Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Things to do in Las Vegas

When people think of Las Vegas, their immediate thoughts are the Las Vegas strip, partying, and how great it is that your vacations are paying our state tax. Well okay, you probably aren't thinking about paying our state tax- but you are!
But seriously, Las Vegas is likely one of the first places in the state-side you'd think to go for a party weekend. And for good reason. Vegas is notorious for its cheap and easy reputation, but did you know that this desert oasis is home to over 2 million people? And a good chunk of us rarely make it to the strip, other than to oblige the visiting friend or family member. So what do we do here then? Let me break it down for you from a local's perspective.

Best Place to Party: While tourists flock to the strip, locals know Fremont St. is the best place to head if we want to party. Sure the hotels and attractions pull in some tourists, but with so many things to do in Downtown Las Vegas you're less likely to run into the annoying crowds that hang out on the Strip. Plus Fremont is home to some new and awesome attractions as the younger generation moves in to clean up and renovate the neighborhood into a trendier place to hang out. You can hit the container park, check out a record store (our fav!), and then head up the street just in time for the party.

Best Place to Cool Off: We know the hotel pools rock. But in the summer they're jammed with boozy out-of-towners looking for fun. Local's hit either Wet and Wild or Cowabunga Bay for a day of fun. I should also add that most of us have our own pools. A coping mechanism for the 115 degree weather from May-October. 

Best Ways to Eat: (bold title please!) Let me tell you a secret: we love to eat! We have some of the best food here too from In n Out to the crazy delicious restaurants on the Strip. But us local's all know two things: 1) local casinos have the best buffets and 2) local casinos have the best breakfasts. Yep! Vegas local's love to hit up our local neighborhood casinos for breakfast, lunch, or dinner! And here in our 24 hour town, you can even stop by for midnight breakfasts! Yum!

Best Quick Trip Out of Town: In most states there are little towns scattered not too far from the main city. Unfortunately in Nevada our biggest cities are not only 500 miles apart but in different climates! That's right, the distance from Reno to Vegas in over 500 miles. But local's know another fun escape when we want to get out of town and explore. Just outside of Henderson, south of Las Vegas Blvd, we have Boulder City. BC is a quaint little town that was founded with the building of the Hoover Dam. It's home to fun places like Pit Stop for burgers, A&W where you can get a glass of root beer "on tap" and a ton of cute little antique shops. 

Best Places to Live: I don't know why we get asked this so often, but the majority of your "typical families" live at least 15 minutes from the Strip. We live in either Henderson (a small city that's basically blended into the Vegas area) , Green Valley (a suburb in Henderson), Boulder City, North Las Vegas, or Summerlin. Nobody lives down by the Strip. Nobody wants to live down there! We're content in our nice stucco homes with a view of the city, and we wouldn't have it any other way. 

Las Vegas is one of the most unique places in the world. It's home to both some of the most interesting people, and some of the most normal. We love to have a good time, and we love when tourists enjoy our city! We hope to see you soon here in the fabulous Las Vegas.

About the Author

Morgan is a 20 year old wanna-be 4th grade teacher,  a leggings as pants advocate, a Friends enthusiast, and a lover of God. She loves country music, Dr. Pepper, and Bath & Body Works candles. You can find her blogging at Blessed Messes. You can also follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Things to Love in Idaho

Hi, my name is Sarah! I grew up in the Appalachians – a city called Bristol on the border of Tennessee and Virginia, a place known for country music, sweet tea, and homecookin’. My husband, Zac, grew up in Seattle – surrounded by the beauty of the Olympics and Cascades, the Puget Sound, and amidst a plethora of cultures.

I was almost 4 months pregnant when we arrived in Idaho and, even a week before my husband and I made the decision to move, the state was not even a blip on my radar. What I knew of Idaho consisted of potatoes and football yet, somehow, in the blink of an eye we had decided to leave our home in the Pacific Northwest and start our family in Boise. But that’s another story.

