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    Yah Sure YaBetcha – It’s Time to Rediscover Ballard Washington

    Location: Ballard Washington

    Please check websites for Covid 19 hours and restrictions before you make time to rediscover Ballard Washington

    Only a few decades ago, sleepy Ballard was the butt of all Scandinavian jokes. A neighborhood of working class families descended from working class immigrants, Ballard was solid, if a bit rough around the edges. Times have changed and It’s Time to Rediscover Ballard Washington.

    Sleepy No More

    I sure wish I had bought a house in Ballard back then. I’d be a millionaire today. Today, Ballard is hip. A cool place to be for young singles and families….without losing that solid working class vibe. Still home to much of the Seattle area fishing fleet, the history of fishing and shipbuilding runs deep in this community.

    Shilshole Bay Ballard
    View from Sunset Park

    What a difference a few decades make. Ballard is blooming and is now not only home to the magnificent Nordic Heritage Museum (opened in 2018), it is also a culinary Mecca – home to dozens of highly rated restaurants, some difficult to get a reservation for. Ballard, sleepy no more. I love a lot of my home state, and Ballard is one of my favorite places among those.

    It’s Time to Rediscover Ballard, Washington

    A day in Ballard is a pleasant idea….but even better why not a weekend or several days? There is so much to do here, without ever actually going into downtown Seattle. Beautiful Ballard. We want you to give it the time it deserves, so we share with you a wide variety of our favorite Ballard finds…everything from beer to parks, coffee to fish, and hiking to vintage. Yah sure yabetcha – it’s time to rediscover Ballard, Washington.

    One of the friendly locals

    Our Recommendations to Get You Started

    It’s a long, long list but we hope these recommendations will give you a variety of reasons to visit Ballard and it’s surrounding neighborhoods. If you can make your visit more than a day, we recommend the beautiful boutique hotel in the heart of Ballard, The Hotel Ballard. It’s exceptional and will make your visit to Ballard exceptional. And here are more recommendations for you;

    Let’s Eat!

    Stoneburner Restaurant Ballard
    Stoneburner is my fav

    It’s impossible to list all the delicious and innovative dining options in Ballard…so I am offering up here my favs. These are all restaurants I have eaten at and would not hesitate to go back to.

    Walrus and the Carpenter Ballard
    Oysters at The Walrus and the Carpenter
    1. Stoneburner – amazing food. Probably my favorite restaurant in Ballard
    2. The Walrus and the Carpenter – one of the best restaurants in Seattle. Reservations a must.
    3. Rays Boathouse – a Seattle area institution, with stunning water views.
    4. Portage Bay Cafe – often a wait for breakfast or lunch but always worth it.
    5. La Carte de Oaxaco – what real Mexican food should taste like.
    6. Red Mill Burgers – old school burger joint with outdoor seating or take away
    7. Lil Woody’s – another great burger and sandwich option…try the salmon burger
    8. Hot Cakes – it’s all about the chocolate here.
    9. Shiku Japanese – excellent sushi and Japanese specialties
    Little Woody's Ballard
    Salmon Burger from Lil Woody’s

    Get Outside

    For such a compact neighborhood of Seattle, Ballard is blessed with an abundance of parks, and a visit to beautiful Ballard wouldn’t be complete without a visit to at least one of Ballard’s parks. This is a list of our favorites.

    Discovery Park Ballard
    Discovery Park
    1. Discovery Park – the granddaddy of them all, this 534 acre park is a hidden natural gem.
    2. Golden Gardens – where the sunbathers, stand up paddle boarders, wind surfers, sailors and beachcombers will be found high tide, low tide and everything
    3. Burke Gilman Trail – ride or walk on this trail that will take you for miles and miles
    4. Sunset Hill – this little pocket park is the definitive place for a Seattle Sunset
    5. Shilshole Marina – enjoy a boardwalk stroll through this beautiful waterfront area and try to count the masts. Be sure and stop at the Leif Erickson statue for a taste of Scandinavian heritage.
    Leif Erickson Statue Ballard
    Leif Erickson

    So Many Things To Do

    Don’t miss any of these awesome things to do in Beautiful Ballard

    Nordic Heritage Museum Ballard
    Nordic Heritage Museum
    The locks Ballard
    Going through the locks on my son’s sailboat
    1. The National Nordic Museum – allow yourself a few hours to explore this amazing museum that chronicles the history of the Nordic people both locally and throughout the world. The cafe and gift shop are great too.
    2. Ballard Locks – officially the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks but known locally as the Ballard Locks is a fun and educational working locks that provides boat traffic to navigate between Lake Union and the Puget Sound. Don’t miss the information on the salmon ladder.
    3. Fisherman’s Terminal – a working fishing terminal for local fishing vessels, you can walk amongst the vessels in port and also purchase fresh seafood.
    4. Ballard Farmer’s Market – every Sunday from 9am to 2pm visit the Ballard Farmers Market for a colorful selection of fresh and locally made
    5. The Cycle Saloon Tours – Fun and crazy way to drink beer, get your exercise and see the sites
    6. Ballard Kayak Rentals – get out on Shilshole Bay and see the beautiful sites from the waterside
    Ballard Farmers Market
    The Ballard Farmer’s Market on Sundays

    Do You Brew?

