Travel

A day trip to Watkins Glen State Park from Niagara Falls

Known for its world famous motor racetrack, award winning wineries and a state park full of waterfalls Watkins Glen is a great place for a road trip with Instagram worthy scenery for the whole family. I travelled to Niagara Falls with my friends and on our way to Niagara Falls, New York we decided to take a day trip to the beautiful and popular Watkins Glen State Park in Finger Lakes. Located on the southern tip of Seneca Lake in the Finger lakes, Watkins Glen State Park is a gorgeous place for hiking, camping and outdoor recreation.

As we were only doing a day trip to Watkins Glen on our way to the majestic Niagara Falls, we decided to visit Watkins Glen State Park, famous for its stream -carved gorge now preserved as a State Park.

Fun Facts about Watkins Glen State Park

  1. The gorge derived its name from Dr. Samuel Watkins and his brother John who acquired land in the area in the 1850’s.
  2. To increase tourist appeal, in the mid 1920’s the word “Glen” was added to the town name – Watkins.
  3. Within two miles, the glen’s stream descends 400 feet past 200-foot cliffs generating 19 waterfalls.
  4. The gorge emerged more than 2.5 million years ago during the Pleistocene Ice Age when the polar ice sheet advanced and receded and making it wider and deeper each time the ice sheet advanced southward.

When to Visit?

Watkins Glen is open all year however the best time to visit the park is anytime other than the winter months. Personally, we visited the state park in May and thought it was the perfect time to enjoy and explore the State Park without it being too hot or too cold. We combined it with our trip to the Niagara Falls.

Where to enter the park ?

There are three entrances to enter the park – Upper, South and Main. We entered the park through the South Entrance as we also made a quick stop at the Hector Falls along the way which are the third tallest falls in the state. Since the South entrance sits between the main and upper entrances its a great place to start as you will be in the middle of the park and you can retrace your steps as you like. There is no fee to visit the park although there is a parking fee of $8 per vehicle. The upper entrance is not as busy as the other entrances and on long holidays or weekends it may be easier to find parking here in case the main and south entrance are full.

The scenic gorge trail is family friendly however not the most accessible for those with mobility issues. It is an easy and incredible hike with gorgeous views but just be careful as the wet leaves and waterfalls make the path a little slippery sometimes.

We explored walking along the spectacular gorge soaking in the lush greens, waterfalls and fresh air. Walking through a spiral staircase we found ourselves at the Suspension bridge crossing over Watkins Glen Gorge. It made me get lost in nature while also connecting with myself on a deeper level and feeling absolutely rejuvenated.

While all the falls are beautiful my absolute favorite was the Rainbow Falls. We spent most of our time at the striking, delicate, dramatic and beautiful Rainbow Falls. The view from here is absolutely marvelous. The water falling from above, the bridge in the background, the lovely stone stairs is something that looks like from a fairytale. Did you know – The falls get its name from the rainbows that appear in the mist of the falls on sunny days.

As we explored the gorge, we were pleasantly surprised by the powerful Cavern Cascade. The spiral tunnel seemed like a dead end but as we walked down, it led us underneath the Cavern Cascade. Try to put your hand underneath the falls and you will be surprised to find out how strong the current is.

Tips for visiting Watkins Glen State Park

  1. Carry water as there is no water fountain along the trail.
  2. Wear waterproof and comfortable shoes.
  3. During the summer months there is a bus shuttle between the three entrances which helps navigates around the park.
  4. Carry a map, it will come in handy to know where you are and what you would like to explore.

If you are looking for the ultimate travel guide to Niagara Falls which is only a 2.5 hours drive check out my blog post here

Hope you enjoyed reading my post! If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment or email me and I will be happy to answer them. For all other travel guides and to receive my blog posts subscribe to the blog follow me on Instagram.

Food, Travel

A Complete Travel Guide to Niagara Falls

Spanning the border between the province of Ontario in Canada and the state of New York in the United States are the majestic Niagara Falls which has been on my bucket list for a long time. Every time I saw pictures or videos I have been marveled at the miracle of the nature and I was beyond ecstatic to finally visit them over the Memorial Day weekend with my friends and experience it myself. To say, I was left speechless and lost in thoughts would be an understatement.

There are two sides to the Niagara Falls – The US side and the Canadian side. Niagara Falls is a group of three waterfalls. The spectacular falls can be toured by boat, helicopter or on your own two feet. The largest of the three falls is the Horseshoe Falls and is also known as the Canadian Falls and the smaller two falls – Bridal Veil Falls and American Falls lie on the American side. I haven’t been to the Canadian side yet and would love to go to see the Horseshoe Falls in its entirety however you can see all the three falls from the US side and trust me it is breathtaking either way. 

One of my friend quoted and it stuck with me ” In Canada you see the falls, and in US you feel the falls”.

How to get to Niagara Falls

We drove to Niagara Falls from Boston starting on Friday evening at 5.00 pm EST and took a few stops to do things along the way and stay over the night. Niagara Falls is approximately 460 miles from Boston. You can also fly to Buffalo Niagara International Airport and then drive to the falls which is approximately 30 minutes away.

