Planning Your Visit to Charlottesville, Virginia

Charlottesville Monticello

With most international travel still on hold unless deemed essential, many of us will be traveling closer to our backyards this summer. If you’re in the Mid-Atlantic area, one place you must check out in Charlottesville, Virginia. This idyllic small town nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains has so much to offer and see, so pack your hiking bag, your most relaxing essential oil blends for the car ride, and your taste for fine craft brews and local wines; and let’s plan a tranquil trip!

Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

Charlottesville is known for its beautiful scenery and Thomas Jefferson. So take in both of those with a guided tour of Monticello. You get an intimate view into the life of one of America’s most important founding fathers. Not to mention learning more about his many famous friends and other fellow presidents. Spring and Summer are by far the best times to visit Monticello to get a look at the property’s awe-inspiring grounds and gardens. Jefferson imported many species of trees and flowers to the area, and they are even available for purchase to bring home to your yard.


Michie Tavern

Michie Tavern is just half a mile down the road from Monticello and has been since 1784. Lunch is served daily at the tavern from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm. Servers are dressed in period attire, making it the perfect footnote to your experience at Monticello. There’s also a grouping of four unique shops on the grounds that are perfect for finding that specific Virginia souvenir for you or a loved one.

Local Breweries & Wineries

Charlottesville, Virginia is home to dozens of craft breweries and wineries. They’re stapled hangouts for locals, and at most, you can always catch live music as well. The sun setting across the Blue Ridge Mountains as you enjoy expertly crafted beer is about as relaxing as you can get. Some notable wineries in the area are Pippin Hill Farm Vineyard, Well Hung Vineyards, Blenheim Vineyards, Barboursville Vineyards, and Jefferson Vineyards. If breweries are more your speed, you have to check out Three Notch’d, Champion, Rockfish, or Starr Hill. Starr Hill is right off the historic Downtown Mall and a must-visit.Charlottesville Virginia

The Downtown Mall

Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall is one of the longest pedestrian malls in the United States at around eight blocks! In the summer, at the end of the mall by the amphitheater, it hosts Fridays After Five – a weekly concert series – and many locals can tell you all about watching The Dave Matthews Band perform there. The mall features over 120 shops and 30 restaurants, most of which feature outdoor cafes. You’re sure to find something for everyone down there! There’s also the newly renovated Paramount Theater and the historic Jefferson Theater. The charming brick walkway that extends the mall’s length is full of local vendors year-round and in the warmer months, all types of local artisans and performers. There’s convenient access to the Trolley, which can take you effortlessly to the grounds of the University of Virginia. 

University of Virginia

When Thomas Jefferson was seeking to reinvent higher education, he conceived of the University of Virginia. A school where students and teachers could learn from one another. The result was the Academical Village. When you visit the UVA grounds, you will see the famous “Lawn” where students and teachers lived in single rooms. The end of the lawn culminates in an architectural masterpiece – The Rotunda – a renowned library. You can take in more breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains suggestive of the yet discovered intellectual frontiers at the foot of the lawn. The grouping of shops and restaurants on the edge of the UVA grounds is known as The Corner, and you must explore the side streets, which are home to unique used bookstores and more cafes.

Antiquing at its Finest

Charlottesville is also home to many antique stores that can fit any budget. You can spend an entire weekend alone going to all of the antique stores in and around town. From luxury heirlooms to quirky vintage pieces, you can find them in Charlottesville. Some must-visits would be Oyster House Antiques, Patina Antiques, A & W, and of course Circa. 

Charlottesville VirginiaOne last thing about Charlottesville (and one of the best) is its proximity to several other destinations. So if you’re planning a road trip, it’s an hour away from historic Richmond, Virginia, two hours from Washington D.C., and only three hours away from Virginia Beach. It should be a destination that you book this summer if you’re traveling closer to home.

Photo Credit: All images used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. Monticello by Brent Wiese

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Six Amazing Places to Visit in Florida


Florida is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States – for good reason! The Sunshine State entices with over a thousand miles of coastline, hundreds of stunning beaches, incredible scenery ranging from tropical forests to the swamplands of the Everglades. In this article, I want to share some of the most amazing places to visit in Florida that are NOT Miami or Orlando or the Keys. I want to share a few places that are worth a visit but don’t as much attention as places like Hollywood or Fort Myers. If you want to visit Florida but don’t know where to go in Florida, this article is for you.

Four amazing places to visit in Florida


Destin is a city located in northwest Florida in the panhandle region, a strip of land roughly 200 miles long. The travel gurus at tell us it’s famed for its white, sandy, Gulf of Mexico beaches that boast incredible beauty. There is also a large number of impressive golf courses, and the Destin Harbour Boardwalk – a bustling destination filled with bars, restaurants, shops, and other tourist attractions. Stunning nature trails make their way effortlessly through the dunes of Henderson Beach State Park located in the south, a place where the coastline is decorated with impressive pine and oak trees that offer local wildlife a much-loved home. 

The Big Kahuna water park is situated to the west, a place that offers fun for all the family. With over forty water attractions, you and the kids will always find something to throw yourself into. Not only this, the park offers several thrill rides and a miniature golf course. Destin’s seafront impresses with its emerald waters alongside incredible tourist attractions, filled with hungry fish – giving it the nickname “the world’s luckiest fishing village.”where to go in Florida

Daytona Beach 

If you’re into motorsport, then you’ve most definitely heard of the Daytona International Speedway & the Motorsports Hall of Fame. It’s one of the cities proudest attractions and is sure to give any petrol head goosebumps. Daytona isn’t all motorsport, though. 

Daytona Beach is famed for endless activities, adrenaline-fueled spectator sports, and incredible shopping culture. The beach spans 23 miles of uninterrupted, luscious golden sands for everyone to enjoy making it one of the best places to visit in Florida – not just for motorsport enthusiasts! Parts of the beach are reserved exclusively for beachgoers, whereas other areas are cordoned off for exclusive driving experiences. Something is going on all the time at Daytona Beach, which gives it the nickname “the festival capital of Florida.” Events include Daytona Blues Festival, the Summer Concert Series, and BikeWeek. 

best places to visit in Florida

The Palm Beaches 

Stacked with cash? Want to see how the other half live? Fancy seeing where some of your favorite TV shows are set? Look no further than Palm Beach. It’s realistically a playground for the rich, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have huge amounts of fun there too. It’s made from 15 unique districts, 47 miles of coastline, and 29 different beach parks. The pièce de résistance, however, is West Palm Beach – one of the most exclusive places in all of Florida. 

Famed for beautiful waterfront neighborhoods, incredible mansions, and luxury resorts, West Palm Beach is the place to go for your dose of indulgence. While in Palm Beach, you have to visit and explore Worth Avenue. A shopping mecca filled with designed stores and beautiful boutiques. Visit for an incredible shopping experience, a window shop extravaganza, or even a cup of coffee to watch the world go by. 

best places to visit in Florida

Fort Lauderdale 

For those that love water, Fort Lauderdale is the place to be. Dubbed “the Venice of America,” Fort Lauderdale has over 300 miles of inland waterways connecting to the oceanfront. The calming canals meander through the city, giving it an experience like no other. The waterways are used as a way of life for travel and even business and should be explored (best by boat) if you’re stopping in Fort Lauderdale.

Get a water taxi to the mall or just enjoy a slow, peaceful, gondola ride. Fort Lauderdale has 23 miles of coastline, the majority of which has the impressive title of “Blue Wave Certified,” meaning they are some of the cleanest in the State. Sea turtles are a common sight, which makes Fort Lauderdale one of the best places to visit in Florida for nature lovers. 


