Day Trips from Boston By Train – Martha’s Vineyard

It’s been a while since I’ve written a Day Trips from Boston by Train post. For those that don’t know I live in the city of Boston and do not own a car so I’m always looking for day trips to take by train from Boston, especially in the summer.

I know you must be thinking, isn’t Martha’s Vineyard an island? How are you getting there by train? Well, yes, it is an island, and a ferry is definitely involved after taking the train from Boston.

When visiting Boston, renting a car isn’t always a feasible option if you are staying downtown as parking is expensive and driving is more of a hassle than it’s worth since the city is very compact and walkable. Plus, if you want to head to Cape Cod to catch the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard during the summer months, you very likely will spend a lot of time in traffic.

Getting to Martha’s Vineyard from Boston

So, taking the Cape Flyer train from Boston to Cape Cod is the perfect way to get to Martha’s Vineyard in my opinion. The Cape Flyer runs from Memorial Day to Labor day, three days a week, usually an evening trip on Fridays and morning trips on Saturdays and Sundays with return trips on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. Make sure to check out the website for their current schedule. The train leaves from South Station which is right in downtown Boston. A roundtrip ticket will cost $40 per person (be sure to check the website for current pricing).

To get to Martha’s Vineyard, get off at the Bourne stop. From here there will be free shuttles waiting to take you to the Steamship Authority ferry terminal in Woods Hole.

Bourne Train Stop

The cape flyer website has suggested ferry times to take that work best with the train schedule. But you can also check the steamship authority website if you didn’t want to be too rushed and wanted to take a later ferry from Woods Hole. I do suggest taking the ferry to Oaks Bluff and then taking the ferry from Vineyard Haven back to Woods Hole.

Woods Hole

About Martha’s Vineyard

Located off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts is the island of Martha’s Vineyard, known by many as just “The Vineyard”. This island has less than 20,000 yearlong residents but in the summer months, the population of this 96 square mile island increases to over 100,000. It’s known a summer vacation home to many affluent people including some well-known people. Many members of John F Kennedy’s family have called the Vineyard home for years. Past presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama vacationed here during their time in office.

But it’s not just political families that love Martha Vineyards, celebrities also love the island, with many owning homes on the Vineyard. David Letterman, Meg Ryan and Carly Simon all own property on the Vineyard. But these famous people are not what helped to make Martha’s Vineyard a place most people have heard of, it’s the movie that was filmed here. Jaws not only took place but was actually filmed right here on the Vineyard.

Celebrities and movies aside, the Vineyard is full of things to see and do and the perfect summer day trip!

Views from the Ferry

Oak Bluffs

As mentioned earlier, there are two ferries, one that goes to Oaks Bluff and one that goes to Vineyard Haven. Oaks Bluff is the busiest town on the Vineyard and where most of the must-see sights are located. Once you get off the ferry, you will be right in the center of town. Some must-see sites while in Oak Bluffs include the following:

  • Flying Horses Carousel – Built in 1876 and originally located at New York’s Coney Island, this carousel came to Oak Bluffs in 1884 and has been in operation in Oaks Bluffs ever since then. It’s the Oldest Platform Carousel in operation in the US. Even if you aren’t interested in a ride on the carousel, it’s definitely worth taking a look at this historic carousel. It’s fascinating to see how different carousels looked over 100 years ago.
  • Gingerbread Cottages – A National Historic Landmark, the Gingerbread Cottages came about from the Methodist Church Camp Meeting. Starting in 1835, annual camp meetings started to be held on this site on Martha’s Vineyard. Over the years, many of the attendees of the camp meetings were staying on the island longer and would camp in tents on the site. Starting in the 1860s cottages began being built on the site. The colorful cottages are reminiscent of gingerbread houses. They are quite the sight to see. While they are privately owned, many are rented out to people visiting.

How cute would these houses be to stay in?

  • Ocean Park – some of the Gingerbread Cottages are located near Ocean Park. This beautiful park is right near the ferry docks and directly across the street from the beach. It’s a great spot to relax, have a picnic or toss a frisbee around.
  • Inkwell Beach – As mentioned, Ocean Park is located just across the street from the beach. This beach is called Inkwell Beach. If you are just here for the day, this is the perfect beach as it’s just a short walk from the ferry dock. Even if you aren’t a fan of sitting on the beach, it’s great to walk the sidewalk along the beach and take in the views.
  • Oak Bluffs Public Fishing Pier – located right by the ferry docks, is the public fishing pier. This is not only a great spot to fish, but also to take a walk. There is a nice little walking bridge by the water near the pier. Who doesn’t love spending some time on the pier during the summer.

Bus Tour of the Island

While there is so much to do in Oaks Bluff that you could spend the majority of the day there, if you wanted to venture out to other parts of the island, you could take a bus tour of the entire island. The tours take a few hours and leave from right across from the ferry docks. This is a great way to see the main sites on Martha’s Vineyard and hear the history of the island as well.

The majority of the tour involves driving by spots on the island and some of these spots may look familiar to you if you have seen the movie, Jaws. In between Oak Bluffs and Edgartown is the Joseph Sylvia State Beach and the infamous “Jaws Bridge” from the movie. While driving by you will probably catch a few people jumping off the bridge.

Beach from Jaws

The whaling town of Edgartown was where they filmed the town of Amity scenes and the fishing village of Menemsha was also featured in the movie.

There is one stop on the tour where you can get off the bus and explore. It’s in my opinion one of the most beautiful spots on the island, Aquinnah. This town is on the western side of Martha’s Vineyard and features sweeping ocean views from atop the red clay cliffs. Located on top of the cliffs is Gay Head Light which is the first lighthouse built on Martha’s Vineyard.

My photo above does not even do the cliffs justice, they were more beautiful than I imagined, and it made me feel like I was somewhere other than Massachusetts. The views in Aquinnah made the 3 hours in the bus more than worth it!

Bike across Martha’s Vineyard

Want to see the whole island but don’t want to take a bus tour, why not see it by bike. Biking is extremely popular on the island. In fact, back when I was probably 11 or 12, I attempted biking the island with my girl scout troop. When I say attempt, it’s because I had quite the adventure, with two flat tires. The first one was right near where we started, so I was driven back to the bike shop for another bike, the other one was halfway thru the ride, so I ended up back in the car for the rest of the way to our accommodations for the night.

My eventful experience aside, seeing the island by bike is definitely a great idea. There are many bike trails, ranging from short trails just 3 miles long to longer trails of up to 25 miles. You can either bring your own bike over on the ferry or you can rent a bike at one of the bike shops in Oak Bluffs.

Vineyard Haven

As I mentioned earlier in the post, you can catch the ferry in either Oak Bluffs or Vineyard Haven. Located just a few miles from Oak Bluffs, Vineyard Haven is a much quieter and more relaxing town.

Things to do in Vineyard Haven include:

  • Martha’s Vineyard Museum – explore the history of the island.
  • Browse the many art galleries in town.
  • Shop in the local shops.
  • Take a bike ride to West Chop Lighthouse and maybe even visit East Chop Lighthouse on your way to Vineyard Haven from Oak Bluffs.
  • Enjoy one of the local beaches.
  • Just relax by the harbor.

Getting Around Martha’s Vineyard

If you aren’t one to get around by bike, you are in luck as the bus system on the island is very convenient and easy to use. Check out the Martha’s Vineyard Transit Authority’s website for updated bus schedules and fare information.

If you are wanting to get out of the city for a great summer day trip, Martha’s Vineyard is the perfect spot.

Looking for more day trips from Boston by train? Check out my posts on Newburyport and Manchester By The Sea.

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Disneyland Hotel – Past, Present and Future

Last September I went to a conference that was held at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, California. Being able to stay at the Disneyland Hotel had been a dream of mine for quite some time. And I was even more excited to find out that they offered a free history tour of the hotel while I was there. As a huge Disney fan, learning the history of this hotel was something I was very excited about.

Disneyland Hotel – the Past

As part of Walt Disney’s plans for Disneyland was to have a hotel next door to attract not only guest from out of town but to also attract guests from around the country who would be coming to California for several days. While this was a great idea, with all of Walt’s financial resources going into building the theme park itself, he knew he had to find someone else to finance and build the hotel.

In 1954, Walt Disney met Jack Wrather who was a producer in Hollywood and owned television and radio stations across the US. Since Wrather had the financial means and the interest in real estate, Walt asked him to build a hotel complete with a restaurant and swimming pool next to Disneyland.

Jack and Bonita Wrather, founders of the Disneyland Hotel

They broke ground in March of 1955 and in October of that same year, just a few months after Disneyland opened, the hotel officially opened with just 7 hotel rooms completed. Shortly after opening, the number of rooms completed rose to just over 100 rooms in five 2-story buildings. With the success of Disneyland, this proved to not be enough rooms, so over the following five years, they added six additional buildings, which brought the total amount of guest rooms to over 300 by 1960, making it the largest hotel in Orange County.

Disneyland Hotel in the 50s and 60s

During the 60s and 70s, the hotel went thru quite the expansion, the three towers that make up the hotel today were built during these two decades and increased the amount of hotel rooms to over 1,400. In 1961, they added a monorail station to the hotel, so that hotel guests could go straight to Disneyland on the monorail. In 1970, the marina opened at the Disneyland Hotel. At the marina, they featured the Dancing Waters show which featured water fountains set to music similar to the fountain show currently at the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas. In 1979, Water Wonderland opened with an updated Dancing Waters Show, the first laser sculpture show in the US, a waterfall and a rain forest.

Disneyland Hotel in the 70s and 80s

During the 80s, the Walt Disney Company made several attempts to purchase the Disneyland Hotel from the Wrather Corporation and finally in 1988, some 33 years after the hotel opened, the Disneyland Hotel was finally owned by the Walt Disney Company.

