When people ask me what my favorite activities to do are, hike is always on my lips.
New York: Brooklyn Bridge
New York is really such a great "walking city," as my family calls it, so it's hard to pick one spot in particular. Yes, Central Park seems the obvious, but a different perspective on viewing the city can be found in the Brooklyn Bridge. Few people consider walking across it when they plan out their New York trip, possibly daunted by the sheer size of the Bridge. What people don't realize, however, is that the walk from one side of Brooklyn Bridge to the other is only about half an hour each way. Thus, our family loved getting to view the New York skyline while walking across this beautiful bridge, and then getting to explore Brooklyn on top of it. And while we liked the walk across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, this would definitely be a better choice for families with fairly young children.
Washington, DC: The Mall
I have to say, whenever people ask me what my favorite part about our Washington, DC trip was, I always say the monuments and memorials. Thus, I couldn't help but include the breathtaking, awe-inspiring walk through the Mall and its many monuments&memorials in my list of favorite walks. The walk is pleasant, with beautiful views of both the park and the monuments/memorials. Since many (possibly most) of the memorials/monuments in DC are concentrated in the Mall, it's also a perfect time to experience them, too. It's an extremely family-friendly walk and provides great insight on America's past.
New Orleans: the French Quarter
I haven't been to New Orleans in a few years, but I still often think of it for its charming, old, small-town feeling... and, naturally, its incredible food, but I won't get into that just yet. The French Quarter is probably the most well-known area of New Orleans, in my opinion, because it most represents everything I love about this city. With a picturesque, charming setting, mouth-watering aromas tainting the air, and a location right up against the Mississippi River and its amazing aquarium, the French Quarter is pretty unbeatable when it comes to food, character, and opportunities to explore both nature and culture. Walking through it just makes it a thousand times better, if that's even possible.
Mammoth: Mammoth Mountain
During our first trip to Mammoth, we actually (surprisingly) did quite a bit of walking. We weren't eager to try around in our car in the thick, deep snow, being as inexperienced in that field as we are, so we decided to attempt to walk everywhere we went - not a hard task, considering we didn't stray far from our house. One walk that will always stick me with, however, is the walk from our house to Mammoth Mountain. It was a beautiful, hands-on way to experience the snow, as well as become inspired by the skiers we saw on the Mountain. We were mesmerized and stood, watching them, for a pretty long time. Before we turned around to go back, we admired the breathtaking view of Mammoth Mountain for a little longer. This is a much-recommended walk for all families, skiing or no skiing, because it's nothing but easy and provides a beautiful, picturesque insight on the snow.
San Francisco: Coit Tower
Coit Tower, despite the numerous amount of times we've road-tripped up to San Francisco, is a walk we only discovered during our last stay there. Don't let this deter you, though: Coit Tower is one of the first places I thought of when planning for this post, for a number of reasons. It's incredibly scenic, with a steep, wooden staircase completely enclosed by fairly tropical-looking plants. It was shocking to find such a beautiful, wild sanctuary within such a big city, but we've learned by now that San Francisco is full of surprises. The view from Coit Tower is extraordinary, too - a complete, 360-degree view of San Francisco, Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island included. Although this walk feels unbelievably adventurous, I wouldn't recommend this to very young children because the steps are pretty steep and go on for quite a long while. It's not, by any means, an easy climb, but that, to me, makes it all the more exciting and fun. The rewarding view also seems a lot more spectacular when you have the strenuous climb to look back on.
Big Sur: Pfieffer Beach
Yes, this beach has (fairly) purple sand. Yes, it's pretty awesome, especially for kids. Yes, it's a must-do for a trip to Big Sur. What more must be said? This is one of my favorite beaches, period, to go to. With spectacular, hundred-foot, rolling dunes speckled with purple sand, both the ocean to the front and the towering mountains to the back, and a fun, kid-friendly beach, it's pretty undisputed that this really is one of the best beaches in California. My family and I would park about a third-of-a-mile away and walk here, passing the most amazing climbing trees in the world (seriously), and then lay down our things and go crazy on the dunes. We would stay for hours, until we could climb up the dunes and slide down them no more. We would also walk along the beach (there's a river leading from the ocean and away from the beach that we would often follow), admiring the gorgeous setting.
Santa Barbara: Hammonds Beach
Since we live in Santa Barbara, we practically sleep at this beach, we go there so much. The short walk to it is pleasant and surrounded by tropical, burstingly-bright-and-colorful bougainvilleas. The walk then leads onto a beautiful beach, perfect for boogie-boarding, surfing, playing in the waves or the sand, and, if wanted, bonfires (one of the only beaches in Santa Barbara where it's legal). It's probably the beach I would most recommend to families, not only for the lovely walk (along the beach, too, not just on the trail), but also for the perfect playing and boogie-boarding opportunities.
Kauai: Kilauea Lighthouse
Not to make the mood grim or anything, but I always say I someday want my ashes thrown into the ocean here. Just saying. That's how much I love it.
Kilauea Lighthouse is breathtaking, to put it simply. Wind-swept, surrounded by incredible wildlife, facing an island, on a peninsula jutting out in the middle of beautifully, light blue water, and on Kauai.... what lighthouse could be better? It's an insanely beautiful walk around the small "park," and it's anything but strenuous. You get to get right up close to the Lighthouse, and also get to experience wildlife like never before. Thousands of birds inhabit the mountains to the right, as well as the island that Kilauea Lighthouse faces. It's incredible. Perfect for anyone, really, whether you're in the mood for an adventure or not.
Big Island: Waipi'o Valley Lookout
We actually just went here recently, and it was more beautiful and awe-inspiring than I ever could have imagined. Insanely vibrant and tropical, Waipi'o Valley Lookout provides a spectacular, priceless view of this infamous valley and the treasures it holds - a black sand beach, taro fields, an emerald expanse of forest... the list goes on and on. We didn't take the hike down into the Valley itself, but we didn't feel like we were missing anything but picnicking in the Lookout "park." We could have stayed there all day, just watching the crystal blue waves roll onto the black sand beach, and then moving our gaze over the the vividly colorful fields and mountains. A perfect walk for anyone, and especially easy for those who have a short stay on the Big Island.
Vancouver: the Loden Hotel to Stanley Park
This is a little more specific than some of our other "Walks," because it entails both a starting and ending location. Yes, I could've just mentioned Stanley Park itself, but I especially loved the long, winding, scenic, absorbing walk from our hotel, the Loden, to the Park. We walked along the harbor, which provided a view of Vancouver's skyscrapers on one side and the lush, massive Stanley Park on the other. The walk was long, as I've mentioned, and might not be the right fit for every family, but it certainly was for our's. We all connected instantly and even took the walk again, eager to glimpse the harbor, the skyscrapers, and Stanley Park again. It's a good walk to take around lunchtime, which is what we did, since there are a multitude of restaurants lining the harbor that provide for an excellent break-time from the walk.
A little bit about us...
We're a family of four (a daughter, a son, and their mother and father.... oh, and a six-month old Standard Poodle puppy). But we all share one thing in common: our love of travel and adventure!
Hotel of the Month
Solage Calistoga: the image of perfection. We stayed here recently on our trip to Napa Valley and couldn't have been more amazed at this stunning resort. The rooms, each one an individual cottage, were immaculate and private. The property itself contained multiple pools and other amenities, all of which were designed beautifully. One of our favorite parts had to be the Michelin-star restaurant, which served some of the best food we'd ever eaten. Solage Calistoga was the perfect fit for our family (and dog!), and we are eager to stay there again.