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  • Find Serenity at Saguaro National Park

    Just south of Phoenix is a pristine national park covered in a sea of saguaros.

    It’s a hiker’s paradise with a wide range of trail options. Instead of seeking a strenuous hike like usual, I opted to hike at a slower pace and soak in the serenity.

    The drive from Phoenix took us two hours. After paying the $15.00 park fee, we went on a scenic 3.5 mile drive through Saguaro West. Acura of Peoria hooked me up with their gorgeous MDX SUV so we had a smooth ride on the otherwise bumpy road. While an SUV is highly recommended, there were a number of people finding their way through the park with small cars.

    We stopped at the Valley View Outlook Trail. This trail is super easy but comes with a heck of a view. It’s only .08 miles out and back. This is friendly for the whole family regardless of their skill level….. or the length of their attention span. It’s only a 36 foot elevation gain!

    My sister and I brought our niece and her best friend. They’re 11 years old and enjoyed the hike. They even stopped at the top to take in the sights while commenting on the beauty and the quietness of the spot. At one point they even pulled out one of our blankets and laid down to take a nap. Talk about relaxation!!

    While the Valley View Outlook Trail is short and sweet, near the start/end point it does connect to another short hike called the Wild Dog Trail. If you do both you’ll get two different views, with a total of hiking 1.7 miles and spending about an hour to 90 minutes walking with minimal elevation gains. The Wild Dog Trail has an elevation gain of 177 feet. Ironically, dogs are not allowed on these trails.

    Our favorite part of this trip was setting up camp in the back of the MDX and just staring at the saguaros blanketing the desert. I grew up in Arizona and I’ve seen a lot of cacti but there’s something extra special about the views at Saguaro National Park.

    While I only had time to explore the west side of the park, I plan to go back and check out the eastern region as soon as I can!

    TIP: If you go between April and June you can catch the saguaro flowers in bloom!

    BE AWARE: Temperatures can reach 100+ degrees in the summer. The monsoon brings the threat of dangerous thunderstorms, blowing dust and flash flooding from June 15th to September 30th.

    Address to Visitor’s Center (West side of park): 2700 N. Kinney Road, Tucson, Arizona 85743

    Permit Price: $15 per vehicle (credit cards accepted)

    Bring: sunblock, water, snacks, hat, sunglasses, a jacket because temps drop quickly in the desert.

    For those of you wanting more info on my ride, the MDX is a 3-row luxury SUV that drives like a dream! While it is a full-size SUV, it’s easy to handle and doesn’t feel bulky like some other big SUVs. The car has beautiful leather seats, a sleek interior, tons of space for friends plus all the gear I needed for our journey. The MDX makes me feel safe and comfortable! Here are my absolute favorite features on the Acura MDX and why I believe it’s the perfect vehicle for a road trip:

    • Adaptive Cruise Control. This feature is incredible. I couldn’t believe how smart this car is! All I had to do was set the cruise control and the car did the rest. If traffic slows, the brakes automatically apply to keep you a safe distance from the cars around you. In stop-and-go traffic it even braked when cars in front of me stopped then accelerated on its own when traffic starting flowing again! This is a dream feature for a road trip!
    • Lane keep assist: If for any reason you start to drift from your lane, you will be automatically guided back to safety. You don’t lose your ability to steer, but if you don’t signal and move out of your lane it will gently steer you on course without jerking the car. It’s amazing! When you do signal, it checks for other cars in your blind spot. A light will come on inside the car near your side mirror if there is another vehicle and you’ll also hear a beep so you know not to move into the other lane yet.
    • Collision Mitigation Braking System: The MDX has technology that uses a radar system and cameras to figure out the speed and distance of cars or objects in the vicinity. If it detects that you got cut off, traffic is slowing or there is anything you could hit it will apply the brakes for you. At this point it also starts alerting you that there is threat of a crash so that you are paying attention and take the steps necessary to avoid an accident!

    To take it for a test drive, call my friends at Acura of Peoria: (623) 385-1478 or visit at 9190 W Bell Rd, Peoria, AZ 85382.

    For more incredible pics from my photographer Zach, check him out on Instagram @Stackary

    Enjoy!

  • The Dole Pineapple Plantation!

    I think one of the best parts of a Hawaiian getaway is the delicious fruit. I seriously look forward to eating ridiculous amounts of pineapple whenever I head to the islands.

    There is one thing that’s even better than pineapple fruit and that is pineapple ice cream. If you’ve never had Dole Whip, you’re missing out. You can get the treat in many forms at the Dole Plantation on the island of Oahu. I highly recommend adding caramel sauce. The combo of pineapple and caramel does not disappoint.

    Beyond the dreamy desserts, there are a handful of fun, family-friendly activities you can enjoy at the plantation. There is the world’s largest maze, a train tour, and my personal favorite, a garden tour.

    The maze is a great family activity. I personally am not too into mazes but I saw families having a great time during this activity. It’s also great for getting some cute pictures. There is a giant pineapple formed by the landscaping at the start of the maze… it’s so impressive to see up close!

    Maze Prices:

    • Adults – $8.00
    • Children (4-12) – $6.00
    • Kama’aina/Military – $7.00
    • Group Tours (25 or more) – $7.00
    • Children under 4 are free

    Plantation Garden Tour:

    This was hands down my favorite activity. The foliage in Hawaii is so stunning and this self-guided tour gives you the chance to see amazing plants up close, take pictures and even sit on the benches and take in all the beauty surrounding you. We spent 30-40 minutes looking at the plants and I felt like I could stay all day! There is even a waterfall that adds to the serenity of this experience.

