• 5 Not Unique But Delicious Costa Rican Snacks

    Delicious helado inthe streets of San Jose, Costa Rica

    Delicious helado inthe streets of San Jose, Costa Rica

    Costa Rican cuisine is very similar to other Spanish counterparts such as Cuban and Colombian. However, just like each country in the world has their own personal spin on life, this also holds true for the food!

    Yes, you may have experienced these delightful bites in another country, but no trip to Costa Rica is complete unless you check these off your food bucket list.

    1. Imperial Beer

    I am not much of beer drinking, however, Imperial Beer is where it was at for me. I loved drinking like a local and it really just hit the spot on humid days by the beach.

    Imperial Beer after a day at the Manuel Antonio Beach

    Imperial Beer after a day at the Manuel Antonio Beach

    2. Tropical Fruits

    Islands and places near the equator are famous for their fresh fruits and Costa Rica was no exception. From their blood oranges to star fruit, everything tasted so flavorful that it was great! But the standout fruit snack was their pineapple. Better than Hawaii or the Philippines, Costa Rica is where I have had THE BEST pinapples of my life. It’s also their main food export, so I’m sure that means something. Don’t believe me? Go there and try it or come at me bruh! ;P

    3. Casado

    A casado is a fairly all encompasing meal in Costa Rica. It has rice, black beans, plantains, salad, a tortilla, and an optional entrée that may include chicken, beef, pork, fish and so on and so forth. Get the picture? It’s their go to meal that you can mix and match to your heart’s desire. You can usually find these at small food outlets called sodas for a super cheap price, sometimes as low as $5 for a huge plate of food.

    Typical bistec casado

    Typical bistec casado

    4. Gallo Pinto

    Gallo pinto somewhat ties in to the casado except this is just a focus on rice and beans. I normally had more of this in the morning for breakfast versus the afternoon. If you aren’t down to eat a whole casado, sometimes just a portion of gallo pinto is all you need to get the tico (locals) experience.

    Examples of gallo pinto for breakfast along with some fresh fruit!

    Examples of gallo pinto for breakfast along with some fresh fruit!

    5. Plantains

    Last but ABSOLUTELY NOT least are plantains. They serve plantains with literally every meal. Breakfast.. lunch…dinner. Everything comes with plantains. You are meant to eat them as part of the main meal, however, I like to save the sweet flavor as dessert. Long story short, I ate them all the time, they were always delicious and I was part plantain by the time I left Costa Rica.

    TELL ME! Have you been to Costa Rica? What was your favorite food item or snack?

  • What To Know When Going To Manuel Antonio

    Walk through the Cloud Forest (cloudy rainforest) to get to the beach of Manuel Antonio.

    Walk through the Cloud Forest (cloudy rainforest) to get to the beach of Manuel Antonio.

    Manuel Antonio is one of Costa Rica’s National Parks. Word of mouth and a few helpful forums told me this was the place to go to experience the beach life of Costa Rica. I don’t want to say they were wrong, but I do want to say to take it with a grain of salt. By that I don’t mean it was terrible! All I mean is be prepared!

    The idea of going to the beach from San Jose is all too tempting. I didn’t realize that 2.5 hours per google maps actually meant 3.5 – 4 hours in Costa Rica. The laid back attitude and traffic will delay your journey. A day trip may not be in your best interest if you are on a time crunch. Be ready to leave early in the morning and arrive late at night if traveling from San Jose to Manuel Antonio.

    We made a stop to see some crocodiles.

    We made a stop to see some crocodiles.

    Closer image of the crocodiles. There were so many!

    Closer image of the crocodiles. There were so many!

    So when you finally arrive, let me talk about the humidity… again. I know. But of course the humidity is ampliphied by the proximity of the beach. Of course wear appropriate clothes, but mostly, be aware of the humidity because you may find it hard to breathe. The walk from the entrance to the beach is steep in both directions, and like me, you may have a difficulty breathing due to a heart problem or asthma, etc. Bring plenty of water to keep yourself cool.

    Walking through the rainforest of Manuel Antonio.

    Walking through the rainforest of Manuel Antonio.

    You are walking through an actual rainforest, or cloud forest as they are called in Costa Rica. That means there are animals everywhere! Monkeys, birds, deer, moths, sloths, and mosquitoes! These animals will want to come to you… I don’t just mean the cute monkeys. I also mean the mosquitoes. Wear bug spray, but put it on BEFORE you get in to the park. They are very protective of their wildlife and park rangers will frown upon you launching bug spray in to the air. I’m warning you. The beautiful rainforest demands blood for you to pass through it.

    So many monkeys! Almost as many as there are bugs.

    So many monkeys! Almost as many as there are bugs.

