Cherry blossom season in Washington, DC is a much anticipated time in the nation’s capital signifying the start of spring. The cherry blossoms are one of the biggest tourist attraction to the nation’s capital with over 1.5 million visitors. Every year, the National Park Service predicts the much anticipated “peak bloom,” which is the period … Read more A Local’s Guide to Visiting the Washington, DC Cherry Blossoms
Boulder has a college-town meets low-key mountain vibe. With a pedestrian-only main street, plenty of coffee shops and breweries, and surrounding natural beauty, it is easy to fall in love with. Boulder is one of those places that has something for everyone! What to Do Take a hike. The Flatirons are a fantastic hiking option … Read more The Ultimate Weekend Guide to Boulder, Colorado
Morning steam rising from thermal features, an erupting geyser in the distance. Bison herds grazing across the plain. The occasional bear lumbering in the woods, pawing through fallen logs for insects. Cascading waterfalls plunging into a rising, hissing fog. Yellowstone is a magical place, full of beauty, wonder, and wildlife. There’s nothing like visiting this … Read more Planning the Perfect Trip to Yellowstone
Far west Texas isn’t just open desert like Hollywood movies would have you believe. The Davis Mountains rise up above the open plain and exposing interesting rock formations along the canyon walls. Explore Davis Mountains State Park‘s miles of trails, camping, and informational Ranger programming. Trails range from easy stroll to challenging, offering something for … Read more The Davis Mountains in West Texas
Located in Sangre de Cristo Mountains in northern New Mexico
Elevation: 9,206 ft – 12,481 ft
Some of the best terrain in North America
1) Amazing terrain. With 300+ inches of annual snowfall and 1,294 acres of skiable terrain, the Taos Ski Valley slopes offer over 100 runs. Skiers enjoy light, dry powder, interesting terrain (including steep shoots, big bumps and challenging tree glades) and essentially no wait for lift lines, even during busier times.
2) Do a ski week. Al’s Run looming over the base area may intimidate skiers, but there’s plenty of skiable terrain for all levels. Take advantage of Taos Ski Valley’s renowned ski school and sign up for lessons. You’ll enjoy tailored instruction and perfect technical skiing skills on some slopes that may have been too difficult to tackle on your own. Overlap your visit with an Adult Snowsports Week and get 6 two-hour morning lessons in addition to “tech talk” evenings.
3) Affordability. Reasonable flights and hotel rates make this destination a no brainer. Lift tickets start from $54 if purchased online, and accommodations are just as affordable. Stay 10 min from Ski Valley in the unique town of Taos for as little as $60 per night. Hotel rates at the base of the mountain won’t take a chunk out of your paycheck either. We loved our chalet-style room at Alpine Village Suites and soaked our sore muscles after long days of skiing in the outdoor hot tub and sauna.
3) Nearby day trips. Easy day trips from Taos Ski Valley include Taos Pueblo, Rio Grande Gorge, and Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa to name a few. Santa Fe is only a couple hours away and on the way to Taos if you’re flying out of Albuquerque. Stop over in Sante Fe for jewelry shopping, pueblo architecture, native history, and delicious food. We stopped at the well-known restaurant Cafe Pasqual’s, nestled into a pueblo style building off the main square.
4) Bustling art scene. The town of Taos has a rich art history with notable artists having settled in the area, drawn to the region’s “drama of vast spaces.” Pop into an art gallery and marvel at the local artists’ talents.
5) Come for the slopes, stay for the memories. When planning our ski trip to Taos, there were plenty of articles boasting about the fantastic skiing. What we weren’t prepared for was the local culture of hospitality experienced throughout our visit. Everyone we interacted with, from ski shop employees and ski patrol to fellow skiers, was incredibly friendly. We even made some new friends sitting out by the fire pit at the base. We’ll definitely be back soon, Taos!
