Category: Arizona

Top Ten Tips for Visiting the Grand Canyon

Top Ten Tips for Visiting the Grand Canyon

America has some amazing natural wonders and the National Park system does a great job of preserving them for us to enjoy. Here are ten essential tips for visiting the Grand Canyon National Park.

canyon

1. Plan ahead for lodging

Do plan way in advance and stay at one of the park lodges.  (They fill up early, so it’s essential to get reservations as far out in advance as possible.) The only other hotels nearby are going to be ridiculously expensive and lacking in amenities (a 2-star hotel for a 4-star price). The park lodges are less expensive, provide shuttle service around the park, and have a wide variety of restaurants either on site or nearby.

2. Allow (just) enough time

Don’t plan to be there more than a day or so.  You can see all of the majesty and nature that the Grand Canyon has to offer in one day.  You just don’t need more time than that, unless you’re planning to do some serious hiking or exploration.

3. Save money on meals

Don’t eat outside of the park.  The restaurants in the hotel area just south of the park are mediocre at best and ridiculously expensive.  If you must eat at a restaurant outside the park, I recommend Wendy’s or McDonalds (which will still be more expensive than they are elsewhere in the US).

4. Water is your friend

Do stay hydrated.  The Arizona air can leech every bit of moisture out of you, even if you aren’t sweating away in the sun.  Keep a refillable bottle of water with you and/or stop to buy beverages often.

5. Limit photo-taking…

I cannot stress this one enough: Don’t go overboard with picture-taking.  I have approximately 450 photos from the Grand Canyon.  Most of them fail to capture the vastness and beauty of it.  Many are barely distinguishable from the others.

… except, perhaps, at sunset

tips for visiting the Grand Canyon - take photos at sunset

Do take pictures at sunset.  The lighting is better and the colors more vibrant.  You can even book a relatively inexpensive “Sunset Tour” that will take you to various lookout points by bus at the right time for awesome photos. 

6. Catch the bus

Do utilize the park’s shuttle service.  It is fast, free, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get an entertaining driver who will share some tips about seeing the park.

7. Broaden your horizons

Do take time to look at more than just the canyon/rocks.  There are California condors, ravens, and mule deer throughout the park. There is also a Tusayan Museum and Ruin that sheds light on the Native Americans who once called that area home. And do check out the Desert View Watchtower.  It’s an amazing, beautiful building.

grand canyon national park desert view watchtower

8. Keep the kids busy

If you have school age children, do have them complete the Junior Ranger program.  It’s free, and it will keep them from getting bored by having them attend a ranger-led program, write their observations, draw pictures, and create poems. You can pick up the Junior Ranger activity booklet at the visitor’s center, and return it there when they have completed the activities.

9. Hike wisely

If you’re hiking down into the canyon, don’t do it on a whim and don’t underestimate the distance or time you will travel.  We saw a chilling poster in one of the visitor centers about an athletic young woman, age 24, who had run in the Boston Marathon, but died on a hike into the canyon.  Why?  She under-calculated the length of her hike, and didn’t carry enough water with her.

10. Get the back story

If you venture into to the money-sucking town south of the canyon, do see the IMAX movie about the canyon and its explorers.  You’ll be impressed with the one-armed Civil War veteran Major John Wesley Powell, who was responsible for mapping most of the canyon. His story is remarkable!

Conclusion

I hope that you will find these tips helpful in planning your Grand Canyon visit. Let me know what works for you and what doesn’t in the comments below!

Top ten tips for visiting the Grand Canyon - Pinterest graphic
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The 50 Most Romantic Places in the US

The 50 Most Romantic Places in the US

the most romantic places in each state

Valentine’s Day is coming up, and you may be trying to choose the perfect place to celebrate.  If you’re about to get engaged, or if you’re married with children and looking for a child-free getaway, read on!  Here are my picks for the 50 most romantic places – one  in each of our glorious 50 states.

Alabama

Gorham’s Bluff in Pisgah is a luxurious inn that offers spectacular mountaintop views of the Tennessee River Valley.

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View from the gazebo at Gorham’s Bluff

The lodge has six suites, each with a massive stone fireplace, soft down pillows, and whirlpool tubs. There are also five cottages if you’d like something bigger. If a stay isn’t in your budget, you may want to consider just dining there. Gorham’s Bluff also boasts an outstanding restaurant that offers everything from boxed lunches to four course dinners. The surrounding area boasts many places of natural beauty, including caverns, waterfalls, and forests. Gorham’s Bluff‘s address is 101 Gorham Drive, Pisgah, AL 35765.  Telephone 256-451-8439.

Alaska

Denali National Park offers stunning views that look like they just might have inspired a Bob Ross painting. Can you think of a better backdrop to declare your love?

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Denali National Park, Alaska

If you’re the adventurous type, you can enjoy a snowmobiling trip, take a guided dog sled trip. With its extreme northern location, you can also spend a great evening of stargazing… perhaps even catch the aurora borealis if you’re lucky. What could be more romantic than that?  Denali National Park is about four hours north of Anchorage and two hours south of Fairbanks. Telephone 907-683-9532.

Arizona

The Desert Botanical Garden features beautiful trails of colorful desert plants.

Desert Botanical Garden - most romantic place in ARIZONA
Sunset at he Desert Botanical Garden

The Botanical Garden occasionally offers themed dinners. Sip wine and dine al fresco on customized menus from talented chefs while taking in the desert scenery.  The Desert Botanical Garden‘s address is 1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, AZ 85008.  Telephone 480-941-1225.

Arkansas

The Bell of Hot Springs is a riverboat on which you can take a lunch or dinner cruise around Lake Hamilton, including a sunset dinner & dance cruise.

belle-of-hot-springs most romantic places arkansas
The Belle of Hot Springs Riverboat

As you cruise around the lake, you will see million dollar mansions, natural islands, quaint resorts, and panoramic views of the Ouachita Mountains. The Belle of Hot Springs‘s address is 5200 Central Avenue, Hot Springs, AR, 71913. Telephone 501-525-4438.

California

In the Marina district of San Francisco, there is a temple-like building known as the Palace of Fine Arts. It was built in 1915 as one of ten buildings for the Panama-Pacific Exposition, and was supposed to be demolished after the event. People found it so beautiful, though, that it stayed.  You can certainly see why:

Palace-of-Fine-Arts-San-Francisco most romantic places california
The Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco

The Palace of Fine Arts’ address is 3601 Lyon St & Marina Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94123.

