Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Four Unique Cities to Visit in California

Hi everyone! I’m Farrah! :] Whilst on my 4th-year clinical rotations for medical school, I moved every 2-4 weeks to a different city/state, so I’ve lived in a tonnnn of different places over the past year. Although I’ve found things from every place that I’ve really enjoyed and awesome people everywhere, California will always be home to me.

California is a ginormous state, and my hope is to take a road trip up the entire Pacific coast someday…but until that happens, I’m just going to take you on a virtual tour through northern California to a few of the possibly lesser-known cities/towns!
If you’re at all a fan of eating the world and/or venturing outdoors, I think we’ll get along swimmingly! :] I’ve blogged about  most of these places in some form or another on my blog, so if you want a more in-depth review, just search it on my blog or check out my yelp account for my foodie adventures!
Carmel-By-The-Sea/Monterey
I know everyone loves the idea of southern California beaches with the wind and surf in their hair, but my favorite beach in California is in Carmel-By-The-Sea. It’s an incredibly clean, peaceful beach with the softest white sand you could ever set your feet on.
It’s also less than 7 miles from Monterey, a city rich with California history that was the inspiration for a number of John Steinbeck’s novels. Monterey also has the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is home to super cute fish, otters, puffins, penguins, and sea pancakes manta rays, just to name a few! You can learn a lot about wildlife conservation here, and hopefully bring that knowledge with you wherever you go. Bring a student ID if you have one for a discount!
I’d also recommend kayaking or stand up paddleboarding there if you get a chance to! I got to see a baby otter floating around with its mother! There’s a tasty Greek restaurant (Epsilon) less than 2 miles away!

Fremont, California
I somewhat hesitate to send anyone else to my hometown to climb Mission Peak since it’s already become a somewhat infamous selfie spot (it’s the most photographed landmark in the city), but this is a really nice hike that offers you a really gorgeous view of the Bay Area once you get to the top! The mountain summit is 2,517 feet high, so be sure to wear good shoes and bring water + sunscreen!

There’s delicious Indian food to be had here (my personal favorite is Pakwan, which is about 7 miles from Mission Peak), and somewhat nearby, in the Niles district, there’s the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, which is where Broncho Billy and Charlie Chaplin used to make films back in the 1910’s--they offer weekly viewings of silent films!
Davis
I could write several posts’ worth of things to do in Davis alone, but I’m a biased party because that’s where I went for undergrad and it’s probably where I want to move back to someday to live. Sometimes referred to as the “Bicycle Capital of the U.S.,” Davis is located 20-30 minutes from Sacramento.
As you might have guessed, it’s a super bike-friendly town with delicious food options (especially if you’re a fan of sushi buffets, Thai restaurants, or frozen yogurt—I’d recommend Davis Sushi Buffet, Sophia’s Thai Kitchen, and Cultive, respectively) with tons of greenbelts to explore. If you make it there on a Wednesday afternoon or Saturday morning, be sure to get the apple juice at the Davis Farmer’s Market! If you’re there on Tuesday or Thursday at noon, stop by the music building to catch a free noon concert by the music students! (I miss playing there!)
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Crescent City
I’ve been taking you up north, and at this point, you’re pretty much right at the Oregon border—it’s breathtakingly beautiful up there. There are no hotels or motels within the park boundaries, but nearby towns have small hotels and inns! I came here 6 years ago on a camping trip with the outdoor group at my college, so lodging wasn’t an issue. I would definitely recommend camping here—it was a ton of fun!
There are almost 200 miles(!) of hiking trails in these parks, although in rainy seasons, some of the temporary footbridges kinda disappear. If hiking isn’t your thing, you can also go horseback riding, mountain biking, kayaking, canoeing, and fishing here! Tis an outdoor enthusiast’s dream!



About the Author

Farrah is a Family Medicine intern with interests in preventative health, sports medicine, and working with under-served populations. She blogs at Fairyburger about food, fitness, healthy living, and excerpts of her daily life. In the rare occasions where she gets free time to have a life, she enjoys lifting weights, dancing, music, cooking, eating, volunteering, being outdoors, and hanging out with rescue animals.