    There are SO MANY PEOPLE. It is not only a popular tourist destination for foreigners, but for Costa Ricans alike. This is not the park to have a secluded moment on the beach… UNLESS… you are brave and willing to wonder off from the pack, like I was. I found a little cove at the far end of the beach where there was no one! Even though I was only a 10 minute walk from the masses, it was a welcomed break from the crowds.

    Found my little peace of quiet in Manuel Antonio

    Found my little peace of quiet in Manuel Antonio

    Speaking of the beaches, Manuel Antonio beach is beautiful and makes for some great photo ops, but it’s a rocky beach and difficult to get in the water if you have sensitive feet. I know Costa Rica is known to have some of the MOST BEAUTIFUL BEACHES IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD!! But… I would say this one was only super nice. I know I can’t judge the whole country based off of one beach, but I’m just saying. Maybe it was also the cloudy weather? I guess I may never know… unless I go back of course.

    After your time spent in Manuel Antonio, prepare for the trek back to the entrance. It’s exhausting and you think you’re never going to make it, but just remember, there’s cold coconut water and beer at the end of the rainforest. Cheers.

    Imperial Beer after a day at the Manuel Antonio Beach

    Imperial Beer after a day at the Manuel Antonio Beach

  • Things To Know When Visiting Costa Rica

    Hanging out on the beach at Manuel Antonio! The humidit was intense.

    Hanging out on the beach at Manuel Antonio! The humidit was intense.


    It rains and it’s humid. Like REALLY humid.

    I know Costa Rica rains.. hence their rainforests. I did not know that it rained so much too the point where I don’t remember being completely dry. My hair… my skin… my clothes.. EVERYTHING was moist the whole week I was there. I’ve been in humidity, but sometimes I forget how sticky it can be. My recommendation is DO NOT where form fitting shorts, because you WILL have a terrible time trying to put them back on once the humidity has kicked in.

    They take USD

    No need to change your USD currency if you will be visitng popular tourist destinations. $1 was equal to $500 Colones when I was there. Fairly straight forward to buy items, your change will just come back to you in Colones. I personally still enjoy changing my currency. I like to think it makes me look more local.

    One of my favorite looking buildings in San Jose, Costa Rica.

    One of my favorite looking buildings in San Jose, Costa Rica.

    It’s not as cheap as you think it would be

    Speaking of money… be warned.. Costa Rica is not a budget traveker’s paradise. Sure you can buy a meal for about $5 – $8 bucks at a local Soda (small hole in the wall spot). The downside to Sodas is that they are not commonly located in the capital. In the capital, where I stayed, the prices were equivaletn to the United States. Sometimes I would catch a break and buy street empanadas or meat on a stick for a low cost, but that was only sometimes. The hotels, transportation and tours were all still relatively pricey. Not a bad thing, but just something to be aware of.

    The Capital (San Jose) is pretty centrally located. Centrally FAR.

    I wish I had time to bum around on a small beach town, but alas, I only had 1 week. Instead of being isolated on a beautiful beach, I opted to see as much of the country as I possibly could in a short amount of time. I chose to stay in San Jose which was centrally located to the sites I wanted to see. Now, if you want to follow in my foot steps, I must warn you that just because it was central, doesn’t mean it was close to anything. San Jose was roughly 2 hours away from anything of natural beauty. It’s a sweet location for some people, but I know all that travel time is not ideal for all. I personally enjoyed it.

    San Jose is the red dot. We went to North to Arenal, South West to Manuel Antonio and East to Pacuare.

    San Jose is the red dot. We went to North to Arenal, South West to Manuel Antonio and East to Pacuare.

    Bring Bug Spray and Sunblock

    I don’t get bug bites and sun burns are a foreign concept to me… but my best friend was with me and ended up with about 25 bug bites and some gorgeous looking sun burns. In fairness, I used sunblock too. But not because I burn, but because I don’t want cancer.

    You need to like animals

    Costa Rica is full of wild animals who have integrated their natural habitat to that of their surroundings. For the most part, they won’t bother you if you don’t bother them. As a matter of fact, the locals don’t like you bothering them, so don’t. But if you’re calm and steady, you can see some real gems! You have more luck seeing animals when near the rainforest versus the city. For example, I saw the most animals when I was hiking through Manuel Antonio, their National Park and also Pacuare River when I was river rafting. Some animals I saw are pictured below! (But I definitely saw more than what is pictured.)

    It's a sloth in a tree!

    It’s a sloth in a tree!


    A deer! A female! Ray... a drop of golden sun...

    A deer! A female! Ray… a drop of golden sun…


    It's Marcel from Friends!

    It’s Marcel from Friends!