Colorado

If you’re looking to be pampered with your love, look no farther than The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs.

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The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs

Not only do they offer beautiful, richly decorated rooms and cottages, but they also have a lake on premises, a full service spa, a top notch golf course, and a dozen or so dining options. You and your love can enjoy horseback riding, scenic mountain trails, rock climbing, fly fishing, golf, tennis, zip lining over waterfalls, and more. There’s something for everyone to enjoy at the Broadmoor. The Broadmoor address is 1 Lake Avenue, Colorado Springs, CO 80906. Telephone 855-634-7711.

Connecticut

The historic village of Stonington Borough (simply called “The Village” by locals) is a postcard perfect New England small town. The Inn at Stonington is a beautiful waterfront 18-room inn that would be ideal for a romantic getaway.

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The Inn at Stonington

Just a short stroll from the lovely Dubois beach, several excellent restaurants, antique shops and galleries, the Inn offers uniquely decorated spacious rooms with balconies, fireplaces, and scenic views of the village or Fisher’s Island Sound. The Inn at Stonington’s address is 60 Water Street, Stonington, Connecticut 06378.  Telephone 860-535-2000.

Delaware

If you like your romance with a dash of intrigue, you can step back in time for a cocktail at the speakeasy-themed Hummingbird to Mars in Wilmington.

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Speakeasy-themed bar – CR Hummingbird to Mars in Wilmington, DE

You can only access the bar from outside, and you will need a password.  (Check their Facebook page to find out what the current password is.) The speakeasy is decked out with Victorian furniture, including an antique bathtub filled with champagne bottles. The lights are dim, the cocktails are intriguing, and the patrons are dressed to the nines.  Well worth a visit for a history-loving couple. The address for CR Hummingbird to Mars is 1616 Delaware Ave – Trolley Square, Wilmington, DE 19806.  Telephone 302-654-9700.

Florida

The appropriately named Lovers Key is a state park near Ft Myers that is renowned for its pristine white beach and wildlife viewing opportunities.

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Lighthouse at Lovers Key Florida

The park features five miles of hiking and biking trails through a shady maritime hammock ecosystem. Visitors can see manatee, gopher tortoises and wading birds along the trails. You may even see dolphins swimming in the distance. Lovers Key State Park’s address is 8700 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach, FL 33931.  Telephone 239-463-4588.

Georgia

The Chateau Elan Winery & Resort is perfect for wine aficionados or anyone who likes a bit of luxury. The resorts is a castle surrounded by rolling vineyards… you will think your’re in the French countryside.

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France?  or Georgia?

In addition to a 275-room inn, there is a European spa, championship golf course, award-winning wine and food, and plenty of opportunities to relax in luxury. The Chateau Elan Winery & Resort‘s address is 100 Rue Charlemagne, Braselton, Georgia 30517. Telephone: 678-425-0900.

Hawaii

Seriously? Like just about anywhere!  But if I have to pick just one romantic destination in the island paradise – and I promised myself I would – my choice would be Hulopoe Bay on the island of Lanai’s southern coast.

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Hulopoe Bay, Lanai

It’s a great place for snorkeling and swimming, and there are large tide pools located at the eastern side of the bay. Carved out of volcanic rock, these tide pools are well protected, keeping the waters calm for exploring. Many hermit crabs, sea stars, opihi (limpet) and small fish dwell there. Dolphins can often be seen in Hulopoe Bay, while the winter months bring visits from humpback whales. Also, if you hike about 15-20 minutes from the bay, you will see Puu Pehe, a large rock rising from the sea.  It’s name is Sweetheart Rock.  How appropriate!  (Actually, the legend that goes with the rock is more along the Romeo & Juliet lines, with both of the lovers dead at the end.)

Idaho

Some may consider it cheesy, but I love places that have themed decor.  The Anniversary Inn bed and breakfast in Boise is one such place, with many different themes to choose from.  My favorite is the Lighthouse #19, but there are so many others I would like too.

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Lighthouse #19 Suite at the Anniversary Inn in Boise

Other suites include the Hawaiian, the Presidential, Mysteries of Egypt, Biker Road House, Jungle Safari, Hollywood Romance and so many others. Really, if you’re in Idaho, you should check this place out!  The Anniversary Inn’s address is 1575 South Lusk Avenue, Boise, ID 83706. Telephone 1.800.324.4152.

Illinois

In Chicago, the most romantic restaurant is widely considered to be Geja’s Cafe, which has a low-lit dining room filled with small booths and tables with curtains draped throughout to give an even more intimate feel.

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The dining room of Geja’s Cafe in Chicago

Premiere fondue dinners are a four-course meal, including cheese fondue appetizer, salad, assorted fresh vegetables, eight dipping sauces, flaming chocolate dessert fondue and freshly brewed coffee. The fondue dining experience lets you cook your food at the table. Live classical and flamenco guitar add to the romantic ambiance. Geja’s Cafe’s address is 340 W Armitage Ave, Chicago, IL 60614.  Telephone 773-281-9101.

Indiana

How about a romantic train ride?  The Spirit of Jasper offers a Chocolate, Wine & Dine ride that couples are sure to enjoy.

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All aboard!  Take a romantic train ride on The Spirit of Jasper

Featuring chocolate from Jasper’s locally-owned Chocolate Bliss, the Chocolate, Wine & Dine combines taste-tempting treats while you ride the rails in luxurious comfort: scrumptious chocolate, wine tasting, and Schnitzelbank meal with dessert.  The Spirit of Jasper operates seasonally in summer and fall.  The address is 201 Mill Street, Jasper, IN 47546. Telephone: 812-482-5959.

Iowa

The Mont Rest Inn in Bellevue is not only a great bed & breakfast with a rooftop hot tub (!), it also features regular special events, such as murder mystery dinners and other themed evenings.

rooftop-hot-tub-at-mont-rest-inn most romantic places bellevue iowa
The rooftop hot tub at Mont Rest Inn

In addition to their theme dinners, the Inn has several other packages, from winery tours to eagle watching excursions.  There is something for everyone to enjoy here!  The Mont Rest Inn’s address is 300 Spring Street Bellevue, Iowa.  Telephone: 563-872-4220.