New York City – A dazzling skyline, compact boroughs, streets packed with interesting shops, and unique people. In all its multifaceted angles, there are a thousand ways to “do” a trip to NYC. We decided to tackle the City in 48 hours and experience as much of it as we could in one short weekend. And boy did we pack in a lot! We took an urban wandering approach to experiencing NYC in the fall and let the structure of the city guide our daily journeys à pied.
Evening: Nightlife. We arrived into the city in the evening and headed directly to dinner in the Upper East Side at Candle 79 for an unbelievable fine-dining experience and vegan, organic plates. Stephanie was especially excited to dine here because loves the chef’s cookbook! Afterwards, our good friend currently living in New York joined up to show us a night out on the town. We were ambitious and traversed half of the city from East Village to Chinatown to Brooklyn.
Morning:Weekend brunching is part of the NYC lifestyle. We highly recommend a casual brunch at Jack’s Wife Freda in West Village. This charming yet understated American-Mediterranean bistro is super popular with locals and tourists alike. We ordered their Eggs Benny, Madame Freda, and cappuccinos with cute “coffee art” to go with.
Afternoon: Wander West Village past local outdoor markets, small neighborhood parks, and high end boutiques. Charming brick winding streets lined with old brick buildings give the area a lovely laid back feel. Seasonal veggies and homemade goodies were displayed in stalls at an outdoor neighborhood market. We also hopped into a few shops to browse their fall/winter collections, including Intermix, Maje, and Sandro (some of Stephanie’s favorites).
Afternoon:Explore Chelsea Market. This indoor urban space includes a diverse food market and local arts scene. It’s also one of New York’s hot spots for unique antiques, collectibles, and vintage clothing. Chelsea Market was a fun pit stop and great entry point to access the High Line.
Afternoon:Walk the High Line. The High Line is an elevated freight line turned walkway that runs from Ganesvoort St. up the West Side. The walkway offers pedestrians an urban oasis and a different perspective of the city. Expect crowds in the afternoon, especially on a sunny day, and great people watching. You can hop on/off the High Line at several access points, but we walked the path in its entirety.
Afternoon:Times Square and shopping. If you didn’t take a picture in Times Square, did you even really go to New York? This tourist packed mecca is one for the books, and while we don’t love most overcrowded tourist attractions, we felt like this was still a NYC bucket list must. The Square is full of New York’s famed hustle and bustle energy, and the massive flashing billboards are also dazzling by night.
Afternoon: In NYC, you’ll walk. A lot. What was meant to be a rather short cab ride from Times Square back to our place turned into an adventure in itself. As hard as we tried one late afternoon, we couldn’t hail a taxi (they were all full!) and decided to take the city blocks by foot. We walked all the way back from Times Square to the Upper East Side and on the way passed interesting architecture and notable New York landmarks including the New York Public Library, Bryant Park, and designer shops on Park Ave.
Evening: Sip a cocktail at an upscale rooftop bar. The Press Lounge came highly acclaimed by local friends. To get there, take the elevator up to the 16th floor at the Ink48 Hotel. You’ll be rewarded by panoramic views of the city and the Hudson River. We sipped on cocktails poolside and caught the sun setting over the city and stayed for a beautiful full moon rise.
Evening: Dine in Hell’s Kitchen. With a lot of restaurant variety in the area, it can be hard to choose where to stop.We popped into a Thai restaurant called Obao, which had amazing and affordable plates plus a hip club-like ambiance. Take a stroll around Hell’s Kitchen past late night restaurants and bars up to Times Square to experience the neon-lit block by night. On the way out of of the tourist-packed Square, we discovered a reverse happy hour at Bar Catalina (675 9th Ave A) and stayed for bubbly rose and impromptu dancing with the bar staff. Go for great happy hour/reverse happy hour options and a fun cozy vibe!
Morning:Local coffee spot. Strolled around Upper East Side to Birch Coffee, a local coffee chain, to get our morning dose of caffeine. Not only is Birch Coffee delicious, but the company also purchases coffee beans from sustainable farms around the world with the aim of “making the coffee industry a fair and sustainable one.” Oh, and the pastries! You know we had to try the gourmet Texas-sized donuts. We split a dulce de leche donut and our taste buds got sent to heaven.
