Lantern Festival – What To Bring!

Lantern Festivals are becoming more popular and easier to attend thanks to social media! Lantern Festivals originated in China to mark the last day of the traditional Chinese New Years celebrations. Now, lantern festivals are being hosted around the world in efforts to bring communities together to write down their hopes/wishes and watch them rise into the night sky. In the United States, two large companies that host these events include LIGHTS FEST & LANTERN FEST.

#1 Purchase Your Ticket Months In Advance

These events usually take place on the outskirts of cities, at night time usually during spring, summer, and fall to ensure safety since the lanterns are lit with fire. We attended The Lights Fest in Mesquite, LV. These companies mainly do one event in each city once a year, and keep moving to the next city. So make sure you purchase your tickets month/s in advance & also to get in on the cheaper ticket prices.

Your ticket price will include your personal lantern, a sharpie so you can write/draw on your lantern, and usually a goodie bag with a little free gift depending on what company you go through! Parking fee is separate! So ensure you look for the separate link to purchase a parking slot!

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Quick Tip:

To avoid traffic, I would definitely arrive at least an hour or two prior to festivities beginning.

#2: Bring Activities To Stay Entertained

Since the lanterns are lit up with fire, I can image all lantern festivals are surrounded by what ours was, dirt. The actual lantern part is about 20 minutes long, and happens at the very end of the event. So food, drinks, and games would be great to bring along with you to ensure it’s a fun afternoon all the way through. (You can also purchase sparklers for some extra fun!)

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#3 Bring A Camera

When those lanterns are let go, there is something about that sight that just makes you tear up no matter how manly you think you are! Now camera’s aren’t going to capture the full beauty, but we definitely cherish our videos/photos. So make sure you bring a camera/smart phone to capture your experience!

-Sam

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First Trip to SF…. What To See!

We’ve been to SF multiple times & continue to check out more areas of the city every time we drive in. So, for those who are overwhelmed and can’t decide just where to spend their limited amount of time, we got your back! These are the areas that we visit EVERYTIME we come back to this beautiful city!

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*Pier 39

Pier 39 is a must see for all tourists. It’s right against the bay and is a perfect hang out spot for families. There are sea lions that freely choose to call this place their home, which is an awesome chance to see these beautiful creatures up close!

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There is also a large collection of shops that have great food options and a ton of SF souvenirs. For parking, we recommend parking at Pier 39 Parking since you can stay there until the shops close which is at 9pm. If that lot is full, we also parked at Hotel Zephyr. Their prices are cheaper for those who are only staying at Pier 39 for a couple of hours.

IMG_7165As for eating, we definitely recommend Bistro Boudin

Estimated Time to Enjoy: 3 hours

Ghirardelli Square

Filled with local shops, two Ghirardelli’s, and an outdoor hangout area for adults packed with a ping pong table, and bean bag toss corn hole game! It’s an iconic stop for tourists to come and relax for an afternoon.

DSC02884Outside of Ghirardelli!
Estimated Time to Enjoy: 2 hour

*Alcatraz

Alcatraz is an amazing tour that everyone should check out! Remember that it does get booked quickly so ensure you reserve your date prior to your trip. Hopefully, a month before your trip to ensure you can get the date and time that you desire.

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We chose the night time tour since they said it’ll add an extra eerie feeling to the island, as well as being able to look back at the SF skyline during sunset. This tour comes with an audio tour that tells unimaginable stories that took place there when the prison was open.

DSC_0323.JPGEstimated Time to Enjoy: 2 – 3 Hours

*Sausalito

So when we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time, we didn’t really know where that road was going to take us, so we started to just turn down random side streets and ended up finding this beautiful getaway from the city. It’s a small boardwalk of souvenior shops, coffee shops, local food restaurants, and local clothing stores. There’s also a grassy area to sit & look out into the bay for some relaxation!

DSC02864Backdrop outside of the local shops
Estimated Time to Enjoy: An Afternoon

*Discovery Museum

Now we don’t recommend actually going to this museum. However, if you follow the directions to this museum, you’ll actually find our second hidden treasure. To the left of the parking lot, you’ll see bunkers that were built during the Civil War era that you can walk through. Our first time visiting SF we were overwhelmed with how expensive the hotel rooms were, so we ended up sleeping in our car near this museum because we just loved the background! Greatest view at the greatest price for lodging!

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Estimated Time to Enjoy: 1 hour

Muir Beach

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On the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge is Muir Beach. This beach is usually deserted when we come. It’s also a lot foggier than the other side of the bridge. But it’s a cool little hide out spot to relax and feel the breeze from the bay.

DSC03385.JPGEstimated Time to Enjoy: 2 hour

Coit Tower

The Coit Tower has a very tiny parking lot so we do recommend walking to it! With that being said, it is all up hill! It was a sweaty, rewarding walk. To actually go up the Coit Tower there is a fee per person, so we just stood on top of the high sidewalks in front of the Coit Tower to take in the amazing views of the city.

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When you’re leaving by foot, if you walk towards the southeast corner of the roundabout (near Christopher Columbus Statue) you’ll see this tiny trail that seems to go through people’s backyard. Take it! It’s a very cool, non invasive walk that leads you down near Pier 19.

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Estimated Time to Enjoy: 40 minutes

SF Cable Cars

If you want to see more of the city but don’t really want to keep driving around in circles, the Cable Cars are a great idea. You can get off and on when you please.

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Santa Cruz

For those who take trips without an itinerary and are up for an adventure, we went down to Santa Cruz one day when we wanted a break from the city. It’s a two hour drive from the Golden Gate Bridge. But is great for a little fun adventure!

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It’s an amusement park filled with roller coasters, arcade games, great carnival food, a pier that has some sea lions napping on a boat dock, and a beach! All in one place! Santa Cruz was one of the top highlights from our first SF trip!

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DSC03222Estimated Time to Enjoy: 5 – 6 hours

Now if all of these are even too much to schedule into your visit, the ones with the asterisk are our top, top choices that we think you should check out!

Enjoy SF!

-Sam

Boston: Our 5 Favorite Food Joints!

Zach and I visited Boston in 2016 for the first time. We traveled by foot everywhere, and followed the crowd to help choose just which food establishments to give a shot! After trying 33 different establishments over our two-week stay, I’ve chosen our top 5. All of which are great in pricing, taste, and ambiance!

#5 PRET A MANGER

Perfect for consumers looking for fresh, healthy, light food options during their stroll through the city. Pret A Manger has freshly made sandwiches, soups, salads, and coffee! The location on State Street goes along side the Freedom Trail, which makes it a perfect rest stop for tourists!

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(We don’t have a photo of the establishment! But if you’re following this trail, you’ll pass Pret A Manger!)

#4 BOLOCO

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The specific location that we loved was located on Boylston & Charles Street; right across from the peaceful & beautiful Public Garden. Boloco specializes in burritos & also has great vegetarian options as well! & check out the Public Garden after you eat at Boloco!

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(Public Garden)

#3 AU BON PAIN

Au Bon Pain is Boston’s equivalence to Einstein Bagels, but pastry based. They have fridges filled with fresh sandwiches, yogurt parfaits, salads, and beverages. They also have an area where you can order hot breakfast and lunch sandwiches, as well as a huge self-serve pastry case. The one on Boylston St is a great location where you’ll get to see locals walking to work, teens skateboarding, and close to Charles River. Just take Boylston St down to Charles St, make a left on Charles, and up to Boston’s Public Dock on the Esplanade.

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(We also don’t have a photo of Au Bon Pain! But This is the Public Dock on the Esplanade. Gorgeous right!)

#2 GLOBE

While we were staying in Boston, we couldn’t resist going to a Red Sox game! Game night we felt like finding a cool bar establishment to grab some wings and beers prior. While walking down Boylston St, we found Globe. They’re a tiny restaurant with fabulous food and reasonable prices. But they have great seating that just can’t be beat! You can either sit inside to escape the heat, or they have outside seating that’s close to Boston’s Public Library. A great area to just watch the locals go about their days, and take in the amazing sunset while eating dinner.

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#1 DELUX CAFÉ

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One night when we were walking through the city on our way back to our hostel, we heard loud chattering coming from around the corner that we thought were just residential. However, it was actually coming from this little establishment called Delux Café! It’s one of those hidden treasures that are always busy due to their amazing ambiance, food, and friendly staff! We stayed here one night for over an hour, just talking to one of the bartenders about what it’s like to live in Boston. Definitely check them out!!

-Sam

Zion – Emerald Pools Trail

Zion is one of the most spectacular national parks in North America, and the fact that you can find it tucked between miles of sepia-toned desert creates a contrast that helps you truly appreciate its sweeping vistas and narrow, river-carved canyons.

I’ve been to Zion several times over the last few years in desperate attempts to escape Vegas, and each time the canyon reveals more secrets worth sharing. This time, Sam led the expedition to the Emerald Pools.

The Emerald Pools

There are three parts to the pools: Lower, Middle, and Upper. The hike is very manageable for all ages and capabilities – the lower pools are only a .6 mile hike from the trailhead and the upper pools are an additional mile up.

My favorite by far were the lower Emerald Pools, where the trail leads you under the lip of a canyon and a curtain of water rains alongside you.

Lower Emerald Pools

The Middle Pools run down the edge of a cliff so the park has chained the area off for safety. Still, this small resting spot on the way to the Upper Pools provide some good picture opportunities.

Middle Emerald Pools

The trail ends at the Upper Emerald Pools. This is a perfect picnic hub – a pool of water surrounded by tall cliffs and plenty of flat rocks to sit on. Even when the place gets crowded, there is a satisfying sense of serenity here.

Upper Emerald Lakes

If you’re looking for a good entry-level hike into Zion, the Emerald Pools give you just that: easy enough for any experience level but rewarding enough to ignite that sense of adventure.

Looking for more?

If you’re antsy for more than a 1.5 mile hike, there is a split in the trail that leads you to the Grotto. Although there is no real destination here besides the bus stop, the hike itself leads you along some amazing views of the mountains and is a definite bonus for photographs.

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Once you get to the Grotto, you can also find the trailhead for Angel’s Landing, one of Zion’s toughest hikes but also one of its most rewarding.

-Zach