Monday, July 25, 2016

Favorite Festivals in Shreveport/Bossier City, Louisiana

We're back with more of our Virtual Tour Across America this week. We still have lots of neat posts to bring you from across the country. Don't forget that we're also still accepting submissions. Feel free to get in touch if you'd like to share a post highlighting your city or state! Until then, enjoy a trip to Louisiana!




When people think of Louisiana, it’s not uncommon to immediately think of New Orleans. Whenever I meet anyone outside of the state and tell them where I’ve traveled from, I usually get one of two responses 1) Hurricane Katrina was such a tragedy, or 2) Mardi Gras! Bourbon! Etc. Etc.

I’ve been living in Shreveport/Bossier City for a little over a decade now, and the difference in lifestyles between north and south Louisiana are vast. I’ve only been to south Louisiana a handful of times, but trust me when I say that New Orleans in and of itself is like its own little country.

One thing I enjoy about living in north Louisiana is the amount of festivals that come to the area. I also love the sense of community when attending these festivals. Everyone is just out to have a good time. No one is in a rush to do any particular thing. Most people have a beer or other beverage in their hand, good food is consumed and there’s usually some kind of musical entertainment. It’s all, for lack of a better term, chill.

Having lived in north Louisiana for the past ten years, I’ve attended most of these festivals, and I have different reasons for loving them all.  

6 | Holiday in Dixie

Holiday in Dixie is basically a mini fair. It’s held downtown in Festival Plaza every spring. The purpose of the festival is to celebrate the Louisiana Purchase. There’s always a lineup of local music artists playing. The food is pretty dang delicious. There’s a parade, a treasure hunt, rides and games. It lasts ten days, and I usually end up going more than once.  

5 | Mudbug Madness
Crawfish is my favorite food, so naturally, Mudbug Madness is one of my favorite festivals. Even though it takes place in the hot heat of Louisiana summer, it’s worth it to go out and get some good crawfish for an even better price. They have some fun zydeco music playing the background and also feature some local music artists. There are several vendors featuring unique products as well as items by local artists. I mostly just go for the crawfish though.
crawfish

 crawfish  

4 | Barksdale Air Force Base Air Show
Being an Air Force brat, I love the brave men and women who fight for our country. Growing up, my family and I always went to the air show near whichever base we lived on/near at the time. When I moved to Shreveport, my dad had already retired, but my love for the air show hasn’t declined in the slightest. Barksdale is the only base that puts on an air show every single year, and that just goes to show how incredibly supportive north Louisiana is to our military.

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A photo posted by Tiffany Khyla White (@tiffanykhyla) on

3 | Red River Revel Arts Festival
Being a creative myself, I enjoy browsing the artwork of others. Many of the artists that feature their work at the Revel include works inspired by Louisiana, and those ones are usually my favorite. It’s amazing what people can do with a simple fleur de lis. The festival features over 100 artists as well as a variety of music artists.

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2 | Mardi Gras 
There’s a huge difference in celebrating Mardi Gras in New Orleans and celebrating in Shreveport. The reputation that you often hear about Mardi Gras is what’s associated to the happenings of NOLA, but Shreveport is a little less crazy, but still a lot of fun. One thing I love is that the parade route goes through some neighborhoods, so if you have friends that live along the parade route, this eliminates issues of parking. Shreveport also has a permit for open container laws, so if you’re walking or standing around enjoying the parade, you don’t have to be wary about enjoying an adult beverage while watching the festivities and catching some goods. All that aside, it’s also pretty family friendly. Everyone is just out to have a fun time and catch plastic beads that will ultimately either be recycled or thrown out later, and I love it. 
mardi gras 

 mardigras5 

 1 | State Fair of Louisiana 
Naturally, the State Fair is one of the biggest festivals that happens in north Louisiana. Every time I’ve gone, it’s been a blast. I’m not usually one for riding rides because they give me headaches, but I do enjoy a few rounds on the ferris wheel (even though I do have a fear of heights). I love fair food. I love bumper cars. I love the petting zoo. Yes, I do always feed the giraffes and attempt to pet the goats. I also enjoy taking those old timey photos. I always have a fun time at the fair, and I try to go every year it comes around. 

