A Historic Visit at Harpers Ferry

When I was traveling to West Virginia during my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states, I knew the top thing that I had to visit in the Mountain State of West Virginia was definitely Harpers Ferry. If you are looking for an old town full of history, Harpers Ferry is the place to visit.

Where is Harpers Ferry?

Harpers Ferry is located in the northeastern corner of West Virginia near the Maryland border. The Potomac and Shenandoah rivers meet in Harpers Ferry. These two rivers are part of how Harpers Ferry got it’s name. In the mid 1700s, Robert Harper was passing thru the area and saw the two rivers as a way to generate industry. He purchased the land and started a ferry across the Potomac River. The town was eventually named Harpers Ferry.

The Point where the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers Meet

History of Harpers Ferry

Harpers Ferry is full of history dating back to the 1700s. In 1796, the first President of the United States, George Washington purchased land in Harpers Ferry as a site of a US armory and arsenal. This was one of only two facilities of it’s type in the United States and in the 60 years the armory was in operation it produced more than 600,000 muskets, rifles and pistols.

Probably the most well known event in history that Harpers Ferry is known for is John Brown’s raid that essentially led to the Civil War. John Brown was an abolitionist known for his aggressive action towards slave owners. In October of 1859, with the help of fellow abolitionist, Harriet Tubman, John Brown planned a raid on the armory in Harpers Ferry. On October 16th, John Brown and 22 freed slaves raided the armory at Harpers Ferry.

After taking over the armory, locals from Harpers Ferry fought back, resulting in casualties on both sides. John Brown and his remaining men, barricaded themselves in the armory’s engine house, which became known as John Brown’s Fort. On October 18th, Robert E. Lee tried to get Brown to surrender and when Brown refused they stormed the fort and arrested John Brown. Less than two months later on December 2, 1859 was hanged after being found guilty of treason.

John Brown’s raid may not have ended slavery, but it definitely started a more aggressive approach to trying to end slavery. This more aggressive approach led to the Civil War which eventually ended slavery in 1865.

Harpers Ferry was a very strategic location during the Civil War and played a key role in many battles, most notably the Battle of Harpers Ferry in 1862. During the battle, Confederate General Robert E. Lee invaded the town and with the help of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson forced the war’s largest surrender. Even though the Confederates took control of the town after this battle, the town went from confederate and union control a total of 8 times during the war.

Visiting Harpers Ferry

The town of Harpers Ferry is part of the National Park Service and is known as the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. The museums and visitor centers are open daily (except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years) from 9am to 5pm.

Parking in Harpers Ferry is minimal, therefore its best to park at the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park Visitor Center just a few miles outside of town. The cost to park here is $20 per car, annual passes are available for $35 per year and the America the Beautiful Annual National Park Pass is also accepted. There is a shuttle bus that runs regularly from the visitor center to town throughout the day.

What to do in Harpers Ferry

With all this history, what is there to do in Harpers Ferry? The answer is quite a lot, it’s a great place to spend the day. Here is a list of the top things to do in the Historic Lower Town of Harpers Ferry:

  • John Brown’s Fort and Monument – This is definitely the top thing to see in Harpers Ferry. The fort has moved quite a bit since John Brown and his men barricaded themselves there in October of 1859. In 1891, it was dismantled and transported to Chicago for a few years, then it was returned to Harpers Ferry and was located at a couple of different locations before it was ultimately purchased by the National Park Service and moved to it’s current location in 1968 which is 150 feet east of the original location. There is a monument that marks the original location of the fort.
  • U.S. Armory Site – Located next to the original site of John Brown’s Fort is the US Armory site. At this location, they have signs set up throughout the site with historical information on the Armory.
  • Arsenal Square – Located behind John Brown’s Fort is Arsenal Square. This is where the Arsenal which held the weapons made at the Armory was located. It once held about 100,000 weapons at this site.
  • Museums and Period Exhibits – There are multiple museums and exhibits to check out both at the visitors center and in lower town. Unfortunately at this time a lot of the museums are closed but some of the period exhibits are availabe to see. And just walking thru town seeing the outsides of the buildings makes you feel like you have stepped back in time. They have done a very good job of keeping the old facades of the buildings.
  • The Point – Just past John Brown’s Fort is The Point. This is where the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers meet. When standing at the Point, you can see the three states of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.
  • St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church – Up a hill above Harpers Ferry is the only church that survived the Civil War without any destruction, St. Peter’s. The views from the church are stunning and definitely a must see.
  • Ruins of St. John’s Episcopal Church – Continuing up the hill past St. Peter’s you will come upon the ruins of St. John’s Episcopal Church. This church served as a hospital and was damaged during the Civil War. The ruins were very interesting to see.
  • Jefferson Rock – Continuing up the path past the ruins, you will eventually reach the top of the hill. This is where Jefferson Rock is located. This rock is named after the third President of the United States, Thomas Jeffereson. In the 1780s, Jeffereson wrote of the view from this point. It’s definitely quite the view to take in!
Jefferson Rock
  • Unofficial Midpoint of the Appalachian Trail – The path up to Jefferson Rock is part of the famous Appalachian Trail. The Appalachian Trail is a 2,200 mile trail that stretches from Georgia to Maine. Many people set out to hike the entire trail each year. Although it’s not exactly the midpoint of the trail, Harpers Ferry has been known as the mental midpoint and is also where the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters is located. The headquarters offers many hiker services as well as has exhibits and a gift shop. If you like to hike, why not take a shorter hike along the Appalachian Trail while in Harpers Ferry.
  • Self Guided Battlefield Driving Tour – Outside of Lower Town of Harpers Ferry, you can take a self guided driving tour of the Battlefields from the Civil War. Along the driving tour, there are signs giving information about the Civil War battles.

Harpers Ferry definitely has a lot to offer and is a great place to spend the day. It’s a wonderful trip for a family, so you can bring the history books alive for your kids.

Great Falls Park – The Must See Waterfall Near Washington DC

I recently flew into Washington DC to take a road trip from there to West Virginia. I happened to fly in on Earth Day and knew that I wanted to spend some time outside enjoying nature to celebrate Earth Day. Since it was also National Park week, I took a look at the National Park Service website to find somewhere new to explore along my drive. I ended up finding a great park that is part of the National Park Service and just a half hour drive from Washington DC.

Great Falls Park is the perfect spot if you are looking to get out into nature and check out a great waterfall near Washington DC. The main feature of the park, the Great Falls, consists of rapids and waterfalls along the Potomac River that fall into Mather Gorge. The falls sit in between the states of Virginia and Maryland and can be viewed from parks located in each state, both of which are part of the National Park Service. In Maryland, the falls can be viewed from the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park and in Virginia they can be viewed from Great Falls Park. This post will focus on Great Falls Park in Virginia.

Great Falls

Great Falls History: It’s been said that the falls formed 35,000 years ago during the last glacial period. Also located at the park are the remains of the Patowmack Canal which was a project by United States first president, George Washington. The construction of the canal began in 1785 and was completed by 1802. The canal was only in operation for 26 years. In 1930, the area was authorized to be preserved as a park. Over the years, there has been an amusement park on the site as well as a couple of carousels. In 1966, the park became part of the National Park Service.

