How Street Art in Houston is Jazzing Up Its Downtown (And 7 Top Houston Wall Murals Perfect for the ‘Gram)

How Street Art in Houston is Jazzing Up Its Downtown (And 7 Top Houston Wall Murals Perfect for the ‘Gram)

In addition to being known as the home of US space exploration and humidity that can add curl to an Afghan Hound’s fur, did you know there is a burgeoning street art scene in Houston? Downtown Houston has embraced graffiti and murals with a Texas-sized enthusiasm which provide unexpected pops of colour, big and small. It’s not just the street art lovers who flock to these Houston murals, Houston wall art has proved popular for the Instagram-loving crowd too. We love to check out the street art scene wherever we are in the world, and Houston’s wall murals are a delight.

How Street Art in Houston is Jazzing Up Its Downtown (And 7 Top Houston Wall Murals Perfect for the ‘Gram)

How Street Art in Houston is Jazzing Up Its Downtown (And 7 Top Houston Wall Murals Perfect for the ‘Gram)

Houston Wall Art For The ‘Gram

All this street art makes perfect Instagram feed material. Not only do you get instant backdrops for your selfie but you also let to drop in casually how cool and cultured you are at the same time. win/win.

The “Houston is Inspired” mural is one of the most Instagrammed spots in Houston. This first of the Houston wall murals was painted by Mario Figueroa Jr as part of the city’s business initiative to promote the local arts scene.

Mario Figueroa AKA Gonzo247 leads an artist collective, Aerosol Warfare which works to promote street art in the city such as, for example, liaising with businesses hiring street artists to add murals to their buildings. Houston graffiti is straddling the fine line between avant-garde and mainstream commercial success.

Businesses commission street art in Houston

Businesses are discovering the widespread attention they get with colorful wall murals

In fact, Gonzo 247 lead the team of 5 artists (including Mr. D mentioned below) that did the Guerrilla Gorilla artwork of giant gorillas around the city for the Houston Zoo in 2015.  Check out this cool photo gallery of artist Anat Ronen creating her gorilla wall from start to finish.

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Another graffiti wall in Houston is the “Greetings from Houston” wall mural which looks like a cool 1970’s style postcard with its bright colours and iconic Texas images (cactus, oil rig, etc). Created by local talent, Daniel Anguilu, this Houston mural is a perfect e-postcard to announce your stay in the Bayou City.

For a big city in a bigger state “Let’s Preservation The Creation Houston” mural is Houston-sized. About 60 feet tall and 180 feet wide covering 10,000 s.f. of wall, this mural by Mr. D is a riff on Michaelangelo’s famous ceiling at the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.  Only this creator god is holding a spray paint can (and briefly a football in 2017 when Houston hosted Super Bowl 51).

In 2017, L.A. artist Russell Etchen created a faux rock facade called “About_Rocks” where the rocks had cartoon eyes.

If you want a whole host of backgrounds for your selfie, you should check out the Houston Graffiti Building. Here’s my son hamming it up in front of some angel wings which appeared on the Just Go Places Instagram.

Areas For Houston Graffiti and Murals

Houston is a sprawling city with heavy traffic congestion. You do need to plan where you want to go and what you want to see. Walking around the city like we did checking out the street art in Valencia Spain is not an option and the street art is not as concentrated in the urban sprawl as, for example, in Sao Paolo, Brazil.

Market Square Park

The so-called graffiti park in Houston is Market Square Park, located in the Historic District of Downtown Houston.  Houston is so sprawling it actually has 10 different districts in its downtown area.

Houston Graffiti Building

When we went to the Houston Graffiti Building on a Saturday, there were a handful of photoshoots happening of Quinceanara girls and their entourages.

A photo shoot with a quinceanera in a blue dress at the Houston Graffiti building with a view of the skyscrapers of Downtown Houston

A quinceanara photo shoot at the Houston Graffiti building.

Quinceanara parties are birthday parties for girls turning 15 and are huge affairs in the Latin American communities of the USA. The fact that these dresses are gorgeous, the girls travel with entourages and have photo shoots should tell you something about what a big deal they are!

A colourful Houston wall mural in Downtown Houston

A colourful Houston wall mural in Downtown Houston

Lawndale Art Center

The Lawndale Art Center is a venue for local and regional art. It’s got a rotating mural on its facade. The current mural is an approximately 3000 s.f. trompe l’oeil by Francesca Fuchs of cathedral pillars.

Graffiti and Street Art Museum of Texas

When we visited, the opening of the Graffiti and Street Art Museum of Texas has been delayed thanks to the ravages of Hurricane Harvey. They do, however, suggest you check out their calendar for local events.

On the GSAM website you can also book  guided Houston murals tours led by a street artist. It’s a 90 minute tour available on Sundays which we would have taken if we had been in Houston on a Sunday. We learned so much from our guided street art tour of Shoreditch that I definitely would recommend a guided street art tour if you have the opportunity.

Stay Sorta Positive street mural in Downtown Houston

Stay Sorta Positive street mural in Houston

Houston Street Art Locations

Street art is ephemeral by its very nature and what you see today may not be there tomorrow. You’re best bet to find Houston street art locations is to visit the neighbourhoods famous for Houston graffiti, namely the Washington Avenue Arts District and Downtown Houston’s assorted districts.

Check out the Mini Murals Houston website for small-scale murals that pop up randomly on electrical boxes in Houston adding an unexpected pop of color and vibrancy to the city. We saw something similar on the electric boxes in Cork Ireland.  There’s a map on the site showing you location of these smaller pieces of Houston graffiti.

Flower-headed ballerinas, street art mural on a building in downtown Houston

The flower-headed ballerinas were one of my favourite works.

Wall murals tend to have more longevity. These Houston murals locations, moreover, have hit a degree of fame that they should stick around for the foreseeable future or alternatively, something else equally cool will have replaced the street art.

Houston Dreamers by Pink Lo Mein, Downtown Houston wall art

Houston Dreamers by Pink Lo Mein, Downtown Houston wall art

Here are some of the more famous Houston murals locations. I’ve tried to organise these Houston street art locations by zip code so that’s easier on your sat nav/GPS. Of course, you are driving there…it’s Houston.

  • Houston is Inspired – 907 Preston St, Houston TX 77002
  • Market Square Park – 301 Milam, Houston TX 77002
  • Lawndale Art Center 4912 Main Street, Houston TX 77002
  • Houston Graffiti Building – 1503 Chartres St,  Houston TX 77003
  • Let’s Preserve the Creation Mural – 2800 San Jacinto, Houston TX 77004
  • Greetings From Houston Mural – 3601 White Oak Drive, Houston TX 77007
  • Houston Zoo Mural – 2201 Washington Avenue, Houston 77007
Where to Find The Top Houston Wall Murals

Where to Find The Top Houston Wall Murals

Practicalities for Visiting Houston Wall Art

We stayed at the St. Regis Houston which is a great hotel but not that near downtown Houston. It was about a 40 minute drive to downtown.

We have friends who stayed at Hotel ZaZa which is in the Museum District and highly recommend it. I bet my kids thought if we stayed too close to all those museums, we’’d make them do nothing else. Anyway, the Hotel ZaZa is a pink giant block on the outside and theatrical glamour on the inside. Hotel Zaza Houston Museum District has gotten very good reviews on TripAdvisor as well.