In 1999, a major renovation of the Disneyland Hotel took place. This renovation included demolishing major portions of the hotel to make room for the second theme park, Disney’s California Adventure and the shopping and dining complex, Downtown Disney. All that remained were the three towers, lowering the number of hotel rooms from over 1400 to 990 rooms. This did not take away from the amount of hotel rooms on Disney property though as two additional hotels were built, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel, eventually increasing the total number of hotel rooms on property to over 2,500 rooms.

Learning the history of the hotel was definitely my favorite part of the tour, it especially added to the nostalgia I had all week looking at the memorabilia and older photos that were located in the convention center of the hotel.

Disneyland Hotel – The Present

While there may be less rooms than in previous decades, the hotel is still a top spot for guests to stay while visiting Disneyland. As mentioned above, the three towers still remain. Today they are called the Fantasy, Frontier and Adventure Towers after three of the lands in Disneyland. The Fantasy Tower is where the lobby and gift shop are located. This tower is also connected to the convention center and the dining options at the hotel.

The Frontier Tower is located on the other side of the pool from the Fantasy Tower. Fitting with the frontier theme, this tower even has a water fall and it’s own Old Faithful geyser outside the tower. Unlike Yellowstone’s Old Faithful, this geyser does not erupt at a regular schedule like the real geyser. You just never know when this manmade geyser may erupt.

The Adventure Tower is closest to Downtown Disney and has an Adventureland theme that will make you think about the Jungle Cruise ride. This was the tower that I stayed in and I loved the adventurous looking lobby in the tower.

Adventure Tower

The adventure tower is also where the suites and club level rooms are located. The Disneyland Hotel has 5 signature themed suites: Adventureland Suite, Pirates of the Caribbean Suite, Big Thunder Mountain Suite, Fairytale Suite and the Mickey Mouse Penthouse. These themed suites come with one or two bedrooms and can sleep from 2 to 6 adults depending on the suite. Normally during the tour, they try to show you one of the suites, but the day I took the tour all five of the suites were occupied so we sadly did not get to see one of the suites.

We did get to see the E-ticket club which is available to everyone staying in club level rooms. Like many club or concierge levels in other hotels, the E-ticket club features a concierge, breakfast in the morning, hors d’oeuvres in the evening and snacks throughout the day. The E-ticket club is located on the 11th floor and offers beautiful views of both Disneyland and California Adventure.

While we may not all have the opportunity to stay in the signature suites or on club level with access to the E-ticket club, the standard hotel rooms are also very special.

There are so many special touches in the hotel rooms. From the fireworks on the carpet to the light up headboards that display fireworks and plays music!

I really loved the pillows they had on the bed, it seemed so fitting…

There were black and white photos of Disneyland on the wall and so many Mickey’s in everything from the bathroom faucets to the lamps.

Even though my room was on the second floor, I still ended up with this wonderful view of the pool area. I definitely enjoyed waking up to this view every morning!

Speaking of the pool area, there are two pools at the Disneyland Hotel. The 4,800 square foot E-Ticket pool features signs displaying theme park tickets of past years. The D-Ticket pool is a great pool if you are looking to swim laps. Being a family hotel, there is also a water play area for the smaller children.

There are also two waterslides available that feature replica monorail trains. They include a 25-foot high, 180-foot-long slide and a 13-foot high, 80-foot-long slide. And the youngest kids are not forgotten, there is also a mini slide for the smaller children.

The Disneyland Hotel offers multiple dining establishments to enjoy:

  • The Coffee House – featuring coffee, pastries and snacks, this is a great spot for a quick breakfast or a small lunch.
  • Tangaroa Terrace Tropical Bar & Grill – Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner this quick service spot features American and Polynesian food and has both indoor and outdoor seating. They even have a to-go counter for drinks and the fan favorite Dole Whip!
  • Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar – This popular tiki bar is inspired by the Jungle Cruise ride in Disneyland and offers tropical beverages. Due to it’s popularity, advance reservations are definitely recommended.
  • Goofy’s Kitchen – Open for Breakfast and Dinner, this restaurant offers a buffet meal with your favorite Disney characters. A character meal is definitely a must for kids and adults alike.

Probably the best part about the Disneyland Hotel is its convenient location. Walk right out of the hotel grounds and you will be at the entrance to Downtown Disney and walk right thru Downtown Disney and you will be at the entrances to Disneyland and California Adventure.

Disneyland Hotel – The Future

Remember how the Disneyland Hotel used to have over 1,400 hotel rooms, well they are expanding to get closer to that number of rooms again. They are currently constructing a new tower that is scheduled to open later in 2023.

This new tower will be part of the Disney Vacation Club and will feature 350 rooms, which will consist of mostly studios along with some one- and two-bedroom villas. There will also be a new pool and splash pad area included. The name of this 12 story tower will be the Villas at Disneyland Hotel. It’s good to see that this historic Disney hotel is still growing after almost 70 years in operation!

It’s definitely a very special place, like Disneyland Park, the Disneyland Hotel was Walt’s vision and he walked thru these grounds. If you are visiting Disneyland, even if you are not staying at the hotel, I encourage you to take a walk over and walk the grounds, have a meal or drink and search for the many hidden Mickey’s throughout the hotel.

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Weekend in Detroit

As the largest city in Michigan and with its location just across the river from Canada, Detroit offers a lot of things to see and do for both people from the US and Canada. If you don’t live too far away and can drive or take a flight that isn’t too long, it’s the perfect spot for a weekend trip.

Detroit had been known as a hub of industry and manufacturing for a number of years and then in 1896, Henry Ford built his first car in Detroit. He soon invented the moving assembly line to manufacture cars. With nearby iron and copper regions, other automobile companies joined Henry Ford in opening manufacturing facilities in Detroit. For this reason, Detroit became known as the Motor City.

Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation

Henry Ford did a lot for the city of Detroit and the surrounding area and it’s evident in the multiple attractions you can visit related to Henry Ford and the entire Ford family.

One of the top things to see in Detroit is the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, located outside of downtown Detroit in Dearborn Michigan. This museum explores the American innovations over the years. It’s a fun and educational museum for the entire family. While it explores many American innovations, there is a large part of the museum that explores the automobile, this is the Motor City, so it must.

The Driving America Exhibit displays cars from Ford’s first vehicle built in 1896, the Quadricycle to the famed Model T all the way thru the cars of today. It’s fun to look back at the evolution of vehicles thru the years. But it’s not just the everyday vehicles that are on display. There is also a full exhibit on race cars thru the years as well as the Presidential Vehicles thru the years.

The museum also reminds us that cars were not the only innovation along the American roads, there were also many other things like fast food restaurants and roadside motels which the museum pays homage to with a collection of roadside signs. There is even a great spot for lunch, Lamy’s Diner, in the midst of this exhibit, it’s the perfect example of a roadside diner.

Along with automobiles, you can also explore other means of transportation. The Heroes in the Sky exhibit features the evolution of flying from the early days of the Wright Brothers first flight to the planes of today. There are also exhibits for the railroad in America and agriculture vehicles throughout the years.

There are many other exhibits that do not relate to transportation. Some of these include:

  • Made in America: Power which explores innovations that powered the country, like the steam engine.
  • Clockwork featuring timepieces throughout the years
  • Mathematica which features thought provoking exhibits that help make math playful and fun.
  • With Liberty and Justice For All which features exhibits exploring the history of freedom in America. This exhibit reminded me alot of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.
  • Fully Furnished which features furniture dating back to 1670 all the way to the present day.
  • Davidson-Gerson Modern Glass Gallery
  • Your Place in Time which features items that helped define the past century. I really enjoyed seeing all the 80s items from my childhood including the calculator pictured below which I used to own.

They also have temporary exhibits (check the website for the current temporary exhibit). While I was there in September 2022, they had the Art of the Disney Costume exhibit. As a huge Disney fan, I of course really enjoyed this exhibit. It featured costumes from some of Disney’s popular movies like Mary Poppins and Hocus Pocus.

This was one of the most comprehensive museums I have been to in a while. You could definitely spend the good majority of the day in this museum.

Greenfield Village

Located just outside of the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation is Greenfield Village. This 80-acre village consisting of 7 historic districts explores the formation of America. It’s a beautiful spot to walk around and take a step back in time.

The seven historic districts are as follows:

  • Working Farms – see the farms of the past including farm animals
  • Liberty Craftworks – Here you can view pottery being created and glass blowing demonstrations. There is even a store where you can buy products made right here at Greenfield Village.
  • Henry Ford’s Model T – Check out a replica of the first Ford Factory and even take a ride thru the village in a Model T (separate cost from admission).
  • Railroad Junction – Check out the locomotives and be sure to take a ride on one to get to other districts in the village (separate cost from admission).
  • Main Street – Visit the main street of yesteryear to see an old schoolhouse, post office, homes and shops. You can even take a ride on a horse drawn carriage (separate cost from admission).
  • Edison at Work – As pioneers of innovation in America, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison were also great friends, they even had neighboring winter homes in Ft. Myers, Florida. So, it’s no surprise that there is a district dedicated to Edison at Greenfield Village. Here you can visit the laboratories and workshops of Thomas Edison.
  • Porches and Patios – Explore replica homes of some of the people who helped shape America including Thomas Edison, Robert Frost and the writer of the dictionary, Noah Webster.

Greenfield Village is great for everyone who enjoys taking a step back in time to experience history firsthand.

Fairlane – Home of Henry and Clara Ford

Also located in Dearborn is the home of Henry and Clara Ford, Fairlane. The Fords lived here from 1915 until each of their deaths in 1947 and 1950.

Fairlane includes the family home, the powerhouse which supplied energy for the home and the 1,300 acres it sits on.

