The 62nd official national park in the U.S, located in the Chihuahuan Desert in Southern New Mexico, is White Sands National Park. It’s filled with soft and white sand dunes comprised of gypsum making it the world’s largest gypsum dune field. The entire area used to be underwater 250 million years ago! The dunes were created from selenite crystals that formed during the Ice Age and over time, the selenite crystals eventually wore down into gypsum sand. The effects of wind and rain leaves the pure gypsum sand to blow around and create these incredible dunes.The dune fields cover about 275 square miles with 115 square miles located within White Sands National Park, and the rest is military land that is often used for missile testing (crazy right!)
WHERE IS WHITE SANDS NATIONAL PARK?
White Sands is a bit out of the way & kinda in the middle of nowhere. Located near the border of Mexico and Texas, the closest airport is located in El Paso, Texas (1.5 hours away) FYI The first first 5 miles of the road is paved and the last 3 miles are made of compact gypsum sand (might want to think about what kind of car you take)
WHERE TO STAY
AlamogordoThe closest town to White Sands National Park. I would recommend staying at a simple Holiday Inn or Motel 6 located in this small town. You will spend the majority of your time out and about exploring White Sands so all you really need is a clean bed and bathroom! However, if motels aren’t your thing (trust me, I get it) then there are a couple airbnb options!
Las Cruces A larger city with more options . Downside is the 1 hour drive to White Sands . This is where we chose to stay since the first leg of our trip was a direct drive from LA — Las Cruces (12 hour driving) If our driving day wasn’t that long, I would’ve much rather prefer staying in Alamogordo!
Temperatures vary greatly throughout the seasons so make sure you research the weather patterns ahead of time. Spring is the best season to go with the most stable weather patterns or even September October in the Fall. Summer // Winter- You will deal with extreme weather that’s unbearable. The average weather during the summer is 95F and can spike to 110. Winter nights can get so cold to 20 F. In September, there is an annual White Sands Balloon Festival! How cool!
P.S Did you know w there are free national park days? Click here to find out what day is free to visit!
WHAT TO DO THERE
Campsite 5 is the gem with untouched sand dunes. Like the ones you see in movies without any footprints. Keep in mind you do have to hike 1 mile each way to get to the camp site. I would not recommend camping during the winter or summer time (due to the extreme temperatures)
Chill & Picnic
Soooo much space to explore and spend the day just enjoying this incredible space. Bring a blanket, food and have yourself a dreamy little picnic!
The park has 5 established trails ranging from easy to strenuous:
Interdune Boardwalk – easy stroll, 0.4 miles round trip, accessible to wheelchairs and strollers
Playa Trail – easy trail, 0.5 miles round trip, at the end you have the opportunity to see what this area looked like 10,000 years ago and learn about the giants that once roamed this area!
Dune Life Nature Trail – moderate hike, 1 mile loop, kit foxes, badgers, birds, rodents, and reptiles all live in this area and you can often either see them or their tracks
Backcountry Camping Trail – moderate hike, 2 mile round-trip, hike through the heart of the dunes
Alkali Flat Trail – strenuous hike, 5 mile round-trip, you’ll be hiking up and down dunes along the edge of the final remnant of Lake Otero
I mean nowadays, we are all about instagrammable shots & hands down, you can’t go wrong with a photo here. The bright white sand pairs perfectly with any color outfits. Hopefully you witness an epic sunset on top of that.
Embrace that inner child in you and get a work out in! Bring or buy a sled/ smooth saucer- they sell it at the park for a higher price, but if you plan ahead you can purchase one at a Walmart for an affordable deal
The national park offers a 45 min- 60 min ranger guided sunset tour for FREE! You learn first hand about the geology, animals and plants. The hike is a leisurely 1 mile long. Bonus: pets are allowed to join! Meet near the sunset stroll sign parking area, a 5-mile (8.05 km) drive from the fee station. Click here for more information
THINGS TO BRING WITH YOU
Sunscreen: There is absolutely zero shade here, it might feel like you’re under the sun burning
Water: you never want to be dehydrated out in the middle of a desert so load up on a ton of water in the trunk for emergencies
Snacks: there aren’t any restaurants anywhere in the national park so bring your own so you don’t get hangry!
$20 Entrance Fee // $40 annual pass // US Military members remains free
You can easily get lost in the sands… I know it sounds a bit ridiculous but pay attention to markers and where you’ve parked your car. Once you explore deep enough, the entire area blends in
Check for closure before you go. The national park closes for military uses aka missile testing.
Do NOT hike in the heat. Don’t even try it…. There is zero shade there and extremely unsafe to hike in the heat.
Cell service is a bit unstable there so if you are expecting an important call or need service, you might not be able to do that here
As a safety precaution, drop a pin on Google maps to wherever you need to get back to, whether that’s a tent, parking lot or start of the trail.
Stuck in LA and NEED to get out of here? Wishing you were on winter wonderland trip in Finland? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered with a hidden gem! This location is not your typical Big Bear Mountain or Mountain High… It’s a lot more secluded, quiet and delivers just as gorgeous of a snowy backdrop view. Depending on what season you’re visiting you can expect a full on winter wonderland or a lovely camping ground during the summer. Yessss I know we are in a pandemic… BUT that should not stop you from exploring your backyard SAFELY. This is the year to spend more time and develop a stronger connection to nature.
