Niagra Falls. A destination on just about everyone’s bucket list and a natural wonder of the world. Niagra Falls is the collective name of the falls that lie on the border of the United States and Canada, but it actually consists of three different waterfalls. Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls. Almost 3,160 tons of water flows over Niagara Falls every second, which produces the highest flow rate of any waterfall on earth.
Journey Behind the Falls
There are multiple ways to see Niagara up close and personal; I opted for the Journey Behind the Falls, which is on the Canadian side of Horseshoe Falls. This tour takes you 150 feet down and provides you the opportunity to walk through a maze of passages behind the tour, with the pièce de résistance being the observation platform at the bottom of the 13-story falls.
My hood didn’t do me much good, but getting soaked was totally worth seeing this natural wonder.
Niagara Falls Canada is part of Niagara Parks, an almost 35-mile long park, bordering the Niagara River. This park is made up of a Botanical Gardens, Butterfly Conservatory, Niagra Glen and more. It is worth exploring this park as you spend your time in Ontario.
Night Life in Niagara
Conclude your time in Niagara with dinner on the veranda of Queen Victoria Place Restaurant for stunning views of the falls at sunset, and be sure you stay for the falls to turn on the lights.
To celebrate my birthday this year, my mom and I took a trip with Pack Up + Go and crossed a new city and state off our bucket lists, Denver, Colorado. We had always heard good things about the city, and we were excited about exploring a new location.
One of our clues from Pack Up + Go was to arrive with an empty stomach because there was a lot of good food, and they were not wrong. We felt like we ate the whole time we were there, which was totally okay by me.
Our first stop after checking into our hotel was the Appaloosa Grill, per the recommendation of our concierge, located only a few blocks from the hotel along the 16th Street Mall. The restaurant boasted an expansive drink menu and delicious food. We highly recommend the Bison Sirloin and Ravioli.
On Saturday, we felt we ate the whole day. We started off the day with breakfast at Snooze, an AM eatery, in Union Station. According to one of my coworkers and our Pack Up + Go itinerary, Snooze is one of the IT places to eat when you visit Denver. We were instructed to get there early, and thanks to the time zone change, getting there at 7:00 AM before the lines was easy to do. We were able to enjoy a relaxing breakfast on their patio and watch Denver wake up. Mom got the Breakfast Pot Pie and I tried the OMG! French Toast. We were not disappointed by the western breakfast chain.
For lunch, which ended up being brunch, we headed to Historians Ale House. This restaurant came as a recommendation of my coworker, and we seriously enjoyed their bottomless mimosas. They also served up one of the best burgers I have had in a while. We topped off the day with sunset views, apps and drinks at the Peaks Lounge.
On Sunday, we grabbed a quick bagel breakfast at Bruegger’s Bagels before we explored a little more. We grabbed a quick snack after our morning excursion at The Denver Central Market. We finished out our time in Denver with lunch at Ale House for views of the city and delicious cider.
Now, let’s talk about the desserts, and ice cream specifically. Several of our Uber drivers shared their favorite ice cream shops, so, of course, we had to try them out. We started off with Milkbox Ice Creamery located in Union Station, then tested out Little Man Ice Cream. Our personal favorite was Little Man, which is conveniently located to Ale House.
With the backdrop of the Rockies, Denver offers some pretty spectacular views. To start off with, you have the capitol views over the city. Did you know if you stand on the 13th step on the west side of the building you are at exactly 5,280 feet above sea level? It’s pretty cool to stand at the exact mark that got this city its nickname. But note, you can’t go inside the capitol building on weekends.
The second set of spectacular views is the Denver Botanic Gardens. It’s a pretty escape from the hustle of the city that offers some unique landscapes from what we are used to in the southern United States.
As mentioned above, Peaks Lounge offers some pretty views of the Rockies at sunset. You definitely want to get there early to grab a seat by the windows because it does get crowded. It’s a popular location for visitors!
The last place to get some spectacular views is Red Rocks Park & Amphitheater. Our itinerary suggested coming here for sunrise, but we opted for later in the morning. It was still a spectacular view and totally worth the excursion outside of town.