    Pura Vida

    Last but not least, be ready to learn the Pura Vida lifestyle! Pura Vida is a saying meaning Pure Life, but it really means anything positive. It means, have a nice day, thank you, you’re amazing, enjoy your stay, have a great life, best wishes, cheers, you’re a rock star… you get the deal? The Costa Rican people are happy and kind and you’ll have the best experience possible if you let their lifestyle find a place in your heart too.

    PURA VIDA!

    Pura Vida it up at Manuel Antonio

    Pura Vida it up at Manuel Antonio

  • All Toll Roads Lead To Miami

    Welcome to Little Havana! Miami street art!

    Welcome to Little Havana! Miami street art!

    When I planned my Florida escapade it was for the sole purpose of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! But after I realized how much time I had, I decided to explore what else the Sunshine Stae had to offer. Without a full minute’s thought, the first answer was Miami!!! So what if it was 3.5 hours away from where I was staying… so what if I could only be in the city for about 6 hours? It would be worth it right? RIGHT? Yes… and no.

    NO

    1. The 3.5 hour drive turned in to a 5 hour drive because of the terrible rain. And YES! It was my idea to power through the rain, but who knew it would be so scary?

    A quick glance of that crazy Floriday rain!

    A quick glance of that crazy Floriday rain!

    2. TOLL ROADS! TOLL ROADS! TOLL ROADS!!! Goodness gracious. Be prepared to pay at least $15 EACH WAY when driving from Orlando to Miami. Be prepared to pay toll roads in general when in south Florida. It was stupid how many there were and some even need exact change!! AHHHH! Be warned!
    3. If you’re not going for the party scene… arriving in the evening can be kinda underwhelming.. womp womp…actually arriving late in the evening was a bummer regardless because I didn’ even get t see the beach. *SIGH*

    YES

    1. I can say I’ve been to Miami and experienced Little Havana. (And see some of Calle Ocho street art.)
    2. Some of the food at Versaille’s Restaurant was underwhelming, but their Cuban Coffee (colada) and flan delivered!

    Cuban Flan and Cuban Coffee aka Colada from Versailles Restaurant.

    Cuban Flan and Cuban Coffee aka Colada from Versailles Restaurant.

    3. I love looking at pretty houses and Miami and South Beach have a bunch of those!
    4. Even though I wasn’t there to party, it was a Friday night and you can totally get a feel for the vibe of the city! It’s definitely enough to make you want to give it another chance.
    5. I got to use my (limited) Spanish skills in Little Havana and felt totally local and boss.

    So overall… I have no opinion on Miami and that’s rare for me to say. I didn’t experience it long it enough to love it, hate it, or judge it. I think given more time and maybe better conditions (both weather and mental preparation of toll roads), I would have a clearer idea of what Miami is and what it has to offer.

    So tell me! Am I missing out on the Miami madness? Or did I dodge a bullet?

  • There and Back With Harry Potter Snacks

    Frozen Butterbeer and Hogwart's Castle

    Frozen Butterbeer and Hogwart’s Castle

    If anyone has ever seen a Harry Potter movie, you will know how beautiful they make the food look. I’ve had the opportunity to visit the UK and let me tell you, the food is not as magnificent as it looks in the Harry Potter movies.  BUT! At The WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER, it’s a different story! The food looks.. well.. magical. Everything from the pot pies, Honeydukes candy , ice cream and butterbeer look delicious and look like something out of the movie itself.

    It can be overwhelming in a theme park, with so many (overpriced) food items, you want to make the right decision. Your tummy and wallet count on it! There are of course food items at the other areas of Universal and Islands of Adventure, but for this particular post, I will focus solely on The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. Alright…hop on your virtual Hogwarts Express and let’s go!

    Diagon Alley:

    This is on the Universal Side, technically the newer part of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but also the smaller area.

    Florean Forescue’s Ice Cream Parlor

    Although this ice cream parlor has some rad flavor combos like chocolate chili , earl grey and lavender, strawberry and peanut-butter. All for the price of  $4.99in a cup or if you prefer a cone, $5.99. The true star for me (as you’ll see from this list) is the butterbeer soft serve. It’s not only my favorite way to enjoy butterbeer, but the creamy texture is devine on a warm, Florida day. You can also enjoy this treat for $4.99 in a cup or again, $5.99 in a cone.

    Soft serve butterbeer ice cream in Diagon Alley!

    Soft serve butterbeer ice cream in Diagon Alley!

    Leaky Cauldron

    I didn’t personally eat here, but I  hung around the restaurant and lurked enough people’s food plates and stared at the menu enough to have a solid idea about this place. If you’re looking for “real” food in Diagon Alley, this is your jam. You can have popular British items such as: Toad in the hole, Scotch Eggs and Guinness Stew. These items are going to be a little more expensive, at about $13 – $18 a plate, but you’ll find yourself full for much longer.

