I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was heading to Arizona to celebrate my birthday. I love traveling to Arizona during the winter months. Even when the temperatures drop below what the locals prefer (as they did on my trip), they are far …
Tag: weekend getaways
Yeah for your birthday! I do not know very many people who enjoy getting older (besides kids that is). Regardless of whether you embrace getting older, pretend it isn’t happening or actively work to prevent it, those birthdays roll around once a year no matter …
Salt Lake City is not the most exotic location on the planet. However, there are plenty of fun things to do and see there. It is an especially good location to begin a trip out west. Due to its proximity to Idaho, it makes an excellent weekend getaway and we find ourselves there a couple times of year for various events (mostly concerts). Below are my five favorite things about Salt Lake City.
Salt Lake City Recommendations
1. The State Room
I go to a lot of concerts. I hesitate to put a number on it because then I will realize how much money I am spending on concerts and I would rather not go there. So I will just leave it at “a lot.” When one goes to a lot of concerts, one spends a lot of time in concert venues. I have enjoyed large events at places like the Gorge and Red Rocks as well as events at hole-in-the-wall bars that hold 15 people. Each venue comes with its own set of pros and cons.
Of all of the concert venues I have been to, the State Room is my favorite. The only con, in my opinion, is that it is not located in my hometown. I would attend events there a lot more often if it was closer. The State Room is small and intimate and even during sold-out performances, there is room to move. You can choose to sit down or stand. Either way, you will have a great view. Sometimes R and I go to concerts in Salt Lake City instead of Boise simply because of the State Room is hosting. If you get a chance to see one of your favorite bands there, do not hesitate.
2. Wasatch Range
The Wasatch Range, a mountain range that stretches north and south from the Idaho border to central Utah, is awfully pretty. It is also really close to Salt Lake City. Not only are you afforded gorgeous views just by looking up, but it could not be easier to go exploring in the mountains. A short drive from the city (sometimes less than 10 minutes) can find you winding through a canyon with gorgeous views of breathtaking scenery. Salt Lake City’s proximity to the mountains means easy access to skiing, hiking and camping. The people there really are spoiled with this range right in their backyard and it is wonderful perk for those of us visiting the city.
3. Bruges Waffles and Frites
I only recently discovered Bruges Waffles and Frites on a trip for work. A coworker had tried it out and raved about it so I figured I would give it a whirl. Excellent decision on my part. From their website, it appears they have several locations. However, I went to the teeny-tiny original location in downtown. There were three places to sit and barely enough room for two people to stand. Since I was the only customer “dining in,” the cramped space did not bother me. If you have a larger party, I suggest one of the other locations.
How was the food? It was better than fine. The menu is interesting and I had a hard time deciding what to order. I finally settled on some sort of hot dog, fries and a waffle for dessert. It was all tasty, but the dipping sauce for the fries and the waffle exceeded my expectations. I was an instant fan and I cannot wait to travel to Belgium to see how it compares. I also recommend you try it out for yourself ASAP.
4. Smith and Edwards
Okay, so this one is not exactly in Salt Lake City. It is about an hour drive north in a town called Ogden. If you are driving to or from Idaho, it is right on the way and well worth a stop. (Note: it is closed on Sundays so do not try then.) They sell just about everything at Smith and Edwards. I am serious. From clothes and tools to penny candy and kitchen gadgets, they have everything you need and several things you did not even realize you did needed. I have bought over-sized bags of Swedish Fish, kid-sized boots that fit me like a glove, garlic power and a clay pigeon launcher. Seriously. Everything.
About the only thing you cannot buy, as far as I can tell, is groceries. But there is a fast-food restaurant inside so it is not like you will go hungry. The people watching is also pretty good. I do have a couple of warnings however; be prepared to feel overwhelmed. There is a lot to see and a lot of people shopping, especially on Saturday. It is very easy to feel overwhelmed. Also, I recommend you set a spending and/or time limit. I always to seem to walk out an hour later and $100 dollars poorer. I guess that works for me, but you may want to set some stricter guidelines. I do not know of any other store like Smith and Edwards and I always enjoy the time spent meandering its vast and varied offerings.