We went to the original Ninfa’s (on 2704 Navigation Boulevard) which is famous for creating fajitas back in the 1970’s. My kids love their Mexican food and fajitas remain one of their favourite dishes of all time/cuisines. Of course, we had to do a pilgrimage to Ninfa’s and it was totally worth it! Check out the excellent reviews for Ninfa’s on Navigation on TripAdvisor.

For more photos of Houston wall art, check out my gallery on Smug Mug for more of my photos.

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The Three Best Plantation Homes in Louisiana To Visit With Kids

The Three Best Plantation Homes in Louisiana To Visit With Kids

With so many restored Louisiana plantation homes to visit, how do you narrow down your choice of Louisiana plantation homes when you are travelling with children in tow?  My husband and I would have loved to have seen as many plantation homes in Louisiana as we could have but we knew our children had a much more limited attention span. In the end, we chose three of the New Orleans plantation houses to visit based on their proximity to each other and the different perspectives on Southern plantation life they provided.

Oak Alley Plantation | New Orleans Plantation Country | Louisiana plantation homes | Oak Alley Plantation tour | #roadtripUSA #visitLouisiana #DeepSouth #NOLAplantations #OakAlleyPlantation

The top 3 Louisiana plantation homes to visit from New Orleans.

New Orleans Plantation Country

New Orleans plantation country has 10 major plantations to explore.

  • Destrehan Plantation and Ormond Plantation are the closest to New Orleans and the international airport.
  • Houmas Plantation and San Francisco Plantation focus on the grandeur of New Orleans plantation houses and the Antebellum lifestyle enjoyed by its owners.
  • Poche Plantation and Oak Alley Plantation offers a history of the families who lived there.
  • Laura Plantation focuses on the connection of the French Creoles with the region.
  • St Joseph’s Plantation is still a working sugarcane plantation.
  • Evergreen Plantation offers a bit of everything – a French Creole history, grand architecture, the stories of slave labour and a working sugarcane plantation.
  • Whitney Plantation tells the story of the slaves working on these sugarcane plantations.

Our Three Picks for Family-Friendly Plantation Homes in Louisiana

Our decision came down to convenience as well as having good historical learning exhibits. New Orleans plantation country extends all the way to Baton Rouge on the River Road but we stayed at the end closest to New Orleans.

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A map of the sugar plantations that lined the Missisippi River in their heyday.

Staying on site in a cottage at Oak Alley Plantation, we were also able to visit the nearby Whitney Plantation and the Laura Plantation. All three of these plantations lie in a convenient cluster near each other less than an hour away from Downton New Orleans.

Of these three New Orleans plantation houses, Oak Alley provides the  most amenities. For example, there are rental cottages located on the 25 acre property.  In addition, there is a large restaurant, separate cafe and a banqueting facility as well as the requisite gift shop.

New Orleans Plantations Tours I Missed

St. Joseph’s Plantation is located next door to the Oak Alley Plantation and I was gutted to have to drive by it without entering. I, however, know my children’s limits on museums and three museums in 2 days was plenty. I would have also liked to see Houmas Plantation to compare the Anglo-American sugar plantation lifestyle with that of the French Creoles.

The Grand Dame of the New Orleans Plantation Houses

We chose Oak Alley Plantation because it not only has family-friendly accommodation on site but is also beautiful. Small wonder it is the most photographed plantation home in Louisiana.

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Oak Alley Plantation History

Oak Alley Plantations’s history is fairly abbreviated. The 28 Virginia live oaks that give the plantation its name are about 300 years old.  They had already been planted by a previous owner when Jacques Roman, the scion of a local rich family, bought the plantation. He had the grand plantation home built as a way to tempt his New Orleans socialite bride, Celina Roman, out to the countryside.

Fun Fact! The Roman family owned a whole host of  Louisiana plantations homes including one known as Le Petit Versailles (modelled after Versailles in France).

Built entirely by slaves with handmade bricks over the course of a mere 2.5 years in the 1840’s, the craftsmanship is extraordinary. The plantation house is built in a Greek revival style with 28 Tuscan columns meant to echo the 28 live oaks lining the driveway. The exterior walls are stucco made to look like marble.

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A cutaway of the plaster wall at Oak Alley plantation shows the handmade bricks made by the enslaved workers.

The Romans lived for less than 10 years at Oak Plantation when Jacques Roman died. Celina did not have the skills to run a sugar plantation. By the time their son was old enough to take over the running of Oak Alley, the estate was heavily in debt and the estate was sold in 1866.

With the end of slavery, the economic model of sugar plantation was not viable and so the whole plantation eventually fell into ruins.

The current owner’s family, wealthy Texans, bought the house for $50,000 in 1925. They had to spend $60,000 though to renovate the plantation house and make it liveable.

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The beauty of the columned terrace.

With its obvious beauty, Oak Alley is a popular film venue. For example, it has appeared in Interview With A Vampire (1994) as the home of Louis (played by Brad Pitt). My kids were more impressed though that it was in the video for Beyonce’s song Deja Vu.

Oak Alley Plantation Tour

As of January 2018, the tours are no longer conducted by guides in period dress. The tours of the plantation house are run frequently throughout the day and last about 45 minutes.

TripAdvisor reviews seem to agree with me  that the house is amazing and the tours are OK.  You do get the feeling that you are being pushed through on the tour like you are on a factory processing line.

You get a brief history of the family, a look at the formal sitting room, the dining room and some bedrooms. You have great views over the plantation grounds from  the second floor terrace, including down that famous alley of live oaks.

terrace view at Oak Alley Plantation | New Orleans Plantation Country | Louisiana plantation homes | Oak Alley Plantation tour | #roadtripUSA #visitLouisiana #DeepSouth #NOLAplanatations #OakAlleyPlantation

The view from the terrace down that famous alley of live oaks at Oak Alley Plantation.

Outside on the grounds, there are self-guided tours you can do. There is also an exhibit on slavery at Oak Alley for which you can listen to a separate tour guide discuss the life and duties of slaves on the plantation.

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Old Sugar Kettles now are part of the landscaping at Oak Alley Plantation.

When we listened to the talk on slavery at Oak Alley, we realised about 2/3 of the people in the group walked away from lack of interest. Many people are at Oak Alley because it is pretty and a brief glimpse into the lifestyle of rich planters in the Antebellum South.

The Whitney Plantation Tour

Whitney Plantation is the only plantation to focus on the plight of the Southern slaves. Unlike the other two New Orleans plantation tours we took, the plantation owners’ life and home was very much ancillary to the tour.

Whitney Plantation History

The Whitney Plantation was started in 1752 by a German family, the Haydels, who had come to Louisiana as indentured servants. They changed their name to sound more French to fit in with the locals. From indentured servants to rich plantation owners, they epitomised the American Dream long before that idea had even been conceptualised.

The Three Best Plantation Homes in Louisiana To Visit With Kids

The estate office for Whitney Plantation is a relatively subdued affair.

The house architecture is considered French Creole cottage. Although the house looks grand from the outside, the interior is remarkably humble in keeping with many French Creole Louisiana plantation homes. French Creoles did not entertain as lavishly as the Anglo-American plantation owners and saved their partying for Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

In 2014, the Whitney Plantation was opened as a museum to the history of plantation slavery.

Whitney Plantation Museum

The Whitney Plantation tour is long – about an hour and a half and is mostly outside. Our guide, Ali, was a dynamic personality and tried to engage with the kids. TripAdvisor reviews agree that the Whitney Plantation tour is excellent.

