Tag Archives: Parks

6 Summer Things to Do in Northern Virginia

I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but here in Northern Virginia, it already feels like summer. The weather has been incredible. So, in the spirit of feeling like summer is just around the corner,  I’m going to share six of our favorite things we did last summer in the NoVa, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore areas.

1. Luray Caverns

We visited the Luray Caverns on Memorial Day weekend, which, sure enough, meant it was ridiculously crowded. We waited in line for about 1.5 hours! But I’ll tell you what — it was absolutely worth it. (By the way, on the same grounds, they have a garden maze, rope adventure park, snack bar, and train and toy collection, among other attractions, to keep you and the kids busy during the wait.)

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The Luray Caverns are a registered U.S. Natural Landmark, and the largest series of caverns in the eastern United States. To call them breathtaking would be an understatement. We have been spelunking and visited caves in other parts of the world, but the Luray Caverns are unlike any of them. Magical. Continue reading 6 Summer Things to Do in Northern Virginia

Shenandoah National Park: Scenic Views, Waterfalls & a Special Surprise

In honor of the 100th birthday of the National Park Service, celebrated just a few days ago on Aug. 25, 2016.

I’m starting to fall in love with our National Parks. We’ve only been to a handful — Joshua Tree, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Zion, Arches — but I don’t think I could ever get tired of them. So much to see! So little time. This past Memorial Day weekend, we added one more to our list: Shenandoah National Park, which spans 300 square miles of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the southern Appalachians.

We entered the park on the southern side through Skyline Drive, a scenic road that runs the entire length of the park. I had heard it’s a popular drive among motorcyclists — the road twists and turns for 105 miles, and there is no shortage of places to stop, rest, and soak in the magnificent views. In fact, there are 75 total overlooks!

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Deserts, Mountains & Prairies: Our Cross-Country Road Trip

Now that it’s almost Christmas, I finally have some time to blog about our cross-country road trip back in September. (Life happens.) For those of you who haven’t seen our photos yet, picture this — Will, me and our cat riding in the snug cab of a 16-foot Penske truck housing all our belongings (including Will’s Harley), pulling a trailer with our car on it. This is how we made the move cross-country during a warm September. Why? Because, how could we not take the opportunity to explore America the Beautiful? Our move was the perfect excuse.

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We followed Interstate 70 for most of our journey from Los Angeles to Virginia. It took us 11 days, but only because we stopped for three or so days to visit Will’s family.

The weather was perfect, the cat behaved wonderfully (despite spending long hours in her carrier every day and being shuttled from one hotel room to another), and it was fascinating to see the landscape change from desert to endless prairies to verdant. If you’ve never driven cross-country, here are some of the highlights from our trip for you to consider checking out someday. Continue reading Deserts, Mountains & Prairies: Our Cross-Country Road Trip

Yosemite National Park – Our Last California Adventure

Quite a few things have happened since our travels across Southeast Asia. We finally returned to Los Angeles from living abroad and were just getting settled in and readjusting to life in America, when, several weeks later, we got news we would be moving to Virginia. Yes! On the move, again.

When you’ve lived somewhere for 10 years and then find out you’re moving in just a few weeks, reality hits. Wait, I haven’t done this! Or been there! Or seen that! Thankfully, we were able to check off a couple of sights before leaving SoCal. Can you believe I’d never been up to the Hollywood Sign? So we finally hiked up to the sign, starting at the Griffith Observatory trailhead. Check. Phew.

Hollywood Sign hike - you can either hike to the front of the sign, or behind it.
Hollywood Sign hike – you can either hike to the front of the sign, or behind it.
Hollywood Sign hike - finally!
Hollywood Sign hike – finally!

I wish I’d made more of an effort to visit the many national and state parks in California. One of our last weekends in LA in late August, we drove up to Yosemite National Park. Let me tell you — it may not have been peak waterfall season, but it was still absolutely breathtaking.

Our plan was to spend a full day there, including the four-hour drive up.  We headed straight into Yosemite Valley, where you can basically loop around multiple viewpoints and trailheads.  Once you drive through the park’s main entrance, you still have to drive another 45 minutes or so to get up to the valley. No complaints there.

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From a Grand Palace to Grand Reptiles in Bangkok

The Grand Palace in Bangkok is the very definition of opulence. It has been the official residence of the Kings of Siam since 1782 and is only partially open to the public as a museum, since it still houses several royal offices. The large complex also features other buildings and pavilions, including Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha). Everywhere you turn, you see some amazing building or detail, it’s almost overwhelming. Everywhere you turn, you also see droves of fellow tourists … and their parasols.

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Seriously,though, what an incredible place. Again, you have to cover up before going in. If you don’t have a wrap, they provide you an outfit.

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Southeast Asia Vacation Part 2: Bangkok’s Ornate Temples & Bustling Streets

Bangkok, Thailand, seems to be a popular destination among people who travel to Southeast Asia. Personally, I think we could’ve skipped it. That’s not to say we didn’t have fun there or that the city doesn’t have anything worthwhile to offer, but we could’ve happily gone without a big-city experience during our vacation.

We were surprised during the drive to our hotel to see such a sprawling city with so many high-rises and skyscrapers — wow! I’d argue there are way more high-rises in Bangkok than in L.A. We also spotted numerous mosques and halal-friendly hotels and buildings, which was a first for us (we’d never seen entire hotels with a golden dome on top).

From humongous billboards along the highway and super luxurious shopping malls to crowded markets and dilapidated homes along the Chao Phraya River, Bangkok was a hodgepodge of sceneries. Here’s the view from our hotel, the Hotel Icon Bangkok. It was nice, our room was spacious and clean, and the hotel provides free shuttle service to the main avenue where you can catch the train.

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Talking to the Animals at Seoul Zoo

For our last weekend in Seoul, we decided to do something somewhat relaxing and visit the zoo. Seoul Zoo is located inside Seoul Grand Park — a huge recreation area about an hour’s subway ride south of Seoul. In addition to the zoo, it houses Seoul Land (an amusement park), a themed Rose Garden, a Children’s Zoo, a museum, camping grounds and more.

We happened to visit during the current MERS outbreak, so the park was practically empty, what with many people choosing to stay home. That made for a very lovely, crowd-free day at the zoo.

Our ride on the Sky Lift cable car to the entrance of the zoo was a treat in and of itself. (Though I always try not to think about how we’re just dangling off a thin cable….) It takes you over a big lake, over the children’s zoo and the rose garden, and gives you great views of the mountains, the green countryside, and the amusement park in the distance.

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