    That’s it for Diagon Alley, short and sweet, just like the place!

    Hogsmeade:

    Located within Islands of Adventure, and what is considered the “main park” of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Hogsmeade will have more dining options overall.

    Butterbeer

    To be fair, butterbeer can be found in both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, but since I had all my butterbeer in Hogsmeade, that’s where it’s being categorized. You can have it hot (inside of the Three Broomsticks), soda style, or frozen. All versions have a marshmallow whip on top that really seal the deal on the flavor profile. You HAVE to try all three. My favorite liquid form was the frozen butterbeer. But any of them make a magical beverage. You can purchase the butterbeer for $7 regularly, or you can spend the extra money (which I did) and get the souvenir mug for $12. The mug is only for the frozen or soda since it’s not meant for hot beverages.

    All the butterbeer and real beers in Hogsmeade.

    All the butterbeer and real beers in Hogsmeade.

    Three Broomsticks

    Similar to how The Leaky Cauldron is the main food hub in Diagon Alley, The Three Broomsticks is the main dining option inside of Hogsmeade. The Three Broomsticks offers popular British and Harry Potter food staples such as: Cornish Pasties $9.99, Fish and Chips $13.99 and Shepherd’s Pie $12.49. This is a great place for a mid day break and to fuel up for the evening.

    Honeydukes

    I feel like if you’ve seen the movies, read the books, then you too have been dying to go to Honeydukes in Hogsmeade. The beauty of this store is… it truly looks like the movie! The walls are lined with candy. There are cockroach clusters (yum!), lemon drops, pumpkin pasties and the ever popular, Chocolate Frogs $12 and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans $11. No trip to Hogsmeade is complete until you buy or try those two. The price is a little steep for candy, but it’s really the experience you’re buying with that.

    One of the candy walls inside of Honeydukes.

    One of the candy walls inside of Honeydukes.

    Those are indeed the ABSOLUTELY, WITHOUT A DOUBT, YOU BETTER DO IT, items from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter that I believe are worth the time standing in line and the money it takes from your wallet. (See my other post, HARRY POTTER AND THE THEME PARK THAT TOOK ALL OF MY MONEY.)

    But there are some notable mentions to add to this list as well.

    If you have to’s:

    Pumpkin juice

    Similar to Butterbeer, the Pumpkin juice comes in different forms. The fancy bottle for $7 or Pumpkin Fizz (carbonated pumpkin juice) in a plastic cup for $5. The latter can be found in the Leaky Cauldron or the Three Broomsticks. Now, it’s not a must have for me because I Loooove love pumpkin, and the drink did not taste like it. It was a little bitter but still super sweet. It’s worth a try if you have the time and money, but you’re experience at the park won’t be lost if you don’t try it. Just take pictures of the cool bottle.

    Pumpkin Juice and their cool bottles.

    Pumpkin Juice and their cool bottles.

    Hog’s Head

    Personally, I’m sure this ends up on some people’s MUST DO list, but I’m not a big drinker so I’ll categorize this here. The Hog’s Head is connected to the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade. It’s not a full bar area, just a bar. They have some custom beers on tap such as Wizard’s Brew $8 a pint and Dragon’s Scale for $8 a pint. Of course it’s fun to try a custom beer, but for the $16 it costs to try both, I would recommend trying a sip from a friend’s and using the money on souvenirs.

    Gillywater

    Last but not least on my if you have to’s… this is a seriously if you have to aka don’t bother. The bottle looks similar to a water bottle.. .yet it’s labeled Gillywater and is a shocking $8!! I wonder what it is? SPOILER ALERT: It’s an $8 bottle of water. Seriously save your money. They have water fountains.

    Needless to say, I was full and happy from my time in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I hope you have a productive feasting. Let me know what snacks you enjoyed and what snacks you passed on.

     

     

  • Harry Potter and The Theme Park That Took All Of My Money

    Hogwart's Castle within the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

    Hogwart’s Castle within the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

    So. It finally happened for me. I finally… went… to.. THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER!!!!! Words can’t truly sum up the emotion this created for me. In life, the top two things I love are, 2. London and 1. Harry Potter. Needless to say, The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter had me bursting at the seams with joy. In a nutshell, I ran the whole way from the entrance of Universal Studios until the entrance of Harry Potter World (except for 10 minutes I had to wait before the park actually opened). Once I was actually in front of the Islands of Adventure entrance… I broke down. From huge smile to crying face in 2 seconds flat. I was. just. so. damn. happy.