When I visited and also at the time of writing this, the home and powerhouse were both closed for restoration. You can still visit the 1,300 acres of grounds and gardens at Fairlane. Visit their website to see if the home is open before you visit.

Ford House

While I was not able to visit Fairlane, I was able to visit Ford House, which is the home of Henry’s son who took over the company from him, Edsel and his wife Eleanor’s home.

Located about a half hour drive north of Detroit along the shores of Lake St. Clair in Grosse Pointe Shores Michigan, the Ford House is definitely worth the drive to see.

Edsel and Eleanor moved into Ford House in 1928. They designed their home to look like the cottages of Cotswold in England, but on a slightly larger scale. During their time in the home, they had many updates that took place including as late as 1950 after Edsel’s passing. This led to some fairly modern looking rooms in the home that you don’t tend to see in other historic mansions in the US.

Along with touring the home, there is also a visitors’ center which includes a restaurant, exhibits and event space. The 87-acre grounds are also worth exploring. Located on Lake St. Clair, the grounds are a relaxing spot to enjoy the day. Not only can you take in the lake views, but there is also a rose garden and many other flowers around the grounds to enjoy.

Motown Museum

While I was not able to visit the Motown Museum when I was in Detroit, I would be remiss if I did not mention it. Detroit was not just famous for their part in the automobile industry, but they were also the birthplace of Motown music.

In the midst of the civil rights movement in America, in 1959, Berry Gordy founded Motown Records in Detroit. The museum is located in the original recording studio of Motown Records.

The museum explores the history and legacy of Motown music. Due to general maintenance and an anticipated expansion, the museum is currently closed, but does plan to reopen in February 2023. Make sure to visit their website prior to your visit.

Belle Isle

Located in the Detroit River between Downtown Detroit and Canada is Belle Isle. This 982-acre island is the perfect spot to escape downtown without having to go very far. With picnic areas, trails, and gorgeous views of Downtown Detroit, it’s a great spot to spend a couple of hours or a day.

Located on Belle Isle is the Belle Isle Aquarium. Opened in 1904, it’s the oldest aquarium in the US. It’s a great spot to take the family as admission is free with an encouraged $5 donation.

There is also a racetrack located on Belle Isle and each June the Detroit Grand Prix takes place there. As you can imagine this is the biggest draw to Belle Isle.

Downtown Detroit

There are many things to see in Downtown Detroit. There are plenty of parks to visit, restaurants to dine at and shops to explore. Throughout the year, many events take place right downtown, like the Detroit Auto Show which took place the weekend I visited, bringing a lot of excitement to downtown.

If you are a sports fan, you can root for Detroit in all four of the major sports. Little Caesars Arena (home of the Detroit Pistons and Detroit Red Wings), Ford Field (home of the Detroit Lions) and Comerica Park (home of the Detroit Tigers) are all located right downtown.

When I visited, I attended a Tigers game at Comerica Park. Not only was the game a lot of fun, but the stadium was just beautiful with lots of special touches. The tiger statues outside of the park were very impressive and as a huge ferris wheel fan, I now think that all baseball stadiums deserve a ferris wheel.

Also located downtown is Fox Theatre. This National Historic Landmark is the largest surviving movie palace of the 1920s. Today it’s home to many live performances including concerts, comedians and children’s shows. The interior of the theatre is supposedly beautiful, I wish I had a chance to take a look inside. The exterior reminded me of Broadway. If you have an opportunity to catch a live performance here while in Detroit, I would definitely do so.

I do wish I had a bit more time to walk around downtown, there was a lot of street art and sculptures to see as well. One of the great things about downtown is they also have a monorail which runs a circular loop thru the city, making it convenient to get between places in poor weather or if you are just sick of walking (although I always suggest walking as a great way to explore the city if it’s feasible).

There is definitely plenty to keep you busy for a weekend in Detroit. So much that a longer trip is definitely possible. Detroit was one of those cities I never thought to visit but was pleasantly surprised at how much I did enjoy it. Definitely a bit of a hidden gem among US cities.

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My 2022 Travels

As 2022 comes to a close, I’m looking back on my travels from this year. It was a busy year of travel and one where things seemed just a bit more normal than 2021. I finally did get to take some trips that were originally scheduled for 2020. I can’t believe I was still making up travel from that crazy year, but it definitely did feel great to take these long-awaited trips.

January 2022

I started the year in the Big Apple! Somewhat last-minute, at the end of November 2021, I was thinking of how to spend New Year’s (you know something different than sitting on my couch alone) and realized I had enough Hilton points for a free hotel room in New York City and that Amtrak had some cheap train fares. So, I did something I have been wanting to do for a while and signed up for the Midnight Run.

The Midnight Run is a 4-mile race thru Central Park that starts right at midnight. I had all these plans on being healthier in 2022, so I thought it would be a great way to start the year. Still need to work on the being healthier part, hopefully 2023 is the year for that!

The race was a lot of fun and I definitely lucked out with great weather, it was still 50 degrees at midnight when the race started! On New Year’s Day, I was treated to a quiet and much less busy than normal NYC which was so nice, especially since we were in the midst of Omicron wreaking havoc in the world. It was a lot of fun to see the New Year’s Eve ball the following day minus all the New Year’s Eve crowds.

In mid-January, I headed to Disney World for a long weekend trip with my sister and brother-in-law. It was a well-timed trip as one of my best friends also happened to be there at the same time.

We had a lot of fun in the parks and especially checking out Epcot’s International Festival of the Arts. There was a lot of great food and art at the festival, and we definitely made sure to take advantage of all the fun photo ops.

February 2022

In February, I headed south to Alabama to run state number 38 in my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. The Mercedes Half Marathon took place in Birmingham, Alabama. After a flight delay (lots of these issues in 2022) that left me in Reagan National Airport in DC for hours, I finally arrived in Alabama very late Friday night (or really early Saturday morning).

I spent Saturday visiting the Civil Rights sites in Birmingham. It was a very educational experience visiting Birmingham and I highly recommend people visit.

Sunday, I ran the half marathon that was as always, hilly than I expected and then headed home.

At the end of February, I headed back to Disney World for my favorite weekend of the year, Princess Half Marathon Weekend!

It was the first Princess Half Marathon since the one in February 2020, just weeks before the world shut down. I cannot even express just how happy I was to be running down Main Street USA and thru Cinderella’s Castle again for the first time in two years!

March 2022

Finally in March I was able to take my trip to Ireland that I had originally planned for May 2020. It ended up that postponing the trip meant that I would end up arriving in Dublin on my birthday, this definitely made it worth the two year wait!

I celebrated my birthday in Dublin with a lot of Guinness and Irish Whiskey. During my weekend in Dublin, I visited Trinity College and saw the Book of Kells and the Long Room, Dublin Castle, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Phoenix Park.

Since I’m not comfortable driving on the left side of the road, I decided to visit Ireland as part of a tour. I must say I really enjoyed it more than I thought I would. As a solo traveler, my favorite part of traveling is meeting new people and a tour is a great place to meet and really get to know some wonderful people.

Our tour left Dublin and headed west to Galway and the Cliffs of Moher. I had dreamed of visiting the Cliffs of Moher for years, so this was definitely my favorite day of the week (minus the motion sickness on the bus getting there, biggest downfall to a bus tour). It definitely lived up to my expectations!

The next day we headed out for a ride along the Ring of Kerry before spending the night in Killarney. I loved seeing the scenery along the Ring of Kerry, it was just like I dreamed Ireland would look. We took a Jaunting Car Ride in Killarney which was a lot of fun.

As you can see from the pictures, we luckily did not get the typical grey rainy Ireland weather you hear about, not one drop of rain the whole week and a lot of time with sunny skies!

The next couple of days were spent in Blarney, Waterford and Kilkenny before heading back to Dublin for a night and then flying home. While I didn’t kiss the Blarney Stone, I did walk to the top of the castle to see it. In Waterford we were treated to a great private concert in an old historic pub and in Kilkenny, I explored the castle.

Hard to believe, but back in March, we still had to take a covid test before flying home. One man in my tour group tested positive. He ended up stuck in Ireland for 7 days. Even though I tested negative and also did 3 other times at home, I started feeling a bit sick on the flight home and was sick for the next few days. I’m going to guess it was covid even though I never had a positive test, no matter what illness it was, thank god it waited til after the trip!

April 2022

I started April back at Disney for a brand-new race weekend, the Springtime Surprise race weekend. Each year they offer a different theme, in 2022, the theme was races from the past. I ran the Tower of Terror 10 Miler. I had always wanted to run this race as the Tower of Terror is one of my favorite rides. While it wasn’t a night race like it used to be (which I would have loved as a night owl!), it was still so much fun. The course was one of the best runDisney courses I had ever run.

At the end of April, I took the train down to Wilmington Delaware to run state 39. I spent the first day there enjoying the Wilmington Riverfront. It was a great spot on a cool spring day, I might have to head back there in the summer, it would be even better to explore it then. The next day I ran the half marathon at the Delaware Running Festival which started at the riverfront and went thru some really beautiful parks in Wilmington.

May 2022

In May, I headed south to Connecticut to run my 40th state at the Mystic Half Marathon. I spent the day before the race carb loading on beer by exploring some breweries in town, including Bank & Bridge Brewing Co. which is located in a former bank, it was a pretty interesting place. But I didn’t only carb load on beer, I also made sure to hit up Mystic Pizza because you just must when visiting Mystic! The weather for the race was pretty gloomy but definitely made for some pretty New England scenery.

I also headed back to Disney again at the end of the month for the International Flower and Garden Festival. The weather was pretty perfect when I was there and I finally got to hug my fav Mexican Donald Duck for the first time in 2 years!