Mount San Jacinto, located in Riverside county east of LA is a California state park perfect for a day or weekend getaway. It’s tucked next to Palm Spring/ Coachella Valley. The drive is relatively easy and it doesn’t get too windy. There was ice on the road, but as long as you are going slowly and carefully you should be ok. Multiple times throughout the day, there are snow plow trucks going back and forth cleaning the roads and keeping it well paved.
WHERE TO STAY
You can easily do a day trip, however there are plenty of beautiful A-Frame cabins to stay at through Airbnb or bed and breakfast!
There are plenty of pull off points to hop out and play with snow. It’s the perfect destination to social distance during this pandemic and who doesn’t love a day out playing in nature. You can make snow angels, build a snowman, do a photoshoot or have a snowball fight! In the other seasons, there’s plenty of hikes to do!
We came after a full night of snowfall and by morning, the entire mountain was covered in fresh snow. Every inch was untouched, the snow was fluffy/ clean and it was truly a winter wonderland! Bring your own food, hot cocoa/coffee and set up a cozy picnic inside the car and have a romantic day watching the snowfall!
P.S Be mindful of the weather conditions BEFORE you start your journey here. Check the Cal Trans App or online maps for the travel restrictions here. You will see on the map that each point of destination will have a tire restriction. R2 means you can drive up in a 4 wheel drive without any chains (however you MUST carry them in the car) and R3 means chains are REQUIRED. This is for your own safety so please do your research before you put yourself in a dangerous situation.
As we headed back West on our cross country road trip, we stayed in Santa Fe for 2 nights and researched on what we could do around there, and damn, we were so pleasantly surprised with this destination.
Today’s blog post is about a very sacred & special place… drumroll please…. Bandelier National Monument! Bandelier National Monument encompasses more than 30,000 acres of historial desert mesas and canyons and easily became one of my favorite USA national parks. It is only 1 hour West of Santa Fe- super feasible to do a day trip out here. The monument preserves Ancestral Puebloans structures that dates back to 1150- 1600 AD- almost 15,000 years ago! You will have the opportunity to discover cave dwellings, petroglyphs, and rock paintings. Today, the people of Chochiti Pueblo are considered to be the most direct descendents of the natives’ ancestral puebloans.
As you drive into the park, you will come across some viewpoints where you can park and hop out to take some photos, which I don’t think its worth stopping. Keep in mind of your time here. Ultimately, you want to get down to the main Visitor Center area to start the adventurous hike so make sure you make your way down there to see the cave dwelling and archeological sites.
Parking is extremely limited once you get down to the Visitor Center area (where the start of the hike up to the cave dwellings are) In the summertime, you’ll have to park at the top and take a shuttle down, but in the winter time, you can pull in directly to the main lot. Once you get down to the main parking lot, you will see a visitor center where you can learn about the early inhabitants that dates back thousands of years. From there, you can start your hiking adventure!
Main Ruins loop trail is 1.2 miles. You start the trail right by the visitor center and make your way through archeological sites and cave dwellings. It’s easily worth seeing even if you’re limited on time here- it requires very minimal hiking/short walk. I’d say average 30 min round trip. As you continue on the trail, you will see a sign that says “Long House,” which is another collection of Pueblo Ruins. They use to be 4 story houses built along side the cliffs. You can add on an extra mile & the trail will lead you on to see the Alcove House previously known as the Ceremonial Cave. The Alcove House is the tallest one, which served 25 people at one point and is 140 ft above ground…. so be prepared to do a lot of climbing (4 sections of long ladders )! P.S look into weather conditions before coming here. The ladders are closed off if there is abundant snowfall. If you have a fear of heights, you might want to skip out on the Alcove House.
There are 3 short ladders to climb right at the beginning of this trail. Definitely give those a try and if you are up for an epic adventure, challenge yourself to the 140ft ladder by the Alcove House. You can tell the ancestral puebloans were much shorter based on how small these caves were. You are able to freely climb up, explore the space, observe the interior of the caves. The ancestral puebloans used these spaces to escape from the extreme weather changes. PLEASE only enter the caves that have ladders. Be respectful of the historical preservation here!
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Entrance Fee: $25 (you can use your national park pass for this too!)
Parking is LIMITED. It’s such a small lot and fills up quickly. My advice: head there early in the AM!
Check the weather conditions before you go. Ancient Pueblo sites have closures that are dependent on weather conditions so check before you go!
Pack your own food and drinks to have a lovely picnic there. There is a cafe on site, but the menu is small.
New Orleans, most notably known for its epic Mardi Gra celebration, has earned quite a wild reputation, but it’s sooo much more than that. There’s alot to learn & experience- from the cultural traditions to the food & history. The city is a blend of Creole, French, Cajun all intertwined and represented throughout every inch of the city. Music flows down every street you turn, every dish is a work of art and you are left in awe from the historical architecture.
We spent a couple days here and squeezed in as much as we could. You can definitely get a good sense of the city in 24 hours so it’s the perfect place for a weekend getaway. Below is my guide and recommendation for your next stop in New Orleans. Feel free to comment down below with any questions or find me on my Instagram where I post daily content!