Florida is an incredible place, filled with impressive cities, towns, and quaint neighborhoods. The Gold Coast is a bonus for what the rest has to offer, but if you’re looking for some of the most beautiful, culture-defining beaches on the East Coast, then look no further than here. Some of the world’s most famous beaches are here, and you’re sure to have an incredible time no matter which you choose. Where first?  

where to go in Florida

Photo Credit: Daytona Beach bikes by Driver Photographer; West Palm Beach skyline by Kim Seng; Fort Lauderdale Beach by Daniel Dudek. Images used via’s Creative Commons Licensing.

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Four unusual places to visit in Montana


As the global pandemic continues to impact our regular routines, travel has taken a backseat for many avid adventurers around the world. A sure cure for even the most severe wanderlust, a trip to Big Sky Country is meant for epic, yet socially distanced experiences you won’t find anywhere else. Here are the one-of-a-kind Montana adventures you don’t want to miss! I want to introduce you to some of the best places to visit in Montana that you may not have heard of – places that aren’t National Parks or well-known towns. Read on for things to do in Montana that aren’t hiking in Glacier National Park or fishing in Flathead Lake.

Four unusual places to visit in Montana

Ghost Towns

Silver fever late in the 19th century established and later bankrupted several towns in Montana. Nicknamed the Treasure State, silver production in Montana fell second only to Colorado and drew a large population of single male miners. Today, the remains of this era stand as ghost towns for visitors to explore. Castle Town at its peak had a school, a jail, seven brothels, and several merchants and saloons for its 2,000 residents—one of whom was well-known frontierswoman Calamity Jane. Elkhorn ghost town is another abandoned silver mining locale that stands now as Montana’s smallest state park. Be sure to venture off the beaten path and explore these preserved relics from the silver rush. Exploring ghost towns is a great thing to do in Montana for photographers and for people who aren’t into hiking.Montana adventure

Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail

Retrace the route that helped define and expand America by journeying along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail where it crosses through Montana. The 4,900-mile trail connects 16 states, from Illinois to Oregon, and several American Indian reservations. In Montana, the High Potential Historic Sites include Gates of the Mountains, Giant Spring, Rainbow Falls, the Great Falls, the Eye of the Needle formation and the Bozeman Pass. Just off the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail is the Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park, (near Cardwell) where you can visit stunning caverns and enjoy ten miles of hiking places to visit in Montana

Garden of One Thousand Buddhas

A Native American Reservation in the middle of Montana may be a surprising site for a Buddhist shrine, but that only adds to this statuary’s marvel. The Garden of One Thousand Buddhas was established as an international center for peace in 2000. Spanning 750 feet, the statues are arranged in the formation of a wheel of dharma to represent the Noble Eightfold Path that encompasses the eternal cycle of life, death and rebirth. This site is a source of pride for the many volunteers who have assisted in its creation, and a serene sanctuary to all its visitors. This is one of the best places to visit in Montana because you just wouldn’t expect anything like it in Big Sky Country!

You can visit the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas on your way from Missoula to Glacier National Park, it’s located off the U.S. 93 near Arlee. best places to visit in Montana

Glamping in Montana

Connect with Montana’s natural beauty and bountiful wildlife amidst a landscape of rustic elegance and impeccable comfort while glamping in Big Sky Country. Several premier Montana resorts, including the resort at Paws Up (just over thirty minutes east of Missoula), offer a number of glamping accommodation styles and dozens of on-site activities and adventures in Montana for all energy levels. Glamping is very different from your regular camping trip – in fact, many glamping resorts offer gorgeous cabins and all-inclusive meals. From hiking and horseback riding to lake excursions and rappelling, experience the state’s most epic adventures all in one place. Glamping or camping is one of the things to do in Montana that you shouldn’t miss out on – it’s such an amazing experience to spend the night under these wide open star-filled skies.

With an unparalleled array of historical treasures and an undeniable spirit for adventure, Montana provides the perfect getaway for any thrill-seeking traveler. Book your stay at a Montana resort today and prepare for the adventure of a lifetime! Big Sky Country

Photo Credit: All images used via’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Montana Ghost Town by Patti McNeal; (2) Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail by BLMIdaho; (3) Garden of One Thousand Buddhas by Lorie Shaull; (4) Big Sky Country by kmanohar

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The Three Best Places To Buy A Vacation Home in Southern California

redondo beach california

Vacation homes have always been an excellent investment, but this year, when people weren’t able to travel the way they’re used to, vacation homes have become even more popular. Return on investment may not come as quickly as it would during normal times, when people plan getaways regularly, but on the plus side, having a vacation home now offers you a cozy hideaway when most of the world is shut for Americans. And now that many people are working remotely, why not relocate to the coast for a while and work from a dream home near the beach? In addition to being a vacation rental, many Americans who are tied to their current home base because of their job or other reasons also plan on using their vacation home to retire in – another reason why investing in a home in a sought-after location is well worth it.

California, and Southern California in particular, is a perfect spot for a vacation home, because it is and will always be popular with travelers from far away who want to soak up that sunny California lifestyle as well as local travelers who just want to enjoy the beach for a few days. For this reason, the vacation home market in Southern California is very competitive, and it is definitely not cheap, but when you do your research and you buy smart, your investment will pay off in the long run.

So what are the best places to buy a vacation home in Southern California?

best places to buy a vacation home in California

1 Newport Beach

Newport Beach stands for the quintessential SoCal lifestyle with its beautiful 8-mile coastline, many healthy dining options, marine life galore, and the laid-back way of life Southern California is known for. The combination of surf vibes, luxury shopping, glamorous villas, dive-bars and historic cottages is what makes this small coastal town unique and what makes it attractive to vacationers from the U.S. and beyond.

Newport Beach real estate has always been sought after, because of the city’s excellent geographical features (right on the Pacific Coast Highway and the beach, and the city of Irvine just a short drive away) and its strong economy, which means home prices are quite steep, topping a million dollars more often than not. The city’s got the nickname “Millionaire’s Playground” for a reason! Because of the abundance of luxury homes, Newport Beach attracts many elite investors, which means you can expect high appreciation rates, i.e. a steady increase of the value of the investment property. Commercial development in Newport Beach is strong, and in addition to wealthy retirees the city attracts young high-earning professionals who usually rent initially, which is why rental units are in demand. Newport Beach is perfect for you if you are wondering where to buy a rental property in California. Investors can expect a solid return on rental units and vacation homes alike, and thanks to the sunny SoCal climate, many investors end up using the property as their retirement home at some places to buy a vacation home in California

2 North County San Diego

North County is the northern part of San Diego County, and the coastal region of this area consists of six cities along the coast: Carlsbad, Del Mar, Encinitas, Oceanside, Solana Beach and Vista. North County San Diego is just south of Orange County, and the six quaint coastal cities in particular have become extremely popular over the last few decades, which means home prices have gone up considerably. Home prices in the coastal town average between $800,000 and $1,000,000. But the popularity of this region also means that return on investments for vacation homes is excellent here, and the diversity of he region combined with the laid-back California lifestyle attracts people from near and far. The proximity of San Diego (Downtown San Diego is about 30 minutes by car) and the attractions along the Pacific Coast Highway make North County San Diego a desired destination for property investors from all over the U.S.where to buy a rental property in California

3 Joshua Tree / Twentynine Palms

If you’re not a big fan of the ocean, look at Joshua Tree instead. The National Park, about two hours east of Los Angeles, has become increasingly popular over the last few years, and tourists as well as Angelenos flock to Joshua Tree to get away from the crowds and to enjoy the incredible natural beauty of the Mojave Desert for a few days. The average home price in Joshua Tree is $300,00, which means it is considerably cheaper than a house on the coast. If you are looking to land a real deal, look at Twentynine Palms, just fifteen minutes from Joshua Tree, but houses cost only half as much there. The National Park is only five minutes away, which means this vacation rental will be popular with hikers for sure, and tourism in the area is expected to still grow over the next few years. If your budget isn’t huge, this would be the perfect location to buy a vacation home in Southern California.where to buy a rental property in California

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Tips for a Miami Trip with Kids


Traveling is going to look very different this year for most families, as we’re still navigating during the Coronavirus pandemic. Many people are staying in the U.S. this year, and when they are traveling, they’re taking additional safety precautions such as wearing facial coverings.

