Sunday, October 1, 2017

Washington D.C.

I've been to D.C. 3 different times and still have not seen everything there is to see here. If you are a history buff like myself you really need a full week to see everything. The main highlights can be done in a few days.
Bring comfortable shoes, unless you are mega-rich (or just too cheap) you will probably be walking or metro-ing everywhere. It is easier and cheaper than trying to cab.
Plan out what you want to see, even though the majority of the museums are free, sometimes during busy tourist seasons, you won't be able to actually get into the museums unless you have tickets (Example: Holocaust Museum).
Jason and I rented bikes and rode around, which turned out to be a way faster way to see the sights! There are a lot of bike stations around D.C.!

Now to the sights! I'm going to put a list of things that I think are important. This is by no means all-inclusive, but these are the things that I think should not be missed when you go!


  1. White House - if you want to do a tour, make sure you plan ahead. For all U.S. citizens, you have to request a tour at least 3 months in advance from your congressman, for all out of country travelers, you must request a tour through your embassy. All tours are free, they just require planning! 
  2. Lincoln Memorial and the Reflecting Pool 
  3. Vietnam War Memorial
  4. Korea War Memorial
  5. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
  6. FDR Memorial - my favorite memorial. It is all outside with statues and quotes from not only FDR but Eleanor too. 


  7. Thomas Jefferson Memorial
  8. Holocaust Museum-Get here early, like when it opens or earlier and stand in line for tickets. They are free, but they "sell-out" quickly. This is one of the best museums I've ever been to. I highly highly recommend it. 
  9. World War II Memorial
  10. Washington Monument
  11. Captial Hill/Library of Congress/Supreme Court
     Capital
     Capital
     Library of Congress (above) Supreme Court (below)
  12. National Archives
  13. Smithsonian's 
    1. American History Museum
    2. Natural History Museum
    3. Air and Space Museum
    4. American Indian Museum
  14. Newseum

  15. Spy Museum
  16. Theodore Roosevelt Island
  17. LBJ Memorial
  18. Arlington Cemetary
    1. JFK's grave
    2. Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
  19. Marine Corps War Memorial

There are so so many more places that I could include/should include. But if you are going to go for a weekend trip. These are the things I feel you must hit! 
If you have any questions/comments/concerns let me know! 
graceparsons2023@gmail.com

happy traveling! :) 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Washington State

Ok, let's talk about Washington State! You know the other Washington on the west coast! I made it to Seattle in June of 2016 to run a half marathon. I got sick on the plane on the way there, so I didn't get to see and do as much as I normally do, so I obviously have to go back! And times, I still have national parks and stamps to get! Also, this is one of Jason's favorite cities, so I don't have to twist his arm too much.

Seattle
The town of ferry boats, coffee, and the space needle. Oh and Grey's Anatomy (Tried to find Jackson Avery but to no avail).
Firstly, walk around this town. There are so many amazing and wonderful things to see. During our walk, we saw some art, some beautiful decor and adorable shops that I forced Jason into.

The hammer moves 

Totem Pole

Space Needle
The icon of Seattle and the most recognized building as well. I didn't get to go to the top when I was there, so it's number 1 on my list of things to do when I go back. They have an observation deck and a restaurant on the top :) 

Space Needle from the start line of my half

There is also the Museum of Pop Culture right by the Space Needle, which was inspired by Jimi Hendrix. 


Pike Place Market 

The farmer's market of Seattle since the 1900's! Make sure you carve out at least a half of a day for just this place! Also, make sure you get a map and don't just assume your Fiance knows where he is going..... because you will get lost. 
This place has so so many things to explore. From seafood shops, crafts, collectibles, unique foods and of course the farmers market. It is definitely worth your time! 