Drive or fly? You choose! Louis Armstrong International Airport is very well connected with tons of flights daily and it is only 15 minutes away from the city center. Ubers are accessible & safe to take from there. Minimum airport fee to and from is around $35 each and dependent on high-demand periods.
Since we were on our cross country road trip, we drove. I don’t think there is a single person out there that enjoys driving into and around busy cities. The annoying traffic, complicated parking signs, confusing one way streets, & worst of all, parking is a shitshow. I recommend going directly to your hotel parking lot or a reliable lot and pay up that awful price and just leave your car there for the entire duration of your trip.
Driving your own vehicle around the city will give you a HEADACHE. Don’t even try it. I suggest using New Orleans public transport! Riding the street cars (only $3 per person for the whole day! You can hop on/off as you wish) adds to the whole experience and on top of that, you’d be supporting a local business. New Orleans is a small-scale city, so if you stay somewhere centrally located, it’s pretty accessible by foot!
Fun Fact: St. Charles street car is the oldest continuously operating street car line in the world!
WHEN TO VISIT
February- May is when the celebrations are in full swing and the weather is ideal. You’ll be visiting with thousands of other people so be mindful of the crowds. If you’re looking to save $$, travel here in the summer. The summer heat and humidity can feel oppressive, which is why hotel rates will be much lower. If you’re not interested in the celebrations, I recommend coming in December and January when the weather is chilly, but manageable. Way less tourists & you feel like you have the city to yourself.
WHERE TO STAY
I did a ton of research on where to stay and debated on whether or not I wanted to be on Bourbon street… and thank god I didn’t. I recommend staying right on the edge of French Quarter so you get some peace and quiet at night. Magnolia Hotel was the perfect location. It’s steps away from the French Quarter so we were able to walk everywhere! It’s removed from the French Quarter craziness/sketchyness. Magnolia hotel is sophisticated, clean, cozy & modern. The bed was comfortable, staff was friendly & professional & covid protocol was implemented. The only downside is parking. There are ONLY 6 free parking spaces right in front of the hotel, but there is a lot you can park at across the street for $30 a night. I know.. so pricy, but that’s how it is in every city.
Yes, we’ve all heard of Cafe Du Monde, but Cafe Beignet is where the locals go! Beignets are basically a French “donut”- deep fried pastry covered in powdered sugar. The beignets here are chewier (my preference, if you prefer airy, pillowy ones go to Cafe Du Monde!) and they serve more on the menu. IF you’re craving beignets late at night and it’s closed, know that Cafe Du Monde is open 24/7 and going there would be more of an experience.
Known for its iconic dish, THE banana fosters. Who doesn’t want bananas that are flambéed tableside with brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, rum and served with New Orleans Ice Cream Co. vanilla bean ice cream?? It’s the most ordered dish on the menu and for good reason. You can thank me later.
The world is your oysters!! If you’re looking for an authentic “New Orleans” meal, this is the place to go. From the outside, it doesn’t look like much, but don’t let it fool you! The raw oysters were super plump & clean. The charbroiled oysters were soooo juicy (currently drooling as I’m thinking back to this meal). Man, now I’m wishing I ordered more! The best part is that it’s super affordable for quality seafood!
We came here because of alllll the hype on the muffuletta sandwich. The muffuletta recipe is over 100 years and the store dates back to 1906. The muffuletta is pretty much an italian sandwich packed with meat (salami, ham), cheese (swiss, provolone), & olive salad. My advice: get a half sandwich. The portion size is huge and a half will fill up 2 people! It’s the perfect place for a quick to-go meal and you can easily bring it over to Jackson Square & and enjoy it outdoors.
Being raised in Santa Monica, I am spoiled with a shop called Bay Cities with the same Italian deli like supermarket so the flavors tasted oddly familiar and I have to say it did not beat it. Bay Cities trumps this place.. BUT if you’ve never had something similar, then it’s a pretty darn good sandwich!
Did you know New Orlean’s signature candy started out as one of America’s earliest street food? It also emancipated black women to make a living during a time when civil rights weren’t even in the picture. The candy is a symbol of a rich black culinary heritage and city tradition. Leah’s Praline is a family owned business since 1944. They use locally sourced ingredients such as Alabama pecans and Louisiana sugar. New Orleans praline has origins that can be traced back to its French heritage, however Louisianians adjusted the traditional recipe to include almonds and cream. There is a wide variety of toppings to choose from and let me tell you, pralines are not cheap! To be honest, I don’t have too biggest sweet tooth so it tasted a bit tooooo sweet for my liking. But definitely go here for the experience, treat yourself to a sweet treat & support a local business!
908 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70116
Legend has it, that the name poor boy, also referred to as po’ boy, comes from the Great Depression era when a sandwich was created to be given free of charge to transit strikers. It’s a must whenever you visit the South. Po’ Boys use French bread and dress it up with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and your choice of meat- shrimp, roast beef, etc. I can’t ever say no to oysters so I go with the fried oyster poboys & it hits the spot every time.
Established in 1905, this family owned restaurant has the best traditional Creole/Cajun dishes. Come here for a nice wholesome bowl of gumbo. P.S did you know the word gumbo originated from the African word okra? Suggesting gumbo was originally made with okras! It’s a melting pot of Louisiana cooking & its one of my favorites! Other dishes I would recommend to try are jambalaya (comparable to Spanish Paella), etouffe, & red beans and rice.