Afternoon: Pop into the Plaza Hotel & stroll Central Park. The Plaza Hotel dominates the square at the lower end of Central Park. Inside the revolving glass doors, you’ll be rewarded with giant chandeliers and the definition of New York luxury. From there, walk into the park past ponds, bridges, and benches. You may also discover some tucke treasures like the Alice in Wonderland statue and the Belvedere Castle. On your way out of the Park, walk down the grand avenues on the West and East peripheries with adorned facades that will definitely inspire major home design envy.
Evening: On the road again. Hail a taxi or ride sharing service directly from your phone to catch a ride back to airport. While Uber and Lyft are good ride sharing options, many New Yorkers use Gett and Via. Vacation Vagabond tip: First time Gett users will get $20 off their first ride by entering the code GTTEGOT. First time Via users will get $10 off their first ride with referral code stephanie6j7b. Until next time, New York!
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3 days, 8 stages, 100+ bands. Now in its 15th year, Austin City Limits Festival (ACL Fest) continues to draw big crowds and a good mix of big and up-and-coming names. Whether this is your first or fifth ACL Fest, here’s your guide to navigate the huge Austin festival with ease and grace. Trust us, we’re locals!
Follow the Vacation Vagabonds blog for more from the festival and VIP access thanks to Tribeza.
Look the part
Austinites are all about understated cool.
ACL Fest go-ers typically blend casual style with festival inspired looks, resulting in a lot of fringe, crochet, and suede. Need to pick up a last minute crop top, vest, or trendy sunglasses? Check out Feathers Boutique on South Congress, Prototype Vintage Design just next door, or Buffalo Exchange for some fresh vintage festival finds. Buffalo Exchange also has a lot of great looks for guys.
Make your hair a mane attraction.
Opting for a braided updo ensures you’ll feel and look cool ’til sundown, ladies. To take things up a level, book a hair appointment through Priv. They come to you and do some serious magic! And guys, ditch the office comb-over, and get ready to rock out!
Shimmer and shine.
Did you know that Flash Tattoos (aka Flash Tats) is a local Austin company?! Theses metallic jewelry-inspired tattoos have caught on and are trending with festival-goers who want to stand out and shine. I especially love the Henna and Child of Wild editions. Flash Tats are carried at lots of boutiques in Austin like Still & Sea and Maya Star.
What to pack
~Sun protection ~
Reapply sunscreen throughout the day and bring a pair of shades to protect your eyes and skin from the bright Texas sun. For maximum sun protection, ladies can opt for a cute floppy hat with a wide brim, and guys can rock cowboy or baseball hats.
~ Reusable water bottle ~
Reduce waste and bring your own water bottle or camel back. All liquid containers must be empty upon entry, unless its already sealed. Free water refill stations and misting station are located inside the festival grounds.
~ Portable phone charger ~
Large crowds in a contained area means poor cell reception for the majority of us, and is a major drain on your cell battery. Be prepared for your phone battery to drain much faster than normal as its working hard to connect to your network, and bring a portal charger!
~ Mini first aid kit ~
Great to have just in case for mini scrapes and blisters. Medical tents are also located throughout the festival grounds if you need any assistance.
Have a great time and enjoy the music!
At the end of the day, music festivals are all about the music and the community. So have FUN!!! Here’s a little Vagabond Tip: download the ACL Fest app on your phone and have a game plan ready for each day to make sure you catch all your favorite performers. Come early, to discover new talent, and stay late. Because ACL Fest only comes twice a year!
We’ve visited Yellowstone dozens of times and have spent enough time in this park to consider ourselves professional Yellowstone tourists. We’ve compiled a list of the top reasons why you should plan your trip to Yellowstone!
