This truly is the most wonderful time of year! With a strong Latter-Day Saint (aka Mormon) culture here in Salt Lake City and surrounding areas, Christmas activities near Salt Lake City are plentiful and truly inspiring for any Christian or non-Christian visitor alike. So here are a few of my favorite things to do during Christmas, here at home, in Salt Lake City Utah.
Christmas Activities Near Salt Lake City Utah
Temple Square Lights
This is one of the BEST places to see Christmas lights! The Christmas Lights at Temple Square started over 50 years ago, in 1965. The lighting of the Latter-Day Saint Temple Square was overseen by their leader President Mckay who hired a leading arborist to spend six weeks hanging 40,000 lights. Using a cherry picker and a ladder, the magic of Christmas started in Salt Lake City Utah.
The number of lights in temple square today is not exactly known, but it is estimated that in 1997 there were over 800,000 lights (which grows a little more each year).
If you take a trip to Temple Square to see the lights, be sure you visit the Cedar of Lebanon. This tree is only lit every other year but is over 70 feet tall (a large tree by Utah desert standards). This tree has been growing for the last 75 years and is covered in 75,000 lights. The tree is quite special in that it was brought over from Jerusalem as a seed, planted and grown in Temple Square since that time.
Each year there are a few things that really make Temple Square special besides the lights. There is a life-sized nativity scene at the North Vistors center and an additional nativity scene on the reflection pool that has floating candles that make this a truly special visual Christmas feast.
Last but not least, grab some hot chocolate, listen to the volunteer carolers on the weekend, and stroll past hundreds of handmade paper lanterns with the message of ‘peace’ on them written in different languages.
Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square
This is a difficult concert to get into, mostly because it is free and hugely popular with the locals. Tabernacle Choir Christmas Concert is an intensely moving musical phenomenon that happens yearly at the new Latter-Day Saint Conference Center.
It is a cast of over 600 individuals, with 360 choir voices rigorously trained throughout the year with some of the toughest competition to be a part of the choir. They are then accompanied by 150 instrumentalists, and 32 Bell ringers with various actors, singers, dancers, and a special guest artist invited to perform each year.
This concert is typically held for 3 days (Thursday-Saturday) at starts at 8 pm. You need to set an alarm for when the ticketing process begins, and/or put your name into a lottery for a ticket.
If you don’t get in, there are also 30-minute weekly music and the spoken word concerts that are broadcasted on Sunday mornings that will feature some of the guests involved in the program.
If you do get a chance to attend the concert though, it will be one of the most incredible and hair raising musical experiences you will ever witness. I always enjoy the Christmas concerts because they are so well done & just focus on the message of Christ in Christmas.
Festival Of Trees
This is a short four-day exhibit of a holiday winter wonderland with uniquely decorated trees, wreaths, playhouses, centerpieces, quilts, gingerbread houses all exhibited for a good cause. You see, everything you see here is for sale, and all the funds raised at the Festival of Trees go to the children at Primary Children’s Hospital. There is a specific person, patient, or family that the tree is donated for – to help with hospital bills, or get a procedure done.
If you can’t afford the items for sale, even buying a ticket or participating in some of the more affordable activities will all be contributed to a good cause. Shops are filled with dolls, handmade Christmas crafts, quilts, fresh baked cookies/candies/fudge/scones, and cinnamon rolls.
They also have a stage set up, where different children’s dance studios volunteer to provide the most adorable holiday ‘tutu’ entertainment for Festival-goers. Buy Tickets for the Festival of Trees today and support those families that will be spending their Christmas fighting for the life of a child.
The Dickens’ Festival is not just another craft show, it is an Olde English Christmas themed town full of shops, hundreds of period costumes, fortune tellers, orphans, royalty, and the REAL Father Christmas. Despite being in the middle of a desert, you truly feel you have been transported into an old European shopping show.
The aisles are transformed into old London streets, each vendor is dressed in Old Victorian fashion – really adding to the whole experience.
There are also Mini-productions of the musical based on Charles Dickens’ “Scrooge” that is performed nightly. I remember dancing here as a child and was delighted by the puppet shows, street theater. As an adult, I am dazzled by the Fezziwig Dance party and the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future that wander old London shopping streets.
Tickets (as of 2019) are $6-$8, so it is really affordable to take the whole family for a little Pseudo-European Christmas delight.
Hogle Zoo Christmas Lights
This is a unique spin on Christmas lights, and will whimsically delight all animal lovers. Over 200 lighted animals glitter and twinkle throughout December right alongside the other zoo animals. If you go a little early, you can grab a delicious dinner at the Beast-ro, grab a cup of hot cocoa, and nibble on the tasty treats dotting the sidewalks around the zoo.
This year, (2019) is going to be a special year, because Hogle Zoo has hired Lightasmic (from California) to build 10 large animal lanterns. This will be a fantastic illuminated spectacle, along with the 135-foot lighted tunnel that is always a hit with photographers 🙂
It isn’t just animals, but elves that offer finishing touches to this Christmas Activity in Salt Lake City. My favorite part? In addition to the tunnel, it is actually the S’mores at the Oasis Plaza dipped in hot chocolate. This is a camping favorite and nothing tastes better right before a peaceful night of dreaming of sugarplums dancing in my head.
Ballet West Nutcracker Capitol Theatre
Did you know that Ballet West in Salt Lake City produces the longest-running American production of the Nutcracker? I didn’t either, but I remember growing up going to the Nutcracker all the time and wanting to be Clara. I wanted to be whisked away by the beautifully dancing toy soldier, swans and other creatures of the Toyland imagination of the Nutcracker.
Each year it changes, and not in a minor way, the core story stays the same, but there are different time periods, themes, and sets. There has not been a year that has been disappointing, and if you or your daughters/sons have a dancers’ heart – then I highly suggest going to see this on a Mommy-Daughter date.
Hale Center Theatre
What is Christmas without a good old fashioned visit to the theatre to see, A Christmas Carol? Hale Center theatre started as a small theatre next to Dick’s Market in Bountiful Utah, it has since grown into one of the premiere Theatres in Utah.
This circular theatre has all the bells and whistles to surprise and delight patrons with Christmas songs and dance. If you have never seen A Christmas Carol, I would recommend watching it as a family holiday tradition. It reminds us to think less about money, and more about how we treat people and serving others.
There is plenty of free covered parking, but I highly suggest bringing your own snacks and treats. The cost to quantity ratio is pretty exorbitant & they also still use plastic straws and cups.
Abravanel Hall Symphony
For a refined and cultured evening out, why not go listen to the plucking and prancing of notes with ‘Here Comes Santa Claus’ at Abravanel Hall. There are different concerts throughout the holiday season, including the Messiah Sing-In, to Harry Potter.
City Creek Center
The City Creek Center is very close to Temple Square and offers the perfect parental tool to have your kids see Santa. This is one of the few places that offers a virtual ticket to see Santa, so instead of waiting in line, you can show up at the allotted time and let the munchkins pour out their deepest desires to the jolly man himself.
After seeing Santa, pop in and out of shops to grab your holiday bits and bobs. Bring a sucker for the kids as you walk over to Macy’s candy windows. I loved seeing these unique and artistic masterpieces as a child. These holiday-themed windows hold the best candy art you will see. Each window is made entirely of candy and can be anything from a massive Elf workshop, to a Polar Bear learning how to ice skate.
This shopping center is quite unique, in that it transforms from an outdoor shopping venue to an indoor shopping venue as the weather changes.
This is another favorite activity of mine because it takes place at ‘This Is The Place Heritage Park’, which is an old Pioneer village. This historic park is transformed into the Christkindle Market, a shopping and community experience inspired by the German Christmas markets.
There is a live Nativity, Christmas songs and mini-performances where they tell you the origin of the Christmas songs. You can get caramel apples, strudel, and so many other tasty treats.
They have a mini-parade down main street, where a parade of light, elves, and children followed up by Jolly Saint Nicolas. There is a stage for entertainment, fire pits to warm your hands, and so many Christmas decorations around it is hard to not feel the Christmas spirit. There are also truly unique mini log cabin shops dotted throughout the historic park that offer very unique and delightful Christmas gifts.
Shopping at SouthTowne – Hogsmead
The holidays are filled with giving of presents and trinkets….but the hoards of people and crowds can sometimes make for an unenjoyable time preparing for Christmas. This is why I recommend shopping at SouthTowne Center during Christmas – the magic of Christmas transforms it into a shopping Hogsmeade playground of spending your hard-earned money.
Feel the magic of Harry Potter entertain your kids, while you try and guess the deepest desires of those closest to you. It might make the stress of the holidays a little more enjoyable to feel like you are visiting a beloved children’s classic.
Walk into an ever-changing interactive movie set, and discover their famous sweet and savory treats in this Nordic-inspired fantasy world. When you visit, you will be addressed as a ‘World Walker’ as many of the staff are part of the story and characters who live in the Dickinsonian inspired wonderland. The trees are glittering with frost and lights, taverns, mills, and shops all have a story that is waiting to be discovered.
Here you, as a world walker, must go on a quest – interact with the characters and discover what the secret of magic is in this mystical wonderland. Tickets are a bit on the steep side, but if you plan on spending the whole day – it is well worth the cost (in my opinion at least).
Park City Torchlight Parade
If you are truly looking for a unique Christmas Eve experience, or like to be outdoors more than indoors celebrating – then head to Park City for the Torchlight Parade.
This is a Christmas Eve tradition that has been happening for over 55 years. You can begin the chilly evening with some holiday music at the base of the mountain, and then bring your light of choice to ski down the mountain with – creating a festival of lights in motion.
These are the farthest Christmas Activities near Salt Lake City, in Heber Utah.
The local train, the Heber Creeper transforms into the Polar Express, where the adults and kids alike can enjoy a 90-minute ride to the North Pole. They can sip on hot cocoa, and eat some of Mrs. Claus’ famous chocolate chip cookies, singing along to traditional Christmas favorites.
The elves and cocoa chefs will be bustling up and down the isles, entertaining and interacting with passengers along the way. Once you reach the North Pole, Santa will board the train and present a special gift to each child.
You can choose from a regular passenger ticket to a first-class ticket, or even rent out the Red Caboose for a private group of 10-12. If you really want to wow and entertain, then rent the luxury table and lounge gare or business car (20-50 passengers) for a perfect Christmas Party setting.
Midway Ice Castles
Make it an overnight trip from Salt Lake City and spend the night in Heber so you can visit the Midway Ice Castles. These famous Ice Castles started as a hobby for a family, who were then visited and promoted by Oprah herself.
These hand-built, carefully crafted castles are a true winter wonderland. It almost appears as if Elsa (from the popular Disney movie Frozen) built them herself. If you are lucky Elsa and her sister may be taking photos and greeting guests outside the Ice Castles.
These Ice Castles are a fabulous playground because adults can play with their kids, instead of just having to watch them. I think we are often forced to believe that we cannot participate in child-like fun because we are ‘adults’. I believe we really begin to age when we lose the childlike innocence and suppress our imaginations.
Luminaria at Thanksgiving Point
This is a newly discovered Christmas Activity near Salt Lake City that I definitely want to participate in this year. The Luminaria at Thanksgiving Point transforms the hill with changing pictures made from 5,000 luminaries.
While I don’t personally have experience at this event, I know how beautiful Thanksgiving Point Gardens are outside of Christmas time, and so can only imagine how beautiful this will be. They also have a section of the gardens that was donated with statues of scenes from the Bible. It is a very peaceful and reflective place, that I think combined with the Luminaria will be a perfect way to remember the reason for the season.
Volunteering For Christmas Near Salt Lake City
There are other ways to remember the reason for the season, and that is by volunteering to serve others. You can do it in so many different ways, but here are a few ideas I have in how to serve those around you during this holiday season. Out of all the Christmas activities near Salt Lake City, this one will be far more moving for you than anything else – by giving back into the world for all you have been given.
Wrap presents at Provo Towne Center Mall to raise money for Habitat for Humanity to help families who may need a home, to finally have a warm place to stay.
The Forgotten Patient Christmas Project, hosted by the Utah State Mental Hospital, has been operating for the last 50 years. Rather than providing Christmas for an entire family, a patient comes up with a Christmas List, and when you buy one gift for the patient and give it to them on Christmas and spend some time together. If you are interested in sponsoring a patient, please contact Shawna Peterson, Director of Volunteer Services at 801-344-4254.
Christmas season in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit is not the ideal place to spend the ‘babies first Christmas’. Sunset Crochet (from Sunset Family Living) hosts 12 days of Christmas knitting project. Where for 12 days you knit a hat each day for a baby in the NICU. The patterns are sent by email, and then you are asked to donate the knitted hats to the nearest NICU.
Candy Cane Corner in Salt Lake gives those receiving services from the YWCA Utah, The Road Home, or Volunteers of America, Utah, the opportunity to choose Christmas gifts in a shopping-like environment. As a volunteer, you will help organize, lift and carry items, sort donations and wrap presents for the individuals/families in need. If you plan on bringing more than five people, please call and make an appointment to help better facilitate and organize according to the needs of the Candy Cane Corner.
Happy Holidays to You and Yours
I love this time of year, the giving, the feeling, the movies, the treats, the anticipation of good things to come. Christmas truly has a reason for the season, and that is Christ, his example of loving those around him – even those who society as a whole had a hard time loving. So embrace the strange, weird, or rejected of society – let them know they are loved.
I hope by sharing this guide on Christmas activities near Salt Lake City will help those visiting or locals be able to forge long-lasting memories. I pray that you can cherish the family and the connections with those who are close to you. Never stop believing in a little magic, and I truly wish you and yours a happy holiday and Merry Christmas this year.