- - -

Our love affair with Idaho didn’t start out very promising. Like most transplants, finding yourself in a new place is always an adjustment – and I’d be lying if I said we didn’t kick and scream a bit. It was the most landlocked place either of us had ever lived and appeared much more conservative and “small-town” than we were used to.

We have been living in the capital city of Boise for a year and a half now and are considering buying a home here within the next year. So why the complete 180?

Here’s a few of the reasons why we’ve come to love Boise, Idaho:
  • The cost of living is considerably less expensive than many of the other cities we love. (4% lower than the national average and 20% lower than my husband’s hometown of Seattle.) 
  • It’s small, but it’s not THAT small. Boise has the conveniences of a big city without the traffic jams and long airport lines. 
  • It’s incredibly family friendly. With tons of festivals, indoor play areas, a greenbelt, dozens of parks, and even a zoo that boasts $4.50 Thursday admission, we never run out of things to do with our son. 
  • The climate is amazing! Winter is mild – for the most part. Fall and spring exist and summers are long, but not too hot. 

Are you considering visiting Idaho? Some things you might want to check out include:
  • A daytrip to Shoshone Falls in Twin Falls or Mesa Falls in Ashton 
  • Hiking in Craters of the Moon National Monument in Arco 
  • Camping at Redfish Lake in Stanley with stunning views of the Sawtooth Mountains 
  • Skiing in Sun Valley or right here in Boise at Bogus Basin 
  • Floating the Boise River or whitewater rafting on the Payette Biking the Hiawatha mountain bike trail 
  • Visiting Silverwood Amusement Park and Coeur d’Alene Lake 

…And in Boise? Here’s what we would suggest:
1. Eat your potatoes. Can you really come to the potato state and not try them? Boise Fry Company has our favorite selection of potatoes in town in fry form! Grab a bison burger (as a side) and a local brew and you’ll finally understand what all the fuss is about. The downtown location even has a lending library and kids’ storytime.

2. Ride a hot air balloon at the Boise Balloon Classic. If you’re coming to Boise, the Classic is something you cannot miss. Usually occurring at the end of August or early September, this 5 day event boasts dozens of hot air balloons from all over the country and features a family day and “night glow” event. And it’s free!

3. Catch a Table Rock Sunset. The views of the Treasure Valley and downtown area from Table Rock are simply stunning. Not up for the hike? Feel free to drive the top!

4. Spend a Tuesday night at the Village in Meridian. Movies are $5 at their state-of-the-art theater and the 21+ balcony seats offer in-theater dining (and drinks). Shops and restaurants in the Village also offer deals on Tuesday nights.

5. Explore Hyde Park. Grab a cup of coffee on 13th Street and spend your afternoon exploring the shops, restaurants, and quaint streets of this Boise neighborhood. If you’re up for a challenge, take your coffee to the top of Camel’s Back Park for a great view.

Honestly, there are just too many great things about our city. For a bigger list our family’s favorite things to see and do in Boise, check out my post here.
Happy Travels,
Sarah Warren

About the Author

Sarah, author of, is a bartender, runner, cancer survivor, and adventure lover. Wanderlust runs in her veins. She has been traveling the US her entire life and has been moving around the country for the past six years meeting new people, sharing stories, and finding some truly beautiful places along the way. She currently resides in Boise, Idaho with her husband, Zac, and their one-year-old son, Miles. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

Monday, June 6, 2016

8 Free Adventures in Eastern Washington

I'm excited to bring you our last stop in Washington for our virtual tour. This time, we're headed east and the adventures are free!

Who said adventures had to cost an arm or a leg? Across Washington State you can enjoy a variety of expeditions without even opening your wallet.

While free opportunities abound across the entire state, today we’re going to focus on the eastern side of the beautiful Evergreen State. Here are eight free ways to build adventurous memories on your next trip to Washington:

1. Check out the Historical Monuments

Eastern Washington has a rich history. The Whitman Massacre happened near Walla Walla. Lewis and Clark explored the region as part of their famous expedition before they reached the coast and the end of their journey.