Only place in the world where can you see so many thermal features
Yellowstone contains half the world’s geothermal features and over 300 geysers. Grand Prismatic Spring pumps out over 4,000 gallons of water every minute, making it the largest hot springs in North America. Old Faithful is the most famous of the Yellowstone geysers thanks to its “faithful” timing; this geyser erupts regularly every 60-110 minute. Three of my personal favorite thermal features are Black Pool, Morning Glory Pool, and Castle Geyser. Our favorite geyser basins are West Thumb Basin and the Old Faithful area.
Vagabond tip: Download the National Park Service’s geyser app for up to date eruption predictions to time your routes around geysers accordingly. This was invaluable during our last visit to the park!
To see native animals in their natural habitats
Lots of open space which is also the perfect environment for other wildlife including elk, deer, moose, pronghorn, wolves, and more. The Yellowstone bison herd is the oldest and largest public bison herd in the U.S. Bison roam freely througout the park, and you may see at least a couple from the side of the road. Visitors seek out Lamar and Hayden Valley in particular for these areas’ large number of animal sightings. Wolves were only recently reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995 after being absent from the park for seven decades and are a big attraction.
Vagabond tip: Always be alert driving through the park, as you never know what animals you may sight from your vehicle. And never approach wildlife, even if they look peaceful–they can be unpredictable and may charge without warning.
Camp under the stars
Have you ever seen the Milky Way with your own naked eyes? Grab a sleeping bag, pitch a tent, and star gaze in Yellowstone. The park offers several campsites, or if you’re an adventurous sort, take your gear backpacking to get away from the crowds. We camped out along a scenic river in between tall pine trees, but it was the view of the stars at night that took our breath away.
Visit the only supervolcano on land in the world
There are only 30 active super volcanoes in the world, and the Yellowstone Caldera is the only one in North America, and is also the only one located on land. Did you know that the entire area of the park is located on top of this gigantic volcano that stretches about 34 by 45 miles (55 by 72 km)? So cool!
Experience a part of history
Signed into law by Congress in 1872, Yellowstone was the first national park in U.S. history. Yellowstone’s history begins much earlier than that though, with Native American tribes in the area for centuries who were followed by pioneers traveling west. Many iconic greats in American history have left a footprint on the park since it was established. President Roosevelt laid down the first cornerstone of the Roosevelt arch located at the northern entrance in Gardiner, which is inscribed with a quote from the legislation which created Yellowstone.
Vagabond tip: It’s fun to stroll some of the tourist shops along the Gardiner main street with an ice cream cone of some of the best we’ve ever had!
Take a hike
Explore the back country of some of America’s most beautiful land. We recommend breaking up full days of driving with at least one hike to stretch and go exploring off the park’s paved roads. Some interesting hikes are Uncle Tom’s Trail, which is short but steep and descends 500 feet toward the base of the Lower Falls, and Mystic Falls, which is a moderate 2.5 mile hike and gives you an overlook of Biscuit Basin.
Vagabond tip: Safety first! Always carry bear spray and make noise throughout hike. Park rangers also suggest that hikers travel in groups of three or more. (P.S. Check out our favorite NPS Rangers, Christina Warburg’s Instagram account @christinaadelephoto for some of the most beautiful photos of U.S. national parks and interesting anecdotes.
Inspiring landscape and wildlife sure to spark wonderment at all of the sheer natural beauty. Even the drives are stunning with roads skirting cliffs with canyons and rivers coursing below, waterfalls at bridge outlooks, and always scanning for a glimpse of wildlife. The park attracts artists from all over the world seeking inspiration. It’s no surprise, then, that one of the most iconic views of the yellow stone of the canyon is aptly named Artist Point.
Old Faithful Inn
Experience one of the most interesting American architectural feats for yourself. Old Faithful is constructed of lodge pole pine and looks like a giant wooden cabin. It was built in a unique style in its conception and inspired an entirely new architecture genre, National Park Service rustic. No two windows are alike, with the architect intending the building to reflect the non-parallel symmetry of nature. Another interesting feature of the Inn is the Crows Nest. Grab a spot on the outdoor deck facing Old Faithful geyser for the geyser’s nearly hourly entertainment. In the evenings, grab a drink and settle in for live music in evenings.