Rapids at the bottom of Great Falls

Great Falls Floods: The falls include multiple 20 foot waterfalls and cascading rapids with a total drop of 76 feet. Prior to the falls, the Potomac River is 1000 feet wide, but once the water goes over the falls, the river narrows to between 60 and 100 feet as it flows thru Mather Gorge. This narrowing of the river coupled with alot of rainfall or a huge snowmelt has been the cause of many floods over the years. The floods get so bad that it causes the falls to essentially disappear underwater.

There have also been a number of floods where the water has risen over the cliffs into the park. Inside the park there is a marker for these major floods. It’s hard to imagine water getting this high! For reference, I’m 5 foot 2 and the top mark was definitely well above my head.

Below is a list from highest to lowest of the major floods and their causes

Flood Marker
  • March 18-19, 1936: Rapid snowmelt and torrential rains
  • October 15-17, 1942: 10-19 inches of rain falling in the area
  • June 21-24, 1972: Rains from Hurricane Agnes
  • April 26-27, 1937: Heavy rainfall
  • January 19-22, 1996: Rapid snowmelt and rains after the Blizzard of 96
  • November 4-7, 1985: Rains from Tropical Storm Juan
  • September 6-8, 1996: Rains from Tropical Storm Fran. This flood came up to the base of the marker.

It always amazes me how much water can pile up, I can’t even imagine it reaching these levels.

Things to do at Great Falls Park: Great Falls Park is an outdoor lovers paradise with so much to do. I was short on time, but could have easily spent a good portion of the day in the park.

Great Falls Overlooks: The must do activity in the park is to check out the falls. There are three overlooks to get a few different vantage points of the falls. The first overlook is the closest to the falls and includes a little rock climbing at some parts of the overlook. If you are with kids, you might want to bypass this overlook as it could be dangerous for kids.

The other two overlooks are completely accessible and great for the entire family. There are paved paths to each overlooks and views are just as beautiful.

Kayaking: The rapids below the falls are a very popular place for white water kayaking. With rapids that range from class II to class V, it’s definitely a place for the experienced kayaker. For those of you who are like me and not sure you could handle these class of rapids, it’s definitely a great place to watch those that are brave enough. I could have spent all day watching the two kayakers who were in the water on that chilly day I was visiting.

Check out my video I took below:

Hiking: Great Falls Park includes 15 miles of hiking trails. The trails range from easy to hard and some can also be used for biking and horseback riding. Since I was tight on time while visiting the park, I decided to hike a portion of one of the trails.

The River Trail is rated moderate to hard and follows the Potomac along the cliffs above for 1.5 miles. The trail can get quite difficult in spots as you are along the edge of the cliff 25-75 feet above Mather’s Gorge. I didn’t make it to that difficult spot, but the parts of the trail I did hike were just beautiful.

Along the trail they also had signs pointing out important features of the trail like these potholes in the rock pictured below. These holes were caused during erosion due to flooding during in the Ice Ages.

Potholes in the rock

Some of the other popular hikes include the following:

Patowmack Canal Trail: An easy 1.25 mile trail that follows the ruins of the canal and also goes by the three overlooks of the falls.

Old Carriage Road: This easy to moderate 1.6 mile trail is mostly flat and wooded making for a great hike on a hot summer day.

Difficult Run Trail: This short .7 mile trail is rated as moderate. It follows a stream down to the Potomac river and can be quite narrow and rocky in spots.

Picnic area at Great Falls Park

Picnic Area: Great Falls Park also makes for a great location for a picnic. There are many picnic tables available to enjoy. Some of which have a great view of the falls. If you don’t want to bring your own food in, on the weekends starting in mid-April there will be a food truck selling food. There is also vending machines available for snacks.

Visitor Center: The visitor center is currently closed, but when it is open it has a 10 minute video presentation on the park, exhibits, interactive children’s room and trail maps available.

Great Falls Park is located in McLean, VA about a half hour from Washington DC. If you are visiting on a weekend, make sure to get there early as the parking lot does tend to fill up on weekends and there is no street parking available.

The park is open every day but Christmas from 7am until a half hour after sunset. Entrance fees are $20 per car or if you are arriving on foot, bike or horse back it’s $10 per person. The fee is for 7 days of use. There is also an annual pass available for $35. As the park is part of the National Park Service, the America the Beautiful Passes are also accepted.

If you are visiting Washington DC and want to get out in nature somewhere close by, Great Falls Park is the perfect spot.

For The First Time In Forever Disneyland Reopens It’s Gates

It all started with a mouse named Mickey Mouse that animator Walt Disney created back in 1928. Years later he dreamed of a place that families could go where parents and children alike would enjoy themselves. On July 17, 1955, this dream became a reality when Disneyland opened in Anaheim, California. Since then Disneyland has grown not only to Disney World in Orlando but to Disney Parks around the world in Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Shanghai. And in California, a second theme park, Disney’s California Adventure opened in 2001.

Disney’s California Adventure

Since it’s opening in 1955, the park has only closed for a handful of days:

  • November 23, 1963 – The day after John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
  • January 17, 1994 – The day of the 6.7 Magnitude Northridge Earthquake
  • September 11, 2001 – The day of the terrorists attacks in the US.

But on March 14, 2020 Disneyland would close for it’s longest closure in the park’s history. While other Disney Parks around the world, some of which opened and then closed again, due to strict mandates in the state of California, Disneyland remained closed for 412 Days! But on Friday April 30, 2021 Disneyland and California Adventure will FINALLY open their gates once again!

Cars Land at California Adventure

It’s been a long time coming but the parks will finally be open again. Of course like everything else over the past year, there will be differences that you should be aware of if you have the chance to visit the parks when they open. Alot of these differences are similiar to the changes at the parks at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando:

  • All guests age 2 and up will be required to wear a face mask unless they are eating or drinking while stationary.
  • Social distancing markers in lines for rides, restaurants, stores, etc.
  • Park reservations will be required to be made in advance.
  • Mobile ordering services at quick service dining locations
  • Fast Pass and Disney’s Max Pass Service will not be available.
  • Character Meet & Greats will not be available.
  • Parades and Fireworks will not be available.
Matterhorn at Disneyland

Due to the state of California have much more strict rules than the state of Florida, there will be some additional differences at Disneyland and California Adventure:

  • Disneyland and California Adventure will be operating at 25% occupancy , Walt Disney World Parks are currently at 35% occupancy
  • Only California residents will be allowed in the parks and proof of residency may be asked for.
  • A maximum of 3 households can visit the park together as one group.
  • Park hopping will be allowed after 1pm, in Florida it’s allowed after 2pm.
  • Indoor lines for rides will be limited to limit the amount of time that people are inside around other people.
  • Indoor rides must be under a 15 minute time limit. This means that the popular Star Wars ride, Rise of the Resistance which normally is an 18 minute long ride will be altered to be under 15 minutes now.