Miami is one destination you might be considering, and if so, there are certain things to keep in mind if you are traveling as a family. Here is everything you need to know about navigating Miami with kids: what to do, how to get around, where to eat and where to stay.

Collage of Kobra Murals

Miami with Kids

Getting Around in Miami

If you’re driving to Miami, then you’ll use your car to get around. If not, you might want to rent a car, which makes getting around simpler than getting a taxi with kids. If you’re staying at a resort with a lot of onsite dining and entertainment options, you only need to think about how to get from the airport to the resort, and probably won’t need a rental car, unless you are planning a day trip out of the city.

A taxi from the airport to many areas of the city will cost around $50 each way. If you’re staying in an area like Miami Beach, you will be able to walk to restaurants and other attractions without having to pay for a rental car or an Uber.

There are trolleys that run in Miami, but with kids, this might not be the most reliable option because they tend to run late. It is a fun thing to do with kids though – just plan in some extra time.

There’s also the Metrorail that will take you to Coral Gables, Coconut Grove, and South Miami for around $5 round trip.

Miami Trolley

Where to Stay in Miami

The area of Miami that most people think of first is Miami Beach, as well as South Beach. The beaches are beautiful and there are wonderful family-friendly resorts in this area like Loews Miami Beach. With that being said, you should also be aware that this area can get raucous and has a party vibe.

If you want the beach, but you want to be in a quieter area, you might think about heading to Key Biscayne.

A fabulous family-friendly hotel that’s in a more residential area is the Biltmore Hotel Miami Coral Gables. Coral Gables has beautiful old homes, and the hotel itself is stunning architecturally. It also has one of the largest pools in the country.

If you want to splurge, there’s the Fisher Island Hotel & Resort which is located on a private island in Biscayne Bay. The hotel has plenty of amenities include multiple outdoor pools, 18 tennis courts, and a nine-hole golf course. The rooms and suites are spacious and work well for families, and you can get a cottage with a kitchenette, which always comes in handy when traveling with kids.

If you want an urban environment, stay in downtown Miami. The Miami Kimpton EPIC is a good option, and most rooms have double beds. There are junior suites with pull-out sofa beds, too.

Loews Miami Beach

Where to Eat in Miami

If you can deal with sugar overload, for a fun restaurant think about the Sugar Factory on Ocean Drive. It’s a massive 3,000 square feet restaurant with a patio overlooking South Beach located inside the Hotel Victor, with an adjacent sweets store, as the name suggests.

The menu is extremely kid-friendly, and the focus is on the crazy drinks and deserts.

The Wharf is a venue on the Miami River and you’ll find different food pop-ups from local chefs. You can have a scenic lunch during the day, and in the evenings there’s often music and even dancing. Children can go to the Wharf until sundown on the weekends.

Joe’s Stone Crab is an icon in Miami since 1913. It’s very family-friendly and the seafood is wonderful and fresh because the owners of the restaurant have their own fisheries.

Miami Beach: Joe's Stone Crab - Florida Stone Crab

What to Do in Miami with kids

You won’t be bored in Miami, that’s certain. There are beaches, of course, but there’s more to the city than that if you’re traveling with kids.

If you rent a car, there are a number of Florida road trips you can take from Miami. A popular day trip is going to the Everglades. If you opt for that, you can take an airboat tour in Everglades National Park.

Other things to do with kids in Miami include:

    • For a cultural experience and delicious food, go to Little Havana. You can get authentic Cuban fare and stop for ice cream with flavors like coconut flan.
    • The Lincoln Road Mall in Miami Beach is popular for families. You can walk down the pedestrian street, and there’s a farmer’s market on the weekends.
    • The Seaquarium is located on Virginia Key and there is a 300,000-gallon tropical reef, as well as a pirate playground, sea turtles, sea lions, and flamingos.
    • The Thriller Miami Speedboat Adventure leaves from Downtown. You can take a boat ride of a 55-foot catamaran that goes at speeds up to 50 MPH. You might see South Beach, the Cape Florida Lighthouse, and Fisher Island, depending on the specific tour you take.
    • Key Biscayne is quiet and beautiful. Crandon Park is a must-do with kids. This two-mile beach has calm water, you can rent a cabana, and there’s a beach playground. Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is also on Key Biscayne, and you can climb to the top of the Cape Florida Lighthouse.
    • Coconut Grove features the CocoWalk outdoor shopping center, and there’s Peacock Park.
    • The Venetian Pool is in Coral Gables and it’s the most luxurious public pool you might ever see. It’s also the only pool on the National Register of Historic Places. It features Mediterranean architecture, a water cave, and a waterfall.
    • Also in Coral Gables is Matheson Hammock Park. The beach has no waves because it’s a human-made atoll pool, so it’s a good option even for young children. There’s a snack bar, and a restaurant made in coral at the park. There are also nature trails.

Green Iguana - Iguana iguana, Fairchild Tropical Gardens, Coral Gables, Florida

Miami might not be the first place you think of for a vacation with your kids, but it can actually make a great option. There’s natural beauty, culture, energy, and fantastic food.

Photo Credit: All photos used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Kobra Mural by Arthur T. LaBar; (2) Miami Trolley by Phillip Pessar; (3) Loews Miami by Bob B. Brown; (4) Joe’s Stone Crab by Wally Gobetz; (5) Green Iguana in Coral Gables by Judy Gallagher

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Navigating Philly When Visiting

philadelphia brick houses

Philly has a lot to offer for tourists. You can easily spend a few days just visiting all the iconic sights like the Liberty Bell, the Rocky Statue, Independence Hall, Ben Franklin Museum, a trip to the waterfront, the Schuylkill River, to name some of the most famous ones.

Getting around Philly to visit the tourist attractions is fairly easy, and you have a lot of options. The first thing to decide is how to get around. On foot, bike, ride share or public transit. All are good options for visitors, and the place to do all of this is City Center.philadelphia theater

All of the main tourist attractions are in the center, and it has everything you need. Hotels, grocery stores, shopping, shopping, and more shopping, and then eating. The restaurants range from food carts (some of the best options) to fine dining.

One Big Grid

What makes navigating the city center so easy is that it’s just one big grid. Downtown is to the north and the Schuylkill River is on the west and to the east is the Delaware River. Inside that there are six districts: the Parkway Museum District, Rittenhouse District, Convention Center District, Washington Square District, Old City District, Historic Waterfront District.philadelphia belle steam boat

Philadelphia on Foot

An advantage of walking is that you get to experience more of the city. If you ride to each destination, you are missing out on some of the feel and charm the city has to offer.

In fact, Philadelphia has been listed as one of the most walkable cities in the U.S. of cities of more than 1 million people for years. In 2019 they were 4th with a Walk Score of 79. William Penn gets the credit for designing the city this way, and it makes it easy to navigate. Other than some potential hazards due to construction zones and distracted drivers, there’s not much to be worried about – you can comfortably explore Philly on foot.philly game square domino

From the Waterfront on the Delaware River, the streets going north and south are numbered 1st to 26th ending at the Schuylkill River, then there are named streets going east and west completing the almost perfect grid.