My 11 year old kids found the Whitney Plantation tour fascinating but also disturbing because it made a vague concept they had studied about in a textbook more real.

Travel Tip – On a hot sunny day like we had, we were grateful we had bottles of water with us because most of the tour is outside.

The lives of sugar plantation slaves was very harsh. Sugar was 3x more profitable to grow than cotton but also much more difficult to extract. There were plenty of opportunities for accidents from the cutting of the tall sugar canes to the boiling of the sugar cane in the sugar kettles. For example, if some of the hot sugar cane syrup fell on your skin while it was being ladled, it would stick like tar to the skin.

Sad Fact: The average life expectancy of a slave working on a sugar plantation was only 10 years.

In fact, it was cheaper to let the slaves die as they grew older and more infirm than to take care of them. The plantation owners referred to young enslaved women as breeders because they were required to provide more human stock to replenish and to enlarge the workforce.

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Slave women were also kept breeding in order to provide additional workers.

The Whitney Plantation has an indoor exhibit explaining slave trade throughout history around the world. Slavery, after all, has been around for millennia.

There is also Antioch Baptist Church which was built after the Civil War. This Baptist Church moved to the Whitney Plantation when the original congregation decided to build a new church after Hurricane Katrina.

Antioch Baptist Church at Whitney Plantation | New Orleans Plantation Country | Louisiana plantation homes | Whitney Plantation tour | #roadtripUSA #visitLouisiana #DeepSouth #NOLAplantations #WhitneyPlantation

The Antioch Baptist Church relocated to the Whitney Plantation.

The Antioch Church was built by skilled slave labour. Inside are some of the sculptures by Woodrow Nash of slave children taken from actual photographs of slave children. Their eyes are missing to symbolise their hopeless situation. The sculptures are very moving.

The Three Best Plantation Homes in Louisiana To Visit With Kids

Woodrow Nash sculptures of slave children in Antioch Baptist Church at Whitney Plantation.

The Whitney Plantation Tour takes you to see 3 memorials to slavery:

The Wall of Honor recording the name of slaves who were owned by the Haydel family.

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A mother is listed with her children under the age of 10.

The 18 Walls Monument which records the name of every enslaved  person in a plantation home in Louisiana from 1719-1820.

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A memorial with the name of every slave in a plantation home in Louisiana during the 99 years ending in 1820.

The Field of Angels lists the names of slave children who died at Whitney Plantation and its parish from 1823-1863. The average age of a child was three years old. Many of the youngest did not even have names.

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Mediums have reported spirits of children playing near this statue to dead slave children.

The Whitney Plantation Tour also encompasses several of the outbuildings, including the separate building which was the kitchen, and the slave jail.

Laura Plantation in Lousiana

We visited Laura Plantation because we wanted to learn more about French creole culture which existed until after the Civil War very much separate from the Anglo-American culture in Louisiana. Not surprising considering their origins, the French Creole looked down on Anglo-American culture.

Fun Fact! – Laura Locoul Gore (born in 1861) was the fourth generation to live at Laura Plantation but the first generation to speak English!

Laura Plantation History

The Laura Plantation was built in 1805 by slaves in the Creole style for Guillaume Duparc. The Big House is a riot of colors similar to the houses you see in the Caribbean.

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The Big House at Laura Plantation

The Laura Plantation’s history is remarkable because it thrived under the management of French women with backbones of steel. In its heyday, the Laura Plantation encompassed 12,000 acres, a sugar mill, 69 slave cabins housing 186 slaves, a slave hospital and communal kitchens.

This line of  matriarchy was started by a wayward son exiled to the New World. Guillaume Duparc was forced to flee his native Normandy when he got into a duel with his father’s best friend’s son. He joined the French forces who were helping the American side during the American Revolution.

Duparc knew George Washington and had friends in high places. To keep on his good side, Thomas Jefferson gave the Laura Plantation to Duparc when the USA acquired the area as part of the Louisiana Purchase.

Guillaume Duparc died within a few years and the plantation was run by his wife, Nanette. They had two sons and a daughter. The sons didn’t amount to much and the daughter, Elizabeth, was forced to take over the plantation.

Shocking fact – When Nanette retired to another house on the estate she took 5 slaves with her. Three of these slaves were her grandchildren by her youngest son and a slave woman. She didn’t even set her enslaved grandchildren free.
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A genealogy of Nanette’s grandchildren who remained slaves.

Elizabeth split the estate in half to give to her two children. She was a tough old lady and thought her son was useless. She gave the better half (which included the sugar mill) to her equally-steely daughter. The son incurred debts trying to build his own sugar mill which eventually crippled his half of the plantation.

The son named his part of the inheritance the Laura Planation after his daughter, Laura Locoul Gore. Laura sold the plantation for $18,000 in 1891. Her only living descendent was a grandson who has since died of a drug overdose.

It’s not quite shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in 3 generations but close. If it weren’t for the fortitude of the women in this family, the men would have run the plantation into the ground much faster.

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Slave cabins at Laura Plantation.

Before Laura died in 1936, she wrote her memoirs, Memories of the Old Plantation Home which makes fascinating reading. Some of her attitudes seem patronising until I realised that would have been how they thought in that era. For their time period, she and her “weak” father were quite liberal which did not a good Southern plantation owner make.

Laura Plantation Tour

The Laura Plantation Tour starts in the Big House and also visits the slave quarters. It attempts to tell the story of both the slaveowning family as well as some of the enslaved family. Obviously, the family history is better known and documented whereas the enslaved peoples’ stories are pieced together from ancillary sources.

The Laura Plantation Tour itself is relatively short (about an hour) and most of it is indoors. TripAdvisor reviewers agree that the family story intertwined with the vagaries of American history is fascinating.

New Orleans Plantation Hotel

We wanted to stay in a New Orleans plantation hotel and the Oak Alley Plantation is one of two choices available in New Orleans plantation country. The other option in New Orleans plantation country would have been Houmas House Plantation which would have been another half-hour further on from Oak Alley Plantation.

Check out the very positive reviews on TripAdvisor for Oak Alley Plantation Restaurant & Inn!

If you are driving as far as Baton Rouge, you will also have the option of staying at Nottoway Plantation Resort and The Myrtles Plantation. Unless you have particularly brave children, I’d choose Nottoway Plantation Resort because The Myrtles Plantation is supposed to be one of the most haunted hotels in the USA.

The best part of staying at Oak Alley Plantation is having the house and gardens to yourself after the visitors have gone for the night and before they arrive in the morning. I was a little shocked that Oak Alley had lots of visitors from the very first tour which starts at 9 AM.

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A view of the Big House at Oak Alley Plantation from the formal gardens.

Staying at the New Orleans Plantation Hotel

They have different sized cottages which can accommodate up to six people. Our two bedroom cottage was charming. It had a traditional charm that was endearing and enough shiplap on the walls to make Joanna Gaines happy.

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One of the bedrooms at a traditional cottage at Oak Alley plantation.

Our cottage had a kitchen for which we were thankful after our fussy child threw a fit at the nearest restaurant at lunchtime. We bought frozen pizza and ice cream for the kids at the nearest supermarket, Piggly Wiggly, in Vacherie.

The beds were comfortable, the Wifi excellent and parking easy. What more could we want??

Meals at the New Orleans Plantation Hotel

If you stay at Oak Alley Planation, breakfast at the restaurant is included. We had a hearty breakfast that included a choice of omelettes, french toast or that old Southern favourite, grits.

