Here with Her

  • Cool Down with a Kayak

    You guys know my forever fav outdoor activity is hiking but when you live in Arizona, hiking can be a brutal hobby.

    Before summer arrived I invested in a kayak to both keep me cool and keep me sane. When I get cooped up inside during the summer I start to get totally bummed!

    Before I got my kayak, there were two factors preventing me from making the purchase:

    1. Where would I store a kayak?
    2. Am I going to put it on my car incorrectly and lose it on the freeway?

    I eliminated both of those concerns by getting an inflatable kayak!

    The kayak I bought was $80 on Amazon.  I waited to test it out a few times before writing a post on my experience and now I can happily report, I AM OBSESSED WITH THIS THING! It folds up to to be the size of carry-on luggage and it’s super easy to set up!

    I was afraid it would be flimsy or easily pop but it is durable and sturdy! I have had so much fun taking this to spots all over Arizona!

    The kayak comes with a foot pump but I highly recommend investing in an electric handheld pump and plugging it into a power convertor connected to your vehicle. It will save you time and frustration.

    Keep in mind, in most places, you are required by law to wear a life jacket. I got mine for $20 bucks at Walmart. I bring my dog Ace kayaking so he has a lifejacket too. I found his on Amazon.

    Also, summer comes with danger from Monsoon storms in Arizona. Make sure you check the forecast and if there is any risk for thunderstorms in your region you need to reconsider your plans. If you were planning to kayak on a river or tributary you should absolutely not go kayaking if there is inclement weather forecast in the region.

    Okay now back to the fun stuff! Here’s where I went kayaking and you can too! Even if you don’t want to buy a kayak, you will find rental information below.

    1. Lake Pleasant: We dropped the boat in at Pleasant Harbor and even took a lunch break at Dillion’s BBQ. It really was quite pleasant but I highly recommend going early and getting off the water by 1pm before the big boats take over and sadly some of their operators are intoxicated.
      • Address: 40202 87th Ave, Peoria, AZ 85383
      • Rentals: https://www.gopaddleaz.com/
    2. Show Low Lake: This is a small lake but it’s just right for a calm afternoon on the kayak. It is ambient and the scenery is beautiful with pine trees surrounding the water. Only boats with 10 horsepower or less are allowed.
      • Address: 5800 E. Show Low Rd,Show Low, AZ
      • Rentals: http://www.campshowlowlake.com/SHOWLOWLAKECAMPGROUNDFEESANDDUES.asp
    3. Watson Lake: I love this lake so much I almost felt I shouldn’t share, but I trust my readers treat every spot they visit with respect. Please prove me right. Watson Lake is magnificent. It is small and full of kayaks and paddleboards. It has unique formations called Granite Dells where you can even “island hop” and go for little hikes. See pic below!
      1. Address: 3101 Watson Lake Rd, Prescott, AZ 86301
      2. Rentals: https://www.prescottoutdoors.com/

    Last thing… bring cash for parking/fees!

    Now you’re ready to have a kayaking adventure of your own!

  • Escape the Heat with a Night Hike

    I recently got the opportunity to collaborate with Chirag Patel for a photoshoot. Chirag takes the kind of photos that prompt you to stop scrolling through Instagram, pause and truly appreciate the talent it took to capture nature so beautifully. Chirag’s specialty is taking mesmerizing night portraits.
    Check out some of the photos he took of me at Piestewa Peak.
    Night hiking is truly an experience unlike any other. At night everything is different…sparkly…magical! With it being dangerously hot during the day, it’s the right time to take up night hiking at trails that permit it. I’ll have details on which trails are open plus gear at the end of the post.
    Chirag is so comfortable night hiking, I wanted to share his story and advice with you in this interview.
    Kristen: When did you start night hiking?