Like it? Pin it! Tis’ the Season of Sharing and Caring!
Thanksgiving is a time to spend with family, friends, loved ones and was originally celebrated by Pilgrims and Native Americans to give thanks for the harvest. It has since turned into a time of gorging ourselves on food, followed by a (sometimes violent) Black Friday. It has been sad for me to see this happening in my lifetime, to be honest. I decided to write a post on how you can better spend your Thanksgiving with your family or friends in a way that fosters unity, family bonds, and to encourage the good memories that will last far longer than the material possessions you may acquire on Black Friday. So here is the perfect guide for Thanksgiving Activities near Salt Lake City Utah from a local, who is trying to turn Black Friday into a White Friday of service and outdoor fun.
Get in Shape for Thanksgiving
This has been a favorite tradition of mine because it gets the common and chronic New Years Resolution of continuing to try to be healthier started early (at least for my own goals it has become a chronic goal). Get in shape for Thanksgiving with the whole family, or invite your friends and make it a group run. Here are a few of my favorite runs here in Utah that I would suggest.
Utah Human Race
This was my first and favorite run I have done. Arriving at the Utah Human race I saw families dressed in matching T-shirts, college kids dressed as turkeys and different thanksgiving dishes, there were tu-tu’s and various other Thanksgiving-themed costumes. It doesn’t matter if you walk with your kid in a stroller, or sprint the whole race – all are welcome. The feeling of this race seemed a little more relaxed and more fun.
What makes this run really special, is that your entry fee goes to the Utah Foodbank. It helps those who are homeless in the city or families that can’t afford a Thanksgiving dinner, to have dinner with their own family. Either way, it is a great run, for a good cause.
The Turkey Trot is still filled with loads of costumes, families, and college kids and is just as fun as the Utah Human Race but is in Sandy Utah, about 15 minutes south of Salt Lake City. This 5k run is good for all ages, and really close to movie theatres.
Lehi Thankful 13
This run is for those who want to maintain their training with a half marathon, those who want a good workout before a big meal and a specific kids run is also available. This run is right down by Thanksgiving Point and gardens, with the Wasatch Mountains and Timpanogus mountain in the distance & the Oquirrh Mountains on the opposite side for a fantastic landscape view. It is about 30 minutes outside Salt Lake City, easily accessible via Uber or a group ride.
Thanksgiving Activities near Salt Lake City : Ski and Snowboard for Family Bonding
While going up to the ski resorts on Thanksgiving, or the day after Thanksgiving is getting more popular – it is still far less crowded than weekends. There are going to be changes to parking regulations this year, due to how crowded the resorts are getting.
You will now need to pay for parking at the ski resorts (prices vary), you will need to check the resort to get the full details. Some ski resorts have actually built gondola rides from the lower parking lots to the resort entrances (ie/ Park City) to make parking further away a little easier.
Here are the projected opening times for 2019 for the ski resorts. These opening times can change so check each ski resorts site. I have a gut feeling winter this year (2019) is going to be quite brutal, based on the amount of cold weather and small snow flurries we have had already. This means terrible Utah driving, but great skiing this winter at the resorts.
This is arguably my favorite place to go skiing. There are no snowboarders allowed on these slopes. I personally can no longer snowboard because of a major head injury (think life-flighted to the hospital), if I fall or get whiplash even a little bit, I end up with pretty severe migraines.
While banning snowboarders isn’t personal, this private resort focuses on catering to skiers. The sideways stance of a snowboarder leaves blind spots when they make their wide sweeping turns, which can be dangerous to skiers. Because I have to be very protective of my neck and avoid hitting my head when falling – being able to ski in a safer environment like this (at least for me) is very reassuring and allows me to have a better time.
It makes it more peaceful, and more enjoyable to not always have to be on the lookout for being hit (or cut off) by a snowboarder. It is also a great resort for beginning skiers, especially kids. I would recommend the Albion, Sunnyside, and Cecret on the looker’s left side of the mountain. rooked Mile is ideal for beginners at Alta, as you can ski at altitude and enjoy sweeping mountain views.
If you have snowboarders in your party, you can get a combo pass for Alta and Snowbird, called the ‘AltaBird’ pass where you can ski Alta over to Snowbird and meet up halfway through the day to ski and snowboard together so everyone enjoys their time.
There are plenty of lodgings in Park City and the surrounding areas. If you are looking for cheaper lodging options, try Heber Utah, it is about 20 minutes north of Park City is a smaller town full of red brick pioneer buildings and doesn’t require you to drive through Parley’s canyon which can get quite dangerous.
This resort was actually one of the first ski resorts in Utah, and one of the first resorts in the United States. Brighton Ski resort is located up Big Cottonwood Canyon is about 35 miles from Salt Lake City Utah.
This resort isn’t as popular with out-of-towners because there isn’t as much lodging available that is close. This is why this resort is ideal for locals and those with kids. Many local families bring their kids to this resort specifically to learn how to ski because it is less crowded, and there is ample terrain for beginners. The season pass is generally $300 cheaper than season passes closer to Park City.
As I mentioned before Alta and Snowbird are very close together, and there are ample lodgings here. If you are a skier and are there for a weekend, I highly recommend getting the ‘AltaBird’ lift pass to give you a wide range of options for skiing.
They have 2,500 acres, 169 runs with a wide range of options for beginner to intermediate. If you have someone in your family that does not want to ski/snowboard there are snowshoeing options, and snowmobiling options as well.
This resort has 1200 acres of runs available, with many of them being geared towards intermediate to more experienced. Only 6% of the runs are geared towards beginner skiers. This resort is not close to Park City, so is less crowded and a local favorite. There are snowshoeing options available as well as a spa to make it a romantic Thanksgiving getaway.
Thanksgiving Activities near Salt Lake City: Be A Kid Again and Go Sledding
I remember going out and sledding at midnight with my siblings, and church friends as a kid. We would sneak out and laugh and laugh about trying to get up the frozen hills, then stop at a 7-11 for some cheap hot chocolate on the way home. There are a lot of kids in Utah, and so sledding is a big deal here (in addition to skiing). Here are a few local favorites, but keep in mind that these spots will get crowded on Saturday, and days that it snows. I would suggest going on a weekday, or on a Sunday to avoid some of the crowds.
This is a great area for sledding as it is just across the street from a lot of small eateries, is well maintained, the hill is steep and wide and there are plenty of parents and kids to help monitor and keep your kids safe. The hill is shorter, so not as tiring for the smaller kids.
This will be a lot less crowded, the hills are longer and a little steeper. It is also a great place for snowshoeing, and other winter activities. I personally like to find a trail that has a high grade of steepness, then bring a sled that you can control the direction really well. Snowshoe up the trail, then sled your way back down – it is really really fun.
This is the PERFECT sledding adventure because they have sledding assisted tow rope, where a rope helps you get back up the hill to do more sledding. No more sliding back down the hill with every step. Tubing admission ranges anywhere from $13 to $27 depending on age and how long you decide to use the hill. The hill is open typically open from Dec to March (conditions permitting). Tubing sessions are two hours long and start on the even hour (i.e. 10-noon, noon-2, 2-4, etc.) I suggest buying your tickets online in advance to avoid the long lines.
This sledding heaven is right near Park City, with 7 lanes for tubes available. Once you reach the bottom of the hill, you can jump back on the lift to get back up the hill. Rates for the tubing ranges anywhere from $7 to $46 depending on age and the number of hours purchased. Fort Frosty costs $10 per ticket or free if you purchase a 2 or 4-hour tubing ticket. For $12 you also get 10 laps on the mini snowmobiles.
If the kids get a little too cold or a storm blows in, they also have a 52,000 sqft indoor facility full of trampolines, foam pits, a lounge, coffee shop, cafeteria, equipment rentals, and Utah’s only indoor concrete skatepark.
This sledding haven, on a good snow day, is usually jam-packed, but free (though parking is always difficult). It has a few really long runs too; fun to go down, long to hike back up. It is right next to a large golf-course so the views are really stunning and about 16 miles East of Salt Lake City.
This sledding nook has steep hills with some jumps built-in, for the more adventurous teenagers. To help with safety there are Hay bails that have been put into place to help you stop at the bottom of the hill. I thought this was a really nice touch, because of how many sledding accidents I hear about in Utah.
Service With A Smile
If you want your Thanksgiving activities to have a little more meaning, then do a little service for those around. Make your Black Friday a ‘White Friday’ by providing service to those around you. (Let’s coin the hashtag #WhiteFriday – to fight the materialistic Black Friday and overspending).
Bring your family/friends to volunteer and help distribute meals to families and other individuals experiencing homelessness in Utah at the Road Home. You can put together sack lunches, make dinner and bring it to share with another family, or put together a turkey dinner box to give to the shelter for the families there. With rising costs of rent in the Salt Lake City area, as well as an opioid epidemic — there is an increasing issue with homelessness in the Downtown area for individuals and families across the spectrum.
Contact the volunteer coordinator and bring the whole family to help serve others as a way to give back for all you have been given. Even if it is just sitting and listening, and connecting to another human being. This truly is a month we need to focus on giving, not getting the best deal on Black Friday.
Utah is a service-oriented state, and volunteering at the food bank is quite popular – but because it is so organized it makes it a really enjoyable experience for everyone. Make sure you contact them beforehand to schedule a time to volunteer because they do not take ‘walk-in’ volunteers.
Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 23: Feast With The Beasts at Hogle Zoo
If you need an activity for the kids while the Turkey is roasting, take a quick trip to Hogle Zoo. You can see the animals playing with Pumpkins, or Turkey shaped pinatas. The open their doors, especially for this event on Thanksgiving Day from 10, am to 1 pm.
Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 23: Lindon Community Thanksgiving Dinner
For all the college kids that aren’t able to make it home and/or don’t have a place to go for Thanksgiving – head over to Lindon’s annual community dinner. This takes place at the Lindon City Community Center, 25 N. Main St., from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event is free, but people can donate food, time or money to help out. I would call 801-785-5043 for more information and see how you can help. Who knows maybe you can meet some people who will become a pseudo-family for you until you can get home.
Where to Eat A Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner Near Salt Lake City
Those who don’t have the energy or time to deal with dishes, can’t get back to their family or don’t have a family to be with here are some places I suggest you go to eat a delicious Thanksgiving meal that will be hassle-free.
Buca Di Beppo
This is traditionally an Italian restaurant, but the chefs at Buca di Beppo will open at 11 a.m. on Thanksgiving. They will serve a traditional Thanksgiving dinner family-style, or you can order directly off the Italian Menu.
Homestead Resort – Midway
Homestead Resort in Heber serves a grand buffet on Thanksgiving including roast turkey and prime rib, plus salads, sides, bread and cheese boards, shellfish, and desserts. This place really is the full package for a Thanksgiving getaway including cross-country skiing, sleigh rides, ice skating, downhill ski packages, a spa, hot springs, and other activities. The buffet is a little pricey, but well worth it for the amount of food and variety available. For adults, it typically runs $49.95 and $32.95 for children.
Log Haven restaurant in Millcreek Canyon is a smaller and more intimate venue for Thanksgiving Day. They offer a four-course prix-fixe luncheon from 1 to 5:30 p.m. The menu offers unique ricotta and butternut squash pancetta, potato leek soup, wild mushroom ragu with Parmesan grits, baby winter greens, juniper-brined turkey, grilled king salmon, pan-roasted filet, or butternut squash risotto, and dessert of creme brulee, pumpkin cheesecake, or pumpkin pie. The cozy settings allow for a more refined approach to a Thanksgiving Dinner, and costs run $54.95 for adults and $29.95 for children.
Hub and Spoke Diner
If you have a large family or are trying to be a little more frugal then head to Hub & Spoke Diner. Their Thanksgiving Dinner is served 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The menu is a la carte so you can pick and choose your perfect Thanksgiving plate. Prices for items typically range from $4 to $17.
Caffe Niche specializes in local ingredients, and the restaurant is offering a special prix fixe menu from 1-7 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. There is a flat rate of $40 per person and includes three courses. The menu features fall salad, a classic turkey dinner, and other choices. For dessert, you will be deliciously delighted with homemade Ding Dongs.
Grand America or Little America
Thanksgiving at The Grand America often fills up quickly but is one of the best local Thanksgiving dinners you will have. If you can’t get into the Grand America, there is typically space available at its sister hotel The Little America. The Little America serves a buffet in the hotel’s Grand Ballroom. Prices for adults are $57 and $27 for kids.
End It With An Attitude of Gratitude
There is a culture within the United States to end Thanksgiving with the family (or friends) with brutal and frenzied shopping on Black Friday. May I humbly suggest you replace Black Friday, with a White Friday. Fill your Thanksgiving holiday with activities, service and plenty of bonding time that doesn’t involve material possessions and more quality time with those you love. Life is so short, and you never know when someone will be taken from you. Foster positive memories and activities that will help you grow as a family, as an individual and encourage those human connections this holiday season.
Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year, I think it is because everyone can be whatever they want. A child who dreams of being a princess, a little boy who dreams of big muscles and fighting like spider man can let their imagination run wild. So for all my fellow U-tards, here is a guide on Halloween Activities near Salt Lake City Utah.
Unique Halloween Experiences in Utah
About an hour north of Salt Lake City, there is a small town called Heber Utah – where every season their iconic train, the Heber Creeper transforms into a holiday delight.
They start off with the Pumpkin Train, where adults, toddlers, and babies alike can dress as pumpkins. It is a 40-minute train ride costumed characters enthrall you with G-rated stories and jokes. Each passenger is given a delicious pumpkin cookie, and at the end of the trip, you get to pick out a pumpkin from the pumpkin patch for carving. They also have a family-friendly haunted train car, and if you survive the haunted car you even get a Halloween sticker.