Kansas

Surround yourself with natural beauty at Botanica Wichita, a collection of garden landscapes that are the perfect backdrop for a romantic outing.  Botanica features a butterfly garden, aquatic garden, rose garden, and a rock garden.

botanica-wichita-shakespeare-garden most romantic places kansas
The Shakespeare Garden at Botanica

Fans of Shakespeare will find the Shakespeare Garden – a perfect spot to sit and read sonnets to each other.  (I recommend #116.) The address for Botanica Wichita is 701 Amidon St, Wichita, KS 67203-3199. Telephone: 316-264-0448.

Kentucky

Couples who enjoy adventure travel will love Cumberland, Kentucky. At Cumberland Falls Resort Park, you’ll see the second-largest waterfall east of the Mississippi and, if you’re there at the right time, a rare lunar rainbow.

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A lunar rainbow, also called a moonbow, at Cumberland Falls KY

There are also 1,200 miles of shoreline to explore, and 70 miles of wilderness trails. Often, the park offers special romance package, which may include dinner theater, dancing and resort lodging. Cumberland Falls State Resort Park‘s address is 7351 Hwy. 90, Corbin, KY 40701. Telephone: (606) 528-4121.

Louisiana

Nothing evokes the romantic antebellum south like Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie. Can you imagine how lovely it would be to stroll up to this house, holding hands with your loved one?

oak-alley-plantation-louisiana most romantic places
Oak Alley Plantation in Louisiana

Those oak trees are 300 years old, buy the way.  The plantation features a variety of exhibits on the Civil War era, including a tour of the house and a self-guided tour of the grounds. Oak Alley Plantation‘s address is 3645 Highway 18 (Great River Road), Vacherie, Louisiana 70090.  Telephone 800-44-ALLEY.

Maine

The Norumbega Inn is a beautiful stone mansion in Camden that has a fancy-yet-unpretentious vibe.

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The Norumbega Inn of Camden Maine

Whether you choose a room that has a view of Penobscot Bay, or the Library Suite for bibliophiles like me, you will enjoy your stay at the Norumbega.  And you will definitely eat well while you’re there!  Co-owner and executive chef Phil Crispo is a classically trained chef who loves to use his creative finesse in the kitchen. Prior to moving to Maine, he was a chef instructor at the Culinary Institute of America and succeeded in scoring a ‘win’ on the Food Network’s “Chopped”. (His credentials prior to that are noteworthy, as well.) Hi partner Sue is “a business exec who screwed up making mashed potatoes in a ‘Boot Camp’ class she took at the CIA a while back. Phil fixed her mashed potatoes and love ensued.” The address for The Norumbega Inn is 63 High Street, Camden, Maine, 04843.  Telephone: 877-363-4646.

Maryland

The Grammercy Mansion bed and breakfast in Stevenson is the most romantic place I have ever stayed. I think the Tudor Room is probably my favorite, but each room is luxurious and well-appointed.

grammercy mansion tudor-room marlyand most romantic places
Grammercy Mansion’s Tudor Room

If you feel like venturing out (but, seriously, why would you?), there are plenty of museums, restaurants, and shops in Baltimore, just a short drive away.  Grammercy Mansion‘s address is 1400 Greenspring Valley Road, Stevenson, MD 21153.  Telephone 410-486-2405.

Massachusetts

Sweet Brook Farm offers horse drawn sleigh rides in the winter and hay rides in the fall.

horse drawn sleigh massachusetts most romantic places
Over the river and through the woods…

Nothing could be more romantic than snuggling up with your loved one on a sleigh for 45 minutes or so and taking a break for hot cocoa in “The Old Sap Bucket Inn,” a cozy cabin in the woods. Sweet Brook Farm‘s address is 580 Oblong Road, Williamstown, MA 01267.  Telephone: 413-884-4246.

Michigan

Nothing says romance like the majestic Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, with its extended waterfront porch and uniquely decorated rooms – none of the 300+ rooms are alike!

the-grand-hotel-mackinac island michigan most romantic places
The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island

You will never forget the spectacular views from a rocking chair overlooking the Straits of Mackinac from the world’s longest porch. Here, meals are an event and traditions such as Afternoon Tea in the Parlor and nightly dancing remain a noteworthy part of the guest experience. And while you’re on Mackinac Island, you can enjoy horse & carriage rides – no cars are allowed.  The Grand Hotel’s address is 286 Grand Ave, Mackinac Island, MI 49757.  Telephone 800-334-7263.

Minnesota

For literary-minded couples, The Rivertown Inn in Stillwater offers exquisitely decorated rooms based on famous world authors. I’ve tried to pick a favorite but the truth is they are all so romantic and luxurious!

oscar-wilde-rivertown-inn minnesota most romantic places
The Oscar Wilde Suite at the Rivertown Inn

Other rooms/suites offer tributes to Lord Byron, Agatha Christie, Lewis Carroll, Jane Austen, and other notable authors. If you can bear to leave your literary accommodations, you  can spend a day with your loved one exploring the unique shops and galleries of Stillwater, taking an old-fashioned trolley for an architectural tour, or enjoying any of the cafes and fine dining restaurants in town. The Rivertown Inn’s address is 306 Olive Street West, Stillwater, MN 55082. Telephone: 651-430-2955.

Mississippi

There are not many activities that have as sultry a sizzle as Latin salsa dancing.  If you’re in Jackson on a Saturday night, stop by Salsa Mississippi for a quick lesson at 9:00, followed by a Salsa Dance Party from 10:00 pm – 2:00 am.

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Couples dancing at Salsa Mississippi

If you like it, sign up for some classes! The address for Salsa Mississippi is 605 Duling Ave, Jackson, MS 39216.  Telephone: 601-213-6355.

Missouri

Who needs Paris when you have the Old Red Bridge in Minor Park, Kansas City? Couples in Missouri are celebrating their love just like so many visitors to Paris have done – placing a lock on the bridge and throwing the key in the water below as a symbol of their enduring, unbreakable love.

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Love locks on the Old Red Bridge

Locks can be purchased at the Minor Park Golf Pro Shop, or ordered online with custom engraving. Click on the link for details: The Old Red Bridge runs between Holmes and Blue River Road on Red Bridge Road in Kansas City, MO.  