    Beer? Coffee? Even a distillery is waiting for you in Ballard. Ya Sure YaBetcha, there is something for everyone. This is a tiny sample:

    Beers in Ballard
    1. Reubens Brews – Beer
    2. Stoup Brewing – Beer
    3. Lagunitas Brewing Co – Beer
    4. Heritage Distillery – serving up distilled liquors and mixed drinks
    5. Venture Coffee – Coffee
    6. Ballard Coffee Works – Coffee
    7. Woodland Coffee – Coffee
    8. Ballard Beer Company – Beer
    Heritage Distillery
    Ballard Coffee Works

    She Shops!

    To be honest, I’m not much of a shopper, preferring to spend my time outdoors, eating, learning history…all that stuff. BUT, you might like a few funky or vintage places and don’t miss a Scandinavian shop

    1. Scandinavian Specialties – one of the few shops left that focuses on delicious Scandinavian delicacies as well as, art, sweaters, ceramic and more.
    2. Gold Dog – for someone who doesn’t really shop….I spent some fun time in here. Cowboy boots and so much more.

    As Long As You Are Here…

    Ya sure yabetcha, as long as you are here definitely spend as much time as possible at any or all of these wonderful attractions near Ballard.

    Woodland Park Zoo Lowland Gorilla
    Woodland Park Zoo
    1. Woodland Park Zoo – not the zoo of yesteryear, today’s award winning Woodland Park Zoo is focused on conservation, preservation and immersion exhibits that provide animals a healthy and authentic living environment. Woodland Park Zoo also offers a variety of events and activities through out the year on it’s 92 acre urban site.
    2. Fremont – Ballard’s neighbor Fremont is Seattle’s answer to funky and fun claiming to be “the center of the universe”. Be sure to visit the Fremont Troll, JP Patches and Gertrude statue, Waiting for the Bus Sculpture and many other fun and quirky Fremont finds.
    3. Green Lake, just over the hill from Ballard is Seattle’s beloved Green Lake. A perfect place for a stroll or bike ride anytime of the year. Seattle gathers here.
    4. Gas Works Park – The idea to turn this huge former and simply ugly former gas works on Lake Union into a park was brilliant. Today the rusted “gas works” create an urban sculpture unique and beautiful in a strange and Seattle kind of way.
    Fremont Washington
    Funky Fremont

    Are You Convinced?

    Have I convinced you that it’s time to rediscover Ballard Washington? I have spent a lot of time there over the last five years, because my adult sons call it home. If they had never moved there, I would never have rediscovered Ballard myself…and I’m so glad I did. I still have a lot to see in Beautiful Ballard…so I’ll see you there.

    Learn more about Ballard at Visit Ballard

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    North America Travel

    My Favorite Things in Washington State USA

    Location: Washington State USA

    How to talk about my favorite things in Washington State? There is NO WAY I can list all the wonderful things about my home state of Washington. No doubt someone reading this blog will think I have left something out. And so I encourage everyone to comment at the end of this blog with additional FAVORITE things about Washington State.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Lake Chelan
    Lake Chelan

    I was born in Washington 60 years ago and I know a lot of great places in the Pacific Northwest corner of the USA. As we travel the world I often reminisce about Washington, comparing other places around the world to her. I’m looking forward to getting back there, and once again enjoying my favorite things in Washington State.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Tacoma
    Tacoma

    If you have never visited the Pacific Northwest corner of the USA you are missing out on something pretty special. It is certainly one of the most beautiful places in the entire world. I feel quite qualified to say that, having visited 110 countries myself. Nicknamed the Evergreen State, it has both a very green side (west of the Cascade Mountains) and a gold side (east of the mountains) and I love them equally. Raised on the west side but going to college and spending a great deal of time on the east side, I have learned to appreciate and admire the beauty and diversity of this spectacular little piece of paradise – Washington State.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Seattle
    Seattle’s Lake Union

    Cities

    Seattle – Washington’s largest city is cosmopolitan, delicious, cultural and ethnically diverse. It is the number one place to visit in Washington.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Seattle
    Seattle’s Big Wheel

    Spokane – One of my favorite cities in Washington and the largest city on the east side of the state, Spokane has grown from a sleepy agricultural town to a wonderfully diverse and interesting city.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Microbrews
    Boundary Bay Brewery Bellingham

    Bellingham – Tucked in the Northwest corner of Washington State very near the Canadian border, Bellingham offers a waterfront location with wonderful history. Home to Western Washington University, the student life brings a mix of culture and dining to this medium size city.

    Tacoma – the second largest city in the state, Tacoma has long battled a poor reputation. But today’s Tacoma is a far cry from that of yesteryear. A cleaned up downtown and port area, multiple first class museums and a great selection of parks and restaurants makes T-town one of my favorites.

