Since this blog is supposed to be about all the things I enjoy in life, I decided that I MUST include my love for travel. I am usually the one who researches and plans all my vacations among my friends and family. The problem that I have when doing a search online for a good review or recommendation on a destination is that it’s not written from someone’s point of view and own experiences. Since I have been quite a few places, I figured why bring all my travels and experiences to one place! As I sifted through all my pictures I realized how amazing this will all turn out as I post more and more destinations on my blog. Some of these locations I have been several times over the years, doing differnt activities. These blog posts will end up being a great recommendation to someone to have a well rounded experience from my point of view!
The first blog I would like to start out with was my road trip that took us out to parts of the midwest, southwest and back to the northwest. It was an amazing experience with countless hours of planning and mapping the best route on Google.
If you are like me and like to have everything organized to stay on track, then I would recommend getting a binder and buying tabs to separate the destinations so that you can store information that you find for each place. To be SUPER organized, I ended up figuring out how much park entrance fees would be and having the correct amount of money saved in each section of the binder in a little sleeve, that way I was prepared and there were no surprises.
Here is the itinerary I ended up with:
1. Seattle, Washington
2. Salt Lake City, Utah
3. Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
4. 4 Corners
5. Monument Valley, Utah
6. Grand Canyon, Arizona
7. Las Vegas, Nevada
8. Palm Springs, California
9. San Diego, California
10. San Luis Obispo, California
11. Morro Bay, California
12. San Simeon, California
13. Eugene, Oregon
14. Seattle, Washington
(I forgot to add Las Vegas when I made this map….whoops!)
Some of the first few destinations are places that I have wanted to go to for a long time! Since I was still working part time, I had the opportunity to take a lot of time off (no pay of course) and do it. My boyfriend and I figured that 11 days would be enough time. We did have to cut our time short at a few places so I would recommend adding a few more days if you can to do some of the things we wish we had time to do!
Here are my suggestions if you plan to follow the same route as we did!
1. Salt Lake City (Day 1)
Seattle to Salt Lake City: 841 miles (about 12 hours, 11 minutes)
We left on a Saturday night at 8pm and my boyfriend drove through the night….yes, we are crazy. We got to Salt Lake around 9AM. We didn’t really have anything planned because it was more of the route we took to get to our destination of Colorado, but it was and 18 hour drive to Colorado. Luckily my boyfriend had friends living in Salt Lake at the time, so they cooked us breakfast and let us relax for about 2 hours before we hit the road again. The reason we did the drive through Salt Lake was for the scenery! It was amazing. Rolling hills and mountains topped with snow (did I mention we did this drive in early April?). This picture was the first time we got out of the car and took a picture…next to a hole a rock! It must be exciting because they were advertising it. If you decided to add more days on to your trip, I would recommend making time to stop at Arches National Park and Moab. We now have added those to our list of places to visit..because technically we haven’t been there!
Hole in the Rock: http://theholeintherock.com/
2. Cortez (Day 2)
Salt Lake City to Cortez 349 miles (about 5 hours, 43 minutes)
Where is Cortez you may ask? Well, Cortez, Colorado is in southwest Colorado where Mesa Verde National Park is. AKA the place I have been wanting to see for the past 5 years! Mesa Verde is a national park home to the Anasazi people who created clay structures up in the cliff sides in the canyon. Seeing this up close was like having an out of body experience. I can’t even begin to tell you how crazy it was! We planned it perfectly and arrived Sunday morning right at opening on the SECOND day they had re-opened for the season and were 2 of 5 in the morning tour! The tour guide was super friendly and let us walk in a few places they didn’t let normally let large groups go! After the main tour, we were able to drive around to a few other spots and walk down to another site that was more of a self guided tour.
There are two fees to be ready for:
Park entrance fee: $10-15 depending on what time of the year you go
Tour: $3/person (I know, super expensive)
They also have a free museum that shows you the types of materials the Anasazi people used. I would highly recommend visiting this while you are there!
We ended up leaving Cortez around 11:30AM and headed for….
3. Four Corners (Day 2)
Cortez to Four Corners 39.4 miles (about 42 minutes)
4 Corners? Ya! 4 Corners, where Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico meet! It’s not very exciting but at least I can say I have been in four states at once! There is also a small hike that takes about 30 minutes to complete but we found that we didn’t have much time to complete this.