California’s rules may seem a little strict compared to Florida, but I recently read that they have the lowest positivity rate in the country, so obviously their strict rules are working. Whatever it takes to get a little sense of normalcy while being safe!

Rise of the Resistance

Lots of changes and lots of things missing, but after 412 days, it’s sure to be a magical experience to be in the parks again. It’s all a matter of preference, but from my experience at Walt Disney World in Florida, the magic is still there just in a different way. From what I’ve seen from friends on social media who have attended cast previews the past couple of days, the magic is definitely still there and they all had a great time and were so happy to be back in their happy place.

Walt would be happy to see how much we have all missed his original park so much. Is anyone living in California planning on visiting Disneyland and California Adventure soon?

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10 Great Ways to Enjoy Spring In Boston

Spring is one of the most beautiful times of the year to visit Boston. After what is usually a long winter in Boston, the city starts to come alive. People venture outside more to take advantage of the warming temperatures and longer daylight. The trees, plants and flowers start to bloom, making the city so colorful and full of life. And there is just so much more to do in the city when you can enjoy more time outside.

Although the calendar changes to spring in mid March, Boston spring weather can be all over the place. The end of March and beginning of April weather in Boston can still feel like winter. It’s not unusual for it to feel like summer with temperatures in the 70s one day and then a few days later be 30 degrees and snowing. Luckily though once you get into April, any winter weather is short lived, normally not lasting for more than a day or two.

Once you get into mid-April, there is more consistent spring weather and the trees and flowers seem to bloom overnight making the city a beautiful sight!

Here are 10 Great Ways to Enjoy Spring in Boston:

Take a ride on the Swan Boats: These historic boats first took to the water in the Boston Public Garden Lagoon in the 1870s. The boats feature a foot propelled paddle wheel that is covered by a swan. Robert Paget got the idea for the swan from the opera Lohengrin in which the knight in this German story crosses a river by a swan to defend his innocence to Princess Elsa. The Swan Boats are still run by the Paget family today.

Each year in mid April, the swan boats open for the spring and summer season and run thru Labor Day. In 2021, they are opening on May 8th. Tickets are $4.50 for Adults, $4.00 for Seniors, $3.00 for Children 2-15 years old and Free for under 2 years old. It’s a nice relaxing, inexpensive ride that both adults and especially children will love.

Enjoy the Boston Public Garden: The Swan Boats are located in the Boston Public Garden. This is the first public botanical garden in America and is the most perfect place to spend a spring day. In my opinion there is no better place to experience spring in the city of Boston. The flowers start to bloom and the whole park is just so colorful. It’s a nice place to take a walk or to have a picnic.

Experience Duckling Day: Located in the Boston Public Garden is the Make Way for Ducklings Statue based on Robert McCloskey’s popular children’s book. Traditionally each year on Mother’s Day is considered Duckling Day in the Boston Public Garden. This is a great activity to enjoy with your children. The Duckling Day Parade is a fun procession for children to trace the steps of the ducks within the Garden. Children are encouraged to dress up like ducks for this fun event. Reservations are required and it costs $35 per family to take part in the parade. Of course watching the parade is free. For 2021, the event is being held virtually.

Make Way for Ducklings Statue

See the Lilacs at Arnold Arboretum: Speaking of Mother’s Day events, this is also Lilac Sunday at the Arnold Arboretum. Celebrated since 1908, Lilac Sunday features guided tours of the collection of over 400 lilac plants and it’s the one day each year that you are allowed to have picnics in the Arboretum. What a great way to celebrate mother’s day! In 2021, the event is cancelled, but you can still head to the Arboretum between late April and mid to late May to experience these beautiful Lilacs. There is even a self-guided tour that you can take. The Arnold Arboretum is part of the Emerald Necklace which is an 1,100 acre park system and makes for a wonderful place to enjoy a spring walk.

Lilacs at the Arnold Arboretum

Enjoy the Charles River Esplanade: One of the top places to enjoy a nice spring day is the Charles River Esplanade. The Charles River Esplanade is most well known for the Hatch Shell where the Boston Pops perform each year on the 4th of July. Spring is an extremely popular time to enjoy this outdoor paradise. You can enjoy active spring activities like sailing, kayaking, biking, running and walking. It’s also another great place sit and have a picnic and you can walk over to the Cambridge side of the river for a beautiful view of the Boston skyline. When the trees are in full bloom, the esplanade is just gorgeous!

Catch a Baseball Game at Fenway Park: Spring brings the opportunity to spectate outdoor sporting events and there is nothing more American than baseball. Whether you are a Boston Red Sox fan or not, there is no better stadium to watch a baseball game than the oldest major league baseball stadium in the country, Fenway Park. There is no better way to spend a spring afternoon or evening than catching a baseball game. And it’s also a time to take a tour of this historic stadium.

Fenway Park

Run or Spectate the Boston Marathon: Probably the biggest event of the year in Boston takes place on the third Monday in April, the Boston Marathon. The Boston Marathon is one of the most prestigious marathons in the world and has been taking place for over 120 years. While the Marathon has had all sorts of weather, from temperatures in the 80s to a windy, rainy day in the 40s, alot of years the race coincides with the beginning of the nice spring weather. The city comes alive on Marathon weekend and runners and non-runners alike flock to the city to get involved with the excitement of the weekend. Even if you are not a runner, specatating the race is even more fun than you could imagine. It’s truly inspiring to see the runners and all the spectators definitely know how to have a good time, it’s like a big party for the city.

Boston Marathon Finish Line

Take a Boston Duck Tour: A sure sign of spring is when the Duck Boats come out of winter hibernation to take tourists on tours of the city via land and water. The Boston Duck Tours leave from three different departure locations: The Museum of Science, New England Aquarium and the Prudential Center. So no matter where you are staying in the city, there is a duck boat nearby to help you see the city. These amphibious landing vehicles will take you past all the popular sites of Boston like the Boston Common, North End and Faneuil Hall to name a few. But unlike other tours of the city, these vehicles can also go into the waters of the Charles River for breathtaking views from the water.

Boston Duck Tours Boats

Take a walk along the Freedom Trail: Looking to get a closer up tour of the city, take a walk along the Freedom Trail. This 2.5 mile long walk follows the red line thru the city and takes you past 16 stops that were significant in American History. It is definitely a must see for anyone visiting Boston, especially if you are a history buff and spring provides the perfect temperature to tackle this long walk.

Enjoy a meal or a drink outside: With the warm weather comes the beginning of patio season in Boston. While Boston has always had it’s fair share of outdoor restaurant patios and beer gardens, the one positive to the pandemic is the increase in amount of outdoor dining options. Just about every restaurant has outdoor seating now and what better way to enjoy the warm weather than dining al fresco!

Spring is definitely a wonderful time of year to visit Boston. If you are planning a trip to Boston in the spring, Beyond The Miles Travel can help you plan that perfect trip.