If you can’t make it on the Pumpkin Train, then I suggest the Wizard Train! Dress up as your favorite wizard, and take a 90-minute train ride through the fall colors and canyons. Each wizard will be sorted by the sorting hat, receive a delicious chocolate frog, and if you are brave enough – you get to try the Bertie Botts Every Flavor Bean. There will be costumed wizards, characters, wands, games, trivia, photos and more.
The Best Haunted Houses
If you haven’t been to Utah or lived here during Halloween – you will miss out on the incredibly spooky culture of Haunted Houses. Yes indeed, from Happy Valley Haunts, to spooktacular and incredibly terrifying hands-on haunted houses – there is something for everyone. There is even a new wave of ‘leveled hauntings’ where you can choose the level of fear you want to experience within a haunted house (for your little ones as well. Boo-fore I get ahead of myself, I will just briefly share my top 5 haunted houses for the whole family.
Castle of Chaos
Castle of Chaos is the “home of hands-on horror” and known for The Mansion, The Caverns, Nightmare in 3D, X-Scream Dungeon. There are several ticket options including General Admission, glow wand admission (that keeps the monsters away). There are four levels of scares, and the extreme haunt: X-Scream Hands-On Horror™ involves some pretty heavy hands-on actor interaction. Not only can the actors touch you, but they can pick you up, drag you off, get you wet, place things or our pets on you, restrain you, mock torture you, put you in things, and anything else that is legal and safe. They have 5 levels of tickets that range from mild glow wand to extreme.
I remember going to the Haunted Forest as a kid and really liking it. This place has been running for more than 25 years. You wind your way through the forested areas, into and out of creepy makeshift buildings and get scared off with a grand finale. While there are mixed reviews on this haunted area, I really enjoyed it as a kid.
Nightmare on 13th
Nightmare on 13th boasts itself as one of the top haunted attractions in America. Getting through all 3 haunted houses takes you about an hour. Everyone gets a free online photo taken with one of the haunted characters, which you download from their site. You will find yourself wandering through Haunted Hollywood, Swamp Blood, and Delirium. They also have a separate extreme fright experience.
Dead City Haunted House
Dead City Haunted House is one I definitely want to check out this year, as they just made over $50,000 in animatronic updates, and now have over 50 rooms of fear. There is an option for less scary days, but there are only 4 days so be sure to check online to arrange those.
The Fear Factory dates back to 1894, this former cemetery factory is a deadly paranormal hotspot. It is full of a history of twisted accidents. If some in your party aren’t partial to haunted houses, then do not fret – there are also DJ’s, bands playing, concessions and a few deadly characters outside. It takes about 45 minutes to go through Fear Factory. They have several options for extreme levels of fright depending on your ticket purchase, as long as your willing to sign the waiver.
Corn Mazes Near Salt Lake City
Pack Farms – Farmington, UT Darryl Pack started farming with his family in Davis County about 1950. They’ve been selling pumpkins to local grocery stores for years, but demand caused them to open their farm ten years ago so you can pick your pumpkin from the field. You can also enjoy the hay maze and scarecrow picture gallery.
Wheeler Historic Farm – Salt Lake City, UT This agricultural living history museum and outdoor recreation are operated by Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation that was founded in 1887 by Henry Wheeler Sr. They have a pumpkin patch, corn maze, hay maze, and wagon ride. Each October they also hold a Scarecrow festival and contest.
Crazy Corn Maze – West Jordan, UT – 8 Acres This will be the twentieth year for their maze. There is also a separate haunted trail after dark and 4-acre pumpkin patch.
Cornbelly’s – Lehi, UT – 12 Acres – 3 Mazes Up for US Today’s Top Ten Corn Mazes. It is a perfect place for the whole family to run amuck. There are animal shows, face painting, games, rides, inflatable dinosaurs/monsters, mini hay mazes, zip lines, and plenty of places to get those enviable family fall photos. At night, there is a separate haunted maze and other haunted attractions here. It is located right behind Thanksgiving point, where you can grab some sandwiches and swing over to the Farm barn and petting zoo, or the Dinosaur Museum.
Pumpkin Patches Near Salt Lake City
Cross E Ranch – Salt Lake City Utah
This is the only interactive working cattle ranch in Salt Lake City Utah. During their Fall festival, there are plenty of animals to interact with. Their corn maze (of which there are 3 different ones) is 14 acres, with nearly 7 miles of trails weaving throughout the corn maze. They also have a 12-acre pumpkin patch, hayrides, corn pits, straw pyramid, mini straw maze, zip lines, pig races, fire pits, slides, and new this year they have an archery shooting range!
Schmidt’s Farm – West Jordan, Utah
This pumpkin patch is one of the largest with around 500 tons of pumpkins produced each year. While it doesn’t have the family activities that Cross E Ranch has, it is a garden center that boasts some of the best pumpkins around. They also have some delicious salt and peppercorn to take home along with your pumpkins. The crazy corn maze is close by if you wanted to make it a longer activity for family and friends.
Maybe’s Pumpkin Patch – South Jordan
This is a farm with historical roots, in fact, it is named as a ‘Utah Century Farm‘ because it was founded in 1884. It is a 14-acre patch, with over 45 different pumpkins and plenty of Instagram-able backdrops, barns and photo booths to capture the moment.
Halloween Park Fun
As a World Walker, you enter into Evermore Park where it feels as if you are walking onto a movie set straight out of Europe. There are seasonal themes to the park, but during Halloween, you enter Evermore Lore. You take a quest through the fairyland where the Fae King has fallen to the darkness and you must help the other inhabitants figure out how to protect themselves and save the Fae King. The story develops and becomes a little more haunted each time you go back.
If you just want to dress up as your favorite hobbit, elf, magician or fortune teller – all fae folk are welcome. You can try your hand at chess in the Tavern where songs with local scallywags are sung. Train your elvish senses in the art of Archery or Ax throwing, learn about the birds, reptiles, and Evermore Park themed cuisine.
While there are portions of the park that are still under construction, visiting Evermore during Lore is well worth the visit.
There are over nine haunted attractions during Frightmares at the theme park in Farmington. You can ride different rides and roller coasters, along with a stroll through an old cowboy town and a haunted carriage house. Hosted by Lagoon, the staff here pull out all the tricks and treats to make the whole family enjoy their Halloween.
Boo at the Zoo – Hogle Zoo
There are various booths for kids 12 and under throughout the Boo at the Zoo where they can trick-or-treat. Even the animals get special pumpkin and Halloween treats, making the animals throughout the zoo quite active and lively in the holiday spirit. The trick-or-treating activity is free with regular Zoo admission or membership and begins at 9 am and ends at 3 pm.
Pumpkin Nights at Utah State Fair Park
Located in four major cities, this array of pumpkin art will spark the imagination and fill your SD cards with Halloween delights. There is the pumpkin dragon, pumpkin turtle, fire breathers, and the tunnel of pumpkins. There are plenty of sweet treats to fill the belly, and sights to fill the soul as well with holiday delights.
Halloween Shows and Convention
Thriller by Odessey Dance Theatre – Kingsbury Hall
This year’s show will have all of the favorite pieces from the past – Thriller, The Curse of the Mummy, Dem Bones, Frankenstein, Jason Jam, Salem’s Mass, The Lost Boys – plus a few new surprises. Get your tickets early because many of the shows sell out quickly! This show has been running for as long as I can remember and is truly a tradition your family can enjoy, although I wouldn’t suggest bringing kiddos younger than 8 to this show as it can get a little spooky for them.
Desert Star Theatre
This is a show for the whole family, young and old, it is quite fun and very interactive. Make it a dinner and a show, there are tables, popcorn, and food available. Shows play year-round, but they have popular Halloween characters pop in this time of year for a pumpkin smashing good time. You do have to reserve your tickets in advance.
Red Butte Garden
The Garden After Dark is a two-weekend family-friendly event with a theme and activities great for kids. This year the theme is ‘Trouble in Oz’, where kids get to follow the Yellow-Brick road around looking for the flying monkeys that the witch released. Are dazzled by light shows, explore the corn maze, and meet Dorothy, Glinda, and the Wicked Witch at the Ozdust Ballroom. This is a ticketed event that sells out quick.
Where all things ghoulish, ghostly, and downright creepy are celebrated and shared. Bring out the inner darkness, and witchy ways within with this convention of fear and fright. It isn’t just about vendors, and costumes – the convention requires each vendor to dress up, provide interaction and add to the ‘show’. There is ax throwing to get you ready for the zombie apocalypse, haunted trailers, a frightmare street, and an opening night party to start the spook season off right.
One of the most intimidating parts of traveling can be the language barrier. Especially if you don’t know how to communicate when traveling in a foreign country. Everything seems bigger, more urgent, and the confusion that ensues can snowball to the point that you are lost and crying in the middle of the train station being consoled by policemen who don’t understand. Not that I would know how that feels….ahem….moving on.
After a couple of decades of travel, I have put together a guide on how I have learned how to better communicate when traveling. Now I’m the one consoling and helping families, crying women, and even making locals laugh.
How to Communicate Over Wifi
While for some this can be costly, there are a lot of options for finding free Wifi in restaurants/shops, etc. I typically like to book a hotel/hostel that specifically has good wifi, so I can research questions in the local language I may need to ask before I leave.
What I Personally Use to Over Come the Language Barrier:
If you can afford a little portable Wifi device though, this will – by far – be the best investment on your trip. Personally, I use my phone, with AT&T as my carrier – they have an ‘International Passport’ option, where for $10 a day I can use my normal data, Wifi, minutes, and text messaging.
If you are going for longer than 7 days, then I recommend signing up for something a little more affordable like Tep Wireless. This pocket-sized device can be used in over 100 countries, is easily recharged (via MicroUSB Cable), you can pick the plan you want from 1GB/day for $5.95 per day all the way up to 5GB/day at $11.95/day. They also have a customer support chat available 24/7. The best part is that you can rent the Teppy Pocket, and don’t have to fork out $200 to buy it upfront.
Some other options you could consider if you are traveling for more than 8 days that are slightly more expensive but still relatively affordable; especially if you are a frequent international traveler.
Verizon Jetpack MiFi 8800L WiFi Hotspot (around $199 for device)
Verizon charges $80 per month for “unlimited” data, which includes 15 GB of 4G LTE. The battery lasts about 24 hours, is removable so you can just change it as needed. It can connect up to 16 devices at a time.
Skyroam Solis (Around $149 for device)
This one works in over 100 countries and data costs around $9 per day with a secure 4G LTE with download speeds of 500MB. It has a 16-hour battery life and can be connected to 5 devices.
Netgear Nighthawk LTE Mobile Hotspot ($199 for the device itself)
This device is more for AT&T users. It can connect up to 20 devices, has 2.4-5 GHZ Wifi. The battery lasts around 24 hours and can be used with Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0. What I really like about this one is that you can use an ethernet cord with it as well. It has a full-sized USB port, so you can share files between devices to the internet much quicker (ie/uploading videos etc..).
Coolpad SURF Mobile Hotspot (about $72 for the device)
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n connectivity to up to 15 devices by utilizing T-Mobile’s 4G LTE network. So you are limited in certain countries, I would check the coverage map to ensure the device will work. It also only provides about 5 hours of use, and there is no signal strength display.
Huaawei E5770s Mobile Hotspot – ANY PROVIDER
This supports about 10 different devices, can be used with any service provider because it comes unlocked. It provides 4G LTE globally.
Use Social Media To Communicate While Traveling
Now you have several options for WiFi while traveling, you can utilize things like Facebook, Google Hangouts, Skype, WhatsApp to talk to friends at home without using your minutes or texting. Make sure you put your phone on airplane mode and then turn on the WiFi – so you don’t incur hidden fees on your telephone plan.
I think WhatsApp is one of the biggest apps used by those around the world. I used it to communicate with friends in Morocco and to coordinate my driver when going to Lake Atitlan (A very remote area) in Guatemala. So be sure to download that before you go. It does require you to give people your real telephone number, but also has a ‘block’ function if things get uncomfortable via messaging.
How To Communicate When Traveling, and Stay CALM
Whenever I start getting nervous, especially when meeting new people – I have a mantra, “We all poop on the same pot”. For some reason, it puts a smile on my face, breaks the ice inside my head and then I can proceed. If this doesn’t work, then I try my other techniques.
Make it a Game
Making it a game is the best way, for me personally, to remain calm when trying to communicate. I’m prone to anxiety, given my history, so tapping into my creative genius and making it a game is the best way for me to stay calm.
I will typically bring a pad of paper with me and if I don’t know how to pronounce the words, then I draw pictures. Most of the time, showing a picture does the trick. What if you can’t draw though?
There are cards or pre-made quick point cards that people use to communicate things they want. We use these cards all the time when we have a patient on a ventilator. There are certain human functions and needs that are very common and widely recognized. On one side of the card, there can be phrases or even an alphabet; while on the other side, there are photos of what the person needs/wants. So browse on Pinterest for quick point communication cards and I’m sure you will find exactly what you are looking for.
If you say the wrong thing, and they giggle – don’t be offended. For example, there are some languages like Portuguese, where ‘pickup’ can also mean ‘kill’ in a different country. So, anyone, this could be funny, or scary – and could elicit a giggle no matter what country it happened in. So take it in stride, make fun of yourself and thank them for being patient with you.