June 2022

June came with the dreaded flight delays that plagued the US and I was not immune to this. I headed to Minnesota to finally run the Gary Bjorklund Half Marathon in Duluth, my 41st state! I was supposed to run this race in 2020 and was really excited to finally be able to visit Minnesota! Well, my morning flight ended up being delayed due to flight crew who had arrived late the night before. And then we were delayed even further due to some fuel they needed to get rid of as the plane we were taking was originally supposed to go to the west coast the previous night.

Finally, three hours late, I arrived in Minneapolis. I managed to take a quick stop to see Minnehaha Falls and then headed up to Duluth.

It was a whirlwind weekend in Duluth with a mixture of weather. Luckily the race weather was perfect. But later that day, the clouds moved in and by evening it was not only raining but also quite cold for June, in the 40s, while it was supposed to be in the 90s the next day when I was in Minneapolis just two hours south. I was happy to see the sites near Duluth though, it’s a beautiful area to visit with so much outdoor activities on Lake Superior. I enjoyed visiting Split Rock Lighthouse and kayaking at Glensheen Mansion.

The next day I headed back to Minneapolis for a whirlwind afternoon and evening of trying to see as much as I could. My flight was to leave the following evening, but I had a connection and had just started a new job 4 days before this trip and with all the flight delays and cancellations, I just couldn’t risk it, so I changed to a non-stop flight in the morning instead. I did manage to see Mall of America, Sculpture Garden and Mill Ruins Park.

July 2022

July started out with a big family trip to Chicago for the 4th of July weekend for my cousins wedding (another long awaited trip, it was originally supposed to be in 2021).

The weekend started with seeing the Red Sox play the Cubs at Wrigley Field on my father’s birthday. It was definitely a fun coincidence that they were in town that day!

The wedding was beautiful, and it was the first time that all nine of us cousins were together in years! The views from the venue that the wedding was at were stunning.

There was definitely a lot of sightseeing that took place that weekend. Long walks along the Chicago River, a ride on the ferris wheel at Navy Pier, and a visit to the bean. And I really enjoyed all the skyline views all over the city.

I ended the month with a day trip to Martha’s Vineyard. I took the train down to Cape Cod and then headed over to the Vineyard on the ferry. It was a fun day trip with time seeing the sites on the island, like the Gingerbread Houses and relaxing on the beach.

August 2022

I tend to not travel as much during the summer as others. Summer travel is hectic and since I don’t have kids and can travel most of the year, I avoid the busy summer travel season if I can. It’s also so beautiful at home in Boston with so much to do nearby, why leave then.

In August I set off on a day trip to Old Orchard Beach in Maine. I hadn’t been there since I was a child and had been wanting to take the train up there for quite some time. So, I took the Amtrak Downeaster from Boston and 2 hours later it dropped me off right across from the beach, very convenient! I have a feeling I’ll be making this an annual day trip.

While most people love Cape Cod, I much prefer a beach like Old Orchard Beach. There is so much to do right at the beach, it’s more than just the sand and the surf. The pier is great to walk along and check out the shops and restaurants. There are also many shops and restaurants on the blocks leading up to the beach. Getting beach pizza is a must while here, something about pizza at a beach just makes it taste better.

There are also amusement rides and games right next to the beach. It’s definitely a great family location, with plenty to do for people of all ages.

September 2022

September was a pretty busy travel month. It started with a Labor Day Weekend trip to Disney World. For the first time, I stayed at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel, and I really loved it. It’s a great place to stay if you are a Marriott Bonvoy member and want the points but also want to stay on Walt Disney World property. Bonus it’s just a short walk from Epcot, which was very convenient since I spent a lot of time there that weekend for the Food and Wine Festival.

In mid-September, I headed to Detroit to run state 42. The day before the race I visited the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation. This was such an interesting museum that displayed many of the innovative inventions in the US and the full cycle of different types of cars in America starting with the first cars from Ford. They also had a temporary exhibit featuring Disney costumes.

Also located at the museum is Greenfield Village which will take you back in time. I even got to take a ride in a Model T, which was a lot of fun. Later that night I attended a Detroit Tigers game.

The next day after running the half marathon, I headed outside the city to visit Edsel and Eleanor Ford’s House and have a great dinner outside by the water to soak up the remaining warm weather up north.

From Detroit, I headed west to California for my annual travel agent conference. It was so great to catch up with fellow travel agents and the suppliers and learn more to help build my business. The conference was located at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim. Along with the informative workshops and general sessions at the conference there was also an opening party complete with Disney characters and also time in Disneyland of course.

I really enjoyed staying at the Disneyland Hotel for the week. I even got to take a free tour of the hotel and learned a lot about its history. It was definitely very convenient just walking to Disneyland and California Adventure from the hotel, so much easier than at Disney World.

As a frequent Disney World visitor, I must admit, Disneyland is better in so many ways. First off, the fact that the two parks are so close, and you can easily walk between the two. But also, the rides at Disneyland are superior to those at Disney World. Being there in September, I was able experience Haunted Mansion Holiday. Each year from September until January, they redo the Haunted Mansion to a Nightmare Before Christmas theme. It was such a fun retheme of the ride and something they just don’t do at Disney World.

September also means Halloween at Disneyland and I absolutely loved all of the Halloween decorations and activities around the parks and resorts. I mean, I got to take my photo with the cutest Donald Duck dressed as a candy corn!

October 2022

In mid-October, I headed west to New Mexico to run state 43. While in New Mexico I visited Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

In Albuquerque, I first headed to the mountains to take the Sandia Peak Tramway which is the longest aerial tram in the Americas. The views were stunning and there were even some fall colors which I hadn’t expected in New Mexico. After that I explored Old Town to get a taste of the Spanish and Mexican culture and take a ghost tour in one of the most haunted areas in the Southwest US.

In Santa Fe, I explored their Old Town, the historic churches and buildings downtown and browsed the many sculptures around town, including the sculpture garden at the capitol building. Since I was at a popular art city, I visited the immersive art experience, Meow Wolf. I didn’t quite understand it, but it was a fun way to spend a few hours. I also learned more about the Pueblo people at the Poeh Cultural Center and went on an unexpected hike to see some petroglyphs.

The following weekend, I headed to Nebraska to run my 44th state. While in Nebraska, I explored downtown Omaha and saw my second capitol building of the week in Lincoln.

November 2022

I started the month with you guessed it another trip to Disney World. This time it was for the Wine and Dine 10K. The weekend was busy with the typical 3am wake up for the race and lots of food and drinks at the Food and Wine Festival at Epcot. This was the first trip I took where I flew into the new terminal at Orlando International Airport. I’ll be seeing this terminal quite a lot as it’s the terminal JetBlue flies in and out of. It’s a large terminal that requires a lot of walking but it’s beautiful and so great to have so much space.

Just before Thanksgiving I took a long weekend trip to New York City. The main purpose of the trip was to see some Broadway shows. I was lucky that I had booked the trip and show tickets just before they announced that Phantom of the Opera on Broadway would be closing in early 2023. I had dreamed of seeing this show for years and it was so good to finally see it. But the real highlight of the weekend was seeing Funny Girl, it was probably one of the best Broadway shows I’ve seen so far.

I also started the holidays early by seeing the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular. Before I saw it, I took and art and architecture tour of Rockefeller Center which was really interesting.

December 2022

And of course, I had to end the year with one more visit to my favorite place, Disney World. I headed down there the weekend before Christmas to soak in all the holiday spirit. There truly is nothing like celebrating the most magical time of year at the most magical place on earth!

While there I spent a lot of time at Epcot’s Festival of the Holidays where I saw Neil Patrick Harris narrate the Candlelight Processional and enjoyed lots of cookies while participating in the cookie stroll.

I also made sure to head over to Disney Springs to check out all the trees on the Christmas Tree Stroll. It was definitely a great way to get more into the holiday spirit.

It was a great year of travel. I’m looking forward to my future travels in 2023. I have just 6 more states to run in and only 2 new ones to visit. I also hope to head over to Europe for a long vacation in the fall. Wishing happy travels to all in 2023!

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Epcot’s Festival of the Holidays

Throughout the year, there are four festivals that take place at Epcot Center at Walt Disney World. The final festival of the year is the Festival of the Holidays. Taking place from the day after Thanksgiving until December 30th, it’s the perfect festival to get you in the holiday spirit.

Holiday Decorations

As you can imagine Disney definitely goes all out with their holiday decorations and Epcot is no exception. While the Magic Kingdom starts getting all decked out for the holidays at the stroke of midnight on Halloween, Epcot waits until the holiday season officially begins later in November.

As you walk in, you will notice the festival displays both in front and in back of Spaceship Earth. They change from year to year and feature some of you favorite Disney characters in winter and holiday scenes.

Even the rides get into the holiday spirit. When you ride Living with the Land you are treated to the Glimmering Greenhouses Holiday overlay. While this overlay truly shines at night (pun intended) with the lights throughout, it’s also beautiful to see during the day as well. The holiday overlay features lights, holiday displays, snowmen and wreathes made out of produce. There are even signs that note some of the items grown in these greenhouses that are used in some of the food that you can purchase at the festival kitchens (more on these later).

Some of the most impressive decorations though are located within the countries of the World Showcase. They really showcase the different countries and how they decorate for the holidays.

Holiday Traditions Around the World

While you check out the different holiday decorations around the World Showcase, make sure to also learn about the holiday traditions of each country.

Throughout the day, they have scheduled performances by holiday representatives from each country. Learn about the holiday traditions from such people as Father Christmas in the United Kingdom and from La Befana in Italy.

This is definitely one of my favorite parts of the festival. Like most people who love travel, I very much enjoy learning about different cultures and learning how they celebrate the holidays differently than we do here in the US is so interesting to me. It’s a great learning experience for children and adults alike.

