Welcome to my scratch of virtual land. Here you'll find travel tips, travel narratives, destination explorations, and much more. To stay in the loop, join my crew by filling out the form below.

(Joining means you'll get a weekly email with new posts, happenings, and more. Find out more here.)

A Message to My Mormon Friends and Family

I want to talk to you. I want to talk to you about something important.

I feel incapable of getting there. I don’t even know exactly what it is I’m trying to talk about. It feels like a wild flailing on my part, trying to write about something that feels vital but that I can’t quite reach. I sincerely appreciate any willingness you have to stick around through my poor attempts to talk about … this. About this thing that feels so crucial to say.

I want to talk to you. But …

I do not want to talk to you about the shooting in Orlando.

I do not have to. You already know.

Don’t you?

I want to talk to you about GPS navigation.

For many years of my life I simply felt lost. I assume that I’ve damaged whatever part of the brain draws mental maps and remembers the rapid-fire directions of the gas station attendant. Or, more likely, I just inherited the same genetic trait that once caused my mother to wander for six hours in the few square miles of Island Park trying to find a cabin, repeatedly saying “It’s an adventure!”

Needless to say, the fact that I made it to and from Los Angeles feels miraculous to me. I have my GPS device to thank. It has guided me through each step of this journey of several hundred miles—and in the years since I bought it, it has guided me through road trips that spanned more than a dozen states. Being able to follow the simple, clear directions – albeit with its occasionally aggravating mispronunciations, like “Stocker” as “Stoe-ker” or its insistence that it’s “Martin Luther King Jay Arr Boulevard” – has been a tremendous relief.

I feel like I couldn’t have made it here without it. Factually, I realize this is not true. I could have looked up directions, wrestled with maps, juggled print-outs, asked for directions (over and over), and probably found valuable back-alley sites. It also would have driven me crazy. It’s not impossible to navigate without trusting the voice of the lady in my GPS device, but I am so grateful that I don’t have to.

I want to talk to you about the fact that I am not straight.

Read more.

The Best Attractions for Your Next Phoenix Trip

A few months back, I went on a two-week road trip during which my first destination was Phoenix. I was surprised by how much there was to do in this desert city; my two days there didn’t give me nearly enough time to see everything worth exploring. If I were to go back again, there would be many destinations to revisit and a number of sites I didn’t get to that I would love to spend time at. Here are the main attractions and activities I plan to prioritize during my next trip — and that I think you should prioritize, too.

The Right Place to Stay

In the late summer, the average high temperature in Phoenix is in excess of 100 degrees. This scorching heat, along with the sprawling nature of the city, make choosing a centrally located Phoenix hotel especially important. For me, budget is always a primary concern, which means that conveniently located but low-cost options like the Downtown Holiday Inn Express work well for me. Of course, there are accommodations for various other travel styles, including luxury stays at hotels like the Crowne Plaza.

The Natural Wonders of the Desert

Image via Flickr by minniemouseaunt

The Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix house hundreds of plants native to the Arizona desert. During my last stay, I had such a tight budget that I was only able to see the free exhibits, but even those were spectacularly gorgeous. The gardens also host various events, like concerts, ballet performances, and flashlight tours, throughout the year.

The botanical gardens are a bit out of the way, but it’s just a two-minute drive to Papago Park and Hole in the Rock, which offer some zero-cost natural beauty. One of my favorite memories was doing yoga at Hole in the Rock. Facing one way, I could see the cityscape of Phoenix, while the other had me looking at a vast and beautiful desert. There are several other hiking areas that I’d want to explore the next time I’m there, too, including Camelback Mountain, South Mountain Park, and Cortez Lake.

The Limitless Museums

I barely grazed the surface of the city’s museums in my last visit. In downtown Phoenix, there’s the famed Heard Museum, which has one of the best presentations of Native American history and culture in the entire country. Also downtown is the Phoenix Art Museum, a high-class museum with both contemporary and historic pieces of art. Then, just a five-minute drive from downtown, in the Heritage Park neighborhood, there are the Arizona Science Center and the Children’s Museum of Phoenix.

But there’s one museum worth special attention. I spent a full day there, but that wasn’t nearly enough. The museum is the world-famous Musical Instrument Museum, and while it’s a little out of the way (about 25 minutes from downtown), it really is a destination you can spend multiple days at. There are hours and hours of audio and video presentations, an experiential musical gallery, and displays of over 6,000 different instruments from around the world.

What about you? Have you been to Phoenix lately? Are you planning to head there soon? Leave your thoughts and recommendations in the comments below.

Unique Places to View NYC’s Skyline

This post originally appeared on IHG and is reproduced here with the permission of the content owner.

The Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, One World Trade Center…all of offer exceptional views of NYC, but only with some major trade-offs. You could wait hours in line just to reach the top, and the cost of admission is as sky-high as the observation deck. Plus, you’ll find the same exact views in every tour guide and on about half of all NYC postcards. Visiting New York City is breath taking, make sure you are getting the most out of your trip whether your hotel is within walking distance to Times Square or discovering more unique places off the beaten path.

