Day Trips from Vegas

In the time I’ve spent helping my family move to Vegas, (read more about our cross country move here) I have been so fortunate to visit some beautiful places in Nevada and beyond!

Las Vegas is so much more than luxury hotels on the strip, bright lights on Fremont Street, and clubbing or gambling. It is the perfect distance for so many incredible escapes into nature with national and state parks nearby.

Check out some of my adventures below- all doable in a day trip from Sin City!

Red Rock Canyon

-one way drive, 13 miles
-reservation required through May (available online)

This is a scenic loop that is easily doable in a half day from Vegas, as it is less than 30 minutes away.

*High Point Overlook
*Petroglyph Wall
*White Rock
*Calico Hills

**The Lost Canyon- Children’s Discovery Trail was one we took the girls on, but enjoyed ourselves!

***Look out for all the white-tailed antelope ground squirrels 🙂

Valley of Fire State Park

Nevada’s first state park really lives up to its name!

About an hour drive from Las Vegas.

Mouse’s Tank Road winds through the park, and there’s a Instagram-worthy opportunity around every bend.

*Rainbow Vista
*Pastel Canyon
*The Wave (always exposed to sun here, bring lots of water!)
*White Domes (my favorite hike!)

** $10 per vehicle gets you in

***If you’re lucky, you’ll see desert bighorn sheep like we did!

Hoover Dam & Seven Magic Mountains

*The Hoover Dam is truly astounding. It is free to walk or drive across, and located just 30 minutes or so from Las Vegas.

*Seven Magic Mountains was created by Ugo Rondinone, a Swiss-born artist, and it is only open to the public until the end of this year! Also about a 30 minute drive from Vegas.

Death Valley National Park

This is about a 2 hour drive from Vegas, and I simply CANNOT recommend it enough!

*Zabriskie Point
*Artists Palette
*Natural Bridge Trail
*Devil’s Golf Course
*Mesquite Sand Dunes
*Badwater Basin

**One of the hottest places on Earth! I am so glad we went in the winter- I don’t know that I would’ve enjoyed it at 100+ degrees

***Be prepared before you come- that means fuel up (it’s like $6/gallon otherwise) and make sure you have plenty of water and snacks. The park is vast, and shops are few & far between, and can be pricey.

And there you have it– so many options for day trips! Bryce and Zion in Utah are other options, too, but we only had so many free weekends! Hope this gives you inspiration for future travels. If you have others, please drop them below in the comments!

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xoxo,

Family Cross Country Road Trip: Florida to Nevada

Three adults, two kids, two vehicles (one pulling a trailer), a dog, and a cat.

Put together, it’s the ingredients for one unforgettable and exhausting adventure!

My brother (Ryan), his wife, and my two nieces were in the process of moving from Florida to Nevada, and needed some help. I needed out of Pennsylvania. It seemed like a no-brainer.

We left Florida (where they had called home the past few years) and set off on the 1,800+ mile trip the first week of December.

Let me just say, I am all for 3 a.m. wake-ups when it is for a trip! (Though I was riding shotgun, and just the designated keeper of snacks/drinks/toys/blankets/tissues. I suspect those driving might’ve felt differently.)

Without further ado, here were some of our highlights and stops:

11/30 Monday

This day was pretty much straight driving, trying to cover the greatest distance the first day, since most of the attractions we wanted to do/see were closer to the west coast.

Felt like we were always chasing the sun or moon.

Night one: Terrell

12/1 Tuesday

VW Slug Bug Ranch– which yes, did have cars, but this little one was more interested in playing in the abandoned graffitied buildings and broken glass, so I had to go scoop her.

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Palo Duro (Texas Grand Canyon) where we grabbed lunch and enjoyed some social distancing by hiking a trail, all to ourselves.

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Just the girls 🙂


Cadillac Ranch– something so bizarre and yet so fascinating. What would you paint if you were leave your mark?

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We’re all about the public art installations.

Night two: Tucumcari

12/2 Wednesday

We hit a TON of traffic due to a bad accident, so we didn’t make it to Albuquerque like we wanted. We drove through Sevilleta National Wildlife area, through New Mexico, instead. This was a challenging day, (long hours in the car, no stops or attractions) but luckily we covered so many miles the day before that we were still well on schedule even with the setback.

& there was snow! Can you believe it?

We watched the most amazing sunset as we crossed into Arizona.