    Small Towns

    Gig Harbor – I lived in Gig Harbor for 25 years and watched it grow. And despite the traffic I still love this maritime village that has the single most beautiful view in the entire state.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Gig Harbor
    Gig Harbor

    Sequim – Much like Gig Harbor but without the traffic, Sequim’s location overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca and in the shadow of the Olympic mountains makes its temperate climate perfect. Throw in the amazing lavender farms and bike trails there is a lot to love about this town.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Pullman
    Pullman

    Walla Walla – when I was growing up Walla Walla was just the town with the funny stuttering name. Today it is one of the premier wine regions in the world and has a wonderfully restored downtown.

    Pullman – home to my alma mater Washington State University, Pullman is an upcoming destination even if you don’t say GO COUGS. Today’s Pullman has parks and trails and a much larger selection of dining and hotels than it did forty years ago when I was in school. And I love the weather.

    Hikes

    Lena Lake – One of our favorite hikes in the Olympics, the hike to both Lower Lena and Upper Lena can be done by most hikers with minimal experience.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Lena Lake
    Lena Lake

    Skokomish River Lower South Fork – This is always a great hike and mostly flat…easy to reach and makes a great day hike.

    Mount Rainier – If you can catch Mount Rainier on a sunny day any hike will be enjoyable. A wide variety of hike options can be found in the Mount Rainier National Park. This summer I did the Summerland Trail for the first time. I loved it.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Hiking Mount Rainier
    On top of Crystal Mountain
    My Favorite Things in Washington State Hiking Skokomish River
    Hiking the Lower Skokomish

    Crystal Mountain – hike up and ride the gondola down, or ride the gondola up and hike down…either way you will enjoy panoramic views of Rainier and on a good day, you can see four other volcanoes beyond.

    Cycling Trails

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Cycling Spokane
    Centennial Trail Spokane

    Olympic Discovery Trail – I love this cycling trail and rode on it twice this past summer. The trail runs from Port Townsend all the way to the Pacific Ocean. However from Port Angeles west it is mostly on roads. Since we like to stay on trails, we usually start in Blyn and ride to Port Angeles and back, about 50 miles round trip.

    Centennial Trail – Spokane has several cycling trails and one of our favorites is the Centennial Trail that winds its way from Spokane into Idaho and Coeur d’Alene.

    Chehalis Western – I’ve spent hours and hours training for long rides on the Chehalis Western, located near Olympia. You can start and stop many places on this trail but if you ride the entire trail round trip it’s 90 miles.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Cycling the Chehalis Western Trail
    Chehalis Western Trail

    Interurban/Burke Gilman – So many options with this very popular cycling and walking trail. We rode the Burke Gilman this year from Gas Works Park in Seattle to Woodinville (forty miles round trip). If you really want a long and amazing ride start the Interurban in Pacific (near Auburn) and connect in Seattle with the Burke Gilman to Woodinville. This round trip is about 90 miles.

    Water

    Puget Sound – Western Washington’s beauty can be attributed to water, both that which falls from the sky and that which surrounds it as the Puget Sound. With several cities and towns perched on the Sound, access to it is plentiful, and it is certainly one of my favorite things in Washington State.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Discovery Park
    Discovery Park Seattle

    Lake Chelan – Washington’s favorite lake is found right in the middle of the state, the 55 mile long, 1500 feet deep natural lake of Chelan. Both a summer and winter playground, Washingtonians from the westside flock to Chelan in the summer.

    Columbia River – Roll on Columbia still rings true, and visiting this amazing river that flows both south and west through the state offers a variety of recreational activities and history lessons along the way.

    Pacific Ocean – spending time enjoying the crashing waves of Washington’s Pacific Coast is a must when visiting the state. My favorite places to access the Pacific Ocean are Neah Bay or Ozette in the far northwest part of the state or Kalaloch or Long Beach further south.

    Green Lake – walking or cycling the 2.8 mile loop around Green Lake is one of my favorite things to do in Seattle. Greenlake is a wonderful little gem of a natural setting right in the heart of north Seattle…treasured by locals.

    San Juan Islands – To really see how glorious the Puget Sound is, taking a ferry to one or more of the San Juan Islands and enjoying a few days island hopping is sublime.

    Gig Harbor Gondola – if you visit tiny and scenic Gig Harbor on the Kitsap Peninsula don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy a gondola ride in the harbor in an authentic Italian gondola.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State San Juan Islands
    San Juan Islands

    Snoqualmie Falls – Just about 40 min drive east of Seattle you will find the amazing Snoqualmie Falls….higher than Niagara. Depending on the time year Snoqualmie falls can be a slender and beautiful falls or a thunderous monster of a waterfall. Worth the drive and also if you are fit the hike to the bottom is breathtaking.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Gig Harbor Gondola
    Gig Harbor Gondola
    My Favorite Things in Washington State Klaloch Beach
    Kalaloch Beach

    Food Experiences

    Tillicum Village – Visitors and locals should experience Tillicum Village at least once in their lifetime. The getting there is half the fun, but the food and authentic Native American entertainment is incredible.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Geoduck
    My first Geoduck

    Pike Place Market – known for the throwing fish, there is a lot more to enjoy a Seattle’s Pike Place Market, even if you don’t buy a thing it is a not-to-be-missed Seattle institution.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State clamming
    Harvesting oysters and clams

    Geoduck Hunting – I went Geoducking for the first time this year on the Key Peninsula just west of Gig Harbor. If you have an opportunity, I highly recommend it. So much fun.

