Category Archives: Outdoor Activities

The Crown Paradise Golden in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Many of my readers may know that my family likes to visit Mexico each spring. Often we spend our vacation in Ixtapa, Mexico, but this year we tried something different. It took a good deal of research to choose the next vacation destination, but the research paid off.

Last year in Ixtapa we found our hotel overrun with children. They were everywhere, including the adult’s only pool. They screamed, they ran amuck, and they were extremely rude. Don’t get me wrong, I like children. I simply do not want them on my vacation if they cannot behave and follow rules.

Since I didn’t enjoy the free-for-all last year I looked into all-inclusive adult-only resorts. I found several great places in Puerto Vallarta but in the end we went with the Crown Paradise Golden. This hotel is located next to its sister hotel which allows children and has a huge pirate ship themed pool area and several children’s activities. If you stay at the adult’s only hotel, you can still enjoy all the restaurants and activities next door. You get the best of both worlds.

The food at Crown Paradise Golden was exceptional. The themed restaurants require reservations and I do one-hundred percent recommend them. They can be a little slow, so plan for up to two hours when dining, but it’s worth it. The restaurants are Mediterranean, Italian, American, French, and Asian inspired. Most people seem to love the Asian restaurant, so it was a little more difficult to get into. My favorite restaurant was Salvador’s, which is gourmet cuisine. The staff was delightful, and the food was exceptional. All the restaurant’s menus change nightly.

If you are looking for quick and easy food and beverages, then look no farther than the buffet which changes daily. Most people do not realize this but during off hours you can get a menu in the buffet and order specific foods. Next to the buffet is a grill which has brats, pizza, burgers, and fries. There is also a beach bar which has fresh foods such as tuna salad, fruit, Panini, and other items. In the realm of alcoholic beverages, they can be found quite easily at the poolside bar, lobby bar, or two beach bars. You definitely will not go hungry or thirsty.

Outside of food the hotel offers many fun activities such as BINGO, beach volleyball, pool volleyball, beer pong, random silly games, nightly shows, and much more. On Saturdays they have a pool party and fill the pool with bubbles. With the music blasting and sun shining it would be hard to not enjoy one’s self.

Outside of the hotel you will find boats ready to take you parasailing, beach massage stations, and plenty of white sand to walk on while the waves lap at your feet. You will also find people wandering the beach selling an assortment of items. They will wander up to the beach bars, so if you are not interested, simply say no. If you show interest every single salesman will come directly to you.

At the front of the hotel across the street is a spa. This place had the best prices for massages and they gave an amazing pedicure. I highly recommend them. If you are looking for the boardwalk and restaurants off the grounds, you can get a taxi that will take you downtown for a mere $6 each way, though check ahead because this can change. You are also in walking distance to Walmart, the peer, and a grocery store in case you forgot to bring anything.

Keep in mind that March is the end of Puerto Vallarta’s winter so it can be cloudy and sometimes cool. April is probably a better time weather-wise, but we always go in March and intend to go back for ten days this next year. No matter the weather, it’s still one of the safer locations in Mexico and there are plenty of things to do at the Crown Paradise Golden.

For more information on the Crown Paradise Golden, please visit: http://www.goldencrownparadisevallarta.com/

Puerto Vallarta City Tour

This past March my family decided to take a trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. None of us had ever visited Puerto Vallarta previously, but we have all come to agreement that we will definitely be returning in the future. The trip was so much fun we can hardly wait to go back.

Now, I’m not much for all day tours of the cities I visit. I usually prefer to explore on my own, but we were given a free city tour when we booked another excursion through our hotel. The funny thing is I enjoyed the city tour more than the snorkeling excursion we went on. I highly recommend the city tour if you are visiting Puerto Vallarta for the first time.

The particular tour we went on departed in the morning by air-conditioned bus. We drove down to the boardwalk where we were given some time to take pictures and look at sculptures. We walked across the road to a beautiful church and then got back on the bus and went to several other locations.