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French toast with Oak Alley cane syrup for breakfast at Oak Alley plantation.

My fussy daughter had pitched a fit at the lunch on offer at the nearest restaurant we were recommended. B&C Seafood Market & Cajun Restaurant is conveniently located between Laura Planation and Oak Alley Plantation.  We thought the food at B&C was good. There is a children’s menu with things like grilled cheese and lemonade. She, however, saw the alligator nuggets on offer and that was a bridge too far for her culinary sensibilities.

Travel Tip – There are fast food establishments, like McDonalds, Subway and Pizza Hut on Highway 3125 about 6 miles from Oak Alley Plantation.

We had stayed at this New Orleans plantation hotel on Valentine’s Night so there was a special dinner available in the banqueting hall. It was a price fixe with a fixed menu and needed to be scheduled ahead of time. There were no substitutions allowed so we wound up skipping a course which included mussels to which we are allergic.

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A romantic dinner for two at the banqueting hall at Oak Alley Plantation.

Overall the meal was good and the wine pairings excellent. We did, however, feel like we were at a wedding just the way the tables were arranged with 16 couples facing the front of the banqueting hall. The head chef even came out to give a little speech. I think fine dining options in this part of the world are limited and the Oak Alley Valentine’s Dinner was the best local option for the night.

New Orleans Plantation Tours

We drove from New Orleans to see these three plantation homes in Louisiana.  The drive is really easy and straightforward.

Travel Tip – If you want to visit all three of these plantations, you should stay overnight in the area.

If you don’t have a car though, you have a choice of New Orleans plantation tours leaving from the city with different combinations depending on your interests.

Visiting Lousiana Plantation Homes With Kids

We are glad we visited all three of these New Orleans plantation houses. They offered very different aspects of the Louisiana plantation homes lifestyle.

We believe our kids enjoyed the visits to these plantation homes, too. Other than the Whitney Plantation tour, all the tours were short. None of the houses had major artwork or furniture that required detailed explanation which they would find tedious. We were whisked through the houses fairly quickly.

New Orleans Plantation Country with kids | New Orleans Plantation Country | Louisiana plantation homes | Oak Alley Plantation tour | #roadtripUSA #visitLouisiana #DeepSouth #NOLAplantations #OakAlleyPlantation

Visiting the New Orleans plantation countryside with kids

They were fascinated with some of the stories they heard. For example, one of the teenage daughters at the Laura Plantation went to a French doctor to be treated for pimples. The medicine he gave her contained arsenic which lead to her death. Yes, modern medicine is a wonderful thing and they take it for granted.

My kids were likewise shocked that enslaved children from the age of 10 were separated from their mothers and treated the same as adults who were made to work 16 hours a day. They are 11 years old and nowhere ready to be treated as adults, never mind leave the comforts of childhood behind them.

Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.

– Edmund Burke

Kids may learn history in school but visiting a historical place really hammers home the point.

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The Best Tips and Ideas For Your Southern USA Road Trip

The Best Tips and Ideas For Your Southern USA Road Trip

Where do you start when planning a Deep South road trip itinerary? There’s so much to see and to do in the Southern States. That’s the problem I’ve been having because we are in the process of planning a Southern USA road trip. We have driven through some of the Southern USA like Florida and our recent Louisiana road trip post-Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Long before I met him, my husband did a Southern States road trip with his best friend. From what I gather, it involved a lot of beer and pizza. Our family-friendly Deep South USA would be quite different! I’ve reached out to some travel blogger friends for other (better?) ideas on Deep South tours.

Map of South East USA Southern USA Road Trip | #Deep South Tour | #TheSouth #SouthernUSA

Tips and Ideas for a Roadtrip of the Southern States in the USA

I’m sure all the fabulous and diverse things to do on a Deep South Tour is why Lonely Planet has chosen the American southern states as one of their top regions to visit in 2018.  Other regions on the Lonely Planet Top 10 regions list for 2108 are Alaska, the Slovenian Alps, Languedoc-Roussillon in France, Bahia in Brazil, Los Haitises National Park in the Dominican Republic, the Kii Peninsula in Japan, the Aeolian Islands of the coast of Sicily, Northern Ireland and Lahaul and Spiti in India.

Ideas for A Southern USA Road Trip

Who better to ask for advice on creating a Deep South road trip itinerary than travel bloggers who have been there?  Below are the recommendations on places to visit on a Deep South tour and travel tips for a southern states road trip from 13 fellow travel bloggers.
Map of South East USA Southern USA Road Trip | #Deep South Tour | #TheSouth #SouthernUSA

Map South East USA

The Southastern USA on a Deep South Road Trip

 The southeastern USA has many great locations to make up a Deep South road trip itinerary to suit your interests. Whether your interest lies in history, food, music or simply beautiful beach resorts, the Deep South has so many options that you will be spoilt for choice. We can definitely vouch for the beauty of the Outer Banks with its wild horses and the fascinating Wright Brothers National Memorial where the Wright Brothers flew the first plane.

Birmingham, Alabama 

The Deep South is unlike any other part of the U.S. – and that’s exactly why we loved our Deep South road trip through it. One of our favorite stops along the way was Birmingham, Alabama, a surprisingly hip and hipster town that was the site of many important (and tragic) events in America’s past.
Street art in Birmingham Alabama | Southern USA Road Trip | #DeepSouth Tour | #TheSouth #SouthernUSA

Street art in Birmingham Alabama seen on a Southern USA road trip (photo credit: Jen Ambrose and Ryan Victor)

A Civil Rights Focus For a Southern USA Road Trip

Three things you will find in the Southern states of the USA — delicious southern cooking, destinations with a deep yet troubled history, and the birthplace of the many musical genres that have impacted American music.
One way to experience what makes the south unique is through a Civil Rights road trip.
On this Deep South Road Trip itinerary, start in Atlanta, the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and home to the Center for Civil and Human Rights.
From Atlanta, head down to Montgomery, Alabama and visit the Rosa Parks Museum and Freedom Rides Museum to learn about the monumental impact the bus boycott and Freedom Rides had on the Civil Rights movement in the U.S.
It is then a short one and one-half hour drive to Birmingham, Alabama, where you can learn about the civil rights struggle in Alabama at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, visit the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, and sample from Birmingham’s burgeoning food scene.
Finish off your road trip in Memphis, tracing the arc of MLK, Jr.’s life from beginning to tragic end with a visit to the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Hotel, the site where he was assassinated.
Of course, the Memphis music scene is hopping with the blues clubs on famous Beale Street, Gibson guitar factory tours, Elvis’ Graceland, the Memphis Blues Hall of Fame, and historic STAX Museum of American Soul Music.
– by Tamara Gruber at We3Travel and 
Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta Georgia

Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta Georgia (Photo credit: Tamara Gruber)

Charleston, South Carolina 

– by Sierra Dehmler at and on social media at 

Georgian doors in Charleston South Carolina | Southern USA Road Trip | #DeepSouth Tour | #TheSouth #SouthernUSA

Charleston, South Carolina on a Deep South Road Trip (Photo credit: Sierra Dehmler)

Memphis, Tennessee 

The Southeastern United States

As someone who was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, the news that the Southeast had been chosen as one of the world’s emerging travel hotspots provoked one question from me: What took them so long?

In terms of natural beauty, the region has it in spades, from the mountains of Appalachia and national forests such as Chattahoochee and Pisgah to islands such as the Outer Banks (NC), Golden Isles (GA), and Hilton Head (SC).