It’s a great system if you want to know where you are and to figure out where you want to be. So, get a map or a map app and start walking. Once you get out there, you’ll find colorful “Walk! Philadelphia” signs all around that will help you navigate around the districts, but my guess is, you soon won’t need them, but it’s nice to know they are there.

Philly by Bike

Not only is Philly walkable, it is also very bikeable with its 44+ miles of bike lanes, 300 miles of bike, and shared-use trails with another 350 miles planned. There are around 1300 e-Bikes available around the city with a great deal of those in Center City. Stations are located all around the center making it easy to find an e-Bike, rent the bike and return it.

You can also rent pedal bikes at spots all around the city center or you can bring your own. In any case, getting around the city on a bike is fairly easy. If you do bike, know that cycling on the sidewalks in the city center is not allowed (you didn’t hear it here, but it’s rarely enforced) so you’ll have to use the streets, but most of those have bike lanes making traveling fairly comfortable without too much accident risk.philadelphia street with flag

Philly by Uber and Lyft

There is almost no free parking anywhere in Philly and you most definitely will not want to drive. When your next stop is more than a mile away and your feet are getting tired you’re better off taking an Uber or a Lyft. In most cases, your ride will be with you in under 3 minutes. Take a look around – at lease 25% of the cars on the street in Philly are ride sharing vehicles.

Philly by PHLASH Downtown Loop

One of SEPTA’s bus routes is dedicated to helping those in the city center to get around fairly cheaply. It makes a loop from river to river down the center with plenty of stops. Individual rides are $2 a ride, but if you are going to ride more than twice, then get the day pass for $6 for some savings.philadelphia downtown

Philly by Public Transit

If you want to go outside of the city center, you can use SEPTA public transit. You can access the greater Philly system at various points downtown and use the buses, trolleys, or subways to get around the city.

As of May 2020, the cost of public transit in Philly is $2 a ride. The day pass for $6 is a good deal, but be aware that it is limited to 8 rides. The pass can be used on buses, trolleys, and subways.philadelphia streets

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What it’s like living in New York City during COVID-19

deserted brooklyn bridge

I live under the flight path of JFK Airport, and I am used to hearing the roaring noise of planes descending over Brooklyn as they are making their way to New York’s largest airport – usually every few minutes. Right now, however, I hear barely any planes, and what used to be a familiar sound now startles me every time it occurs. The sound of airplanes over New York City has become rare – which is something that I didn’t think was even possible.empty brooklyn streetEmpty street in Brooklyn

But that’s only one of the many changes that I’m experiencing in New York City right now, one of the many things I am getting used to as I am adjusting to what’s referred to as “the new normal” by the media. When I leave my apartment to go grocery shopping, I don’t double check anymore if I have my wallet and my lip balm – instead, I am checking if I have my face mask and my hand sanitizer. I didn’t even carry hand sanitizer on me on a daily basis until only a month ago. And the only reason I even own a small bottle of hand sanitizer is because a friend of mine happened to find a few bottles in her parents’ pantry (finally, their hoarding of pretty much everything for an “emergency” was paying off.). Because a month ago, it was absolutely impossible to find hand sanitizer anywhere in New York in New York City during COVID-19On 10 March, a friend of mine arrived in New York; she was visiting from Europe. When she boarded her flight in Spain, she didn’t expect to be scrambling to get on a flight back to Europe just ten days later – cutting her 3-week U.S. trip considerably short. But when she arrived, New York City was still “open”. We were able to do some sightseeing, we had dinner at TimeOut Market, we climbed the Vessel, we walked the High Line. On 12 March, I took the subway after work to meet my friend to see a Broadway show when I got a text message that all Broadway theaters were closing until further notice – effective immediately. I was in disbelief. All Broadway theaters closed.. had that ever happened before? I knew what this meant: the city would shut down completely, it wouldn’t stop at the shuttered galleryAnd within days, everything in New York City changed. In less than a week, the entire city had transformed: TimeOut Market closed two days after we ate there, the High Line closed, all the museums closed. Schools and universities closed. On 15 March it was announced that all restaurants would be closing on 17 March (with the option to stay open for take-out and delivery).living in New York City during COVID-19When I walked through my neighborhood the day after restaurants and bars closed, it already felt considerably emptier. New Yorkers were bracing themselves for a “shelter in place” order, which basically meant a complete lockdown of NYC. Most of the shops were already closed. Back then, New York City had “only” around 800 Coronavirus cases, and a handful deaths. A week later, New York City had 15,000 Coronavirus cases.

Now, four weeks later, walking through my neighborhood feels strange. New York has been on lockdown since 20 March. All the shops have their roll-down gates down, barely any people are outside. It is eerily quiet. I take a stroll around the neighborhood and see some people outside the few shops that are still open. They all have hand-drawn signs on their doors, stating how many people are allowed inside at a time. Some stores allow four people, others only two. Most people cover their mouths with face masks, while others use bandanas or scarves to cover their mouths and noses. Every once in a while, I see someone without a face mask.brooklyn store sign 2020 COVID-19While walking through this strange new world, I keep hearing sirens. They come and go, but they are recurring. A constant reminder of the fact that I am not walking through the movie set of a post-apocalyptic thriller, but that this is still very much New York City. A city that, sadly, has been hit harder than any other city in the world by COVID-19. Every time an ambulance passes me, I can’t help but think of the person inside the ambulance. A month after the “Shelter in place” order went into effect, New York City has just under 139,000 confirmed Coronavirus cases, and over 10,000 people have died. Over 10,000 people in my city have died from COVID-19  in less than a month – let that sink in for a in New York City during COVID-19It didn’t take very long for me to be personally affected by this virus: while my friend from Europe was still in town mid-March, someone close to me started feeling very ill. All the symptoms sounded like COVID-19, and she went straight to the doctor. There, they ruled out a number of flu strains, and told her that she probably has Coronavirus, but at the time, they didn’t have any tests to verify their suspicion. They told her to go home to self-quarantine for 14 days, since her symptoms weren’t severe enough for hospitalization.