Chicory, the root of a blue flowered plant is a widely used as an ingredient in NOLA coffee. During the Civil War, Louisianians used chicory coffee as a substitute when the naval cut off the port- leaving people with a coffee shortages. Chicory coffee is commonly used during economic crisis and New Orlean continues this tradition.
WHAT TO DO // SEE
The oldest neighborhood in the city of New Orleans. The French claimed Louisiana in the 1690’s. The streets are named after French Royal houses and Catholic saints to pay homage to France’s ruling family. You can spend all afternoon wandering through the streets and I’d say THE most instagrammable spot in the French Quarter is at the corner of Royal and St. Peter. (location of the photo above!)
TBH, Bourbon street brings out the binge drinker in all of us… HA jk.. This historic street is located in the heart of French Quarters. The entire street embodies the life of the party with neon lights bursting, loud lit music blasting, and beads decorated/ thrown everywhere. At night, it’s packed with Bachelor/ Bachelorette parties, sketchy looking people. Now, it’s certainly not my type of scene, but still fun to observe every once in a while. It’s a VERY entertaining place to people watch 😉 trust me on that.
For solo female travelers, I DO NOT recommend coming here at night by yourself. Always have a buddy or come here in the daytime.
LOUIS ARMSTRONG PARK // CONGO SQUARE
If you need to get out of the French Quarters and go for a nice stroll to work out all the delicious food you’re having in NOLA, this is a great option to walk to. This park is filled with a historical oak trees dripping in lush Spanish moss, a pond filled with adorable ducklings, & lots of benches for you to sit back and relax.
There is an area inside the park called the Congo Square that holds a lot of historical significance. During the 18th century, enslaved Africans were only allowed to congregate and gather in remote public squares on Sundays. This particular square (located right outside the French Quarters) was a place where they could celebrate their African roots and dance together during the oppression.
Take the St. Charles street car for $3 per person and go on a scenic ride to the Garden District. It’s a fun 15 minute “Disneyland” trolley ride! Sometimes the French Quarter can feel a bit overwhelming, so it’s nice to spend an afternoon away from it admiring the charming historical homes in the residential area. P.S if you’re into American Horror Story: Coven, Miss Robicheaux’s Academy filming location is actually at one of the homes in this area, the Buckner Mansion. You can even stay there for a night!
LAFAYETTE CEMETARY NO.1
While you’re visiting the Garden District area, take a moment to step back in time and check out this cemetery. Walking around a cemetery can feel eerily and creepy, but it can also be quite interesting. If you’re someone who is intrigued by ghosts and spirits, this is the place to go and see if you can encounter some of the ghostly energy. Each cemetery has its own “charm and personality” so do your own free walking tours at the various cemeteries in NOLA to observe the different tombs & styles.
JACKSON SQUARE // CATHEDRAL ST. LOUIS
Centrally located in the French Quarters, this is an iconic spot to visit in NOLA. Admire the beauty of the Cathedral sSt. Louis while you soak in some vitamin D at Jackson Square. Aside from the beauty, its a great place to wander around, sit in the courtyard and people watch. Grab some beignets, muffuletta and have a picnic at the square!
TIPS ON AVOIDING TOURIST TRAPS
With over 10 million tourists a year, you are bound to be bombarded with tourist traps and scams here. My best advice is to NOT engage ever or politely decline. Don’t pause when someone approaches you- just keep on walking!
The Infamous Shoes
This scam makes me laugh! You will 10000% have someone approach you and say “I bet I can tell you where you got your shoes” or “Where did you get your shoes?” Once you respond to their question, you’ve just participated in the bet… So be prepared to pay up! The answer? Buddy you got dem on your feet on Bourbon street (or whatever street you’re on) in New Orleans! HA!
David and I knew about this going into the city, so the moment a man approached him about it David walked away. He actually followed us for a bit and even started to BEND DOWN to touch David’s shoe. Totally crossing the boundary, so be careful!
Tell me your first name and I bet I can spell your last name!
Someone will most likely come up to you and say, “Bet you $10 if you tell me your first name, I can spell your last name.” So you give them your first name, and then they will LITERALLY spell out “L-A-S-T N-A-M-E” hahah! If you want to play along, go ahead! But remember, you’ll have to pay up at the end!
Can I borrow your cell phone?
Someone will come up with a fake storyline, “my cell phone ran out of battery, can I borrow your phone?” or “I left my phone at home and need to make an urgent call.” What do you think happens when you hand it over? Hmm.. They run away with it and you’re left phoneless. Nowadays, theres a good excuse to not hand your phone over, um COVID-19, so politely decline and say you’re in a rush.
Oh hello there, nice to meet you. I’m Sophie & this is David. We are Mystic Falls newest vampires 😉 JK! With 2020 being such an unprecedented year, I wish we were all slightly immortal/ part vampire so we can stay healthy and safe… Okay, but for real, does this look familiar to you? That’s right, it’s MYSTIC FALLS from CW’s hit show The Vampire Diaries. If you’re a fan or into vampire fiction, then you’ll 100% love need to make a trip out here and follow this guide! Seeing one of your favorite shows come to life is SO surreal- I was flipping out in the car when we turned the corner into this town!