Night three: Flagstaff

12/3 Thursday

We stayed in Flagstaff for two nights, as we planned to do most of our exploring from this point. We ventured to the Grand Canyon– more specifically, to the South Rim, which was the only part open during this season. The last time Ryan and I had been here, we were on a family vacation back in the early 2000s. I know I didn’t appreciate the immensity of it then…but seeing it now, over 15 years later, I was blown away.

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Completely freezing. Completely worth it.
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Such an incredible place
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I need longer arms for this

Then we went on to Sedona, and ended up hiking Cathedral Rock on a whim. It wasn’t for the faint of heart- a rocky, steep cliffside. My five-year-old niece kept going, all the way to the top, beyond any of our expectations! She was a little warrior on the trail, and I loved sharing this moment with her at the top:

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Girl Power!
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Just a little beyond the end of the trail…

While we were there we saw the Chapel of the Holy Cross, the Sedona overlook, Airport Mesa, Three Sisters, and some of the adorable shops in town as we sipped hot chocolate. We only had a couple hours here, and hiking took the most time. I would love to go back for more hiking- Devil’s Bridge and more.

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Family photo with Cathedral Rock in the background

Night four we spent back in Flagstaff. It was great to have that AirBnb for two nights in a row and have a “home base” that wasn’t the inside of a vehicle. Already, it almost felt like we had been LIVING on the road and yet at the same time, just started the trip. All we had left was the four hour drive between here and Vegas…

And just like that, it was over. Friday early afternooon, we pulled into the driveway of their new home and began the process of unpacking!

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So what has happened since?

I can’t wait to share those next adventures with you—

Sending love,

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Featured on Blog for First Time Travel Tips

I’ve mentioned a lot on this blog recently how incredible social media has been as a tool for meeting others in the travel community, forming friendships and connections, and even opening doors of opportunity.

This is the case with Jemma, who posted about an open call for travel bloggers to contribute to a group post. The questions covered top travel tips for a first time traveler, the 3 things we can’t travel without, and how travel has changed our lives. I was stoked to be a part and to contribute!

The first question is now up on a blog post on her site. There are a lot of really incredible individuals on this list with me- make sure you check them out and give them a follow!

Speaking of following, are you? This blog and @fromthissideofthesun on Instagram. 🙂

Read the post by clicking here or at http://adventureswithjem.com/2020/11/first-time-traveller-tips/

Jemma’s Instagram: @jemms.adventures

Thanks again to Jemma for having me and all who contributed!

Hoping you’re staying connected to the things, places, and people that bring you joy,

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“Smile” is Synonymous for Survival

Hi friends,

Some good news– This piece I wrote was awarded 2nd place in The Nasiona’s micro-nonfiction/poetry tournament recently:

I feel like all women (travelers or not) can unfortunately relate to this. And the emotions it brings are so complex, aren’t they? A mixture of anger, fear, shame, helplessness… Wanting to stand up for yourself but not knowing how, & being so scared it could backfire. 

Let me know what you think of the piece, or how you respond to this type of harassment, in the comments 💛

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My Top 10 Traveling Items

Though it feels weird to post this in a time when hardly any of us are traveling, I’ve been asked this question quite a few times, and I’m hoping this will be useful to other female travelers.

*Keep in mind I’m a very low maintenance traveler. I don’t bring hair products or styling tools, and haven’t found neck pillows or eye masks to be necessary. That’s just my personal preference. Also, things like your passport, visas, money, phone, camera, etc. go without saying.*

Without further ado, here are some of the things I always bring with me on my trips:

1. A reusable water bottle

This is a must. I’ve definitely been guilty of buying a bottle of water right after getting through security before– don’t be like me.

Here’s what I use:

Not even just reusable, this water bottle is also collapsible. This is compact, and will save you (and the environment!) lots in the long run.

2. Teva sandals

I wear these constantly. They are so comfortable for walking cobblestone streets and yes– sturdy enough that I often hike in them, too!

I typically opt for the black, which matches with everything.

3. Portable charger

This shouldn’t come as a surprise- we need to stay connected on the go.

The power bank I have (shown above) has been a lifesaver in many situations where I couldn’t get to a power source. Make sure to charge ahead of time.

4. Black leggings

Go ahead and roll your eyes, but leggings are: A. stretchy and comfortable B. suitable for most weather C. easy to pack and D. again, black goes with everything, and you can easily dress it up.