Since I was still feeling well and was able to leave the house to pick up groceries, I became her personal delivery person, supplying her regularly with fresh produce and the occasional treat, to lift her spirits. Seeing her struggle through this disease, which took the typical course of first improving before symptoms worsening a week later, made me even more scared of the virus than I already was. A field hospital had been erected in Central Park to treat overflow Coronavirus patients that hospitals had run out of room for, and a similar makeshift hospital had been set up inside the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan. My biggest fear was ending up in one of these field hospitals, so other than the occasional grocery haul I stayed away from people as much as possible, and I became so obsessed with washing my hands that my skin started to suffer.Thank you signsI thought I had seen the worst when I witnessed a person being taken out of an ambulance outside the local hospital one day, a person that looked to be in such a bad state that at first, I didn’t even know if they were alive. But then I saw the morgue trucks. What I saw first was a flower bouquet on the ground, and a big poster thanking the healthcare workers. I wondered why they’d left the flowers there, on the side of the road, when I noticed the humming coming from a truck right behind the sign. And that’s when it hit me. This was one of these morgue trucks in which they stored the bodies that they didn’t have room for inside the hospital’s morgue. I had a hard time breathing when I realized I was standing in front of a truck filled with corpses.Brooklyn COVID-19These images – the morgue trucks, the sick person on the stretcher, but also my sick friend who I’d see every week through the entrance glass door of her building, and whose face looked ashen, with hollow eyes – are images I cannot erase from my brain, and probably will never forget. The sound of sirens will always remind me of these dark times, and I am not the only one. “I feel their presence in my body as an ever-increasing tightness in my shoulders and neck. It is as though, around the clock, the city itself were wailing for its sick and dying.”, writes Lindsay Zoladz in her New York Times article about the ever-present in New York City during COVID-19Going grocery shopping has turned from a routinely task into a wearying and sometimes nerve-wrecking undertaking (depending on how many people decide to shop that day, i.e. how many people I come in contact with) that requires preparation and caution. Before I leave my house, I have to make sure that I have some wipes in my bag, my mask, hand sanitizer and gloves. Then I make my way to the grocery store on the bike, no matter if it is raining or hailing – I have only used the subway once since the “shelter at home” order went into effect, and that was when I did my first big quarantine grocery haul. I wasn’t even supposed to be here in New York when the city started shutting down, so my fridge and my pantry were as deserted as the shelves in the supermarkets.NYC Covid-19 targetOn that first grocery haul I ended up buying so many things that I wasn’t able to get them back home on a bike, which is why I took the subway for two stops. But I shouldn’t have been nervous about it: There were barely any people on the train. Every time I went out do my grocery shopping, the restrictions got tighter. First, they limited the amount of people inside the store, which is how I ended up in a line that went all the way down the block one time, thinking to myself in panic, “I am too close to too many people.” The next time I ventured outside for groceries, they had drawn lines on the sidewalk with chalk, marking the required six feet safety distance in between each person. These markers were also added inside the grocery store, so that when you get in line at the checkout, you keep your distance, as well.COVID-19 shopping NYCSince 16 April, masks have been mandatory when entering a grocery store. A day later, on 17 April, the governor announced that “New York on Pause”, which had initially been issued until 30 April, would be extended until 15 May – for now. That means a total of nearly nine weeks of New York City on pause. And to be honest, I don’t think that New York City will ease restrictions in mid-May – at least not to the extent that life in New York City as we know it will be possible.COVID-19 screenLast weekend I ventured into Manhattan for the first time since the lockdown started, and it was a bizarre experience. I crossed the Brooklyn Bridge, which was deserted. It was a beautiful spring day, and normally, the bridge would’ve been packed with tourists. Chinatown felt like a ghost town. I only saw two restaurants that were open there, and I saw almost no people out on the street. I cycled up Broadway in SoHo, where you usually find hundreds of shoppers on any given day, but Broadway was empty. I passed only a few people who were taking their dog out for a walk or to ran some errands. Some shops were boarded up completely, as if they were expecting looting and riots. This just added to the dystopian feel SoHo had.chinatown april 2020Chinatown feels like a ghost town

I rode my bike past Washington Square Park and Union Square, which, again, would’ve been busy on a sunny spring day. I missed the familiar sounds you usually hear in these places: singing buskers, chatter, laughter, the hip hop music young dancers usually blast from small portable speakers. The only places that were busy were the Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s supermarkets, where people lined up outside. A few blocks further north, in Madison Square Park, a few people were sitting in the park, and there was a line in front of Eataly, but the little square right across the Flatiron Building was grocery shop line covid-19The line outside a grocery store

Grand Central Terminal felt like a shadow of its former self. On a regular day, you’d see thousands of people rush through the Grand Concourse, on the way to or from their train. Now, all I could think was how strangely quiet it was. The only people in the station that day were people who wanted to take photos of the abandoned station. Instead of announcing train departures, the announcements that came through the speakers were all COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.grand central terminal nyc during COVID-19Grand Central Terminal completely deserted

I walked over to Times Square, and 42nd Street was so empty that I could’ve walked in the middle of the street. Normally, this is one of the most congested streets in Manhattan. Experiencing the city “on mute” was heartbreaking. Not only the hustle and bustle of the city had disappeared, but also that pulsating energy that makes New York feel so unique. There’s usually a vibrancy in the air that makes me walk with a spring in my step, and it made me realize how much of New York’s energy comes from its busy street life. The hot dog vendors, the yelling of people, the traffic noise, even the honking of the cars.Times Square April 2020Silent New York is not the same. You don’t realize how much things like cafes, street kiosks, restaurants, bodegas, and street vendors contribute to the overall atmosphere of a city until they’re gone. Seeing the Broadway theaters shuttered was depressing – theaters, comedy clubs and other performance venues are such a big part of the social life in New York. Times Square without any tourists was something I never thought I’d see. Even when I walked through Times Square at 5.30am in a snowstorm a few years ago, there were more people around than now. I also never thought I’d say this: Times Square without any tourists feels kind of dull.Times Square NYC April 2020I’ll be the first one to admit that I curse at the crowds every time I have to pass through Times Square on the way to something, but seeing it so empty changed the entire atmosphere. The ever so bustling area felt like a sleepy square. The only two things that were the same: The glitzy billboards which were still advertising clothes companies and streaming services, and the Naked Cowboy, who was entertaining the few people that were lingering in Times Square.street vendor selling face masksInstead of souvenirs, the street vendors are now selling hand sanitizer and face masks

What’s the most devastating about the city on lockdown is how many people’s livelihoods are affected or even destroyed by this pandemic. My heart breaks for all the owners of the small independent shops, the bodegas, the coffee shops and restaurants that contribute so much to the lively, social atmosphere of New York City. They are now struggling to pay the rent for their shops while they cannot use them, they had to lay off employees, and they may not even be able to reopen their businesses. Every week I read about restaurants that announce will not re-open, about people who were laid off and aren’t able to pay their rent and bills now. Over 40% of layoffs related to COVID-19 happened in the restaurant industry. In a city with a restaurant scene as thriving as New York City, the impact of the lockdown is absolutely devastating. Over half a million restaurant workers are out of work right now in New York State – and this number is still growing.boarded up shop soho nycLife in New York is never easy, even when the economy is doing great, a lot of people work harder than elsewhere to make ends meet. But now, with the city heading into a recession, piling up debt, life in New York will be even challenging, and it’ll take a long time for things to go back to normal. And what does that even mean, normal? Nobody even knows what the “post-COVID-19 normal” will look like. When will the theaters be able to re-open? When can we go to bars and restaurants again and will it be possible the same way it was pre-COVID-19? Will sports bars be ever as packed again for major sports events as they were before this pandemic? When will we be able to enjoy concerts again and watch a baseball game in Yankees Stadium? When will tourists return to New York?park slope shuttered storesAll large parades scheduled for June, including New York Pride, have been canceled. It was announced that public pools wouldn’t open at all in 2020. Beaches may not open this summer either. This summer will not be like any other summer, because most of the things that make New York in the summer so great will not be possible: enjoying beaches, rooftop bars, outdoor concerts and movies, having drinks in a backyard patio of a bar, strolling around flea markets and street in New York City during COVID-19 The unemployment rate in NYC was at around 4.3 per cent before COVID-19: in the entire month of February, 137,391 people filed for unemployment in New York City. In the first week of the lockdown, 521,112 claims were filed. That’s more than three times the amount of claims the city usually sees in a month. Unemployment claims have now increased by 2,637%. During the financial crisis in 2008, the entire state of New York lost around 300,000 jobs. New York City alone has already lost more jobs than that. NY ToughThe Mayor of New York City is facing a projected $7.4 billion deficit in the city budget (mostly in lost tax revenue) and the economic impact of COVID-19 can be compared to the Great Depression. This deficit means that many city programs will be canceled, for example summer camp programs and the youth employment program which usually enrolls about 75,000 low-income students. social distancing brooklyn storeEven when this pandemic is over, New York City will struggle to get back to its former glorious self. But instead of ending with a depressing and gloomy outlook on post-COVID-19 New York City, I want to finish this article with this beautiful video and the optimistic words of New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo:

“And we’re going to get through it because we are New York, and because we’ve dealt with a lot of things, and because we are smart. You have to be smart to make it in New York. And we are resourceful, and we are showing how resourceful we are. And because we are united, and when you are united, there is nothing you can’t do. And because we are New York tough. We are tough. You have to be tough. This place makes you tough. But it makes you tough in a good way. We’re going to make it because I love New York, and I love New York because New York loves you.