    Oysters – take the Olympic Peninsula loop drive and stop for oyster at Hama Hama Oyster Company. Or if you can’t drive the loop, pick up fresh oyster or order oyster on the half shell…usually available in a month with an R. Some of the world’s finest oysters come from Washington State.

    Dungeness Crab – If you grew up thinking Maryland Crab was crab you are in for a real shock when you eat Washington’s own world famous Dungeness Crab. Rich, buttery and delicious, Dungeness crab is best without any accoutrements…just eat it like nature intended.

    Boehm’s Chocolates – still hand made daily in Issaquah Washington you can have a taste of old European Swiss Chocolate just like the old country. Boehm’s has locations in Issaquah, Poulsbo and Yakima.

    Cafe Campagne – my favorite Seattle restaurant I go back to again and again with French food as good as any bistro in Paris.

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Cafe Campagne
    Steak Tartar at Cafe Campagne
    My Favorite Things in Washington State Luna
    Scallops at Luna

    Luna – just discovered this Spokane gem this summer and I will certainly be back. Possibly the best meal I had all summer.

    Brix 25 – in my hometown of Gig Harbor, this little gem is always spot on. Try the Beef Bourgignon. You won’t be disappointed.

    Tony’s Fillipis Pizza – growing up in Bremerton this was the place to get pizza, and still today Tony’s Fillipis Pizza is my favorite pizza anywhere in the world.

    The Valley Cafe – tucked into an old drug store in Ellensburg Washington, I stop to eat here anytime I am in this Central Washington Rodeo town. And you should too.

    The Pink Door – my second favorite Seattle restaurant (and just down the alley from my first) I try to visit in the summer and get a table on their deck. I have never had a bad meal at this iconic Seattle restaurant.

    Black Cypress – Pullman isn’t known for fine dining, and yet, the Black Cypress is an absolute find, and a must dine when in the tiny college town of Pullman.

    Wineries and Breweries

    Washington has become an award wining wine producing state over the past several decades as well as one of the launching places for many now famous microbrews. Washingtonians are well-known to be entrepreneurial and creative (think Bill Boeing, Bill Gates, Howard Schultz, Jeff Bezos) and this local trait shows in the wide variety of first rate wines and beers. Here is a list of my local favs;

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Jones of Washington
    Jones of Washington from Quincy

    Jones of Washington

    Seven Seas

    Bale Breaker Yakima

    Maryhill

    Gig Harbor Brewing

    Efeste

    Georgetown Brewing

    Resorts

    Since I live in the state part of the year I don’t often stay in local resorts, but over the years I have had the opportunity to visit several. Most resorts here focus on the beauty of the natural surroundings as well as the farm and forage to table dining Washington offers. Here is list of my favorites;

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Campbells Resort
    Campbells Resort at Lake Chelan

    Suncadia Cle Elum

    Campbells Chelan

    Rosario Resort Orcas Island

    Historic Davenport Spokane

    Willows Lodge Woodinville

    Alderbrook Inn Hood Canal

    Gardens

    My Favorite Things in Washington State Point Defiance Rose Garden
    Point Defiance Rose Garden Tacoma

    I love gardens, and even if you aren’t a gardener yourself, you can’t help but appreciate and admire the beauty of some of these stunning gardens throughout the state of Washington.

    Point Defiance Rose Garden – Tacoma

    Olympic Sculpture Garden – Seattle

    Volunteer Park Conservatory Seattle

    Seattle Arboretum

    Lakewold Gardens -Tacoma/Lakewood

    Ohme Gardens Wenatchee

    Bloedel Reserve- Bainbridge Island

    Nishinomiya Japanese Gardens – Spokane

    Rhododendron Species Garden Federal Way

    Also seasonally don’t miss the blooming Cherry Blossoms at the University of Washington Seattle (spring), the Sequim Lavender Festival (July), Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens in Woodland (April May) and the Bob’s Pumpkin Farm in Snohomish (October)

    Views

    My Favorite Things in Washington State The Gorge
    The Gorge

    Since one of the reasons people LOVE Washington so much is the beauty, finding the best views in the state is something visitors always are looking for. For me personally the list below offers amazing views, history and recreation from ocean beaches to mountain tops and everything in between. These are all great options that fit most, budgets, fitness levels and schedules;

    Green Mountain Kitsap County

    Dry Falls State Park Vista, Coulee City

    Washington State Ferry

    Kerry Park Seattle (cover photo)

    Space Needle Seattle

    Discovery Park Seattle

    Vista House at Crown Point on the Columbia River Gorge (technically in Oregon but with a great view of Washington )

    Dungeness Spit Sequim

    Kamiak Butte Palouse

    North Head Light, Cape Disappointment, Long Beach

    What else?