If it’s culture you seek, the Southeast is the birthplace of the blues, country, jazz, soul, and rock ‘n’ roll. There’s fantastic food, from the low country cuisine of the coastal regions to the soul food that traces its roots back to Africa.

If it’s hip cities you’re into, the region has more than its fair share, from Asheville and Charleston to Nashville and Mobile. And then there’s my hometown, Atlanta, which has grown from the city Sherman burned to a bustling metropolis rich with international flavor.

Whether you’re into Civil War history or the Civil Rights movement, the Southeast has a uniquely diverse array of offerings that will appeal to travelers of every style. So much so that, in recent years, a significant portion of our visitors seem inclined to stay!

– Bret Love & Mary Gabbett at Green Global Travel and on social media at 

Sunset in Outer Banks, North Carolina | Southern States Road Trip | #DeepSouth #OBX

Sunset in Outer Banks, North Carolina (Photo credit: Bret Love)

Visit Florida for Sun and Fun on your Deep South Road Trip

There’s so much more to Florida than the ever popular Orlando theme parks. We have been to some of the more popular places like the Palm Beaches, Orlando, Miami and Key West, including a beautiful road trip from Miami to Key West.

Gainesville, Florida

Gainesville is an awesome place to visit for its diversity. As a college town where the University of Florida is located, there are a ton of very unique bars, and many that are cheap as dirt (the benefits of a college town!) Some even let you bring your dogs, which is fun whether you have a pup or not – I mean, who doesn’t love having a beer and petting a cute dog at the same time?
There are some cool walks to do as well, on one of which you can spot gators. Just don’t get too close, and they won’t attack. I swear, they’re tame! (Don’t bring your dogs for that walk, though, as they do want to eat your dog, just not you!)
Gainesville is filled with surprises, and awesome places to eat. Ever tried a falafel burger? You got it. As it’s a bit of a trendy place, there are loads of vegan and vegetarian restaurants, as well as something for the meat eaters out there – rest assured.
Overall, Gainesville is incredibly diverse, plus it’s a small city so it’s easy to walk around even if you don’t have a car. I highly recommend visiting!
– by Danielle Ditzian from Like Riding a Bicycle  and on social media at 
Up close and personal with Alligators in Gainesville, Florida

Up close and personal with Alligators in Gainesville, Florida (Photo credit: Danielle Ditzian)


Southwest Florida

Beautiful Southwest Florida is as much a geographic region as it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Florida. Located in the sub-tropical southwest “paradise coast” of Florida, the region lies at the edge of the Florida Everglades giving visitors unparalleled nature and eco tourism opportunities.

The main cities of Naples, Marco Island, Bonita Springs, and Fort Myers all offer great shopping, dining, and cultural activities centered around the Arts, and are surrounded by the small, still quaint fishing towns that offer a glimpse into the slower pace of Floridays gone past.

Island towns like Sanibel and Captiva islands, Pine Island, and Matlacha, are easy day trips from wherever you stay and perfect for paddling the calm bays and backwaters, browsing art galleries and eating fresh shrimp tacos for lunch.

It’s just a short drive to Miami for those needing more action, and a fun 3-hour boat ride to check out Key West for the day. But the biggest draw for visitors to southwest Florida is some of the best beaches in the country, with Caribbean-style turquoise water, soft white sand, and some of the best shelling in the world.

– by Lori Sorrentino at and on social media at 
A live shell found on beach in Naples, Florida

A live shell found on the beach in Naples, Florida will go back to the sea.

Sanibel and Captiva Islands, Florida

My family loves visiting the islands of Sanibel and Captiva on the West coast of Florida. They offer some of the Sunshine State’s most sublime scenery. Miles of white sand beaches, acres of wildlife refuge, and a low-key vibe make this part of Florida a true island oasis.
Both Sanibel and Captiva have long been known as the best spots in the world to go shelling, but Sanibel in particular has a huge abundance of shells due to its unusual east-west orientation, allowing the shells to roll in and stay put. People come from far and wide to go shelling on Sanibel.
Sanibel is also the home to the “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, offering a ton of wildlife spotting, making the island a nature-lovers paradise. There is town life as well, but for the really funky part of the islands, head over the bridge to Captiva, where swirls of bright colours great you with quirky stores and bungalow-style restaurants and cafes.
Captiva is fun and unique, with places like the wacky Bubble Room, which celebrates Christmas all-year round, and known for their delicious cakes. Sunset Beach cocktails can be had at famed Mucky Duck, a Captiva institution. Best of all, though, is just hanging at one of the islands’ many beautiful beaches, and feeling completely removed from the hustle and bustle.
– by Corey Cook at Fifi and Hop and on social media at
A Captiva Island Florida sunset

A Captiva Florida sunset (Photo credit: Corey Cook)

Everglades, Florida

One of the most famous ecosystems in the southeast US is the Florida Everglades, as it contains the largest subtropical wetland in the country. Over 1.5 million acres has been designated as Everglades National Park, and is home to more than 70 threatened or endangered species.
The Everglades has such a unique ecology that it’s also received several international recognitions,  including International Biosphere Reserve, Wetland of International Importance, and World  Heritage Site (this place is special, y’all!).
Since the Everglades is so shallow, with sawgrass marsh as its primary feature, motorboats can’t operate in most areas. So the most novel – and fun! – way to explore it is by airboat. Airboating is a great eco-friendly option, since there’s no submerged propeller to damage underwater plants and wildlife (that gets extra points from this sustainability-minded traveler). It’s also loud, windy, and fast!
To get a little taste of what the Everglades has to offer, I recommend a tour with Everglades the  River of Grass Adventures. Just an hour’s drive from Fort Lauderdale and a cost of $50 for a  one-hour tour, it’s easily accessible and well-priced. The guides are super knowledgeable on ecology of the area, and there’s a good chance you’ll have some close encounters with local wildlife. Fingers crossed for an alligator sighting!
 – by Mary Beth Charles at and on social media at 

American Alligator Swimming through the Everglades (Image credit: Mary Beth Charles)

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge – Georgia and Florida

The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is as much fun to visit as it is to say (oh-kuh’-fuh-noh’-kee). Residing along the Georgia and Florida border in the Southeast United States, this renowned swamp covers 438,000 acres. The look and feel of this swamp is almost prehistoric, as alligators inhabit the waterways and Spanish moss hangs from the trees.

If you are a wildlife lover, be sure to bring your binoculars and camera. Besides the thousands of alligators in the swamp you might also see black bears, otters water moccasins and a whole host of interesting birds, including the osprey, sandhill crane and anhinga.

You can explore Okefenokee Swamp at your leisure from your car or the wilderness walkways, or take one of the many tours offered by the Park Service. You can even take a train tour aboard “The Lady Suwanee” along the Okefenokee Railroad.

I very highly recommend getting out of your car and taking the Adventure Walk to the Observation Tower. This boardwalk sits low – nearly on top of the swamp so wildlife viewing is fantastic. The Observation Tower is 90 feet high and allows wonderful panoramic views of the swamp.