For our cross country road trip, we toured the real town behind the vampire diaries, aka Covington, Georgia. It’s a small town located 35 miles east of Atlanta (about 40 minutes away) and is often referred to as “The Hollywood of the South!” Downtown Covington has remained a gorgeous backdrop for over 100 films/ television shows and I can totally see why!
You’ll feel right at home in this iconic town square the moment you drive in. You can pretty much visit almost every TVD filming location on your own OR you can pay ($60 each) to join an official tour with a guide. Due to Covid-19 & trying to keep our trip budget friendly, I decided to do the research ahead of time and see it all on our own and it worked out super easily!
Let me take you along our visit and give you the grand tour of the highlights worth seeing!
P.S. Team Damon all the way! Aside from the Salvatore Brothers, I’d choose Alaric- loyal, intellectual, mature, family oriented…
Don’t forget to check out my IG for more daily content inspo! Xo, Soph
MYSTIC FALLS WELCOME SIGN
1143 Oak St SE, Covington, GA 30014
Start here! This is where you can find the Mystic Falls, Virginia sign from The Vampire Diaries. It’s a bit underrated, but I mean you might as well take a pic with the welcome sign! Only takes a second to hop out for it!
THE CLOCK TOWER
1132 Usher St NW, Covington, GA 30014
Ahh! Built in 1884, it is known as the Historic Newton County Courthouse in Covington and is the ultimate TVD backdrop. You see the clock tower in so many TVD scenes and the church bell inside is part of an important storyline in Season 8! There are so many angles to shoot from since its located right in the center of town square. P.S who remembers that iconic scene when Katherine jumped off the clock tower??
1116 Clark St. Covington, GA 30014
Yes.. this place is REAL. You can really dine inside here! Mystic Grill serves traditional Southern food with a twist! The outside scenes were filmed right here on location and was a common spot for the cast to dine at. Although the interior isn’t the same (it was filmed on a soundstage), it’s worth a visit. The rooftop overlooks the whole historic downtown square and there’s a hallway filled with signed autographs from the cast. They serve locally sourced ingredients from local vendors- we ordered the Fried Green Tomatoes (pimento cheese & tomato jam), Sweet Tea Fried Chicken (andouille sausage, red eye gravy, green beans, Yukon Gold Mash), & Shrimp & Grits (bacon, cilantro, lime). The ONLY complaint I have was that Matt wasn’t our waiter.
Hours: Monday – Thursday: 11:00 am – 9:00 pm Friday – Saturday:11:00 am – 10:00 pm Sunday:11:00 am – 9:00 pm
THE GILBERT HOUSE
2104 Floyd St NE, Covington, GA
Don’t worry everyone, the house is still standing ( remember Season 4 Elena… humanity turned off.. cover story.. fire….) Look, to most people, this is just a random house. But for those that are TVD lovers, you’d know there have been so many important scenes that have taken place on the porch and inside this very house! Discretion: This is a private property with REAL people that live inside… Respect their space and just stand on the sidewalk rather than walk all the way up to the front porch.
THE LOCKWOOD MANSION
2111 Anderson Ave., Covington, GA
Known as the Worthington Manor in real life, this is a gated mansion and to grant access to it you’d have to join the official TVD tour that you can sign up at the gift shop in town center! We didn’t feel the need to physically go inside the mansion and you can still see it very clearly from the gates! P.S keep in mind, if you decide to join the exclusive tour, you only get access to the front and backyard…
TWELVE OAKS INN
Address is 2176 Monticello St, SW, Covington, GA
Remember those old flashbacks scenes where you’d see the Salvatore brothers & Katherine frolicking around the front yard? And the 1864 flashback of the old lockwood mansion? Well that’s this house! It’s ALSO the plantation home that inspired the one featured in Gone with the Wind. I really wanted to stay here, but it was all booked up so make sure to book this as early as possible.
The Vampire Diaries Gift Shops
There are 2 gift shops you can stop by to buy alllllll things TVD- The Alley and Vampire Stalkers Gift Shop. From blankets, pillow cases, to shot glasses, vervain & even your very own blood bag! Both gift shops have original props from set so it’s like a mini museum!
More TVD Locations
Isobel’s House 2146 Conyers St, SE, Covington, GA
Caroline Forbes’ House 2118 Floyd St, NE, Covington, GA
Grayson Gilbert, M.D. Sign 1105 Washington St, SW, Covington, GA
Witch Burial Ground from Vampire Diaries 3190 Conyers St, SE, Covington, GA
Damon and Elena Rain Kiss The Academy Springs Park 3120 Conyers St SE, Covington, GA
When you hear the word Belgium, you think beer, waffles, chocolate, and frites? Well, Belgium is so much more than that. The country is filled with medieval historical sites, festive Christmas spirit, and a relaxed atmosphere in which to enjoy it all. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still dreaming about the scrumptious Begian waffles and frites dipped in curry ketchup. Though the winter time can get pretty chilly (we went during Christmas time), it truly is the most festive and coziest time to visit. The whole country transforms into a real life Hallmark Christmas movie and it feels so surreal. All in all, we spent 5 nights in Belgium-4 nights in Brussels, 1 night in Bruges and we can’t wait for our next trip back to Belgium because there is still so much to see. I think it’s one of the most underrated countries in Europe and I have a feeling more and more people will begin to discover its beauty. I will break down each city so continue down below to dig deeper into Antwerp!