    Oh my goodness I have so many favorite things in Washington State! I know I have missed some things – I didn’t even touch on museums or tours. I could write an entire blog about festivals, art and music. But the things I have listed here are the things I have experienced and personally enjoy going back to again and again. My Washington from my point of view. Please add your favorites to the list in the comments below. Get out and enjoy surprising, diverse, beautiful, delicious and friendly Washington State. I sure have these past four months. Washington my home.

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    North America Travel

    Hotel del Coronado – Iconic Resort in Southern California

    San Diego

    Location: Coronado Island, California

    We rarely stay in resorts or fancy hotels…it’s not usually part of the Grand Adventure budget. But the Hotel del Coronado – iconic resort of Southern California, has been on my hotel bucket list for a long time. Check. Finally we had a chance to spend two nights in this grand old lady.

    Hotel del Coronado

    Some History

    From the hotel’s website here is a brief history of this amazing hotel;

    Opened in February 1888, Hotel del Coronado debuted as an architectural masterpiece, acclaimed for its spectacular seaside setting and world-famous weather. Outfitted with electricity and every modern amenity, The Del was a destination resort before the term existed, attracting a wealthy clientele from the Midwest, East Coast, and Europe. These guests – who arrived with their own servants in tow – generally stayed for months at a time.

    Although seaside destination resorts were fairly commonplace along both American coasts during the late 19th century, few were as large as The Del or as distinctive. With its one-of-a-kind sweeping silhouette – once likened to a cross between an ornate wedding cake and well-trimmed ship – the Southern California beach resort was recognizable throughout the country and around the world.

    Coronado’s island-like allure and year-round sunshine further ensured The Del’s reputation as a standout resort, described as the “unrivaled Queen of seaside resorts … this enchanting spot has no equal in America … or the world.”

    Read additional history here.

    Today’s “Del”

    At 133 years old, this huge, wooden building requires constant maintenance and upkeep. It’s location, beachfront on the Pacific Ocean is beautiful of course, but the sea air, sand, humidity, storms and sun all can wreck havoc on a wooden structure.

    Inner Courtyard

    Through the years the hotel has expanded to adjoining properties. The original old building still has rooms, but more modern and luxurious rooms are also available in the villa’s, cabanas and high rise hotel next door.

    During our visit, the main lobby on the south side of the building is closed for an extensive renovation at a cost of 400 million. The renovation will take the south portico back to it’s original glory. This includes the south facing rooms above the lobby, and the shops below. This extensive work will be ongoing for at least another year. Guest’s enter the building temporarily on the north side portico.

    Pool and iconic turret

    The huge renovation includes another pool and restaurant. Part of the renovation, the refurbished cabana units, is complete.

    Several restaurants are available to guests, a spa and swimming pool as well as a half mile stretch of beautiful white sand beach directly in front of the properties. The town of Coronado is easy walking distance from the hotel and offers shops and restaurants.

    Learn more about the ongoing renovations here.

    My Visit to the Hotel del Coronado – Iconic Resort in Southern California

    We stayed in one of the least expensive rooms the resort offers, and still paid $400 per night plus an additional $40 per day for parking. This is easily $300 per night more than our usual. In comparison (and changing seasonally) other rooms and guest houses throughout the large complex run from $450 to $1600 per night.

    Verandah on our room

    But honestly, I loved being in the oldest part of the hotel. Our room was small with a small bath, but we enjoyed an unexpected beautiful verandah with a partial ocean view and full interior garden view. The mattress was great.

    One drawback to the older part of the hotel is the tiny and slow elevator. I am assuming the south renovation will include a new bank of elevators. Perhaps the north side will be next.

    Hilton guarantee Clean Stay

    Staff is friendly and abundant. The property, which is owned by Hilton, is working to assure guest safety with masks required and advanced cleaning in all rooms. We did not eat at the hotel but the restaurants are beautiful and we enjoyed the beach bar. Garden’s and landscaping are gorgeous. We were glad that with all the construction going on, the crews started late morning and so we did not feel disturbed.

    At the beach bar

    Actually the helicopters, fighters and C-17 airplanes out of the multiple naval and military facilities in the area were much noisier than any construction. But it was also very interesting to watch all that activity.

    Coronado

    While here I did a really long run (eleven miles) south on a path that runs well past where I turned around. The views are beautiful. A nice state park and several condos and marinas are located to the south.

    Lunch at Henry’s in the town of Coronado

    We walked around the little town of Coronado, had lunch at Henry’s and did a bit of shopping. I loved some of the beautiful Victorian homes and gardens.

    Cute Coronado neighborhoods

    Traffic can be bad, due to the bridge. Although the bridge is high and long, it’s often backed up so plan ahead, especially on the weekend.

    Bucket List Check

    It’s always fun to check something off the bucket list, and the Hotel del Coronado – iconic resort in Southern California was one for me. I’m so glad we came. Once in a lifetime I have no doubt.