Montana

Located near the beautiful Glacier National Park, the Izaak Walton Inn has a variety of unique and romantic lodgings to offer couples.  Guests can stay in a railroad caboose or a luxury train car.  Or, if you prefer more traditional digs, a room in the lodge.

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The lodge and one of the luxury rail cars at the Izaak Walton Inn in Essex, MT

(I do not recommend renting a cabin for a romantic outing here as the cabins are very close together.)  Because of the location and the age of the property, rooms do not have televisions or telephones, and cell phone service is not available within a 30 mile radius. You will be blissfully cut off from the world and able to focus entirely on your mate.  The Izaak Walton Inn’s address is 290 Izaak Walton Inn Rd. Essex, MT 59916.  Telephone: 406-888-5700.

Nebraska

If your love is too big for just one state, be sure to walk hand-in-hand across the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge in Omaha.

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The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge cross the Missouri River between Nebraska and Iowa.

When you stand in the center of it, you’re half in Nebraska, half in Iowa. Share a kiss, gaze out at the river, and plan your next adventure together. The address for the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge is 705 Riverfront Dr, Omaha, NE 68102.

Nevada

There is a restaurant at the top of Las Vegas’ version of the Eiffel Tower, and not only does it have great food, it also provides an outstanding view of the fountain show at the Bellagio.

eiffel-tower-restaurant las vegas nevada most romantic places
The Bellagio Fountains, as seen from the Eiffel Tower Restaurant

My goodness, the only way it could be more romantic is if you could get there via the gondolas from The Venetian!  The Eiffel Tower Restaurant’s address is 3655 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Las Vegas, NV 89109.  Telephone: 702-948-6937.

New Hampshire

Look no further in New Hampshire than the historic hotel Wentworth by the Sea on the island of New Castle, one of New Hampshire’s oldest settlements.

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Wentworth by the Sea

This luxury Marriott-owned hotel blends historic elegance with 21st century convenience. It features 161 rooms and suites,many of which have ocean views. In addition to attractions in the surrounding area, the hotel has intimate restaurants with imaginative cuisine, pampering spa services, indoor and outdoor pools, and fitness centers.  Wentworth by the Sea‘s address is 588 Wentworth Rd, New Castle, NJ 03854.  Telephone: 866-384-0709.

New Jersey

Creating things together can be one of the most romantic things a couple can do.  If you’re in your relationship for the long haul, why not try your hand at making wine together at The Grape Escape?

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The Grape Escape offers couples a chance to custom make their own wine

Your and your love will choose the region, grape type, barrel type, and the amount of aging it receives. You actively participate in the four key steps of wine making. You personally crush the grapes, press the must, rack the wine and, finally, bottle your own premium wine!  To finish, each bottle is customized with a label you create yourself. It’s a lengthy process, but at the end of it you will have a one-of-a-kind creation that you made with your partner, and that’s very romantic, indeed!  The Grape Escape’s address is 12 Stults Road, Suite 101, Dayton, NJ 08810.  Telephone: 609-409-WINE.

New Mexico

A trip on the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway will take you along nearly three miles, soaring above canyons and breathtaking terrain.

sandia-tramway new mexico most romantic places
The Sandia Tramway offers stunning views of the wilderness.

See some of nature’s more dramatic beauty unfold before you, and visit the observation deck atop 10,378 foot Sandia Peak in the Cibola National Forest. Try to time your visit so that you will be there at sunset, when the desert skies produce a spectacular array of color. Sandia Tramway is on the eastern edge of Albuquerque in the Sandia Foothills at the end of Tramway Road. Telephone: 505-856-7325.

New York

Decades ago, it was considered THE honeymoon destination on the East Coast.  Niagara Falls is amazing to see in person, especially at night when the falls are lit up in different colors.

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Night time view of Niagara Falls

In the warmer months (May-October), they also have fireworks several times a week.  The best address to use for GPS purposes is 24 Buffalo Avenue Niagara Falls, NY, 14303.  Telephone the state park visitor center for more information at 716-278-1796.

North Carolina

Treehouse Vineyards is a North Carolina family owned Vineyard and Winery.  It also has, as you might have guessed, treehouses.  But the really cool thing here is that you can actually rent/stay in the treehouses.

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Papa’s Dream Treehouse at Treehouse Vineyards

Papa’s Dream Treehouse is tiny (only 100 sq. ft. living space), but it has all the necessities you might need – plumbing, electricity, heat and air conditioning, efficiency kitchen and even a deck with a grill. Cozy, unique, and romantic!  Treehouse Vineyards’ address is 301 Bay St, Monroe, NC 28112. Telephone: 704-283-4208.

North Dakota

The International Peace Garden is over 2300 acres spanning the US-Canada border. There are sunken gardens, a peace chapel, a 9/11 memorial, conservatory, Westminster chimes bell tower, a floral clock, and more.

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International Peace Garden

The park also offers picturesque picnic areas,  modern campgrounds, hiking trails, and bike paths. There is a wildlife refuge, too, where you are sure to spot deer, moose and other animals in the natural environment. The International Peace Garden is north of Dunseith, North Dakota, at the northern terminus of U.S. Highway 281 in Rolette County. A passport is not required, but recommended to speed the re-entry process when you leave the garden. Telephone: 888-432-6733

Ohio

The Marblehead Lighthouse is the oldest continually operating lighthouse on the Great Lakes. Visitors can take in panoramic views of Lake Erie from the tower, and it’s a popular spot to take in a sunrise or sunset.

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Marblehead Lighthouse in Ohio

The grounds surrounding the lighthouse offer excellent picnic spots when weather permits. The Marblehead Lighthouse‘s address 110 Lighthouse Drive, Marblehead, Ohio 43440.  Telephone for park office: 419-734-4424

Oklahoma

Visit the tiny town of Medicine Park, known as America’s cobblestone community. The round red cobblestones – an abundant, native geological phenomenon of the area – are found in most structures and give the town with a distinctive look.