I love these ones because they are high waisted, lightweight, and even come with a pocket! (Ask any female, they will tell you how exciting it is to have pockets in clothing.)

5. Packing cubes

Because organization is important, and so is saving all your precious carry-on space (and your sanity when you’re trying to find the stuff you’ve packed). These come in all sizes and colors.

I just got these ones last year for Christmas and am obsessed with the teal!

6. Lightweight Jacket

Your girl gets super chilled, super fast. Layers are always key, and even in temperate weather, you never know how fast it could turn.

I love this one, (with a hood!) perfect for walking around European cities in the fall:

And typically use this (waterproof!) one for more outdoor adventures:

* Even for warmer climates, don’t forget a shawl or scarf, especially in countries that require modest covering (i.e. entering temples in Thailand).

7. Daypack

It’s important to have some kind of smaller luggage for hiking, day trips, or any type of adventure you may find yourself on.

Gregory is one of my favorite brands, but this Osprey one is great as well.

8. While we’re on the subject of bags and backpacks, let’s talk purses.

This is an anti-theft cross body bag with tons of storage space, even for umbrellas or water bottles!

If that isn’t really your style, and you’re looking for something smaller and more sleek, I’d recommend this:

There’s also some pretty cool infinity scarves that have hidden travel pockets like these:

9. Adapter

This is obviously an absolute must if you are traveling internationally where plugins are different. Try to aim for one that has extra USB ports, so you can maximize charging time with minimal space.

Here is what I use:

Honestly, it doesn’t hurt to have two!

10. Personal safety alarms

As a solo female traveler, there are (unfortunately) extra precautions that are necessary to take. However, that shouldn’t hold you back from your dream of traveling. Here are some items that may help your peace of mind:

These loud alarms have LED lights and come in packs- great for women, kids, or elders- so there’s one for everyone in your family.

Pepper spray (above) and key whistles (below).

What’s great is that these come in multiples as well.

(If you’re forgetful or lose things like me, this will certainly come in handy.)

..And for bonus #11: A mask!!!

Be sure to follow all COVID-19 guidelines and be aware of the measures and rules in place before you get to your destinaton.

This list can go on and on, but I’ll stop there.

I’m forever interested in helpful gadgets, space-savers, and all things cute, practical, and safe to take on my trips. What’s something you always take with you? Let me know in the comments!

Stay safe,

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*Disclosure: Please note that some of the links listed above are affiliate links. This is to no extra cost to you- as an Amazon affiliate I may earn a commission from qualifying purchases.*

Life’s A Trip Podcast

As much as I can take issue with social media sometimes, it has allowed me to meet and connect with so many incredible people. Many of these new friends are doing such impressive and exciting things. Edher in Peru reached out to me for the Cinnamon Traveler Chats, and Gyovanna (who currently lives in Germany) invited me to be on her podcast, Life’s A Trip. This was my first podcast experience! I’ll admit I was nervous, but Gyovanna and I had so much fun and could’ve talked forever. We actually ended up continuing our convo another hour after we stopped recording!

We covered solo travel and traveling as a woman, of course, but also dove deeper into mental health (not only anxiety and depression, but also excoriation disorder/dermatillomania), the story of how I got my pacemaker, and even poetry. You can listen to the episode here on Spotify. or wherever you get your podcasts.

This was the first time I’ve really openly discussed my BFRB (body-focused repetitive behavior) and though I felt so vulnerable, I wanted to share my story with others in hopes that either 1.) it resonates with someone else who is also struggling and/or 2.) it shines a light on these disorders so that others can understand them, which will only help remove the stigma that surrounds them.

I can’t thank her enough for having me, and hope you’ll tune in. She always has wonderful guests on, covering all types of interesting topics. And the name “Life’s A Trip” couldn’t be more spot on this year, can it?

Can’t wait to hear what you think,

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P.S. To anyone wanting to understand more about dermatillomania, I cannot recommend this Ted talk by Liz Atkin enough: https://youtu.be/mlt3o6dnGqA

This is actually how I found out that skin picking had a name! Also, there are tons of different BFRBs, and resources/websites for them. Here are some favorites of mine:
TLC Foundation for BFRBs: https://www.bfrb.org/
Picking Me Foundation NFP: https://pickingme.org/

Michigan’s Finest

From Saugatuck Dunes and windmills in Holland to sandboarding to Sleeping Bear to homemade cherry pie to Traverse City and drop-off cliffs and teal waters to the best fudge I’ve ever tasted on Mackinac Island to weird birds and crystal clear springs to drinking blueberries to sunsets and rainstorms and Pictured Rocks cruises to my first pasty to Ann Arbor and tiny surprises to all the waterfalls chased and miles driven home- here’s some of Michigan’s finest with my family.