5. Temple Square
After having visiting Salt Lake City numerous times, I rarely visit Temple Square anymore. The exception, however, is Christmas time. The hundreds of thousands of lights transform Temple Square into a winter wonderland, making it a delight to stroll around at night. It will be cold this time of year so you will want to bundle up first. And maybe grab some hot cocoa. Once fortified against the cold, you will be ready to enjoy the sights and sounds of Temple Square. It is a great way to get into the Christmas spirit.
Salt Lake City is an excellent place to visit. It just so happens to be a good example of a place in our “backyard” that we can easily visit in a weekend. So we do so often. If you have never visited before or are looking for something new to try, give one of my top five recommendations a go. Then let me know what you think.
Recently, R and I spent a day in Boston, Massachusetts. Now one day may not sound like much, but even a short amount of time in Bean Town is better than no time at all and I am going to share with you some tips …
Last July, B and I ventured to St. Louis, Missouri, to attend the Antiques Roadshow. While there, we were pleasantly surprised by several attractions and left with a very positive view of this city, which, to be honest, we weren’t expecting much out of. This …
Welcome to the all fifty states club part 3! Parts 1 and 2 got us most of the way through the all fifty states club of America. This last post will pick up where we left off in North Carolina and highlight interesting/fun things I saw/did whilst exploring the USA. Funny thing–turns out I’m not so good at remembering all of the states. I was supposed to go through the Ns but I forgot two. Whoops.
North Carolina: Halloween in Asheville
Asheville is a little pocket of weirdo in a seemingly normal state. It was delightful to explore this cute town located in the mountains and trees in Western North Carolina. B and I just happened to hit town on October 31, so we decided to dress up and find somewhere to spend Halloween with the natives. We ended at a concert (no idea who the band was) and had a great time partying with all of the other be-costumed revelers. The best moment of the night was when the main act came out and five hairy, bearded, scrungy fellas proceeded to play and sing for the next few hours dressed up as Disney Princesses. Yikes.
North Dakota: Fargo (dontcha know)
North Dakota is typically one of the last states that people hit on their quest to see all 50 states. It’s isolated, kinda empty and there’s not much to do. I had very low expectations for this northern state when I headed out for a solo trip to Fargo. I didn’t see anyone chopped up in a wood chipper, but I did see a surprisingly cute downtown road with a few fun boutique-y stores and good restaurants. Who knew? The 20ish-year-old kid who checked me into my hotel gave me a map of downtown, just for funsies (that last part is a direct quote, people). So visit North Dakota, friends, just for funsies.
Ohio: the Stones
One of my life goals was accomplished in 2015: I saw the Rolling Stones in concert. When I learned they were touring the U.S., I knew this was my moment to make it happen. I booked a trip to Columbus, Ohio, and even though I just went by myself, when Mick, Keith, and the boys took the stage, I was in the company of 60,000 of my new besties, dancing and singing our hearts out. I tell you what, when Keith played the intro to “Paint it Black,” I knew I had made the right decision to fly across the U.S. Ohio State has a huge stadium, easily the biggest I’ve ever been in. I can only imagine what it is like when it is packed with die-hard football fans.
Oklahoma: Oklahoma City National Memorial
Well, it had to happen sooner or later–I’m adding a sad item to my 50 states list. The Okie City National Memorial is a poignant reminder that one misguided person can change the lives of countless others. The memorial is at ground zero of the bombing that happened in 1995. Instead of a tall Federal building, there is a grassy area with metal and glass chairs, 168 in number, with the name of each person who lost their lives during the bombing. B and I went at dusk and the chairs were lit up, making the memorial even more haunting. It is sad, but very moving.
Oregon: the Pendleton Roundup
B did a great write up of this, one of the most famous of the Western Rodeos. If you aren’t familiar with rodeos, A) you are definitely missing out and B) they are events that highlight the prowess of cowgirls and cowboys and the speed and beauty of animals. The Pendleton Roundup is unique in that it takes place on grass instead of dirt. If it rains, like it did when C, B and I went last year, it adds an element of excitement to an already exciting venture because every animal (human and not) slips around on the wet grass.
Pennsylvania: Philly Cheese Steak
Not many cities are renowned for an item of food. Being as Philadelphia is, B and I knew we were going to have to make a special stop at a sandwich shop to partake of the signature dish. We were not disappointed. After researching ‘best cheese steak’ and coming up with several places that locals seem to swear by, we realized it was probably just a matter of preference of the people being asked. They were probably all good. Heaven knows the shop we ended up at was quite tasty. Good meat, grilled peppers and onions (for me, not B) and cheese on a grilled bun. How can you go wrong with that combo?