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 fair4 


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About the Author:
I'm Tiffany Khyla, a chaser of happiness with an undying love of wine, books and life. Endless Bliss is a happy lifestyle blog where I aim to inspire others to live authentically and achieve a life full of bliss. 

 
 
 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Just Another Military Move Story

You may have noticed our absence last week from the blog. It wasn't intentional, but it did happen. I spent a lot of time getting ahead for the week we'd be on the road. The plan was to do another batch of posts once we got to our hotel in Port Huron. However, our internet was less than predictable and getting posts done was not as easy as I predicted it would be.  The Virtual Tour is still going on and we have more travel posts to bring you this week. We thought we'd stop in with a move update first.


Our moving adventure started on July 5 when the car transport company contacted us and said they'd be picking up my car on July 7. This didn't exactly work since we would be leaving the area on July 6 after the movers came. (And the only person we trusted to meet the car transport company in our absence was away on vacation in France.) After several back and forth calls, we decided to drive the car to Sacramento to drop it off with the company. It was a two hour drive in both directions due to rush hour traffic. That took up most of our evening.

The next day (July 6) was spent watching the mover pack up our entire place. There were also errands to be run - cancelling cable, getting an oil change, etc. Everything was done around five or six and we set out on the road. It's a 34 hour drive from California to Michigan. You can find many pictures from our lengthy drive on our Instagram account.


After a detour to see family in Indiana, we arrived in Port Huron on Sunday, July 10. We spent Monday exploring and relaxing a bit. Tuesday was spent looking at six or seven houses that our realtor had lined up for us. The stories we can tell from that adventure might leave you with nightmares (seriously - one house had a dead bat in the kitchen!). We did manage to find a gem hidden among the houses we looked at and we started the process towards buying it.


Wednesday was spent driving about an hour to meet my car. For some reason, they wouldn't deliver to Port Huron but we were able to meet them at a residential location in what felt like the middle of nowhere. My car arrived in one piece and we were excited to check another item off of our list. We took it to the husband's new base so that it was parked in a safe place while our adventures continued.


After several days of hotel living, we found ourselves back on the road on Thursday. This time our road trip took us to Arkansas and the husband's family. We haven't seen them in 2 years (when we got married) so a visit with them was long overdue. That's where we are currently - visiting with family in Arkansas. Everyone is beyond happy to have us closer to them and within easy driving distance. I think we're going to have a lot of visitors in Michigan! 


Needless to say, I'm not looking forward to going back to hotel living in about a week and a half but a military family has to do what with what they can during a major move across the country.

What about you? What have you been up to in the past few weeks? We'd love to hear about your summer adventures in the comments below!




Monday, July 11, 2016

Missouri--From the Perspective of an Arkansas Girl

Missouri. The Show-Me State. Home of the Gateway Arch. Border state during the Civil War. 
Maybe that’s all you know about it (or maybe you didn’t even know that much). Just what does it have to offer travelers and residents?
It’s funny how life works out.  
I grew up in Arkansas, but most of our vacations were to Missouri (Branson to be exact, but more on that later).  At one point in my life, I thought I wanted to go to college in Missouri, and even visited some colleges there.  The main reason was just because I wanted to get out of the home state, and I was most familiar with Missouri. I thought I would like it because I thought it was mostly like the Ozark region I was familiar with.
Alas, I did not end up going to college out of state, Missouri or otherwise.  I did, however, meet a guy from Missouri, marry him, and ended up living in the state as a true resident.
So, here I am.
As it turns out, I wasn’t as well-versed in Missouri as I thought I was.  Here are some of the things I’ve learned since I’ve been here.


  1. Missouri seems to do parks really well.
Arkansas is The Natural State, so I’m used to State Parks in abundance.  So far, the parts of Missouri I’ve been to do not have as many State Parks, but I’ve noticed more and better city parks than what Arkansas has. 