Original Starbucks
Who loves their coffee? (Not me). But if you are a coffee fanatic like most are these days, you would be remiss if you didn't hop into the original Starbucks. It is right by Pike Place Market so you have to while you are exploring! It opened in the 1970's and hasn't stopped since. The lines may be long (they were around the block on the day I was there), but for some that delicious brew is totally worth it. 
Starbucks

The Gum Wall
The most disgustingly awesome thing I think I have ever seen. The gum wall, right by Pike Place Market down Post Alley is where people will deposit their gently chewed gum onto a wall. Some creative people spell out names or draw symbols and shapes. I was just happy (?) enough to put my gum on the wall and walk on! 
The gum wall alley

The gum wall! 



Snoqualmie Falls
About an hour east of Seattle is this beautiful 270-foot waterfall! We made a stop there on our way to Mount Rainier! The falls have a lodge, observation deck, and gift shop :) I would definitely make a stop to see this! :) 
Snoqualmie Falls

Mount Rainier 

Mount Rainier is one of the world's most deadly volcanoes due to the glacier formations on it. So, of course, I had to see it! Mount Rainier stands at over 14,000 feet and Washington is known for its cloudy and dreary weather so not a lot of people get to see its summit. We didn't on the day we were there. As a National Park, there are all kinds of hiking that can be done. Just make sure if you plan to overnight hike, you obtain a permit from the rangers. 



That is all I have for Washington State for now!!!
If you have any questions or comments let me know!! graceparsons2023@gmail.com
happy travels!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Alaska

State #7 here! Alaska!! Firstly, let me say that I'm going to be back at least 3 more times because there are so so many things that I have to see and haven't gotten to yet and do not have enough time to see on this trip.
What is absolutely insane to me is that Alaska is the biggest state in the U.S. and maybe 5% of it has roads. I think 5% may be a little high even.  So be prepared to fly a lot if you want to see anything (ex. Bering Strait - which I'm dying to see) that is basically in the Northern part of Alaska and anything west of Fairbanks and Anchorage.

Random Road in Fairbanks

Fairbanks
So my suggestion is to spend 1, maybe 2 days here. If you are really good, you can see everything there is to see in a day, especially if you start early. I had 3 whole days here, so I spaced a lot of things out. Let's start in downtown Fairbanks.

Morris Thompson Cultural Center 
I would totally make this stop number one on my trip to Fairbanks. Here is why: the information that this place has is so good and necessary for any vacation! They have information booklets for all the activities in Alaska as well as all the information on the Alaskan National Parks (you can get 2 stamps here FYI!!) If you are having any issue, finding things to do in Alaska (which I totally did) this is a great place to stop. There is also an Antler Arch that is super cute for a photo shoot!!

University of Alaska's Museum of the North 
Ok, Y'all should know by now that I am not a museum person. I love them and I hate them. I love the artifacts and the setups/displays, but I can only do about an hour in a museum before I start to feel a little stir-crazy. This museum is actually insanely cool. It explains so much with a lot of unique artifacts in it. I only spent a half hour there, but I feel like I know a lot more about the people of Alaska. The gift shop is full of things made by Alaskan people, so it isn't a normal gift shop. Plan accordingly because it's only open until 5pm.
Definitely worth checking out if you have time!
Blue Bison

Bowhead Whale 


Pioneer Park
Close to the airport, this park has a lot of historical cabins from the downtown area of Fairbanks. During the summer, it has a lot of food shops and artists set up in the cabins. But I was there on September 11, 2017, and everything had really closed up for the winter. A sternwheeler and a train car, as well as a lot of older buildings in their historic gold rush town, are just a few of the things you can see here! It's free admission and I wouldn't miss this either.
Gold Rush Town
Some of the buildings

Another building



North Pole
SANTA, I KNOW HIM! ok, let's be real. I had totally hyped up the North Pole. In my head, it was a Disney version of Christmas. And in reality, Santa's house is one building full with Christmas ornaments to buy. There were some reindeer in a pen down the street a bit and that's it. No train ride, no hot cocoa, nothing else. I didn't even get to see Santa or sit on his lap (you know he's super busy at his workshop). There is just SO SO much more that could have been done to make this place spectacular. I have ideas -- Santa's House call me and we can set a few things up :)
In all reality - you gotta go. You can't go into Fairbanks and be that close to Santa's house and not go. You know he's watching!!! :)

Light Posts that are Candy Canes

Santa Claus House - this is it. 

