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Saturday, September 28, 2019

Edinburgh With Kids

If you're looking for a fantastic getaway for the whole family, Edinburgh is definitely it. It can be budget-friendly, it has a lot to offer that is historical and educational, while still being fun for kids and adults. This infographic gives you a few options for any kind of weather. Just don't forget to pack your rain jackets and waterproof walking shoes, because there's a lot of hiking in town, and many things on cobblestones.

Edinburgh With the Kids – Come Rain or Shine – An infographic by the team at Citybase Apartments

I'd also suggest Camera Obscura, The National Museum of Scotland, the Royal Botanic Garden and also the Tartan Weaving Mill near the castle. 

Stay tuned for my next posts on my trip for more ideas on a future trip.

Have you been to Scotland or is it on your wish list?

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Awesome Things to Do in Edinburgh & Beyond

Over the next few weeks, you're going to be seeing a lot of posts about my time in Scotland and England, both of which I highly recommend visiting. Our time in Edinburgh was short but full, and I can't wait to go again and explore more of the country. 


For now, I wanted to give a quick preview of what we did that was sponsored by the lovely people of Visit Scotland, and then you can look forward to more in-depth posts on each.

Royal Yacht Brittania

North of the city center is Leith. Surrounded by water, this is a gorgeous little area that also houses the yacht that used to be a holiday sailing yacht for the Royal family. They would travel the world and host dignitaries by throwing lavish dinner parties. They would also work on their holidays (or, at least the Queen did) and had set schedules. They even had a smaller boat to use for excursions. 

The crew would take detailed notes on where they had been, and the Royal family would choose where they wanted to wake up the next morning. This is fantastic a look into how the Royals lived before other forms of transportation became easier and more luxurious. It was really like a mini floating palace.

Camera Obscura

Over 100 years ago, a female optician created this awesome way to use mirrors and light to view things on the ground from a tower. Sort of like a low-tech security camera. The original inverted bowl is still located at the top of Camera Obscura, but now the four floors below it are dedicated to weird and cool optical illusions. The entire place is interactive and each floor has a theme. If you follow me on Instagram, you saw a lot of pics already, including my time in the Vortex Tunnel.
 

Edinburgh Castle

Wherever you are in the city, the castle is almost sure to be visible. Set high up on a hill (a hill you must climb), the castle is a dramatic backdrop, but also an interesting bit of Edinburgh history. You can walk through dungeons and see the Crown Jewels all in the same visit. You'll see everything in between too, so wear your walking shoes. 

If you're worried about missing anything, because there's a lot, don't worry, because you get an audio guide. There are also amazing views of the city from the castle walls.

National Mining Museum

We probably wouldn't have seen this hidden gem if we weren't going to a wedding up the road, but I'm so glad I looked at what was nearby before I left. This two-story museum tells you all about the mining industry and the treatment of the workers. 

I'll be honest, the biggest reason I wanted to visit is because tours are run by ex-miners, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I learned. I have even more respect for those that mine and was able to ask a lot of questions since our group was so small.

The Palace at Holyrood House

We all expected Holyrood to be similar to the castle tour, but we were very wrong. Because the palace was quite small (in comparison), it was much easier to navigate (you also get an audio guide) and take in. It only takes about an hour to tour, and you can't take pictures inside, so it moves along quickly and you can focus your full attention on all the details. It's a lovely little glimpse into how the Royals live now, and a fun juxtaposition to the Brittania.

Scotch Whisky Experience 

I love whisky, and whiskey, and scotch. This short tour takes you on a journey from how the whisky is made to your glass. There's a bit of reading, a short barrel ride, a video that tells you about the different regions of Scotland that produces the different flavors of whisky, a tasting room, and The Whisky Vault. 

There are over 3,000 unique, unopened bottles in the vault. This is where you will taste your whisky and learn to do it properly. If you aren't a whisky drinker, but still interested in the process, they're happy to just bring you an Irn-Bru (a local carbonated drink that smells like orange soda, but has an indescribable flavor). Eric thought it tasted like bubblegum. I did not. Four of the five of us that tried it were not that into it, but it's fun to try.

I'll be bringing you more on these and the other places I visited in Edinburgh in the four days I had to explore. We packed quite a bit in, so stay tuned, especially if Edinburgh is on your travel wish list.

Have you ever been to Scotland?