If they are not patient with you, I still thank them and politely tell them I will ask someone else, and sorry to bother them. I always try to remember that just because I am on vacation, with loads of time, the people I ask for help are taking time our of their day/vacation to help you. I have had people completely ignore me & I still offer a smile and wish them good-day. I have other locals, who walk with me from place to place, stand in line with me and get me on the right train – taking more than 45 minutes out of their day to help.
There are times you won’t be able to find help though. For my fellow Americans, DO NOT GET ANGRY NO ONE SPEAKS ENGLISH!!! There is nothing that will drive away help more, than standing at the hotel, restaurant or ticket line like an American putting their hands on their hips and loudly exclaiming, “Well this is just ridiculous, doesn’t anyone here speak English?” – no one will want to help you if you do. Saying things like this is what gives Americans a bad reputation as being, loud, rude, and snooty. Don’t be like them, please….
Don’t Be Embarrassed
There are so many other things that you could be embarrassed about – like when you think you need to fart, but it is actually a shart. If you don’t know what a shart is, consider yourself blessed – if you’re curious, use urban dictionary to look it up.
The point is, everyone expects you to not be fluent – so if you don’t get the words exactly right, don’t panic. Take a deep breath, laugh at yourself, know how to say sorry in their language. If you get too flustered, or your brain is fried from all the touring or the red-eye – revert to the Kwikpoint card (explained below) or drawing a picture.
Research Common Phrases
The number one thing to remember when beginning to learn a language is to not use big words or long phrases. Start small and use flashcards to memorize them so you aren’t fumbling and it comes second nature. If you aren’t sure how to pronounce something, Google and YouTube are going to work wonders for you. Here are a few phrases you will likely need to know when traveling, shopping, eating, meeting people, and if you run into an emergency.
How long (duration)?
What time does it leave?
I lost my…
I am going to…
I came from…
I leave on…
Bus / train station
I am allergic to…
Where is a doctor?
Where is the pharmacy
Tampons / sanitary pads
Can I drink the tap water?
Bed bugs – or other words for dangerous bugs common to the area
I lost my key
Where is the bathroom?
Do I pay here, or can I have the bill?
Do you take credit cards or cash?
I’m not interested / No, thank you
Do you have change?
Can I try?
Hello, my name is…
Do you speak English?
I don’t understand
Thank you and Thank You so much
Can I help you?
Where is the Embassy?
Use your Resources To Communicate While Traveling
We live in a world full of technology, and advanced communication devices. So it is so much easier to get past the language barrier than ever before. Here are a few resources I personally use to communicate in a different country.
My number one resource is Google Translate that I use on my phone, with the AT&T passport. The reason I like this so much is that you can do a voice to text with it. It also has a conversational function on it, where you can easily switch back and forth between languages and have them just speak into your phone. They check the text to make sure it is what they mean to say, edit what needs to be edited, and then you go back and forth.
This became very useful when I was trying to figure out what the safest way to get my friend to the airport was. It was in Santiago, I speak enough Spanish to get around, but when it comes to safety – you need details. So I was able to use Google translate, to understand how and who would take my friend to the airport. If you use Uber in the city, and the police catch you – you can get a $1000 fine. There were also reports of an unregistered Uber driver pick you up, and then take you to an obscure place in town – where they then rob you. S
I was also warned that I shouldn’t have bought the strawberries from the street vendors, because there was a big problem with diarrhea with travelers there. Apparently, turtles had invaded some of the water sources, and put Salmonella in the water systems – the locals were used to it, but travelers coming in – it was creating a big problem.
If you want something super affordable, can’t speak the language, and don’t draw pictures very well – then I would suggest a Kwikpoint card. This would be the bare minimum that I would take with you in order to communicate. You can get cards with small colorful photos on them, in specific groupings that visually can be easily recognized and understood throughout the world. If they don’t have it in their country, they will likely find someone who can explain it to you – or they can use their own phone/computer to use google translate to tell you.
Find A Common Ground
Let them know you are sorry you don’t speak their language but are trying to make things as easy as possible to have a good trip. This really breaks the ice and lets them know that you don’t think you are better than they are.
There are WAY too many times that I have heard people say, “Doesn’t anyone around here speaks English?” when traveling in a foreign country. This is absurd, and wouldn’t hold up in the USA if someone came and demanded someone spoke Spanish or French. So get off your high horse, realize it isn’t the USA – and so you should at least ATTEMPT to speak the primary language of the country you are visiting.
You have to remember you a VISITOR, not a foreign dignitary or some royalty that should be cow-towed to because you are an American. So check yourself, before you wreck yourself.
Now You Know How To Communicate In A Foreign Country
While you may not be fluent in the language of the country you will visit, now you have the resources to help put your mind at ease about the language barrier. Just don’t give up, be polite, stay calm and realize we are all humans. Invest in a good Kwikpoint card, Wifi, and make sure you can access Google Translate and I promise you will have no trouble navigating the world despite your language limitations.
Choosing accommodation for your travel has gotten more complicated over the years. Often leaving folks confused and worried they will make the wrong decision. Especially with reports of travelers being attacked, personal items stolen, and even the rare occasion of someone being killed. So I put together a guide on things to look for when choosing accommodation for your travels.
From beginning to end, this will be the ultimate guide on getting started when choosing your adventure accommodation and staying safe when you do. Be sure to check out my other articles on Safety while solo traveling as well. It will give a more detailed view of tips on how to stay safe, as well as what to do if you feel you landed in an unsafe situation. So let’s dive in on choosing your perfect accommodation!
Your Destination – When Choosing Accommodation
Is it a third world country or a first world country?
When your choosing accommodations, look at what the place is made of. Maybe it is a wood/grass hut on the beach with opportunities for perfect pictures, but no hot shower – or the toilet is shared and across the village. Make sure you take note of what is included in the room before you book it. There are so many wannabe YouTubers out there – that you can get a general idea from videos on the area and accommodation. Even the poorest countries have a phone and Facebook so asking for a few photos or to confirm certain amenities is in your best interest.
Is it a remote small village or a bustling city?
If it is a remote village will you have a way to get there? Is that factored into your budget? If it is in a bustling city, how easy is it to find your way there and how costly. Is traffic going to be an issue? If it is then the taxi rates are going to be sky-high unless you can get them to agree on a set price before you get into the vehicle.
What type of activities are you going to be participating in?
If you are going to be visiting Macchu Picchu you will want to stay up near the entrance to get there before the crowds. Conversely, if you are only there for a short period of time, is it worth it to hotel/hostel jump from place to place? What if you are scuba diving out in Fort Lauderdale and it would be easier to get to the shop by staying on Singer Island rather than paying for a taxi multiple days to get back and forth. Are there activities at night and places to eat close to your accommodation. When you are fighting Jet Lag, you can often awake in the middle of the night with hunger pains that can have you chewing the arm of your travel companion off or eating the bar of soap.
Is the country conservative or are their citizens heavily restricted with rules?
When I was traveling with a Moroccan friend near southern Morocco, they are still ruled by strict social guidelines. So we had to pretend that he was my brother-in-law in order to be able to rent an apartment. Otherwise, they would have required to see a marriage document prior to renting the apartment. Several of them actually refused when they saw that he had a white American Female in the car. Given their point of view, I can see why several people refused (just in case he was kidnapping me – even though it wasn’t the case). Each place I stayed at also wanted a copy of my passport – which has ALL my personal information on it. So would you be comfortable letting them copy that information? Some places may refuse to rent to you if you are not comfortable giving that information. So these are just some things to think about, especially if you are a solo female traveler.
Are your comforts of home important to you?
It is important to remember that not every destination is going to have an air conditioner you can blast, fireplace you can light up, or even traditional heating. They may not even have a working toilet, or maybe you can sit on the toilet, shower, and brush your teeth all at the same time. We stayed in an apartment in Italy once as a family, where the smell of the sewer was so strong that we could barely shower. So be sure to read reviews and amenities of a location before going, so you can be well informed on what you will have to compromise and if you are willing to do that.
Time of Arrival or Departure – When Choosing Accommodation
Do you arrive at night or during the day?
I typically look for the best deal on Booking.com when I’m attempting to rent a place. I really like the filters you can choose from, and you can easily decide if a hotel/hostel/B&B is right for you all on the same platform.
As the years of travel have come and gone, I have gotten a lot more detailed in my approach when renting an Airbnb, Booking.com place. Sometimes it is the best deal because it is a remote part of the city that isn’t safe to lug my big suitcase and a backpack full of camera gear. So it is definitely something to consider. Another thing to consider is how accessible it is to catch a taxi, the cost of an Uber or Lyft to and from the transportation stations (airport, train, bus). There was one morning in Poland I counted on being able to catch a taxi to the train station and found that in Poland – in the center of Warsaw – no one is awake before 8 am. So I had to get access back into the building I had just deposited my room keys into, so I could get Wifi to call an Uber.
Your Budget When Choosing Accommodation
Does your budget include a fancy place to stay?
If this is going to be a relaxing vacation with lots of beach time, then maybe spending a little more on an all-inclusive resort would be worthwhile. If you are going to be out looking at historic sites in the center of the city, maybe it would be worthwhile to spend a little more of the budget to stay closer to those sites. If you are just looking to spend as little as possible, because you will be backpacking from one place to the next anyway, then maybe a hostel is your best bet.
Do you want to spend your vacation budget on your accommodation or on seeing the city?
The biggest beef I have with spending money on accommodation is that it takes away from my ability to spend money on tours, food and really experiencing the culture. So I tend to personally go for a cheaper (but comfortable) accommodation and then have loads left for tours and activities.
What type of vacation is this for you? Will you spend more time in a hotel (Honeymoon) or more time seeing the sites (on a group tour, or with a bunch of friends)?
If your vacation is going to be a romantic getaway, then I would tell you to spend a little more to have a cozy bed with a view and easy access to come back to the hotel frequently. If you will be in a tour group, they typically include the cost of the hotel, or I would get a hotel that will be close to the majority of your meeting spots.
Your Desire for Convenience When Choosing Accommodation
Does the destination have Taxies or Ubers?
Believe it or not, not every country/city has Taxies or Ubers. There are equivalents available in some countries (see my growing Worldwide Airport Transportation List) but sometimes it is just good old fashioned walking, horse and carriage or a Tuk Tuk. In certain cities in South America, if you are caught by the police taking an Uber/Lyft (like in Santiago) then you can get a $1000 fine. So I would definitely consider how you will get around the city, and to and from the airport when choosing accommodation.
Is there public transport? Is transportation able to handle your luggage?
Once you figure out your mode of transportation to and from the airport, also consider if they will be able to handle the amount of luggage you are planning on bringing. I can tell you right now, a Tuk Tuk will not be able to handle two people with their luggage. When I was in San Pedro La Laguna, near Lake Atitlan – the roads are too narrow for cars in most places, often get flooded in the rainy season. The Tuk Tuks there couldn’t hold 3 curvy women at once, so I had to squat and pray I didn’t break my ankle because my leg was hanging out of the Tuk Tuk.
If you are being picked up in a shared ride, or transfer service (often found on the airline websites when you book your flight) – they may have luggage restrictions to two per passenger or less.
If it is a shared Uber/Lyft or Taxi – you will have to be considerate of other passengers who may not be as prepared as you are – or pack as light as you do.
Your Travel Companions – Questions to Ask Before Booking
Do your travel companions have physical limitations? ie/ Wheelchair, bad knees, chronic pain
Americans are very lucky (and some countries in Europe), in that most everything is accessible to those with disabilities. Even in Scotland, there are things I took for granted in America that they do not have there due to the way the city has grown and morphed over the years. Working in the medical field it was eerie to me to not see elderly on the street – or those in wheelchairs or on crutches – there are seldom elevators unless specifically stated; Hostels, Airbnb, and B&Bs do not typically have elevators.
If you travel with Chronic pain and are stuck on an hour train ride in between the cars because you didn’t realize you had to reserve a seat and not just purchase a ticket – this could result in major pain that could result in a ruined vacation. So be aware of who you travel with, and have frank conversations about tolerance levels and ability to treat pain while vacationing.
What about those with bad joints, or those with heart or lung issues. Can they go up stairs, do they have elevators, what is the air pollution in the city like vs in the country? These are all things to consider and ask both the accommodation and your travel companions about. When I was in Edinburgh, and even in Marrakesh – I was grateful I had my inhaler because I have reactive asthma attacks. I get extremely fatigued, and a sore throat when the air quality is bad. Going up to high elevations quickly, like in Zermatt on the Little Matterhorn, at 15,000 feet – I nearly ended up in the hospital with an oxygen level of 85% because I discovered I was extremely prone to altitude sickness.
Do your travel companions travel light, or over pack with lots of bags?
Again, everything is a little bigger in America vs other countries. If you show up in Japan or China with 2 large bags and a big backpack – you may as well just buy an additional hotel room. Everything is small and jam-packed unless you know what you are getting into and can afford the larger hotel rooms.
Your Activities When Choosing Your Accommodation
Are you going to have a car?
If you are going to have a car, is there parking available at your accommodation? If there isn’t, then you have to look at costs for parking – and if you are good enough at parallel parking. In Morocco, if you decide to drive there, the parking spaces are very very tightly packed. There are certain meanings when you flash your brights or turn on your hazard lights. They even have parking assistants that you have to tip at least a dollar every time they help you, otherwise, you can get punched (saw a legit street brawl between a parking attendant and a local – lots of blood). In Edinburgh, there are no parking areas, unless you want to pay $45-$85 a night at a very limited parking center in the city. In the center of Boston, the parking at any location can be upwards of $60 a night (minimum). So be sure you check on parking availability if you choose to rent a car, otherwise, it can eat your budget rather quickly.
Is accommodation close to affordable public transportation?