Ladies and gentlemen, introducing the Danish Capital of the USA…. California’s Little Denmark… SOLVANG!
I’ve been yearning for a little European love, but thankfully, this little European delight brought out all the feels for a perfect weekend getaway.
Solvang gives you enough of a taste of Denmark! You feel like you’re in a fairytale movie and that any second Snow White & the 7 dwarfs will start marching on by. It’s a popular tourist destination with over 1 million visitors a year! This quaint little town has architecture, food, and culture that reflects traditional Danish style.
I’ve included all the details that was on our itinerary. It is about a 2 hour drive from LA–>Solvang. You can take PCH to enjoy the scenery or the freeway for a faster drive.
Our first stop
Pre-Covid19, our plan was to head to the south of France and roam the flower fields. Unfortunately, that had to be pushed back and I was about to find a farm with a bit of flowers. This little farm had sunflowers, lavender, pumpkins, etc. It was already past sunflower season so they were all super tall and wilted… But the lavender was still thriving! I even spotted a little weasel enjoying the scenery along with us haha! This is about 10 minutes away from Solvang so depending on when you visit, this is a great spot to enjoy some nature, smell the flowers, and take floral shots! If you do stop by, please purchase a product from the farm to support them! There is no entry fee so it’s always nice to support by buying their produce. We picked out some yummy homemade raspberry jam!
WHERE TO EAT
FIRST AND OAK
This is a Michelin recognized restaurant located at Mirabelle Inn. It was our first meal out since MARCH… Can you believe it? 5 months of not dining out and it was DEFINITELY worth the wait. Go online, make a reservation, get dolled up and enjoy a fancy night out with your babe! I recommend ordering the Roasted Truffle Cauliflower- the flavors are exquisite. Every element of the dish was cooked to perfection and who doesn’t love truffle? For the main course, I thoroughly loved every bite of my scallops with black linguini & yuzu emulsion. Keep in mind the menu is seasonal!
THE BREAD SHOP
Delicious freshly baked goods with a huge variety to choose from. Pastries are pricy, but it’s soooo worth it & why not support a small business! Plus, the entrance is extremely instagrammable!
COPENHAGEN SAUSAGE GARDEN
If you’re all about the sausages and beers, this is the place to check out! They have a whole range of options! It’s basically sausage heaven with killer sauces. It’s a very casual dining option if you need something quick. It does get pretty crowded- reminded me of a frat house HA!
Fill your tummy up with some good ol’ Danish pastries! They’ve got bear claws, streudals, kringles, and all the the sweets! It’s flaky and buttery- my favs are the classic apple or cream cheese flavor.
Head over here for a delightful charcuterie plate, cocktails, and relaxing outdoor seating. It’s a cute cafe on the main street and you can people watch while you eat.
VIN AND MAD
Go for bites and drinks (aka happy hour) from 4-6pm! Order Duck Fat Fries, Ceviche, and a delicious cocktail! Withered Passion and Den-Mark My Words are the two drinks that stand out to me.
WHAT TO SEE
There are a total of 6 windmills… question is, can you find them all? 😉
MISSION SANTA INEZ
Location: 1760 Mission Dr, Solvang, CA 93463
It’s ahistoric spanish mission founded by Father Estévan Tapís on 1804. Today, it serves as a museum and a church! Tip: If the town center is looking crowded, head here. There’s peaceful benches with beautiful scenery for you to take an hour or two break.
LITTLE MERMAID FOUNTAIN
Location: 1693 Mission Dr, Solvang, CA 93463 Corner of Mission Drive & Alisal Road
It’s the replica from the original one in Coppenhagen. Based on Hans Christen Andersen, it’s the storyline of the mermaid giving up everything for hopeless love of a prince.
Ah I even feel guilty mentioning this… I’ve been here twice…. And this time, I did a bit more research and realized it was a meat farm. If you’re okay with supporting an organization then by all means. I personally didn’t feel comfortable
SOLVANG FESTIVAL THEATER
When it’s not covid times, come here to watch a play!
If ya like wine, there’s plenty of vineyards here for you to get shwasted. Rusack Vineyard, Rideau Vineyard, Los Olivos Wine Tasting, Sanger Family of Wines, etc.
Grape Stomp (Annual)
Only in October, you can join the harvest celebration by stomping and making your own wine
This happens in December and it’s a cozy month of lights, celebration and holiday cheer! There’s Santa’s Village, Tree Lighting, parades, Christmas Light Shows, and many more!
WHERE TO STAY
A modern, contemporary, luxury hotel. Located smackdab right in the center of town, we had the most lovely stay here. Service was impeccable, bed was comfortable, shower was clean, and everything was tidy! We stayed in the Luxury King that was a corner room so it had allllll the windows for perfect lighting! We had a separate staircase for entry/exit and the windows looked out onto the main street. I loved people watching from the comfort of my room (cuz covid) and at night, the twinkle lights shine through making it feel like Christmas. It was such a cozy and fabulous stay and I would definitely book another stay here for another getaway.
I’d love to hear about your thoughts on Solvang and if there are any places I missed! You can find my daily updates on my Instagram!