Soak in a natural hot tub
Ditch the spa for a dip in one of Mother Nature’s hot tubs. Most of the park’s thermal areas are way too hot to touch, but a few places are safe for a dip. We were thrilled to visit Boiling River just north of Mammoth Hot Springs, where hot springs enter Gardner River to create an enthralling experience. Imagine one side of your body icy cold from the mountain river, and the other half steeping in steaming water from hot springs. Winter visitors can also visit Boiling River, since the northern entrance from Gardiner into the park is open through the park’s colder months.
Great trout fishing
Trout Fishermen claim Yellowstone to have some of the best fishing in the U.S. Test your skills and fling a cast into Yellowstone Lake or Madison River for either fly or lure fishing. Yellowstone waters are home to sizable native cutthroat, brown trout, rainbow trout and brook trout.
Make lasting memories
Reconnect with yourself, friends, and family in nature. Yellowstone is the perfect place to make lasting, timeless memories. Stephanie’s family has been visiting Yellowstone for decades, and we’re already planning our next trip to Yellowstone together!
*All pictures are our own unless stated otherwise.
Vacation Vagabonds loves food and wine just as much as we love hiking and adventure! We’ve uncovered the top five date night spots in Jackson Hole for the foodie inclined.
Most unique cuisine: Bin 22
We promise you won’t be disappointed at Bin 22, a wine bar and tapas restaurant located off the Town Square. The restaurant has a buzzing interior and charming patio with heaters–vital if you’re visiting from Texas, like us! What makes this spot really unique is that you can pick out a bottle from the specialty grocery store front with no corking fee. This tapas spot is perfect for late night dining and sharing plates to sample a variety of menu items. Our voted most interesting dish is the grilled Spanish octopus served with fingerling potatoes and fennel in a lemon-basil vinaigrette. Stephanie had to be talked into this one by our waiter, and regrets nothing! The cheese plate also blew us away, which is saying something. Brandon takes cheeses very seriously with family ties hailing from Wisconsin/Michigan.
Vagabond Tip: Make reservations or plan to arrive before/after the dinner rush during peak season. Bin 22 can get really busy!
Drinks with a view: Amangani Resort
Go for brunch, a late afternoon aperitif or late night drinks and apps. The view from the Amangani Resort cannot be beat (talk about inspiring major vacation envy among all your friends)! Cozy up by the fireplace and watch the sun set over the Tetons and valley below. Vinos would be pleased with the options offered, and the cocktail menu is exceptional. Brandon’s 22 Boulevard cocktail (Wyoming Whiskey, boulard calvados, and honey sage tea) was unparalelled! We were also impressed by the Amangani Grill’s take on hush puppies with crab. Definitely worth the ten minute drive outside of town.
Vagabond Tip: Make a day of the Amangani Resort area! Trail rides are available through the adjacent ranch in the summers, and the resort offers a full service spa and other services. The reflective pool is also incredibly tempting!
Intimate setting: Nanni’s Ristorante
Nanni’s Ristorante is Italian cooking done right. We couldn’t help but fall for this charming wooden cabin with a easygoing vibe, and their handmade pasta dishes speak for themselves. Dim lighting and homemade style cooking are sure to inspire great conversation and lasting memories. Stephanie raved about the mushroom and parsley gnocchi, and Brandon ordered the carbonara with pancetta and egg yolk. We always make a point of dining at Nanni’s and continue to return to year after year.
Western home cooking: Cafe Genevieve
Cafe Genevieve offers a menu inspired by Southern-style cooking with Western flair. An intimate restaurant in a historic wooden cabin, Cafe Genevieve is popular with locals and tourists alike. Savory dishes are on the dinner menu here, with options like Idaho trout (pictured below, left), shrimp and grits, and seared buffalo tenderloin. Cafe Genevieve is also open for brunch and lunch, so you have lots of flexibility in your schedule to fit in a provincial meal here.