    Check out my video of the tour!

    Garden Tour Prices:

    • Adults – $7.00
    • Children (4-12) – $6.25
    • Kama’aina/Military – $6.50
    • Group Tours (25 or more) – $6.50
    • Children under 4 are free

    Plantation Train Tour:

    The train is sure to be fun for everyone. It’s only two miles long and lasts twenty minutes so if the little ones get restless, it’s not too lengthy of a ride. You’ll see amazing scenery and learn about the history of the Dole Plantation.

    Train Prices:

    • Adults – $10.50
    • Children (4-12) – $8.50
    • Kama’aina/Military – $9.75
    • Group Tours (25 or more) – $9.00
    • Children under 4 are free

    You can save by bundling your activities and make sure you check Groupon because Dole Plantation often posts discounts. Have a great time!

    To check out the best places to stay in Oahu head here!

    For my favorite Oahu hike head here!

  • Let it Glow!

    I always look forward to going to the zoo and seeing millions of glowing lights during the holidays. Zoo Lights is one of my favorite traditions. Phoenix Zoo’s Let it Glow is at it’s very best this year!

    As an adult, it’s tough to have a holiday experience that truly makes you feel like a kid again. At the zoo, I found myself dancing along with the music-themed light show. I took silly photos and did not care what strangers thought.  I found myself truly in the moment staring at the details of the lighted displays.

    That’s exactly why I like this event for the whole family. Everyone in your crew is going to feel entertained. The little ones will be mesmerized by the three-story lighted tree and the chance to meet Santa! Teens will love taking selfies and Snapchatting the whole experience. The whole family will genuinely enjoy the musical light show. Plus, you get to experience a nightly snowfall at 7:30pm. Let’s be honest, every Arizonan at any age is ecstatic of snow!

    Fun fact: Phoenix Zoo created and were the first to use net lighting on plants! 

    Zoo lights is a great spot for date night and since you’re leaving the kids at home go ahead and grab a beer or glass of wine. YES, the zoo serves beer and wine! The most convenient spot I found to grab a drink it the concession stand just west of the carousel at the base of The Neely Center. If this appeals to you, you’ll be eager to learn more about Roars & Pours happening in March. I’ll keep you posted on that.

    I highly recommend paying a few bucks more and upgrading your tickets to include the Dinosaurs in the Desert experience. This is a self-guided adventure through incredibly lifelike animatronic dinos! I’m not really a huge dinosaur person, but I love science and this exhibit taught me facts about our planet/ animals I did not know. Seriously, I’m still thinking about the fact dinosaurs had feathers and that their was a dino with a 30+ foot wingspan flying over the Southwest once! Little kids were squealing in amazement all around me and I chatted with a grandpa who couldn’t believe how real the dinos looked… so there ya go, entertainment for anyone of any age.

    I think this experience is worth every penny because there are so many forms of entertainment packed into the experience. However, you know I found you some ways to save! There are value nights or you can even find tickets on Groupon!

    ZooLights Ticket Options

    Value Night
    ZooLights Value Tickets are valid on the following dates: Dec 12, 13, Jan 2, 3, 4, 8 – 14, 2018

    • ZooLights Value Ticket with Dinos in the Desert | $16.95
    • ZooLights Value Ticket | $12.95
    • Children 2 and under are free for ZooLights

    Any Night
    Any night tickets are valid for single admission Nov 22, 2017thru Jan 14, 2018

    • ZooLights Any Night Ticket with Dinos in the Desert | $21.95
    • ZooLights Any Night Ticket  | $17.95
    • Children 2 and under are free for ZooLights

    Here’s an interesting tidbit from the Zoo’s website about how important raising money through events like this is: “It’s also the Zoo’s largest special event fundraiser which is vital to our success as a private non-profit zoological park. We receive no outside funding and rely on revenue from events, admission, donations, private events, educational programs, camps and memberships, food and gift shop sales.”

    Parking is FREE and you can experience zoo lights until January 14th! Have fun!

  • DIY Christmas Cactus

    Happy holidays! Given my love for the outdoors, I am bringing the outdoors in this Christmas! Laurel Stavros, also known as the blogger behind A Bubbly Life, taught me some quick and super cute ways to decorate our state’s signature plant: cactus!

    Check out this video to see how to turn desert plants into a perfect centerpiece or gift.

    For all of the details on this project and for more inspiration, check out the A Bubbly Life Blog.

    Make sure to follow Laurel for more amazing ideas!

    Instagram: @abubblylife & Facebook: Facebook.com/abubblylifeblog

    All photos by: @abubblylife

  • Here we go

    The inspiration for this blog is simple. I enjoy getting outside, seeing new places and trying new things. I do a lot of fun stuff and I want to take you with me so that you can go do them too!

    Those of you who already follow me know we’re going to be doing a lot of hiking! Hiking is my passion. It’s a way for me to connect with nature, unplug and calm my mind. It makes me feel healthy and happy.

    You can also expect to find a lot of beer sampling (by sampling I mean drinking). One of my favorite things to do when I visit a new spot on the map is check out the local breweries. So, if you have any suggestions, do tell!

    The topics of my posts will not be limited at all. Basically if it’s on my mind, it’s on the blog. So whether it’s a trail to try, a new restaurant opening, an art exhibit, a DIY project or just some thoughts about life, we’re going to talk about it!

    I grew up in Surprise and I love all things Arizona so most of what you find here will revolve around this stunning state, however, I do love to travel and I’m going to share those trips with you too!

    If there is ever anything particular you want me to discuss, let me know and send me an email herewithher@gmail.com.

    Thank you for being here with her!