    Chirag: I started night hiking accidentally a few years ago, when I used to hike up Thunderbird Mountain and Deem Hills at sunset to capture the Full Moon rising.  After I would capture the Full Moon rise, I quickly realized that it was dark and I had to hike back down the mountain in darkness.  It was a pleasant, surreal, and eerie experience at first, now it is an exhilarating experience.

    Kristen: What makes night hiking special to you?

    Chirag: Night hikes gives one a different perspective than the known daytime views.  First thing to notice is the sunset and the changes in sky colors as the sun goes below the horizon.  You will notice the beautiful Earth’s Shadow in the sky.  If you are really lucky, you may even see the Earth’s Shadow along with Anti-Crepuscular Rays as shown below.

    Chirag: As the sun goes down, one will also see the city lights come up tracing the popular streets of the city making them come alive with street lights and car trails.  See below.

    Chirag: The views become really stunning and spectacular!

    Kristen: Where is your favorite place to night hike regularly?

    Chirag: My favorite night hike is Piestewa Peak using the Summit Trail to the top.  Biggest reason is because it has the best 360° views anywhere in town and it is also the only place within the city where you can hike until 11 pm, legally!

    Kristen: What gear do you recommend for night hikers?

    Being in the desert, one must carefully select gear that is appropriate for the hike.  In the summer, water and snacks are an absolute necessity!  Not having enough water has caused many emergencies and could become very dangerous.  I would also highly recommend headlamps, smartphone with maps, and even a light jacket in case it gets really cool after sunset.

    Kristen You’re an incredible nighttime photographer. Where are your favorite nighttime locations?

    My favorite night time locations are below:

    Piestewa Peak, for its incredible 360° city views.
    Fremont Saddle on the Peralta Trail:

    Watson Lake in Prescott:

    Kristen: What does it require to take great photos at night? Gear? Patience? Education?
    Taking photographs at night is a bit more challenging due to the lack of light.  But, images can still be captured using long exposures to gather and capture the limited available light.  To capture an image using long exposures requires a tripod and the use of high ISO and longer shutter speeds in the camera.  There are lots of resources on YouTube teaching you the basics of long exposure photography.

    Kristen: You’re incredibly committed to your photography hobby. You even sacrifice sleep on Fridays! Talk about a memorable journey you took to get photos.

    Chirag: Because time is extremely valuable and has to be allocated appropriately between work, family, and leisure, time must be used wisely.  Sometimes regularly sacrificing sleep one day a week to do some night photography and being with the family the by the time they wake up the next day.  Thus, it has become normal for me to be up awake for about 36 hours in a row once a week.  My typical Friday/Saturday consists of working all day, coming home for dinner with the family, hiking and photographing all night, and spending the rest of the day Saturday with the family.  I finally sleep Saturday night after being up awake for 36 hours.
    Kristen: What would you say to someone who is nervous to try night hiking?

    Chirag: Your headlamps will make it seem like daytime on the trails!  It is very comforting when you can see everything.  Here is one available on Amazon that is rechargeable and extremely bright.

    I can’t thank Chirag enough for his photos and insight. Please give him a follow on Instagram.

    As of April, night hiking is now a regular hobby for me! I had a bad experience with buying a headlamp online so I highly recommend heading to see my friends at Just Roughin’ It Adventure Company in Scottsdale. They’ll also give you a ton of advice and answer your questions. Just Roughin’ It is a shop and a tour service so you’re talking to the experts!

    If you aren’t afraid of buying online and don’t want anymore advice, then check out my head lamp online. It is Black Diamond, a great price point and is very bright!

    Keep in mind, it’s cooler than daytime but if you’re night hiking from June- September it’s still going to be toasty so you need to bring just as much water as you would for a day hike.

    I also always bring a spare flashlight, snacks and a first aid kit.

    Watch out for snakes. As I embarked around sunset for my last night hike, a park ranger stopped to tell me a lot of rattlers were out and warned me to be careful.

    If you’re hiking with a pet, remember the temp has to be below 100 degrees to legally take them hiking in many areas so make sure the temp has dropped. 90s are still toasty for dogs. I only hike with Ace when it’s 85 or cooler. If your dog handles 90s, well definitely clip a light to them. Here’s one I like.

