, USA)

Since I’m from California I had to start with Disneyland. The happiest place on earth also has a great pirates ride (maybe you’ve hear of it – they also made a few movies), Pirates of the Caribbean.

Disneyland Paris – Pirate Galleon (France)

Disneyland Paris has a great hands on experience. The Pirate Galleon is open to kids of all ages from port to starboard.

New England Pirate Museum (Massachusetts, USA)

Salem is better known for the witch trials, but you can also find pirates. Wander through the recreated dockside village, search for pirate treasure in the 80 foot cave or board the pirate ship.

St Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum (Florida, USA)

Start your own personal treasure hunt at the Pirate & Treasure Museum in St Augustine where pirates like Sir Francis Drake and Robert Searles once roamed the streets.

Pirates of Nassau (Bahamas)

This Nassau was home to some of the most notorious pirates. You can explore the historical exhibits or enjoy interactive entertainment for all ages during the day. At night the adults can head over to the Smuggles Club.

Pirate’s Quest (Newquay, England)

Pirate’s Quest offers truly immersive experience. There are live performers, special effects and “detailed 360 degree sets in an authentic, atmospheric adventure transporting visitors back 300 years.”

Cheung Po Tsai Pirate Cave (Hong Kong, China)

On an island 30 minutes from Hong Kong you’ll find the hideout of one of Hong Kong’s notorious pirate, Cheng Po Tsai. According to legend he kept his pirate treasure on this island, but it has never been found.

Black Pearl Party Cruises (Barbados)

This four our cruise includes meals, music and walking the plank (if you dare). You can swim with the turtles or dance the night away aboard the “Jolly Roger 1”.

Cayman Islands Pirates Week Festival

This annual festival takes place in November and opens with a mock “pirate invasion”. There are parades, fireworks, street dances, costume contests and much more!

2018 Legends of Pirate’s Past – Pirate Tour

You still have time to book a trip with Cheap Caribbean on their Pirate Tour (booking dates September 19 – October 30 2018). This tour includes stays at all inclusive resorts and excursions through historic pirate sites (travel days December 6 – December 11, 2018)








Three Things You Might Not Know About Kansas City (MO)

Bird and Lime scooters have both arrived in Kansas City. So, I’ve had a lot of fun zipping around seeing the sites. Between the scooters and the KC Street Car it was really easy to get around. I had a picnic by the river. I explored the City Market – one word – Gelato! I also found out three things you might not know about Kansas City.

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1 – Kansas City has an amazing downtown library. I know what you’re thinking. Libraries are not travel destinations. Well the downtown branch will change your mind. A local suggested that I visit and I was not disappointed. If you like architecture, it’s impressive and there are lots of fun places for photo ops. Built in 1906, for First National Bank, there are large columns both inside and out as well as stunning chandeliers in the lobby. The bank vault has been turned into a movie theater used by local film societies and there’s large chess on the roof top. Even the parking garage is interesting with giant book spines lining the side.

2 – Kansas City is known for its BBQ (which I’ll talk about later), but it also has a pretty awesome tea scene  (if you like that sort of thing, which I think we all know by now, I do). There are several tea shops that carry loose leaf teas including: Hugo Tea, Dragonfly Tea Zone, the Tea Market and Anna Marie’s Tea. Centered Spirit is a cultural and holistic center. They have a tea room where you can sip Emilie’s French Teas and relax. The American Slang Modern Brasserie at the InterContinental “where local collides with European” has an afternoon tea service daily from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm.

While I usally opt for afternnoon tea I’m also very interested in Chinese culture. I took chinese in high school and college (I also did not call American Slang the required 48 hours in advance to make a reservation). So, I had a lovely time wandering around the cute retail shop and eating lunch at Shang Dim Sum Tea House. I had the Chai Chicken soup, a dumpling and two chocolate and red bean mood cakes. I choose an herbal white tea – Honeysuckle ginger – to go with lunch. Everything was delicious. The atmosphere was quiet and peaceful. Shang Dim Sum Tea House is located at Crown Center which brings us to the third thing you might not know about Kansas City (I didn’t).

3 – The headquarters for Hallmark is in Kansas City, MO. Hallmark? Yes. The greeting card store? Yes. Do people still buy cards? About 7 billion a year and over half of them from Hallmark. Their headquarters is in Kansas City, MO and Crown Center is named for the crown in the Hallmark logo. Hallmark founder Joyce C. Hall, helped turn the run-down area around their main office into what is now a mixed-use community with hotels, office space, retail, residential and entertainment includes Sea Life Kansas City (a two-story aquarium) and Legoland Discovery Center. There is also an annual Hallmarket Art Festival featuring hand-made artwork created by more than 100 Hallmark employees’ and retirees’.

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Crown Center

No visit to Kansas City is complete without sampling their famous barbecue. The hardest part is deciding where to go. They have 7 barbecue spots that have been featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. There’s also a website devoted to nothing but Kansas City barbecue and many more online BBQ related lists. I went in at Jack Stacks for dinner. They have been featured on the Food Network and “Zagat Survey” named them the “highest-rated BBQ in the country.” They have several locations. I went to the freight house. It was dimly lit (dare I say man cave) and packed. I managed to find a seat at the bar. The bartender was very attentive the whole time, even though it was busy. I ordered the Jack Stack sandwich with brisket and polish sausage. It came with cheesy corn bake and fires. The brisket was so tender it was falling apart and perfectly seasoned. There was so much I couldn’t finish it all, but it tasted great the next day too. I had never heard of cheesy corn bake. It’s pretty much what it sounds like: cheese, corn and a little ham. You can’t really go wrong when you cover a dish with melted cheese. It was “soooo” good. As a side note, this is not the kind of meal where you look at the calories on the menu. You’ll ruin your dinner. Just eat it and enjoy! I did.

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Jack Stack Brisket and Polish Sausage Sandwich

If you’re planning to visit Kansas City soon here are a few more places you might want to check out:

  • Union Station. I went because I like trains and of course for the architecture. You know the saying go big or stay home? Well they went big. The architect modeled it after Grand Central Station in New York. Built in 1914, there are huge archways, a 95-foot ceiling and three 3,500-pound chandeliers. Union Station was the second busiest railroad center in America until it closed in the 1980s. “During WWII, an estimated one million travelers – many of them soldiers – passed through the station.” It reopened in 1999 and today you can still catch the train there, but you can also visit a planetarium, science center, go to the movies and attend live theatre. It is also currently home to Dinosaurs Revealed a cool new exhibit open daily through January 6, 2019.
  • Open Spaces KC. I lucked out and happened to be here during this two-month citywide celebration of visual and performing arts taking place August 25 – October 28, 2018. There are exhibits all over the city. Many of them are free.
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ARAMINTA; Artist – Joyce J Scott; Araminta is the birth name of American abolitionist and political activist Harriet Tubman. This pieces is currently located at Union Station as part of the Open Spaces KC exhibition.

  • The Nelson Atkins museum had me at van Gogh. It turns out one of his painting, Olive Trees, has a grasshopper under the paint. It was an interesting detail to discover and for some reason I like the idea of Vincent van Gogh painting outside (trying to pick bugs out before the paint dries). Once again, I ran into “the Thinker”. The original was created by Rodin but there are over 50 copies in museums throughout the world. There were approximately 20 were made under his supervision and the rest were cast after he passed away.


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  • Kemper Museum. In addition to viewing the art you should also dine at Café Sebastienne.
  • Andre’s Confiserie Suisse. If you really really like chocolate.
  • KC BCycle. Want to explore the city by bike? They have a 24/7 public bike share system.