Letters From all the children

His seat! 

Dalton Highway
Better known as the Ice Road Truckers highway, come prepared for this.
Jason and I on the highway

Firstly, make sure if you have a rental that your agreement allows for you to go on the Dalton Highway. A lot of rental companies do NOT allow you to go on the highway due to potential damage to the vehicles.
Secondly, if the rental company is ok with it, be prepared with extra tires. The road is completely gravel that can put holes in tires and holes in your windshield.
Third, make sure you plan for gas/pit stops! Seriously! You may not find this all important, but there are no real gas stations for hundreds of miles. Also, bring snacks and toilet paper (don't judge. I had to pee so so bad around mile 110 and I had to hold it the entire way back to Fairbanks). But seriously bring toilet paper, you will thank me later.
Lastly, the truckers have the right-a-way. We only went 12 miles up the highway before deciding to head back to Fairbanks, and we saw 3 trucks that were almost taking up the entire road.
 Dalton Highway

An Ice Road Trucker (I totally waved)

Mainly be safe and if you aren't comfortable driving in those conditions take a tour. There are several in the area that will drive you up to the Arctic Circle and back or even fly you there and drive back.



Gold Dredge 8

Complete and total tourist trap, but I LOVED it! For 40 dollars, you get to hear about the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline and walk underneath of it to your train ride. The train ride tells you more about the history of the gold rush and this particular dredging site. Then you see the dredge and learn how to pan for gold!

Once off the train, you take a seat and use the panning techniques you just learned to pan for your own gold. They give you a payload of dirt and all the water you need! The instructors will come around and make sure you are doing ok or if you have any questions/problems. You can even buy another payload of dirt for $10 if you think you need more gold.
Panning for gold

See all my gold flakes! 

After you do that, you can go inside and have it all measured! I had about $12 worth of gold, while my fiance had about $24. You can then take your gold and turn it into a charm, a necklace or a bracelet like I did. The bracelet was $40, but I thought it was a wonderful little keepsake! 
My gold flake bracelet

All in all, completely impressed with this 2-hour tour! They even had coffee and cookies available too! Make sure you check them out if you are in Fairbanks.


Trans-Alaskan Pipeline
So maybe not the biggest tourist attraction, but this pipeline is responsible for about 70% of Alaskan revenue. It's a huge pipe that stretches over 800 miles from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, Alaska and is the entire reason for the Dalton Highway and the ice road truckers. You can see this on the side of the road about 7 miles north of Fairbanks.





Chena Hot Springs
Was not a huge fan of this. Compared to the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, this is a little bit of a letdown. There are lots and lots of buildings surrounding the Hot Springs, and I'm not really sure if they were cabins that people stayed in or what they were. The pools cost $15 per person and another $5 for renting a towel. There are about 3 hot tubs: 2 inside, 1 outside, an inside pool and then the lagoon area outside.
I'm sure that in the winter when the lights are awake in the sky, it probably is wonderful. But at 2pm on a Wednesday in September, not so much.
There is also an Ice Museum that you can go view for another $15, dog sledding, horseback riding and several other things are also available at the hot springs.
Chena Hot Springs 

Chena Hot Springs


Food
Little Richard's Diner -reindeer sausage (that should be enough to get you to go there!) -North Pole
Alaskan Salmon Bake - didn't eat here, but heard so many people talking about it and how good it was.