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Medicine Park, Oklahoma

You can take a stroll on scenic trails by Medicine Creek or Bath Lake, dine in fine restaurants, or bask in the glow of the sun setting over the surrounding Wichita Mountains. Make a weekend of it by booking a place to stay, and visiting the shops that sell all manner of arts, crafts and gift wares. Medicine Park is near the cities of Lawton and Fort Sill.

Oregon

Snuggle up and watch a movie together at Cinetopia.  This theater chain offers stadium seating in all of their theaters, but the type of seating varies on which theater you visit. The Living Room, for adults only, offers the most romantic seating with couches and oversized chairs you can share to sit in.

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The Living Room theater at Cinetopia

Not only can you lounge on an oversized couch, but you can also order food right from your seat. Cinetopia is in Progress Ridge Townsquare, 12345 SW Horizon Blvd #231, Beaverton, OR 97007. Telephone: 503-597-6900.

Pennsylvania

Proclaim your love at the Smith Memorial Arch’s whispering benches in Philadelphia.

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Smith Memorial Arch, Fairmount Park

One sweetheart takes a seat on the stone bench in the curve of the Smith Memorial Arch while the other sits on the bench across the street. When you whisper into the monument, you will be able to clearly hear each other, despite the distance. The Whispering Benches are located in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia.

Rhode Island

Block Island is located 13 miles off the coast of Rhode Island, in the Atlantic Ocean.  It has 17 miles of beach, a gorgeous red brick lighthouse, a few sites of historic significance, and many lodging and dining options.

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Southeast Lighthouse on Block Island, Rhode Island

If you’re lucky, you might find one of the 550 glass floats hidden on the island – a perfect souvenir from your romantic day.  Block Island can be reached via ferry boat in Point Judith, Rhode Island.

South Carolina

SkyScapes of America, based in Anderson, provides romantic sunrise balloon rides. Trips are available in spring, summer and fall, and include champagne.

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Fly off into the sunset in a hot air balloon.

The company requires a minimum of four people to make the tour, so if you want to book a private flight – for example, to propose to your partner – be prepared to pay extra. Skyscapes of America operates their balloon rides in Anderson, SC.  Telephone: 864-221-0552.

South Dakota

Book yourself a stay at Audrie’s Bed & Breakfast in Rapid City.  Audrie’s has cozy cabins with all the comforts of home in a tranquil setting.  Most are log cabins, some have hot tubs, and all of them have big comfy beds you won’t want to leave.

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August Haus at Audries B&B

What could be more romantic than snuggling under the covers in a tiny log cabin?  Audrie’s Bed & Breakfast’s address is 23029 Thunderhead Falls Road, Rapid City, SD 57702. Telephone: 605-593-9361.

Tennessee

Beautiful caverns, sculpted by nature, and a charming underground lake are yours to explore at The Lost Sea in Sweetwater.

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The underground lake at The Lost Sea in Sweetwater, TN

Your visit will begin with a guided tour of the caverns in which you will learn about the cavern’s exciting and colorful history.  At the bottom of the cave you will board a glass-bottom boat for an exciting trip on the Lost Sea, America’s Largest underground lake. The address for The Lost Sea is 140 Lost Sea Road, Sweetwater, TN 37874.  Telephone: 423-337-6616.

Texas

The Riverwalk in San Antonio is not just shops and restaurants, although those are great places to begin a romantic evening.

San Antonio Riverwalk Texas most romantic places
One of the waterfalls tucked away along San Antonio’s Riverwalk

If you walk the length of the Riverwalk, you will find many semi-secluded spots with hidden waterfalls, artwork, or other beautiful settings.  Where better to steal a kiss? The San Antonio Riverwalk is one story below the vehicle-traveled streets of downtown San Antonio.  

Utah

Watch the colors of Bryce Canyon come alive as the sun appears above the horizon at Sunrise Point.  Grab a blanket and some snacks, get up really early, and wait for sunrise to happen.

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The view of Bryce Canyon from Sunrise Point (at sunrise)

Bryce Canyon National Park is about 210 miles south of Provo. Telephone: 435-834-5322.

Vermont

The Inn at Round Barn Farm is a beautiful scenic weekend getaway in the Mad River Valley, a unique Vermont destination. The property features ponds, meadows and its own organic garden.

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The Richardson Room at the Inn at the Round Barn Farm

Each guest room is unique and has views of the surrounding trees, gardens, meadows and mountains. For some extra romance on your weekend vacation, request a room with a gas fireplace and a whirlpool tub. The Inn at Round Barn Farm‘s address is 1661 East Warren Road, Waitsfield, VT  05673. Telephone: 802-496-2276.

Virginia

The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg was voted one of the 50 most beautiful college campuses in the country.  One of the reasons why is the romantic Crim Dell Bridge.

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The Crim Dell Bridge on the campus of the College of William and Mary

Legend says that if two lovers cross the bridge together and kiss at the crest of it, they will be together forever. If that couple separates at any point thereafter, however, the lady must throw her ex-lover off of the bridge and into the water to break the curse of being forever single.  Choose wisely!  The Crim Dell Bridge is on the campus of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Washington

Nothing says romance like Victorian ginger-bread style architecture, and Port Townsend Washington has got plenty of it.

Port-Townsend washington most romantic places
Port Townsend, Washington

The town is a “Victorian Seaport and Arts Community,” which not only has many beautiful buildings, but also several festivals held throughout the year.  Boating and maritime life are central elements in this port town, with regattas, weekly races and a multitude of recreational opportunities.  And you’ll enjoy all of it against the backdrop of the Olympic Mountains. Port Townsend is about 75 miles southwest of Bellingham.

West Virginia

A getaway to the romantic Hillbrook Inn has everything from lodge rooms to cozy cabins and luxury suites.

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The Hillbrook Inn in West Virginia

The on-site restaurant offers four- and five-course gourmet dinners.  Your stay includes a gourmet breakfast at no extra charge.  The inn also has a spa, offering facials, massages, and an array of services to pamper and relax you. The inn even offers a proposal package with roses and champagne for couples who get engaged there!  The Hillbrook Inn’s address is 4490 Summit Point Rd Charles Town, WV 25414-4682.  Telephone: 800-304-4223.

Wisconsin

The historic Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee originally opened in 1893 and continues to operate today.  It has a grand interior with one of the largest Victorian art collections found in any hotel in the world, sweeping staircases, painted ceilings, twinkling chandeliers… you will feel like a royal couple!