    Dining outside at the Hotel del Coronado

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    Inspire  --  North America Travel

    A Year in the USA in Pictures

    Making Travel Memories Despite Covid

    It’s been one year today since we arrived in the USA after two months locked down on the island of Cyprus. One freaking crazy year. Even now, after all this time, I sometimes have trouble believing this has all been real. That Pandamit (oops I did it again…Pandemic), really changed absolutely everything, didn’t it?

    My family

    We hope to travel internationally again soon. However we also know that our international travels of the future will never be as carefree and easy as they were during our four years of the Grand Adventure. But we definitely plan to get back out there.

    One year ago today in a deserted Heathrow Airport

    Meanwhile, 365 days in the USA has given us time to appreciate this beautiful country and all it offers.

    Prior to the Pandamit, we had already visited all fifty states. But that doesn’t mean we had seen all the amazing beauty of this nation….not even close. So slow travel in the USA became our new mission. And so far it’s been an amazing journey.

    At home

    So for today’s blog post I thought I would share A Year in the USA in Pictures – some of my favorite images from our year stuck in the USA. I have no regrets.

    In my neighborhood, Washington State
    Spring in my yard, Washington State
    Time with my mom
    Sailing on our son’s boat
    New patio
    Learning to golf
    hiking
    hiking
    hiking
    hiking
    and more hiking!
    Whidbey Island
    Fall City
    Zillah
    Time with our boys
    Road Trip Idaho
    Road Trip Colorado
    Road Trip Oregon
    Learning to make sourdough
    I made four quilts in four months
    Remodeled bathroom
    Nine weeks in Maui
    Nine weeks in Maui
    Nine weeks in Maui
    Nine weeks in Maui
    Holidays with the fam
    Holidays with the fam
    Holidays with the fam
    Road trip to Southwest USA
    Seven weeks in Palm Desert California
    Seven weeks in Palm Desert
    Seven weeks in Palm Desert
    Seven weeks in Palm Desert
    So much golf
    So much golf
    So much golf

    Despite it all, it’s been a year of unexpected adventures. We visited Idaho, Colorado and Oregon. Maui was awesome and we enjoyed our time in the Coachella Valley, California and Arizona. Of course our home state of Washington in the summer is a wealth of beauty and adventures. Learning new things, getting healthy, loosing weight, time with family and staying positive have kept us in a good frame of mind. I just absolutely refuse to be a victim in all of this.

    We fell in love with Arizona
    Arizona
    Arizona
    Arizona

    People keep asking us what we plan to do next? But, if the Pandamit has taught us anything, it’s don’t make plans! But planning we are, in spite of it all. We will spend 12 days in Iceland in June (fingers crossed). We will return to Maui again in the fall. And we hope to visit Colorado and Arizona again. Mexico is a possibility. We have now been vaccinated and I got my dreaded surgery out of the way, so there does seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel – but that could be a freight train barreling down…cause these days, you never know!

    Meanwhile, we are here and that’s just fine – USA you are just fine and we are grateful for all you offer.

    I hope you enjoyed our review A Year in the USA in Pictures.

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    Food & Drink  --  North America Travel

    Tasty Tucson – Our Favorite Dining Spots

    As we travel during the PanDamit we eat out only sparingly…keeping our distance and always dining outdoors. We also often prefer to cook in our Airbnb, to stay on budget and feel relaxed. All that said, dining out is a big part of travel, and during our visit to Tucson we discovered some delicious local options. So here is our recommendations… Tasty Tucson – Our Favorite Dining Spots.

    El Charro

    El Charro
    El Charro

    If you come to Tucson this is a must. The ninety-nine year old restaurant is a Tucson institution and the place to experience authentic southwest cuisine from tamales to tacos to chili relleno. We enjoyed the back patio and our food was delicious, despite the fact our waiter didn’t seem to know how to properly wear his mask. El Charro

    Cup Cafe

    Cup Cafe
    Cup Cafe

    We heard so much about this place we had to check it out, if not for the food for the history of the place. The Cup Cafe is a popular restaurant and bar (serving breakfast all day) at the historic Congress Hotel right in downtown Tucson…close to everything. Make reservations if you can, we did and had a no wait table on the patio where we enjoyed great food, excellent service and live music. Order the ribs with green chili macaroni and cheese. Yum. Cup Cafe

    Barrio Brew Pub

    Barrio Brewing
    Barrio Brewing

    The beer was great, and we also enjoyed a lovely salad and tortilla soup, opting for a light lunch in this restaurant/brewery located in an old warehouse. Though we didn’t eat the burgers or sandwiches, everything we saw coming out of the kitchen looked incredible. Barrio Brewing Co

    Wildflower

    On our last night in Tucson we drove to the far end of town from where we were staying because we had heard so much about this place. And it is totally worth it. We made a reservation so we could sit outside and the outdoor area was lovely and guests were spread apart. Wildflower does not have a huge menu, but I actually prefer that. The menu is seasonal and well thought out.

    Wildflower

    We started with a beautiful hamachi appetizer. Followed by a delicious Kale Salad. For our entries I had an outstanding roasted chicken and mashed potatoes and Arne loved his slow braised short ribs with arugula. A bonus was we happened to be there on half price bottle of wine night (Tuesday) so of course we drank wine.