The holiday traditions around the world showcase are not just about Christmas. There is also a section outside of Morocco where the story of Hanukkah is told. They also have a Menorah that they light each night of Hanukkah.

Holiday Festival Kitchens

It just would not be a festival at Epcot without festival kitchens! The Festival of the Holidays is no different. You can eat and drink your way around the world experiencing holiday eats and sips from the different countries. While there are not as many festival kitchens as there are at the Food and Wine Festival, there are still many to choose from. Being that it’s holiday food, there are plenty of warm winter foods to choose from like the cheese fondue and turkey poutine below. The holidays definitely aren’t known as a time for healthy eating, but the food is just so good, it’s worth the extra calories.

The drinks are holiday themed as well. From warm drinks like hot cocoa (with or without alcohol) to dark beers like stouts and porters. Like many of the other festivals at Epcot, France also has a delicious martini available for the Festival of the Holidays, the Frozen Hot Chocolate Martini. It was definitely a festival favorite and a must try especially for chocolate lovers. My favorite drink at the festival is the Peppermint Chocolate Stout by Florida’s Playalinda Brewing Company. If you are a big mint and chocolate fan like me, I highly recommend trying it.

Holiday Cookie Stroll

No matter what country you are celebrating the holidays in, chances are that desserts are a big part of the celebration. There are many different treats to buy at the holiday festival kitchens including a cookie stroll.

To participate in the holiday cookie stroll, pick up a festival passport. On the last page of the passport are a list of 8 cookies that are available for purchase at the festival kitchens throughout the park.

Purchase 5 of the 8 cookies and have the cast member stamp the inside of the back cover with each purchase. It’s a lot of cookies and they are pretty large. I recommend sharing them with people you are traveling with, purchasing them over multiple days if you are in the park for more than one day or bring ziploc bags so you can bring some home with you. Cookies make for a great breakfast during the holiday season, especially while traveling!

The cookies are delicious, I purchased the Linzer Cookie, Black and White Cookie, Gingerbread Cookie, Jingle Sugar Cookie (not pictured, apparently I was in a rush to eat this one!) and the Snickers Doodle Cookie.

My favorites were the Linzer Cookie and the Snickers Doodle Cookie.

When you have purchased all 5 cookies, bring your stamped festival passport to the Holiday Sweets and Treats festival kitchen to get your festival treat for completing the cookie stroll. In 2022, the treat was a Festival of the Holidays decorated sugar cookie and a Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Pin. Thankfully this cookie is wrapped, making it easy to take with you and enjoy later.

Candlelight Processional

The star of the show at the Festival of the Holidays is definitely the Candlelight Processional. Three times each night, the America Gardens Theatre comes alive with holiday music and the story of Christmas.

Alongside a 50 piece orchestra, celebrity narrators such as Neil Patrick Harris, Whoopi Goldberg, Josh Gad and Marie Osmond, read the story of Christmas interspersed with songs sung by a choir made up of Disney’s own Voices of Liberty, cast members and local high school students. The choir enters the theatre singing by candlelight. It’s quite the moving experience to see.

The three shows are quite popular with people lining up hours ahead of time. To be guaranteed a seat without having to stand in line for hours, you can reserve a candlelight processional dining package, which will give you a ticket for guaranteed seating with your lunch or dinner but act fast these sell out quickly after they go on sale 60 days ahead. Being that the theater is outside, you can still hear the performance from outside the theater if you are unable to get a seat.

I highly recommend checking out the Festival of the Holidays specifically to see the Candlelight Processional, it’s that good! For a taste of it, check out the video below:

Visiting Epcot during the Festival of the Holidays is a great way to get in the holiday spirit. It’s just one of the many holiday experiences you can have at Walt Disney World during the holiday season. Check out my post on the Disney Springs Christmas Tree Stroll and the Gingerbread Houses at Walt Disney World Resort Hotels to learn about some of the other holiday experiences at Walt Disney World.

As mentioned this is the final festival of the year at Epcot, make sure to check out all four of them! The year starts with the Festival of the Arts in January and February. During the spring months, Epcot is in full bloom with the Flower and Garden Festival. And then in the fall, Epcot becomes a foodie paradise with the Food and Wine Festival.

Need help planning your trip to Walt Disney World to experience any of these festivals, contact Beyond The Miles Travel for my expert help in Disney travel planning.

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Boston Holiday Favorites

Updated November 2022

Welcome to another holiday post, this one from my home city of Boston!

Boston is a beautiful city during the holiday season. Here are my favorite things to see in Boston during the holidays.

Faneuil Hall: Looking for somewhere to do some shopping, grab something to eat and see one of the largest trees in the United States, then Faneuil Hall is THE place to be in Boston.

At Faneuil Hall you will find popular retail stores like Coach, Sephora and Urban Outfitters as well as numerous pushcarts selling Boston souvenirs and unique one of kind gifts. A must visit, is the Christmas in Boston store with multiple floors of holiday ornaments and decor.

There are many restaurants available for a sit down meal and multiple options in the food hall, a great place to try some local seafood, pizza and baked goods.

But the star of Faneuil Hall during the holidays is the Christmas tree. At 65 feet tall, it’s the largest tree in the city and also one of the largest in the country. Definitely visit the tree at night to check out Blink. Blink is a holiday light show where the lights on the tree dance along to holiday music. It runs every half hour starting at 4:30pm each night and is a must see! After two years without a tree in Faneuil Hall, there will be one in 2022. Although, it will be in a different location in Faneuil Hall, is much smaller than the normal tree and unfortunately, they will not be having Blink again this year. Thankfully I have this video to get a bit of a taste of Blink this year.

Downtown Crossing: A major shopping area, Downtown Crossing, is a must visit during the holiday season. Here you will find stores like Macy’s, Old Navy, Primark, DSW, Home Goods and Marshalls to name a few. Other than shopping, you can get in the Christmas spirit by seeing the Macy’s Christmas tree or listening the carolers walking the streets. Definitely a festive atmosphere!

Boston Common: While the Boston Common Christmas tree may not be as large as the one in Faneuil Hall, it certainly has a great story behind it.

There has been a tree on the common since 1941, but since 1971 it’s been gifted to the City of Boston by the people of Nova Scotia each year. Nova Scotia donates the tree as a thank you for Boston’s help during the Halifax Explosion in 1917. In December 1917, there was an explosion that destroyed much of the city of Halifax. Boston sent a relief train up to Halifax to help their first responders. And even though the relief train was delayed due to blizzard conditions, they were one of the first cities to respond and were considered a life saver. Not only is there a tree lighting ceremony here in Boston, there is also a tree cutting ceremony in Nova Scotia each year.

But the tree is not the only thing to check out in the Boston Common during the holiday season. There is also the popular outdoor ice rink, Frog Pond. Every year, there is a line to get into this popular Boston attraction as it’s such a beautiful place to lace up your skates. As with many other things, it is closed this year due to covid.

Seaport Boston: One of Boston’s newer neighborhoods is the Seaport. The past couple of years they have added more and more seasonal activities to this area. Nicknamed Snowport during the holiday season, this year they are offering a tree lot, Christmas tree, holiday decorations, curling lessons and an all-new holiday market in 2021 featuring local businesses. For 2022, the holiday market is twice the size as the previous year.

New Years Eve Ice Sculptures: The holiday season ends over New Years and what better way to end the season than to check out the numerous ice sculptures throughout the city. If you go early enough, you can see the artist sculpting away at the ice. It is so amazing to actually watch them at work, I could only dream of being that talented.

The ice sculptures have mainly been located in the Boston Common and Copley Square, but the past few years, the Seaport has joined in the fun with a ice sculpture trail of their own.

As someone who loves sea life, the ice sculptures outside of the Aquarium are usually my favorite.

Copley Square is definitely where the largest and most impressive ice sculptures are located. This is also were the big First Night festivities take place each New Years. If you want to miss the crowds, I definitely recommend checking these ones out on New Years Day instead.

What are some of your favorite holiday locations and activities in your home city?

Holiday lights in Christopher Columbus Park in the North End

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Day Trip to Santa Fe

Located just over an hour’s drive from Albuquerque is the capital of New Mexico, Santa Fe. It makes for a perfect day trip with plenty to do within the city and along the way.

As the capital of New Mexico, Santa Fe is the highest elevation (7,199 feet) of any state capital in the United States and also the oldest state capital as it was founded in 1610 as the capital of Nuevo Mexico, well before New Mexico became a state.

With a mixture of history and art, there is a lot to see in Santa Fe.

Downtown Santa Fe

Downtown Santa Fe is a very walkable area, park your car in one of the many parking lots or garages and set out for a walk to explore this historic city.

Founded in 1610 by the Spanish, this city has a long history and has done a great job at preserving the historic buildings in the city. The oldest building in the city and also the oldest public building in the United States is the Palace of the Governors. This building has been occupied by 58 Spanish Colonial Governors, 16 Mexican Governors and 17 Territorial Governors. The building housed the state museum up until 2009 when the New Mexico History Museum opened across the street.

The Palace of Governors is located in the center of downtown across from Santa Fe Plaza, the main gathering spot in town. I visited on a cool fall day, and it had a beautiful autumn feel to it that day.

As with many older cities, the historic churches are a must see. Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis Assisi was built between 1869 and 1886. Prior to this cathedral, there stood two other churches, a small mission church that was burned down in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 and then a larger adobe style church that served on this site for almost 200 years.

The current cathedral was built with stone over and around the prior adobe church. When the main part of the building was finished, they tore down the old church that was under it. This was definitely an interesting way to replace a building. A law was put into effect, that no other building downtown can be higher than the bell tower of the Cathedral.

Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis Assisi

The oldest church in the United States is located right here in Santa Fe. San Miguel Mission was built in 1610. While the church has been rebuilt a couple of times, the original adobe walls remained intact and were used in the remodels.