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The lobby of the Pfister

Be sure to get access to the Pfister Club lounge, which is located on the 23rd floor of the hotel’s expansion tower.  There, you will find views of the city, hot breakfasts, and snacks/drinks throughout the day. The Pfister‘s address is 424 East Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53202.  Telephone: 800-558-8222.

Wyoming

In Jackson Hole, you and your love can ride an aerial tram 10,500 feet up to Rendezvous Peak and enjoy waffles at Corbet’s Cabin.

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Corbet’s Cabin at Rendezvous Peak near Jackson Hole.

Their waffles are famous, and include such gourmet flavor combinations as peanut butter and bacon or Nutella and strawberries. Although the interior of the restaurant lacks romantic ambiance, the tram ride and breathtaking mountain views offer great opportunities to snuggle close and be romantic.  Corbet’s Cabin is atop Rendezvous Peak, Teton County, WY.  Telephone: 307-739-2688.

So, there you have it: one romantic place in each state. I could have included so many others! However, I’d be remiss to end this post without saying that romance is, first and foremost, a state of mind. You don’t need a fancy hotel or a breathtaking view in order to create a romantic moment with your loved one. (But it does help!)  😉

50 of the Strangest Place Names in America… and How They Came to Be

50 of the Strangest Place Names in America… and How They Came to Be

I love looking at maps and checking out the names of places.  Some of them are unique, while others are funny and a few are just downright weird.  Here are some of my favorites, including how they got their names.

Scratch Ankle, Alabama got its name from train workers who always saw the locals scratching their ankles from mosquito bites.

Mary’s Igloo, Alaska took its name from an Inupiat woman named Mary, who welcomed miners, trappers and others into her home for coffee. During that period, Mary’s Igloo was a transfer point for supplies for the gold fields upriver.

Why, Arizona derives its name from the fact that two major highways, State Routes 85 and 86, originally intersected in a Y shape. As a result of Arizona law that required city names to have at least three letters, the town’s founders named the town “Why” as opposed to simply calling it “Y.”

strange town names why arizona

Smackover, Arkansas comes from the name that French settlers gave the town in 1686: “sumac couvert,” which translates to “covered in sumac bushes.”

Weed, California has nothing to do with marijuana or poor landscaping.  Rather, the town gets its name from the founder of the local lumber mill and pioneer Abner Weed, who discovered that the area’s strong winds were helpful in drying lumber. The town motto is “Weed like to welcome you.” (ha ha ha!)

Troublesome, Colorado takes its name from nearby Troublesome Creek.  The creeek got its name because soldiers had difficulty crossing it.

Yeehaw Junction, Florida got its name in the 1950s. Some say the community’s name comes from how locals would yell “Yeehaw!”  Others believe the name is close to the Seminole language word meaning “wolf”. According to town historians and several original newspaper articles, the town’s original name was either “Jackass Junction” or “Jackass Crossing.” That strange town name stemmed from local ranchers ring burros to visit the Desert Inn (the local brothel).

Experiment, Georgia took its name from the University of Georgia’s Agricultural Experiment Station, which is located there.

Dickshooter, Idaho received its name from Dick Shooter, a man who “established a homestead there.”

Goofy Ridge, Illinois was a camp near the river bank where moonshiners and other carousers met weekly to do their drinking. One night, a local game warden declared his relative sobriety by vowing that he could shoot a walnut off the head of a volunteer. The game warden placed the target on the volunteer’s head, aimed his .22 rifle, and shot the nut right off. A witness described the incident as “one damned goofy thing to do,” and the camp was consequently known as Goofy Ridge.

French Lick, Indiana (also hometown of NBA legend Larry Bird) was originally a French trading post built near a spring and salt lick.

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Fertile, Iowa got its name due to the quality of the soil in the valley there.

Protection, Kansas received its name from a political issue in the 1884 presidential selection.  There was a lot of popular support for a protective tariff, and the town drew its name from that.

Monkey’s Eyebrow, Kentucky got its name because when looking at a map of Ballard County, it resembles a monkey’s head. The town Monkey’s Eyebrow is, of course, where the monkey’s eyebrow would be.

Boring, Maryland‘s name was not chosen for the pace of life, but for postmaster David Boring.

Hell, Michigan offers multiple theories for the origin of its name. My favorite: the original settler, George Reeves, was asked what to name the town when Michigan achieved statehood. His response was a surly, “I don’t care, you can name it Hell for all I care.”

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Sleepy Eye, Minnesota took its name from Sleepy Eye Lake, which was named after Chief Sleepy Eye of the Sioux. Chief Sleepy Eye was known as a compassionate person with droopy eyelids.

Tightwad, Missouri got its name when a store owner cheated a customer, who was a postman, by charging him an extra 50 cents for a better watermelon. (Some sources claim the transaction involved a rooster rather than a watermelon.)

Two Dot, Montana got its name from the cattle brand of George R. Wilson, who donated the land for the town. “Two Dot Wilson” had a cattle brand of two dots, placed side by side on the hip of his cattle.

Searchlight, Nevada (hometown of US Senator Harry Reid) received its when George Frederick Colton was looking for gold in the area in 1897. He supposedly said that it would take a searchlight to find gold ore there.

Loveladies, New Jersey began as a small, 10-acre island in the bay adjacent to a US Life-Saving Station was owned by a man named Thomas Lovelady. The area was called Lovelady’s, which eventually evolved to Loveladies.

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Rush, New York was either named after the rushes growing along the creek, or after Dr. Benjamin Rush, Founding Father of the United States.

Whynot, North Carolina came from residents debating a title for their community. A man asked, “Why not name the town Whynot and let’s go home?” Nearby towns at the time with equally interesting names include Erect, Hemp, and Lonely.

Zap, North Dakota got its name because of a coal mine at the edge of town. The railroad company official in charge of naming new villages knew a coal-mining town in Scotland called Zapp, and thought that would be a good name here. However, he chose to Americanize the name and spelled it with only one “p”.

Pee Pee Township, Ohio took its name from Pee Pee Creek.  The creek got its name when an early settler inscribed his initials (P. P.) on a tree along its banks.

Okay, Oklahoma took its name from the OK Truck Manufacturing Company. Okay? OK.