    Part of Hogsmeade

    Part of Hogsmeade

    So now, about the park. If you love Harry Potter, it’s a Godsend, If you don’t like Harry Potter, you will.High five to Universal because both areas, Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, look damn near identical to the movies. The buildings have that magical charm and Hogwarts Castle, takes my breath away.

    Just like most theme parks, the rides inside of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter can get LONG. But that’s ok! As long as you hit up The Forbidden Journey first thing in the morning, you only need to wait maybe 20 minutes. (I did, at least.) The Forbidden Journey is located inside of the Hogwarts Castle and they do a fine job of bringing to life some of my favorite aspects of Hogwarts. That would be.. the talking painting, the Fat Lady, the entrance to Dumbledore’s office, the defense against the dark arts classroom, and the entrance to The Room of Requirements, to name a few.

    The entrance to Dumbledore's office.

    The entrance to Dumbledore’s office.

    So the ride is a 4D ride.. you’re in a little ‘carriage” that follows a giant screen. Think Disney Haunted Mansion, except faster and with a screen in front of you. I personally loved it, but be warned, some get motion sickness. I just so happen to love roller coasters, so it worked out for me. If you love it, be sure to ride it again! I went 4 times.

    The Flight of the Hippogriff and Dragon Challenge are both within the Hogsmeade park, and they’re great! Especially Dragon Challenge. But the other ultra popular Harry Potter Ride is Escape From Gringotts on the Universal side. Similar to The Forbidden Journey in both experience and wait time, this was my second favorite line to wait in. You can see the goblins working and snap some pictures of the inside of Gringotts, aka one of the safest places in the Wizarding World. The true highlight of this ride though, is the dragon on the OUTSIDE of the building that breathes fire every few minutes. Talk about realistic right?

    The dragon of Gringotts

    The dragon of Gringotts

    Now, I talked about the items that come with your admission ticket, but that’s not the only thing you die hard Harry Potter fans will send your money on. The souvenirs are top notch. Each shop has something different to offer. There’s candy at Honeydukes, quidditch must haves from the Quidditch Supply Store, things that make you giggle from Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, a wand from Ollivander’s,  and dark magic items from Borgin and Burke. I bought something from every store! (Not to mention food… which I will have to talk about in a completely different post.)

    Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes in Diagon Alley

    Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes in Diagon Alley

    So needless to say, bring all the money $$$ because this park does a damn good job of making you spend it, and it will take it happily. In fairness though, it’s worth every penny for the Potterheads out there who want to bring home as much magic as possible. 🙂

    The best way to really understand what I’m talking about is to see an experience everything first hand and I HIGHLY suggest you do so. Don’t wait 5 years like I did! But when you finally make it to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, let me give you some pro tips.

    1. As mentioned, get to The Forbidden Journey ASAP. Do this also for Escape From Gringotts (Preferably go at least two days so you can prioritize appropriately.)
    2. Travel light throughout the park, save souvenirs for the last day because you will HAVE to put your personal items inside of lockers before you get on a ride. Kinda annoying, but rules are rules.
    3. The line for the Hogwart’s Express, which connects Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley can get crazy long. You will be tempted to just walk to each park, but DON’T! It’s not just a train to and from, it’s an experience. So just like the popular rides above, do this early or really late, so you can ride it both ways.

      Just got off the Hogwarts Express.

      Just got off the Hogwarts Express.

    4. I know I just said don’t walk… BUT if you do, be sure to stop next to the entrance of the Hogwart’s Express on the Universal side. Even if you don’t walk, just come out of Diagon Alley and do this…. Go visit 12 Grimmauld Place. You may see Sirius Black! Or at least you’ll see the Knight Bus.

      12 Grimmauld Place.

      12 Grimmauld Place.

    5. Knockturn Alley isn’t meant to be easy to find and most tourists actually can’t find it. For Orlando, it’s at a dead end in the park with the smallest sign that will point you in the right direction. Take the time to find it. When you get there, it’s like another new world. When I went, there were only 5 other tourists in the dark area. It was also storming with lighting which added to the creepy effect of Knockturn Alley, You may also see something Draco fixed….

      The Vanishing Cabinet in Borgin and Burkes.

    6. As mentioned with the storm, don’t let the rain scare you! Most people leave because of the rain and this is the best time to tough it out at the park. Buy a poncho, and keep at it. The crowds will thin, but you’re fun will only increase! Besides, nothing feels more like London, than a rainy night. 🙂

    I know this post was a tad long… but like mentioned in the start, I love Harry Potter… and now you all know a snippet of what I mean by that. Stay tuned for more information about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the amazing food it has to offer. Tell me, have you been to this park? What did you think?