    Best meal we had in Tucson and the service was exceptional. Don’t miss it. Wildflower.

    Sonoran Hot Dogs

    Well, even though I am not a hot dog eater usually, we couldn’t come to Tucson and not experience this local favorite. So we set out to test several different Sonoran Hot Dogs and here is what we found.

    Quench Your Thirst

    Moto Sonora
    Borderlands Brewing

    In addition to the Barrio Brewing Co above we enjoyed the beer at Borderlands Brewing right in downtown Tucson and another beer on the sunny outdoor patio at MotoSonora. We wanted to visit the Owls Club, a funky old bar in a former mortuary in downtown Tucson. It’s a favorite of locals and visitors a like but it wasn’t open when we arrived…next time.

    Tasty Tucson

    Tasty Tucson – our favorite dining spots. Come to Tucson hungry. Come to Tucson thirsty. Come to Tucson. We are so glad we did.

    See last week’s post Nine Things to do in Tucson Arizona.

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    Nine Things to do in Tucson Arizona

    Location: Tucson Arizona

    We spent two fabulous weeks exploring and getting to know the high desert area of Tucson Arizona. It was unexpected. I loved pretty much everything about it and I will definitely come back next winter. In fact, I really think I could spend several months a year in this lovely town, surrounded by nature. Here are the things I loved the most, the nine things to do in Tucson Arizona.

    Organ Pipe Cactus

    Saguaro National Park

    Saguaro National Park
    Saguaro National Park

    You must spend time in this remarkable place. It is not the biggest national park, or the most diverse, but it is indeed a gem. Saguaro National Park offers hikes for people of all capacities from nature walks (wheelchair accessible) to multi-day excursions. We enjoyed all of the hikes we did, short and long, and especially the unique desert plants. Saguaro National Park.

    Sabino Canyon National Forest

    Sabino Canyon
    Sabino Canyon

    This is where we enjoyed my favorite hike during our visit, called Phone Line Trail. We hiked more than nine miles on this trail, that cuts across the side of a mountain with spectacular views. But you don’t need to be able to hike that distance to enjoy Sabino Canyon. A National Forest Service tram provides transportation into the canyon. You can walk a portion of the canyon, and then catch the tram at your leisure. Sabino Canyon.

    Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

    Arizona Sonora Desert Museum
    Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

    I always love learning about the local flora and fauna and the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum is one of the finest of this kind of museum I have ever seen. Acres of desert flora are marked with interpretive and interactive signage. Indoor exhibits of reptiles, birds, and a replica of an underground cave give visitors a up close look at desert life. The museum also is home to a mountain lion, bear, wolves and javelina. Don’t miss this wonderful place. Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

    Tucson Botanical Garden

    Tucson Botanical Gardens
    Tucson Botanical Gardens

    This historic site was once home to the Porter Family, a leading Tucson family in the landscaping business. The property has been home to the Tucson Botanical Garden since 1974. Beautiful gardens offer a wonderful look at desert plants from aloe to cactus including an herb garden, butterfly garden and pollinator garden. Definitely worth a visit. Tucson Botanical Garden

    The Barrio Viejo

    Barrio Viejo
    Barrio Viejo

    This historic neighborhood was once home to to Tucson’s working class, immigrants from Mexico, Central America, Africa, Asia and Europe. The adobe homes were built in the 1800’s as Tucson grew in agriculture and as a crossroads in the Southwest.

    Unfortunately many of the old buildings were bulldozed during Tucson’s “revitalization” period when the new convention center was built. Today, the remaining homes are becoming popular to purchase and restore and a walk through these neighborhoods offers a peek into Tucson’s history as well as a colorful opportunity for photographers. Barrio Viejo.

    The Tucson Museum of Art

    Tucson Museum of Art
    Tucson Museum of Art

    As we were walking around Tucson we noticed the Tucson Museum of Art was offering a special exhibit of the works of the Wyeth Family. My husband and I both love the work of Andrew Wyeth so we thought we should check it out. The beautiful museum is right in the center of Tucson in a newish building that is attached to one of the most historic homes of Tucson.

    The $12 entrance fees seemed very reasonable and we not only enjoyed the Wyeth Family exhibit, but wandered through all the permanent exhibits of the museum. Well worth a couple of hours when visiting Tucson. Tucson Museum of Art

    San Xavier del Bac Mission

    San Xavier del Bac Mission
    San Xavier del Bac Mission

    A truly unexpected beauty of a mission rises up out of the desert like a white beacon about ten miles outside of Tucson. This National Historic Landmark, San Xavier Mission was founded as a Catholic mission by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692. Construction of the current church began in 1783 and was completed in 1797.  Entrance is free and it is definitely worth checking it out. Very beautiful. San Xavier del Bac Mission.