If there are no parking areas, is the accommodation close enough to (and safe enough) utilize public transportation? In Guatemala, it would have been cheaper to take the 5-hour bus ride to Lake Atitlan sure. Yet hiring a private ride for $60 for the 3-hour car ride through mountain passes where falling rocks, flooded roads is much safer and more reliable at 2 am.
Your Eating Habits When Choosing Accommodation
Is breakfast important to you?
If you like to sleep in but love your breakfast, then I would make sure you click on the filter option where breakfast is included in the cost, or there is a continental breakfast available. I could eat breakfast food all day everyday if I could. Dinner I just eat Almonds or a protein bar – but in Europe, Lunch and Dinner are some of the most important meals.
Check Local Holidays/Religious Events
This is something I discovered after dating several Muslim men, when they described their countries during Ramadan. A local religious holiday that lasts a month, where stores, and local eateries often close during the day for religious reasons. If you don’t know about Ramadan, I put together a basic guide on Ramadan, and when and why they celebrate. For the purposes of this article though, you need to know that stores will open after sunset/evening prayer, and close in the AM after morning prayer. If you are ok eating all night, and sleeping during the day, there are some special dishes that come out during Ramadan, and are only made during Ramadan that would be worthwhile to check out for all my foodies.
Do you like to eat out?
Are there places nearby that you can eat? If there are places that you can eat near your accommodation, is it the type of food you can eat? Do you have any particular dietary restrictions? If so, then looking at different neighborhoods where those are more likely to be available and have more variety. If you are Vegan, Vegetarian, or have any particular allergy to certain foods – then I would recommend using Pinterest to plan out your eating excursions before you go.
Do you cook your own meals when vacationing?
If you do have severe dietary restrictions, or like to eat a little healthier while traveling – then choosing an accommodation near a supermarket may be worthwhile. Try your hand at local cuisine, or even eat with locals through EatWith.com where you can schedule a meal with a local and other travelers, take a food tour, or even learn how to cook like a local.
Will Your Personality Fit Your Accommodation
Are you a quiet hermit type? Are you outgoing and lazie faire? Are you refined and love that luxury life?
If you don’t like chaos, or can’t sleep through drunk people coming in and out at all hours of the night – then a Hostel is not for you. Do you like to be social, but still want your privacy and a relaxed environment? Then a Bed and Breakfast may be for you. Do you love luxurious surroundings, and value your sleep above all? Then a higher-end luxury hotel might be the best choice.
When staying in any location, it is important to know if you have the only key to the house, apartment, or room.
If you don’t, then I would suggest to my Solo Female Travelers that you demand this, or just look for another accommodation. If it is a Bed and Breakfast type home, where other people will be staying, this is fine, but you still want to ensure that you will be safe while you are sleeping – and there is lockbox for your passport.
Will you be alone or with other people?
If you will be alone in a dangerous neighborhood, then I would suggest getting a hotel closer to the city – and make sure there is good lighting on the street. Using Google maps street view is a good way to take a look at the neighborhood you will be going.
If you will be staying with other people, such as in a hostel, do they have lockers you can use? If so, are there locks you can rent, or do you need to bring your own lock?
Is the community gated/barb wire fencing?
When I was staying in Guatemala City, there were a lot of reports online that theft and muggings were common with tourists. Arriving late at night from San Pedro made me a bit nervous, as I didn’t properly scope out my accommodation. Driving into the complex though, provided a lot of ease of mind when I saw that there was a security guard, cement fencing with barbed wire on the top, and good lighting in the streets. So it really depends on the safety level of the country you are going to, how cautious you need to be, and how much research you need to do prior to finalizing your booking.
There are certain countries where tourists have to stay inside a compound for safety reasons. So for my adrenaline junkies out there, make sure that you understand the risks. If there is a safety advisory by your state/country department for that particular country – and you decide to go anyway; it could limit their ability and willingness to help you if you decide to ignore those warnings.
Do they have safety measures for fire hazards, flooding, earthquakes, hurricanes?
If you are staying in a wooden bungalow in the Maldives, and a hurricane blows through while you’re there – because the prices were cheaper in the rainy season – do they provide, or have a safe spot or emergency evacuation plan/supplies to aid their guests? This is something that happened to a friend when in Jamaica, and they had to fend for themselves until the communities were stabilized. Luckily they were in a hotel, not a bungalow, and had some granola bars to tide them over while electricity was restored in the kitchens.
Getting Travel Insurance is a great way to ease the mind.
I typically will use World Nomads as my Travel Insurance for medical evacuation or any emergency needs/delays/cancellations. Something you will have to ensure with medical, natural disaster, or political unrest evacuations – is that the fine writing often says ‘will evacuate you to the nearest USA location or airport’. Well that doesn’t help you much if you are vacationing in South America, and they send you to a hospital in Atlanta – but your house is in Oregon. Medical Transport on a ventilator from one area of the USA to another is done by helicopter with a specialized team and starts at $15,000 depending on the team needed and flight time. So if you are from the USA, or are purchasing the insurance through your own country – I highly suggest you read the fine print on this particular portion.
Will you need to get vaccines prior to going?
If you are a US Citizen, there are certain vaccines that are mandatory if you visit a country where a disease is prevalent.
Some of the vaccines can be out of stock or on back order – so it could take months until you receive it. Be sure to check with your local health department on these specialty vaccines.
Getting the vaccines within a certain time period PRIOR to your departure is imperative. Your immune system needs time to work, and what if you have a bad reaction? The earlier you can do it the better is what I highly suggest.
Are there animals or insects that could come in while sleeping? Do they carry diseases? Does the accommodation have mechanisms to prevent this?
If you are terrified of snakes or creepy crawlies coming into your room at night – then any tropical environment, even Australia may not be for you, unless you stay in a place where this can’t happen.
If you are in Africa, having a mosquito net is essential as many parasitic diseases including Malaria are transmitted there.
If you are staying in a grass hut in South American, there is a bug called the Kissing Bug (bites near nose/eyes/mouth at night), that transmits a parasite that can live in you for decades before showing up as a major heart issue.
In hostels, there is a growing issue with Bed Bugs. I was attacked by Bed Bugs in a Hostel in Prague a few years ago. I had 32 bites all up and down my arms, legs, chest and even a few on my face. Little did I know that I was allergic to the bites, and ended up swelling at each bite, felt like I was hit by a bus for the entire time I was backpacking through Europe.
It isn’t just hostels though, Bed Bug reports in New York City were up by 40% in 2018. If you bring those little bastards home with you, guess what….it can cost anywhere from $1600 to $5200 to get rid of them. Often it results in you having to replace furniture, beds, clothes and other items that they squeeze into and lay hundreds of eggs. So consider yourself warned, research how to spot bed bugs, and make a rule that you put your bags outside the room until your inspection is complete. It only took once, to learn this very painful and difficult lesson.
Are there restrictions on staying with those of the opposite sex?
I touched on this previously when I was traveling with a local in Morocco. But I bring it up again here because some countries do not allow you to stay with the opposite sex unless you are married or have the same last name. So just inquire, before you book if you are concerned.
Is the destination friendly to the LGBTQI community? Would you be allowed to stay in the same room as your partner?
This one, unfortunately, is still not accepted worldwide. While the courageous individuals who are traveling to the more close-minded countries, and are helping to try to educate on this particular point – I would advise you to research this extensively. While I don’t really feel it is necessary to call out specific countries, I wanted to put this in this guide – because it can pose a security risk to members of the LGBTQI community.
A good resource for those in the LGBTQI community that want to travel is ‘Dopes On The Road‘ – this website will give you Safety Tips to Consider, questions to ask, and how to plan a honeymoon as a LGBT.
What about racial discrimination?
While I am a white American female, I do have plenty of inspirational women of color that I highly admire and look up to. One such person is, Glo, from the Blog Abroad – who is very frank, honest and open about facing discrimination while traveling and how she handles it. Another great resource for what it is like to travel like a black man is Erik Prince from Minority Nomad. His goal is to be the first black man to travel to every country and would be a great resource because so far (as of August 2019) he has visited 90 countries. Because of my own ethnicity, I think it is a subject that I regrettably have been ignorant of for my readers. So to those who are concerned about this, hearing it from a white woman isn’t going to ease your mind – so look up Glo and Erik – you won’t regret it.
I know these are a lot of questions to process and take in, so it may feel like information overload. This is why I broke it down into bullet points because once you choose your destination, know your budget, and limitations or preferences of the people you travel with – it will be easy to skip over some of the questions.
I tried to include every question I ask when approaching a booking, or choosing an accommodation (traveling with my dog is a whole other article that I didn’t address). So if you are trying to book something luxurious, then you will have a guide – if you are finding accommodation in a busy city or a remote village in Africa then you will have a resource to remind you of how to best approach it and make the most informed decision possible.
Would you include any tips/tricks or advice to those who are just starting out booking their own accommodation?
Going to Boston was not something I hadn’t really planned on doing in the middle of summer. I was going for a Travel Conference and knew I wouldn’t have a lot of time to see the sites around or near the venue. So I got online and found that Grayline had a New England Coast Day Trip from Boston that left at a few hours after I arrived. I was coming in on a Red-Eye flight, and knew I wouldn’t have a lot of energy to walk the Freedom Trail, but didn’t want to waste the time sleeping in a hotel lobby somewhere. The bus seemed like a perfect mix of relaxation, and effective use of time.
Arriving in Boston
The flight there was TERRIBLE! The guy next to me wouldn’t quit fidgeting, moving, coughing, and was one of those people that puts their elbows out as far as they can to have more space. So I didn’t sleep that well on the flight out and was even more grateful I was going to have a relaxing morning on my New England Coast Day Trip from Boston.
Getting to the Boston airport, was truly a beautiful approach into the city with the Boston Bay below and the city surrounded by water. I knew it was a port city but didn’t realize just how much the city revolves around the water. From the nights by the Charles River Esplanade to the massive ponds, lakes and reflecting pools dotting the city – it is a photographer’s dream.
Meeting Our Grayline Bus Pilot
This was my first time taking a Grayline Bus for a tour along the New England Coast. The only other tour I have taken where a bus was involved was when I was touring Jordan. I still remember how badly I had to battle motion sickness on that trip, I made sure I picked a seat near the front of the bus.
Our driver for the day, was a quiet, focused, and friendly former 747 retired pilot, who was also in the Air Force back in the day. I can’t recall his name right now but will call him Paul the Pilot.
Paul towered above me about 6’1″, to my 5’4″ frame. He wore glasses, had a wide mouth, and a kindly Grandpa like face. He had squinty eyes, grey hair, and was constantly looking at his watch, with the timeliness of departures, and schedules just as you would expect from someone with his background.
Hampton Beach, New Hampshire
After all passengers were accounted for Paul introduced himself and we were on the road to tour the New England Coast. On the way to Hampton Beach, we passed by New Hampshire Harbor, where the movie, The Perfect Storm, was based. The Perfect Storm follows the true story of men who were from Massachusetts that had been out fishing for Swordfish. They had gone out to check the Swordfish lines, pulled in their catch, and were heading back to shore when the low-pressure system started to encroach on their fishing grounds. A hurricane came racing up the coast catching many people off guard, and because their ice machine broke down, they were not able to seek a safe harbor; otherwise, they would lose their catch and all the money with it. Unfortunately, the men never made it back to land.
Our first official stop was the Sand Art Competition at Hampton Beach in New Hampshire. The sand art competition is in its 19th year, where master sculptors from around the world come together to create masterpieces. It started out as a commissioned piece for celebrating the newly minted coin of New Hampshire and has since turned into a visual spectacle every year.
It isn’t just sand art that you can enjoy though, there are plenty of activities at Hampton Beach. You can visit the arcade, try saltwater taffy, fry bread, and plenty of delicious seafood for even the pickiest palate. You can also volunteer to pick up trash, catch a show on the beach, or visit the Discovery Ocean Center (open 12-7).
You can swim in the ocean here, but I would highly recommend using a wet suit, because of how cold the water is. This area can also be quite dangerous with the strong rip tides, so be sure to watch the flag warnings. There are also a lot of sea lions in the area, which also attract Great White sharks for feeding. So be aware, and be safe should you choose to take a dip in the ocean.
Nubble Lighthouse in York Maine
With Maines rocky shoreline, and the economy relying heavily on the imports, it was very important to its citizens to have a lighthouse. After a passionate petition to the government, they were granted $15,000 to complete the lighthouse. The Nubble Lighthouse was completed July 1, 1879, and has since become a symbol of both unity and community.
The Lighthouse was initially manned by the US coastguard and their families. After the lighthouse became automated, the last keeper of the lighthouse left in 1987. After which the lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places to help preserve it. The only time you can walk to the lighthouse is when it is low tide, otherwise, you would have to get there by a small boat.
The lighthouse is very unique in that instead of the traditional yellow light, the light is red. The red helps to cut through the fog at night that tends to commonly roll into Maine, with even the slightest change in temperature. The light rotates every 2 seconds day and night.
If you get a chance to visit the gift shop, be sure to say hello Prince of New England, Bill Thompson. This 93-year-old gem paints pictures of the lighthouse and sells them for $10-$15 apiece to help upkeep and maintain the lighthouse.
Each painting has a story behind it, and The Prince of New England makes sure you know what the story is prior to letting you purchase the painting. He showed me one painting that depicted a seagull named Charlie. Charlie would follow the postmaster from his truck to the gift shop every day. He would wait until the postmaster was finished and then follow him back out to his car. One day the postmaster forgot to roll up his window before going into the gift shop, and when he came back out – Charlie was sitting in the front seat. The postmaster said, ‘ok, well, let’s go Charlie’ and they drove to the next stop.