– by Cherri Megasko at Bucket List Travel Club and on social media at 

Twin alligators at Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge on the Florida-Georgia border

Twin alligators at Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge on the Florida-Georgia border (Photo credit: Cherri Megasko)

Florida For a Southern States Road Trip

When you think of Florida, you probably think of Disney and gators, but there is so much more to it than that.  It’s home to the oldest city in the US (St Augustine), one of the least visited national parks in the country, natural springs with crystal clear water, and some of the best cave diving in the world.  And if none of that interests you, it’s got the Kennedy Space Center, beaches galore, some of the best state parks, and one of the most stylish cities in the country. 
I love visiting Florida, because just driving three hours can feel like an entirely new place.  There’s something for everyone whether you’re a city slicker or a beach bum, there’s a place for you. 
I love the colorful shops in Cocoa Beach, boating around Port Orange, relaxing at the Anastasia Island State Park, and exploring the springs. 
In Gainesville check out The Flying Biscuit for brunch and CYM for a delicious coffee. 
If you’re in St. Augustine, head to Kookaburra for a unique coffee experience and an awesome dinner at The Floridian after wandering the old city. 
Florida is an awesome place to visit because it is such a diverse state. 
 – by Megan Johnson at and on social media at 
Florida Lighthouse

Florida Lighthouse (Photo credit: Megan Johnson)

Louisiana and Texas for a Deep South USA Road Trip

We have just returned from a Louisiana road trip that started in with Mardi Gras in New Orleans and ended in Houston. I’ve not yet had time to write the articles for this Louisiana road trip which included visiting plantation country and cajun country. In the meantime, here are two other perspectives on visiting Louisiana and Texas.

New Orleans, Louisiana 

United States is a huge country with plenty of diversity, amongst which the southern states holds its own. The weather is warm, the food is spicy, the people are known for their “southern” hospitality and there are some unique rituals and festivals that are not observed anywhere else in the country.
New Orleans, the major city of Louisiana, stands out on its own because of the French colonialism hangover. The creole-cajun food where African (much like other southern states, Louisiana too had African slaves employed on plantations and cotton fields) and French traditions meet, the strains of Jazz music and the crowd puller Mardi Gras are all nods to its checkered past.
There are so many reasons to visit New Orleans, be it to witness the frenzy of Mardi Gras or the liveliness of New Orleans Jazz fest or to taste the amazing diversity in southern food.
However, the one thing that you should not miss is the French quarter neighborhood or Vieux Carre, the oldest district of the city and built by the French in 1718. The architecture is distinctly European with slatted windows, beautiful courtyards and fountains. It is a bustling neighborhood with bars, pubs, restaurants and local boutique shops. Bourbon street is the liveliest street which becomes the epicenter of drunken revelry during Mardi Gras while Canal street is where you get to see some of the best parades at that time.
French Quarter is home to the famous Jackson Square, formerly known as the Place d’Armes and later renamed after Andrew Jackson, the hero of the battle of New Orleans. Close by is the iconic Cafe du Monde serving beignets and coffee 24/7 (cash only please).
The French Quarter is a must visit if you are in NOLA and you can further enhance your experience by joining one of the many walking tours offered in the neighborhood.
– by Paroma Chakravarty at Year of the Monkey and on social media at
New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans, Louisiana (Photo credit: Paroma Chakravarty)

Austin, Texas 

Austin, the state capital of Texas, is a great place to visit and rightly deserves to be included in the Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Regions to visit in 2018.

Known predominantly for it’s eclectic music scene and the University of Texas at Austin, Austin also has enough parks and lakes to keep every outdoor enthusiast happy and are great for hiking, biking, swimming and kayaking.

It also has a blossoming food scene and currently serves up some of the best BBQ and Taco’s in the whole of the South! Add in an outdoor gallery and 2 annual music festivals, and you’ve got a city with something for everyone.

If you are planning a weekend in Austin, this guide has everything you need to know from things to do, where to stay and what to eat!

– by Vicki Garside at Make Time To See The World and on social media at 

Austin Texas (photo credit: Vicki Garside)

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A Guide To Planning a Trip To Alaska For Any Time of the Year

A Guide To Planning a Trip To Alaska For Any Time of the Year

When I think of Alaska, I think of The Simpsons Movie. I can’t help it – it’s one of my kids favourite movies and we have seen it many times. In the movie, Homer and his family flee to Alaska after accidentally polluting their hometown of Springfield. Even before seeing the movie, going to Alaska has always been a bucket list item for us.
I would love to take an Alaska cruise with the kids which several of our friends have already done. When Lonely Planet put it on their must-visit regions to visit in 2018, I knew we would have to visit sooner rather than later. Planning a trip to Alaska though is a daunting task. Luckily, I have met with the Alaska tourism board at a trade fair recently and I’ve solicited the advice of some travel blogger colleagues to get ideas for an Alaska itinerary together.
A Guide To Planning a Trip To Alaska For Both Summer and Winter | best time to visit Alaska | going to Alaska | Alaska Railroad Tours

Alaska is beautiful in every season not just summer.

Planning a Trip to Alaska

 The biggest gating factor for a planning a trip to Alaska seems to be revolve around the best time of year to visit Alaska. The best time to go to Alaska seems to be when you can get there!!

Summer in Alaska

 I automatically assumed summer would be ideal. You get long days with about 20 hours of sunshine (the so-called Midnight Sun like in Iceland) and milder weather with high temperatures around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
A Guide To Planning a Trip To Alaska For Both Summer and Winter | best time to visit Alaska | going to Alaska | Alaska Railroad Tours

Ship Creek Fishery supports Chinook Salmon and Silver Salmon runs in the heart of Anchorage

The downsides? We are talking peak season prices from about mid-June to mid-August. AND, rain. Coming from England I cannot cope with a rainy summer. After all, it’s why we escape England every summer in the first place. July and August are cloudy and rainy.
Did you know that there’s over a 50% chance of rain in Anchorage in August??
 And you get mosquitoes! I assumed it was too cold for mozzies. Nope. There are over 35 types of Alaskan mosquito all waiting in swarms to feast on some sweet human blood. So bring your DEET infused repellent. None of that namely-pamby organic insect repellent for these hardy mosquitoes.
So when is the best time to visit Alaska? There seems to be a sweet spot during the early weeks of June where the daylight is plentiful, the rains haven’t started and swarms of mosquitoes aren’t ravaging the land.  Similar to what we heard in Iceland though, the weather in Alaska is very variable.
A Guide To Planning a Trip To Alaska For Both Summer and Winter | best time to visit Alaska | going to Alaska | Alaska Railroad Tours

Native Alaskan culture

Winter in Alaska

Or, you can visit in Winter (pretty much the rest of the year that isn’t considered summer). Winter is traditionally not considered the best time to visit Alaska but there is still plenty to do! You can see the world-famous Iditarod sled dog race, hunt for the Northern Lights or enjoy winter sports like snow-shoeing ice-skating, skiing and snowmobiling.
A Guide To Planning a Trip To Alaska For Both Summer and Winter | best time to visit Alaska | going to Alaska | Alaska Railroad Tours

The Aurora at Eagle River

Popular Events

In Fairbanks, every March there is the World Ice Art Championship which reminds me of the preview of the Harbin Ice Art festival we saw in Washington D.C.. At the Fairbanks Championship though, you have tens of thousands of visitors who come to see the work of 75 teams of ice artists.
The Iditarod Sled Dog race starts from Anchorage in March of every year. It is one of Alaska’s biggest sporting events and a test of endurance for man and dog alike. There are two routes the race takes (a Northern route and a Southern route) which gets alternated annually. Each route covers about 1000 miles of frozen Alaskan landscape. The mushing teams can take up two weeks to finish the race.
A Guide To Planning a Trip To Alaska For Both Summer and Winter | best time to visit Alaska | going to Alaska | Alaska Railroad Tours

The Iditarod dog sled race starts in Anchorage

Also in Anchorage in February you get the annual Fur Rendezvous festival (the Fur Rondy). Over the course of 10 days, there are a  lot of activities, a carnival, a running with the reindeer (based on the famous Running with the Bulls in Pamplona), snowshoe softball and an Alaskan Native Blanket Toss and tribal dancing.