One of the things I loved about Santa Fe was that it was not just the older historic buildings that were beautiful. The newer buildings in Santa Fe were also made of adobe and just had that southwestern style to them. Walking thru the city seeing the buildings, made me feel like I was walking in a city outside of the United States.

Considering the amount of beautiful adobe buildings in downtown Santa Fe, I was surprised to see that the state capitol building was not in the same style. The building is definitely worth seeing though.

The capitol building has been known as the Roundhouse, it’s the only round capitol building in the US. From above, the top of the building resembles the same sun symbol that is on the New Mexico state flag. This symbol is said to represent not only the sun’s rays but also the four seasons, four directions and four phases of life.

But the capitol building is not just used for government offices, it also houses art collections and includes a sculpture garden.

Art in Santa Fe

Art is one of the many reasons why people visit the city of Santa Fe. It’s right behind New York City and Los Angeles when it comes to major art cities in the US. It has the highest concentration of galleries in a city of its size. In fact, the majority of the galleries are within a 2-mile radius downtown.

On the grounds of the New Mexico Capitol Building is a beautiful sculpture garden. From sculptures of the ancient pueblo people to the children of New Mexico, it’s a beautiful spot to explore in this capital city.

I’m not a huge art fan, but sculptures are something I really love. The sculpture garden at the capitol building is not the only place in Santa Fe to see some really great sculptures. There are also many galleries throughout town where you can see some wonderful sculptures.

If you are big art lover, make sure to visit some of the many art museums located in Santa Fe. Some of the more popular ones are:

Meow Wolf

For a more modern type of art, make sure to visit Meow Wolf. This immersive art experience takes you thru 70 rooms of art that follows a creative and interesting story.

Founded in Santa Fe, Meow Wolf has since expanded to Las Vegas and Denver. The art starts in the parking lot with some large art sculptures.

Once inside, the story at Meow Wolf starts at a house with a story to be solved. In the house there are clues and hidden doors in strange places like the refrigerator that take you to other rooms with some interesting art. There are multiple rooms in the art installation, and you can definitely end up spending hours here.

It was an interesting experience, even though I didn’t really understand a lot of it (as is typical with me and art), it was an interesting way to spend a couple of hours. If you do go, make sure to pay the extra dollar for the glasses that make all the black light art look 3D. Have you been to Meow Wolf, did you solve the story?

Poeh Cultural Center

History is more my thing than art. If you also enjoy history and learning more about the people of the area you are visiting, I highly recommend heading about 20 minutes north of Santa Fe to visit the Poeh Cultural Center.

The Poeh Cultural Center shows the history and culture of the Pueblo people in New Mexico. The center consists of both a museum and gift shop.

The museum is self-guided and includes both permanent and temporary exhibits. The permanent exhibit is called Nah Poeh Meng which translates to “Continuous Path”. This exhibit explores Pueblo history. One of the things I really loved about this exhibit, is how it went thru the different time periods of Pueblo history thru the different seasons of the year. This really helped to break it down and made it very interesting.

The temporary exhibit when I was visiting in October 2022 was Di Wae Powa, which explores the Pueblo pottery which dates back over 100 years. There were films which explored the process of making the pottery and then some of the finished pieces were on display. The exhibit mentioned how important this pottery is to the Pueblo people. Some of the pieces that their ancestors created were put into private collections but will soon be returned home to the descendants of those that created them. It really opened my eyes as to how a piece of art can connect and be so important to the families of the artist and have such a cultural impact on its people.

Camel Rock

Who doesn’t love a great roadside attraction. Well on the drive from Santa Fe to the Poeh Cultural Center is Camel Rock. This 40-foot high and 100-foot-long natural rock formation looks just like a camel. While there is a spot to park off the highway and walk up towards the rock, the best view of it is definitely from the highway. So, if you are a passenger in the car, have your camera at the ready. But also stop and take a walk up to it, although your best view off the highway will be from the parking lot. It’s just one of those things where the closer you get to it, the less it looks like a camel.

La Cieneguilla Petroglyphs

The southwestern US and specifically New Mexico is known for petroglyphs. A petroglyph is a carving in a rock left by prehistoric people. The petroglyphs in New Mexico are just another example of the Pueblo history and culture within the state.

If you do not get a chance to visit Petroglyph National Monument while in Albuquerque, try visiting La Cieneguilla Petroglyphs which is just south of Santa Fe on the way to and from Albuquerque. The petroglyphs at La Ceineguilla are estimated to be from the 13th to 17th centuries.

There is a small parking lot at the site and then you just follow the path up to the rocks up top. The hike up is a bit more than I was expecting. We made a last-minute decision to stop here so as I wasn’t planning on hiking, I was wearing sketchers which were an awful choice. While the hike isn’t difficult at all, there was definitely some rock scrambling, so I really could have used something with more traction and some ankle support, since sketchers pretty much have zero ankle support. If you do plan on going here, pack your hiking shoes or at least a good supportive pair of sneakers.

It was definitely worth the hike up though to see the petroglyphs and just think of how long they have been there. They were interesting to see, and I can’t help but try to think of what story the petroglyphs were trying to tell.

Another thing that makes the hike worth it is the gorgeous views from up top. New Mexico is definitely more beautiful than I had imagined it would be.

A day trip from Albuquerque to Santa Fe is definitely a great idea and also a very full day with lots to see.

Make sure to check out my prior post on Great Things To Do in Albuquerque.

If you are looking to book a trip to New Mexico, Beyond The Miles Travel would love to help you.

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Great Things to do in Albuquerque

So many states in the US are true hidden gems. In my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states, I’ve been able to visit some of the lesser visited states and found out just how much of a hidden gem they truly are.

New Mexico is definitely one of these states. If you love history, the outdoors and some Mexican culture, then you must book a trip to New Mexico. Albuquerque and Santa Fe are just an hour apart and make for a great long weekend trip.

I spent the majority of my trip in New Mexico’s largest city, Albuquerque and there was so much to see and do in and around the city.

Old Town Albuquerque

Old Town Plaza

Full of history and culture, Old Town Albuquerque is a must visit! While the Albuquerque area has been occupied for thousands of years, it wasn’t until 1706 when Albuquerque officially became a city. At that time, it was under Spanish rule. In 1821, during the Mexican War of Independence, Albuquerque and the rest of New Mexico Territory became under the rule of Mexico. During the Mexican-American War in 1846, the US took control of New Mexico Territory and then in 1912, New Mexico became the 47th state of the United States of America.

Old Town Albuquerque celebrates the rich history of Albuquerque. The three flags from Spain, Mexico and the United States are flown in Old Town to signify the three countries that it was a part of. Old Town was where the city got its start back in 1706 and it’s very evident when you walk around the area. The centerpiece of the city was the Old Town Plaza which was surrounded by homes and buildings made of adobe. As you walk thru Old Town you can still see that the Plaza is the focal point and it’s not only beautiful to see during the day, but it’s definitely not to be missed at night when it’s lit up.

While most of the buildings in Old Town date back to the late 1800s or later, there is one building that while it has been remodeled since, dates back to 1793. This is the San Felipe de Neri Church. This church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the New Mexico Register of Cultural Properties. While the building that you see today dates back to 1793 when New Mexico was under Spanish rule, it’s actually the second building on this site. The first church was built in 1706 when Albuquerque was formed but collapsed in the winter of 1792-1793.

San Felipe de Neri Church is a beautiful piece of architecture mixing in the traditional adobe walls with Victorian and Gothic Revival elements.

Along with the history in Old Town, you will find restaurants and independent shops, not just selling your typical souvenirs but also beautiful locally made products. I was slightly disappointed to see so many empty store fronts and closed restaurants, a sad result of the pandemic. But there was still plenty to see, and you could definitely feel and see the Mexican Influence throughout Old Town, which I absolutely loved, it somewhat made me feel as if I was no longer in the US.

Scattered throughout Old Town there are little side alleys called patios. These patios would include a number of stores and would have fountains, plants and decorations. They were truly beautiful to see.

Albuquerque Ghost Tour

I recommend visiting Old Town in the late afternoon to walk around and do some shopping and then grab dinner. Then you must take a Ghost Tour of Old Town Albuquerque.

Offered nightly at 8pm and 10pm, these ghost stories you will hear on the tour have been heard on such tv shows as the Travel Channel’s Dead Files. In fact, the Travel Channel has called New Mexico the haunted capital of the Southwest and with so much history dating back thousands of years, it’s no wonder!

On the tour, you will hear of ghosts that have been seen in Old Town such as the civil war soldier on his horse, a future bride who was cheated on and known as the hatchet lady, and a prostitute who was killed in a house across from the Plaza. The spookiest thing to me was the burial ground that was 15 feet below Old Town where ghost hunters came and actually heard voices from the ground as if the spirits were speaking to them.

Whether you believe in ghosts or not, it’s an interesting tour to take and brings out some of the history of Old Town as well. Make sure to make your reservations in advance if you can, for this not to be missed tour.

Sandia Peak Tramway

New Mexico has some beautiful scenery and when visiting Albuquerque, you must get out of downtown and head to the Sandia Mountains. Located just east of the city, the Sandia Mountains are just a quick 20-minute ride from downtown.

I never really think about how they come up with names for such things as mountain ranges, but it was pretty interesting to hear the reason behind the name Sandia Mountains. The word sandia means watermelon in Spanish, and at sunset, these mountains turn a pink hue from the setting sun shining on them which reminded them of the color of a watermelon, hence the name Sandia Mountains.

The Sandia Mountains offer your typical mountain activities like hiking trails and even the Sandia Peak Ski Area. Unfortunately, due to a lack of snow and shortage of staff the Sandia Peak Ski Area will remain closed for the 2022/2023 season. This will mark the second year in a row it will be closed.