This weekend would not have the same without getting to spend some quality time with my mom. Thank you, Pack Up + Go, for a fun weekend to celebrate my birthday.
What is your favorite thing to see or do in Denver?
Would you go on a trip without knowing the destination? That’s exactly what my mom and I did this past weekend with the help of Pack Up + Go, a surprise travel agency that plans a 3-day weekend trip for you. This company is perfect for those of us who love to plan our travels but are desperately in need of a little spontaneity.
How does it work?
That is an excellent question! Pack Up + Go really makes the whole process quite simple.
Step 1: Set a Budget
Pack Up + Go offers four different categories for their trips. You can either do a road trip or travel by plane, bus or train, and you can either travel solo or with friends. Each category has different price levels, so there is something for everyone.
Step 2: Take a Survey
The survey allows you tell Pack Up + Go a little about where you’ve been, where you are going, and what you like to do. You also let them know the dates you want to travel and any travel limitations. Once you click submit, it’s all in their hands!
Step 3: The Clues
One week prior to departure you will receive an email with weather information, key items to pack, how to pack and when you need to be at your departure point. A few days before you leave you’ll receive an envelope in the mail with all your information, but DO NOT open it.
Step 4: Travel Day
A few hours before departure you will receive an email that lets you know it’s time to open your envelope! Be prepared to be surprised! This email will also contain all your travel information, and the envelope will contain key pieces of information to make the most of your trip.
Step 5: ENJOY!
You have made it to your surprise destination! I highly recommend studying your packet of information on your flight or drive. It contains tons of tidbits to make your trip as smooth as possible. I also recommend mapping out everything you want to do. Three days is not a lot of time, so to make the most of your vacation map everything out while you travel so you can hit the ground running!
What were our thoughts?
We absolutely LOVED this approach to a weekend vacation. I have always wanted to go to the airport and book the next flight out, but my Type A tendencies disliked not having a hotel upon landing thus preventing me from doing that. Pack Up + Go provided the sensation of spontaneous travel with the security of having the travel arrangements all in order.
Would we travel with them again? Absolutely! It was, hands down, one of the cooler ways I have traveled recently. We were pleased with the location and quality of our accommodations and the thoroughness of the information provided about our destination city.
If you are interested in trying it out, please use my name (Caitlin Norton) when they ask “How did you hear about Pack Up + Go?” on the survey.
Climb aboard another era with the largest maritime museum in the country, Mystic Seaport. Located along the Mystic River, this museum boasts a recreated New England coastal village as well as America’s oldest commercial ship still in existence, the Charles W. Morgan.
One of the first things you’ll notice as you enter the gates is the 19th-century seaport village. Stroll the streets and learn about what life would have been like for those left at home during the age of sea. Learn about the maritime trades, eat lunch at the local pub, and discover how our maritime past shaped life today.
One of the largest exhibits on the property is the Charles W. Morgan, the last wooden whale ship in the world. Built and launched in 1841, the ship took its maiden voyage on July 21 from New Bedford, Massachusetts, and sailed on 37 voyages, with most lasting three years or more, over an 80-year career. Be sure to watch the clock for hands-on programs.
Also, don’t miss the other historic vessels on the property.
The next time you visit Connecticut swing through Guilford. This New Haven suburb, located along the Long Island Sound, boasts a rich history. Located just off the town’s Green sits Connecticut’s oldest house and New England’s oldest stone house, the Henry Whitfield State Museum.
Built by one of Guilford’s founding members, Reverend Henry Whitfield, in 1693 prior to the founding of the city. The building initially served as home to the Reverend and his family as well as a place of worship and a meeting hall. Later, the house served as a fort for the founding families to provide a place of safety and refuge from the local Native Americans.
The house was opened in 1899 as the first state museum in Connecticut. There is a self-guided tour of the house that takes you through three floors filled with 17th-19th-century furnishings and artifacts, and shares not only the history of the house and its inhabitants but also the history of Guilford. In addition, the house the museum includes a Visitor Center and Education building, as well as a canon from the War of 1812.
Be sure to visit the museum website before visiting to check on hours as they vary throughout the year.
