Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts

pack up and visit Chicago

You guys, I went on a girls trip! 

Like, with my friends. No kids. No husband. No relatives. Just friends.

If this doesn't seem like a big deal, then you don't really know me. Hah. I have never gone on a trip with just friends before. Certainly not since I got married and definitely not since I had kids.

Somehow I roped in a few friends and friend of a friend to sign up for a weekend trip. We used the service Pack up + Go to plan the trip. It's a really neat idea, actually. You fill out a survey and set your budget and then they plan a surprise weekend trip for you! About a week ahead of time they send you the weather report and a little bit of info about the surprise location. Then you get your tickets in the mail a few days before your departure date. 

Using Pack up + Go was perfect for us because no one had the time to plan a trip. Plus, with a bunch of people who had never traveled together before, there was big exposure being the person who plans everything. So we could just blame the Pack up + Go if it was terrible and not someone in the group. Jokes (kinda...). 

Since we have a bunch of sleuths in the group, we pretty much knew we were headed to Chicago before we opened our envelope at the airport. It was still a fun surprise though.

We stayed at a really lovely hotel that was close to everything. We could walk to Millenium Park, Willis Tower, the Art Institute of Chicago, and lots of great restaurants. It was fun to just show up somewhere and not have any plans. We could really head off in any direction we wanted. For some people, that's a little nerve-wracking but it ended up working out well. 

Also, we got a few suggestions for a weekend itinerary from Pack up + Go in our packet. We also a couple girls in the group who had been to Chicago recently and had some good suggestions. 

One of my favorite things that we did was spend an entire afternoon at the Art Institute of Chicago. I have never gone to a museum and just walked around by myself for hours. After a bit, I peeled away from our group and just started wandering where ever my eyes lead me. I truly love looking at beautiful paintings and sculptures. It makes me happy to see beautiful things.

We ate a lot of good food while we were there. We made sure we had a Chicago dog and some deep dish pizza to truly get the Chicago experience. One afternoon we wandered over to China town and had a really fabulous meal there too.

One evening, my friend and I headed over to Willis Tower (or Sears Tower as I call it) to see the city at night. It was very impressive to be up that high and see the city lights. I have been in tall towers before, but never at that time of day. We also had to take the obligatory picture in the sky deck, but we were both terrified (hopefully you can't tell?).

The skyline and architecture of Chicago was astounding. I truly didn't know anything about Chicago before I showed up, so I was amazed at every turn at how beautiful the buildings were. One morning we took an Architecture Boat Tour and learned about the history of the city and its buildings. I highly recommend it if you are ever visiting!

And of course, we had to walk around Millenium Park. I mean, did you even visit Chicago if didn't take this picture?

So, if you are thinking about visiting Chicago, I highly recommend it. There is a lot to do and see.

If you need to plan a trip, but don't have the time or will power to do it, I also recommend using Pack up + Go. They are a great option for a quick weekend trip to somewhere you might not be familiar with. 

the grand canyon

One of the most important stops we had planned in Arizona was to see the Grand Canyon. In fact, if you asked the girls before we left where we were going, they would have told you that we were going to see the Grand Canyon. We specifically picked a place within a relatively close driving distance to the south rim. 

Honestly, the first thing I noticed about the Grand Canyon was the hordes of tourists. Which, to be fair, it was peak "spring break" season. Also, there were busloads of tourists being dropped off right where we ourselves got off the bus. My plan had been to hike along the rim for a couple miles and then take the bus back to the main visitors center. The things I had read told me that most tourists thinned out as you walked along. Unfortunately, it didn't ever really seem like this was the case. 

So while the canyon was awe-inspiring and frankly so vast it was almost incomprehensible, the crush of tourists kind of ruined it a bit. Also, I saw so many people doing really frightening things just to get an Instagram worthy photo. It was kind of the running joke with people as they walked by. A couple of days after we had visited, there was an article about a man falling to his death at the Grand Canyon. It was gut-wrenching to read because I had seen people doing silly things just a few days earlier. It's not worth the shot!!

The photo up above where I am holding Chloe's hand is actually a photo of me fearfully holding onto my daughter's hand. I was on high alert the whole time I was there because I didn't want any of my kids getting even close to the edge.

The next time we go, I want to go in the offseason. I also want to hike down into the canyon to really get a good feel of just how big and deep it really is. I read that there is a Grand Canyon mule ride you can take. You have to sign up about a year in advance, but I think it would be a super cool way of experiencing the canyon.