Spring into Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival

Walt Disney World’s Epcot Center holds multiple festivals throughout the year and the most beautiful festival of them all is the International Flower and Garden Festival. This festival is held each spring and is the perfect way to get in the spring spirit! Even if you are not a big Disney fan, if you love spring flowers and plants, live music and food & beverages from around the world, this festival is for you!

Nighttime Topiaries

Topiaries: The topiaries are definitely the star of the show at the festival. Topiary dates back to Roman times as early as the 1st century. During the Renaissance, topiaries became very popular. Since then topiary has been popular throughout the world as a form of living art and sculpture.

During Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival, Disney characters are brought to life via topiary. The colorful playful topiaries are a magical sight to see!

In keeping with the theme of Epcot’s World Showcase, there are country inspired Disney character topiaries throughout the different countries of World Showcase:

From Ratatouille and Beauty and the Beast in France:

To Peter Pan and Winne the Pooh in England:

To Lady and the Tramp in Italy and Snow White in Germany:

To Frozen in Norway and my favorite The Three Caballeros in Mexico:

And they don’t just have Disney Character topiaries, there are many non-Disney related topiaries to see including ones that represent the countries around the World Showcase

Global Gardens: Throughout the park there are gardens of plants and flowers that celebrate the world and how to live in harmony with nature.

Live Music: Each year during the festival, there is live music as part of the Garden Rocks Concert Series. These concerts feature popular musical acts from the past including Rick Springfield, Starship and Lonestar to name a few. These concerts are always a lot of fun and can be quite popular so you may need to line up fairly early for a seat.

During 2021, the Garden Rocks Concert Series is not happening due to the pandemic. But there is still live music available during the festival. There are daily performances by Epcot musical artists like Voices of Liberty and Mariachi Cobre. Each weekend, local bands from Orlando will take the stage for your entertainment. These local bands are great, especially when you haven’t seen live music in over a year!

Outdoor Kitchens: Similar to Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival held each fall, the Flower and Garden Festival features Outdoor Kitchens throughout the park. These kitchens feature creative dishes made with the freshest of ingredients. From food inspired by the countries of the World Showcase to local inspired foods it’s a foodie’s paradise of foods and drinks to taste.

Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival is definitely a great way to enjoy the spring season! Spring in Epcot is definitely the most beautiful time of the year!

The festival normally runs from March thru May. In 2021 it runs thru July 5th.

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A Boston Must See – Fenway Park

Boston is known for it’s historic attractions like the Boston Tea Party and the Freedom Trail, but did you know it is also home to the oldest major league baseball stadium, Fenway Park. The historic Fenway Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is not only a must see for sports fans, but for non-sports fans as well.

Photo of Fenway Park from the 60s

History: Home to the Boston Red Sox, Fenway Park first opened on April 20, 1912. The joy of opening day at Fenway Park was overshadowed by the tragedy of the Titanic sinking just 5 days earlier. Fenway Park is one of just two stadiums in the United States (the other being the second oldest MLB park, Wrigley Field in Chicago) remaining of the jewel box ballpark era. Jewel Park ballparks were built in the early 1900s and were the first stadiums to be built with steel and concrete as their primary building materials. This old school style of park is what makes seeing a game at Fenway such a must do experience. The park also holds a much lower amount of fans than the newer ballparks making it a much more intimate ballpark experience. Fenway was the third to last stadium in the country to add lighting in 1947.

There truly is nothing like attending a Red Sox game at Fenway Park. Even though the seats aren’t as comfortable as other ballparks and there are multiple obstructed view seats, it’s the history and uniqueness of the park that makes it a great place to watch a game.

Tour of Fenway Park: I recommend not just seeing a game, but also taking a tour of Fenway. Hour long tours are offered at the top of each hour from 10am-5pm from November 1-March 31st. The remainder of the year they are offered from 9am -5pm on non-game days and 9am until 4 hours before game time on game days. The tickets for the tour costs $21 for Adults, $17 for Military and $15 for Children ages 3-12. It’s best to purchase your tickets online as they are limiting the amount of people on each tour due to social distancing protocols. They are also requiring masks for anyone over the age of 2 and requiring paperless tickets. As a note, they also do not allow bags to be brought into the park, unless they are medical or diaper bags.

Fenway Park during the tour

There are so many great reasons why a tour of Fenway Park is a great idea.

One reason is the great photos that you can get while the park is empty. It’s a wonderful time to get that family photo at the park with no one in the background.

But why else would you spend an hour touring a baseball park, well Fenway Park has a lot of very unique aspects of it that you can learn about and see up close that make the tour so worth the time and money. Here are some of the things you can experience during the tour:

  • Green Monster: Probably the most well known aspect of Fenway Park is the 37 foot tall left field wall known as the Green Monster. As the tallest wall in major leagues baseball stadiums, it has been part of the ballpark since opening day in 1912, although it wasn’t painted green until 1947. In 2003, seating was added on top of the Green Monster. These seats are extremely popular, the view of the field is great and there is always that chance of catching a home run ball that is hit in the monster if you are sitting up here. One of the main highlights of the tour is going up on to the famous Green Monster.
  • Manual Scoreboard: On the bottom of the Green Monster is a manual scoreboard that has been in use since 1934. With all the modern digital scoreboards in most ballparks, this scoreboard is definitely unique. There are people that work inside the Green Monster and manually change the numbers when the score changes. It would definitely be an interesting job but I’m not sure I could do it, I’ve seen the inside and I feel like I’d be a tad claustrophobic. The initials of former owners Thomas A. and Jean R. Yawkey appear in morse code on the white lines in between the American League scores.
  • The Red Seat: While all the bleacher seats in the outfield are green there is one seat that is red. This seat signifies the location of the longest home run ever hit in Fenway Park. The home run was 502 feet and was hit by none other than the most famous Red Sox player, Ted Williams on June 9, 1946. This is a fun place to take a photo while on the tour.
Red Seat signifiying the longest home run in Fenway Park
  • Pesky Pole: The right field foul pole is 302 feet from home plate, the shortest distance in the MLB. The pole was named after Boston Red Sox player Johnny Pesky. No one seems to know the real story of how the pole got the name Pesky Pole. It started from Red Sox pitcher Mel Parnell calling it that due to a homerun that Pesky hit during a game that Parnell pitched. Some say it was a late inning homerun that won the game, some say the home run was in the first inning. Who knows, regardless, the pole has been nicknamed Pesky’s Pole for decades and on Pesky’s 87th birthday in 2006, the pole was officially named Pesky Pole. Over the years, many fans have signed the pole to leave their mark on Fenway Park.
  • Behind the scenes: The tour will take you behind the scenes to places like the press box where you will get to hear of the history of the park and the Red Sox. Sometimes the tour will walk thru one of the locker rooms or even the dugout. One of the great things about the tour is walking thru the stadium in areas that you can’t necessarily get to during a game and being able to see some of the 170,000 pieces of memorabilia that is part of the Fenway Living Museum. These pieces go all the way back to the early days of Fenway Park and the Red Sox to the present. There are some really interesting things to see.