The Prince of New England concluded his story about Charlie then grabbed my hand. He explained how he was grateful he met me because I have a light in my eyes that he said made his day.
These are the type of connections that really make traveling worthwhile to me. When you can meet a random stranger, who has a kind soul, and words don’t necessarily need to be said – but you understand them, and they understand you. This is why I agree wholeheartedly in calling Mr. Bill Thompson the Prince of New England.
I was reluctant to leave the Nubble Lighthouse but was excited for our next stop on our New England Coast Day Trip to Kennebunkport Maine. This was once a bustling harbor in the 1890s. It offered a safe place for shipbuilders to build new ships with deep water access to the ocean during high tide. A bridge in the middle of town was once a drawbridge used to let the ships pass from Kennebunkport to the lower town of Kennebunk. Be sure you don’t call it Kennebunk, as the locals are very proud to call it Kennebunkport and feel the towns are very different (especially the people in them).
The shipbuilders would typically haul coal, pine, and cotton to locations around the world. If you want to learn more about the shipping industry of days past, I would suggest visiting the Kennebunkport historical society and the Brick store museum. There are so many hidden gems like the White House and the public library, just wandering through town is the best way to see Kennebunkport.
The White House is one of the most unique buildings in Kennebunkport (or at least I think so). It is the same home that has been in this area for the last 130 years. The last known Perkins relative to live in the home kept all the clothing, furniture, and mementos in the home and gifted the home with all the contents to the Kennebunkport Historical Society. However, she required that all items within the home, stay in the home permanently.
So when you visit, be sure to go on a tour of the home (the last tour is at 3 pm) – you will feel that you have been transported back 130 years when you enter the home. While I missed the last tour by 15 minutes the lady at the gift shop told me all about the home, the town and why the house was so important. I really want to go back and do a proper tour of the house, because it sounds fascinating that even the clothes from when her, and her siblings were small children are still eerily preserved.
As I walked along the streets, I couldn’t believe how incredible each corner of the town was for photos. I guess you could say it is one of the most Instagrammable towns I have ever been to. The cottages lining the streets looked like houses that could be in a Christmas Storybook, the yards were perfectly manicured, and the people were incredibly friendly.
I let myself get lost in the city and found a great little Public Library. I took a few pictures of the outside, then started to talk to some people decorating the patio. They were locals and explained the history of the building. It was built in 1813 as a bank originally, then turned into a customs office for the ship cargo that would come into town.
It was then turned into a free public library. If you go up into the Children’s area, you will see some impressionistic paintings by Louis T Graves from the 1930s that show popular children’s stories scenes depicted. These paintings are still incredibly vivid and have never been retouched.
What to Eat in Kennebunkport
The seafood here is incredible, and I would definitely plan on getting some sort of clam and lobster. The Lobster in Maine is some of the best, because of the cold waters off their coastline – it causes the Lobster to be very sweet to the taste and not as rubbery.
Our guide highly recommended the Pilot House. This family-owned and run restaurant is just behind the CITI gas station as you are coming into town. It is easy to miss if you aren’t looking for it but is right by where you catch the whale watching tours. The Lobster dinners, Lobster rolls, and other meals are VERY reasonably priced from $8.99 to $18.99. I did look at some of the other places in town and the meals were far more expensive for the same kind of food. The Lobster is locally caught by those from Kennebunkport, so it is less of an impact on the marine ecosystems.
The locals come to this place to grab a beer, a bite to eat, and to watch a game. The waiters and waitresses make you feel as if you are part of the family when you walk in the door, even some giving you a side hug as you leave. I know this is weird, but if you go into the bathroom, they have a huge frame full of different types of knots that are used on a ship.
Spirit of Massachusetts
If you are able to stay into the early evening, then I suggest stopping by one of the most unique bars I have been to – the Spirit of Massachusetts. This 125 foot Schooner was first introduced in 1984 and has both food and drink available, along with a series of different events and shows they regularly put on.
Ice Cream and Blue Berries
A huge surprise to me was that Blueberries are a big deal in Maine because of the sweetness. In fact, Dreyers Ice Cream gets its supply of blueberries from Maine. So while in town, finish off your visit with a sweet treat from Aunt Marie’s Ice Cream. This little shop is tucked away into a corner behind all the shops on the main stretch of road, and there were about 15-20 locals consistently coming through at any given point. (Address: 10 Ocean Ave Kennebunkport Maine 04046)
Patten’s Berry Farm with the Princess of New England
Our bus driver also claims that there is a Princess of New England Coast as well. When you head back to Boston, there is a small fruit and flower stand on the side of the road called Patten’s Berry Farm.
Mrs. Patten, 92 years old, has been tending the family farm, canning and selling the products at the fruit stand since she was a girl. If you stop, you will see just how much care she puts into making every flower pot perfect, each can of fruit is perfectly positioned, and large blueberry and apple pies are placed near the register.
Making our way further along the New England Coast – we stopped briefly across the way from Walker Point. The temperature had changed, and of course, the fog rolled so apologizes for the poor photo. This is the summer residence of former US President George Bush.
Their family bought this area 120 years ago and has morphed into a place of refuge for the Bushs. When we drove by this place, we were able to see that there were three secret service cars near the entrance. There was also an American Flag on the building as well. Paul the Pilot (our guide), told us this is how you can tell that the Bushs were at Walker Point that day.
Back to Boston
After a long, but wonderful, day of our New England Coast Day Trip from Boston, Paul the Pilot gave us an opportunity to take a snooze on the way back into Boston. I zonked out quickly and enjoyed the downtime to refresh before a hectic week at the conference.
Paul dropped us off at key points within the city, close to our respective hotels, where the bus was able to fit. I was reluctant to leave because he was so kind and it had been such a relaxing day. For the cost, I think the trip was well worth it. The pick-up and drop-off were seamless, the time at each stop was perfect, and we were able to get back to Boston at a reasonable time around 7-8pm. Just in time for me to meet up with friends attending the conference, for dinner. So if you are in the Boston area, and are looking for a New England Coast Tour Day Trip from Boston. I cannot recommend utilizing this company and service enough. This was not a sponsored trip in any way, I genuinely enjoyed my time on my New England Coast Tour with Grayline.
Fall is one of my favorite times of year, a season of warm blankets, hot chocolate, Halloween and beautiful color. It might be hard to pick where to take a scenic road trip for fall colors in the USA. I have put together the top 15 places to see fall colors in the United States for you to make it easy and a dreamy vacation. So grab your cup of hot cocoa, light the fire, and let us explore where your next adventure will be.
Utah Road Trips for Fall Colors
American Fork Canyon, Logan Canyon, Park City Utah, Sundance Utah these are all the places I can unequivocally recommend for seeing Fall colors for the entire family.
American Fork Canyon
This can just be a drive through the Alpine loop where Aspens grace the steep slopes. Pull off on the side of the road under the fall foliage to have some ‘hobo dinners’ complete with meat, carrots, potatoes and your favorite seasonings over a fire. Finish off with a hike and sm’ores over the embers.
This is also a great drive through, a lot more of an open space where you can see fields of oranges, fiery reds. Hike up to the wind caves, visit the nature center, hike along the limber pine trail with an overlook of Bear Lake – one of the clearest lakes in Utah. Rent a cabin and make a weekend of it on your fall color road trip!
Park City and Sundance Utah
Take an easy walk up to the ski lifts, where you can enjoy a 30 minute ski lift ride right over the fields of wild flowers in the summer, or fall colors. The crisp mountain air, places to shop and dine along with the last remnants of the summer farmers markets will make for a perfect Fall getaway before the winds of winter arrive.
Colombia River Gorge, Oregon
This Gorge is about 2,100 feet deep with waterfalls, and fall foliage galore! Hike the challenging Hamilton Mountain, about 9.4 miles in passing 2 waterfalls ( Rodney and Hardy Falls ) along the way.
Participate in part of the PCT along the 5 mile out and back Dry creek falls. Despite being called a ‘creek’ this 75-foot waterfall will impress even the most negative hikers.
Lastly, end your day with a picnic at Pioneer Point on the 1.3 mile Cape Horn Loop. Where you will bask in the beauty of the Colombia River adorned with a spectacular spectacle of fall colors. Bring your thermos full of hot cocoa, you will want to stay here and drink in the view for awhile.
Maine is known as the ‘vacation state’ to many East Coasters. Vast landscapes packed with adventures for all. Yet, Kennebunkport Main stole my heart when searching for the perfect fall getaway. I would suggest visiting in September specifically as many of the local shops begin to close around the first week of October.
This quaint fishing village was known for its shipping, and packs a punch when it comes to historical value – including being the home town of one of one of the former President’s of the United States.
Be sure to wander the city on foot, take a whale watching boat ride, jump on a lobster boat and catch your meal for the day, and finish up with some blue berry ice cream, or a cuppa tea.
Ozark National Forest, Arkansas
I mistakenly thought that Arkansas didn’t have much to offer in the way of beauty. Yet it is like finding Where’s Waldo when going hiking. The trees cover all the hidden gems like hidden waterfalls, caves used by slaves to hide while getting to freedom, a Popeye Statue in the middle of a small town city and all sorts of down to earth people to talk to. The best part is that this great state is filled with trees that turn into beautiful fall colors – not to miss when fulfilling your fall colors bucketlist.
The iconic Whitaker Point hike with trees in reds, yellows, and oranges as far as the eye can see. A perfect time to hike in the Southern United States, because the humidity will be a lot less potent than in the throws of summer in this area.
There are plenty of hikes to enjoy here like Compton’s Double Falls, Sam’s Throne, and the Narrows with a fabulous display of nature’s beauty.
Catskill Mountains, New York
One word will convince you to visit the Castskill Mountains in Fall….Octoberfest. Beginning the end of September there are 4 weeks of Bavarian festivities held at Hunter Mountain. What is unique to this area is that it grows crisp, juicy, flavorful apples for a perfect hard apple cider. If festivals aren’t your thing, then stop by Delhi’s picturesque Wayside Cider for a more refined sip of these suds.
You can also drive the scenic route of the Catskill Mountains, hitting a round of golf, or spending the night camping in the cool autumn air. If you take a look at all the festivals held in the Catskill Mountains, you are sure to find something for everyone. My favorite is their lumberjack festival, I never realized just how intense the competition was until I saw one of these.
Enchanted Circle of New Mexico
Many people think of the East Coast as the only place with beautiful fall colors. Suprisingly New Mexico’s Enchanted Circle will give you a whole new perspective on Fall in the desert.
This is a circle you will need your RV for, or at the very least a tent as it is 84 miles of exploration. The circular route takes you around Wheeler Mountain ( 13,161 feet – 4.011 meters), and through the lush Hondo Valley blazing with colors of fall.
Stop at the Red River Fish Hatchery and take a self-guided tour. Enchant your children with the large rainbow trout pond. Maybe even travel down stream and try to catch a fish or two.
Carry on around to Questa, to visit Artesanos de Questa, where woodworkers, tinsmiths, painters, stained glass workers and sculptors show their work at this cooperative.
You will get an array of fall festivities, art shows, animal encounters and gorgeous scenery as you take a very memorable and enchanting drive around this circle.
Stowe Vermont Road Trip For Fall Colors
Known as the Fall Color Capital, is a time of vibrant colors that your eyes drink in calming the soul. There are many ways to see the breathtaking fall foliage here through the extensive network of hiking trails, kayaking down the reservoir, or just taking a leisurely scenic drive.
Despite the plethora of mountain biking paths, I recommend the leisurely ‘Rec Path’ for your fall foliage leaf peeping. This path is one the whole family or group of friends can enjoy no matter what their physical skill level is. For the more adventurous, I would take a zip line through the fall foliage, a guided tour, or a Stowe, at Night, Lantern Tour where you are regaled with tales of ghost stories.
Festivals such as the Stowe Tango Music Festival, Stowe Jazz Festival, Stowe Foliage Arts Festival, Stowe Arts Week, Art on Park and the outdoor art exhibit, ‘Exposed’ are just a few events that grace the artistic stages in this small town.
North Conway, New Hampshire
This is one of the more unique and off the beaten path places to visit for fall foliage. North Conway in New Hampshire may not be the first destination you would choose, but for train lovers it should be. There is a historic Victorian Station built in 1974 and on the National Register of Historic Places in the United States.
When you jump on the this train there are different lengths of time you can enjoy the fall foliage in comfort and class. If you like the spooky and scary, like me – try the Murder Mystery Dinner Train in October. Be sure to plan ahead as it only runs on certain weekends in october, and only in certain cars on the train so space is limited.
You cannot mention fall to me without immediately thinking about Halloween. There is no other town more fit to celebrate all Hallo’s Eve than Salem. Discover what it was like to live in New England during the time of the Salem witch trials. Take a ghost tour, explore the museums, meet real practicing witches, attend a play about witches – there are so many ghoulishly great activities you may forget you traveled there to see fall foliage as well.
The color palette along the New England Coastline is one you will never forget. An array of colors even the witches of Salem would have in their cauldrons. No matter where you go in this town, you will be surrounded by brilliant fall colors. Take a ferry down to Boston from Salem (30 min and $25 for one way) to avoid the incredible parking fees. Stroll along Beacon Hill, or Boston Commons two iconic places both photographically and historically. This where the warmth of the color of the trees matches the picturesque buildings of the 1700’s full of history and divine food – it is a perfect way to end your fall foliage frolicking.
