Joshua Tree National Park

My kids and I were in Palm Springs, California over the Thanksgiving weekend. And one of the highlights of this trip was visiting the magnificent Joshua Tree National Park. We stayed in the city of Indio in Coachella Valley and It was about little more than half an hour drive to the Southern Entrance/Cottonwood Entrance of JTNP from our hotel.

Beautiful landscape of Joshua Tree National Park, California

Beautiful landscape of Joshua Tree National Park, California

Ticket per vehicle is $30 which can be used for the next 7 days. You can spend from half a day to few days or weeks in this park. We bought few water bottles, some protein bars, luncheables, chips, and candies before entering the park. We arrived the Southern Visitor Center around 10:30am and stayed until about 3:30. If you have time and energy, staying longer is highly recommended to enjoy dramatic sunsets or to camp or if you love star gazing…to experience a stunning desert sky from the park. JTNP is a paradise for the hikers, rock-climbers, photographers, nature-lovers, kids, adults, and many more.

If you follow the JTNP map, it’ll take you to all the spots and parts of the park that you want to visit. We made it to most of the places that we planned to visit. These are some of the really cool and beautiful places of JTNP that we loved and the kids enjoyed:

Ocatillo Patch: Ocatillo is not a true cactus but a beautiful plant indigenous to Sonoran and couple other desert in the USA. JTNP has an area, called Ocatillo Patch, (follow the sign). It’s a nice place to take some pictures, walk around, and explore the nature.

Ocatillo Patch in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Ocatillo Patch in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Cholla Cactus Garden: This was one of our favorites. A whole big area on the both sides of the road is covered with cholla cactus, a beautiful looking but very thorny cactus. Be careful with kids here. We ended up spending more than half an hour strolling thru the cacti, taking pictures, and having fun looking at these plants in the desert. We even saw couple small lizards here.

Cholla Cactus Garden in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Cholla Cactus Garden in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Jumbo Rock Campground: This was our number one in the park. Jumbo Rock campground and the surroundings are the places with really huge boulders. My kids couldn’t get enough of rock climbing and the stunning view of everything…the trees, big rocks, mountains, blue sky, everything was part of a big piece of this beauty. It’s a big playground for any age. We stopped at different sections of Jumbo rocks and still couldn’t see all of it.

Jumbo Rock Campground in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Jumbo Rock Campground in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Camping in JTNP is a very popular activity and we saw bunch of tents and RVs parked in Jumbo Rock Campground. I can imagine the beautiful night sky from here. Tourists can spend days among these boulders for rock climbing, photography, or just hiking.

Skull Rock: Skull rock is another jumbo rock which has the shape of a human skull. We didn’t spend much time here other than just taking some photos. But there are other big rocks that can be climbed and trails that can be hiked.

Skull Rock in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Skull Rock in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Keys View: Keys View is another must. Even if you don’t visit other spots in JTNP, Keys View deserves some attention. This is a view point from where you can see the mountains and Salton sea. Although we didn’t stay too long since it was getting a bit cold, sunset from this spot is very famous…just bring some extra clothes.

Keys View in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Keys View in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Once we were done, we left the park thru “Joshua Tree” visitor center, which is about 20 miles from Keys View. JTNP doesn’t have any running water, restaurants, café or snack bars or vending machines inside the park. It’s better to bring lots of water bottles, sandwiches or bars, extra clothes, or even maybe first aid kits (just in case you are that unfortunate or clumsy tourist who may have a bad luck with the cacti there).

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Got One Day in Irvine, CA?

My girls and I were in Palm Springs, California for the Thanksgiving weekend. It was a sudden trip and urge to visit California. We were in Palm Springs for 4 nights and 31/2 days. We had a rental car, so planned to drive 2 hours to Irvine to visit some friends and spend some time in Irvine.

Laguna Beach in Irvine, CA

Laguna Beach in Irvine, CA

As far as the landscape and heat, Irvine is very different from Palm Springs. We stayed in Coachella Valley in Palm Springs which is a part of the Sonoran Desert. There aren’t any beaches here, only mountains and oases. Irvine, on the other hand, is more crowded, has lots of beaches to hang out, and milder weather.

 

We spent about 7 or 8 hours in Irvine with my high school friend, her sister, and her husband. Since my friend and her husband are local there, they took us to some not-so-touristy places where we did avoid some crowed and had a very relaxed time.

 

Lunch & Dinner – When you are in California, eating burger at In N Out is a must…or at least for me and my kids. Our lunch was animal style burgers and fries from In N Out. For dinner, my friends took us to California Pizza Kitchen. It’s a local Italian place with really good food. Their flatbread with chicken, shrimp and zucchini pasta, mac ‘n cheese fried balls, and cauliflower crusted pizza (no carb at all) are not only healthy, but also very tasty. Even my girls loved the carb free, cauliflower crust pizza.