Disclaimer: The activities in this post were gifted to me by VisitScotland, but all were things I was planning to visit, and all opinions are my own.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

How To Travel with a Halloween Costume

We travel every fall, which means a lot of times we're able to get in on Halloween parties/activities. Sometimes we even go places where costumes are required (or more fun), like our trip to Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania last year, where we spent two days enjoying a Harry Potter festival and an evening of magic at Philly's science museum. We packed our regular clothes and then things we wanted for cosplay/costumes, and still went carry-on only.

If you're thinking of traveling where you'll need/want to bring a costume, there are a few rules to follow. Here's how to travel with a Halloween costume.
Photo by Abby Savage on Unsplash
So, if you're thinking of traveling where you'll need/want to bring a costume, there are a few rules to follow. I try to bring clothing that will work with accessories to create a new look. That way you don't have to pack too much extra to make a costume work.

Here are some of our costumes that would work (or have worked) for travel:


A few years ago I had a Fantastic Beasts birthday party, where I dressed as an owl, but this dress was so well made, I could leave off the cape and wear it out as a regular dress. If you have a similar costume or an outfit that can be transformed into something else, maybe with a set of ears and a tail, then this is a winner.


One of our Halloween parties saw Eric and his friend dress as red shirts from Star Trek. Alex decided his was an engineer, but this is an easy costume to pull off, with only a shirt needed, which is super easy to pack.


I have a lot of costumes, one of which was this mime. The top was terrible and too small, so I replaced it with a striped shirt I already had, which is a staple of my travel wardrobe, because it's loose and goes well with a lot of things. This means I'd only have to bring suspenders and this thin beret and scarf. Works for guys as well. 


Sorry for this terrible bathroom selfie, but it was the only way I could get my whole outfit at the time. I purchased this fun Hogwarts school hat at Chestnut Hill's Harry Potter festival, got this great cape-like cardigan that I wear on the plane and as an extra layer elsewhere. With a funky blue top, it completed my Ravenclaw look for a Night of Magic.


We also dressed up for the Harry Potter fest when we went to Chestnut Hill, and we packed robes that were quite thin, since we don't travel with or own licensed robes. Eric chose a black graduation robe for his, attached a bunch of buttons, and added a Cedric Diggory shirt to be the ultimate Hufflepuff. I ironed on some Gryffindor patches and sparkly stripes to mine and then added a number and the name Bell to my robe, so could cosplay as Katie Bell of the Gryffindor Quidditch team. I got a lot of compliments on it. 


This isn't, technically, us. LOL! Our friends came to a Halloween party as Waldo and Waldo. This is a popular costume at theme parks and it's super easy to put together. If you purchase a good quality shirt, you can wear that outside of your Halloween event.

We go to a lot of Disney parks and every few trips we hit up the Halloween party. It's always warm, even in California, so it can be challenging to come up with easy ideas that aren't hot to wear. One year we went as an ice cream man and a crazy baseball fan. We've also gone as Wayne and Garth from Wayne's World, safari goers, a pilot and a German girl in lederhosen. Next year we'll be headed back to Walt Disney World, and I'll be coming up with two more packable costumes. 

Stay tuned for more Halloween travel ideas, including where to go and what to do to take advantage of the season.


Have you ever traveled during the Halloween season?



Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Combating Jet Lag

It's happened to us all and jet lag can really ruin a trip, especially when you have limited time. My first trip to the UK, I was not prepared at all for the 8-hour time change and jet lag set in on day 3 and I slept for something like 17 hours. I missed half a day in Paris and had to skip a second day in Disneyland Paris, since we were only in town for 3 days. I vowed to never let that happen again, so I learned how to sleep and eat and recover from a long flight.


Adjust your schedule
The best thing you can do to not get jet lag is to get on your new schedule as quickly as possible. If you're going from work to plane to destination, like I usually do, this can be more tricky, but I like to figure out what the time in my destination is, and then sleep on the plane as soon as I can to adjust my internal clock. 


If your flight is on a different schedule than your destination, figure out the time difference and figure out what you'd be doing if you were already there. If it's time to sleep, then sleep, but if it's not, make yourself stay awake as much as possible. I take a quick nap, but occupy myself reading, watching a movie, playing a game or coming up with new post ideas (maybe you journal instead). If you are traveling with someone, break out a card game and make them play with you. In other words, keep your brain busy.