Attending a game at Fenway Park: If you are attending a game at Fenway Park, I highly recommend attending one of the night games. To me there is something special about watching a game after the sun goes down. Plus not only do you miss the heat of the sun in the summer, but you also can see some great sunsets while at Fenway Park. And something about nighttime just makes Fenway look even more beautiful

Kid Fun at Fenway Park: Baseball games can be slow and some kids may get antsy sitting in the stands during the game, but there is also a lot of fun things for kids to see at Fenway Park. Kids will love getting their picture taken with the mascot Wally the Green Monster and checking out Wally’s Clubhouse which is open from the 3rd – 7th inning of each game and includes activities like face painting, balloon artists and games for kids to play.

Multiple Uses of Fenway: Over the years, Fenway Park has been home to more than just the Boston Red Sox. It was also home to the Boston Patriots from 1963-1968 before they became the NFL’s New England Patriots. It was also used by the Boston Braves (now the Atlanta Braves) for their 1915 baseball season.

Concert at Fenway Park

In the more recent years, Fenway Park has had many other uses:

  • Concerts – there are numerous concerts each summer and it’s a very unique place to listen to music.
  • Hockey Games – Over the years they have had outdoor NHL and college hockey games at Fenway.
  • Ice rink – One winter they even had an ice rink inside Fenway Park, I must say I regret that I didn’t get a chance to check it out, hopefully they have it again another year.

Outside the Stadium: Can’t make it to a game or a tour, take a walk around the outside of the stadium. Outside the stadium there are numerous statues and championship banners to check out.

Dining near Fenway: There are many dining options near Fenway Park, the street on the other side of the Green Monster, Lansdowne Street, is full of bars and restaurants for pre and post game food and drinks. Some good options are:

Fenway Park should definitely be on your list of things to do while visiting Boston, especially if you are visiting during baseball season. Go Sox!

Running the runDisney Virtual Princess 5K at Disney World

One of the things I am missing the most during this crazy time are runDisney races. I normally take part in multiple runDisney events each year. My absolute favorite runDisney weekend is Princess Half Marathon weekend and I’m so grateful that I was able to run the half marathon in February 2020, just before the world went crazy. The races were virtual in 2021 and one look at the 5K medal, I just knew I had to sign up for it!

Since I was planning on visiting Disney World for my birthday in March, I decided to run the virtual 5K while I was there. I may not be able to run with 1000s of other princesses but at least I could run on Disney property.

Running wise, I lucked out with the weather, for three days I was there, it was in the 60s and cloudy with morning temperatures in the 50s, perfect running weather!

Hourglass Lake and the skyliner

I was staying at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort so since the theme of the Princess 5K was Ariel from The Little Mermaid, I hopped on the skyliner and headed over to Disney’s Art of Animation and Pop Century Resort so I could finish my run in the Little Mermaid rooms section of the Art of Animation Resort.

Disney’s Art of Animation and Pop Century Resorts are separated by Hourglass Lake. There is a jogging path around Hourglass Lake that is a little under a 1.5 miles. So all I had to do was run it twice and add on a little by going off the path into the resorts. It was actually the perfect place to run a 5K.

Since the weather was cooler than your typical Florida weather, I waited until 10am to run, that way I avoided the crowds of people on the path heading to the skyliner to get to the parks for opening time.

Running on Disney property made the virtual race slightly more exciting than just running a 5K at home on my normal running route.

Along the route, there were character stops:

There were motivational signs along the way:

Motivated by thoughts of Americans winning Olympic Gold Medals

And even spectators cheering me on:

Little Mermaid themed spectators

But most importantly there were post race race themed photo opportunities in the Little Mermaid section of Disney’s Art of Animation Resort:

Perfect spot to end the race and take a photo of my race medal.

A year into this, all of us runners are getting sick of the virtual races, but this was definitely a great way to bring a little bit of excitement into my virtual 5K. A virtual race truly is what you make it, but fingers crossed for more live and less virtual races as the year goes on.

Hopefully the Princess Half Marathon Weekend will be in person in 2022!

Tips for Visiting Walt Disney World During a Pandemic

Updated May 16, 2021

After spending a year at home alone with the exception of a couple of road trips a couple of hours away, I finally got the courage to get on a plane and head south to Florida to celebrate my birthday at Walt Disney World.

Now why would someone who’s been extra cautious (and I’ll admit extra nervous) about covid-19 decide to go somewhere as crowded as Disney World during this pandemic. Well, it all comes down to mental health needs and familiarity. A year alone is rough and I needed the one thing that makes me truly happy, Disney World. And as much as I’ve been to Disney World in my life, it’s somewhere I feel familiar so god forbid I did get sick there (thank god I didn’t!), I would feel comfortable at least being somewhere familiar to me. And if anyone is going to be incredibly organized with covid-19 protocols, it’s definitely going to be an organized successful company like Disney!

So for anyone else looking to take the leap and head to Disney World, here are my tips on how to enjoy your trip.

Disney World Park Pass Reservation

Plan Your Park Days Before The Trip: A trip to Disney World has always required a lot of planning. In the past you would plan which park you wanted to go to each day based on your fast pass reservations that you could make 60 days before your trip. At this time fast passes are not available, but you must make reservations for the park you want to visit each day of your trip as the parks are only operating at 35% occupancy right now.

Some parks, and in most recent weeks during spring break, all the parks have been selling out of park passes. It’s incredibly important that before you book any part of your trip, to check the park pass availability

Once you’ve checked the availability calendar and see that there are park passes available when you want to travel, you can book your trip. I recommend that once you book your trip, you reserve your park passes right away so they don’t sell out, especially if you are going during a busier time of year.

Plan Your Dining Before The Trip: Just like before dining reservations can be made prior to arrival. In the past, reservations opened up 180 days before the trip, but now they are opening up 60 days before the trip. If you are comfortable dining indoors (I’m not quite there just yet), make sure to make your reservations at the 60 day mark. Restaurants have lower capacity due to social distancing of tables. Therefore, reservations are filling up quick.

Be Prepared For Mobile Ordering: If you are not wanting to do sit down meals or don’t feel comfortable with dining inside, then you will most likely be dining at quick service locations. For many of the quick service locations, they are requiring mobile ordering. Therefore it’s more important than ever to make sure you have a good cell phone battery.

After a year at home where I didn’t realize that my almost 2 1/2 year old phone had a really awful battery, probably made worse from me having it sitting in the wireless charger all day the past year. It caused some issues with mobile ordering as I had to keep putting my phone in airplane mode to conserve the battery and then taking it off of airplane mode, it took a moment to get working again, definitely time to upgrade my phone as I didn’t have issues last time I was at Disney World just before covid hit.

If you do have issues with the mobile order, there are cast members outside each restaurant that can help you and they do have lines to wait in to order food for those that can’t mobile order.