  • Cathedral Gorge

    Isolated Photo Op in Cathedral Gorge

    Isolated Photo Op in Cathedral Gorge

    The sun is starting to shine again in Las Vegas, while I know most of the United States has some snow falling to the ground. However, just because Las Vegas is on the verge of a heat wave doesn’t mean all of Nevada is warming up. Just under 2 hours north is Cathedral Gorge State Park. Now, Cathedral Gorge is usually very dry and is colored red and pink from the ground to the top of the rocky peaks. It also usually features some slot canyons that are ideal for exploring and hiding from the sun. HOWEVER…. I didn’t know that in the winter there it snows… a lot. This wouldn’t sound like such a crazy idea… (snow.. in the winter?? Who would have thought?!) except for the fact that it only snows in southern Nevada maybe… once every two years if we are lucky. So I was shocked to think that a place like Cathedral Gorge, that didn’t feel much higher in elevation had their ground completely covered in the white stuff.

    The drive out of Las Vegas to Cathedral Gorge is easy enough. You drive north. Simple. I noticed on the drive there that there weren’t many people heading the same way. That was totally cool with me since I love an open road and less people in my photographs. Also fun perk, I can take all my middle of the road photos that I love so much! See below to know what I mean. 😉

    Photo of me taking a photo of snow. Middle of the Road, outside of Cathedral Gorge.

    Photo of me taking a photo of snow. Middle of the Road, outside of Cathedral Gorge.

    The drive takes you through so many small towns and I loved it!! And when I mean small towns.. I mean if you blinked or sneezed, you would miss it. However, the snow made it look lost in time and I love moments like that. My favorite part was the park… .no soul around to show you someone was there except for tiny foot prints.

    Somewhere in Northern Nevada.

    Somewhere in Northern Nevada.

    After you soak in the small town liife, you will finally find a small sign that directs you to Cathedral Gorge State Park.

    So… I mentioned snow earlier… well at the park there was so much snow we couldn’t get much further than a mile within the entrance because we lacked snow chains and wanted to err on the side of caution since it’s been over an hour since we located another human.

    Cathedral Gorge 3

    It was of course a bummer we could not explore further in to the park… it was another bummer that the snow was so deep I couldn’t get to the slot canyons!! 🙁 🙁 🙁 I was highly disappointed that I came all that way and couldn’t even snap a good instagram pic. BUT that was all left at the wayside when I stopped to apprciate the beauty of the snow and the quiet of my surroundings. The white snow looked exceptionally white against the pink rocks and the snow was undisturbed with the exception of bunny snowprints. <3 … oh and my phone marks in the snow as I tried to set up my camera phone for a photo… and then I failed. But I think it still turned ok…

    Accidental Photo when trying to have my phone stand up in the snow!

    Accidental Photo when trying to have my phone stand up in the snow!

    After some time of trying to walk through the snow and taking tons of fun photos, it was time to move on. I didn’t want to get caught in the snow in the dark… the drive home was just as lovely and allowed the opportunity to stop next to some lakes for a snack.

    The Road Leading out of Cathedral Gorge.

    The Road Leading out of Cathedral Gorge.

    Overall, even though I did not have a chance to hike the area as much as I would like to, I think seeing it in such a way that can only be described as rare made the day completely worth it. Sometimes magical things happen when nothing goes as planned.

  • Neon Museum

    IMG_20160129_102909

    Las Vegas gets a bad rap for being a cultural black hole. I’m aware the city is known for tearing down buildings before they collect too much history, but that doesn’t mean Las Vegas is void of all cultural interests. Take the Neon Museum for example. Also known as the Neon Boneyard or Neon Graveyard. You know all those flashy neon signs Las Vegas is known for? Well this is where they go to retire. In case you didn’t know… I LOVE NEON. So this place is now near and dear to my heart.

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    Moulin Rouge letters have been moved around to spell “In Love”

    The Neon Museum opened in 2012 and is located in Downtown Las Vegas and is dedicated to preserving the iconic art form of the neon sign. Tours are available daily and I HIGHLY recommend taking the time to visit. I will admit… I’ve lived in Las Vegas for many years and have only recently visited… but I don’t want you to make the same mistake! So when in Las Vegas.. JUST GO. It’s a quick hour tour where you learn the history of most of the 150 neon sign but also of the old buildings it used to light up.

    Neon Graveyard

    Neon Graveyard

    Sahara Hotel!

    Sahara Hotel!

    Most of the iconic Las Vegas Neon signs can be found in the Boneyard. Such as: The Golden Nugget, Moulin Rouge, Binion’s Horseshoe, Sassy Sally, Algiers, Sahara and my favorite, The Stardust! (Just to name a few, of course.) There are so many more that in a way an hour is definitely not enough. If you’re lucky enough to have the chance, I encourage you to visit more than once.