 As you’re driving, brown highway signs indicate monuments that celebrate Washington’s past. Each has room to pull-in so you can safely get out of the vehicle and learn more. You can read the signs on-site and gain insight into the historical significance of what you’re seeing.

A great stop is in Columbia County, near Dayton. You’ll find a marker entitled, “encamped on the N. side.” Out in a field, you’ll see dozens of life-sized metal sculptures. Each one represents a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition. It’s a great way to see a representation of a historical event with your own eyes.

2. Take a Ferry 

You can enjoy a free 10-minute ferry ride across the Columbia River. While these ferries aren’t as fancy as the ones on the other side of the state, you’ll still get to drive your car on board and watch the water from inside your vehicle.

The Keller Ferry runs seven days a week. The first run is at 6:00 a.m., and the last one crosses at 11:30 p.m. operating on an “on-demand” service. The crew can monitor both landings for vehicles waiting to cross.

 After you cross the river, be on the lookout for public access pull-outs to explore. There are several beautiful places along the banks of the mighty Columbia. Some even have sandy beaches!

3. Explore the Columbia Basin 

The Columbia River and the surrounding basin are full of beautiful spots to explore. You can check out Dry Falls—the remnants of what is believed to be the largest waterfall that ever existed.

While you’re in the area, be sure to check out Soap Lake. The mineral rich water is thought to have healing properties. As you explore the basin, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views like this one:

4. Explore a Ghost Town 

The wild west wouldn’t be the same without ghost towns. Scattered throughout the state, these towns have lost the glory of their hay day. They’ve been abandoned.

 Many of these towns have remains to explore. Most you can visit for free or on a donation admittance. Molson is an incredible ghost town in Okanogan County.

There’s a museum inside the old schoolhouse, depicting life in the old days. Outside you’ll find a bank and jail to walk through. There’s also a ton of artifacts from mining and pioneer days waiting to be discovered.

5. Catch the Laser Light Show

Grand Coulee Dam is an impressive structure providing hydro power across the state and beyond. Each night during the summer season a laser light show displays across the span of the dam. The theme of the show is One River, Many Voices.

This thirty-minute narrated show details the history of the dam, and the Columbia River. It’s a stunning display of colorful lights.

If you arrive before dark, take advantage of the educational visitor’s center. You can also participate in a tour of the dam.

6. Tour the Liberty Orchards Factory 

Have you ever tasted an Aplet or a Cotlet? These delicious Washington produced treats are created in Cashmere, Washington. You can tour their factory for free and learn all about how the candies are made.

7. Hike 

Eastern Washington is home to beautiful mountains trails. If you don’t mind driving off the beaten track, well-maintained trails are waiting.

This is Quartzite Mountain. It’s part of the Selkirk Mountain Range located near Chewelah, Washington. On the backside, there’s a 3-mile roundtrip hiking path. Once you reach the top, you’re rewarded with amazing views of the whole valley.

Quartzite isn’t the only trail to explore in eastern Washington. The Washington Trails Association describes 217 trails in the region. You might even wear out your hiking boots trying to complete them all.

8. Drive the North Cascade Highway 

If you’re ready to head west after your factory tour, you can use the scenic North Cascade Highway. This is the northern most route across the Cascade Mountains. Because of the heavy snow accumulation in the winter, this route is not accessible all year. Before heading on your trip, be sure to check the Department of Transportation website to ensure it’s open.

As you’re driving, you’ll be rewarded with views of numerous waterfalls. Wildlife is abundant in the area, and you might even spy eagles flying overhead.

The Adventures Are Waiting 

With all of these free adventures to choose from, which one will you pick first? Do you have a favorite free eastern Washington adventure that was missed? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

About the Author

Lisa Tanner loves living life in eastern Washington. She and her husband are raising their seven children on the family farm. Lisa's becoming an expert at balancing diapers and deadlines as she grows her freelance writing and virtual assistant career. She shares her best tips for getting it all done over at Lisa Tanner Writing. You can also find her on TwitterFacebook, and Pinterest.  