Mobile Order

Another thing to keep in mind while using the mobile ordering, is that unlike before, quick service may not mean eating right away, sometimes you might need to wait. When you go into the app, you can select a time for your order. If you are a big planner, you could go on the app earlier in the day to plan your meals for later in the day. I personally just waited until I was ready to eat which normally wasn’t during the prime meal time, so I never waited more than a half hour.

Some of the more popular quick service locations like Woody’s Lunch Box at Disney’s Hollywood Studios can sometimes have a long wait, over an hour or more, so ones like these you may want to start your mobile order earlier in the day.

Bring Enough of the Right Face Masks: One of the reasons I felt comfortable visiting Disney World is that they are extremely strict when it comes to face masks. As of May 15 2021, Disney has updated their face mask policy. Face masks are no longer required when outside but are still required whenever indoors (unless eating or drinking), on all disney transportation and on all attractions, including when in line for attractions even if the lines are outdoors. For all the people that think wearing the mask below your nose is ok, this won’t fly at Disney, they will say something to you about wearing it properly over the mouth and nose.

It’s important to make sure you bring masks that are comfortable on you. And make sure to bring enough with you so you can change it out during the day. It can get pretty hot standing in line and no one wants a sweaty gross mask on their face. A lot of people find that the disposable masks are the coolest and I definitely agree, they don’t seem to stick to the face as much as the cloth masks and they are so easy to change out during the day. I am overly cautious and wore a disposable with a cloth mask on top of it, mostly because the disposable masks are too big for my face. The Disney cloth masks fit my face really well and are so cute!

No matter what mask works best for you, it’s important to remember while now you no longer need to wear the mask the entire day, you will still be wearing a mask for a quite some time during the day. The best thing is to have a positive outlook about it, it’s not fun, none of us enjoy the masks, but in my opinion wearing a mask all day at Disney is way better than working all day at home without a mask. Remember if you go into it with a negative attitude, you will have a negative experience. Positive attitudes help so much!

Enhanced Hotel Room Cleaning

Be Prepared For Limited Hotel Room Housekeeping Services: While there is enhanced cleaning services in between guest check out and check in, the daily housekeeping that is normally offered for hotel guests is suspended at this time. Instead, every other day, light housekeeping services will be provided. This includes emptying trash, replenishing towels and bathroom amenities and wiping down of vanity and counters.

Be Prepared For Socially Distanced Disney Transportation: We have all had our issues in the past with the Disney transportation taking a long time and being crammed onto an overly crowded bus. Thankfully they are limiting the amount of people on the bus and each party is being assigned their own section to sit in so the crowded buses are not an issue at this time.

While the lines appear long, I personally felt they moved quicker than normal. While less people make it onto each bus, the wait in between buses during busy times seemed less, sometimes they would have one or two buses waiting while boarding another bus. They also recently started using coach buses for some of the busier resorts which can hold more people even when social distanced.

The best part of the buses right now is the guarantee of a seat on the bus. There was nothing worse than having to stand on a bus after a long day on your feet at the park. With every disadvantage there is an advantage. Would you wait a bit longer to have a comfortable ride back to the resort, I know I would.

Don’t Be Misled By Long Lines and Wait Times: With each party having to be six feet apart in lines for the rides, the lines definitely appear ALOT longer than they actually are.

Also the wait times aren’t always accurate. Good news, the wait for most rides are less than the posted wait times, some by 10 minutes or so, but some by a lot. When I was there, the wait time for Big Thunder Mountain was posted as 40 minutes, but I only waited 10 maybe 15 minutes tops.

The overly cautious person in me must remind you to pay attention to the very clear “Please Wait Here” markers on the ground in the lines. “Please Wait Here” means here not 4 feet ahead of the marker bringing you 2 feet from the party in front of you. You won’t get on the ride any quicker, so covid aside, why not have the luxury of space between you and a perfect stranger on a hot day 🙂

Enjoy the New “Magic” in the park: Due to social distancing, things like character meet and greets, parades, fireworks and shows aren’t happening right now. Disney has of course tried to make up for this by having some magical extras in the park.

At certain locations, at unposted times, they have characters in the park for you to take that socially distanced selfie with. (As a reminder, Disney has a strict face mask policy which requires face masks to be kept on for all pictures). To me this was a different and fun way to see the characters and it was nice to not be wasting time in line to see them.

To replace the parades they have unscheduled Character Cavalcades thru the park. This to me was always a fun surprise and I loved seeing them more than seeing the normal parades. The ones in Animal Kingdom were on boats on the water which was a lot of fun to see. Check out the below video from Magic Kingdom.

Have a Magical Time!

Have a Magical Trip: The final tip is to have a magical time! While going during a pandemic may not be the right time to go for some people, it can still be magical. If you’ve been before and love Disney as much as me, it can still be magical and even if you have never been it can still be a magical experience.

The most important thing to remember is the trip is what you make it and only you can decide if now is the right time to visit Walt Disney World.

Are you looking to book a trip to Disney World soon? I hope these tips can help your and also remember most travel agents don’t charge extra to help you plan your trip and they can be a tremendous help. I’m more than happy to help make your next trip to Disney World the best trip ever!

Discover the Azores – Pico Itinerary

Most people that travel to the Azores, spend some time on the main island of Sao Miguel and never venture over to any of the other islands. As beautiful as Sao Miguel is, I believe people are missing out by not visiting any of the other islands. Do you enjoy visiting places with lots of unspoiled nature and very few tourists, then a trip to one of the other islands is definitely for you!

When I visited the Azores in 2013, we decided to visit the island of Pico. Known as the “Mountain Island” on this island you can climb up to the crater of a dormant volcano, visit the largest lava tube in Portugal, swim in the natural swimming pools and visit local wineries. With a population of around 14,000 and very minimal tourists, our group of nine friends sometimes felt like the only people on the island. What’s not to love about that?

Three days would be an ideal amout of time to spend on this island. Below is a great three day itinerary for you.

3 Day Pico Itinerary

Day 1 – Drive around the island and visit Gruta das Torres:

Renting a car in Pico is a must and it’s also a great way to see the island. Our first day in Pico we got in the car and just drove around. From beautiful small towns to coastal views to lakes, horses and lava rock, there is so much to stop and take in just driving around the island.

One thing to note when driving around the island, cars take second priority to the cows. The cows seemed to be everywhere in Pico and if they were in the road and you drive up to them, don’t expect them to be in any hurry at all to get out of your way, it’s their road, not the car’s road. As a true city girl, I highly enjoyed all the cow encounters along the way, by the last day on the island, it became quite comical each time they blocked the road. This was the only traffic on the island and the only type of traffic I want to deal with on a vacation.

While driving, we experienced all sorts of different weather throughout the island, from warm sunny skies to drizzling rain to foggy views. One of the things to note about Pico is that the focal point of the island, Montanha do Pico (Mount Pico) can be seen from almost everywhere on the island. My favorite view was with the fog rolling over it while we drove around the island. It was so beautiful to see the fog taking over this large mountain.