Day One:

Drove to the Saugatuck Sand Dunes & took a buggy ride, watched the most gorgeous sunset over the water, visited Mt. Baldhead Park

Day Two:

Visited the cute town of Holland & Windmill Island Gardens (next best thing if you can’t visit the Netherlands!), Ottawa Beach, spotted Big Red Lighthouse against some dark blue skies, hit up Tunnel Park, went sandboarding at Silver Lake Sand Dunes, Inspiration Point, Sleeping Bear Dunes State Park

Day Three:

Stopped through Traverse City and had some cherry pie, drove to Old Mission Peninsula to see the Old Mission Point Park & Lighthouse, admired the blue hues of Torch Lake, and cruised through the scenic Tunnel of Trees

Day Four:

Stayed the night in Mackinaw City, caught an early morning ferry to Mackinac Island to awe over Arch Rock, indulge in the best fudge, and Sanders hot fudge cream puff. This is a car-free island, so no motorized vehicles, and a lot of horse drawn carriages. Simply beautiful.


Day Four/Five:

Left the city for Kitch-iti-Kipi, Manistique. The most beautiful teal water, and watching the fish swim below your feet!

Day Five:

One of our bucketlist items: Pictured Rocks National Landshore. Still stunned this place is real. We finished our outing just as the rain started falling. Obviously one of the highlights of our trip!

Day Six:

Tahquamenon Falls State Park (nicknamed “Root Beer Falls” for a good reason!), and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum

Day Seven:

We started our venture back home. Stopped at the Cross in the Woods, Stepping Stone Falls, Ann Arbor & Graffiti Alley, enjoyed some blueberry beer to toast to a wonderful trip!

If you live in the beautiful state of Michigan, how lucky you are! It was so good to get out and explore this beautiful state and make memories with my family after months of being cooped up. I feel very grateful to experience such natural beauty & calm my restless soul for a bit.

xoxo,

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Exploring Closer to Home

So now that we’re all experts at navigating the path between the refrigerator and the couch, what about some outside trails?

I recently came back to be with my parents in rural Pennsylvania, and there’s not much to do here in our small town. (Not that I’m out painting the town, anyway. I’m staying home!) However, I was getting restless for new scenery, and a lot of the local parks/attractions I’d already been to. That is, except for Nelson Ledges Quarry Park in Ohio.

We opted to spend a weekend out in nature, and who knew Ohio was keeping this gem hidden? I loved climbing over these giant rocks, squeezing myself between crevices, hiking all the paths to waterfalls.

Two weekends later, we woke up on a Sunday and decided to go for a drive. My mom had heard about Freedom Falls in Pennsylvania, and we ended up there. We parked on the dirt road and walked down to the falls, where there as only one other person there. I was amazed at how clear and crystal blue the water was. The gentleman that was there told us the falls weren’t as impressive as they usually are due to the lack of rain we’ve had this year, but I was still blown away by this little teal paradise in the middle of nowhere. We hiked down the river to the furnace and the tunnel, taking some nearby trails. Honestly, it was awesome.

There were also many covered bridges along the way:

Where have you explored lately? Any secret spots that are a close drive from northeast PA? Let me know- I’d love to hear!

                                                          Until then, stay home & stay healthy,

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The Cinnamon Traveler Chats

Since creating my public Instagram account (@fromthissideofthesun) to showcase my travel adventures and writing, I’ve made so many connections & found friends in like-minded individuals. I’m so grateful that one of them, Edher, AKA The Cinnamon Traveler (find him on Instagram, and his Facebook page) asked to interview me on his YouTube channel.

Edher lives in Cusco, Peru and has conducted several interviews with travelers, bloggers, and more that I’ve found to be both fascinating and inspiring. He’s one of the most genuine people I’ve met, (which says a lot seeing as how we’ve only “met” a couple months ago, and have yet to meet in person!) and I’m so glad he shared his platform with me for me to tell my story as a solo female traveler.

I’m super awkward and there were some technical difficulties on my end, but I had such an amazing time chatting with him! Check out the full interview here.

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Safe travels to the fridge and back for now,

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