How to Experience Washington on a Budget

 Let's continue our trip through Washington with some tips on how to travel on a budget! Don't let money stand in your way when traveling. 

Whatever you're looking for, Washington's got it. From the lush rainforest of the Olympic Peninsula to the dry, open vistas in the east, our state includes sandy beaches, snow-peaked mountains, volcanoes, rivers and some of the most iconic attractions in the United States.

As a frugal adventurer and lifelong Washingtonian, I've figured out how to explore its greatest places at the best possible prices. 

Mount Rainier & Other National Parks 

If you are going to visit our famous volcanoes, you're going to need an interagency pass to access the national parks and national forests. The National Parks system has claimed the snowy behemoth of Mount Rainier, the unmistakable glacier-coated volcano that towers above our state. Mt. St. Helens, infamous for unleashing the deadliest and most destructive volcanic eruption in the history of the United States, is located in a national forest.

An interagency pass will also give you access to other wonders in Washington. On the peninsula, you could explore nearly one million acres of waterfalls, rainforests, old-growth forests and stunning beaches in Olympic National Park. There are more than a dozen other federal sites in Washington State that you could visit as well.

You can skip the entrance and other fees at these and nearly 2,000 other venues with an $80 annual interagency pass. If you're currently serving in the military, disabled, or have a fourth grader, you can get one of these passes completely free! Seniors can get a lifetime pass for just $10. 

Beaches & Other State Parks 

here are nearly 200 state parks in Washington State - and you can access them all for just $33 or less! The affordable Discover Pass unlocks access to beaches, forests, caves, lakes, trails and so much more throughout the state.

My very favorite state parks include the beaches at Dash Point State Park in Federal Way, Picnic Point Park in Edmonds and Westport Light in Westport. I also love taking the children to explore the lighthouse and artillery post at Fort Casey Historical State Park.

Saving money on these great locations is simple. Instead of paying $11 for a one-day access pass, consider spending $33 for unlimited access to all of Washington's state-managed lands for an entire year. If you live in Washington and meet certain criteria, you may be eligible for a free or low-cost annual Discover Pass. 

Exploring Seattle 

Seattle is the largest and most recognizable city in the state. It is always changing and always growing, so there are endless adventures available here.

A Seattle CityPASS is a great way to explore Seattle without spending a fortune. You'll see five of Seattle's best attractions at about half the price of regular admission. The current offerings for a CityPASS include the Space Needle, Seattle Aquarium and a one-hour Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour. The Space Needle ticket allows you to go up twice in a 24 hour period, so that you can see the city in the daytime and again after dark. The final two tickets included in a CityPASS require you to make tough decisions - one allows you to decide between the EMP Museum and the Woodland Park Zoo and the other compels you to choose between Chihuly Garden and Glass and the Pacific Science Center.

Even if 'free' is your preferred price, Seattle has a lot of options. You can always visit the Seattle Center and admire the Space Needle and exterior of Chihuly Garden and Glass completely free. There are almost always street musicians and other performers around the center.

Pike Place Market is also free to wander. While you're there, you can check out the original Starbucks location on the corner of 1st and Pike. Don't forget to stick a piece of chewing gum to Seattle's renowned gum wall. It's located in Post Alley just underneath the market.

There are several museums and visitors centers that are always free to the public, including:
  • The Center for Wooden Boats
  • Coast Guard Museum
  • Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center
  • Frye Art Museum
  • Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park
  • Loghouse Museum
  • Olympic Sculpture Park
  • Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum
  • Washington Park Arboretum
  • Waterfall Garden Park
There are many other museums around Seattle that offer free admission on certain days.

While you're out and about, don't forget to stop under the Aurora Bridge to take your picture with our iconic troll. Made from rebar steel, wire, two tons of ferroconcrete and an actual Volkswagen Beetle, the Fremont Troll is just one of the many eccentric things you'll discover in Seattle. 