On this next trip to Edinburgh, we'll be flying from 6:30pm, which means it's technically the wee hours of the morning in the UK. We arrive at noon in London, so my plan is to get comfortable on the plane, take my allergy pill and possibly drink a packet of Dream Water right before dinner service, and then eat and close my eyes. I'll be bringing my own snacks and drinks, so I don't need to be awake for the drink cart. If I can sleep for at least 6 hours, that means I'll be awake early enough to be on a new day schedule and also get my breakfast on board. 

After we arrive in London Heathrow, we should be able to grab a quick lunch after customs, then we'll head to Luton Airport to get our flight to Edinburgh, which leaves at 7pm. (We originally had a flight from Heathrow to Edinburgh through British Airways, but the BA pilots are striking on some days and our flight was cancelled.) This means we will also be able to sit down to a light dinner before our flight, get to Edinburgh, meet up with everyone at our Airbnb and go to sleep, so we're ready to get bright and early the next day for a full day of sightseeing. 

Luckily, travel days make me tired, so getting to sleep in a real bed should make it easy for me to just conk right out. The point is, if I'm awake around 8 or 9am, land at noon, and go to sleep around 10 or 11pm, that will easily set me up for success for the rest of my trip. You may not get a lot of sleep before your first day of vacation, but not sleeping in is key to me, because it'll make sure you're exhausted early in the evening, making you head to bed early and resetting your body's schedule. 


Stay hydrated and eat light
Staying hydrated is always important, but make sure you drink as much water as possible on the day before, the day after, and during your flight. Being dehydrated saps your energy, and that can easily lead to jet lag or sickness, neither of which is good. If you get tired of water, add a flavor packet to your bottle of water or ask for tomato juice on your flight, which gives you extra veggies, plus the altitude changes the taste to your body, so if you don't think tomato juice sounds too yummy, you'll find it more tolerable at 30,000ft.

Avoid the water on flights, unless they give you a bottle that is sealed, since the water on planes all come from the same water tanks, which are notoriously hard to clean and are known to harbor bacteria in a good majority of them. This means, coffee, tea and ice are pretty suspect. If you see flight attendants pouring water from a water bottle into cups for passengers, assume that those have been filled up onboard. In fact, many resources suggest you shouldn't even wash your hands in the bathroom and should instead just use antibacterial wipes or hand sanitizer.

Another thing that can help you sleep well when you need to sleep is by eating light meals that are also healthy. I tend to try to eat veggie-packed meals up to a week before my trip, as well as lighter meats if I have any. I skip too many carbs and opt for chicken or fish. This is especially important on your travel day, plus those days on either side of it, because you don't need carbs for sitting. You'll want to eat meals that aren't too heavy, which rob you of good sleep, and give you extra vitamins as well. 


Skip alcohol
I know a lot of people like to get a drink on the plane or at the bar before their flight, but that's not always conducive to a good travel experience. It might be fine for short flights, but when you're traveling long distance, alcohol can dehydrate you and disrupt your sleep pattern. It robs you of good REM sleep, which you need in order to feel rested. I would suggest skipping alcohol for the same time period that you're drinking extra water and eating extra well.


Use an light sleep aid
If you know you need a bit of a push sleeping on the plane, or at your destination, using a sleep aid is nothing to be ashamed of. I use Dream Water (as I linked above), but you can also take melatonin or use lavender oil to invoke sleepiness. I have a great pillow spray, which you could spray very lightly on your travel pillow or a scarf, probably before you leave home, so the smell has a chance to dissipate a little bit before you board the plane, because if the smell is too strong, everyone around you will hate you, especially people like me who have allergies. It also comes in a roll-on bottle

Now you have the knowledge and tools to get your best sleep and get on your new schedule as quickly as possible, so don't worry about losing time when you get on your vacation. You just have to figure out where you're going! 

Have you ever had a terrible trip because of bad jet lag?



Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links that could result in monetary compensation for me should you make a purchase through them. This also allows me to keep this blog running, so thanks in advance!

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Eating Local VS Eating Familiar

I want to talk about food. Specifically eating on vacation, because I honestly get excited over all the new restaurants and food to eat in new places. Apparently, this is rare. I don't want to eat at chains that I can eat at at home. I'm  not planning to eat at Pizza Hut or Burger King. I guess I'm in the minority of Americans, and I don't understand it at all.