Fog over Montanha do Pico

On the western side of the island, make sure to visit Gruta das Torres to learn more about the volcanic origins of the island. Gruta das Torres is the largest lava tube in Portugal. The lava tube was first documented in 1991 and the length of 3,350 metres has been explored to date, but it’s estimated to be over 5,200 metres long.

You can visit Gruta das Torres and go down into the lava tube. You will be provided with helmets and head lamps and a guide will take down groups of 15 at a time. It’s quite the experience to head down into the lava tube and definitely a must see on the island of Pico.

After checking out the lava tube, grab something to eat and relax since day two will be a busy and active day of hiking.

Day 2 – Hiking Montanha do Pico:

Climbing Montanha do Pico is probably the most difficult hike I’ve ever done, but I am so glad that I conquered it! It’s an absolute must if you are visiting Pico, but definitely be prepared for a long strenuous day.

Montanha do Pico is 2,351 meters (7,713 feet), the trail starts at 1,200 meters (3,937 feet) so expect to be climbing 1,151 meters (3,776 feet). Unlike most hiking trails, there is a fee of 15 euros and they limit the amount of people on the trail to 160 at a time. You must register to hike up and when you do they provide you with a GPS device that is to be returned when you check back in after ending your hike. So many requirements, you can tell this is definitely not the easiest of hikes.

You can hike up the mountain on your own or you can hire a guide. I personally recommend hiring a guide ahead of time as it will guarantee you a spot as part of the 160 people they let hike up at a time. Also, if you are like me and not the strongest of hikers, it’s comforting to have a guide with you on such a difficult hike.

Definitely be prepared for changing weather, I recommend wearing layers, top layer being a rain jacket, just in case. Hiking boots are an absolute MUST! I was the only one in the group of my friends wearing hiking boots, the rest were just wearing sneakers and the guide was pretty nervous about how they would handle the hike without the proper footwear. Based on my experience with the hiking boots, I’m almost sure I would have gotten hurt if I didn’t have them on this hike, I don’t know how my friends made it down without them!

Plan on a good 7-8 hours for the hike. Unlike most hikes where the descent takes less time than the ascent, this descent definitely takes a bit longer on this hike. The loose volcanic rock makes for a much slower hike down. Bring a lunch to enjoy on the crater, definitely one of the top places I’ve ever had lunch at!

We lucked out on our hike, the weather wasn’t too bad, no rain and a little fog that then cleared up and there was the most beautiful rainbow as we made our way above the clouds. After we had lunch, we walked around and explored the crater. I seriously felt like we were on another planet while walking around the crater, it was amazing. There is an option to camp on top of the crater and we actually were supposed to do that but there were high winds forecasted the night we were going to camp and they cancelled it. I definitely need to go back and camp up there, that would definitely be a once in a lifetime experience!

As I mentioned above this was the most difficult hike I’ve ever done. The descent was really slow going, I’m pretty clumsy to begin with so all the loose volcanic rock had me walking as slow as a turtle down that mountain. At times I didn’t think I’d make it down but I did and it was one of the most rewarding experiences and I’m so proud of myself for completing this hike.

Day 3 – Wineries and Natural Swimming Pools:

After a strenuous hike, the last day is all about relaxing. Time to reward yourself for the hike by trying some Pico wine and relaxing in the natural swimming pools.

Pico has been producing wine since the 15th century. The vineyards in Pico look different than the typical vineyard. The vines run along the lava soil on the ground with basalt rock around the vines. The basalt rock is there to protect the vines from the wind coming off the ocean. These were the most beautiful vineyards I have ever seen!

Pico has many different varieties of white and red wines. Stop by a winery for a tasting.

Later in the day spend some time relaxing in one of the many natural swimming pools on the island. The lava rock on the island help create these beautiful swimming pools, but be prepared, this is the Northern Atlantic Ocean, so the water is on the colder side. While heading to the swimming pools take in the beautiful views of the coast.

If you are looking for somewhere to stay in Pico, I highly recommend the Adegas do Pico in the village of Prainha. We stayed in two of the stone houses here. While it was off the beaten path, the views were amazing. One of the houses we stayed in had a beautiful porch overlooking the ocean which we enjoyed ending each day on.

I hope that if you travel to the Azores that you decide to visit one of the more secluded islands to see more of the unspoiled nature of the Azores. Pico is just one of the 9 islands, to learn more of the other islands, check out my overview of the 9 Islands of the Azores. No visit to the Azores is complete though without visiting the main island of Sao Miguel, so be sure to check out my Itinerary for Sao Miguel as well.

Discover The Azores – Sao Miguel Itinerary

The Azores consist of nine islands in the northern Atlantic Ocean 870 miles west of Lisbon, Portugal. These islands are definitely a hidden gem with few tourists and the unspoiled beauty of nature. Each island has it’s own sense of beauty which makes it difficult to decide which islands to visit. For an overview of each island, make sure to check out my previous post Discover the Azores: The Atlantic’s Best Kept Secret.

The main island of the Azores, home to the capital city and the island you are most likely to fly into, Sao Miguel, is a must for any Azores Itinerary. You could easily spend a week on Sao Miguel itself, but should definitely spend a good 3 or 4 days to take in the all the top spots. When I visited the island, we were there for three and half days and really wish we had a full four days. This post will cover a full four day Sao Miguel Itinerary.

Caldiera das Furnas

Day 1: Explore the Sights of Furnas

Furnas was top on our list of places to visit on Sao Miguel and it did not disappoint. Furnas is located 44 kilometers from Ponta Delgada, the capital of Sao Miguel. It was one of the more unique places I have ever been to.

Our first stop was Lagoa das Furnas (Furnas Lake). We headed to the eastern side of the lake where the Caldiera das Furnas are located. The lake itself and the area around it were beautiful. I couldn’t get over how tall the trees were.

But as beautiful as the lake is, the main attraction is the Caldiera das Furnas. Located on the shore of the lake, Caldiera das Furnas features steaming holes in the ground known as fumarolas. These fumarolas are used to cook food in the ground known as Cozido das Furnas, which is cooked under ground for up to 6 hours. I recommend visiting in the late morning so you will be there to see them raise the pots out of the ground so they can deliver the Cozido das Furnas to local restaurants in time for the lunch service. The cozido is a selection of meats and vegetables and is quite delicious. Definitely make sure to have the cozido for lunch. We had lunch at the Terra Nostra Gardens Hotel and it was delicious. It’s definitely a very unique experience to see your food being raised out of the ground and then heading over to the restaurant to eat that same food.

After lunch, explore the Terra Nostra Gardens. These beautiful gardens have been around for 200 years and include hundred year old trees and plants and flowers native to the Azores. The Gardens are open daily from 10:30am – 4:30pm and costs 8 Euros to get in.

The highlight of the Terra Nostra Gardens is the Thermal Water Pool. The Thermal Pool was built in 1780 and features water from the volcanic hot springs of the Azores. This water is 35-40 degrees celsius (95-104 degrees fahrenheit) and the minerals in the water from the hot springs are said to promote rest and relaxation. Due to these minerals, the water is orange in color so make sure to not wear your favorite swimwear as it very likely could stain. Your skin will turn a bit orange as well and it may take quite a long shower to get the orange tint to go away, but the relaxation is definitely worth it.