    Let’s talk about where to go night hiking. You can’t just go anywhere. Try hiking at night at the wrong spot and your car will get towed!

    Here are some places where you can night hike but keep in mind the gate into the parking lots typically close at either 7:00 pm or 9:00pm and the gates to get out close at 10 or 11pm. It’s night hiking, not OVERNIGHT hiking.

    Click on each area listed for more details on trail times:

    Phoenix Mountains Preserve

    Trails until 11:00pm

    South Mountain Regional Park

    Trails open until 11:00pm

    Lost Dutchman State Park

    Trails open until 10:00pm

    White Tank Mountain Regional Park

    Open until 10:00pm on Friday & Saturday

    Note: Camelback Mountain closes at Sunset.

    Have fun, be safe and let me know how your night hike goes!

    Make sure you’re following me on Instagram.

  • Checking In: The Tavern Hotel

    You can get quite cozy in Cottonwood at The Tavern Hotel. I enjoyed this stay so much I am already looking forward to our next visit! Every detail made me feel comfortable from the patio furniture to the luxury shower.


    This darling boutique hotel is just a 90-minute drive north of Phoenix. The building, just like the city itself, is historic and charming. The historic building was a grocery store in 1925. It was preserved and transformed into a hotel packed with luxury accommodations in 2011.

    Now the hotel offers 41 gorgeous guestrooms, two plush penthouses and even an entire cottage!

    Our stay landed us at the cottage and we couldn’t get enough of our accommodations. We had our own huge seating area with comfortable adirondack chairs all to us. When we stepped inside, we couldn’t believe the amount of space we could have all to ourselves.

    The cottage includes:

    -A full living room with a leather sectional couch

    -A full dining area that could seat seven to ten people

    -A full kitchen and bar counter that seats four (stove, microwave, huge fridge, pots + pans, too!)

    -Two bedrooms that sleep two people (with the comfiest pillows ever!). Each bedroom has a TV and a large closet

    -A bathroom with a large counter, double sinks and a gorgeous shower (seriously, the tiles are insanely pretty)

     

    The cottage would be perfect for a family adventure, a girls’ trip or a bachelor/bachelorette weekend. The two bedrooms have very unique pieces of furniture and accent pieces. Some of the items were so cute, I was checking for tags to see if I could figure out where to buy them! (Does anyone else do this?!)  I especially loved the metal yellow chair pictured below.

    The kitchen is spacious and bright with a white backsplash, hardwood floors like the rest of the cottage, and stainless steel appliances. There’s even a cute tea kettle!

    Beyond the cottage, we enjoyed the beautiful lobby and outdoor areas. From wall art, to the landscape and seating areas near fireplaces, we couldn’t get enough of the property. By the way, all of the cute decor makes this property INCREDIBLY instagrammable. 🙂

    When we did pull ourselves away from the hotel, we were pleasantly surprised by how much there is to do in Cottonwood! The first thing I recommend you do is head to The Tavern Grille because upon check in, the hotel hooks you up with complimentary cocktails at the Grille!

    We enjoyed going in the shops right outside our hotel. There was art, apparel, southwestern decor and unique southwestern souvenirs to be found in Old Town.

    If you want to do some more exploring, just hop in the car for a short drive to Jerome. Jerome is known for paranormal activity to most, but for me I know it for the incredible shopping and extremely unusual sights including creepy old buildings and fascinating artwork.

    The shops here are just different. I always find something I have to buy but wouldn’t have known it even existed without a trip to Jerome. This trip that something was a book on colorstrology. I also fell in love with kaleidoscopes at one particular shop called Nelly Bly. I did not buy one but I sure wish I did. As they say, “nothing haunts us like the things we didn’t buy.”

    There are also some incredible views so take advantage of the elevation!