To me, the best part of travel (besides seeing new places) is all the delicious, weird and wonderful foods I get to eat. I will plan full days around food and I'll ask for recommendations before I leave and when I arrive. I want to eat where the locals eat and I want to eat things I've never heard of, even if they sound gross. My one rule about food is this: I have to try something twice. It may have been ill-prepared the first time if I didn't like it. If I still don't like it after the second time, then I can claim that I actually don't like it. 

I read this article a few weeks ago, and the gist of it is that approximately 60% of Americans don't try the local food when they travel! In fact, they go out of their way to eat only at American restaurants and chains like McDonalds and KFC.  

via GIPHY

So, I decided to do my own poll among people I know who travel and eat food and 95% of them felt the same as I did, but knew people who actively went out of their way to eat only familiar food. 

Why eat local? I asked and my friends delivered with these reasons they eat local when they travel:

This is sad. I'm the total opposite, but my partner and I are both culinary professionals, so we have a huge appreciation for food, especially regional. We will literally plan vacations around food.

One of the first things I do when travelling is find out where the locals dine, and try it out!

I’m pretty picky, but I love trying local food when I travel. Though my main interest is pastry and candy. And one of my favorite things is to go to local grocery stores. When I have visited my sister in the various places she has lived, we have made a point to go to all the different chains.

Oh, this is sad! Part of the joy of new places is trying new foods! I haven't loved everything (looking at you, fishballs in china town) but I dream of some of the delicious things I've eaten. Food is part of the heart of a place.

As long as I can communicate that I have a soy and almond allergy I will 100% try any local cuisine!

[F]ood is one of the first things that comes to mind and gets researched when travel planning starts! I hope this isn't really accurate!

My family literally plans vacations and trips around food. Even within the states, we prefer to eat at small local places rather than chains.We went on a trip to Spain...I asked the front desk person at our hotel where her favorite place to eat was, and we went there.

I've only traveled with tour groups, and they always had us eat local. But when I finally do get to plan my own trip, I'll still eat local. Not only are you experiencing something new, it's usually cheaper.

That's my favorite part of vacation. We went to a different part of our state and made sure to try new things even there!

That is WHY I travel! To eat the local food!

I have a very strong memory for food. Eating new and interesting foods is my way of getting to know (and then remembering) the places I've been.

I eat local when I can, and my husband is always great for asking "what's good in the area". I haven't traveled outside the US, though. However, I'm in love with the idea of traveling in parts of Asia just to try the different street foods.

My husband is a pilot and flies to the Caribbean a lot. He will always go out to the little hole in the walk restaurants in Jamaica, Aruba, etc, and get the local food.

When I went to Beijing, we were only there for 1 night. Our host (my friend's Mum) took us to Pizza Hut. It was incredibly sweet of her to try and accommodate what she thought we would want, but I was so sad that we didn't get to try the local food! Food is absolutely the best part of travel for me.

I went on a ski trip to Austria with some work friends once, and I thought I was in heaven trying all that food...



So, those are the good responses that make me feel like I'm not crazy and must be a big portion of the 40% of people that love to eat when they travel and love to try new things. Even the person who has food allergies is excited for new dishes. I had very few people respond who personally didn't enjoy eating local, but also some of these people had more to say about their family and friends:

Traveling with my kids is tricky. My youngest is very particular and has anxiety about ordering at restaurants he’s never been to. He even has anxiety at restaurants we go to regularly. We try to find local places that have food options he is comfortable with. My older 2 are more adventurous. We always try to stay somewhere with a kitchen because I love hitting up local markets. All of the kids love trying new snacks and candy. I figure if I let my youngest be adventurous on his own terms he will eventually work past some of his anxiety. Maybe. Hopefully.

For me, it really depends on who I am traveling with.[...] My boys are a very different story. Trying something new is like pulling teeth. When they are with me, the best I can usually do is making them eat at a restaurant that is not available in Montana. Then they usually eat a burger or chicken strips. At least I get to try something a little different. 

Traveling with kids is hard. You sort of have to attempt to get them to try new things at home, so they're used to it when you travel, though some kids don't ever get excited for new food and others have other issues entirely. An idea that might make everyone happy is to rent a place with a kitchen and make something for those that refuse to eat something new and get takeaway for the rest of your party, then you can all eat together at "home".