Yellowstone National Park Road Trip for Fall Colors
Many people visit Yellowstone National Park in the Summer to see the buffalo, bears, and new babies emerging to find food after the long winter. Yet they often forget just how incredible the colors in the fall can be. It can get a bit chilly in the fall, and even snow if there is an early winter.
Seeing Old Faithful when the crowds are not as oppressive amid the backdrop of beautiful fall colors – should be on everyone’s bucketlist. This is one place that fall hits a bit earlier than the rest of the country, being early August/late August. Be sure that you check on hotels/camping sites you plan to stay at as there are many staggered closings up until Oct 20th.
The reason this is such a wonderful time to see the rutting season. The bison rutting season starts in August, and the Elk rutting season is in September. The park rangers admit, that it is not unusual to see the massive elk sparring and fighting throughout the season. I recommend visiting Mammoth Hot Springs for the best Elk Rutting shows, as this tends to be a place the congregate.
If watching the rutting season isn’t your thing, then maybe catching a fish is! Fishermen from around the world are drawn here for the Brown Trout spawning season. You are guaranteed to have a fish dinner every night that your heart desires. I would recommend Madison and Gardner rivers for the best trout fishing for the fall season.
Jackson Hole National Park
The swarms of summer visitors are gone, and a cornucopia of fall festivities is now in full swing. I would plan a visit in September for the best chance to see the full variety of fall foliage, as the parks will still be open and so will many of the best hikes. Take a ride through Grand Teton National Park full of aspens suffused with brilliant yellows of fall. Go on a wildlife viewing tour (which happen all year round) where the dark colors of elk, deer, and even bears pop out in your photos against the backdrop of fall colors.
Bundle up and catch one of the tram rides up Rendezvous Mountain at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Teton Village. Grab a cup of hot chocolate, and drink in the fresh crisp fall air. Make your way back down to Jackson Hole and reserve a uniquely western experience for dinner, with a Chuck Wagon Supper.
Fall in Jackson Hole is any photographer enthusiasts dream, with wild colors amid wildlife at their peak for mating season – there is no other time I would rather go.
Colorado is often known for the skiing in the fall, but it is one of my favorite places to see Fall Foliage. The people are very down to earth, you can take a horse back ride through Aspen Falls and Estes Park to see the best of the fall foliage without even breaking a sweat. Home to Rocky Mountain National Park and Roosevelt National Forest, with a massive network of mountain biking, and heart warming food – it truly is a fall foliage paradise.
Estes Park is a more luxurious and relaxing way to spend your time seeing fall foliage in Colorado. It is a Swiss inspired town, with songs, shows, and plenty of activities when the sun sets. It is also home to thousands of Elk that will be in the rutting season just like Yellowstone, and Jackson Hole – yet with more of the luxury comfort.
Washington State Road Trip for Fall Colors
I cannot say it enough, I love Washington! The first (of many times) I visited was when I went on my first sailing trip in Seattle. I was hooked and am already planning a trip back to experience fall foliage in Leavenworth. This small town has its own Autumn Leaf Festival. Where a parade full of fall colors and even Lady Fall Royalty is crowned in this small town.
Take a scenic road trip for fall colors through Mt Rainer National Park and see just how incredible the colors light up the land. While it is a very touristic area in the summer, many children are back in school. So it is a great camping getaway for both single and couples alike. Nothing is better than cuddling up in a blanket or next to your loved one than during fall.
The best places to take your epic fall foliage road trip in Washington are Paradise, Reflection Lakes, Bench and Snow Lakes for fabulous fall reflections. Get spiritual at the Grove of the Patriarchs, where you can worship giant Redwood trees. Drive along Chinook Pass on State Route 410 or the White Pass Scenic Byway on U.S. Highway 12 for vast landscape views unlike anything you have ever experienced.
Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia
This is where you will find the iconic old, dark colored mills against the flaming red colors of aspens. Because of the iconic nature along this drive, I highly recommend making reservations months in advance (especially for October). The best time to see the fall colors here is in mid to late October when the colors are at their peak.
When driving this parkway, you will be surrounded by foliage on east and west facing slopes. A perfect drive for the morning, or during golden hour especially along James River. As you travel south you will gain about 6,000 feet of elevation (1828 meteres) up to Mt. Pisgah into North Carolina.
This is one destination that you will need to plan on a journey to see the fall foliage at its best. Due to the varying elevations along this parkway, the peak fall foliage is going to be dependent upon the elevation.
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, West Virginia
Located along the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, this is a fabulous place for fall photography. It is four parks from four different States in one, with massive historical ties to the Civil War. Due to this, the parking can be limited with narrow stalls. So I wouldn’t suggest bringing your RV on this one, unless you have a boat load of patience. Alternatively, I would bring/rent a small car and use the shuttle while here.
Be sure to jump off at the footbridge to the C&O Canal stop, as this is where the rivers meet, and give a view like none other. The two rivers collide here, with an island like center, full of fall foliage and color to satisfy any leaf peeper. I highly recommend going to Maryland Heights viewpoint as this is going to be the most iconic and stunning view of the park during fall.
Even though I don’t have children of my own, I really appreciate it when parks provide things like passport stamps to kids, and junior ranger badges, historical tours that the whole family can enjoy. I think it is important to teach the younger generations the beauty that can come from traveling, and especially from traveling responsibly. Showing them and even our own friends just how beautiful nature can be when we take care of it. Harpers Ferry National Historic Park offers all of these things – which is why I highly recommend this place. You are going to need at least 4-5 days to properly explore the fall foliage, hiking, and historic parts of this town.
Gathering Up the Best Fall Leaves
Fall is my favorite time of year. There is not other time that you are still relaxed before Thanksgiving, or Christmas, and can celebrate creativity during Halloween. The crisp air and crisp apples contrast with the warmth of fires, warm drinks and warm fall colors.
No matter where you live, or where you visit in the United States – I hope you are able to visit one of these places during your search for the best places to see fall foliage. From the East Coast to the West Coast, from North to South, from High to Low- there are plenty of scenic road trips for fall colors in the USA for everyone.
There are hundreds of articles on ‘What To Pack for Boston’, but most of them focus on what to pack for winter not in summer. Boston can get hot and muggy, with all the water surrounding it – so it is important to plan accordingly. Here are my suggestions on what to pack for Boston in Summer, especially for those who don’t tolerate humidity very well like me.
My number one item for any trip that has increased humidity is body glide. This stuff saves me every single trip! For curvy girls, and men alike, this will save you from chafing. Boston is said to be one of the most walk-able cities in the United States, so be prepared for the dreaded chaffe. This is the first thing to add to your bag when planning on what to pack for Boston.
An App To ‘Pack’ for Boston
While this isn’t really a clothing item, it is something you definitely need to pack for Boston. With the walk-ability rating of this city, you have the option to take the underground T (or Train). There is an app you should get in order to get around town, it can be extremely confusing at first where to enter the subway. The train system isn’t like train travel in Europe. There is no where to cross to the other side, without entering the proper stairwell. Once you are past the ticket machine, the doors open to let you pass, then close, and your ticket is used up. If you have to turn around and go out again, then try to use the same ticket to get on the correct side for your train – well you will have to pay again.
So I would suggest getting this free app, it gives you a map of where to enter, times when the train is coming, and then where to get off.
You can also get a Charlie Card, where you pay about $22 for a 7 day pass, that you can use unlimited times in the subway. You can get these at any ticket station, but they don’t take cash, so make sure to have a card.
Traveler Tip: They have elevators, but be warned they are often used by the homeless as urinals; so on hot summer days you may want to just take the stairs.
Cool Classy Shirts
Keep in mind that when you are visiting this city you will be among all the Harvard and MIT smarty pants. I was glad I brought some casual business outfits to help me fit in. Cool shirts with pastel colors of pink, green, and blue will make you feel summery – but also stand out, at least in the center of Boston. Many people wear dresses, low heels, business attire – so you can choose what you would like to wear.
For the best pictures along Beacon Hill in front of the Red Brick houses, I would bring black, white, tan, or dark green to help you pop in the photos you are bound to take.
Most of what I packed for Boston in the way of shirts came from LOFT – where sizes range from 4-26. Another reason I love to promote them is no one is excluded from wanting to feel like a goddess in her photos. Guys, if you drop by the website – let me know your review of their clothing below in the comments or who you would recommend.
A Bit of Flair
For me spending $350 on a brand name shirt is just not in my budget, but props to you if you can throw money away like that. I like to feel fancy with my sunglasses, or a unique piece of jewelry.
So I will typically get my sun glasses from a place like Nordstrom Rack, Marshalls, or have even found some good ones at Ross. You can get some really nice brand name ones for an affordable price. The one reason I invest in a good pair of these, for two reasons. One, I don’t mess with my eyeballs – and don’t want to have cataracts, so getting good UV protection is important.
Second, people are mostly looking at your face when they meet you, not the brand name label on your butt (if you are you might get slapped). So when they are staring at your face, and notice the fancy brand name on it – humans have a funny way of assuming everything else must be just as posh. (Your welcome for this little luxury hack of mine).
The other thing I bring that is both practical and will make you feel fancy is a quality watch. Now don’t click off of the article yet, I will tell you why I don’t think watches are out of date. Phones notoriously get the battery life sucked out of them with every update. With all the tours, appointments, subway arrivals/departures etc… I am constantly looking at the time. So in order to save as much battery life as possible, I always bring a watch with me.
A brand I recently partnered with, JORD watches, has some eco-friendly, unique watches to match any flavor. It is made out of wood from trees that have naturally fallen, no chemicals are used in the process, there is no plastic, only metal and wood. It stays on my wrist, no matter if I’m running for the train, tossing in my sleep, or messing with it nervously during an interview. They even engrave messages on the back of the watch if you wanted to give this as a gift.
For Your Bottom
Capri’s or midi dresses for the ladies. Guys, you will want to try and avoid jeans or pants that don’t breathe. Comfortable slacks, or the stretchy jeans might be better options. For the guys who don’t care about epic or perfectly curated pictures and just want the boys to be comfortable, go with black basketball shorts.
Personally, I regretted bringing the white and black pairs of jeans that I did. However, they did look stellar in photos, so I suffered through it, lol.
Shoes to Bring
Flats are what most Bostonians wear, but because of my plantar fasciitis, I wore Taos sandals. Don’t wear heels unless you plan on breaking an ankle. The sidewalks tend reach out and grab you at any moment attempting to get you to face plant in front of the many pedestrians about. (Not that I know from experience….ahem….). So if you don’t want to face plant or break your ankle, wear sturdy sandals, flats, or even classy tennis shoes. Make sure whatever you bring is breathable so that you don’t get blisters.
Rain, Fog, Wind, Sun, and reflective heat from all the cement and pavement in the city are all possible and all in the same day. What I observed by my long weekend there in June was a Fog rolls in overnight, it burns off when the sun comes up. Then you are broiled to death in the middle of the day (85-90F with 60-70% humidity). In the afternoon and evening you can have torrential down pour, think huge raindrops.
Then in the evening, a breeze rolls in and the sky clears up, for a nice evening by the Charles River Esplanade. So really, I would bring a cute poncho, or if you want to pack super light and thrifty, just bring a large garbage bag to throw on. You can also bring an umbrella, but with luggage restrictions I’m starting to move more towards ponchos, and rain jackets because umbrellas just take up too much valuable luggage space now.
These are the major changes I would recommend bringing from my Basic Packing Checklist when choosing what to pack for Boston.
Be sure to pack your camera gear, here are some things I keep in my bag. Boston is very good for both Day and Night photography. There is plenty to see and do while here. Everything from the food, the streets, the backstreets, the bridges, and the coastline sunset cruises will have you filling up your SD cards quickly.
So if you plan to travel to Boston in Summer, make sure you prepare to the heat, fog, and rain. Realize many people there are dressed classy, and in business casual in the center of the city. If you go outside of the center of town, you will find people dressed a little more, or a lot more casual. It depends on where you are staying.
Have more recommendations for What To Pack for Boston in the Summer? Drop them down below!
There are some things in life that worm their way into your heart, and start pulling heartstrings you didn’t even know existed. Sea Turtles, and especially baby sea turtles are one of these things for me. I didn’t really know much about the life cycle of turtles, what the biological reasons they were disappearing were – nor that a major issue was a threat to the nesting grounds. After visiting the Loggerhead Marine Life Center, and Gumbo Limbo, these educational facilities set the stage to saving sea turtles with the Sea Turtle Oversight Protection (STOP) in Fort Lauderdale Florida.
Different Types of Sea Turtles
There are several different types of Sea Turtles, some more endangered than others. There is the Loggerhead, Leatherback, Greenback, Hawksbill, and the very rare Kemp’s Ridley.
The most common type of Sea Turtle along the Florida Coastline is the Loggerhead Sea turtle. The main diet of this type of sea turtle is shellfish, they love the Conch shells. It is listed as a threatened species, due to the major coastal developments, coastal fishing, and pollution (both chemical and garbage).
The Less common is the Green Sea Turtle, likely because it is now listed as endangered. These eat mainly seagrass, seaweed, and algae. For the same reasons that the loggerhead sea turtle is endangered, so is this one.
The Leatherback Sea Turtle is considered a vulnerable species as its population is currently decreasing. It feeds primarily on Jellyfish, can weight up to 550 – 1,500 lbs! As a Scuba Diver, Jellyfish are not my friends, so I want to really see these Leatherback Sea Turtles flourish!
The incubation time for the Green and Loggerhead Turtle eggs is around 45-55 days, while the Leatherback Sea Turtle eggs can reach up to 70-90 days.
The Turtle Nesting Season
While visiting STOP I learned that each type of turtle has different times it likes to nest, and each female can lay multiple nests in a season with multiple different male partners. The Leatherback lays her eggs primarily in March to June, the Loggerhead from May to August, and the Green Turtle from June to September.