    We finished our night with pizza and beer at Pizzeria Bocce. This spot has a great selection of local beer (the key to my heart). I tried the Grand Canyon Brewery pilsner and it did not disappoint. I think a crisp, golden beer is always perfect with pizza. You have to get the Pesto Chicken pizza. The combo of pesto and ricotta cheese with chicken and mozzarella was perfection!

    Before heading out of town, we redeemed our breakfast vouchers from the hotel at Crema Craft Kitchen+Bar. Our breakfast was divine but the real treat here is their insane bloody mary served with a hard boiled egg and bacon on top. What a way to start the day!

    We mostly stuffed our faces with food but I do also want to let you know there are wonderful wineries in Cottonwood plus access to hiking and historic site like Tuzigoot National Monument.

    For videos from my trip, head to my Instagram page and watch the “Cottonwood” highlight.

    I hope you can experience Cottonwood and this lovely hotel soon!

    To make a reservation at The Tavern Hotel:  https://bookings.frontdeskanywhere.net/bookings/#account/1ZN170511C

    To shop my wardrobe: shoppriceless.com

     

  • Hiking up Holbert

    If you haven’t seen Phoenix from South Mountain, you’re missing out!

    Hiking the Holbert Trail on South Mountain will take you to an Arizona treasure known as Dobbins Lookout. The structure on top was built in the 1930’s and it offers an incredible place to relax and enjoy the highest point you can access on South Mountain.

    Holbert is a 4 mile out and back hike with an elevation gain of approximately 1,000 feet. This hike is rated hard but I would encourage you to give it a try even if you typically stick with the easy and moderate levels. I saw numerous families and puppies who were owning this trail! The elevation gain feels very gradual as you make your way to the top.

    The terrain is rocky but you never have to use all fours to get through the rocks. There is a lot of loose gravel so proper hiking shoes are a must. I am obsessed with my new Merrell kicks. You can shop them here. They’re on MAJOR SALE!

    I have not spent a whole lot of time on South Mountain and I enjoyed seeing the city of Phoenix from this point of view! When you get to the top and arrive at Dobbins lookout, be sure to check out the structure and snap some pics. My friend Hailey and I sat on a bench to take in the view, eat some snacks and bond with the local squirrel friends.

    What I love most about Dobbins lookout is even people with limited mobility can access it. You can skip the hike and simply drive up! I live with a bladder disease called Interstitial Cystitis and for years a hike like this was physically impossible for me. I love when I get to post about a fantastic viewpoint that is accessible to everyone! No one should have to miss out on this scenery.

    Address to lookout: North Summit RoadSouth Mountain ParkPhoenix, AZ 85042

    Address to Holbert Trail: 10919 South Central Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85042

    Permits: None required

    Hours: 5 a.m. to 7 p.m.

    Dogs: Allowed on leash

  • 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!

  • The Crazy Climb up Koko Head

    It will only take you 1,048 steps to get this view. Here’s the catch, those steps are going to be steep. Really steep.

    Koko Head Crater Trail gives you an 800+ foot elevation gain in less than a mile. A guy on our hike pulled out a level app and measured the grade at 81 degrees. Godspeed.

    This was honestly one of the toughest physical challenges of my life and you all know I am an avid hiker. It was just so continuous, so daunting. It was also hot and humid as heck! I took a handful of breaks and made it to the top in about 30-40 minutes.

    The tricky thing is the steps are pretty sketchy. They’re actually railroad ties that create this staircase. They’re what’s left of the railway the military built to send supplies to the top of Koko Head. Up there they had lookouts set up during World War II. The history buffs will definitely enjoy checking out the structures that are still intact.

    When you make it to the top of the steps you could go left or right but you will immediately see those old pillbox bunker buildings. We first went right so we could check out amazing views of the ocean and Hanauma Bay. If you head to the left you’ll get incredible views of the whole island and Waikiki.

    This is a very straightforward little adventure. Here’s a video I made on the journey.

