I’m super excited to be sharing this piece today! I’ve teamed up with fellow traveler and mom, Kendra Thornton, and together we are going to share our ”Favorite Places to Travel.”
For Kendra Las Vegas, Nevada holds a special place in her heart and she’s excited to share the off-the-beaten-path charm of the city that never sleeps! I’m sharing my favorite place, Maui Hawaii! Two very different places. Two Amazing Vacations!
Family Fun in the Las Vegas Desert Sun
The city that was once best known for high stakes gambling and low-prices, mediocre buffet meals has undergone a metamorphosis over the past several years. Las Vegas is now teeming with quality entertainment options and cultural attractions that are suitable for the entire family.
#1 Ride Off Into the Sunset On a Pink Jeep Tour
Much of the Las Vegas action can be found further away from the strip. The surrounding desert topography presents visitors with unique views of the desert flora and fauna. The best and safest way to explore the barren yet very beautiful wilderness is by guided tour. Pink Jeep Tours takes area visitors on fill and half day tours into the desert. The eye-opening ride is educational, fun and exciting.
#2 Become an Amateur Golfer Par Excellence at Butch Harmon Golf School
Golf enthusiasts are delighted to discover the Butch Harmon golf school in Las Vegas. Butch Harmon is the school’s founder and has personally tutored golf greats like Greg Norman and Tiger Woods. The school uses video equipment and analysis software to accurately recommend swing improvements. Golfers of all skill levels are invited to upgrade their game at the famous golf clinic. Award winning instruction and a challenging course await students at Butch Harmon’s School.
#3 Discover Educational Fun at Unconventional Las Vegas Museums
While today’s Vegas has an arguable cleaner image, the city’s colorful past is still on display. The Mob Museum sheds light on the nation’s leading organized crime founders. Big names in crime and law enforcement like Al Capone, Bugsy Seigle and Eliot Ness come to life at the museum. Mob Museum visitors tour the historic building, which is the site of former Mob trials. The museum pays tribute to the efforts of law enforcement, yet recognizes how the Mob helped shape modern -day Las Vegas.
#4 Explore the World of Undersea Predators at the Mandalay Bay Aquarium
The Shark Reef Aquarium is known as North America’s only predator aquarium. Both salt and fresh water sea creatures are displayed behind their glass exhibit aquarium. Animals like the golden crocodile and moray eels make the aquarium home. The $60 million aquarium totally immerses visitors into the underwater environment. It’s the closest encounter of sea creatures of this type without getting wet.
Although one’s time in the area may be limited, the described attractions offer a representative sample of the new and improved Las Vegas tourism industry. The city offers outstanding, family friendly entertainment choices and number of places to stay. With all of the activities and sites to see, it is really beneficial to check out user reviews. Sites like Gogobot make this task extremely easy. I recommend Las Vegas to anyone looking for a different type of vacation.
By Kendra Thornton ~ Travel advocate, TV spokesperson, PR businesswoman, proud wife and mama of 3!
My name is Kendra Thornton and I’m 40 and a mother of 3. Before being promoted to the full time position of mom, I was the former Orbitz Director of Communications where I was able to travel a great deal. I
now live in Chicago with my family, where they are my number one priority in everyday life.
Family Fun in the Maui Sun
The island of Maui is known for its beautiful beaches and a perfect warm climate. It’s a popular choice for newlyweds and couples to visit, but did you know it’s also the perfect place for a family vacation? Whether you’re looking to relax on the beach while your kids build sandcastles or immerse yourself into the Polynesian culture, your family will have endless opportunities to create memories that will last a lifetime!
#1 Snorkel the Molokini Crater
For one of the most incredible experiences of your life and a vacation memory that you’ll treasure forever take a Molokini Snorkel Tour with Aqua Adventure. The Molokini Crater is a unique, crescent shape island just off of the coast of Maui and is only accessible by boat. It ranks among the top 100 dive sites in the world and boasts crystal clear water with visibility up to 150 feet deep. It’s overflowing with an abundance of ocean live thriving in their natural habitat. Be prepared for the snorkel (or SNUBA) of your life!
#2 Drive Along One of the Most Scenic Roads in the World, The Road to Hana
This drive is more of an experience than a destination. It’s about taking it easy and cherishing the journey, soaking in all that the Hana Highway has to offer. Along the world famous journey you’ll find winding roads filled with lush tropical landscapes, serene waterfalls, and beautiful beaches.
#3 Explore the Maui Ocean Center Aquarium
This is a wonderful afternoon activity that allows you to learn about what’s in the waters surrounding these magnificent islands without actually getting in them! The Maui Ocean Center is committed to preserving Hawaiian marine life and educating visitors on ocean ecology, whale life, and Hawaiian culture! With over 60 indoor and outdoor exhibits, everyone in the family will have a great time!