In fact, the town I’m living in now is significantly smaller than the town I was near in Arkansas, but this town has bigger and better parks.  The grounds are well-kept and pretty, with lots of grassy areas, flowers and water features, vs. the parks that are just playground equipment for kids, with nothing to offer the adults that accompany them that I was used to in Arkansas.  I was particularly impressed with the parks I saw in Kansas City.


  1. The Katy Trail is awesome
There is one State Park that stands out though. The park is just one long hiking or biking trail, but it is 237 miles, and cuts across almost the entire state! According to the website, there is quite a variety in the nature you’ll encounter on different portions of the trail; you could see anything from “ tree-shaded areas, open fields, impressive Missouri River bluffs and quaint communities,” depending on what part of the trail you’re on.
I’ve only encountered a few sections of the trail—mostly the tree-shaded areas, but also some bluffs.  What I’ve seen is beautiful, and the trail is wide and well-kept. The parts that I’ve seen were also fairly flat and easy hikes, so this is a great trail for anybody; what the hike lacks in difficulty can be made up by going a great distance, it’s wide enough to accommodate walkers, bikers, joggers, and any size group easily, and the scenery is top-notch.


  1. I still love Branson and Silver Dollar City.
Perhaps you’ve heard of these places.  Branson was the place that us Arkansawyers vacationed. But if you’re not familiar, let me give you the run-down.
Branson is sort of a family-friendly, hillbilly version of Las Vegas.  There’s no gambling, and nothing you do there would have to “stay” there, as the Vegas saying goes. But there is a “strip” filled with live shows and attractions. The town started out as a country music destination, but many of the well-known country stars have retired or moved on.  Today, you’re as likely to see a magic show or a music revue featuring a specific decade as you are a country show, but family entertainment is still key.  Many shows ARE families.  The two FIRST shows on the strip are still going strong, and are performed by families: The Presleys  and The Baldknobbers (the actual family name is Mabe).  Besides the originals, there are numerous family shows that have been in Branson quite a while and have a strong fan base, like The Duttons, The Haygoods, and The Hughes Brothers.
And then there’s Silver Dollar City.  One of their sayings is “You have a great past just ahead of you.” It’s a theme park, but even more than rides, the focus is on a different time period.  Almost all of the park (minus a few sections) is styled to look like it’s straight out of the 1880s, and craftsmanship is a big part of the park’s attraction. You can find all sorts of “old-timey” crafts, such as candle-making, ironsmithing, glass-blowing, and many others. 

But you can also find plenty of rides for the thrill-seeker, such as the roller coasters Wildfire, PowderKeg, and Outlaw Run.
Be careful though.  Branson and Silver Dollar City can give you a false sense of being in the South.  Despite the many attractions of the town that focus on or depict “hillbillies” and the Southern hospitality you’ll encounter, remember that you are still in the very Southern edge of Missouri. If you go any further north, things will be different.  I say that with love and respect, and don’t mean it as a jab against the state or it’s people, it’s just the truth; not all of Missouri is particularly “Southern.”


  1. Not all of Missouri is mountainous.
First of all, I must make a disclaimer about the sort of mountains I’m talking about: They aren’t your Rockies or Smokies. But there is a range called the Ozark Mountains that covers a portion of Arkansas and a portion of Missouri. Branson lies in this area, and thus the Ozark area of Missouri was just about the only area I ever saw growing up.  It’s the area that made me think I could handle living in Missouri.
It’s not all like that.
Missouri also has a lot of farm land that looks nothing like the Ozarks. That doesn’t mean it’s not pretty. It’s just different.
And there is a variety, too. When my parents and I made our first trip further north for me to visit my then-boyfriend, my parents joked about how the areas we were driving through were “flat as a pancake.” Well, after a while, we encountered some hills. I took it upon myself to describe this area as “waffle-y,” in contrast with the pancake land. 
 

Regardless what type of topography you prefer, you can probably find something you like somewhere in Missouri.