I happened to join Richard and his team at STOP near the end of June. We learned that each nest has about a 51-day gestational period, and there was one nest that was on day 54. I couldn’t stop smiling, I was taking part or at the very least contributing to spreading knowledge about these wonderful animals, and may just be able to see them be born. Being able to help in a small way to saving sea turtles is a pretty incredible responsibility.
The Perfect Conditions
When a female sea turtle comes ashore to lay her eggs there are a few things she looks for. She will typically come when the moon is full or nearly full, when it is high tide, and the waves are just right.
When the ocean conditions are right, the turtle then has to feel as if she is coming home. They are, in general, very shy creatures, and spook easily. If there are parties every night on the beaches, flashlights, Iphones, loud music, then the female won’t lay her eggs and will wait.
If you were coming to a hospital to give birth and your doctor was drinking alcohol, your husband was blasting Metallica in your ear, and the Nurse was snapping selfies. You wouldn’t want to give birth either or would give the entire room an earful about ruining the moment. It is the same idea with turtles if there is too much noise, fires, flashing lights, or large groups of people near the shore – it won’t come to shore. Eventually, it will just dump the eggs into the ocean, losing the precious and endangered cargo.
If she does come ashore, imagine dragging your pregnant body 300 yards, weighing 450-1000 lbs using only walking sticks to do it. It is dark, if there are sandcastles, holes dug in the sand, beach chairs, or anything that they can get stuck under – this kills the mama sea turtles folks.
Saving Sea Turtles, and the Mama
Richard told us about how people on the beach dig holes, and a turtle came up, laid her eggs, and on her way back to shore, fell into a hole dug into the sand, breaking her neck and killing her.
He also told us there was a mama turtle that came ashore the night before I arrived. She became stuck under a stack of beach chairs. The hotels along Fort Lauderdale Beach rammed metal poles into the ground, chained the beach chairs – and thought to leave them on their side was ‘good enough’. Well, the turtle made her way up the beach, got stuck under a stack of chairs, the chain wrapped around her neck. Luckily STOP was there to rescue her or she would have died. They were able to calm her enough for him to go and ask the hotel for a key to unlock the beach chairs and free her. The night crew didn’t know where it was, so he used a chain cutter and let the turtle free.
What the most amazing part of this story was, is that the turtle ended up laying her eggs anyway! Despite all of the trauma from getting stuck and nearly being suffocated to death. I think, in a way, she knew Richard and his team were there trying to do whatever they could to help her.
Location of the Nests
Did you know that turtles are able to map out beaches based on magnets? They are able to navigate their way back to the same beach where they were born from to lay their own eggs!
There are many facets that go into making a beach feel like a good nesting ground; that turtles will return to over and over again.
What scientists have observed, is that the turtles will go and seek dark objects to lay their eggs under. The temperature of the nest determines the gender of the baby turtles. Nests than incubate below 81.86F (27.7C) then they will be male. Nests that incubate at 87.8F (31C).
The turtles who are born from warm nests, end up being much slower swimmers, they can’t make it past the break line of waves. Gumbo Limbo and the Loggerhead Marine life center help to rehab these baby turtles so that they can make it out in the ocean. They do this by tying tethers to the baby turtles who then, when strong enough, are released back into the wild.
The problem that is being faced with warmer nests, especially in places like Australia, is that only females are being born. Australia has one of the largest Green Sea Turtle populations, but 99% of the turtles being born are female. There needs to be enough genetic diversity within a species so that deformities and susceptibility to disease are less likely.
There are certain measures Australia is implementing to help more males being born. They are using artificial shade over the nest or spraying artificial rain to cool the temperature of the nests. There is a lot of fear, that when the people who are implementing these measures leave. What if Administration positions change, then funding could be lost and these measures will stop – this could cause this species of turtles to become extinct.
Barriers for Sea Turtles on the Beaches
When the mothers seek the shade, they often encounter barriers. Things like large sandcastles can appear as adequate shade, umbrellas or life guardhouses. Other barriers for turtles that are commonly found on beaches are cabanas, umbrellas, Hobie cats, canoes, small boats, and beach cycles.
Some beaches even rake their sand, to create a nice flat beach. This creates a ledge at the end of the beach that the mothers are unable to get up over because the tide bites at the edge of the beach over and over again.
The mothers think they have gone far enough, and end up laying their eggs right in the grip of the tide line. These nests have to then be dug up, replanted in an area that is safely away from the tide so that the eggs don’t suffocate in the water before they hatch.
Predators on the Beach
Then there are new invasive species onto the beaches because of increased housing developments. Pet dogs and cats eat the eggs and hatchlings and even attack nesting turtles.
Those that leave trash behind lure animals that typically reside inland migrate to the beaches for that food. They may encounter mama turtles and/or hatchlings and kill them. So think of picking up after yourself when you are on the beach or visit the beach as a way in doing your part to save sea turtles.
Major Nesting Beaches Around the World
There are lots of nesting sites around the world, but as coastal development remains ever coveted and popular – the areas that turtles can lay their eggs is shrinking rapidly.
SWOT is a global database that allows volunteers to input different nest sites, sea turtle spotting etc… They have interactive maps of the sea turtle nesting sites, and how you can contribute to helping save even just one turtle.
If you visit Florida, there is a major conservation effort through mass volunteering and even city ordinances to help contribute to the cause of protecting the nests. Each nest is taped off (at least in Florida) with bright pink tape. A sign is posted stating that disturbing the nest will result in a massive fine and/or imprisonment.
As the eggs incubate, it is important to not shoot off fireworks near them, nor stomp or jump on or around them. The baby turtles have a biological ability to sense vibration as a trigger to break free from the egg. Having just a few eggs hatch won’t be enough vibration to make the whole nest hatch, there has to be many. Once there are enough vibrations, then the race is on.
The baby turtles, wriggle their way through the sand that causes other eggs to hatch. Once enough of the little ones are free it causes the center of the sandy nest to drop. The turtles then climb over each other up the sloping edges of the sand and then follow the brightest lights.
Confusing Bright Lights
The problem with this is that they often end up following the bright lights of the hotels, and cars near the beach. They get lost under beach chairs, stuck behind garbage cans, make their way to the car lights and ultimately are smashed in the road.
Something fascinating about Sea Turtles is that they are unable to see Orange or Red Lights. So driving along with certain coastal areas in Florida, you will see hotels beaming the orange lights (after a long fight with them to do so).
There are still certain shops, restaurants, and people who refuse to not use orange lights – so there will continue to be baby sea turtles that die. This is tragic and unfortunate that these humans refuse to do small things to help preserve these endangered animals.
Richard explained that there are people, businesses and hotels he has offered to pay to switch the lights out. He even offered to go and install the lights himself. The people, shops, and owners down-right refuse to take him up on his offer.
While this is aggravating and selfish; the only thing that we can continue to do as the Culture Trekking Community is to share, educate, and spread awareness. If enough people write emails, letters, or voice their opinion – we truly can create change that will save lives.
Richard and his team of Volunteers decided that if the hotels and businesses will not do their part, then they will pick up the slack. While the government supplies protection during the day, Richard and his handful of volunteers provide protection at night.
These volunteers spend countless nights sitting on the beach next to nests protecting and waiting for when they hatch. These volunteers and those who sign up for their turtle treks help guide the baby sea turtles away from the deadly road, and back to the ocean.
Each nest and the expected due date is charted in the new database STOP created. The nests are then color-coded by the number of days of gestation, and those in red are due soon. The nests that are nearing their 45-55 day window, are then guarded and babysat until the turtle’s hatch. Sometimes there are stragglers, and the nests are seen as ‘active’ and not to be disturbed, for at least 3 days after the initial hatching.
Once the Active period has ended, the nest is then evaluated, and eggs that are remaining or baby turtles that didn’t make it are counted. Unfortunately, the eggs at the bottom of the nest don’t get the necessary oxygen, or can be crushed by the weight of the other eggs – so there will always be some that do not survive.
Saving Sea Turtles
Richard and the STOP volunteers, along with those like me who signed up for the Turtle Trek will comb the beach looking for sandcastles to knockdown. They pick up garbage and items that could impede a mama turtle or a baby turtle from completing their biological tasks. They remind and educate party-goers on the beach to not use phones, flashlights, yell, or play loud music.
During nesting season, they allow people to sign up for Turtle Treks for a fee of $25 or more to help guard, and maybe save baby sea turtles from wandering into the road.
There is a circle around the nest that is drawn to keep the Turtle Trekkers at a safe distance to not create vibrations. Then there is a 10-foot perimeter drawn around the circle. This perimeter is drawn so that scientists can draw conclusions and collect data on the progress they are making in saving the turtles. The marine biologists also want to give the turtles a chance to turn around if they get confused. Volunteers are advised to not pick up the baby turtles until they reach the 10 Foot perimeter.
Once the baby turtles hatch and they reach the perimeter, they are then put into buckets, and placed back into the ocean.
Volunteering to Save Sea Turtles
Being able to be a part of this Turtle Trek is something I will never forget. There are many nights the volunteers see amazing things. As Richard said, “Each time we see these tiny turtles emerge from the nest, it is a new experience. Each one has his/her own personality and you can see it by how they interact”.
The night I was there we were able to fill in a few holes in the sand. We listened to the stories Richard has collected through the years. Unfortunately, the nest they had anticipated hatching, hatched at 7 pm, just the time we were meeting at the gathering place. This was likely due to the cooler than normal weather, and the cloud cover from the rain making it a little darker a little earlier than normal.
We sat around another nest all night, it was on day 49, and sometimes they are known to hatch a little early. Blessedly the little turtles stayed tucked in their sand bed, and it just gives me another reason to come back and participate again.
Anyone can volunteer, anyone can go on a Turtle Trek. While it does have a fee associated with it, please know that all proceeds go towards protecting the animals.
Richard and his STOP volunteers work tirelessly to protect the nests, fight for the rights of the turtles against the big hotel chains that run along Broward County coastline. The work they do today, will help protect these animals for your children’s, children’s, children – they don’t get paid to do this – they volunteer to be on-call, out late at night. They have been spit at, yelled at, and even stalked because of their efforts – so $25 is not a lot to ask for the experience and education provided.
What Can You Do At Home To Save Sea Turtles?
Living in Utah, there aren’t a whole lot of oceans around. Yet there are things that I can personally do to help with the cause. The first being, use less plastic as much as possible.
There is nearly 8 million tons of garbage that end up in the ocean each year. Each item of garbage has different rates of decomposition, plastic is the longest of all of them. Hundreds of thousands of sea life die each year from garbage that is consumed.
It isn’t just Sea Turtles, it is whales, seals, and fish. I’m sure we have all seen at least one article about garbage being found in a dead whale – or a plastic straw lodged into a sea turtles nose. So hang those reusable bags near your door, take one with you on your vacation, buy a few for a friend.
Choose the milk in the paper carton, instead of the plastic carton, get reusable straws (they even have portable ones), use bamboo forks/spoons and keep one in your purse. Email locations, theaters or even local coffee shops that don’t offer more environmentally friendly container options. If you go out to eat, bring a glass Tupperware to bring home leftovers.
Pay attention to the chemicals that you use. What kind of chemicals do you use in your laundry detergent, what about your dish soap, shampoo, conditioner, or body wash. Think about those items you use the most frequently and make better choices. Sometimes that is all it takes, is a better choice, not a drastic change. Each month you can commit to making a better choice than last month. Eventually, it will become second nature to you.
Staying on Coastlines
If you are staying at any coastline hotel near the regions highlighted above – close your curtains after the sun goes down. Ask the hotel why they don’t have orange lighting to help protect against sea turtles getting confused. Send emails, be a voice, be a force.
If you decide to go out on the beach at night, do not use your phone on the beach nor near nesting turtles. Don’t play loud music, or light a fire that could deter turtles from coming ashore to lay their eggs.
Other Ideas for Doing Our Part At Home
Replace your light bulbs with compact fluorescent ones, this can decrease your carbon footprint by 150 pounds per year. Driving less, taking a bike to the store instead of driving can save one pound of carbon for every mile you don’t drive.
Recycling can potentially save you up to 2400 pounds of carbon dioxide per year by recycling just half of what you use in your daily life.
Checking the tires on your car so your gas mileage is more efficient saves 20 pounds of carbon per gallon per year. Use less hot water, by taking shorter showers can save 500 pounds of carbon per year. This can also apply to washing your clothes in cooler water as well.
Planting one tree can absorb one ton of carbon dioxide over the lifetime of the tree.
If you aren’t using your computer, television, DVD player, stereo or computer then turn them off. You can save yourself thousands of pounds of Carbon Dioxide a year by doing this.
These are just a few ways that you can reduce your carbon footprint while you are in this world. What we do today can impact our descendants for decades to come.
A Duty to Save Baby Sea Turtles
We as a human race, are the biggest threat to Sea Turtles becoming extinct. Imagine your Grandchildren watching Finding Nemo, and then they ask ‘Are Sea Turtles Real?’ – I for one, hope I never have to answer, ‘Well….they were real, but they all died’.
We have a duty to protect, save, and educate not just ourselves but spread the news in a positive and constructive way to those who may just not know any better. Get involved with a volunteer group, go on a Scuba Diving Ocean extravaganza, pick up trash, move those beach chairs.
***Please note that all photos of turtles taken at night and hatching from the nests were taken by Richard Whitecloud who is licensed by the State of Florida to do so. Lights of any kind are not allowed on beaches as listed above. Please do not attempt to film, or photograph any nests during the evening***