That's not all... 

Of course, there's more. Washington is a state of many wonders and there is way more than I could possibly write about here. I'd love to see your recommendations in the comments!

About Nicole

Although Nicole loves the beaches and mountains of her home state, she loves writing most of all. She has been writing professionally since the age of 12 and has been featured in countless publications, including USA Today. Currently, she writes about freebies and saving money at Facebook and Twitter!

5 Can't Miss Attractions in Washington

I hope you enjoyed our stops in California and Oregon last week. This week, we're continuing the tour with a stop in Washington State. If you've never been to the state, then you're in for a real treat since this post highlights several places to see while you're there!

Of all the states that my military family has been stationed in, Washington has been (and continues to be) the most unexpected. When we moved here over five years ago, I expected nothing but rain and trees. All you ever hear about the Pacific Northwest is the gray wet weather and, well, the woods, right? I mean they don’t call it ‘The Evergreen State’ for nothing! But Washington is so much more than a little rain and a few trees.


This may seem like a no-brainer, but Seattle is possibly one of the coolest, quirkiest cities I’ve ever visited. There are, of course, some really great tourist attractions. The Space Needle is a must-see for visitors, and it’s conveniently located in Seattle’s City Center where you’ll also find the Pacific Science Center, Chihully Gardenand Glass, and the amazing International Fountains.

There’s also a lot of quirky fun in Seattle. You can catch the fish throwers at Pike Place Market, add your DNA to the Gum Wall, or pose for a photo with the Fremont Troll. You can catch burlesque shows, rock concerts, professional ballet, and street buskers. Practically every corner of Seattle has something fun, interesting, or just downright weird to enjoy.

 Mount St. Helens

It’s been 36 years since the Mount St. Helens eruption, but this national park is still a favorite among tourists. Tour the visitor’s center at Johnston Ridge Observatory and see chilling pictures and listen to actual recordings for the national disaster, or take a hiking through any of the parks amazing trails or lava tubes. The scenery is beautiful, but when you add in the powerful history of her eruption, Mt. St. Helens views (and photo opps) are incredibly moving.

The Beach

Washington beaches don’t get a lot of press … probably because coastal Washington never really gets hot enough to don a bikini and dive in. (Also the water is really cold. Don’t dive in. Seriously.) However, Washington and her many beaches are beautiful! There are gorgeous rocky beaches like Scenic Beach State Park and smooth sandy beaches like Long BeachPeninsula, and Washington beaches are great for beachcombing. You’ll easily find driftwood and shells, and if you time your trip with the tides you just might see crabs, sand dollars, and starfish right within your reach!

Mount Rainier

You might think you have mountains wherever you’re from, but do you have mountains like this? Located southeast of Seattle, Mount Rainier stand nearly three miles high, and is the highest peak in the Cascade Range. Over 13,000 people try to scale her peaks each year, but there are plenty of adventures available to those of us who prefer a more casual hiking experience. In Washington it’s almost commonplace for families to take a daytrip to the mountain for snowshoeing, sledding, and skiing well into May and even June in the upper elevations and in July and August for strolls in her beautiful wildflower fields.

And also … the trees!

Washington has hundreds of state and national parks all over the state, and they truly make this state wonderful. Once you arrive you might notice that camping and hiking are practically mandatory. It’s because there are so many great options. From the mountains to beaches to actual rain forests, Washington truly has something for every outdoorsmen (even those of us new to the whole “outdoorsy” game).

Washington is truly one of those something-for- everyone kind of places to be. Whether you love the city or the forest, the mountains or the beaches, the quirky or the … quirkier, Washington does not disappoint!

Jodi M. Ubelhor-Strauch is a Navy wife and mom first and foremost, and she dabbles on the side with freelance writing, blogging, (slow) running, and a lifelong love of coffee. Most recently she has discovered the beauty all around her in Washington (it only took five years), and she shares her adventure stories at  Homeport: Washington. She can also catch her on Facebook and Instagram.