I do try some local foods but I mostly stay to what I like or feel comfortable with. I already know pretty much what i like and don't like. And I mainly travel to see unique places than anything else. I'm not saying that I wont try anything but it's not my main focus.

I am not an adventurous eater. I eat beef, pork, potatoes, peanut butter, and sometimes rice. So if I were to travel outside the U. S. my suitcase would have 2 extra sets of clothes and the rest would be peanut butter so I didn’t starve to death. I don’t eat fruit of any kind I never have[...]

I have so many questions for this person. I know someone who basically only likes meat and potatoes and I have traveled with another person who doesn't really eat vegetables. I don't really understand at all, though, because I will try anything and I love fruits and veggies and learning about new ones and even new ways to prepare the ones I can get at home.

Before a recent vacation to Cozumel, my sister asked for restaurant suggestions in the area. One woman very excitedly said Jimmy Buffet’s was the best food she’d had on the island.

I've been to Cozumel. If she thinks that Jimmy Buffet's is the best food on the island, she may have had too many margaritas. LOL!

[...]we do accommodate the kids for at least one meal and go to Olive Garden. But I saw this a lot when I lived overseas with with military in Germany. We went on a trip to Spain, and most of our group was so excited there was a McDonald's.

There are, literally, McDonalds all over the world. While most get locally-sourced ingredients rather than mass produced stuff from a factory farm, and their food is fresher, it's still basically like eating at home.

I lived in Japan for a while and would love to take a family trip there, but I'm worried that all my husband and son would eat would be convenience store food and American chain restaurants! 

This is a case where I would definitely be eating meals on my own.

When I went to DC for a teacher union trip, the group I was with went to Applebee’s for the first night. Our hotel was just blocks from china town, and a Cuban restaurant, and tapas, and a pho place. And they went with Applebee’s.

I worked at a restaurant adjacent to a Copenhagen tourist attraction, and I can't tell you how many Americans just ordered the club sandwich. I was so sad for them. 

If I go to a place where there are a bunch of cool things on the menu that I have never eaten, I ask the wait staff for recommendations. Asking "what's your favorite thing to eat here?" has gotten me so many de-lic-ious meals on vacation.

I went on a ski trip to Austria with some work friends once[...]one of the couples actually took a day off in the middle so they could go into the nearest town for Burger King?!?

My hubby's family[...]insist on only eating at American chain restaurants....even in fabulous food destinations like Tuscany!

I don't have words for these people. If I'm traveling for a long time, I might seek out something that reminiscent of home, but not my whole trip. Hard Rock Cafe is a favorite, because they serve giant drinks with ice, which can be hard to find places, but they also have a small menu of local foods that you can only get at that HRC. Aside from a visit there, or ordering something "American" on a menu at a local place just to see how they interpret our food, I research where to eat before I travel. 

I will ask hotel staff and people on the street and Uber drivers what their favorites are. Walking is also a wonderful way to find hidden gems. Places with lines are almost always going to be a home run. I also look for tiny cafes with sandwich chalkboards out front, because you know their specials change with what's available for the season. 

As noted, eating local can save you money, too. Even nicer restaurants can be cheaper than American chain restaurants, because they don't have to ship the food in. It comes from farms much nearer to your destination, which means it's both economical and fresh. You're also helping the locals more by dining there, whether it's a nice sit-down place or a food truck. 

Tell me how you feel about your travel style when it comes to food. If you don't eat local foods, tell us why, because I really want to understand that point of view. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

What To Wear On the Plane

Flying can be a good experience or a terrible one. If you prepare well in advance and are comfortable, you might find that the plane isn't as bad as you expect, even on long flights. This month will see me on a 10-hour flight from Portland to London, and then a return flight a bit longer a few weeks later. It's not my first long-haul flight and won't be my last, so I make it the best I possibly can by first starting with my travel outfit.



I always want to be comfortable. That's my number one priority, but I also want to look decent. I'm sorry, but I shame people who wear pajamas or straight-up athleticwear on the plane. I live in Columbia Sportswear country here in the Pacific Northwest, and while a lot of their clothing looks like you're going out hiking in the woods, more and more of their clothes are versatile and give you the feel of outdoor clothing, with the look of normal casual pieces. 


Sports bra
I'm one of those people who never leave without a bra on. I also wear lightweight, and often, then shirts when I travel, so I don't want to risk people seeing things I don't want them to see. Usually, I wear a regular bra when I travel, but they can be super restrictive, especially when you're trying to get some sleep in a confining space. A sports bra gives me support, coverage, and I don't feel like I'm being strangled. I know a lot of ladies have already figured out this method of comfy travel and I'm jumping on board. There are a million different ones out there, plus they can do double duty if you're one of those people who enjoy an exercise routine when you travel.



Short sleeve shirt
I pick a breathable fabric for a shirt on a long flight. You don't want to find that the shirt you're wearing is making you sweat and also holding odors. I usually choose a lightweight, loose, moisture-wicking shirt, like this one from Columbia. It gives me good coverage and is long enough to not ride up, plus it doesn't wrinkle, so I'll be looking put together when I arrive in London, and then Edinburgh.


Cardigan
The first rule of travel is being comfortable. The second rule of travel is to layer. You want to be comfortable whether it's hot, cold, or somewhere in between. I like to be able to take something off if I'm too warm, or put something on if I need to keep the chill out. A good cardigan, that goes with all your clothes, is a must. It's a nice addition to your airplane outfit and it's great to have at your destination, whether you want to bum around your room, or you need that extra layer while you're out.


Loose pants or pants with stretch
I don't travel with yoga pants or leggings. I don't like the look of them and I don't feel like drew take you seriously if you're looking for an upgrade. I often travel in stretchy jeans or jeggings, which are very comfortable and don't cut off my circulation, but I have since found a great pair of Columbia pants that are a hybrid of travel pants and leggings. They are stretchy, comfortable, can be worn in a business setting or a nice dinner if needed. They're moisture-wicking and also have pockets. 

They are similar to the ones above, but I purchased them in black, so they're more versatile than pants in colors, and look professional when they need to, but they also don't show dirt or stains if I drop food in my lap. They're perfect for the plane, and then can be rotated into my travel wardrobe when I get to my destination.


Your heaviest shoes
When you're trying to pack light, I always suggest wearing your bulkiest shoes on the plane. Not only does it save space in your carry-on, but if they plane is cold, they will also keep your feet warm. If they are too bulk, though, I am a fan of taking off your shoes for a flight (but don't just rock out with bare feet, because that's gross!). You don't want your tight shoes creating problems for you, like making your feet and ankles swell, especially if you're short like I am and your feet don't really touch the floor.


Slippers or slipper socks
As someone who likes to get comfy on a flight, I like to take off my shoes and settle in. As a person who also has bad circulation in my hands and feet, my feet get cold very easily. I have some great short slippers that can give me freedom and also keep my feet warm, plus I won't be squicked out if I put my feet on the dirty plane carpet. 


Compression socks/sleeves
I once went on a long flight and wore boots, thinking they were lightweight and would be fine, but my lower legs swelled and I was never able to get them back on my entire trip, so I'm glad I had other shoes. If I had been wearing compression socks, I wouldn't have had that problem. Sometimes the plane is hot, sometimes the plane is cold, so I don't want to have to wear too many layers that can't be removed. I often pack compression socks and wear compression sleeves on the plane. It helps the blood flow in your legs and keeps your lower legs happy. 


Scarf
You never know when you'll need that extra layer of warmth and you don't want to pull out your big coat. I have this great Happyluxe wrap that I always travel with. It can be worn as a scarf, unfolded into a blanket (I often use it as a lap blanket in my room), or a wrap. It's one of my favorite things to have in my carry-on. You can even throw it over your head if your seatmate has their fan on full blast and you don't want it blowing directly into your eye for 10 hours. I love it, and many times will wrap it around my purse strap and take it with me on days out.

So, now you know exactly what you'll be seeing me wear in travel pictures on my airplane days. What do you like to wear on the plane to be comfortable?


Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links that may result in monetary compensation for me if you make a purchase through them. This helps me keep this blog running, so I thank you in advance.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

My Favorite Free Las Vegas Attractions part 2

In my last post, I started telling you about my favorite things to do in Vegas if you don't want to spend any money. Believe it or not, there are quite a few things that are absolutely free to do. If you don't want to spend your entire trip on The Strip and you're willing to rent a car or Uber somewhere else, then that opens up a whole new world of Las Vegas for you.



Every year I try to find more new things to check out, so I can bring you some of the best. A few of these are old favorites and some of them are new, but you're going to want to check out some of them.