    Sassy Sally... It really means $a$$y $ally

    Sassy Sally… It really means $a$$y $ally

    I would love to give you the history breakdown of all the different signs but that would take the fun out of going yourself! I’ll give you one fun fact… The Stardust used to host “Nuclear Parties” aka…. come to the hotel and let’s watch the atomic testing in the desert. Stardust was also the hotel run by Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal!! Don’t know who that is? Robert Di Niro plays a character based on him in one of my favorite movies… CASINO! Have you heard of it? I hope so. If not…. go watch it now! See why the Stardust is one of my faves? 🙂

    The Stardust

    The Stardust

    So let me know… what do you think of Las Vegas culture? Until next time!

    ;)

    ;)

  • Best 9 Instagram Photos of 2015

    Best 9 Instagram Photos of 2015

    Best 9 Instagram Photos of 2015

    Why Best 9 you may ask? Because 9 photos can fit easily into a perfect grid that I can share on… you guessed it… INSTAGRAM! Thereandbackwithsnacks is the account and 2015 has been it’s year! I broke my goal of having at least 1,000 followers and I hope it only continues to grow! Instagram has such a huge impact on my life . It has pushed me to look more “Instagram ready” when I travel and has made me more creative in the photos I take! Also, I love #hashtags and adding locations so my Instamap can grow! So without further ado. Let’s count down my Best 9 Instagram Photos of 2015 (decided by photos with most likes & comments) and see where they were in the world.. Lastly, remember.. if you don’t already follow me, do so! Leave your Instagram account in the comments below and I’ll be sure to follow you on your travels as well.

    9. Forrest Gump Sign – U.S 163, Mexican Hat, UT

    Forrest Gump Sign - U.S 163, Mexican Hat, UT

    Forrest Gump Sign – U.S 163, Mexican Hat, UT

    It was such an adventure driving through Monument Valley to The Forrest Gump Sign from Las Vegas! My friend and I almost gave up but when we pulled to the side of the road.. THERE IT WAS! Proof that you should never give up on your travel adventures. The American Southwest is so beautiful, if you ever want to feel like you’re in a Western, drive through Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona and South Utah!

    8. Great Basin National Park – Baker, NV

    Great Basin National Park, Baker, NV

    Great Basin National Park, Baker, NV

    This photo looks a tad silly, but what made it fun was that it was hailing in JUNE! Great Basin is in Northern Nevada and the climate is vastly different from Southern Nevada aka Las Vegas. The state is so large I’ve lived here for almost 15 years and have yet to see and experience it all! Great Basin is also home to kick ass caves that you can only find in certain places of the world, Lehman Caves!!!

    7. Palace of Fine Arts – San Francisco, CA

    Palace of Fine Arts - San Francisco, CA

    Palace of Fine Arts – San Francisco, CA

    I love San Francisco. The city is alive with variety. If someone didn’t know better this looks like it could be somewhere in Europe. Alas, it’s just an hour plane ride away from me, but I love it none the less! No matter how many times I visit the Bay Area, I never run out of things to do! It’s because I have become a Toucal.

    6. Millennium Park – Chicago, IL

    Millennium Park - Chicago, IL

    Millennium Park – Chicago, IL

    Can you feel my joy from this photo? I hope so, since that is what Chicago brings me. Skipping through the park drenched wet in the rain is what traveling there and back is all about! Also, the fall colors don’t hurt the photo seeing as the trees seem more photogenic than I do!

    5. Maverick Airport – Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

    Maverick Airport - Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

    Maverick Airport – Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

    This photo is special to me because this experience was a byproduct of my amazing job in Las Vegas. I love the Grand Canyon and that happy face you see will never fade no matter how many times I drive or fly to it! There are some rad photos that can be taken when you take a helicopter over the canyon as well. Talk about Canyon Dreaming!

    4. Mosaic Stairs – San Francisco, CA

    Mosaic Stairs - San Francisco, CA

    Mosaic Stairs – San Francisco, CA

    This was the first photo I had to break over 200 likes and you can see why. COLORS. COLORS. COLORS. These stairs are practically screaming “Isntagram me!!!” I love the beauty in this urban shot. Don’t you?

    3. Above Nevada – Boulder City, NV

    Above Nevada - Boulder City, NV

    Above Nevada – Boulder City, NV

    Now, if you know anything about my life, this was not done this year.. even though it was instagramed in 2015. However, I’m keeping it in the running because seeing it on this page is giving me HUGE motivation to jump out of another plane. Maybe a 2016 goal?

    2. The Bean – Chicago, IL

    The Bean - Chicago, IL

    The Bean – Chicago, IL

    Oh The Bean… So kitchy and touristy but I love it! It almost always has tons of people so be sure to go really early to avoid the crowds you see in this photo. I love it even more since it was a Free acitivty in Chicago! Have you read my post about Free Chicago? Check it out to see all the free things you can go.