  1. Missouri has some awesome cities
If all this talk of parks and country and nature has you worried, never fear. There are several cities in Missouri that offer city life and culture. The most obvious city is St. Louis, but I’m actually not familiar with it.  Other cities of significant size include Springfield, Jefferson City, Kansas City, and Columbia.
These cities have so much to do, and let’s be honest, most of the “things to do” lists that you see are going to include attractions found in the cities (here’s a list for Missouri) . From parks, museums, shopping, college/university campuses, music, food (I mean, come on, KANSAS CITY BARBEQUE), there’s really way too much to do to even discuss fully.  I’m not qualified to really even talk about what the cities have to offer, because I’ve only been to them a few times. Here’s some random tidbits though that stand out:
  • St. Louis and Kansas City get a lot of great concert tours. I’ve been to the Uptown Theater and Sprint Center in Kansas City.  I don’t have personal experience with any venues in St. Louis, but both of these towns are going to get your big name concert tours, so keep your eye out.
  • KC has the only World War I museum and Union Station.
  • Jefferson City is the capital, and the Capital grounds are beautiful.
  • Columbia has a great college town vibe. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the downtown area, but I remember loving it.

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This all just barely scrapes the surface, because I have just barely scraped the surface. I’ve only been living in Missouri a few months now, and though technically I’ve been visiting for years, I still have so much to learn about what the state has to offer.
Have you been to Missouri? What are your favorite things to do and see?

About the Author



Whitney LaDon is a new wife in a new state, and she’s relatively new to the blogging world. She writes about anything and everything important to her: marriage and relationships, faith and Christianity, education, adventures in teaching, what she’s reading, and beyond.  Check out her blog The Poetry That is Life and follow it on Facebook. She’s also on Bloglovin’ and Pinterest



Friday, July 8, 2016

Summer Activities in Iowa

Being a Southern gal, I didn’t think there could be anything better than a windy road through a tall pine tree forest. But… after marrying my sweet Iowan man, I have found beauty in the square grid of roads lined with golden corn fields and blue skies that span for miles. I had a lot to learn about giving directions using N,S, E, and W, driving in the snowy winters, familiarizing myself with names of all the small towns, and discovering what to explore. 



Over the last 3 years we have definitely had our share of adventures including the World Food and Music Festival, Corks & Caps, Boone Scenic Railroad, the famous Iowa State Fair, and most recently the Pella Tulip Festival. But there is still a lot to see! Here are the 3 places I want to go this summer:

1. Field of Dreams, Dyersville - Who remembers the inspirational movie The Field of Dreams starring Kevin Costner? While I am not the biggest baseball fan, I do enjoy this wholesome family movie. Plus, it is always fun to see where a movie was filmed. Well, the beautiful green field is located out in one of Iowa’s beautiful rural farm lands. The admission is free, but on weekends, visitors can pay to enjoy different events like baseball games, Father’s Day Catch, or even a Ghost Comedy Show. It is an easy day trip out from Des Moines or Dubuque, or it can be a fun mid trip stopover if we are just passing through.

2. Maquoketa Cave, 30 minutes south of Dubuque  - When we are visiting the field of dreams, we are considering camping near by at the Maquoketa Caves State Park. Most people think that Iowa is one flat farm land... I know I did! But in fact, there are steep ledges and cliffs, rivers, major rolling hills and yes, even caves. Being one of the most unique parks in Iowa, the caves are free to explore and easy to access for a day trip from the city. Visitors are required to attend a brief presentation about bats and white noise syndrome. Other than that, we are free to explore from 8 AM to 8PM starting at the end of May to the middle of October! 

3. Hot Air Balloon Festival, Indianola -  A couple of summers ago, my husband and I travelled to Turkey and stayed the area of Cappadocia which is well-known for sunrise hot air balloon rides. In the mornings and evenings you can see all of the colorful balloons up in the sky. Instead of figuring out how to return to Turkey, we can have a similar experience just down the road! Iowa celebrates a 40 year old tradition with an annual nine day festival just for hot air balloons which includes live entertainment, Kids Land, food, fireworks, and (what I am most looking forward to) the Nite Glow Extravaganza!

We have 2 of the 3 already in the works to see over the gorgeous Iowan summer. What do you have planned? Have you been to Iowa before? What other places or activities would you suggest to others to visit on a road trip to Iowa?