#4 Go on a Hike to Iao Valley State Park
Ioa Valley State Park is located in the Central Maui area and encompasses 4,000 acres of natural Hawaiian beauty. It’s most distinct and historical landmark is the 1,200 ft high “Iao Needle” which is the iconic green-mantled rock overlooking Iao stream.
This family friendly hike is also filled with great historical significance. The battles and natural history are documented in a series of panels throughout the park, enhancing your visit!
#5 Immerse Yourself in Hawaiian Culture and the True Spirit of Aloha by Visiting a Luau
A Hawaiian vacation is not complete without an evening under the stars at an authentic Hawaiian Luau. A luau is an evening filled with traditional Hawaiian culture and cuisine, music, and fun! From the exotic and hypnotic hula dancing to the Hawaiian chanting and the sharing of the aloha spirit, a luau is at the top of everyone’s ‘to-do’ list when visiting Hawaii.
Maui offers many different luaus, each aiming at a different kind of experience. From small intimate luaus to large and energetic luaus, you’ll have no problem finding what’s right for your family!
By Jeanette Charlet
It’s an amazing feeling to see animals in the wild, in their natural environments. There is something refreshing and peaceful knowing they’re doing exactly what they’re meant to do….what the choose to do.
Six Great Places You Can See Marine Life in the Wild
1. Maui, Hawaii
Maui…our favorite island! There is so much to see and do and the waters are just incredible! Whether you’re looking to snorkel right off the beach, take a Catamaran Sailing Trip, or snorkel at Molokini Crater you’re sure to see marine life ranging from cute puffer fish to humpback whales and everything in between!
How does Swimming with sea turtles in Maui sound? To find the turtles you have to make sure you’re snorkeling in a rocky area, they aren’t fans of swimming over sandy bottoms so you’re most likely to find them munching around some coral or rocky formations.
2. Caye Caulker, Belize
Caye Caulker, Belize is just off of the coast of Belize City, Belize. It’s a short 40 minute water taxi ride to the small island and it’s also the home to one of the best snorkeling spots in the Caribbean, Shark Ray Alley. Here you can swim with gentle nurse sharks, sting rays, and loads of other tropical fish. The best thing about this, and exactly like Stingray City, the stingrays have not been de-barbed. The sting rays and sharks are free to come and go as they wish. There is nothing keeping them there.
3. Stingray City, Cayman Islands
Stingray City in Grand Cayman Islands is quite an adventure! It’s a huge sandbar with huge stingrays! They’re free to come and go as they wish, but simply can’t resist a free meal! Cayman Eco Adventures is a company that we highly recommend. They offer small groups and great individual attention!
4. San Francisco, California
Pier 39 in San Francisco is the front runner for these two cuties! They’ve seen sea lions before, but we simply couldn’t pull them away from watching these creatures bask in the sun, push each other off of the docks, and bark their loud bark at one another! Click here to see more Photos of the sea lions at Pier 39!
There is a lot of controversy over the movie Blackfish right now. If you want to see the way it really should be (not whales living in swimming pools) take a Whale Watching Tour! Travel miles out into the ocean and see these magnificent creatures sing and dance! If you’re lucky you’ll see them breech out of the water or swim under your boat like my mother-in-law did in Australia (photo below).
5. Laguna Beach, California
Love Love Love Tidal Pools….especially this one at Crystal Cove State Park in Laguna Beach, California! Picture this, the waves crashing, the sun on your skin, the breeze blowing, and your happy child exploring every nook and cranny of the tidal pool to discover what kind of cool creature lives in it!
Laguana Beach is also where I took my first whale watching cruise ever where a huge pod of acrobatic dolphins swam in our waves! It was also my first time seeing this rare and amazing fish called the Ocean Sunfish / Mola Mola! It’s the heaviest known bony fish in the world!
Another cool place to explore tidal pools in back in Hawaii at Hulopoe Beach Park!
6. Anna Maria Island, Florida
Anna Maria Island is just one of many many cool places to see wildlife in Florida! From Manatees swimming at the beach to birds on the Coquina Bay Walk, Anna Maria has many great viewing opportunities. Also check out Bean Point!
My Top 3 Dream Destinations for Wildlife / Marine Animals
1. Visit the Galapagos Islands and see playful sea lions, blue-footed boobies, marine iguanas, penguins, and the endangered Galapagos tortoise.
2. Swim with Whale Sharks in Mexico.
3. Take an African Safari… sounds amazing, right! Elephants are our favorite!
Where do you want to go? What’s your dream vacation? Let me hear it in the comments!!