Vagabond Tip: Cafe Genevieve’s novelty menu item is “pig candy” or candied bacon (pictured below, right), and Brandon swears it tastes almost exactly like you would expect.
What other spots should be on here? We want to hear about your favorites! Leave a comment or question for us.
The Bradley-Taggart Lake loop is a phenomenal moderate half-day hike with stunning views of the Tetons throughout. The loop visits two of the six glacially-formed lakes that lie at the base of the Teton Range. We started from Taggart Lake Trailhead that took us along a bubbling mountain creek and dense aspen groves with some leaves just starting to transform the trail into autumn. The trail leveled out with terrain changing from forest to clearings.
The glass surface of Bradley Lake mirroring the mountains looming over the distant shore was mesmerizing. Low wind conditions and sunny skies made for the perfect photo op! By this point, we had befriended a couple from Ohio visiting the national parks for the first time. They kept us company for practically the rest of the hike and shared lots of laughs. Props to JJ for this shot of us!
We continued uphill to reach the second glacial lake: Taggart. After a couple miles of incline we reached the overlook which sits a couple hundred feet above the lake. Sadly, our new friends decided to return to the trailhead, while we opted to continue a little farther to find the perfect picnic spot. The extra distance was well worth it! We were rewarded with a boulder nestled on the shore overlooking the deep blue and green water. Feeling content from our tranquil perch, we lounged soaking in the views for the better part of two hours.
We retraced our steps back towards Bradley Lake since the bridge connecting the loop was out. Nearing the end of our hike, we found a clearing with a panorama that tugged on Stephanie’s need to bust out some yoga moves from a boulder.
Also, Brandon was challenged to a Macarena dance off. And won.
Jackson Hole is a western town nestled in between the Teton Mountain Range and Gros Ventre Range. I’ve spent summers in Jackson for as long as I can remember, and always find fun new things each year. Here are some of my favorite classic Jackson Hole must-do’s in town.
Window shop on the Town Square
Dozens of tourist and specialty shops line the streets surrounding the Town Square, making it a perfect way to spend the afternoon. Some of our favorite touristy shops include Shirt Off My Back, Skinny Skis, and Jackson Trading Company. Most unique store on the square goes to By Nature Gallery which features fossils, meteorites, petrified wood, and gorgeous gems worked into jewelry pieces. Most recently, the store displayed a giant sloth foot and triceratops skull. It’s like walking into a museum with pieces you can take home…if you can afford it! For those daring to go off the beaten track and do some thrifting, there are some great hidden gems just off the square. Browse & Buy (associated with the Episcopal Church next door) offers an assortment of used clothes, books, and sports equipment. We’ve picked up a great hiking backpack there, and if you’re lucky, you can find great deals on skis and snowboards in the off season.
Western shoot out
The Jackson Hole Shootout has been a Wyoming tradition since 1957. Unaware spectators wandering the Square may be caught off guard by smoking gunfire, runaway horse-drawn wagons, and cowboys running along rooftops. The shoot out is put on by actors at the Jackson Hole Playhouse every summer evening, except Sundays. As the locals put it, there’s no shootin’ on Sundays!
*Fun fact: The Shootout is the longest, continuously running gunfight in the United States with an estimated 4 million spectators over the years.
Wander art galleries
Marvel at impressive western-inspired artwork, of which there’s no shortage. Jackson boasts over 25 art galleries, all with a unique flair. Many galleries join up for monthly Art Walks and other events to provide drinks and appetizers while you cruise the local art scene. My favorite gallery that I return to year after year is Altamira Fine Art (@altamirafineart). Altamira always has some gorgeous color-infused Nieto paintings (my absolute favorite) and other emerging and established artists. You can also drop by legendary nature photographer Thomas Mangelsen’s (@thomasdmangelsen) Images of Nature gallery to view his iconic work.