Idiotville, Oregon got its name because of its remote location.  People said that only an idiot would work there.

Intercourse, Pennsylvania in Amish country, received its name in 1814. In those days, the word ‘intercourse’ meant the social interaction and support shared in the community of faith.

Ninetysix, South Carolina has several different theories for the origin of its name. My favorite is that it is an interpretation of a Welsh expression, “nant-sych,” meaning “dry gulch.”

strange town names ninety-seix south carolina

 

Two Strike, South Dakota received its name in honor of Lakota Chief Two Strike, whose native name was “Nomkahpa,” meaning “Knocks Two Off.” The chief’s claim to fame was that, in a battle with the Utes, he knocked two warriors off their horses with a single blow of his war club.

Sweet Lips, Tennessee received its name from settlers who declared water from a creek to be “sweet to the lips.”  Alternative versions of the story say it was wandering hobos or thirsty Civil War soldiers.

Uncertain, Texas derives its name from surveyors who were attempting to delineate the border between Texas and Louisiana.  They were uncertain as to which side of the line they were on, hence the name.

Humptulips, Washington comes from a local Native American language, meaning ‘hard to pole’, referring to the difficulty local Native Americans had poling their canoes along the Humptulips River.

War, West Virginia took its name from the nearby War Creek.  The creek got its name from the frequent battles between Native Americans near the stream.

strange town names war west virginia

Spread Eagle, Wisconsin got its name from the Spread Eagle chain of lakes. When seen from above, the lakes resemble an eagle with its wings spread.

Out of Africa Wildlife Park – Camp Verde, AZ

Out of Africa Wildlife Park – Camp Verde, AZ

I love to go to zoos and other places where visitors can get an up close look at animals they might not otherwise see. When we were looking for things to do in Arizona, I happened upon the Out of Africa Wildlife Park in Camp Verde and almost immediately added it to our list of must-see places. After all, they had tigers, which are my very favorite.

Our first stop upon entering was a short safari ride. We were given carrot sticks to feed to the giraffes as we boarded a converted school bus. Giraffes were the first stop, and they were waiting for us!  As soon as the bus stopped they came over, eager for their treats. Everyone stuck their carrot stick out the window, and we watched, fascinated, as their extremely long prehensile tongues came out, wrapped around the carrot stick, and carried it back to their mouth.  Chomp, chomp, chomp, repeat.

I have no idea what this woman was thinking, but I was almost too horrified to take the picture:

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And that’s just the TIP of its tongue!

The big draw at the park was the Tiger Splash Show, where you can see Bengal and Siberian tigers interact in a predator-and-play relationship, romping and splashing in a large pool as they play with their caretakers and various colorful toys. It’s a lot like playing with your average house cat – dangle a toy in front of them, shake it a little bit, and watch them pounce. The big difference here is that there is a pool of water, which the tabby wouldn’t dream of entering, and the cat in this case could kill you.

It was such a unique experience, watching the handlers play with this massive tiger.  And make no mistake, he is a fearsome creature:

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I don’t have any action shots of the Tiger Splash show because I was just too fascinated to try and watch it through my camera view finder. It was at turns funny (when  you realize that your pet acts exactly the same way), scary (oh my gosh be careful!), and awe-inspiring (there is a tremendous amount of power in the tiger’s body).

After the show, you could pay a small fee to feed a tiger a hunk of meat (on a stick, through a fence, at a respectable distance).

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We saw all sorts of animals at Out of Africa. There was a white tiger, lions, zebras, rhinos. and more. I highly recommend this as a family outing.

BARGAIN ALERT:  Visit during your birthday month and your admission will be free, according to their website’s FAQs.

Out of Africa Wildlife Park is located at 3505 W. SR-260, Camp Verde, AZ 86322   Telephone 928-567-2840.  The park is open 9:30 am – 5:00 pm, 363 days per year (closed only on Thanksgiving and Christmas). Onsite parking is included with your admission.  

The Petrified Forest

The Petrified Forest

Petrified Forest National Park is known for its fossils, especially of fallen trees that lived about 225 million years ago. At that time, northeastern Arizona was a low plain flanked by mountains to the south and a sea to the west. Water flowing across the plain from the highlands deposited inorganic sediment and organic matter, including trees that had fallen into the water. Although most organic matter decays rapidly or is eaten by other organisms, some is buried so quickly that it remains intact and may become fossilized. Thus, the Petrified Forest was born.

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We were told when we entered the park that under no circumstances were we to take any petrified wood from the park, and that our vehicle could be searched. Posted signs reinforced that message. However, despite the multiple warnings, it is estimated that 12 tons of petrified wood are stolen from the park each year. This was nowhere more obvious than at the Crystal Forest section of the park. The petrified wood there is known for brilliant colors and beautiful crystals. But honestly, we saw very little of that. Most had been vandalized or stolen.

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(There are many places to buy pieces of petrified wood in the area surrounding the park. So if you’re interested in having a piece as a souvenir, stop there. We found that not only do they offer pieces of wood in a wide variety of sizes, they also offer other souvenir items. And they were willing to bargain with us on the price.)

The park has a wonderful Junior Ranger program for children that sends them on a scavenger hunt for information about the park. Once completed, they show their answers to a Visitors Center employee, take the Junior Ranger oath, and get a Junior Ranger patch.

The Petrified Forest National Park is located at 1 Park Road, Petrified Forest, AZ 86028. Telephone 928-524-6228. It is open daily but hours vary according to season. Visiting the park can easily be combined with a trip to the adjacent Painted Desert as well.

Tortilla Flat, AZ – Population: 6

Tortilla Flat, AZ – Population: 6

Once upon a time, there was an Apache Trail stagecoach stop at Tortilla Flat, Arizona. Located in the Tonto National Forest, the town is now just a remnant of what the old west was like.

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The welcome sign at Tortilla Flat, AZ

Originally a camping ground for the prospectors who searched for gold in the Superstition Mountains in the mid-to-late 19th century, Tortilla Flat was later a freight camp for the construction of Theodore Roosevelt Dam.  Nowadays, the population of Tortilla Flat isn’t even enough to form a baseball team.  There are only six residents in the town.

As you might imagine with a town that small, there isn’t a whole lot to do and see. There is the Superstition Saloon and Restaurant, whose bar stools are made from real saddles, and the ladies room stalls are comical.