New York loves all of you. Black and white and brown and Asian and short and tall and gay and straight. New York loves everyone. That’s why I love New York. It always has, it always will. And at the end of the day, my friends, even if it is a long day, and this is a long day, love wins. Always. And it will win again through this virus.”


Also read: COVID-19 in New York City – Six Months Later

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Where To Stay In Brooklyn

brooklyn brownstones

Ten years ago, people would still raise an eyebrows when you told them you were staying in Brooklyn on a trip to New York, but oh how things have changed! These days, it is almost cooler to stay in Brooklyn and NOT in Manhattan, and more and more people are seeking a more authentic New York experience that goes beyond the Midtown hotels that visitors usually stay in during their first visit to New York.

The thing with staying in Brooklyn is: this borough is massive! When you take a closer look at the map of Brooklyn, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, because there are so many neighborhoods (over 60!), and so many different places to stay.

While some people opt to stay in Brooklyn for the ‘cool factor’, others want to stay in Brooklyn simply because it’s cheaper than staying in Manhattan. If you are familiar with Manhattan hotel prices, you know what I’m talking about. More and more hotels have been opening in Brooklyn over the past few years, especially around the Brooklyn Bridge / Downtown Brooklyn area, as well as in the trendy Williamsburg neighborhood. The Williamsburg hotels are great if you’re looking for a splurge (check out some of my favorite hotels below) and want to base yourself in the most “happening” part of Brooklyn.

Your budget is definitely something that plays a crucial role when deciding where to stay in Brooklyn. If you’re more of a frugal traveler, you’ll be happy to hear that Airbnb’s are still very affordable in Brooklyn – especially if you consider staying in a room instead of a full apartment (if you don’t have an Airbnb account yet, use my referral code to sign up and get up to $40 off your first booking). I am sharing some of the best neighborhoods to rent an Airbnb in Brooklyn below.

Remember that Brooklyn is larger than most of the major cities in the U.S. and Europe – larger than Barcelona, Boston, Dublin or Washington, D.C. Also remember that there are 70+ neighborhoods in Brooklyn, which means that even traveling within Brooklyn can easily take around one hour – and getting to Manhattan and the New York City’s other boroughs can even take longer. It’s important to know the layout of New York City when booking an Airbnb or hotel in Brooklyn to avoid getting frustrated with long commutes.

Where to stay in Brooklyn

The Airbnb map gives you a better idea of the layout of New York City, and also shows you how large Brooklyn is. My recommendation would be to stay as close to Manhattan as possible, especially if you are looking to spend a considerable amount of your time outside of Brooklyn. The further south you go in Brooklyn, the cheaper it gets, but that’s because the commute to Manhattan gets notably longer. You have to decide what’s more important to you: convenience and less time spent on public transportation / in Ubers, or a cheap place to stay.

The closest Brooklyn neighborhoods to Manhattan are:

    • Williamsburg
    • Greenpoint
    • Brooklyn Heights
    • Downtown Brooklyn
    • Dumbo

Dumbo Brooklyn Pebble Beach

These neighborhoods also have the best public transportation access to Manhattan, i.e. a direct subway connection (except Greenpoint).

Note: Neighborhoods south of Prospect Park and east of Prospect Park are quite far from Manhattan. Many Airbnb hosts boast in their description “20 mins from Manhattan” (by subway) but in reality that usually means just across the East River. To give you a few examples:


This is a neighborhood you’ll definitely come across if you look for an Airbnb in Brooklyn, because Bed-Stuy, as the locals call it, is one of the neighborhoods in Brooklyn with the most Airbnb’s. They’re usually around the Utica Ave subway station (on the A / C lines).

  • Utica Ave to Fulton Street (first stop in Manhattan on the A Express Train): 15 mins
  • Utica Ave to Central Park: 40 mins
  • Utica Ave to Times Square: 35 mins




Bushwick is another neighborhood with lots of Airbnb’s, and while you’re quickly in Midtown with the M or L train, you’ll have to change trains in Manhattan to get to places of interest:

  • Myrtle-Wyckoff to Delancey Street (first stop in Manhattan on the M train): 15 mins
  • Myrtle-Wyckoff to 1 Ave (first stop in Manhattan on the L train): 20 mins
  • Myrtle-Wyckoff to Central Park: 40 mins
  • Myrtle-Wyckoff to Times Square: 35 mins

Flatbush / Kensington

A neighborhood south of Prospect Park, which has many inexpensive Airbnb’s. Here are the travel times to Manhattan:

  • Beverly Road to Fulton Street (first stop in Manhattan on the 2 / 5 Trains): 30 mins
  • Beverly Road to Canal Street (first stop in Manhattan on the Q Train): 25 mins
  • Beverly Road to Times Square (on the 2 train): 45 mins
  • Beverly Road to Central Park (on the 2 train): 55 mins



These are just a few examples to show you the actual travel times to some of the places of interest you may want to visit in Manhattan. Before booking an Airbnb in Brooklyn, I would recommend doing the following things:

Tips for booking an Airbnb in Brooklyn

1 Get in touch with the host and ask what the closest subway station is. Then use GoogleMaps to map out some of the routes you know for sure you’ll be taking. For example, if you want to see a Broadway show, how long will the ride back to your Airbnb be? Are you planning to visit Harlem or the Upper West Side, or places in other boroughs such as Queens or the Bronx? Map out how long the commute will be. Once you know how long these rides will be, decide if (possibly) long commutes are worth the cheap accommodation. I had visitors tell me that they wished they’d booked something closer to Manhattan because it was usually too far to go back to their place in between activities.

2 Read the reviews of previous guests. Guests usually mention in their review how long the commute to major sights is, and they will also mention other issues – if there were any. Airbnb’s in Brooklyn can be hit or miss. Unfortunately, there are quite a few not-so-great Airbnb’s listed, which is why it’s important to read recent reviews.

3 Research the neighborhood your Airbnb is in. Just a quick search on GoogleMaps to see if there are good restaurants nearby, a coffee shop, a supermarket.. that will give you an idea of what’s around your Airbnb. Bed-Stuy and Flatbush for example are huge neighborhoods – you want to make sure you have a few things nearby so that you don’t have to get on the subway or take an Uber every time you want to go out to eat or to shop at a grocery store.williamsburg brooklyn

Where to stay in Brooklyn: The best areas for Airbnb’s in Brooklyn

Williamsburg: This is the most popular neighborhood in Brooklyn, a young crowd, lots of restaurants, bars and nightlife in walking distance. You’re also just one stop away from Manhattan on the L (subway). There is a big WholeFoods supermarket on Bedford Ave, the main commercial street of the neighborhood, if you’d like to make some of your meals in your Airbnb, but there are also plenty of good restaurants and coffee shops nearby.