The Alaska Railroad

If you love a good rail tour, check out Alaska Railroad’s Aurora Winter Train. This train goes from Anchorage to Talkeetna, through the Denali National Park all the way to Fairbanks.
A Guide To Planning a Trip To Alaska For Both Summer and Winter | best time to visit Alaska | going to Alaska | Alaska Railroad Tours

The Alaska Railroad may be more expensive than driving but you will be able to enjoy the scenery!

If you time it right, you can do the Hurricane Turn Train which runs the first Thursday of the month. This train goes from Anchorage past Talkeetna into the back country which seems to be another 55 miles north to the town of Hurricane. You can either stay on the train or get off and go hunting and skiing. Perfect for mixed ability families like ours – my daughter and I would stay on the train and drink hot chocolate while my son and husband can go skiing in the near-Arctic.
A Guide To Planning a Trip To Alaska For Both Summer and Winter | best time to visit Alaska | going to Alaska | Alaska Railroad Tours

The Alaska Railroad runs regularly in both summer and winter.

 The Alaska Railroad Tours people can even arrange for you to have a guided day tour from Fairbanks of Denali National Park. These tours run on Saturdays. You will get to experience the 6 million acres of Denali with few people but lots of wildlife and snow. Note that unlike Yellowstone and other national parks, Denali National Park doesn’t allow private cars on its one and only road. You have to take the tour buses (with an option of tour lengths and narrated/non-narrated).

An Alaska Itinerary

By far the most popular way to see Alaska  is on a cruise ship. In fact, about a million visitors a year visit Alaska on a cruise. We would love to do an Alaska cruise with kids one-way but would definitely want to tack on an extra week (at least!) to explore the state.

Getting to Alaska

Getting to Alaska usually involves getting to Anchorage.
  1. There are plenty of flights in and out of Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.
  2. As discussed, you can take a cruise into Anchorage itself which is a fantastically picturesque way to enter into the city.
  3. If you feel like being adventurous, the Alaska Marine Highway has state-operated ferries that run along the coast. You can take your ferry (with your car) from Bellingham, Washington State up to Anchorage.
  4. For the ultimate road trip, take the Alaska Canada Highway which runs more than 200 miles from the British Columbia border to Anchorage. Built in 1947 as part of World War II defines efforts, it was said to be an engineering marvel to rival the Panama Canal.
A Guide To Planning a Trip To Alaska For Both Summer and Winter | best time to visit Alaska | going to Alaska | Alaska Railroad Tours

Anchorage has a beautiful setting surrounded by water and mountains.

5 Popular Things To Do in Alaska

  • Wildlife Viewing – You are spoiled for choice if you enjoy watching wildlife such as moose, beaver, bear and wolves. For guaranteed wildlife spotting, you have the Alaska Zoo located in a forest near Anchorage, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, a conservation centre a bit further from Anchorage and the Alaska SeaLife Center, a marine research facility in Seward.
A Guide To Planning a Trip To Alaska For Both Summer and Winter | best time to visit Alaska | going to Alaska | Alaska Railroad Tours

Watch out for wildlife on the road in Alaska!

  • Explore the National Parks – From Anchorage you have access to five national parks – Kenai Fjords (see whales and otters), Katmai (get your fill of bears), Lake Clark (bear viewing and hiking, kayaking and rafting), Wrangell-St. Elias (see giant glaciers) and Denali (home to America’s tallest mountain).
  • Enjoy all that water provided by the lakes and glaciers with rafting tours,  jet boat safaris, kayaking and canoeing tours. If you are into fishing, Anchorage is considered one of America’s best fishing spots. Grab a wetsuit, even stand up paddle boarding (SUP) is becoming a popular activity.
  • Festivals and Events – The summer has lots of festivals happening like the Alaska State Fair. In winter, you get events like the Fur Rondy mentioned above.
  • Flightseeing – Alaska is a massive state but has only 10,000 miles of road. You can charter a small plane to take you into the wilderness and the flight itself is the real trip not the destination. It’s expensive but worth it!
My husband is one of those people that will not do anything without checking it out on TripAdvisor.  Here’s a link to TripAdvisor Alaska if you, too, need to know what conventional wisdom recommends for planning a trip to Alaska.
 For your amusement, here are the Simpsons going to Alaska:

Collective Wisdom: Planning A Trip To Alaska

I have asked four of my well-travelled colleagues for their recommendations on going to Alaska. I hope these travel bloggers ideas help you plan an unforgettable Alaska itinerary.

A Birthday Trip to Remember

My husband’s 50th birthday gift was a trip to wherever he wanted. Finally, after a couple of years, he made his decision: Alaska. Over the course of ten summer days that year, we were able to taste the monumental experience that the Last Frontier gives to first-time and repeat visitors alike.
There is no describing the primal grandeur, the vast sense of elemental wildness and space, and the hale and hearty practicality of Alaskans, who refer to everywhere else as “Outside.”
Follow our lead and base in Anchorage for a couple of days. Rent a car and drive up toward Fairbanks. On your way, stop in to pay your respects to “The Great One” – Denali. Head back south toward the Kenai Peninsula. Make time away from “combat fishing” in the streams to head out on big water from Seward or Homer. Tromp around a glacier, see puffins and silver salmon, look for the Big Five: grizzly, moose, wolf, caribou and mountain Dall sheep. Wander into a roadhouse for drinks, gullet-sticking grub and the particular form of verbal interplay that Alaskans call “bullchitna.”
You always leave Alaska wishing you’d had more time.
– by Betsy Wuebker who writes at Passing Thru; find her also on 
Kenai Alaska landscape

That glorious Alaskan landscape (Photo credit: Betsy Wuebker)

Alaska is the perfect destination for travelers who love nature and have a sense of adventure. Whether it is kayaking alongside whales, hiking through its many parks, or checking out Gold Rush history, there’s plenty to do and lots of gorgeous views to enjoy.
Luxe 5 Star Hotels in Las Vegas For Backpacker Hostel Prices

Luxe 5 Star Hotels in Las Vegas For Backpacker Hostel Prices

Update:  November 22, 2017 – This Hotwire Deal has now SOLD OUT.

How would you like to run away to Las Vegas for a few days and be pampered at one of its big 5 star hotels for $50/night? Yes, me too! What a deal! Travel website Hotwire have put the big Las Vegas 5 star hotels on sale at $50 a night! Now that’s so hot it’s practically sizzling!

Hotwire’s Million Dollar Deal

Hotwire is an online travel service provider that’s offering up 5 star hotels in Las Vegas for $50/night. It’ll do so until the consumer (ie., you the public) have saved a million dollars. Considering the average 5 star hotel room in Vegas goes for $400, that is a considerable savings.

It also means that a million dollars won’t last that long in a city like Vegas! If you want this deal, you have to book over the next few days. On the plus side, you can start you Thanksgiving break all relaxed knowing you’ve got a Vegas short weekend just on the other side of all that family madness.