Also, as you can see, Greta wasn't feeling the best. The poor little girl was not into windy pictures that day. I also had messed my knee up and was kind of hobbling around. All in all, we did not bring our A game to see the Grand Canyon. But I definitely want to go back again someday.

Antelope Canyon

It's funny how once you have a kid enter their school-age years, your families schedule starts to revolve around school holidays. Now that Chloe is in Kindergarten we've had to shift when we take vacations. For instance, this year we had our first 'spring break' and our first opportunity to use the excuse of a school holiday to plan a trip.

Traveling is my favorite thing to do, so I jumped on the idea. My first thought was somewhere sunny with a warm beach to play on. After a little more input from my husband who isn't big into beach vacations, I had to look elsewhere. We wanted somewhere warmish but not too hot. Also, it couldn't be too expensive or too much for a young baby.

I landed on a trip to northern Arizona. We had been wanting to see the Grand Canyon for a while. I also had recently fallen in love with Antelope Canyon, which is where the pictures in this post were taken.

I have never been to a slot canyon, but I find them really fascinating. Anything unusual that nature creates is something I find super interesting. Also, hello, I have a degree in Geological Engineering. Rocks always draw me in.

The bummer part of this day was that Greta was feeling miserable and was running a fever. The poor girl was moaning while we waited to join our tour (Dixie Ellis' Lower Antelope Canyon Tours). I was very close to just heading back to the car and letting everyone else go without us. I am VERY glad we didn't. The cool air in the canyon helped soothe her to sleep.

She was miserable, poor thing. So while I was happy to be there, I was also distracted by a little sick baby. Can you tell? :/

Chloe and Elinor loved it though.

I choose Lower Antelope Canyon because after reading around a bit, it seemed to be the less crowded and cheaper way to see the slot canyon. Upper Antelope Canyon has more beams of light, but the Lower seemed a good alternative for us. I highly recommend Dixie Ellis' Lower Antelope Canyon Tour.

More to come on the rest of the trip soon!!

adventures in northern california

I finally got our travel video completed for our Northern California trip! This time around I wasn't as focused on filming everything, but I still managed to get about 8 minutes of content. Enjoy!

Craters of Moon National Monument and Idaho

Oh my goodness, it's been a full month since these pictures and trip were taken. Honestly my brain has been taken over by baby prep and work stress lately. The last month has been full of lots of work commitments and when I am home it's all family time and trying to remember everything I need to keep a baby alive. 

At the end of May, the girls and I took a trip to Idaho to visit my parents. Chris had to head out of town on a work trip (to France, poor guy), so I decided to take a week off also and see my parents. It was nice to relax for a week at my parents house and get to spend one on one time with them. Usually I see them during the holidays and all of my siblings are around (read: madhouse). I love to see all of my family together, but that many personalities in one house can sometimes be stressful.

This time around the girls got to run around outside, play in the dirt, pet sheep, and generally run free. My mother was worried she didn't have enough toys or activities, but luckily Chloe and Elinor are super good at making up their own games and adventures without much help. I'd like to take credit for some of that (very limited screen time and no computer games), but I think they are just generally good kids. 

My parents resting on the back porch. This image is grainy (it was taken through a screen door) and the composition is horrible, but they are my parents and I love them, so I had to document it.

One of the day trips we took while we were visiting was to Craters of the Moon National Monument. After visiting, it dawned on me why I ended up pursuing Geological Engineering in college. I was surrounded by such cool geologic features at a young age, and with a brain wired like mine, I would want to learn more about each and every one of them when I went to college. Nerd alert....

Unfortunately, it was pretty rainy spring day on the day we visited. Craters of the Moon is surrounded by a desert, but here we were, enjoying a unexpected wet spell.

We stopped in Arco to pick up some plastic bags, because of course, no one came prepared. I had packed rain jackets but failed to throw them in the car before we left home. Also, Chloe thought it would be a good idea to wear shorts. 

Eventually the rain did stop and we were able to hike a bit and explore the lava tubes. This was definitely the highlight of the trip. Any time caves are involved, I get super excited. Well, only large caves where you don't have to crawl through tight spaces. My fear of small spaces definitely outweighs my fascination with unique geologic features. 

If you are ever around eastern Idaho, I would recommend stopping by. It's also an International Dark Sky Park!