So where should you go to see New York in a new way? Fortunately, there are several other locations which let you see the NYC skyline from a fresh perspective. While they aren’t featured in many city guides, we’ve put together a list of cool and unique locations with unbelievable skyline views. These are more than just tourist trap observation decks; each one doubles as a memorable New York experience, whether you’ll be enjoying a relaxing stroll in the park, learning about natural history, riding a famous carousel, listening to live music, or viewing some of the world’s finest artwork.

Keep this guide handy as you explore New York City from top to bottom. We’ve highlighted some local spots with seriously exceptional views of the city that will remind you why NYC is so special.


Read more.

Hotels for Luxury and Location in New York City

New York City is filled to the brim with must-see attractions. To be sure that you’re well-rested and well-located for enjoying all that the city has to offer, choosing the right hotel is vital. Regardless of which part of NYC you want to focus on, there are excellent hotels to suit your needs. Here are five comfortable hotels located in major neighborhoods.

Greenwich Village: Washington Square

The Washington Square Hotel offers all the basic amenities, from free Wi-Fi and an on-site gym to spacious bathrooms and pillow-top mattresses. The Washington Square Hotel also offers historic appeal: Bob Dylan, Ernest Hemingway, The Rolling Stones, and a number of other prominent figures have stayed there. This hotel is right across the street from Washington Square Park, just over a block from a subway station, and within walking distance of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Blue Note Jazz Club, and dozens of other attractions.

Read more.

The Most Beautiful Indie Hotels in Kailua Kona

This week, my mother and little brother went on a trip to Hawaii. Their destination was Leia, the city where we lived for a year when I was seven. It’s a beautiful region, but if I ever make it back to the islands, I want to explore new areas rather than sticking to old favorites. Among the most appealing regions to explore is Kailua Kona, a resort city on the western shore of the “Big Island.”

Of course, finding the right hotel for the trip is crucial. Here are five of the most beautiful and well-situated indie hotels in Kailua Kona.

Uncle Billy’s at Kona Bay

If you’re looking for easy access to some of Kailua Kona’s less crowded beaches, Uncle Billy’s Kona Bay Hotel is your best bet. This beautiful hotel includes overflowing gardens, fantastic views, and a location close to both shopping and the shoreline. Nearby attractions abound: For water lovers, the Kona community Aquatic Center — a family focused activity center — is within walking distance, while ocean activities like sailing, snorkeling, and surfing are just a few miles off.

Read more.

Best Luxury Hotels at Marina Del Rey

Just under an hour outside of Los Angeles, you’ll find an intimate resort town called Marina Del Rey. Its famous beaches — including Marina Beach and Dockweiler State Beach — and waterfront attractions are sure to make this the perfect destination for any ocean-lover. One way to make the trip even more memorable is to choose a luxurious hotel that serves as an attraction in its own right. Here are five of the best hotels in Marina Del Rey for luxury travelers.

One Block from Marina Beach: Jamaica Bay

Every room in the Jamaica Bay Inn features free Wi-Fi, premium bedding, a flat-screen TV, and a spacious bathroom. Each guest receives free fruit and coffee in the morning and can eat at the classy Beachside Restaurant and Bar during the day. If you’re looking for something to do, you can rent a bike from the hotel or book a lesson at the nearby Aloha Brothers Surf School. But that’s not what makes the Jamaica Bay Inn so special. This hotel puts you within one block of Marina Beach. The nightly price starts at $340.

Read more.

The Most Memorable Hotels in Monterey

Regardless of what type of traveler you are, Monterey has something to offer. You may come for the beautiful California coast, the city’s location in the heart of wine country, the nearby state and national parks (including Pinnacles and Fort Ord Dunes), or one of the many attractions in Monterey itself. The city offers everything from whale watching at Fisherman’s Wharf to 6,000-plus sea life exhibits at the famed Monterey Aquarium to local art at the Museum of Monterey.

Whatever brings you to this beautiful city, picking the right accommodation can make or break your trip. The hotels in this article range from budget-friendly to luxurious, and each has its own style and appeal. So, without further ado, let’s look at some of the best Monterey hotels found on Hipmunk.

Beachfront Beauty: Monterey Tides

The Monterey Tides, a Joie de Vivre Boutique Hotel, has more than its fair share of amenities, ranging from a 42″ HDTV and mini-fridge in each room to a 24-hour fitness center and heated pool. The single most appealing thing about the hotel, however, is its location directly on the beach. It takes less than a minute to get from the hotel’s front door to the sand — and if you care to go a bit further, you’ll find Fisherman’s Wharf and Pebble Beach Shopping Center within just a few minutes’ walk. When you get back to the hotel, you can enjoy the nightly fireside cocktails to cap off your day.

Read more.