Greenpoint: Greenpoint is just north of Williamsburg, a charming neighborhood with a plethora of restaurants and cafes, beautiful architecture and a tranquil vibe. The only thing that’s not great about Greenpoint is the fact that there’s no direct connection to Manhattan. You have to take the G (subway) either south to Williamsburg and connect to the L, or north to Queens and connect to the E / M / 7 trains to get to Manhattan.



Park Slope: A beautiful historic district close to Prospect Park, popular with families. This neighborhood has many great places to eat and drink along the two main commercial drags, 5th Ave and 7th Ave. There are supermarkets nearby, and you have several subway connections to Manhattan: the 2/ 3 from Grand Army Plaza, the G / F from 7 Ave and 4 Ave, the R from Union Street.



Bushwick: A quirky neighborhood with lots of street art and a large artist community, but also home to a large Hispanic community. There are excellent places to eat, cool bars and some places to go out in Bushwick. This neighborhood is popular with a younger crowd and alternative travelers. It takes about 30 mins to get to places of interest in Manhattan, and there are two subway lines, the L and M (and the J / Z lines in South Bushwick).




Clinton Hill & Fort Greene: There are some great Airbnb’s in these two historic neighborhoods, where you find gorgeous Brownstone architecture and historic homes. There aren’t as many restaurants and bars as in Williamsburg, but still a decent number of very good eateries nearby. If your Airbnb is in Clinton Hill, you’ll be close to the G line (subway), which connects to the A train in Downtown Brooklyn to get you to Manhattan. If you’re staying in Fort Greene, you will be close to Atlantic Terminal, where lots of different subway lines go to Manhattan (the 2, 3, 4, 5, N, R, Q, B, D) as well as a direct train to JFK Airport (the LIRR).



Where to stay in Brooklyn: Airbnb vs Hotel

Airbnb’s are definitely cheaper than hotels in Brooklyn, especially if you’re only renting a room in somebody’s apartment – you can find rooms for as little as $50 a night.

With hotels, it’s similar to Airbnb’s: the closer to Manhattan, the more you’ll be paying for your stay.

where to stay in Brooklyn

The best hotels to stay at in Brooklyn

Downtown Brooklyn is the neighborhood in Brooklyn that has the most chain hotels, like:

Downtown Brooklyn is also close to a large number of subway lines and it is close to Manhattan.

The best (read: fanciest!) hotel in this part of Brooklyn is the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge (rooms start at $249 per night), which has an exquisite rooftop pool and stunning views right over the Brooklyn Bridge and the Downtown Manhattan skyline.

Image via

Budget Boutique Hotel in Brooklyn

A cheaper option in Downtown Brooklyn is the NU Hotel (rates start at US$164), as of now the only boutique hotel in that area. The NU Hotel has a great artsy vibe and features street art from local artists in the room.

Hotels in Williamsburg, Brooklyn: the trendiest area of Brooklyn

Most people who visit Brooklyn want to stay in Williamsburg, which is known as Brooklyn’s hipster neighborhood. Because of its popularity, many boutique hotels have opened in Williamsburg over the last few years, and if you love boutique hotels as much as I do, you’ll want to treat yourself to a stay at one of these five hotels – they’re all in a great location near the East River, just one stop on the subway or the ferry from Manhattan, and surrounded by dozens of fantastic bars, restaurants, cafes and shops.

The Williamsburg Hotel via

Budget option in Williamsburg: The Pod

The Pod Brooklyn is located right in the heart of Williamsburg and Queen Pods start at only US$85! (Note that rates fluctuate drastically, depending on what season you’re visiting New York).

High-quality budget hotels in Brooklyn

Most of these hotels are a bit further away from Manhattan, but offer great value for money. Before booking any of them, I recommend putting the address into GoogleMaps and get directions to a place you’re planning to visit in Manhattan, so that you’ll get an idea of what your commute will be. For someone who plans on seeing a Broadway show, the 45-minute commute to the RL Hotel in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood might be too much of a hassle.

Here are the best Brooklyn budget hotels that are further away from Manhattan but that offer great value for money:

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Five Mistakes Travelers Make When Visiting Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon9

Antelope Canyon is a destination that has exploded in popularity over the past few years – and rightly so. This canyon in Arizona is, despite its rather small size, one of the most remarkable canyons in the entire United States. The increase in popularity and visitors means that more and more travelers are arriving at Antelope Canyon unprepared.  If you’re planning to visit Antelope Canyon, give this article a read to make sure you don’t make mistakes like…. 
antelope canyon

1 Not booking tickets in advance

Antelope Canyon is one of the most popular destinations in the American West. People come from all over the world to see the beautiful slot canyon, and many travelers feel that a trip to Las Vegas or the Grand Canyon is incomplete without a visit to Antelope Canyon. The problem with that is that the number of people that are allowed to enter Antelope Canyon has a daily cap. To ensure that you don’t get shut out on your trip to Antelope Canyon, it is extremely important to book your tickets in advance.  This will guarantee that you get access to the wonder and that you get to see it at the time you desire. We recommend booking your tickets as early as possible, particularly if you are going to visit Antelope Canyon over a holiday or the summer.  It is recommended to book direct with a local tour company, check out this list of Antelope Canyon tour operators.Antelope Canyon rockIf you end up visiting Antelope Canyon during a busy holiday and you didn’t plan ahead, some online travel agents have started listing tickets on their sites, beware as the reviews are mixed for these Antelope Canyon tickets sold via a third party. Another option if you are shut out of Antelope Canyon tickets is to book a tour to Antelope Canyon, and the tour operator will provide the tickets for tours they lead to Antelope Canyon.Antelope Canyon

2 Not wearing the right shoes

Antelope Canyon is a hike—there is no getting around it. There is over a mile’s worth of walking and millions of grains of sand you will encounter along the way. The right shoes are essential for a great tour. Open-toed shoes should be avoided. Wear something that can keep sand out and will help you navigate stairs. Something comfortable and athletic is advised, but full-on hiking boots are not necessary. We like to wear trainers (tennis shoes, athletic shoes, sneakers—whatever you want to call them). These will keep you comfortable, safe, and the majority of the sand will stay in Antelope Canyon and out of your shoes!antelope canyon arizona

3 Not following the rules

Antelope Canyon tours are offered by a local tour operator. These tour operators run tours with permission from the Navajo Nation Parks service. The Navajo Nation Parks service has a set of rules that must be followed while inside Antelope Canyon. It is the job of the local tour company to make sure its guests follow these rules. Without tight control over their guests’ behavior, they risk losing their right to lead tours at Antelope Canyon. For this reason, they can be very strict when it comes to rule enforcement. 

The two rules that guests most often come up against are that there are no bags are allowed, and no photos are allowed on the stairs.Antelope Canyon outside

We have witnessed hundreds of guests make a mad dash from the tour waiting room back to their cars to put their bags away before the tour begins. Slower ones don’t make it back in time and miss their tour. Despite the numerous and clear warnings at multiple stages before the tour starts, there are always a few people who think they will be the ones to get a bag into Antelope Canyon (or, more likely, they just didn’t pay attention to the signs along the way). Don’t risk missing your Antelope Canyon tour; don’t bring a bag with you.

Another rule that often trips up a visit to Lower Antelope Canyon is the “No Photos on the Stairs” rule. There are a few sets of stairs throughout the canyon, but guests are most likely to break this rule when they first enter. There are four flights of stairs when you first enter the canyon, all of which are a bit steep and require all of your attention and both of your hands.  The problem is that this is the first time guests enter Antelope Canyon, and it is gorgeous! And what is most people’s first reaction when they see something gorgeous? That’s right, they grab their phone to take a photo of it! The problem is: if you’re caught taking photos while you’re on the stairs, they will simply kick you out of the canyon! We tell our guests that it isn’t worth the risk.  Follow the rules, and focus on the stairs.Antelope Canyon Stairs

4 Not paying attention to time differences

Time zones are generally pretty easy to follow within the continental United States. There are four major time zones, and your phone automatically detects them and adjusts accordingly. There is one place where this strategy does not work, and that is northern Arizona. Let’s talk about why cell phones get tripped up on time in the region and what you can do about it.