I’m happy to share my favorite travel tripod with you all! It wasn’t until I went on a recent trip and realized how crucial it was to have a legit tripod. I forgot my trusty old tripod and had to hop out to the closest Walmart and buy whatever option they had. And all weekend long, it was falling apart, getting jammed, and shaky.
After that incident, I could not be more appreciative for the one I use & depend on, so I wanted to share with you the BEST travel tripod I bring on my adventures around the world. (Click the link, go to Photoshoot Equipment Tab and it’s linked right there!)
Compact & lightweight. I can toss it into a backpack and won’t feel like something is dragging me down.
Sturdy: the legs lock/release easily, have good grip (won’t slide around)
Ballhead: smooth, easily navigated, and can hold my heavy DSLR camera
Price : Affordable and dependable. Reasonable price for the quality!
Let me know what tripod you use or if you give this one a try tag me on Instagram @sophcation. Follow me on there for more travel Inspo!
My Instagrammable travel series is where I dive straight to the point and list out the most photogenic & memorable spots in each city I visit.
Enchanting, magical, the ultimate photogenic Italian dream. I don’t know about you, but I have been dreaming to see these picturesque villages all my life! These colorful coastal backdrops are all over social media, but did you know they’re actually located in different towns?
Cinque Terre consists of 5 coastal villages: Corniglia, Manarola, Monterosso, Riomaggiore, & Vernazza. All 5 villages are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and there is a train that runs from La Spezia that can drop you off in each town or if you like a challenge, you can spend the day hiking the trail that connects you to all 5 of them. Although each town has similarities, they have personalities of its own that make them stand out. I’ve listed them from the southernmost town to the northernmost town.
Riomaggiore has a cascade of multi colored houses right on the mediteranean sea. We chose to stay in this town because of an INSANE airbnb location we discovered. Book this AIRBNB NOW. There’s no other place to stay- nothing beats it and the pictures don’t do it justice!! The airbnb is a 5 minute walk from the train station, located smack-dab on the port, yet with just enough privacy away from the crowds.
Another location to shoot is down by the rock waves. You can also capture an epic view from the fisherman’s port by walking along some rocks located at the bottom. Rocks do get slippery and waves can get intense so please go with caution.
Come to this town just so you can dine at Nessun Dorma. Sip on some yummy Aperol Spritz with a view of the picturesque cliffside homes. Make a reservation ahead of time and request for a spot with a view. Another photo spot here is down by the stone pier. Cross the ropes and wander onto the rocks. Please be careful if the tides are high!
One of the more quiet villages. The only town that cannot be accessed from the sea because it’s elevated. From the train station, you will have to take 377 steps up a steep stairway just to get to the center of the town… To be completely honest, this town does not really stand out compared to the rest because it’s one of the oldest and there’s not much development… If you’re short on time, I’d suggest skipping this town.
This town is known to be the most photographed village out of all of them. This is the spot where you see the classic #postcardgoals backdrop all over IG. If you are stopping by for a quick day trip to Cinque Terre and have to choose, I would say to choose this instagrammable spot over all the other ones! Take the hike from Vernazza to Monterosso, follow the signs, and within 5-10 minutes into the hike, you’ll see a wired fence to your left with this epic view. Please be safe and do not get too close to the edge.
It is the largest town out of the 5 and the only one with a sandy beach where you can lounge. When you’re here, make sure to visit the 14th century Church of San Giovanni Battista. The black and white striped church contrast is stunning and the gothic architecture makes it look like an ancient chic Sephora.
Church of San Giovanni Battista Address: Via Roma, 12, 19016 Monterosso al Mare SP, Italy
I hope this Cinque Terre guide will help shorten your planning process and that you’re able to find these instagrammable spots the next time you visit. If you have any ideas for future blog posts, please leave a comment down below!
I dive straight to the point and list out all of my top instagrammable spots in each city I visit. I know, I know, it sounds so cliche/vain and I’m well aware that traveling is NOT about getting the most perfect shots or creating a false illusion on social media, but I truly enjoy the process and experience of capturing these moments and hope it inspires and motivates you to get out of your comfort zone and explore these magical destinations . The photos are not just for the world to see, but for my memories and keepsake. If you enjoy capturing some killer angles and views, keep on reading!
Disclaimer: Please be respectful. Be polite. Be educated. Be safe. Act with manners. Every city is special, ancient, historical, etc. So please do NOT climb on a monument, dress appropriately, don’t hog a spot if you see a bunch of people waiting to have a turn, don’t ride an elephant (harms the animal/not an industry you should support), trespass into private property, etc. You get the point…?
Seems to me we are turning road trips to Sedona into a yearly tradition! Our first trip here was around the same time last year and we could not get enough of it! As you drive towards Sedona, you start seeing the red canyons peaking in the distance and the closer you get, the more amazed you become. There truly is something special about this town. The abundant, positive energy flow radiates here. You instantly connect deeper to your spirituality, there is heightened inner peace that settles in, and you instantaneously become present. The thoughts, stressors, anxieties in life magically fade away and you become one with Earth’s power. Even with 2 trips here, I still feel like there are soooo many other spots I’ve missed and have not yet visited. These are just the main instagrammable spots that I recommend so far.