We were able to visit a jewelry store, with open bar. We went to a candy shop where we got to try several local treats. We toured a tequila distillery and tasted seven different tequilas and then we ate lunch on location. Lunch was of our own expense, but totally worth it. There were several food choices which were all served family style. We ate shrimp, chicken, beef, and pork. There were also seafood options available, and the prices were minimal. After lunch we made a final stop at a coffee plantation where we were able to try some organic coffee and flavored tequila.

This tour has a little bit of everything included. We definitely got plenty to eat and drink. Our guide spoke both English and Spanish and he was also quite the comedian. He gave us tons of information about Puerto Vallarta which included stories about some of the rich and famous who had inhabited homes on the countryside. The views were beautiful and I would even partake in this tour a second time around, that’s how much I enjoyed it.

For more information on the tour, please visit: https://www.tripadvisor.com/AttractionProductReview-g150793-d11485712-Full_Day_Puerto_Vallarta_City_Highlights_Tour-Puerto_Vallarta.html

The Spirit Of The Holidays

Ho ho holidays. It’s that time again. Remember when you were a child, and the holidays seemed to be all about gifts and the magic of what could be inside those neatly wrapped packages? Heaven forbid it was a sweater.

I remember one Christmas when my sister was young. Grandma Ambers gave her a gift to open; she was probably about four years old. My sister, eyes glistening, tore into the package like her entire magical future might be hiding inside of it. Opening the lid she peered into the magical box and I watched as the excitement faded from her eyes. She pulled out a sweater that my grandmother thought to be, “just darling.” Raising the sweater up from the box her response was, “that’s not a very nice present.” I’m pretty sure I lost myself in uncontrollable laughter.

Children don’t always understand what the holidays are about, and honestly, neither do adults. The holiday season is about love. Every single day should really be about love. This past year I saw more death than I’ve seen in all of my thirty-six years put together. We don’t know how much time we have, and while we receive reminders of that short amount of time, are we really living our lives to the fullest?

I buy gifts for loved ones because I enjoy trying to find something I know they will love receiving, but in all honesty, what matters, in the end, is that we come together and spend time with the people we care about. We don’t know if our brother- and sister-in-law will be with us next Christmas, or if we’ll have the same home, or if we’ll even live in the same state as one another. What we do know is that we can tell the people we love how much we care and show them through our laughter and communion together.

Instead of worrying about things being perfect (I know you will anyway) go out and enjoy meals together. Drive around looking at holiday lights. Drink homemade hot cocoa by the fireside while playing a game. Go Christmas Caroling (that’s a dying pass-time that should be resurrected). Go sledding and build a snowman. Put down your phone. I repeat, put down your phone. People are getting tendonitis from overuse of their phones (I’m one of them). Have a silly photo shoot where you wear holiday gear, antlers, elf hats, etc, and make funny signs to hold up (if need be, use your phone for this). Bake holiday treats together while listening to holiday music. Cook some new recipes and sip wine together (if you’re of age). Heck, go on a wine tasting (but be responsible). Whatever you do, remember it’s about the fun and magic of the season. It’s about being together and that doesn’t have to cost anything.

As we move into the New Year, I am thankful for my life and that I’m still alive. I am thankful for my family and friends who are still here. I am thankful for my cat, Draco. I am thankful that I am following my dream of writing. This is my challenge for you: start living your life to its fullest. Be kind to others. Don’t do the things you hate doing, do more of the things you love. Take care of yourself. You never know if tomorrow will come.

Love to you all and best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season. Now go out and make happy memories! Oh, and if you’re one of those people who loves someone but you haven’t told them, maybe go out and do that as well (the movie, Love Actually, can help you with that).

***Image is from Jolly Holiday Lights by Make A Wish, in Altoona, IA. (check it out if you’re in the area).

http://iowa.wish.org/news-and-events/calendar-of-events/november/event-detail-page

***Also check out Christmas Village in Irvine Park if you’re in the Eau Claire/Chippewa Falls, WI area.

http://www.chippewafalls-wi.gov/your-government/parks-recreation-forestry/irvine-park/christmas-village/about-christmas-village

Ladies Night At The Historic Afton House Inn

If you live in eastern Minnesota or western Wisconsin and you are looking for something fun to do with your ladies, or maybe even your significant other, come on out to Afton, Minnesota the third Thursday of each month and take part in Ladies Night.