    Your knees will not be happy on the way down. There is one particular section that’s even trickier while descending. There is a part where the staircase isn’t just laying on dirt. It’s actually dozens of feet above ground so if you fall, you’re going to hurt yourself. I took my sweet time in that spot.

    The most important things I can say about this hike are bring lots of water, take as many breaks as you need, and wear shoes with good traction. I would not recommended taking young children or small dogs on this hike.

    Distance: 1.8 miles out and back

    Address: 7604 Koko Head Park Rd, Honolulu, HI 96825

    Parking: Free lot

    Permits: None Required

    You can do it!

  • Checking In: Where to stay in Oahu

    The Hawaiian Island of Oahu is packed with places to make unforgettable memories. There are different regions of the island that will give you totally different vibes and overall experiences during your stay.

    I’m going to break down the different places for your vacation but I’ll start with telling you where we stayed and you might be surprised because we stayed at an Airbnb rental!

    To be honest, I’ve always opted to stay at the Westin when I vacay in Hawaii. However, my boyfriend is a professional golfer and on this trip we needed to stay near the course where there were no hotels nearby. So we stayed at an Airbnb which felt like a home away from home. Plus, I learned from this experience that it costs WAY less than a hotel and it can come with a lot of perks hotels don’t offer.

    Ewa Beach

    Ewa Beach (pronounced Ev-uh) is a residential community that is very safe and filled with beautiful new development. We absolutely loved it. In fact, I was checking out Zillow to see if maybe we should just move there!

    This is the exact Airbnb we stayed in. It is $80 a night!!!

    We had everything we needed and more. The place looked even better than in the pictures. It was clean, quiet and cozy. The shower was amazing and the bed was super comfy.

    Our host Tina provided bottled water, wine, snacks, and coffee. Plus she let us use everything we could possibly need when out having fun. She loaned us beach chairs, towels, sunblock, beach mats, snorkeling gear, beach bags, everything! That saved us so much money not needing to rent that stuff!

    Ko Olina

    In my opinion, Ko Olina is the most family friendly of all of the regions on Oahu.

    There are four man made lagoons where kids can play without giant waves crashing down on them and it’s a very relaxing experience to spend a day at the lagoons.

    Ko Olina is also home to Disney’s Aulani Resort. I am a huge fan of all things Disney so I loved checking out this hotel. Although I was not a guest, the staff let me hang out at their beachfront coffee shop and rented a paddleboard out to me.

    If you’ve never tried paddleboarding before, this is a great place to learn because the water in the lagoon is so calm. It was $40 per hour to rent the paddleboard from Aulani.

    There is also a great shopping center near the resorts. I loved the store called Plantation. I got local beer, a great happy hour dinner and delicious banana cream pie at a restaurant called Monkeypod.

    Waikiki

    When most people think Oahu, they think Waikiki. It is the island’s hot spot. I stayed in Waikiki a few years ago and since, I have described it as “Vegas on a beach”. If you like Vegas, you’re going to love Waikiki. If you’re looking for a calm vacation away from a ton of tourists and lots of action, see options 1 and 4.

    I stayed at the Westin Moana Surfrider and the hotel is absolutely gorgeous. There’s an incredible pool and great beach access with beautiful views and pretty good snorkeling. The rooms are about $300 per night.

    Perks of staying in Waikiki include that you’re very close to some scenic spots like Diamond Head, Koko Head, Hanauma Bay, shopping and amazing dining!

    North Shore

    This area is known for big waves and the filming location of the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

    Honestly, I’ve never stayed here but we checked out the whole island and the beaches up north are stunning.

    The vibe in North Shore is very relaxing unlike Waikiki and while kids are of course welcome there, it truly seems like the perfect spot for a couple’s getaway.

    The hot hotel in North Shore is Turtle Bay Resort. You’ve seen this resort if you’ve watched Forgetting Sarah Marshall. While, Mila Kunis will NOT be checking you into your hotel, you’re still going to love the views you find at Turtle Bay. This hotel often offers package deals and right now they have some Valentine’s Day promotions.