Rhode Island: Newport
Around the beginning of the 1900s, the rich and famous on the east coast needed a place to get away when city life became a little too much. Hence, the Vanderbilts, Astors and other richy richies built gi-normous mansions on the coast of Newport, Rhode Island. You can take the Cliff Walk and explore some of these truly incredible houses and dream about what it was like to live like a king during this time.
South Carolina: God’s Acre Healing Springs
While solo travel can be good because you get to do whatever you want, it is also fun to travel with friends because you end up at places you never would have by your own accord. Like when B got the idea to visit rural South Carolina on a quest for some Healing Waters that bubbled up from a natural spring. God’s Acre Healing Springs is in fact a spigot poking out of the ground, but believers drink it to cure their ailments. We drank some and quenched our thirst and got moving down the road.
South Dakota: Badlands
I’m probably just choosing this because it is one of my favorite Bruce Springsteen songs. However, regardless of The Boss, the Badlands in South Dakota are pretty dang cool. It is eerie land, nothing much seems to grow and all you see are sand colored hills that look kind of decrepit as wind and water have eroded them greatly over the last few millennia. I enjoyed hiking around Badlands National Park and seeing the complete absence of what you normally see on hikes (trees, flowers, etc.).
Tennessee: Pigeon Forge
Okay, Pigeon Forge is actually a horrifying little town, but it does have one gem that is well worth putting up with the town to see: Dollywood. This is the amusement/theme park that is jointly owned by the diva Dolly Parton. Since Dolly Parton is awesome, it just goes to show that Dollywood is also. The theme of the park is old timey, so it feels like you climbed back into the 1800s Appalachia, except of course for the giant roller coasters sprinkled here and there. We went on a wooden roller coaster that tossed me around like a rag doll–I had stuffed my sunglasses into my tight shirt and by the end of the ride they were on the ground by my shoes. No idea how that happened.
My folks spend the winters in Texas, so I have a lot of good memories of this giant state. FYI: it takes 467 days to drive from one side to the other. For reals. Anyway, a few years ago, B and I had the opportunity to visit a Texas institution, John T. Floore’s Country Store. This is a good ol’ fashioned honky tonk and for two nights we rocked out to the Randy Rogers Band as they recorded a live album. My one regret is that I didn’t try the famous Floore’s Hot Tamales. Luckily, this gives me a perfect reason to go back.
Utah: National Parks
Utah is one of the most incredible states when it comes to geological kick-buttness. There are some beautiful red rock formations in several national parks: Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef. These parks are must sees, must hikes, and must make time to visit before you die. The word is out though. In the news recently there was an article about how Zion might start having a daily limit of visitors because so many people want to visit. Here’s a tip: go outside the summer months. It is still strikingly beautiful–maybe even more so because white snow contrasts with the red rock and blue sky.
Vermont: A real New England B&B
B and I visited Vermont during a freakish cold snap in the middle of January. We used the totes adorbs town of Woodstock as our home base and splurged on a B&B. Excellent decision. Our B&B was in a historic farm house outside of town. The hosts were true delights and we had the whole house to ourselves (this is saying something–this place was huge). Instead of watching TV in our room, we opted to spend our time in the music room. I’m not sure if our hosts appreciated our performances, but we had a great time playing the guitars and piano. And when the show was over, we worked on a puzzle. We stayed warm and toasty inside with our hot beverages while it dipped into negative digits outside.
Virginia: Antiquing in the Sticks
On another solo trip, I ventured into rural Virginia. I wanted to get a feel for what life was like outside the big cities so I reserved a room at a quaint hotel in a town that I can’t actually remember the name of. (Pretty much closed my eyes and pointed at a town on the map. I don’t feel like my experience was unique, though. I suspect any number of small towns on the Blue Ridge Parkway belt would be cute and have antique shops.) The next day I visited several of the town’s antique stores, purchasing a ceramic cream and sugar set. Unfortunately, on the flight home the lid to my sugar bowl fell out of my bag, probably under the seat in front of me. Perhaps it made it to the Unclaimed Baggage store in Alabama, but most likely it was chucked by the cleaning staff.