Warning! The next three bullet points may make your head spin. If you want to know how to get the time right when visiting Antelope Canyon, skip these three bullet points and skip to “An Easy Fix” below.antelope canyon1

  • Arizona is located in the Mountain Time Zone, but unlike almost everywhere else in the United States, Arizona doesn’t observe daylight savings time. That means that while most Americans change their clocks in spring and fall, Arizona does not. Therefore, during the winter months, the time in Arizona is the same as the rest of Mountain Standard Time, Utah included. During the rest of the year, the time in Arizona is the same as the Pacific Standard Time, Nevada included. Visitors who drive from Nevada or Utah can easily get tripped up by this situation. It doesn’t help that some very popular technology also get tripped up by the time zones. Be careful using Google Maps. When driving from Nevada to Arizona in the summertime, it may show your arrival time as one hour later than your actual arrival time.
  • Antelope Canyon is located on the Navajo Nation. Unlike the rest of Arizona, the Navajo Nation does observe daylight savings time, meaning for half of the year, the time on the Navajo Nation is different from the rest of Antelope Canyon. Fortunately for visitors, Antelope Canyon doesn’t observe Navajo Nation time, they observe Arizona time. This can still confuse your phone.  See “An Easy Fix” below to remedy this.
  • Antelope Canyon is located fewer than ten miles from the Utah border. When you are visit Antelope Canyon and the surrounding areas, it is not uncommon for your cell phone to ping a tower that is actually in Utah, which will change the time on your phone.

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An Easy Fix

There is an easy fix for the above problems. When entering Arizona, set your phone for a manual time switch and set the city to Phoenix – that’s it! Do this and you won’t have any time troubles while visiting Antelope Canyon.

5 Expecting to see light beams outside of light beam season

Before visiting Antelope Canyon, the iconic image that everyone thinks of is a beam of light shooting down through Antelope Canyon. It is natural that people hope to see this when booking a tour. What many people don’t know is that the light beams aren’t as frequent as photos make it look; you must plan carefully if you want to see them.

To start, light beams are only visible between March and October. Any tour booked outside of these months won’t be able to see the light beams. Additionally, the light beams can only be seen from approximately 11 AM to 1 PM. Finally, the light beams can be seen best at Upper Antelope Canyon, it is important to know the difference between Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon. If it is light beams you are looking for, Upper Antelope Canyon is the one you want to choose.antelope canyon light

The biggest mistake people make is showing up in a month like November expecting to see the light beams. This isn’t going to happen, so it is best to be prepared.  The light beams may be overrated; we don’t recommend planning your entire trip to Antelope Canyon based on the chance of seeing a light beam.  The canyon itself is many magnitudes better than the light beams and looks beautiful year-round.antelope canyon entrance and exit

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Top hiking trails in Los Angeles for the hiker in you

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Hiking is one of the most fun activities to do in LA, allowing you to take in the stunning scenery around – and right within – the city. Whether you are someone who has been raised in the city or a traveler visiting LA for the first time, you should check out one of the many hiking trails in L.A. The hike doesn’t have to be overly strenuous or long: there are plenty of shorter hikes in L.A., too. Even if you’re not an avid hiker, trust me: you will enjoy every single of the hikes below – all of which are trails I consider to be the best hikes in Los Angeles. Get packing today and return with a backpack full of memories and adrenaline rushes.

Head out to the Hollywood Hills

Though this is a three-mile tame loop, which doesn’t sound like much, it’s the 1,821-foot elevation is that makes this hike quite challenging – especially for novice hikers.  The Wisdom Tree at the top should be your goal as it is said to be the only survivor of a 2007 wildfire. Check out the tree on its personal Instagram page. If you wish to extend the loop, climb further up to see the Hollywood Sign. The downhill journey is easy, and even though you’ll huff and puff your way up to the top, the views from the top are absolutely worth it. Don’t forget to pack water and sunscreen! Since there is no proper trailhead parking lot, you’ll have to park your car in the Beachwood Canyon neighborhood, ideally along along Lake Hollywood Drive. Don’t leave valuables in the car while you’re on the trail, especially if you want to head up to the Hollywood sign for sunset (in that case, make sure you pack a flashlight for the way down, or make sure your phone has enough battery). Luggage storage services in Los Angeles can be found easily, if hikes in Los Angeles

Malibu’s Grotto trail is fascinating

You must be wondering what gave this trail such a name. Well, it is the standing water that has done the honors. But there’s more – the surrounding geographical features are just as stunning, which is why the Malibu Grotto Trail is considered one of the best hikes in Los Angeles. There are tall boulders, some of the friendliest frogs, and shady nooks that complete the scenery. Though the hike is fairly easy, you can expect to get stained clothes by the end of it since you will be scrambling into the grotto, so don’t wear your fanciest hiking attire on this trail. If you are heading out with a car or bike, park at the Circle X ranch campground.

Take your dog to Wilacre Park

Are you a dog-lover? Are you traveling with your dog? Then why not go on a hike with your furry, woofy, paw-buddy? Wilacre Park at Studio City has a dog-friendly trail with moderate inclination. There will be a point when you reach the fork. Continue to the right for a quick hike, or turn left for a longer, more challenging and beautiful route. The local fauna is bound to leave you enchanted. Also good to know: the parking lot at the trail head is free!

And if you want to take your dog on more than just one hike – here are seven more scenic off-leash dog walks in Los Angeles.

Explore the less traversed Los Liones Canyon

Los Angeles can be overwhelming – the traffic, the smog, the noise.. If you are someone who is looking for some time away from people and want to get some solitude, then the Los Liones Canyon is the best hike in L.A. for you. It is one of the most stunning spots on the Westside where you can sit and sip coffee, enjoy a book, or walk and explore and vicinity. The trail isn’t very long – it stretches for approximately 1.5 miles and is perfect if you’re looking for a short pre-lunch hike. If you want a longer loop, then you can opt for the 7-miles Parker Mesa Overlook trail, which starts via the Los Liones Canyon trail but goes further into the Santa Monica Mountains. If you opt for the longer hike, don’t leave any valuables in your car. Luckily, luggage storage Los Angeles is never a hassle for anyone.

How about the rock pools at Malibu Creek State Park?

For some of the best hiking trails in LA, head to Malibu Creek State Park. There are a number of hikes here: the Cage Creek Trail, the Lookout Trail, the Cistern Trail and the most popular one: the Rock Pools Trail. The rock pools are easily accessible and make for a picturesque spot for photography lovers. Since this is one of the most popular spots for hiking in the area, you’ll definitely come across other hikers on the trails here. Diving into the creek is forbidden yet it is not uncommon to see people in the water here. This is a trail that is perfect for the entire family – kids will love it, too.

Read also: Five cities surrounding Los Angeles that you need to visit

Malibu Creek State Park

These hiking trails in L.A. have something for everyone: stunning ocean scenery, rugged forest tracks, and rocky canyons. There is no perfect age or time to go hiking – just do it. Some hiking essentials you always need to have: light backpacks, comfortable shoes and clothes, a water bottle, and some snacks.

Photo Credit: Images 3 and 5 used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (3) Los Liones Trail by Megan Rosenbloom; (5) Malibu Creek State Park by Melody
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