The big attraction in the Sandia Mountains though is definitely the Sandia Peak Tramway. The tramway opened in 1966 and was the longest aerial tram in the world until 2010 when it lost that title to a new aerial tram in Armenia. To this day it’s still the longest aerial tram in the Americas. The tramway covers 2.7 miles starting at 5,000 feet and rising to the top of the mountain at 10,378 feet. The ride up takes about 15 minutes and passes two towers, the distance between the second tower and the top is a mile and a half. It’s quite the impressive ride up there. As I’m sure you can imagine, the tram is fairly high above the ground as well. At one point the guide in the tram said that we were so high off the ground that you could fit the Eifel Tower between the tram and the ground below.

The 15-minute ride up the mountain seems relatively short, but imagine if you got stuck on your way down just like what happened to a number of the employees of the tramway and the restaurant on top of the mountain did this past New Year’s Eve? A winter storm caused a cable to ice over and caused the tram to stop on its way down the mountain after the New Year’s Eve festivities. The 21 people were stuck in the unheated tram overnight. They were not alone though; they were also stuck on there with the trash from the restaurant that they were bringing down the mountain at the end of the night, just to make the situation not only cold and scary but also probably a bit smelly.

They were able to get the tram to one of the towers where they used helicopters to rescue the people and bring them to a clearing and then they hiked down the mountain. It took 12 hours before they were rescued and down the mountain. According to the guide, of the 21 people, all but 5 (who all still work there) of them pretty much quit immediately. Quite the scary experience!

Definitely do not let that unusual experience scare you away from taking the tramway. The tram is closed every Tuesday for regular maintenance, and they are closed for two weeks in April and November of each year for more extensive maintenance. The New Year’s Eve event was obviously a rare event due to the weather, in fact they do close for bad weather like ice, wind and thunderstorms, so always check the website before heading there.

Once on top of the mountain, the views are absolutely stunning and definitely worth the ride up, especially if you happen to visit in the fall.

The Ten3 Restaurant is located up top and a great place to grab a meal or a drink. They offer lunch in the bar area and in the evenings, they serve dinner in their fine dining restaurant.

When you head back down the mountain, make sure to check out the gift shop and also take a look at the photos on the wall with the history of the tramway, they were pretty interesting to see.

Street Art and Other Interesting Things to See Downtown

Street art is becoming more and more popular in cities around the world and Albuquerque is no different. Compared to other downtown areas, downtown Albuquerque was a bit quiet which made it the perfect place to walk around and enjoy the street art.

From your typical street art to Mexican inspired street art, there was plenty to see as you walk thru downtown. Just take a walk thru downtown and you’re sure to come across quite a few pieces.

Street art is not the only interesting thing to see while walking around downtown. If you happen to be in the convention center, make sure to check out the statue in honor or the famous tv show Breaking Bad which was filmed right here in Albuquerque. I did enjoy the show, but the convention center did seem like an odd spot for the statue.

Breaking Bad is not the only celebrity connection to Albuquerque. Such well known people as actor Neil Patrick Harris and the Founder of Amazon Jeff Bezos were born in Albuquerque. In the Doubletree Hotel, which is connected to the convention center, they have a large mural featuring all the well-known people, places and events associated with Albuquerque.

Albuquerque Beer Tour

If you are a beer lover, then Albuquerque is the place for you. Albuquerque has over 30 craft breweries for you to explore. A great way to check out a few of the best is to take the ABQ Beer Tour. Run by a retired history teacher and homebrewer, Gordon will take you to a few different breweries in town where you will be given a flight at each brewery. Also at each brewery, he will show you each brewery’s brewing process.

It’s a great way to try and learn about some of the local breweries in town. We started off the tour at Gravity Bound Brewery. This local brewery was started by two brothers and focuses on sustainability and also brews kombucha. They also have an award-winning IPA that is a must try!

Next, we went to the Craftroom which is located in an interesting location that oddly enough, many breweries around the country seem to end up in at the start, an office park. While it might be a difficult location to find, I’m sure it gets rather busy with the after-work crowd from the office park. They specialize not just in beer, but ciders as well.

For our final stop we headed to High and Dry Brewing. This small local brewery focuses on small batch brewing and has a passion for the local community and culture. While we were there, they were hosting an open mic night which was definitely interesting.

A beer tour is a great way to help and support local businesses while traveling and definitely a relaxing way to enjoy a city.

Albuquerque – so much to see and do

These are just a few of the many great things you can experience in this wonderful city of Albuquerque. From history to the great outdoors to art to beer, there is something for everyone. Are you ready to plan your trip there?

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Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel

Were you aware that there are non-Disney owned hotels located on Walt Disney World property? The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin resorts are located within the Epcot resort area and are incredibly convenient to the parks. As part of the Marriott Bonvoy program, these hotels are a great option if you are looking to use or earn Bonvoy points while staying within the Walt Disney World Resort.


The Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel, along with it’s sister resort, the Walt Disney World Swan opened in 1990 as a partnership between Disney, Tishman Hotel Corporation and Starwood Hotels and Resorts. Both the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotels were operated by Starwood Hotels, who at the time owned hotels from many different brands in the hotel industry. The Walt Disney World Swan was operated as a Westin Hotel (the swan was the symbol of Westin back in the 1990s and the Walt Disney World Dolphin was operated as a Sheraton Hotel (the dolphin looks like an S to respresent Sheraton).

Starwood Hotels and Resorts purchased Westin Hotels in 1994 and Sheraton Hotels in 1998 to form what most of us officially knew as Starwood Hotels for years. Then in 2015, Marriott International purchased Starwood Hotels, creating one of the largest hotel companies in the industry.

My first Bachelor’s degree is in Hotel Management and I spent my 20s working in hotels, specifically Westin and Marriott, so it was fitting for Starwood and Marriott to merge. Little known fact about me, in 1997 when I was moving to Florida after working for a year at a Westin Hotel in Boston, I contemplated transferring to the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel, but decided Orlando was too far from the ocean for me, if I was moving to Florida, I needed to be closer to the beach than Orlando was!

Walt Disney World Dolphin

Advantages to staying at the Walt Disney World Dolphin

I had always wanted to stay at the Walt Disney World Swan or Dolphin, but always held off since I enjoyed taking the free Magical Express from the airport to the Walt Disney World owned hotels. Now that Disney World is no longer offering the Magical Express service, I figured that now is the time to stay at one of these beautiful hotels. So, this past Labor Day weekend, I got a great deal at the Walt Disney World Dolphin for the holiday weekend. I was so impressed and will definitely stay here again when the price is right (sometimes these hotels can be a bit pricey).

Although sometimes the price may be high, if you are a Marriott Bonvoy member, you might actually have enough Bonvoy points to use for a free stay, especially if you are going on a shorter trip where less points would be required. And even if you do not have enough points, it might just make sense to stay here over a Disney owned hotel since you will be able earn Bonvoy points for your stay here. And if you are a gold or platinum member you might just get an upgraded room. I was lucky enough as a gold member to get upgraded from a standard view room (which was probably a view of the parking lot) to a resort view room. It was nice to wake up to this view below each morning.

The biggest advantage of course is the proximity to the theme parks. While staying at the Walt Disney World Dolphin resort, you are able to take the boat or even walk to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios. This is such a great benefit! I don’t know about anyone else but taking a boat to the parks is much more enjoyable to taking a bus, especially if you are like me and get a bit of motion sickness on buses.

Enjoying the parks at Walt Disney World definitely requires a lot of walking and that Florida heat can be killer, but the walk to the parks, specifically Epcot can be quite enjoyable and a rather quick way to get to either Epcot or Hollywood Studios. As someone who lives in a city and gets around mostly by foot, I always tend to prefer to just walk somewhere instead of depending on transportation. Epcot also happens to be my favorite park and more times than not I tend to end the night there, so it’s so nice to be able to walk back to the hotel at the end of the night and not have to deal with waiting in line for transportation.

The walk to Epcot is not only easy, but it’s a very beautiful walk and it will take you by the Boardwalk, Beach Club and Yacht Club resorts. This also gives you options of places to stop along the way if you would like. The Boardwalk is always a great place to stop for a drink or a snack after a day in the parks.

I mean who wouldn’t want to enjoy these beautiful views on their way to and from the theme parks?

The walk to Hollywood Studios isn’t quite as scenic and there isn’t really anywhere to stop along the way like when walking to Epcot, but the walk is definitely a nice relaxing way to start the day. I couldn’t get over the view as I was leaving the Dolphin on my way to Hollywood Studios one morning, what a great way to start the day out!

It’s always nice to take a break from the theme parks midday. The parks tend to get really busy during this time of day and the heat is the worst then as well. The resorts have so many great amenities to enjoy, the middle of the day is a great time to take advantage of this. Having the ability to walk or take the boat back to the hotel makes that midday break that much easier.

One of my favorite things to do when visiting Walt Disney World is resort hopping, which is a great activity for your non-park days. If you are visiting without a car, this can get difficult and take a lot of time to get to the other resorts, it could require taking a bus to a theme park and then another bus from there to the resort you want to visit. Staying at the Walt Disney World Dolphin, you can access the Boardwalk, Beach Club and Yacht Club via boat or by walking. You can also access Caribbean Beach, Riviera, Pop Century and Art of Animation via the Skyliner.

The Skyliner is located outside of the back entrance to Epcot, so it’s just a short walk or boat ride away. The Skyliner is the most efficient mode of transportation in Walt Disney World (pending no thunderstorms in the area, when it does shut down for safety reasons) and is a lot of fun to take a ride on it.

Hopping over to these resorts to walk around, take some pictures or have a meal is always a great time.