If you get a chance to pass through the midwest this summer, Iowa is an absolute must stop on your list!



About the Author


Currently, Jason and his southern gal, Catie, live in small town Iowa. Catie is a study abroad coordinator by day and a blogger at funktravels.com in her free time. Jason owns a software consulting business called Tough Space. Together they host a podcast that discusses their intentional dreaming for international living as well as their recent travels experiences. Together we like cook all types of food, play board/card games (Sequence, Bananagrams, and Cover Your Assets are our favs right now), and travel.


This website is here to share with friends and family our ‘normal’ lives, glimpses of daily lovelies, and roadie ramblings about our adventures as we transition to life overseas.


Social Media
Follow at funktravels.com
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Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/funktravels/



Thursday, July 7, 2016

Rural North Dakota

We've hit the middle of the summer and the virtual tour is still going strong! We hope you've been enjoying all of the cool places that our country has to offer. Today, we're bringing you a post from Erin about North Dakota, which has more to offer than you might think!

I was born and raised in a small town in North Dakota called Leeds, population of about 400. Now, I use the word small and not tiny because there are towns, like York which is about 5 miles away from Leeds, with a population of 23. It’s all relative in rural North Dakota. I grew up on a farm outside of town. I learned how to drive on some of the straightest, flattest roads known to man. A “night out” in high school consisted of driving down bumpy prairie trails blaring music, a pastime my husband and I still indulge in every once in a while.


When I try to describe what it’s like living in rural North Dakota, the first thing I always think of is that it’s easy. Things just seem to move a bit slower around here and I think people worry less, too. My husband and I have lived in our current house for almost 3 years and we have never locked our front door, even when we’re gone for multiple days. I’m not sure I could even find my house key without some serious effort at this point. 


People always ask me about what we do for fun around here. Well specifically where I live, we are about 30 miles from Devils Lake. This is the largest natural body of water in North Dakota and provides lots of recreational activities all year as well as making a huge economic impact on the city of the same name. In the summer time there is boating and swimming and fishing and camping. In the winter time there is ice fishing and snowmobiling and pond hockey.  It's a year round destination!


About 20 minutes from Devils Lake is Sullys Hill National Game Preserve. Sullys Hill is a park that is over 1600 acres and home to a herd of Bison and a herd of Elk. The park boasts some pretty awesome trails and an auto route with some killer views. Especially from the vista where you can see just one portion of the massive Devils Lake. It's a little oasis on the prairie and my husband and I visit multiple times each summer.


Also in the summer time my husband plays softball at least one night a week and multiple weekend tournaments every season and I play on a women’s sand volleyball team every week.  These summer time sports are huge, especially softball. In our state capital of Bismarck, every summer is the largest charity softball tournament in the country. Over 20,000 players and fans descend on the city of 67,000 each and every summer. It’s a weekend long tailgate party studded by 700 softball games. No big deal. ☺


Our state capital building, located in the heart of Bismarck.

I have a friend who tells me she likes to sleep with the window open so she can hear the traffic go by and not feel like she’s alone in the middle of nowhere. Personally, I feel the exact opposite. Wandering aimlessly around my parents’ farm and the neighboring country side either by foot, or bike, or snowmobile or pickup truck to the point where you haven’t seen another living being, besides the local wildlife of course, in hours and hours and hours is how I recharge my batteries and feed my soul. I was raised on fresh air and wide open spaces underneath the biggest, brightest blue skies and I wouldn’t change it for a thing.


And that’s why I love rural North Dakota.

About the Author:
Erin is small town girl from rural North Dakota. After she and her husband spent 18 months living in the suburbs of St Louis, they returned to Erin’s hometown to start their lives together. Erin has worked in hospitality and customer service most of her career, but her true passion is cooking. She started her food blog called Thanks for Cookin’! in the summer of 2015. When she’s not in the kitchen, Erin can be found reading, watching movies with her husband, or walking their dog Stretch. You find can Erin at http://www.thanksforcookin.com or on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook.