Yosemite Vacation: Views, Hikes & Accommodations

Yosemite Vacation: Views, Hikes & Accommodations

Last September, Mr. Buzz and I spent half of our California vacation exploring the bountiful natural wonders of three National Parks, including Yosemite.

Yosemite-falls-base-Debbee

After deciding it was too early to reschedule our pandemic-cancelled June 2020 Ireland trip, hubby suggested California. That March, he had snagged two nights in September at the Ahwahnee Hotel, the crown jewel of national park lodges. We built our entire vacation around those nights. First, we worked backwards, booking other park lodging in Kings Canyon and Sequoia.

Due to the continued uncertainty of pandemic conditions in 2021, we only booked the lodges and other accommodations that were fully cancellable. Several months later — and fully vaccinated —we felt confident enough to book direct flights. Then hubby filled in the rest of our stays at B&B’s and hotels in Monterey, Big Sur, Paso Robes and San Francisco.

It was wonderful to be outdoors, without a mask, enjoying all the mountain fresh air! After having the park closures of Sequoia and Kings Canyon right on our heels, we were relieved to arrive safely in Yosemite with the scent of smoke and fires behind us.

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Step Inside the Van Gogh Immersive Experience

Step Inside the Van Gogh Immersive Experience

Ever dreamt of stepping into a famous painting that hangs in a museum? That’s what it felt like when walking through the Van Gogh Immersive Experience. While visiting family in Philadelphia last October, we attended the long-running show. It was part of the same gorgeous fall trip when we explored Chanticleer Garden.

Van-Gogh-starry-night-immersive

By the time I got back home, it was Halloween and busy season for holiday posts. I just never had the chance to catch-up and share our experience. Plus, pandemic cases began to steeply rise with the omicron wave. So, it wasn’t the time or seemed appropriate to encourage folks to congregate.

When we went to the exhibit last October, proof of vaccination and wearing of masks was strictly enforced. Tickets were timed to manage crowd size. We felt very safe.

But, it’s not too late to see a Van Gogh immersive experience in many cities across the country. Perhaps there’s one near you? It could also be part of a weekend excursion to another city?

Turns out, nearly 50 different cities in the U.S. (plus others around the world) are hosting some type of Van Gogh immersive experience! That’s because there are five different productions presenting shows. Before I researched this post, I thought they were all by a single company. But the exhibit we saw in Philadelphia is a different production than the one running here in Pittsburgh.

For now, come along with me for a virtual step inside Van Gogh’s famous paintings, including Starry Night, the Sunflower series, and his other most acclaimed works.

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Jaw-Dropping Jackson Hole Ski Resort & Town

Jaw-Dropping Jackson Hole Ski Resort & Town

We had a wonderful, eight-day Jackson Hole ski holiday over Valentine’s Day, with our eldest son and his girl.

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Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is situated in the spectacular Teton Range of the Rocky Mountains, and is just south of Grand Teton National Park. The ski resort is named after the historic Jackson Hole Valley and is 12 miles — about a 20-minute drive — from the charming Western town of Jackson.

We had visited the area, including Yellowstone, many years ago on a summer vacation when the boys were adolescents. Such gorgeous natural scenery and abundant wildlife, including elk and moose.

Better known as “the Big One,” the Jackson Hole ski resort is best know for its over 4,000 foot vertical drop and steep terrain. It is frequently rated among the top destinations in North America by major ski magazines and travel guides. That comes from it’s world class terrain, luxury resort base amenities, beautiful landscape, and nearby Western town.

I enjoyed our Jackson Hole ski vacation, but admit that the steeper pitch and unfortunate icy conditions have left me a little worse for wear lol!

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Chanticleer Garden: Farewell to Fall Season

Chanticleer Garden: Farewell to Fall Season

Within 30 minutes of Philadelphia, Chanticleer Garden is one of the great oasis’s in the region. Once the Rosengarten estate, today its a colorful and contemporary garden within an historic setting.

Chanticleer-Gardens-fall-purple-grass

We visited there in late October and I was amazed by the abundance of flowers blooming so late in the fall season. Especially since Chanticleer Garden closed just a week later — until next spring.

My sister-in-law, had arranged the outing for six of us, which included two of my husband’s brothers and their wives. She and her husband had discovered Chanticleer Garden earlier this year with friends and were anxious to share it with us.

We stayed in the city at our son D’s place. After first dropping off our Scottie dog, Whiskey, Mr. Buzz and I headed to NYC .There was lots of packing (and unpacking) to help his older brother with a big move from the Upper East Side to Hoboken, NJ. See his old penthouse and the housewarming gift I made for the new condo in, Modern Style, Fall Floral & Twig Wreath.

After returning to Philadelphia, hubby and I house-sat, while our younger son went into his office. Because a contractor was making repairs from water damage on the main floor of the row house, we (and both energetic dogs) had to spend the better part of three days upstairs on the third floor. It was a physically and mentally exhausting week!

Finally spending a weekend relaxing and visiting with family was a welcome change of pace. Come with me on a stroll through Chanticleer Garden for a little Zen and farewell to fall. Think of it as my way of wishing you a most Happy Thanksgiving!

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Walk on the Wild Side at Zoo Lantern Festival

Walk on the Wild Side at Zoo Lantern Festival

Returning to our magical evening at the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium for its first ever, Asian Lantern Festival.

In part 1, Zoo Asian Lantern Festival Illuminates Wildlife, we paused in the African Savanna after seeing lion, tiger, zebra and elephant creations.

The sun had set and it was dusk, with the sky showing off its own beautiful light show of color.

But, that was only about halfway through the zoo’s winding pathways and 44 different lantern displays of animals, flowers, decorative archways, and tunnels. Some of the best were yet to come!

I particularly enjoyed those associated with the aquarium’s inhabitants, including schools of fish, jellyfish, penguins, seals and a colossal octopus.

Lantern displays became even more striking as darkness fell, with dramatic lighting, animated movements and color changes.

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Zoo Asian Lantern Festival Illuminates Wildlife

Zoo Asian Lantern Festival Illuminates Wildlife

Recently, hubby and I enjoyed an enchanting experience at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium. The Asian Lantern Festival illuminates the zoo with the glow of wildlife-themed, handcrafted figures.

Asian-Lantern-Festival-Pittsburgh-Zoo-flamingos

As dusk settles in, the lanterns begin to glow. Visitors stroll the winding pathways throughout the zoo, pausing to admire the beautiful lights. Intended for all ages, the festival also features live performances and entertainment. Music, dancing, and food represent elements of Asian heritage.

In all, 44 different lantern displays are spread across the zoo’s grounds. While the majority are animal themed — pandas, elephants and giraffes — there are also flower lanterns, decorative archways, tunnels and even a colossal butterfly tree. Some, like a flock of flamingos, are bigger than life. Many also change colors, or are animated with subtle movements. Most impressive, is the massive, 100-foot long and brightly colored Chinese dragon.

The Asian Lantern Festival is a family-friendly nighttime event that requires a separate ticket, in lieu of the zoo’s daytime admission. And, as Mr. Buzz and I discovered, it also makes for a romantic, date-night under the stars. Come stroll along with us.

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