Entrance fee: $3/person
4. Monument Valley (Day 2)
Monument Valley is located in Utah. We had to do a little back tracking from 4 Corners but it was worth it. Just driving to the visitor center and seeing those huge rocks shooting out of the ground was amazing! At the visitors center, you are able to get great views of most of the monuments or you can opt for a drive that will give you an up close experience. We didn’t have much time to do the drive, unfortunately. The website said the drive typically takes about 2 hours! The visitor center contains a lot of good information about the monuments. They all even have names! The ones you see in the picture from left to right are called: East Mittens, West Mittens, Elephant Butte. I would definitely recommend making time to do the drive!
Park Fees: $5/person
5. Grand Canyon (Day 2)
Monument Valley to Grand Canyon 202 miles (about 4 hours, 4 minutes)
The drive to the Grand Canyon visitor center once you actually entered the park was about 45 minutes. About 15 minutes into the drive is when you get your first glimpse of the canyons and it was BREATHTAKING! The colors are like nothing you have ever seen before. Seeing it in person was definitely different than seeing pictures. I didn’t realize how deep the canyons actually were. There are countless hikes that take anywhere from a few hours to a whole day. We ended up reaching the Grand Canyon around 5pm and didn’t realize that the main visitor center would be closed….so I would recommend leaving yourself more time to look around. We took a short hike around the rim, took some pictures and went to an overlook and took more pictures. My initial plan was to stay overnight in a local hotel, but since we realized that you would need more time to hike and we didn’t leave much time for it the following day, we decided we would come back another time. We left the Grand Canyon around 7pm.
Park Fees: $25/vehicle
6. Las Vegas (Day 2-4)
Grand Canyon to Las Vegas 277 miles (about 4 hours 10 minutes)
Las Vegas is always a must in my book. If I am anywhere nearby, I NEED to go. I am not a drinker but there is something about an inexpensive vacation to sun and a pool. We ended up heading to Vegas a day early and arrived around 11pm on day 2..yes, we did numbers 2-6 in 1 day! On a side note (There were several hotels that I booked ahead of time for our road trip and there were others that I booked on the road. The Grand Canyon/Vegas situation was one where I left to chance!) On our way to Las Vegas I booked a great deal at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. For only $45 we got a room for the night.
The morning of day number 3 was spent at the Hard Rock pool and no complaints there! When we finally checked out of our room, we met up with our friends who had just gotten engaged and were in Vegas the same time as us! Their room at The Venitian was amazing, as well as the pool area being super relaxing (pictured below). The next hotel that we were checking into for the night was the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino located on Fremont Street (or old Las Vegas). It had recently undergone a huge renovation of its pool area which included a shark tank pool (pictured above). If you have never been to Fremont Street, I highly recommend you visit it! At night the whole covered area lights up with an amazing light show every hour. The bars and casinos are all conveniently located next door to each other and there are nights where there arent many people so you feel as though you have the whole area to yourself!
Our last day in Vegas was spent at Treasure Island back on the strip. Our friends who flew in from San Diego to meet us shared a room with us, so we split the cost there. We didn’t get a chance to hang out at the pool but that evening in the hotel. We even went and saw a Cirque de Soleil show. Cirque shows are a must in Vegas. The acrobatics are amazing! We saw Mystere which was conveniently in the lobby of our hotel.
After the show, one of the restaurants in our hotel, Kahunaville was offering buy one get one drinks/shots. If you do drink, finding drink deals is the way to go, otherwise you will spend a good 10-30 per drink… it can make your Vegas trip pretty expensive.
Las Vegas strip: http://www.lasvegas.com/
Fremont Street: http://www.vegasexperience.com/
Cirque du Soleil: http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/en/welcome.aspx
7. Palm Springs (Day 5)
Las Vegas to Palm Springs 274 miles (about 3 hours, 59 minutes)
Our friends who flew in from San Diego to meet us in Vegas, had arranged for us to take them to Coachella via Palm Springs on our way to San Diego. We arrived in Palm Springs in the evening and enjoyed a home on a golf course with a pool and hot tub. If you are into golf, there are many to choose from. I would suggest renting a home that is on the golf course because many of them have golf carts for getting around. Overall I loved the atmosphere and hope to be back one day!
8. San Diego (Days 6-8)
Palm Springs to San Diego 139 miles (about 2 hours 9 minutes)
My boyfriend’s parents live here so we lucked out on this part of our journey with a free place to stay! On this trip, we were lucky enough to be treated to a day out in downtown San Diego with his uncle, aunt and cousins! We visited the USS Midway, which is an aircraft carrier that is now a floating museum (pictured above), went to the top of the Hyatt that overlooks downtown San Diego, headed to the cliffs of Point Loma (pictured below), and finished our evening with burgers at Hodad’s on Ocean Beach.
9. Los Angeles (Day 8)
San Diego to Los Angeles 121 miles (about 1 hour, 58 minutes)
We took off from San Diego early in the morning and headed up the California coast taking in Malibu and all the beautiful coastal towns on the way! We made a pit stop in Los Angeles to see Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory! I have watched Rob and Big and Fantasy Factory from day 1 and have loved them. My boyfriend found the factory several years before and had even got to take a picture with Rob Dyrdek, so I have no idea where the factory actually is. Anyway, we found it and took a few pictures in front of it!
We took a drive through Beverly Hills so I could get my mansion fix, then drove by the Playboy Mansion, followed by a quick tour through the Hollywood Hills (btw, I don’t know who would want to live up there, the streets are crumbling and no one has an actual parking space). Finally, the moment my boyfriend had been waiting for: a stop to Roscoes Chicken and Waffles. He used to come here when he lived in San Diego so it was a must on our road trip. I have to say, I was impressed!
Fantasy Factory: http://dyrdek.com/
Roscoes Chicken and Waffles: http://www.roscoeschickenandwaffles.com/
10. San Luis Obispo (Day 10)
Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo 189 miles (about 3 hours, 8 minutes)
San Luis Obispo is a great place to stay overnight. In the morning you can head to the famous Madonna Inn where each hotel room features a different theme. Unfortunately, they don’t let you view them if you are just a visitor to the hotel, but check out the men’s bathroom in the lobby (if you can), or head into their restaurant for some breakfast. Pictured below is their pool area! Amazing!
Madonna Inn: http://www.madonnainn.com/
11. Morro Bay (Day 10)
San Luis Obispo to Morro Bay 13 miles (about 18 minutes)
After San Luis Obispo, we headed out to the California coast to Morro Bay, a tiny little town that is known for the giant rock shooting out of the bay! I went here several years ago and just had to go back! You can drive out and actually hike around the rock as well, but be ready for a million pot holes that will probably ruin your car! There are several surf shops located where most people park to take pictures of the rock. If you know me, I am a sucker for surf/skater wear so I love surf shops! I ended up finally finding Ocean Minded flip flops! If you have never owned any, they are the most comfortable flip flops ever! They mold to your feet and get more comfortable the more times you wear them!
12. San Simeon (Day 10)
Morro Bay to San Simeon 29.4 miles (about 35 minutes)
Located just several hours north of Los Angeles is a town called San Simeon. There aren’t many signs that let you know where you are, but it is where Hearst castle is located! I love anything castle or archaeology so this was exciting for me! Both my boyfriend and I had already done the tour recommended for first timers several years ago, so we were able to take a different tour which included a tour of the grounds, several of the guest houses, the kitchen and several of the bedrooms. They also let us walk around ourselves after the tour was complete! If you are unfamiliar with who the heck Hearst is, William Randolph Hearst was an American newspaper publisher who started the largest newspaper chain. If you still don’t know who he is, check the side of your Cosmopolitan, or ELLE, or HGTV Magazine, or Redbook. You can thank Hearst for those magazines!
13. Eugene (Day 10-11)
San Simeon to Eugene 749 miles (about 11 hours, 23 minutes)
We left San Simeon and had another very long drive ahead of us. We ended up getting to Eugene around 11pm on day 10. I went to school at the University of Oregon so I still had some friends living there! We got to crash at my friends apartment. On day 11, we met up with friends and went wine tasting. I was never 21 when I lived in Eugene so this was like a whole new experience. We visited two wineries who are across from each other: Sweet Cheeks Winery and Silvan Ridge. Our first stop was to Silvan Ridge where it was not very busy. The server must have been feeling very generous because we were given several more wines to try that were not on the wine tasting menu! We ended up purchasing a dessert wine and then made our way across the hill to Sweet Cheeks Winery. Again, this winery was not very busy. We were given several more samples as well and decided to purchase a bottle and take it to their outside patio area complete with a fireplace! I don’t like wine at all, but was willing to give them a try (let me tell you, forcing myself to drink multiple samples of wine did not change my pallet).
Sweet Cheeks Winery: http://www.sweetcheekswinery.com/
Silvan Ridge: http://silvanridge.com/
We left Eugene the following morning and arrived home five hours later! It was a long drive, but definitely worth it. We got to see places we had wanted to visit for a long time and even shared places each one of us had been with one another! We saw many friends and family along the way, and if I could, I would do it all over again!
Eugene to Seattle 283 miles (about 4 hours 25 minutes)