10 Great Western Attractions
Emerald Bay State Park
Make sure to add a visit to the incredible Emerald Bay State Park onto your travel bucket list! Located in beautiful Lake Tahoe, this stunning state park offers dramatic views of both the lake and forests from every angle. A hike through Emerald Bay is a breathtaking experience; the views being amongst the best you will find anywhere. You will definitely want to pack your camera for this hike! Mike and I complete lots of hiking trails across the country, and to this day, this is one that stands out the most in our memories.
If you wish, you can also take a tour of historic Vikingsholm Castle. Tours run daily from 10:00am-4:30pm. Visit the Vikingsholm Castle website for additional information. Other activities within the park include camping, beaches, biking, and more. Be aware that black bears frequent the area, so stay update on what to do in the case of a bear encounter!
With all the pricey South Lake Tahoe attractions, Emerald Bay is a welcome change. Take the opportunity to visit this peaceful state park away from the crowded casinos and tourist attractions. Outstanding views, peace and quiet, and an awesome workout await you at Emerald Bay: some times the best things in life really are free!
Parking for Emerald Bay is located on Hwy 89.
Sedona – Red Rock Country
Sedona is home to some of the most stunning scenery out West, if not anywhere in the country. It would crazy to take a vacation to the Grand Canyon and not take the extra time to visit Sedona, which is just a 2 hour drive away. Towering red rock formations comprise the gorgeous landscapes basically everywhere in Sedona. Any hiking trail will take you past these incredible rock formations, some of which date back 300 million years ago! For the best views of all, consider a hike along the stunning Devil’s Bridge trail, pictured above.
Camping, fishing, mountain biking, and just about every other type of outdoors activity are all popular in Sedona. With such stunning backdrops, it is hard not to want to be outside your entire time in Sedona. Even if you are not a fitness or nature buff, there are plenty of other ways to take in the incredible scenery. For starters, the amazing 14 mile long Oak Creek Canyon drive will take you on a leisurely scenic drive from Flagstaff to Sedona as you take in the drastically changing scenery, which starts with amazing ponderosa pine forests and ends with Sedona’s magnificent red rock scenery.
Many of the restaurants in town feature outdoor patios where you can dine alongside the beautiful rock formations. You could also sign up for a scenic trolley tour which will take you for a leisurely little ride with red rock panoramas in every direction. The very popular Pink Jeep Tours which take guests on an adventure through various trails in town, are very popular, however, I recommend saving some money and getting out there yourself and exploring the wonderful nature trails!
Sedona is an incredible vacation for nature lovers, photographers, and fitness buffs. Regardless of whether or not you are visiting the Grand Canyon, the breathtaking scenery in Sedona and nearby Flagstaff, along with a diverse variety of outdoor activities, make Sedona more than worthy of a vacation of it’s own.
Views from the Observatory are one of, if not, the best views of the city of Los Angeles and the Hollywood sign. The night views of Los Angeles are absolutely incredible. And you must not leave without a walk along the on-site hiking trails, which allow you to get up close and personal with the iconic Hollywood sign. Although the observation deck provides incredible views of the Hollywood sign, nothing tops the hike which will lead you to the absolute best view of the sign anywhere.
Many interesting space and science related exhibits are available to browse through inside the Griffith, although the real highlight is gazing up at the stars at night with the city lights in the background. A public telescope is available nightly (as long as there are clear skies) for visitors to use, along with assistance from knowledgeable staff. What a great free date night activity in the L.A. area!
All this is free, although there is a small fee to see the planetarium shows. I recommend both a daytime visit (to hike the beautiful Mt. Hollywood trail with the fantastic views of the Hollywood sign) and a night visit (to stargaze and appreciate the beauty of LA from a distance).
Did you know that the 3000+ acres surrounding the observatory, including the exhibit hall and planetarium were offered as a donation to the City of Los Angeles by Coloniel Griffith J. Griffith in 1896? Griffith wanted to make astronomy accessible to the general population. Hence, we have this beautiful Observatory, complete with magnificent views, educational opportunities, and even public opportunities for telescope gazing. The Griffith is open from Tuesday-Friday from Noon-10:00pm and on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am-10pm.
The Griffith Observatory is located at 2800 E. Observatory Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90027
As the most visited tourist attraction in Arizona, and one of the most popular in the world, it is no surprise that the scenery at the Grand Canyon is pretty spectacular. During your visit, you will get to take in the sights of this amazing geologic wonder which is 277 miles long, 1 mile deep, and 18 miles wide! You have seen it in TV shows and magazines before, however, you really need to see it in person with your own eyes to truly appreciate the stunning beauty!
There are many unique ways to view the canyon besides the most popular choice of gazing over from the various overlooks. Whitewater rafting trips, mule rides, helicopter rides, and my personal favorite, hiking within the canyon will all give you a much more personal & memorable experience. Hiking is by far the most amazing and peaceful way to view the splendor of the canyon. And, it also happens to be free compared to the pricey attractions listed above.
If you have the stamina (and you must as the trails are high altitude (7000 feet) and extremely hilly, hiking is the way to go. Even if you are not in the best of shape, you can just go out to the first overlook and turn back. The best hike is the South Kalibab Trail. The South Kalibab trail includes various turn around points so you can go out to your personal comfort level. If you are up for a real challenge, complete the 1.5 mile journey to Skeleton Point. It is a tough, although quiet and secluded hike, with tremendous ending views of the river which you cannot see from any of the overlooks. It’s a once in a lifetime experience than I (and my sore legs) will never forget!
Overall, the South Rim of the Grand Canyon is an obvious add to any nature loving traveler’s bucket list. To make your trip even more memorable, I recommend staying in Flagstaff or Sedona and enjoying all the wonderful hikes and natural attraction found within these 2 areas.