A Guide to Choosing the Right Airport
You’ve dreamed of visiting the Aloha State and are finally ready to make it happen! With 4 major islands to choose from, choosing one (or two) and getting there can seem overwhelming, but it’s actually quite simple!
Oahu’s airport is Honolulu International Airport (HNL) and it’s Hawaii’s largest airport and hub. If you’re flying in from the mainland chances are you’ll have a connection here. You can connect to any of the other islands via HNL.
Maui has two airports, but the major airport is Kahului Airport (OGG). Some flights from the mainland fly directly into OGG. There is another airport on the opposite side of the island called Hana Airport (HNM). It’s in a more secluded area and you should only consider this if you’re planning on Hana your destination.
Hawaii’s Big Island has two major airports, Kona International Airport (KOA) on the West side and Hilo International Airport (ITO) on the East side. The west side (KOA) is where you’ll find many of the beautiful beach resorts, but if you plan on visiting the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park you can consider flying into Hilo (ITO) and exploring there first!
Kauai’s major airport is Lihue Airport (LIH) and it’s located in southeastern Lihue.
Lanai is a smaller Hawaiian Island located near the coast of Maui. The main airport is Lanai Airport (LNY). You must fly into HNL or OGG and connect to Lanai. You can also travel to Lanai via the Expeditions Ferry Service.
Molokai is a smaller Hawaiian Island and the main airport is Molokai Airport (MKK). You must fly into HNL or OGG and connect to Molokai. You can also travel to Molokai via the interisland ferry, The Molokai Princess.
So How Do I Get From One Island to Another?
The most predominate method of inter-island travel is by airlines. You have a few airlines to choose from, but the major airline is Hawaiian Airline. Flights are about 30 minutes long. There is a Ferry Service that is available between Maui and Lanai and Maui and Molokai only.
Distance Between Hawaiian Islands (Approximate)
- Oahu to Kaua’i: 63 miles
- Oahu to Maui: 115 miles
- Oahu to Big Island: 208 miles
- Oahu to Lana’i: 72 miles
- Maui to Oahu: 115 miles
- Maui to Kaua’i: 204 miles
- Maui to Lana’i: 8 miles
- Maui to Big Island: 26 miles
- Big Island to Oahu: 208 miles
- Big Island to Maui: 26 miles
- Big Island to Kaua’i: 296 miles
- Kaua’i to Oahu: 63 miles
- Kaua’i to Maui: 204 miles
- Kaua’i to Big Island: 296 miles
- Lana’i to Oahu: 72 miles
- Lana’i to Maui: 8 miles
- Lana’i to Kaua’i: 186 miles
Travel Tip Thursday: Bag the TV Remote
If you haven’t considered this yet, it’s time that you do! The TV Remote, along with the bedside lamp switch, are among the most contaminated surfaces in a hotel room! Just imagine how many people put their hands on it and how often it’s actually cleaned….gross! So the next time you’re on vacation simply bring a quart size Ziploc bag with you and put the remote right inside! The remote will still work and you will have peace of mind that your hands are not being tainted with germs!
Meet Donna, Travel and Photography Today’s newest addition!
Donna currently lives in Jupiter, Florida with her husband and two children! She recently moved there after many years in Charlotte, NC. It didn’t take long for her to settle into that tropical beach lifestyle and we’re glad to have her here where she’s going to share all that South Florida has to offer!
Travel Tip Thursday
Are you thinking about booking an Orlando Vacation, but are unsure of when to go? You don’t want to spend your day waiting in long lines and I’m sure your kiddos don’t, either! Check out this awesome, and by awesome I mean totally awesome, crowd calendar from Undercover Tourist. It will not only show you the best parks to go to on specific days, but it will show you how busy it’s going to be for the entire year! The calendar is based on anticipated crowd levels, but in my experience, it’s been right on!
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Maligne Canyon: Our #1 in Jasper National Forest
When we reflected on all of the amazing sights and activities we did in Jasper, it was unanimous that Maligne Canyon was #1. It’s natural beauty, beautiful gushing water, and huge cliffs were just a few things that drew us to this hike not once, but twice! Enjoy the Photo Walk!
One of the greatest things about living in central North Carolina is the close proximity to the mountains and the beach! Within just a few hours you can be soaking up the rays or speeding down the slopes.
Here are 8 different ski/tubing resorts within just hours of Charlotte, NC. Most operate from late November through mid-March and openings largely depend of the weather conditions so check each website for accurate operating days and times.
*I have not visited these attractions (except Jonas Ridge) and they’re in no particular order*