This was a hidden gem that we discovered through our airbnb host. It was literally in their backyard (about a 10 min walk) There is a trail that you can follow to get to this spot called the Secret Slickrock Trailhead. It’s only a short walk up to an unobstructed view of Cathedral Rock. It’s not as popular of a spot so you can definitely find some peaceful moments here for sunset/sunrise. We sat down and watched the mountains glow from red to orange as the sun came down and it was a pretty epic moment. Highly recommend to set up a fun little picnic!
Address: Chavez Crossing Rd, Sedona, AZ 86336
FAY CANYON ARCH TRAIL
1.5 mile out and back trail that is soooo underrated! It’s got an awesome view and a thrilling upward climb (as if you’re rockclimbing) It’s pretty steep towards the end so if you have a fear of heights, this might not be for you. I do want to point out that as you are on the Fay Canyon trail, there is a normal straight trail that is very walkable, however the spot pictured above is a side trail that takes you UP to the arch so don’t get confused! You will abruptly turn right to continue on an unmarked trail… The only way to describe the entrance is you will see 2 cairns with a wooden stick on top… I know, slightly confusing but make sure you are looking out for it as you walk on the trail at the bottom. From there, you just keep hiking up until you reach the arch! (Side Trail for Arch (marked by cairns)34.9083775, -111.8627545) You can also download the trail map app that will show you where the entrance to that turn is.
RED ROCK CROSSING
Park at the Crescent Moon Picnic Site (Address: 300 Red Rock Crossing Rd, Munds Park, AZ 86017)
There is a $11 fee (cash only), please support and be a good citizen even if there’s not a person monitoring. The money goes towards maintenance and supporting Sedona national parks. From the parking/ picnic area, continue on a path that leads you towards Oak Creek. You will see an old ranch on the left side, but head right in stead! There is an entrance to a path that will lead you closer to the creek. Check out this website for more information on how to get to the specific vortex energy spot here.
Address: 333 Red Rock Crossing Rd, Sedona, AZ 86336
BELL ROCK TRAIL
Unfortunately, it was over 95 degrees all weekend long and it was impossible to go on a long hike. Even stepping out for more than 10 minutes in the sun made you feel a little loopy. We decided it was not a safe choice to hike, but I read everywhere online that this is quite an enjoyable hike. We wandered around the entrance of the trail for about 5 minutes and even from the bottom of the trail you can capture an insane view.
Address: Bell Rock Access Trail, Sedona, AZ 86336
Soldier’s Pass/ Brins Mesa
Wow wow wow! This was our very first hike in Sedona last year and it exceeded our expectations. If you only have time for 1 hike in Sedona, this is the one I would HIGHLY recommend. If you know me well, you know I’m not a work out fanatic, but if I can get through this hike, you can too! This was recommended to us by our airbnb host. We started bright and early at 5AM to avoid the heat later in the day. It’s a 6.4 mile loop and you will pass by the 7 sacred pools. We loved every minute of it. This hike is on the longer end with no shade the majority of the time, so please pack enough water and snacks.
Directions: From the roundabout intersection of State Route 179 and State Route 89A in Sedona, go north on SR 89A for 0.2 miles to Jordan Road. Turn left onto Jordan Road and continue 0.7 miles to Park Ridge Drive. Turn left onto Park Ridge Drive and continue 0.1 miles to where the pavement ends. From there, continue 0.5 miles on the dirt road that leads to the Jim Thompson Trailhead.
One of my favorite scenic viewpoint. Parking is limited since you do pull over on the side of the road. It doesn’t get crowded and you don’t have to do too much walking to get to this spot. Absolutely breathtaking view!
Address: 1891 Upper Red Rock Loop Road Sedona, AZ 86336 GPS Coordinates: 34.8388857, Lng: -111.8235568
I’ve read that it was a pretty boring trail, but the drive here was very enjoyable. It’s a bit more secluded and farther away from the center of town so if you are looking for a quiet spot to enjoy the scenery then this is the place! We did not do the hike, but rather found a space to sit and watch the sunset from the parking lot.
Address: 340 Aerie Rd, Sedona, AZ 86336
CRESCENT MOON RANCH
If you’re looking for serenity, this is it. Listen to the water running in the creek and admire the glowing rocks during sunset. You won’t want to leave this place. It’s so spread out that you can roam and wander everywhere without it being too crowded. This trail is not strenuous and you won’t have to hike at all so it is the perfect place if you’re looking for a relaxing stroll during sunset.
Address: 333 Red Rock Crossing Rd, Sedona, AZ 86336
AIRBNB: CATHEDRAL ROCK VIEW
This Airbnb was such a gem. The price was considerably cheap compared to all the other accommodations in Sedona. You feel the energy of Sedona the moment you wake up and look out the window. It’s a small space, but there’s everything you would need inside. There’s privacy (separate entrance on the side door), everything was sparkling clean, a grill outside to use, a spacious backyard for you to roam freely and explore. Most of the bathrooms in hotels/airbbnbs have never exceeded my expectations, but the shower here made me want to take an hour long shower! I looovedddd the shower here- it was a luxurious rain shower system and wish I could transport back to my home. If you’re coming to Sedona & you love airbnbs, this is the place to stay at!!
Use my LINKto sign up and get $20 off your first home booking!!
I’d love to see your recreations of these instagrammable spots, so don’t forget to tag me on IG @sophcation ! Have a rejuvenating time here and stayed tuned for my next adventure!