If you ever find yourself in Rochester Hills, Michigan, then you need stop by Yates Cider Mill. As one of oldest, continually running businesses in the state of Michigan, the Mill provides an excellent pit stop to stock up on provisions and to enjoy some nature.
The Mill opened in 1863 as a grist mill, but by 1876 the Yates family had started using the water power from the Clinton River to produce a Michigan staple, cider. The double table press can produce up to 300 gallons of cider per hour! Tours are available on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during peak season (September and October), and they are about 30 minutes long.
The Mill is open year-round, but the best times to visit is during the summer and fall months when everything is open. My visit came a little early in the season, but I was able to taste some of their delicious cider and cinnamon donuts.
If your visit coincides with the proper seasons, Yates Cider Mill offers a Fudge Shop, Ice Cream Shop, Apple Tent, and more. The Mill also provides pony rides and a petting zoo during the summer months and a walking trail along the Clinton River. The trail is about 1/2 mile long, making it an easy way to escape into nature.
During your next visit to Michigan, be sure to add this landmark to your list of places to see.
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I recently made a trip up to New York for another National Geographic workshop, and stayed at the beautiful New York Marriott Downtown. If you are looking for a hotel in Lower Manhattan, then look no further.
The New York Marriott Downtown is located within walking distance from Battery Park, Wall Street, 9/11 Memorial and Museum, and One World Observatory. The hotel is also situated near a few subway stations making it easy to get around the city and to your favorite sites.
My favorite part of this hotel is the view. Instead of getting views of a brick wall, the New York Marriott Downtown offers views of the Hudson River, New Jersey, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The hote also is home to Bill’s Bar & Burger, one of New York’s top burger joints, as well as Bill’s West Side Bar.
If you are looking for a comfortable hotel and affordable hotel in The Big Apple, then you need to book a stay at the New York Marriott Downtown.
When I was planning out my trips for the year, I never expected to attend another National Geographic Expeditions trip or head back to New York so soon, but it ended up working out perfectly. This trip to New York marked my third trip with National Geographic, and I decided to step it up a bit with the advanced level class. Our assignment for the weekend was to capture the people of New York experimenting with light and flash. This assignment was kind of a lot out of my comfort zone, but it really pushed me to try out things I had never considered before with this art.
Our first location was the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain in Central Park. This section of Central Park is considered the heart of the park. It provided the perfect backdrop for capturing tourists, locals and street performers. The best way to access this part of Central Park is from the 72nd Street Station, and just follow the path for Strawberry Fields and the Lennon Mosaic.
That evening, we headed to one of New York’s more iconic locations, Times Square, to continue our lesson on street portraits. Let me tell you it is no easy task to approach strangers for thier portraits. Additionally, Times Square is one of the more challenging locations to shoot due to all the bright and changing lights.
For our second day, it was unfortunately raining, but we made the most of it and headed to Grand Central Station to practice movement with people and light. Grand Central is one of my favorite places in New York. Not only does it make for some people watching, but it is a spectacular piece of architecture.
What are your favorite places to people watch in New York?
All good travel bloggers are secretly photographers. I mean we need images for our posts, and with it comes the right equipment. I am frequently asked about what I use to take my images and my various photography gear, so today I am going to show you the inside of my camera bag as well as share some of my tips.
I have had two different Canon DSLR cameras, and I highly recommend them. I love my Canon EOS 70D, it’s a high quality, crop-body camera, ideal for intermediate level photographers. I really love the video and wifi features, which were new compared to my first camera. If you’re just getting started, I suggest the Canon EOS Rebel models. My very first DSLR was a Canon Rebel XSi.
When it comes to lens, I have four of varying lengths. My go-to lens when I’m traveling is the Canon EF-S 18-55mm, but I also have a wide-angle lens, a mid-range lens and a telephoto lens. Anytime I go to a photography workshop I always bring my whole kit, but anytime I am traveling I try to limit my lenses and accessories depending on the situation. Plus carrying a limited kit will help with back and shoulder pain later.
Note: Make sure you always have an extra battery (unless you charge at night) and spare memory cards.
In addition to my big DSLR, there are occasions that call for a smaller pocket size camera. I love the Canon PowerShot models. I always have this guy in my purse for when the occasion calls, and it is perfect when a situation doesn’t allow you to shoot with a larger camera.
I have an older model, but this Canon PowerShot ELPH 190 IS is comparable to the one I have. I really like that in addition to great megapixels for a point-and-shoot it also has video and wifi.
Underwater & Action Sports
It wasn’t until my recent trip to the Caribbean that I started to use a camera solely for underwater and action sports shots. I use a GoPro HERO Session. The GoPro cameras take some practice, but you can get some great shots once you get the hang of it. Like my other cameras, this camera has wifi capability that allows you to download those images you have already taken or to shoot remotely.
We all use our mobile phones to get those quick photos, but sometimes those quick photos require a few edits. My favorite on-the-go photo editor is A Color Story. I use this not only for the photos I take on my phone but also for those I download from my other cameras. My other favorite app is the Later app, which I use this for scheduling my photos for Instagram. I also use the Canon Connect app and the GoPro Capture app for remote shooting and to download my images via wifi.
Now, all cameras require a few accessories. For my DSLR, I have two separate flashes (here and here) depending on the need, a remote, and a tripod. I also use two different bags depending on where I’m traveling. I use this one (similar) for my full kit and this one for basic travel needs. Both have pros and cons, but I love the over-the-shoulder one as it is easier on my back. I also use Ape Cases for my lenses when I want to grab an extra lens but don’t want to bring a big bag. These cases are great for tossing your lens in a backpack or purse without damage. Last but not least, your DSLR needs to have a fun strap. I absolutely love mine by mod.
I also bring another tripod for my phone. I LOVE the Joby Gorilla tripod. This works for almost any smartphone. I also love the HISY Bluetooth remote for when I’m alone and need some help taking those selfies with my phone. Lastly, my phone is always in a LifeProof case. Let’s be real, I’m clumsy at best sometimes and this case has saved my phone more times than I care to count.
What are your favorite photography accessories?
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Santa Monica. The land of endless sun, sand and sea. When my company announced I would be heading out to California for a brief trip, I got pretty excited and I made sure to I book my tickets so I could have a little time to play. The last time I was in California was for Alabama’s 13th National Championship, and we were only in Santa Monica for a couple of hours. With almost a full 48 hours to explore this time, I had the chance to soak in more of this city and the sights. Below is a list of things you need to do during your next visit to Santa Monica.
Santa Monica Pier
The Santa Monica Pier is a given. The pier originally opened in 1909 and it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city. Locted at the end of Colorado Avenue, you can’t miss this historic piece of Santa Monica due to its iconic entrance. The Santa Monica Pier is also the end of old Route 66, so be sure to grab a picture with the sign.
Pacific Park is an ocean-front amusement park located on the Santa Monica Pier. Opened in 1996, Pacific Park is the west coast’s only amusement park on a pier and Los Angeles’ only admission-free park. There are 12 different rides located in the park including the Pacific Wheel (Ferris Wheel) and the West Coaster roller coaster. Despite the park being “admission-free” you will still need to purchase tickets for the rides. Rides and attractions are priced individually and range from $5 to $10. You can also purchase an unlimited wristband from the ticket booth that will allow you to ride all the rides as many times as you’d like.
Santa Monica State Beach
The beach is 3.5 miles long and is located parallel to the Pacific Coast Highway. The beach is located on the north side of the Santa Monica Pier, and has lots of activities for visitors including volleyball, surfing, paddleboarding and more. If you go to the north side of the Pier, you will find the original Muscle Beach. This beach is the birthplace of the physical fitness boom in the US during the 20th century, and opened to the public in 1934. Stopy by and play on “Santa Monica’s Playground”. The state park also includes Palisades Park which offers a great vantage point for people watching. Be sure to stop by so you can dip your toes in the Pacific Ocean.
Third Street Promenade
Just steps from the Pier is Third Street Promenade. The Promenade is three blocks of open-air, car-free shopping. Shopping includes farmers market, numerous restaurtants, several boutique stores, as well as fun things to do including bike rentals. It’s fun taste of Santa Monica.
What is your favorite thing to do in Santa Monica?