  • The Trek to Tonto Natural Bridge

    This is Arizona destination is not to be missed! If you have visitors coming to see you in the Valley, you have got to take the two hour drive up to this spot and show off your scenic state!

    Tonto Natural Bridge is an incredible natural display of beauty in Payson, AZ. It is believed to be the world’s largest natural travertine bridge. It’s beautifully formed by erosion and you can even walk beneath the bridge to explore the stunning scenery within. The bridge is 400 feet long, 183 feet high and 150 feet wide.

    Underneath the bridge, you’ll experience the erosion in action as water drips down the sides and ceiling of the bridge. It actually seems like it’s raining. There are green plants breaking through the rock and thriving. It is truly magical.

    I recommend taking the Pine Creek Trail which is a ½ mile scenic route to get under the bridge. If you like an adventurous trek this is for you! You’ll be climbing big boulders, stepping through river rock, and hearing the sound of a waterfall as you get closer and closer to the bridge.

    You do not have to hike to the bridge. What I love is that a whole family could enjoy this scenery whether they are a little one in a stroller or an adult with limited mobility. This state park provides viewing areas that are just a short distance from the parking lot and have ramps. You can go to one of those areas and look down at the bridge!

    Permit prices:

    Adult (14+): $7.00
    Youth (7–13): $4.00
    Child (0–6): FREE

    To get here from Phoenix you can take Highway 87 all the way to USFS Road 583 and you’ll see the signs to enter the park. Stop in at the gift shop to buy your permits on site (you can’t get them online) and then you’re all set.

    The parks opens at 9:00 a.m. and closes at 4:00 p.m. HOLIDAY HOURS: 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve and CLOSED on Christmas.

    Things to keep in mind:

    • Dogs are allowed at the park but not on hiking trails.
    • The gift shop does accept credit/ debit cards
    • Travertine is very slippery so be careful underneath the bridge
  • Checking In: The Strawberry Inn

    When you see ‘Checking In’ before one of my blog entries, that’s mean this post will give you details on accommodations.

    This time we’re talking about The Strawberry Inn in Strawberry, AZ. This boutique hotel is located near tons of hikes including the trails to Tonto Natural Bridge. It’s right off Highway 87 which is the main road through Strawberry-Pine.

    The Strawberry Inn is unique in so many ways. It’s a non-hosted hotel meaning it’s a lot like an Air BnB. The day you are checking in, you will get a code to a lockbox emailed to you. That code will allow you to access the key to your room. You don’t have to talk to anyone at check in ,however, if something goes wrong there is a phone number in that email and in the rooms for a person to call if anything goes wrong.

    Now let’s talk about the fun stuff. Each of the eight rooms at the Inn is decorated differently so each room has it’s own vibe. We’re talking farmhouse chic meets boho beauty. You’ll find comforting hues of grey, navy, white and beige and unique artwork in each room.

    The beds are unbelievably comfortable and the comforter feels like you’re pulling a cloud over yourself. The sheets are so soft. It felt so good to get in this bad after a long day of driving of hiking.

    The place is perfect for a romantic getaway and all rooms have one big bed, however, some rooms have pullout couches so you can bring the kids. Plus, the four bottom rooms are dog friendly.

    When you make your reservation you can see each room and pick the one you want to stay in! You’ll also notice rates are surprisingly low for a boutique hotel. You get a lot of bang for your buck! 

    I enjoyed my stay so much and this hotel enhanced my experience in Rim Country. I loved that  my stay had an authentic mountain feel…. But I had a comfy bed, a hot shower, a flat screen TV and wifi!

    The entire Inn looks like it was made to be instagrammed. From the red barn doors, to the historic windmill and the lovable swings on the porch, you’ll find endless spots to snap a pic.

    I absolutely loved The Strawberry Inn and I know you will too.