    Walking Tour Historic Tucson – Presido Trail

    From the original Presidio in historic Tucson you can easily walk in any direction to multiple buildings and sites of historic significance. Throughout this walk you will also find numerous historic markers interpreting the unique and interesting history of Tucson. Tucson is home to several sites on the National Historic Register. It’s an easy walk (flat) for just about anyone and worth an hour or more depending on your interest. Presidio Walking Trail

    Historic Congress Hotel
    Historic Tain Depot

    Mount Lemmon

    Mount Lemmon
    Mount Lemmon

    On one of the colder days during our visit we drove up Mount Lemmon all the way to where the road ends. This drive offers spectacular views as well as some hiking options. Worth a half a day to see how the landscape changes from saguaro to pines. Beautiful. Mount Lemmon

    Thanks Tucson

    There you go, nine things to do in Tucson Arizona. Throughout the area there are several places designed to show visitors what the old west was like, but they aren’t authentic and I usually shy away from such things. But if you are interested to learn more about the wider variety of things to see and do in this remarkable region of Arizona at Visit Tucson. There are certainly more than nine things to do in Tucson Arizona…but this will give you a start.

    We will definitely be back. Thanks Tucson. We loved you.

    Want to take a day trip south? Read our post Tubac, Bisbee, Tombstone Day Trip from Tucson Arizona.

    Next week we will post about our favorite food in Tucson.

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    North America Travel

    Tubac, Bisbee, Tombstone Day Trip from Tucson Arizona

    Location: Arizona USA

    There is a wide variety of activities to enjoy while visiting Tucson Arizona, without ever leaving town. But if you have the time, make your way south for some colorful history and fun. Enjoy Tubac, Bisbee, Tombstone Day Trip from Tucson.

    Tubac

    Any of these three destinations could also be an overnight destination, but we left Tucson around 8 am and headed first to Tubac. About an hour and half drive to the tiny historic town, known for its historic presidio (fort in Spanish). The seven dollar entrance fee is well worth it to explore the presidio and learn about its history, which began in 1691 as a small Spanish Mission. The presidio served the Spanish, the Mexicans and even the Apache over the generations. Today it is an Arizona State Park.

    Southwest style pottery in Tubac

    Tubac is also a great destination for acquiring lovely Southwest pottery, glass and metal art. We spent about two hours total in Tubac (if shopping, you could easily spend more), including breakfast at the Stables Ranch and Grill, on the grounds of the Tubac Golf Resort. The resort is located on a 400 year old Spanish farm and ranch.

    Presidio in Tubac
    Historic Adobe School House, Tubac

    Learn more about Tubac here.

    Bisbee

    Our Tubac, Bisbee, Tombstone Day Trip from Tucson continued as we drove almost two hours to Bisbee. The two lane road, and eventually a highway wind south nearly to the Mexican border before heading east through endless grass lands with mountain ranges distant. A beautiful drive.

    There are three main areas to explore in Bisbee. First are the open pit mines, a giant scar on the earth from the copper and silver mining that ruled this region for decades. Today there is no mining but you can take a tour of the mines. If you don’t want to take a tour you can just stand on the edge of the pit and be amazed at the devastation.

    Pit mine, Bisbee

    Near by is the former town of Lowell, which has been incorporated into Bisbee. Most of the town of Lowell was swallowed up when the Lavender Pit Mine was expanded, leaving only Erie Street intact. Businesses on Erie Street struggled to survive with few residents left. Today, preservationists keep Erie colorful for tourists, even though only one business remains open. It lives up to it’s name as an eerie mining ghost town.

    Erie Street, Lowell Arizona

    Old Bisbee, also hit by hard times, still offers a colorful and historic story of small town mining life with several museums and a historic hotel in the middle of town. Built on the side of a mountain, surveying the town requires climbing stairs, but the views are worth it. Quaint and quirky Bisbee is worth two hours, and more if you take the mine tour. Stop for a beer at the Bisbee Brewing Company.

    Bisbee
    Bisbee Brewing
    Lowell

    Learn more about Bisbee here.

    Tombstone

    The most famous of these three towns was actually my least favorite, although I am glad we stopped. The historic old town of Tombstone, site of the infamous shootout at the OK Coral, is now a very touristy destination. But much of the old town remains, and local lore draws thousands of visitors to witness the “shootout” re-enactment several times a day at multiple locations.

    Tombstone

    The OK Corral is a Historical Landmark and the Tombstone Courthouse is a State Historical Park. Stagecoach rides through town are popular, and costumed characters wander about. Souvenir shops and restaurants occupy the remaining old west buildings. We recommend a meal at Big Nose Kate’s with excellent live music and the movie Tombstone on continuously on the big screen.

    An hour is enough in Tombstone, unless you plan to do the 45 minute “shootout” show (there is a shorter option too) or plan to do a lot of shopping.

    Tombstone
    Tombstone

    Learn more about Tombstone here.

    Your Tubac, Bisbee, Tombstone day trip from Tucson ends with a one hour drive back to Tucson; we were back a little after 5:00 PM. A very enjoyable day trip if you have the time when visiting Tucson – a city filled with history, scenery, recreation and more.

    Watch for next Friday’s blog all about Tucson.

    See last week’s blog about Senstional Sedona Arizona

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