 

Crystal Cove State Park: This was our first stop. It’s a small free public beach near Irvine. We took some pictures from the cliff side at first, then walked down to the beach. There were bathrooms and showers for the kids to change and take a shower after the beach time. Opposite of the park, there is a big shopping center with some restaurants and etc.

Crystal Cove State Park in Irvine, CA

Crystal Cove State Park in Irvine, CA

Crescent Bay Park/Laguna Beach: Crescent Bay Park was absolutely a charm. It’s a really small park on the cliff of Laguna Beach. Some really beautiful houses stand in this neighborhood. We spent about 10 minutes in the Crescent Bay Park, took some pictures, then walked 10 minutes down the stairs to go to the Laguna Beach.

Laguna Beach itself was a bit crowded. And since we already went in the water in Crystal Cove, we just hung out for only a few minutes and came up to go to the Top of the World before the sunset.

Crescent Bay Park in Irvine, CA

Crescent Bay Park in Irvine, CA

 

Top of the World: This is where the local or tourists come to enjoy beautiful sunset over the city. On one side, you can see the mountains and other the ocean. It does get a bit chilly in the late afternoon. We stayed there until the sun went down and it was a beautiful sunset indeed.

Sunset from Top of the World in Irvine, CA

Sunset from Top of the World in Irvine, CA

Things To Do In Order To Have An Amazing Vacation In Hawaii

6th

Hawaii seems to be on every traveler’s bucket list, and why not? From the luscious landscaping to the crystal-clear waters, each of the six islands feels like a paradise. It’s a place where you can hike to hidden waterfalls, spearfish in the ocean, attend a luau and watch the sunset, all in the same day. No matter where you go, adventure awaits. Here are the must-do activities to get the most out of your Hawaii vacation:

Stroll the Lavender Farms in Maui

This mesmerizing farm attracts visitors from around the world. In addition to seeing the lavender and gardens, you’re like to see camouflaged geckos and astonishing views of upcountry and beyond. It’s a popular spot for romance, Instagram worthy photos, and lavender scones. You can attend one of the many events they host, book it for your own special occasion, or spend a few hours exploring the stunning grounds. For only a few dollars, it’s worth the trip.

Visit the Famous Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach is one of the most popular tourist spots of Oahu, for good reason. It’s home to legendary surfers, warm waters, and astonishing sunsets. Families are welcomed here, as are other respectful tourists looking to have fun in the sun. If you’re looking for a room with a view, you’ll be happy to know you can find a hotel near Waikiki Beach in a snap.

Step Inside Kauai’s Festival of Lights

If you’re looking to escape the cold, but still enjoy the holiday season, Kauai’s the island for you. Their annual Festival of Lights runs throughout the month of December and boasts of holiday cheer. You can step inside the Winter Wonderland and be greeted by the sound of carolers or visit Santa’s Workshop. You’ll feel like you found a dazzling snowflake in the middle of paradise.

Hike to One of Hawaii’s Most Remote Settlements

Kalaupapa is a small town located on the coast of Molokai. You can spend a few hours hiking the 2.9-mile trail to the peninsula and seeing the magnificent views before landing in this remote settlement. This isolated and peaceful retreat is worth the trip through the Kalaupapa National Historical Park. If anything, this scenic trail is an added bonus!

Zipline on the “Garden Island”

Kauai has been named the Garden Island for its lush landscaping. When ziplining here, you’ll be able to enjoy an array of backdrops. Feel the cool ocean mist as you zip along the coast. Take in the scenery of breathtaking mountains. You may even find yourself exploring a hidden jungle on Hawaii’s oldest island.

Dive Underwater Cathedrals off the Coast of Lanai

If you’re a scuba enthusiast, diving the lava caverns known worldwide as the Cathedrals is probably already on your must-dive list. This is your chance to see the unique formations created when molten lava cools underwater. You’ll be accompanied by an array of rare fish and other marine creatures. Depending on the season, you may even see humpback whales or spinner dolphins.

There’s an abundance of activities and sightseeing in Hawaii. Your next trip could and should be filled with fun adventures that cross items off your bucket list. No matter which island you visit, there’s something fun for you and your travel companions to do.

Planning A Vacation To California

Wonderful California understandably makes an excellent choice for a vacation. From the glories of the northern forests to the delights of the shore and bit city living, California surely enjoy a place on any travel bucket list. Before leaving, make sure that everything like your San Ramon hotel booking, itineraries, and suitcases are all in order.

Getting There

California is easy to get to by many different highways, airports and trains. Major cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles have many connecting flights with other parts of the United States and the world. Amtrak offers rail service to many destinations in the state. People can get to parts of the state from many American cities including Chicago and Denver.