Denali National Park
Jason and I in Denali

I'm going to include Denali in with the Fairbanks section since it is only a few hours drive away. There are 3 options to get to Denali; fly (there is a small bush plane airport in the park), drive down the parks highway from Fairbanks (about 2 hours) or up from Anchorage (around 4 hours) or you can train down from Fairbanks (4hours) or up from Anchorage (8hours). We trained and I'll talk about that later in the blog.
I would suggest doing some research on nps.gov about the Denali park before you go. You can only drive 15 miles into the park yourself (unless you get chosen on the road lottery) before you have to turn around. They do have a bus system/tours that will take you further into the park. There are about 5 different bus systems/tours you can choose from. Be sure to do your research on what kind of bus tour you want and reserve it ahead of time.
Denali

Sled Dogs - they have demonstrations at the kennels but check on the times, there was only 1 demonstration the day we were there, but during the summer there is normally 3. You can go and see the dogs (puppies too!) at any time during park normals hours.
They do have a road lottery you can enter in the spring to be able to drive the full 92 miles on the Park road into Denali. My understanding is you have a 1 in 8 chance of getting chosen and it is normally the last weekend of the summer season (mid-September).
My new best friends: Denali Sled Dogs


Food near Denali
49th State Brewery - in Healy. The food was amazing and Jason said the beer was really good too!
Rose's Cafe - in Healy. Such good food and service. I regretted not getting the face-sized 2-inch thick pancake though.
49th State Brewery

Supertramp's "home" at 49th State Brewery




Alaskan Railroad
I loved this adventure we had. The train in the summer season runs every day between Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Seward. During the winter, they just run on the weekends. I highly recommend using the train as transportation. It leaves from Fairbanks and Anchorage every morning at 8am and takes a full 12 hours to get to Anchorage and Fairbanks each day.
We took the train on the morning from Fairbanks to Denali (4hours), then the next day took the train from Denali to Anchorage (8hours).
There are 2 classes on the train. GoldStar (the one we did) and Adventure class.
GoldStar has complimentary drinks (2 alcoholic ones per person), breakfast, lunch, and dinner included (depending on when you are on the train) and has dome like windows and an outside viewing platform. Adventure class is a regular train cabin and you have the option of purchasing food.
The trip from Denali to Anchorage, we had lunch and dinner provided and was thoroughly impressed. Breakfast was included in the trip from Fairbanks to Denali.
The seats even recline back to almost flat and doesn't even really affect the room of the person behind you.
Alaskan Railroad

Some Views from the Train Ride

View from the Train Ride
View From the Train Ride

View from the Train Ride

View from the Train Ride




Kenai Peninsula
Just when you thought Alaska couldn't get any more beautiful, this place hits you like a ton of bricks. The drive from Anchorage to Cooper Landing (in the middle of the peninsula) was without a doubt one of the prettiest drives I've ever taken. The mountains, lakes, rivers, and oceans you see just do not compare to anything I've ever seen before.
Kenai Peninsula

Seward 
This little Seatown gets busy in the summer months. It is situated right at the beginning of the Kenai Fjords National Park and hosts multiple tours and explorations into the park or on the water around it. The mural capital of Alaska has several things to entertain. The sealife center (a lot like an aquarium), a strip of downtown with shopping and food, and a boat harbor for some fresh seafood! 
Seward Harbor

Seward Harbor

If you don't do a kayak or boat tour to see the glaciers in the fjords, you can go a few miles back up the road to Exit Glacier. There is a couple of trails you can take to see the Glacier. One is a mile loop that allows you to view the Glacier. But the best trail is the edge of the glacier trail. Its 1.2 miles in but gets you really close to the glacier itself. There is another trail that leads up to the icefield but it's over 9 miles and you should be prepared for this one (gloves, snowshoes, etc.).
Hiking to the Glacier

Exit Glacier


Food
Chinooks - we really enjoyed this seafood restaurant in Seward. They have amazing fries! and Jason enjoyed the crab legs too! 





That is all I have right now for Alaska! Like I said, I will be back because I have so much more to see and do here!! 
Come check out this beautiful state! 

Any questions email me at graceparsons2023@gmail.com