Start your evening off right by checking into, The Historic Afton House Inn. You cannot go wrong with one of their whirlpool suites. Men will feel encouraged to join in if they know all of the excitement and fun involved. This Inn has twenty-one uniquely decorated Jacuzzi suites. Some of the rooms have river views as well as fireplace, and a patio, or balcony. I personally like to use this event for date night because honestly we both have a great time.

After check-in wander through the inn to Current Restaurant for Happy Hour, where you will find great specials on appetizers and drinks. I can personally vouch for the food at Current, it is quite delectable. The low lit room provides a nice ambiance for reconnecting with loved ones, and the service is excellent.

If you are a wine lover, you absolutely must head over to Swirl, which is located inside the inn. They offer a free wine tasting for Ladies Night, but don’t worry men, you won’t be excluded. The tasting consists of a variety of different red and white wines. My favorite by far was the, 2012 Amayna Sauvignon Blanc, which is a nice crisp and refreshing Chilean white wine. Despite having a clear favorite, I greatly enjoyed all of the different wines on the list. Aside from the wine, Swirl has a great atmosphere with wonderfully attentive sommeliers. They also serve food, which I hear, great things about, but have not yet had the pleasure of trying. Rest assured I will be back to visit in the near future and I will do a more in-depth article on this lovely little wine bar.

Other fun things included in this evening are door prizes and games, as well as a variety of sidewalk vendors. You can even take in some free music on the patio outside of Swirl. This month ladies night will take place on July 19th and the giveaway will be for 187ml bottles of Blanc De Bleu.

After you have had your fill of the wonderful Ladies Night activities, you can purchase a bottle of wine to take back to your Jacuzzi suite and enjoy as you soak away any stress from the week. You will sleep well on the comfy beds which feature, My Pillows, and wake feeling refreshed and ready for the inn’s included, hot and tasty breakfast. Breakfast often features: coffee, tea, juice, fruit and yogurt parfait, and some form of egg omelet or frittata.

I have a history of traveling to many different towns and trying out the bed and breakfasts. This particular experience is one of my favorites, because this inn has a certain charm to it and there are so many things to do in one setting. Don’t take my word for it, try it out for yourself.

For more information, please visit the following websites:

https://aftonhouseinn.com/

http://www.swirlmywine.com/

Let’s All Go To The Zoo!

Last week while on a mini vacay, my husband and I visited Council Bluffs, Iowa. As we were getting ready to head toward our destination we began looking into the activities available in that area. While there are many fun and historic things to do between Council Bluffs and Omaha, Nebraska, which is just a few minutes away, we decided to check out a zoo.

The Omaha zoo is known as the, Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. This particular zoo has nineteen exhibits and it can take more than one day to take everything in. During our visit we did not go into the aquarium, theater, children’s adventure area, or the butterfly and insect pavilion. There were also a few different areas that were closed due to renovation. I wish I had known ahead of time that things were under construction, because I missed out on seeing a few of my favorite animals.

During our visit, I did not see any penguins, polar bears (they moved to the Kansas City Zoo), or zebras. I have no idea where the zebras were, but they were not in the enclosure they were supposed to be in according to the map. In some cases, due to the construction, it was unclear as to which animals were normally located in which areas. The zoo is currently adding an Asian Highlands section, but it also appears to be changing other areas as well. I believe there was construction going on in three different sections.

We arrived at the zoo around one o’clock and we were there until close, which was at five o’clock. We very much enjoyed walking through the, Desert Dome, as well as the, Kingdoms of the Night. If you want to take everything in, or try to take everything in, I would suggest you arrive at nine in the morning, when the zoo first opens. Make sure you check the times of the different Visitor Experiences that are available. These events are great learning occasions for children.