Washington: Sailing across the Sound
My sister lived on the opposite side of the Puget Sound from Seattle for many years. To get to her house, I would typically take the ferry across the sound. During one visit, her friend was taking out his sailboat and asked if we would like to join him. Heck yes, I would. I learned how to steer a sailboat with the Seattle skyline in front of me. Once I got the hang of it I did pretty well, managing not to hit any other boats or sea life. That I know of.
West Virginia: Harper’s Ferry
Before Abraham Lincoln emancipated slaves, a white abolitionist in West Virginia attempted to set them free. He failed, pretty spectacularly, but will go down in the history books as someone who took a stand. The town of Harper’s Ferry has been preserved to look the way it did back in John Brown’s day. I was lucky enough to visit during the fall, so I was able to see history and the beautiful fall colors turning on the trees.
I don’t drink beer, but I can appreciate the mechanical prowess that is required to bottle and ship millions of bottles of beer. On a visit to Milwaukee, we toured the Milwaukee’s Best factory. It was pretty awesome, even if I didn’t taste the samples at the end.
Wyoming: Devil’s Tower
In the middle of a Wyoming prairie, a giant column of igneous rock juts out of the flat landscape. This column is made of magma that cooled and the rest of the sedimentary land eroded around it, leaving a big tower. Like 1,200 feet out of the ground. Mom and I took a road trip across the U.S. and stopped at Devil’s Tower right around dusk. We had enough time to hike around the base and enjoy the pink and red hues that the Tower turned as the sun set.
Well, that’s it. All 50 states. There are technically five more permanently inhabited U.S. territories that I could venture to (hey, I’ve already been to one, Puerto Rico); maybe when I hit the other four I’ll write an addendum post. What I’ve learned through all these travels is that America is incredibly varied and diverse. I can honestly say that I enjoyed a long road trip through the Southern states as much as I enjoyed going to many international destinations (and in some places, they felt just as foreign to me!). So if a big trip overseas isn’t in the cards or the budget, you can have just as much fun exploring new areas of your own country.
I have been thinking about bringing new life to old adventures lately. I do not enjoy doing the same things over and over again. That is why I always choose to go somewhere new instead of to the same vacation spot year after year. I know plenty of people who are perfectly content to return to the same city/island/country/beach/timeshare/etc. over and over again. That is great for them. However, that is not my style. If you are like me, and you enjoy discovering the new, then repeat adventures can sometimes get a little old.
This past weekend, I attended my 12th Braun Brother Reunion (a music festival in Challis, Idaho, that we refer to as BBR). It was the first time in 12 years that I was not looking forwarding to attending the event. In fact, R and I had decided that 2017 would be the “make it or break it” year for this particular festival.
For that reason, I treated this year a little differently than previous years. I am happy to report that I had an enjoyable time and I am planning to attend next year—a decision I made after trying out a new approach. If some of your adventures are feeling a little stale (like BBR was for me), perhaps a few of the ideas listed below will help bring new life to old adventures. If not, it might be time to find a new adventure.
How to bring new life to old adventures
First things first, you need to take a hard look at why you are doing something that may not bring you the joy it once did. Family obligation? Opinionated/overbearing friend? Habit? These may or may not be good enough reasons to continue. Only you can make that call.
When I sat back and really thought about why I go to BBR, several things immediately came to mind:
- I love, love live music (particularly the bands that typically perform at BBR).
- Spending time in the mountains is one of my most favorite activities.
- I really enjoy getting out of town, even if it is only for a few days.
- Spending time with people who appreciate the same kind of music I do is a thrill.
- I live for taking vacation days and getting out of the office.
When viewed like that, I realized I would much rather spend three days in the mountains with friends, listening to music, than going to work. It is that simple.
Next came the not-so-simple part: finding a way to enjoy BBR again. Below are some suggestions, based on my experience this year, for breathing new life to old adventures.
Find a new approach to add new life to old adventures
Because I have been attending BBR for so many years, it is easy to focus on all of the negative changes and lament the loss of the “good old days.” An increase in size has led to some growing pains that include larger crowds, longer lines and much stricter rules. Given all of this, my old way of enjoying the festival is no longer possible. Therefore, it was time to find a new way to enjoy the festival.