    1. Sky Deck – Chicago, IL

    Sky Deck - Chicago, IL

    Sky Deck – Chicago, IL

    It doesn’t shock me that this was the most popular post. This is hands down one of the coolest things I did in 2015. Getting High in Chicago has been an absolute highlight, as evidence of all the love these photos have received.

    Obviously, these photos were all in the continental USA and that’s fine. The United States has much to offer in the “AWESOME” category. However, I think 2016 will be the year to go international. What do you think? Where are some really instagramable countries I ned to visit? Leave it in the comments below.

  • 10 Things Only Travel Can Give You This Christmas

    Many people buy their Christmas gifts from Amazon or their local retailer, but this year I’ve realized the best gifts come from travel. Actually, there are some things ONLY travel can give you this Christmas. The gifts are not only one of a kind but truly beautiful to behold. The list can go on forever, but let’s focus on 10 of the,.

    10. Sense of Wonder

    Every time I visit some place new, I don’t just check an item off my bucket list, it means I have room to add even more. The world never ceases to amaze me. Traveling shows you just how little you actually know and how much more there is to learn. Travel ensures you never become an expert in anything.

    LOGO

    9. Problem Solving Skills

    No trip goes completely as planned. Things happen, or things don’t happen. Either way, YOU NEED TO FIGURE IT OUT. You have no choice and in a way, that’s the best part. You are forced to learn and those problem solving skills are totally transferable in the rest of your life.

    8. Tolerance & Understanding

    When you travel, you are exposed to many new people, places and the cultures that go with it. Usually, no place is like home and it gives you a peak in to the rest of the world.. The more you travel the more open minded you become. When you are out in the world you are usually the outsider in a new place hoping the locals will tolerate and understand you, and the role reversal is something that stays with you when you return home.

    7. Stronger Sense of Self

    You need to know who you are when you are with people who know nothing about you. They can’t tell you who you are, it is up to you to decide who that person is. Traveling has made me personally so much stronger in spirit and mind. It’s also given me so much confidence because I know I can trust myself and I can do anything I put my mind to without the help of the crutches of my daily life and resources.

    Getting ready for the Canyon Dream Tour!

    Getting ready for the Canyon Dream Tour!

    6. Stronger Bonds With Friends

    As I just mentioned, traveling strengthens the relationship you have with yourself, but it also solidifies those with you y=travel companions. I think  my best friends are those I travel with. Those are the people who you know will stick with you through thick or thin, when plans don’t go your way. Travel gives you shared memories that will never go away.

    5. A Break From Routine

    Routine can get dull… fast. Travel is not routine. Even if you feel like you travel often and “do the same things in different places” my response to that is, do you really though? The answer is no. A break from routine can be such a breath of fresh air that can give life to your real life.

    Street BBQ

    4. Bragging Rights

    Let’s be real for a moment. Everyone and I mean EVERYONE loves to tell people the cool places they’ve been, the sweet things they have done and how badass their life is. Trust me. I mean EVERYONE. You know what that is called? Bragging rights. You know what travel gives you in spades? Bragging rights. Paris? Yeah I’ve been there. The Grand Canyon? Like five times! London? I lived there. Beaches in the Philippines? Of course, I winter there. …. See what I mean? Pretty cool right?

    3. Appreciation of Daily Necessities

    If you ever explore outside of the USA (since that is where I live) you will realize how good you have it here. (In fairness, it’s pretty good in Europe too) but I mean to Southeast Asia… or South America… many of these places don’t have the luxuries that I have at home. Running water, a great bathroom, air conditioning or a heater. Things I took for granted once upon a time, I no longer do. You can often find me in the shower saying “Man, I love running hot water.”

    2. Finding Happiness at Home

    Seeing the world is amazing, but so is coming home. Every time I leave Las Vegas and find my way back, I think I love home a little more. I love it because it does not trap me. Travel has made me realize that although there is only one place on my address, I can be a citizen of the world. However, just like the saying goes, if you love something, set it free, If it comes back it is mean to be. Well I keep finding myself back in Las Vegas and travel has made me OK with calling it home.

    Home Sweet Home

    Home Sweet Home

    1. Inner Peace

    Everything listed above, all combined gives me the greatest gift of all… inner peace. I am so happy and thankful for everything I am able to do and see in the world and experience at home. Travel has given me a chance to slowly ensure I don’t live with regrets and honestly, what is better than that?

     

    Meditating on a Philippine Beach

    Meditating on a Philippine Beach

    Go forth! Travel and receives the best gifts that it has to offer you!