As you wander around there are plenty of bathrooms, water fountains, and places to find a snack, or to get out of the sun. Several exhibits are indoors. One of the most interesting things I witnessed was that of the giraffe crossing. This must occur at the same time each day, because the giraffes were lined up at the gate and waiting for the staff to come out and let them into their indoor enclosure. This process can take roughly a half an hour. The staff must open fencing to create a walkway and then the giraffes meander on into the building across the walk from their outdoor pen.

I have not been to a zoo in many years. My experiences are mostly with that of the, Como Zoo, in St. Paul, MN, and the Apple Valley Zoo, in Apple Valley, MN. I greatly enjoyed the Omaha Zoo, even though several areas were under construction. I still took tons of photos and saw a lot of interesting animals. I would definitely recommend this zoo to anyone who is visiting the area, especially if you have children who love animals.

For more information on the, Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, please visit: http://www.omahazoo.com/

Mini Hike To Adams Falls

When I go to Colorado, or really on any nature based vacation, my favorite hikes are those that take me to see a waterfall. I am definitely one of those hikers who enjoys a nice view that I can photograph from a million different angles and show to my friends and family when I return from my adventure. If you are not into long hikes, but you enjoy the great views at the end, I highly recommend a visit to Adams Falls.

Adams Falls is located near Grand Lake, so it wasn’t too far from Winter Park, which is where my family was vacationing. This particular trail is a loop and only .8 miles long. It is part of Rocky Mountain National Park. If you are in the area, you should definitely stop because the views are too good to pass up on this mini hike. The elevation at Adams Falls is 8,474 feet. The trail is accommodating to all skill levels of hiker.

Once you get to the waterfall, you can view it from a couple of different points. If you are like my step-son and you require a little more hiking activity, there are plenty of rocks to climb. A person could spend quite a bit of time here if they were to explore the area further or just sit back and relax while taking in the scenery. This could be a great place for picnic.

For more information on Adams Falls, please visit: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/colorado/adams-falls-trail

Vacationing The Summer Away In Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Summer is in full bloom and vacations are upon us. Living in the Midwest you never know what the weather is going to be. It could be hotter than Hades, or it could be cold and rainy. You might have humidity that makes you want to cry, or you could end up with a day that feels like fall is moving in. Take heart in knowing that you can escape the madness by adventuring to either coast, or leaving the country completely.

If you are looking for a great summer destination with beautiful weather and great scenery, in the month of July, allow me to recommend Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Steamboat is a great location for your summer vacay, because this city has a little bit of everything. You will be surrounded by great hiking territory and a quaint downtown area that has lots of great food options as well as shops.

There are tons of lodging options in Steamboat. You can choose a hotel, a condo, or look to VRBO, which is what my family did on our vacation. We managed to rent a five bedroom home overlooking the mountains, on the outskirts of town. This particular location was beautiful and felt like home away from home. We had a hot tub, a horseshoe pit, a grill, and large open living spaces. Check out VRBO.com, sometimes they give last minute deals to fill their rentals.

If you plan a trip to Steamboat, and you like rodeos, you should check out their Pro Rodeo Series. They host a special rodeo event on the 4th of July. My family had a blast, and it was a fairly inexpensive and entertaining way to spend an evening.

Other fun things to do while in Steamboat are as follows: The alpine slide, gondola rides, bike trails, fishing, tubing, kayaking and canoeing, climbing, zip lining, the water park, and the hot springs. If you like the outdoors, you will find plenty to do in and around this town; there are many more options than what I named above.

While we were out hiking in July we did see quite a few wild flowers. There are nearby hikes that include waterfall destinations. If you don’t feel like hiking, there are also some scenic drives that will provide you with some great views and photographs.

While I have only visited Steamboat once, just thinking back to our last trip there makes me want to return. The feel of the town is small, but also clean and crisp. You can breathe in that mountain air and enjoy the river running along the edge of town. The feeling is serene.

For more information on Steamboat Springs, please visit: http://www.steamboatchamber.com/discover-steamboat

http://www.steamboatchamber.com/discover-steamboat/western/rodeo