The small print:

  • You have to travel between December 8 and the 28th.
  • You can only book 2 days maximum.

During this crazy December holiday period though, a 48 hour break can do wonders for your stress levels!

Luxe 5 Star Hotels in Las Vegas For Backpacker Hostel Prices

No, not Venice but The Venetian hotel in Las Vegas.

You can book on Hotwire itself. You’ll find out which hotel you have at check out. Almost all of the big names are participating. It’s like 5 star hotel roulette in Vegas! (very appropriate for the destination!). In my opinion, I have found all of the Vegas luxury hotels fabulous in their own way.

Luxe 5 Star Hotels in Las Vegas For Backpacker Hostel Prices

A view of the Las Vegas strip at night never gets old. All those lights, people are energy!

Still not convinced by Hotwire’s crazy amazing deal?

Top 5 Reasons For a Las Vegas Short Break

  1. It’s Vegas baby!
  2. Pamper yourself during the Christmas super busy holiday season.
  3. Toast away your cares lying on a sun lounger by the pool.
  4. Be the envy of everyone when you show up relaxed and tanned at Christmas events.
  5. A blissed out you will be able to cope with the minor stresses that accompany the holiday season.

I’ve been to Vegas before and have stayed at the MGM and Mandalay Bay, respectively. We enjoyed lots of the extra curricular activities that Vegas has to offer besides gambling – shopping, dining, hanging by the pool etc.

A short break in Las Vegas felt like an entire world away because it was just so different from my real world. I can’t wait to do it again!!

This post is in partnership with Hotwire. As always, my opinions remain my own.


5 Fun Things To Do in Sausalito California During a Quick Visit

5 Fun Things To Do in Sausalito California During a Quick Visit

Like many of our best discoveries, we stumbled upon the charming little town of Sausalito accidentally. Our children were complaining about walking all over the city of San Francisco, and how much their little tootsies hurt.  I’m sure they were angling for a return to the hotel and some downtime involving an iPad, but we outfoxed them with a double-decker tour bus ride. The San Francisco double decker tour bus crosses the Golden Gate Bridge and then turns around in Sausalito for the return trip. In spite of being huddled together in pain from ears that were ringing from the whistling wind of the San Francisco Bay, we saw enough of the town that we knew we had to return for a proper visit. A little research discovered that there were plenty of fun things to do and places to eat in Sausalito.

Fun Things To Do in Sausalito California During a Quick Visit | What to do in Sausalito | Sausalito Things to Do | Where to eat in Sausalito

Fun things to do in Sausalito with kids

What To Do in Sausalito

Visit the Sausalito houseboats

The 400+ Sausalito houseboats are located at the northern end of town in five marinas. If you have a car, it’s an easy exit of Highway 101. Enter via Gate 5, Gate 6 or Gate 6 1/2 road. I didn’t think it had the picture perfect charm of the Venice Beach canal-side houses but these houseboats are attractive in their own way.

Fun Things To Do in Sausalito California During a Quick Visit | What to do in Sausalito | Sausalito Things to Do | Where to eat in Sausalito

The Sausalito houseboats are both varied in architecture and very colorful.

Fun fact: Otis Redding wrote his classic hit “Sitting On the Dock By the Bay” in 1967 when he was living on a Sausalito houseboat.

If you are going to be in Sausalito in September, check out the Sausalito houseboat open homes tour that runs annually. The homes tour is popular and so you need to book it early.

Get on your  bikes!

We saw plenty of people cycling across the Bay Bridge but those winds are fierce! We decided not to follow their lead because it would have been too much for the children. OK, both the children and me, lets be honest – I’m a fair weather cyclist.

Fun Things To Do in Sausalito California During a Quick Visit | What to do in Sausalito | Sausalito Things to Do | Where to eat in Sausalito

Cycling is an easy and fun way to explore Sausalito

For an easier bike ride, the Sausalito Multi-Use Path is a wide paved bike path that has been converted over an old railroad track (similar to the Shining Sea bike path in Upper Cape Cod). We found just like the Shining Sea bike path, you share the space with pedestrians and runners.

Go wine tasting in Sausalito

After all that exercise, it’s only natural to want to collapse on a sofa for some refreshment. The town has wine tasting opportunities thanks to its location near Napa Valley. We had the wine and the kids had some snacks.

Fun Things To Do in Sausalito California During a Quick Visit | What to do in Sausalito | Sausalito Things to Do | Where to eat in Sausalito

Napa wine tasting is conveniently located near the Sausalito ferry.

Browse the art galleries of Sausalito

Or, better yet, multitask with an art gallery and wine tasting combo.

Fun Things To Do in Sausalito California During a Quick Visit | What to do in Sausalito | Sausalito Things to Do | Where to eat in Sausalito

I’m a firm believer that wine tasting paired with art gallery browsing makes you more appreciative of the art.

The art galleries seem to be on the Bridgeway and Caledonia Street. FYI, the locals wanted to keep Caledonia street away from the tourist hordes so there was a time in the 1980’s and 1990’s when it wasn’t listed on the tourist maps.

Where To Eat in Sausalito with Kids

Among the many Sausalito things to do, you have to include hanging out in a good restaurant as one of its best pleasures. For a little town, there are a lot of great dining options that are also kid-friendly.

The Spinnaker is near the Sausalito Ferry and has great views of the harbour from the restaurant’s floor to ceiling windows. Expect lots of great fish and seafood, as well as some pasta and meat dishes. There is a children’s menu with the crowd-pleasing option of burgers and fries. You get amazing sunsets (so long as the weather is cooperating) at dinnertime.

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This great position in the harbour gives Spinnaker its fabulous views.

The Napa Valley Burger Company has a large selection of burgers (including a junior-sized version) and an even larger selection of wine and beer to keep the parents happy.

If you have had your share of sourdough bread, then there are some great ethnic restaurants choices.

We love our Mexican food as you know. For lunch, we went to Copita located conveniently to the Bridgeway. Voted Best Mexican in the San Francisco area, we can attest the tacos are delicious. Copita is owned by celebrity chef, Joanne Weir, who has many books and television shows to her credit.

Avatars is another cool option that serves up Indian-Mexican fusion food. Seriously. I’ve never heard of this combination but its ingenious and delicious. For example, the Punjabi enchilada is a curry stuffed enchilada served with Basmati rice and peas. For the less adventurous child, there’s a children’s menu which offers up the simple pleasures of a grilled cheese sandwich.

Lappert’s Ice Cream is a family-run chain of ice cream (and gourmet coffee) stores. The flavours will whisk you off to far-off places like Manila Mango and Mexican chocolate cinnamon swirl.

Where To Stay in Sausalito California

The Casa Madrona is a small 4 star boutique hotel with great harbor views in Sausalito. It’s a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World. With children you can book a hillside cottage suite. Staff will help you with your luggage but it would be more sensible to leave most of your bags in the car.

Getting To Sausalito California

Getting to Sausalito is pretty easy to reach from San Francisco via ferry or by car. One of the ferries to Sausalito goes from Pier 39/Pier 41 at tourist-central Fisherman’s Wharf.  The ferry conveniently stops at Sausalito’s main thoroughfare, Bridgeway.

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The San Francisco – Sausalito ferry

Alternatively if you are driving, Sausalito is the first stop across the San Francisco Bay after the Golden Gate Bridge. We stopped off on our way out of San Francisco to Muir Woods and further on to Napa Valley.

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