Pinball Hall of Fame

This will soon be moved to The Strip, but right now it's a mile or so away on Tropicana in a very non-descript warehouse with no windows. Inside you'll find hundreds of vintage pinball and arcade games. Each game has a card on it with info on the game and manufacturer. You can even play these games, though you will have to shell out money for that, but most play on just one quarter, so you can get a good chunk of entertainment out of just $5.


Ethel M's Chocolate Factory & Cactus Garden

This is another destination we hit up nearly every time we're in town. You can watch the process of chocolate-making in their working factory for free, get samples, and browse all the different kinds of chocolates they make or pick up a non-edible souvenir, like a magnet or souvenir. Outside is an extensive cactus garden, which you may have seen on my Instagram stories. There are even ones that I haven't seen, coming from Arizona. It's really tranquil, even when it's 115 degrees outside. 

Downtown Arts District

Downtown Las Vegas has so much more than it used to. In fact, it's no longer the dirty, sketch place it was, and now has a revamped look with the city working with local artists for murals and sculptures and other types of art. One of my favorites this year was the bright pink The Empty Club by artist Andre Saraiva, who specializes in French aesthetic. Eric enjoyed the giant fallen robot right next to it. 

Container Park

If you've not been to the Container Park yet, you need to go! I always suggest going at night, but you really should do it during the day and then return after dark to get the full genius of it. The Container park is a collection of shops and eateries made of shipping containers. Inside you'll find a huge playground for kids and a fake grassy area. After 9pm, the park is only open to 21+ and they host activities such as movies on the lawn, wine tasting and live entertainment. 

Out front is a giant metal praying mantis that was part of Burning Man. After dark, it shoots fire to music. You'll also find The Dome, a dome that houses music shows like the planetarium. I wrote about it here. You can also see a video of the praying mantis at work.

Fremont Street Experience

Maybe you've been afraid to go downtown at night time, but know that you will find the area patrolled heavily by police, so you really shouldn't worry too much about your safety. I enjoy visiting Fremont during the day as well, but you'll find a whole different vibe when the sun's still up. Depending on when you visit, daytime Fremont is pretty chill, though you'll find the same "showgirl" and "celebrity" photo ops anytime, you may also see some interesting street shows. On our last visit, we stopped to watch a saxophonist do a set. You can also get your palm read, buy souvenirs and people watch. 

When night falls, you will find tons of free music (there are three stages that run all at once), and each hour they turn the lights down for you to turn your eyes upwards to watch the Fremont Street Experience. There is a light canopy that runs two blocks. Music plays and the lights create patterns, show videos, and chase each other throughout the show, which can last 3-5 minutes. Tourists flood the street at night, so if you're not a fan of crowds, this might not be for you. 



This last visit, I had a tip from a fellow blogger about a vintage toy store on Fremont Street, so we went in search of it. It's called Toy Shack and it is packed floor to ceiling with amazing vintage toys from all decades, as well as some new stuff. Many of the things inside I've never seen before. They don't mind if you take pics and video and are happy to haggle with you if you're reasonable. It's definitely worth a look inside, plus it's air conditioned, so it's a nice break from the heat outside.

You can visit Fremont Street, the Container Park and see a ton of street art all within a few blocks of each other, so if you're looking for the biggest bang for your drive/ride, this is it.

Lyft Art Park

Right across the street from Fremont Street Experience is a funky little art park sponsored by Lyft. It's not large, but everything is from local artists, it's free, and you can even sit and rest inside or play giant cornhole. I loved it! Each time we visit, it seems Lyft is sponsoring a different cool art project. Just keep your eyes peeled while you're walking around. You'll also see revamped, retired neon hotel signs up and down the street.

Seven Magic Mountains

If you haven't seen the colorful photos of people visiting this art project in the desert, you might be living under a (normal, non-painted) rock. It's a bit of a drive out of the city, but I thought I was going to miss its run when I didn't visit last July. I was really excited to find they had extended the project for a further 2 years (and wonder if they won't just leave it indefinitely). The Seven Magic Mountains are seven stacks of painted rocks that contrast sharply with the surrounding brown and muted green desert landscape. It's quite surreal and the stacked boulders are pretty amazing. 

We did a lot of sightseeing this trip, spending most of our money on food and basketball tickets. I'll be talking about coffee shops and other foods in Sin City in another post, so stay tuned for that. 


What are your favorite free activities in Las Vegas, or what are you hoping to do on your next trip?
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