Finding a Place to Stay

It’s essential to find decide where to stay and then locate places to stay. The state is home to lodging ideal for any budget. High end travelers can opt for a luxurious stay in the center of a vibrant city. Those on a smaller budget can find many equally enjoyable places to stay including motels and budget inns. Those who love nature may want to think about camping in a state park overnight or longer.

Exploring the State

The state extends from the Oregon border to Mexico. In between lie hundreds of places to explore. It’s a good idea to think about what is most important to each traveler well in advance. One person may be content with hitting the highlights while another prefers a more leisurely pace. Keep in mind that distances are long between places. If traveling around the state, it’s best to get there by driving or rent a car.

Large Cities

Travelers who love large cities will find plenty to explore here. Relatively compact San Francisco lies in the north. It’s a city of upscale pleasures but also a Bohemian bent and one of the centers of gay life. Los Angeles sprawls across dozens of miles. San Diego is noteworthy for many things including the famous zoo and lively mix of cultures and cuisines.

The Coast

Coastal California is a huge draw for many visitors. Given the area’s many beaches, warm waters and impressive surfing, it’s no wonder so many people make this part of their trip. Hundreds of unique beaches dot the coast so it’s easy to find at least several worth a trip. Beaches in California are not only home to human visitors. They’re also home to lots of amazing sea creatures. Seals and sea lions are common in many areas along the coast and can be seen from a distance. The same is true of other sea creatures including otters, dolphins and whales.

Interior Beauty

The interior region of California is home to many worthy attractions including wineries, incredible national parks and magnificent Desert Valley. The Inland Empire offers year round pleasures including pristine lakes for swimming during the summer and world famous ski resorts like Big Bear Lake. Sequoia National Park is the ideal place to see the state’s huge redwood trees and visit the Crystal Cave. Buses bring people to places like Moro Rock with incredible views that stretch for miles. Peregrine falcons make their home here during the summer, making this area a true must for any birder.

 

 

The Natural Wonders Of California

With its star-studded cities and sun-kissed beaches, it’s easy to forget that California is also blessed with many jaw-dropping natural wonders around the state. Oddly shaped rock formations, remnants of old volcanos, stark desert land, and stunning mountain vistas attract many visitors to the state. Following are a few must-see natural wonders you’ll want to see when visiting California.

La Brea Tar Pits

The La Brea Tar Pits is home to one of the world’s most famous most famous fossil collections. Fascinating fossils of plants and animals have been uncovered here and are on exhibit along with mammoths, dire wolves, saber-toothed cats, and more. Even the pits themselves are interesting with their bubbling tar. Take an Excavation Tour to learn the history of the tar pits and watch scientists working on fossils they have recently uncovered.

Natural Bridges

See the world famous yearly migration of monarch butterflies at this beach near Santa Cruz with its unique natural bridge. The best time to see these phenomenal monarch butterflies is usually from mid-October to late January. It’s also a great place to see rare shore birds, migrating whales, and otters and seals playing offshore. Tidepools along the beach give a glimpse of ocean life. The park’s coastal scrubs and grasslands offer a colorful display of wildflowers each spring. For a longer visit, there are several great hotels near Natural Bridges State Beach.

Mount Wilson

Get a stunning view of the San Gabriel Mountains above the Angeles National Forest at 5,713 feet when visiting Mount Wilson. They even have an observatory that was once the best-known one in the world during the early 20th century. They have a collection of the most detailed photos ever taken of the surface of Mars. Hike the Mount Wilson Trail that loops around a breathtaking waterfall. The 12.5-mile loop is best for experienced hikers.

Joshua Tree National Park

See the charmingly twisted Joshua trees at the 1,235 square-mile Joshua Tree National Park. The area lies between two separate ecosystems, the Colorado Desert and the Mojave Desert. The rugged rock formations and stark desert are quite dramatic. Camp out and go for long hikes to contemplate the park’s natural beauty.

Mojave National Preserve

The 1.6 million-acre Mojave National Preserve is park nestled in the beautiful Mojave Desert. Marvel at the unusual Hole-in-the-Wall cliffs, cinder cones, and lava flows. Listen closely and you’ll hear the “singing” of the humongous dune mounds of Kelso Dunes. Located in Southern California, it’s truly a place of immense beauty.

Old Faithful

Travel out to the Napa Valley to see the lovely wine country and pay a visit to Old Faithful near the town of Calistoga. It isn’t as powerful as the one at Yellowstone, but it erupts faithfully every 10 to 45 minutes depending on the season and amount of rainfall the area has had. This part of the valley was once a volcano that erupted about 4.3 million years ago. The remains simmer to create today’s hot springs. The geyser is powered by nature but was actually created when a 19th-century settler who was digging for a well.

You’ll find more natural wonders scattered about in all parts of California. Leave the glamour and glitz of the city to experience them.

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