Thermal Water Pool

No trip to Furnas is complete without a dip in a thermal pool. If you don’t have a chance to get in the Thermal Water Pool at Terra Nostra Gardens, there are plenty of others outside of the Gardens to check out.

Less than a kilometer from Terra Nostra Gardens, is Poca da Dona Beija. This beautiful and relaxing location is open daily from 10am – 11pm and costs 6 Euros for Adults and 4 Euros for children 6 years old and younger. Poca da Dona Beija features multiple pools at different water depths and a relaxing atmosphere that includes waterfalls and beautiful plant life. Included with admission are changing rooms, lockers and the necessary cold water shower to help take the orange color out of your swimwear and your skin after your time in the thermal pools

Day 2: Explore the Capital of the Azores, Ponta Delgada

On the second day head out to explore Ponta Delgada. Ponta Delgada is the capital city of the Azores and is full of history.

Ponta Delgada was named the capital of the Azores in 1640. Start your day by visiting the many historic sites in this beautiful capital city:

  1. Portas da Cidade – these city gates served as the entrance gates to the city dating all the way back to the 18th century.
  2. Forte de Sao Bras – Built in the 16th century to defend the island from pirate raids, this fort is still in use today as a base for the Portuguese navy.
  3. Igreja Matriz de Sao Sebastiao – This church was founded in the 16th century as a small chapel and in the 18th century it was renovated to add the clock tower. The church is beautiful and best visited just before sunset when the sunlight hits it, creating a warm glow over the building. I absolutely loved the cobblestone street with stars that was just outside the church.
  4. Convento e Capela de Nossa Senhora da Esperanca – This convent and chapel was built in the 16th century and is still in use as a convent to this day. Inside there are numerous religious art pieces. On the fifth Sunday after Easter, this is the location of the Santo Cristo dos Milagres or Saint Christ of Miracles. During this festival, the outside of the convent is illuminated at night.

While walking thru the city visiting the historic sites, take in the beautiful architecture of the buildings made with black basalt stone. Stop into some of the local shops and restaurants and take in the atomosphere of this beautiful city.

Another great way to see the city is to take a horse drawn carriage ride thru the city. On this ride, the major sites will be pointed out to you and it’s a great way to relax while taking in the sites.

Ponta Delgada is located right on the coast, so make sure to check out the harbor front. Avenida Infante Dom Henrique is the promenade along the harbor and a great area to take a walk and admire the harbor views. Along the promenade, you can visit the shops, bars and cafes for a relaxing afternoon.

If you are visiting between April and October, make sure to book one of the whale and dolphine watching tours that leave from the marina. There are more than 25 different species of whales and dolphins in the Azores. If you are looking to get into the water, there are also swim with dolphin tours available. The great thing about these swim with dolphin tours is you will be swimming with them in their own natural habitat guided by a marine biologist. Definitely a better experience than swimming with them at an aquarium like some swim with dolphin tours in other parts of the world.

Harbor Views in Ponta Delgada

I bet the Azores was not a place you think of when thinking of where pineapples are grown. But a can’t miss site just outside of Ponta Delgada is the Arruda Pineapple Plantation. How on earth did they decide to grown pineapples in a climate that isn’t exactly tropical?

Pineapple seeds were brought over to the Azores from Central and South America in the 19th century and by the 20th century they had become the main export of the island. They are grown in greenhouses that recreate the hot and humid climate they are normally grown in. The Azores Pineapple is smaller than your typical pineapple but are also much sweeter.

Admission to the plantation is free and you can take a tour to see how the pineapples are grown. There is also a store where you can purchase pineapples and other pineapple products to take home, include Pineapple Liqueur, which they offer tastings of.

Day 3: Miradouros and Hiking in Sete Cidades

After a day in the city, it’s time to get out into nature. Sete Cidades is a can’t miss location in the Azores. For the people who have seen pictures of the Azores, Sete Cidades is most likely the photos they have seen.

Sete Cidades or Seven Cities is a town on the western part of the island with a population of less than 1,000 people. The town is known for the two lakes, Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Verde in the center of a volcanic crater. As the names suggest, these two lakes are different colors, one being blue and one green.

Why are these lakes that are just separated by a narrow road different colors? Well according to legend, the lakes were created by the tears of a princess and her lover. The king forbade the princess to see her lover so the last time they met up, they both shed their tears to form the two lakes with water the color of each of their eyes. Legend aside, the more likely explanation is the way the sun reflects off of each lake creates the color of each lake.

Miradouros or viewpoints of this area are a can’t miss! Two popular ones to check out in the area are:

Miradouro da Boca do Inferno:

Otherwise known as Hell’s Mouth Viewpoint, this is the view that most people associate with the Azores. This is most definitely the most beautiful view on the island. There is a dirt staircase and then a dirt path out to the viewpoint. As this is a popular view, it will get crowded, but it’s definitely a can’t miss!

Miradouro da Boca do Inferno

Miradouro da Vista do Rei:

This is a great viewpoint to be able to see the difference in color of the two lakes and is another must visit.

Miradouro da Vista do Rei

Sete Cidades is a great area for some of the best hiking in Sao Miguel. There are trails that go around the perimeter of the crater with beautiful views of the lakes and the valley below. You could definitely spend a full day hiking around this beautiful area with probably a lot of stopping for photos or just to take in the amazing views.

Day 4: Lagoa do Fogo and Caldiera Velha

On your last day, it’s a day of hiking and another lake, followed by some much needed relaxation in the thermal pools.

Another beautiful views on Sao Miguel is definitely Lagoa do Fogo or Lake of Fire. Stop at the Miradouro da Lagoa do Fogo to take in this beautiful lake.

From this viewpoint, you can take a 30 minute hike down to the sandy shore of the lake. The hike can be steep so it may be difficult for some. Once you are at the lake, feel free to walk around the lake to extend the length of the hike or to just find a less crowded area to take in the views of the lake.

If you are looking for a longer hike, the Praia – Lagoa do Fogo hike starts about 30 minutes away from the miradouro and will take you about 4 hours roadtrip. This is a much less popular hike, so if you are looking for a way to see the lake without the crowds and are up for a longer hike, this is it!

After a couple of days of hiking, I bet your body could use some relaxation! About a 10 minute drive from Lagoa do Fogo is Caldiera Velha.

Caldiera Velha has thermal pools and waterfalls for all your relaxation needs. Although I did not have time to visit her on my trip as our last day was only a half day, I really wish this was how I ended the trip. Who doesn’t want to end their time on Sao Miguel with relaxing in the thermal spas the islands are known for.

I hope this Sao Miguel Itinerary helps you see how you can see all the top spots on the island in four days. Make sure to extend your trip to the islands of the Azores for longer than four days so you can take a plane or ferry to some of the other islands for a few days. There are definitely more beautiful Miradouros and Hiking trails on the eight other islands of the Azores as well.