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The unique “wallpaper” is made from real dollar bills from visitors all around the world.  It’s interesting to see how some people decorated their dollar bill and what was written on all of them.

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Tortilla Flat is a nice diversion in between other activities.  Stop by and check it out!

To get to Tortilla Flat from the Phoenix area:

  • Take US 60 East (Superstition Freeway), to Apache Junction
  • Take the Idaho exit and go north to State Route 88.
  • Take a right on SR 88 and travel 18 miles northeast to Tortilla Flat.  The town is located 2 miles past Canyon Lake

Telephone 480-984-1776.

 

Up, up and away… in Sedona AZ

Up, up and away… in Sedona AZ

When we travel, I am all about experiences. Not just seeing things (which I also love), but doing things. Preferably things that we would not even think about doing at home.

So, while in Arizona, of course we went for a hot air balloon ride!  As with the London Eye, I was a little nervous because I do have a fear of heights, and this would be wide open. But I’m happy to say that it was slow and steady, and didn’t make me nervous at all once our flight was underway.

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We flew with Northern Lights Balloon Expeditions in Sedona, AZ. Our pilot was very friendly and knowledgeable and has been flying hot air balloons for a long time. (This went a long way toward calming my nerves, too.) There were five balloons going up together that morning, and each balloon held about six people.

We were picked up at our hotel very early (it was still dark) and rode to the launch place. Then there was a good deal of waiting as the balloons were unfolded, hooked up, and inflated. Then we climbed into the basket and took off.

Flight is controlled by a propane tank that is also in the basket. If we wanted the balloon to go higher, the pilot would fire up the burner. To go lower, he would turn it off.

Once we were up and the landscape became miniaturized, he told us about the area – local animals (some of which we saw while in flight), notable buildings, and the history of the area. While I am not a big fan of the landscape in Arizona, the view was pretty amazing.

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After we had been up in the air a while and seen many sights, our pilot began looking for a place to land. He communicated our position to his on-the-ground partner, who began the drive to meet us. We started to descend, slowly. Here’s a shot of another balloon in our party making its landing.

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Once we had all landed, we enjoyed a traditional champagne toast. Legend has it that early French balloonists carried champagne to appease angry or frightened spectators at the landing site. The toast goes like this:

The winds have welcomed you with softness

The sun has blessed you with its warm hands

You have flown so high and so well

That God has joined you in your laughter

and set you gently back into the loving arms of mother earth.

Northern Lights Balloon Expeditions operates out of Sedona, Arizona.  Reservations are recommended.  Telephone 1-800 230-6222.

Meteor Crater, AZ

Meteor Crater, AZ

After spending three days of looking at the biggest hole in the ground I’ve ever seen (aka the Grand Canyon), we went to go look at a different hole in the ground. The big difference was that this one was made by a meteor. And it’s said to be the best preserved meteorite crater on Earth.

It is about 3,900 feet in diameter, some 570 feet deep, and is surrounded by a rim that rises 148 feet above the surrounding plains. Scientists believe that the crater was created about 50,000 years ago.

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The object that created the crater was a nickel-iron meteorite about 150 feet across. The speed of the impact is believed to have been 8-12 miles per second (28,800 – 43,200 miles per hour). The meteorite was mostly vaporized upon impact, leaving little remains in the crater. Some pieces have been found, however, including this one that was on display at the visitor center.

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The Visitor Center at the crater has some interesting interactive exhibits that kids will especially enjoy, including one that allows you to make your own crater by varying different aspects of the meteor and the area where it lands. Naturally, it became a family competition to see who could make the biggest virtual crater.

The Meteor Crater is located 18 miles west of Winslow AZ, about 5 miles from I-40’s exit 233. The visitor’s center is open daily, with hours that vary by season.  Check their web site for hours and admission prices.

The Painted Desert

The Painted Desert

When we finally got out of the Grand Canyon, we headed over to see the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert.  There’s more red rock in Arizona than you can shake a stick at, but the Painted Desert has a surprising range of colors, even including a lavender-mauve.

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The place got its name from the Spanish conquistador Francisco Vázquez de Coronado on his 1540 quest to find the Seven Cities of Cibola. Struck by the variety of colors in the area as they passed through, they named the area “El Desierto Pintado” – The Painted Desert.

I’ll try to keep the geology lesson short.  The rocks are made of layers of siltstone, mudstone, and shale, and they contain iron and manganese compounds which provide the various colors.

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Much of the Painted Desert is located within the Petrified Forest National Park, where motorized travel is limited. But there are large areas visible from the roadways (these shots were all taken from the road).  The park also offers hiking routes into the colored hills. Do not stray too far, however, as the Painted Desert continues north into the Navajo Nation, where off-road travel is by permit only.

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The Painted Desert is located in the Four Corners area running from near the east end of the Grand Canyon National Park southeast into the Petrified Forest National Park. It is most easily accessed in the north portion of The Petrified Forest National Park.  The park is located at 1 Park Road, Petrified Forest, AZ 86028.  Telephone 928-524-6228.  Hours vary by season; check website for details.

Taliesin West: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Winter Home

Taliesin West: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Winter Home

While in Arizona, we decided to check out the Frank Lloyd Wright estate called Taliesin West. I’m not an architecture junkie, but I was impressed with how the building and gardens were so well-suited to the natural landscape around them.

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Of course, that was no accident. Frank Lloyd Wright once said:

“Arizona needs its own architecture… Arizona’s long, low, sweeping lines, uptilting planes. Surface patterned after such abstraction in line and color as find ‘realism’ in the patterns of the rattlesnake, the Gila monster, the chameleon, and the saguaro, or staghorn – or is it the other way around—are inspiration enough.”

The walls were made of local desert rocks, because Wright favored using the materials readily available rather than those that must be shipped in.

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Every part of Taliesin West bears Frank Lloyd Wright’s personal touch, because he not only lived there for part of the year, he also worked and taught there. He constantly changed and improved on his design. All of the furniture and decorations were designed by Wright and the majority were built by his apprentices.

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Taliesin West is located at 12345 N. Taliesin Drive, Scottsdale AZ, 85258.  Telephone 480-627-5340.  Hours vary by season, so check the web site or call when planning your visit.