The Walt Disney World Dolphin doesn’t just give you the same benefits as a disney-owned resort like early entry to the theme parks, but it’s also included with the deluxe Walt Disney World resorts that gets extra evening hours after park close on select nights, this is a huge benefit that would give you some extra time in the parks with lower wait times.

Amenities at the Walt Disney World Dolphin

There are so many great amenities to enjoy at the Walt Disney World Dolphin. If you do take a mid-day break, you must check out one of the six swimming pools that are shared by both the Walt Disney World Dolphin and Walt Disney World Swan Hotels. From kiddie pool to lap pool to quiet pool to a resort style Grotto pool with a water slide and waterfalls, there’s a pool for every member of the family. The pool area has snack bar where you can order right from your lounge chair. There are also activities like water volleyball, music and games. Cabanas are also available for rent.

Located near the pool area is a beach. Although you cannot swim in the water due to alligators, it’s a great place to dip your toes in the sand and relax on a hammock or lounge chair with a good book or to simply take a nice nap or just enjoy the Florida sunshine.

There are also swan boats that you can rent. These can be rented at the Cabana Beach Hut in the pool area. You can’t miss the Cabana Beach Hut, as it’s right near the pool closest to the Walt Disney World Dolphin. These are fun for the whole family to enjoy!

If the weather isn’t great or you’re just looking to spend some time indoors, the Walt Disney World Dolphin has your covered.

For the kids and adults alike, there’s a game room located on the first floor of the Walt Disney World Dolphin.

If the adults are looking for a little relaxation, head over to the Mandara Spa. This 10,500-foot full-service spa features the usual salon and spa services along with a Tea Garden and sipping room and a Meditation Garden.

Not getting enough exercise with all the walking in the theme parks, training for a race or just trying to keep up with your workout schedule during vacation? The Walt Disney World Dolphin has you covered with their three 24-hour health clubs that they share with the Walt Disney World Swan. In addition to the usual workout equipment, they also offer exercise classes such as Zumba, Water Aerobics and Beach Yoga.

Dining at the Walt Disney World Dolphin

From quick service to a sit-down restaurant by a celebrity chef, the Walt Disney World Dolphin has it all when it comes to dining.

  • Fuel – This grab and go location is the perfect spot to pick up a quick coffee and pastry on your way to the theme parks. They also sell sandwiches, snacks and have a yogurt bar.
  • Picabu – This quick service location is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Start your day with breakfast staples like eggs and waffles. Later in the day, it’s the perfect spot for a family lunch or dinner where they offer pizza, family chicken meals and a burrito and taco bar.
  • The Fountain – This American diner features such diner staples as salads, sandwiches, burgers and ice cream. They even have an ice cream counter that’s open in the evenings.
  • Shula’s Steakhouse – This upscale steakhouse not only features great food, but it also has photos and memorabilia from the Miami Dolphin’s 1972 perfect season under the restaurant’s namesake, Coach Don Shula.
  • Todd English’s bluezoo – If you are looking for award winning seafood and wine list, then head over to bluezoo. From celebrity chef Todd English, this restaurant is a must for foodies.
  • Phins – This lobby bar is the perfect spot to enjoy a custom-made cocktail after a long day at the theme parks. If you’re a beer lover like me, make sure to try a Phins and Feathers Pale Ale. It’s specifically made for the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotels and is only sold at the hotels.

It’s not only the advantages, amenities and conveniences that make this hotel so special, it’s also absolutely beautiful. The lobby of the hotel is beautiful with its gorgeous dolphin fountain as a center piece.

And speaking of fountains, one of the things that makes the grounds of the Walt Disney World Dolphin so beautiful is the massive fountain located outside the hotel. Make sure to check it out both during the day and at night where it’s lit up with changing colors of light.

The Walt Disney World Dolphin is an absolutely stunning resort to stay in. Contact Beyond The Miles Travel to book your stay here for your next Walt Disney World vacation.

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Fall at Pittock Mansion

Fall is a beautiful time of year to travel. And there is no better place to visit than somewhere you can see the fall foliage. While many will go to popular fall travel spots like New England for the fall foliage, there are many other less busy locations you can visit to enjoy the fall foliage. Oregon is definitely a beautiful spot to see fall foliage.

Last fall I visited Portland, Oregon and visiting the Pittock Mansion was a great spot to see the fall foliage.

Pittock Mansion Grounds

One of the things I love about traveling, is visiting historic homes. As someone who loves history, seeing the inside of a historic home, helps bring alive how people lived in the past which helps to appreciate the history of a city. The Pittock Mansion tells the story of how Portland Oregon went from a small pioneer town to a modern city through one of the most influential families from the city.

Pittock Mansion History

Pittock Mansion was home to Henry and Georgiana Pittock. Born in London, Henry Pittock spent his childhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. When he was 19 years old, Henry headed west along the Oregon Trail. He eventually ended up in Portland Oregon where he met his wife and got a job as a typesetter for the newspaper, The Oregonian. Henry was eventually given ownership of The Oregonian. It was thru owning the paper that allowed him to invest such industries as real estate, railroads, silver mining and the paper industry.

In the early 1900s, Henry began to plan his “mansion on the hill” (more on why it’s called that later). In 1912, construction began and then in 1914, the Pittock family moved into the mansion. Sadly, they were only able to enjoy this beautiful home for about four years before they passed away. Family members did continue to reside in the mansion until 1958 when Henry’s grandson put the mansion on the market for sale.

After sitting empty for four years, the mansion was finally purchased by the city of Portland. The city restored the building and in 1965 opened it to the public. In 2007, a non-profit, The Pittock Mansion Society, took over the daily operations from the city.

Touring the Mansion

The Mansion is open daily with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas and select days in January when it’s closed for maintenance. Tours of the mansion are self-guided.

The 16,000 square foot mansion consists of 23 rooms. The large number of rooms was necessary as many members of the extended family lived in the home including, their children, spouses, grandchildren and their two orphaned nieces.

The middle of the mansion was oval shaped and there were wings going off from this at 45-degree angles. The oval shape creates a beautiful entryway. As I entered, I was stunned by the oval ceiling above me. It was almost impossible to capture exactly how beautiful it was in a photo.

The other stunning thing that caught my eye was the view from the window across from the entrance. The fact that it was fall made the view that much more beautiful. The Pittock’s certainly picked a gorgeous spot in Portland to build their home. More on these gorgeous view later.

View from the Pittock Mansion

My self-guided tour of the mansion started on the first floor where I saw the many rooms. There were the standard rooms that you see in most homes like the dining room. But there was also a music room which I found interesting. I’m always so impressed with different and very specific purpose rooms that you will find when visiting historic homes. I guess when you have the room, why not have a room specifically to enjoy music in, right?

Next it was off to the second floor by walking up the grand staircase. I love a good grand staircase, it always reminds me of the last scene in Titanic, where Jack walked up the staircase to meet Rose in her dream. This staircase had a window on the first landing that looked on the fall foliage outside, it was quite the view and worth a stop to take a look outside.

Once upstairs, the self-guided tour took you thru the various bedrooms and it was here that you learned more about the family members who lived here. I always find it interesting how in the past, it was common for multiple generations to live in one house while now most kids count the days to leave their parents’ house only moving back in as a last resort due to financial reasons.

I always love seeing the bedrooms in the older homes, I’m always so amazed at how small the beds are, people certainly were shorter back in the day. I might have been closer to a normal height back then instead of my current short height. It’s also so nice to see that the parents of the house always have their own space, some homes they have separate bedrooms, others they have the master bedroom with separate rooms for each spouse like the sitting rooms for the women.

I really enjoyed viewing the Pittock Mansion, but like all historic homes, it’s not just the home itself that is worth a visit. One must also take a look around the grounds….

Pittock Mansion Grounds

I’m sure the grounds of the Pittock Mansion are beautiful to visit all year round, but I was lucky enough to visit during the fall, at what ended up being peak foliage in Portland, Oregon. As someone coming from New England, I was very impressed with the fall colors in Portland. The grounds were absolutely stunning in all it’s fall colors.

Remember I mentioned earlier that the Pittock Mansion was considered the “mansion on a hill”? Well, that is because it’s located up in the hills west of downtown Portland at 1,000 feet above sea level. Being set that high above the city, the views are absolutely stunning, especially in the fall.

Behind the mansion there is viewing area, where you can see all of Portland, with Mt Hood in the background. It’s the most perfect view and a photographer’s paradise! The views of a snow-capped Mt Hood were so unbelievable, it almost didn’t look real.

But the views aren’t the only advantage to the mansion being located on a hill, there are also multiple hiking trails on the grounds. This makes for a great way to enjoy the outdoors after touring the mansion. And fall is the perfect time for a hike. As with most of the Pacific Northwest, the weather can often be rainy, so be prepared. I was lucky enough to visit the mansion on a cloudy but dry day.

The Pittock Mansion is located along the 30-mile-long Wildwood Trail, which just so happens to be America’s longest forested urban trail. There are many trails to choose from ranging from 3-6 miles roundtrip or if you are short on time, you can just walk part of a trail and turn around. This is what I did, I walked just under a mile and then turned around. Being there on a weekday in October, the trails were very quiet, I only saw a couple of other groups of people hiking. It was definitely a very peaceful fall hike. I’m sure on the weekends, the trails can get more crowded though.

While a visit to the mansion is great any time of the year, I definitely recommend visiting in the fall if you can. The mansion, the history, the views, the foliage and hiking, what more can you ask for?!

If you are looking for other things to do in Oregon, make sure to check out my other posts: Donut Tour of Portland and Chasing Waterfalls and Fall Foliage Along the Historic Columbia River Highway.

And as always, if you need help planning your trip to Oregon, Beyond The Miles Travel is here to help you.

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