West Coast, Best Coast?

I am from still debating…but this trip made it hard to not want to stay out west.

Being from Pennsylvania, part of me will always have a home here in my heart, but the landscapes and weather out west are unmatched. Maybe it was the combination of seeing and meeting friends that made it so special, but still. After over a year of not really seeing my friends, (and not seeing some of these particular friends in 3-4 years!) I was more than ready to be reunited with them and have some cross country adventures. I am in my feelings all over again just thinking about it!

First, I arrived in Flagstaff and met up with my friend JT, where he was on a weeklong vacation to see the Grand Canyon and some surrounding areas. Together, along with three of his friends (who quickly became mine, too) we visited not only the great Grand Canyon, but took a side-by-side through Sedona, swam in Lake Powell, dared to look down over Glen Canyon Dam, and felt lucky at Horseshoe Bend. (I’m fortunate that JT is a videographer, so stay tuned for some awesome footage of this trip! And check out his wedding videos & website here.)

Grand Canyon:

Glen Canyon/Lake Powell/Horseshoe Bend, etc.

Sedona:

It just so happened that my incredible friend from home, Eli, was also in Flagstaff because he was going to RUN the Grand Canyon. Yeah, you heard right. Bright Angel trail, the rim of almost 50 miles. Insane. Anyway, there was one night of overlap so I got to see him for a couple hours the night before his big run! He does a lot of epic things like this and raises money for the Inclusive Outdoors Project, which you should know about (and donate if you’re able)!

Next, I left Arizona and made my way to California, where my friend from college, Casey, picked me up from the airport and we headed back to his place with his boyfriend Taylor in Venice. It was a couple days of beach walking, hard kombucha drinking, mountain climbing, and sunset chasing, as well as time playing with Hudson, his cute pup! I also walked the famous canals, wandered down the ever-busy boardwalk (even at 7 AM!), and checked out Santa Monica Pier. (Sidecar donuts for the win!)

Before leaving, I was able to meet up with my friend and fellow Madwoman, Karla. We’re both poets that recently left Pittsburgh (she moved out to LA!) and caught up with one another over coffee. If you’re also an artist in LA or looking for one, here is her website.

Last but certainly not least, I arrived in San Diego where I met up with my high school friend Elle and her girlfriend Bria. It’s like we never missed a beat! There were so many evenings of long talks late into the night where we laughed so hard I thought I’d physically hurt myself, and days filled with trying the best tacos and most decadent ice cream, and watching an epic sunset our last night- at a spot literally called “Sunset Cliffs.” We may have talked about me moving to San Diego… and with the beauty that is the seaside, Balboa Park, and weather like that, who wouldn’t consider it? I did a day trip to La Jolla as well, made friends with some chunky seals, and had the best tacos. Check it out:

Can you believe ALL of that was just in one week?!

Like I said, I’m from the east coast and Pennsylvania will always be home, but…nice weather, awesome national parks and unique landscapes, Salt & Straw ice cream…it tugs at my heartstrings.

What do you think? West coast, best coast?

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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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