This year, instead of arriving when the gates opened as we used to (and then getting angry that we missed the first band due to security’s inability to efficiently scan and get people into the venue), we simply hung around camp and arrived late. First, we made sure there were no early acts we wanted to see. By the time we arrived at the venue, the lines were gone and our wait to get in was minimal. Security was still inefficient and we missed out on some of the music, but we were more relaxed going in and less irritated at the situation.
It was refreshing to see what a different approach did for my attitude and my outlook. I would certainly recommend you try something new before you throw in the towel completely.
Find your tribe
We have been hanging out and camping with the same crew at BBR for several years now. Honestly, they are one of the main reasons I enjoy this music festival so much. But this year, there was some strife in the group. We knew about it before we left and it was one of the reasons we were not looking forward to attending BBR this year. Although it had nothing to do with us personally, we were caught in the cross hairs of awkward and uncomfortable.
However, this is a group that appreciates good music and fun times. Awkward and uncomfortable did not stand a chance with them and I did my usual laughing until my stomach hurt. In fact, we bonded more than usual with a couple of gals in the group (our all-girl cover band, singing mostly 90s country, is just about ready to hit the road).
Having a group that enjoys the same things you do can make all the difference—good or bad. Make sure you are experiencing your adventures with the right tribe. Find a new one if you have to. Adventures, both old and new, are always better with friends and connecting (or reconnecting) with those friends is the best way to bring new life to old adventures.
Find something to do
Some (or probably most) would say that a three-day music festival is activity enough for one weekend. However, that is not really how R and I roll. Even with all of the music and shenanigans with the group, there is still some downtime. Sure, we like to sit around and chat with our crew, but we can only do that for so many hours. After a while, we get a little restless and need something more to do before it is time to go to the venue.
One thing we did this year (and have done previous years), was take a scenic float down the Salmon River. It may be the easiest rafting trip on the planet, but it is fun and relaxing and we get to see a lot of Idaho wildlife. It eats up a good portion of the day that is not filled with music. In previous years, I have hiked to a remote hot springs, visited an old mining town and gone to lunch with a friend in a neighboring town. These mini-adventures are always a good idea in my opinion. On the last day of the festival, we realized that we should have scheduled something to do in the morning since we found ourselves twiddling our thumbs a bit. Perhaps next year we will go for a hike or take a drive down some dirt road.
Unless you enjoy lounging about doing nothing in particular (and it is totally fine if you do, that is just not our style), you will want to make sure you have ideas or plans for how to occupy yourself during downtime. It helps bring some new life to old adventures.
Find something new to try
As stated previously, I love seeing new places and discovering something for the first time. Granted, after you have traveled to a particular place or attended the same event year after year, it is going to be a little challenging to find something new and exciting. But you should at least give it your best effort and you may even be surprised at what you are able to find.
In all my years traveling to Challis, Idaho, for the Braun Brother Reunion, I had never visited the Challis Hot Springs. I had read about it, heard about it and even talked about it a time or two. But I never made the effort to actually see and experience it. This year, I finally made that happen. It was a lovely experience—one I would highly recommend. I can see a visit to the hot springs easily becoming an annual tradition.
As I looked around me this year, I noticed all sorts of undiscovered places including restaurants, hiking trails and unmarked dirt roads. It will not be difficult to try something new in the upcoming years, provided I want to take time away from all of the other fun things I like to do.
Use locals to bring new life to old adventures
Getting a local’s perspective is excellent advice for anything travel related. It is advice I think of and use often when I am going somewhere new. However, it is not something I tend to think of and use when I am going somewhere I have been before. And that is just stupid. Locals are a great resource for bringing new life to old adventures.
Three years ago, a local shared with us his favorite place to eat lunch in Salmon, Idaho. It was delicious and we made sure to go back the next year. This year however, we discovered that the restaurant had closed down and been replaced by something new. Instead of hightailing out of the new place and heading to a place our raft guide recommended, we decided to try it out. Bad decision. It was nothing like we had enjoyed in previous years and I cannot help but wonder what our experience would have been if we had listened to our raft guide.
Locals know what they are talking about. Whether you are looking for a good place to eat or a hidden gem to explore, ask a local. And for goodness sake, make sure you learn from our Salmon lunch spot experience and actually take their advice!
Old does not have to be boring. If you have got some old adventures that you are just not ready to give up yet, try making them fun and exciting again—which may be as simple as choosing a new approach or finding a new place to eat. You will not know until you try.