Where to Stay

We stayed at Ellicottville, New York which was approximately a one hour and fifteen-minute drive to the Niagara Falls. Check out the place here. We really enjoyed our stay here and it was perfect for our group of 10. Ellicottville is known for its ski resorts. We booked only a week before the Memorial Day weekend and most of the places we liked near Niagara Falls were sold out. If you are looking for an upscale hotel and place closer to the falls check out Seneca Niagara Hotel & Casino. Some other options closer are Hyatt Place Niagara Falls and Red Coach Inn.

Best Time to Visit Niagara

The best time to visit the falls is mid-May through mid-September. However, the peak season is in summer from June to August. However, having said that there is no right or wrong time to visit in Niagara. The colder winter months offer a chance to see the falls frozen which is something I want to visit as well. If you also wish to explore some of the parks around New York like us, May is great time as it is not too hot or too cold.

Must do things in Niagara Falls

Maid of the Mist – If there is only one thing you can do, I highly recommend this tour. This is an absolute must do! Strolling along the water’s edge and viewing the Niagara Falls from an outlook is one thing but viewing the falls from the vantage point of the water via a boat tour on the Maid of the Mist is a totally different experience. If you are traveling during long weekends or at peak times there is likely going to be two hours wait time or more. The tickets to this tour are $25.25 for adults and I recommend buying them in advance especially if you are visiting during busy times. They provide you ponchos on the tour so that you are do not get wet. Experiencing the roar and the drenching spray of mist of the powerful and hypnotic falls is surreal. We were lucky to see two rainbows formed as a result of the mist in the air You can check the schedule and book you ticket here.

Things to know for the tour:

  1. Carry a waterproof phone or GoPro to capture the mighty falls.
  2. Be ready to wait in long queues. But don’t worry it is worth the wait.
  3. The tour runs every 15 minutes and lasts approximately 20 minutes.
  4. Tour times cannot be reserved in advance.
  • Observation Tower – After the Maid of the Mist tour we headed to the Observation tower to soak in the panoramic views. It is the only place where you can see both the American falls and the Horseshoe Falls together.
  • Illuminated Falls – When the sun goes down the striking Niagara Falls are illuminated every night of the year beginning at dusk all the way up to 2.00 am in the summer and create a stunning vista that can be marveled from near and far. Did you know – the first ever illumination took place in 1860 with 200 Bengal lights to honor the visit of Prince of Whales as a one-night event. You can check the Illumination schedule here. Usually, in the summer every night at 10.00 pm there are fireworks at the falls but due to the COVID-19 restrictions the fireworks are cancelled for 2021.
  • Cave of the Winds – This is one thing we could not do as the tickets were sold out for the day but cannot wait to go back and try this. Highly recommend booking the tickets by going in early as they are not sold online to avoid the tickets being sold out. I have heard that there is no better way to experience the mighty power of the falls safely than standing underneath a torrent of water on the famous Hurricane Deck. They provide yellow ponchos for this experience but you are bound to get drenched so carry a change of clothes and wear footwear accordingly. Did you know – the decking is removed each fall due to potential damage and re-installed each spring by the park officials to enjoy the experience. Cannot wait to go back and try this enthralling experience!!
  • Rainbow Bridge – Unfortunately due to the Covid-19 restrictions the Canadian border was closed and we could not cross the border at the Niagara Falls. You can either walk or drive on the Rainbow bridge to cross the border but remember you need a valid Canadian visa to go if you are going from New York. It takes approximately five minutes to walk this bridge. You can literally have one foot in US and one in Canada on this bridge. 
  • Terrapin Point– The best view of the Horseshoe falls other than from the Maid of the mist is from the Terrapin point to see the falls and mists forming up close.  This is a great place to check out the illuminated falls. 
  • Goat Island – You can also explore and walk around the Goat Island. The best way to explore the goat island is on foot. Goat Island is in the middle of the Niagara River. The island splits the Niagara River in two before it cascades over the Horseshoe Falls and the American Falls. It is a great place to enjoy the natural beauty and view of the falls. It is connected to the Luna Island with a pedestrian bridge. 

Where to Eat

  1. Kathi Roll on the Falls – Highly recommend trying this food truck for its lip smacking and delicious kathi rolls. My favorite kathi rolls were the Aloo roll and the Chana roll. I also liked the paneer roll. They offer many options to choose from for vegetarians as well and this place does not disappoint.
  2. Dosa Hut Fine Indian Cuisine – We also tried another food truck and tried the masala dosa, idli sambhar, parathas, channa masala, and samosa chaat here. I personally enjoyed the samosa chaat here the most. 

Day Trips from Niagara Falls

  1. Watkins Glen State Park – 2.5 hours from Niagara Falls. We took a day trip to Watkins Glen State Park. Check out the complete guide on what to do and where to eat here.
  2. Letchworth State Park – This is another great day trip to explore which is only 1.5 hours from Niagara Falls.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment and I will be happy to answer all your questions. Hope you enjoyed the post! 

Food, Travel

Islamorada – A day trip from Miami

I recently visited Miami with my friends in April and took a day trip to Islamorada and fell in love with it at first glance. Known for its towering palm trees, sandy beaches, pristine and clear water, laid-back vibe, and breathtaking sunsets, Islamorada is a complete paradise. Did you know? – Islamorada is one of the Florida Keys and is on the way to Key West.

Only a 90 mins drive from Miami, Islamorada is a great place to go for a day trip. Islamorada is known as the sport fishing capital of the world with beautiful local restaurants and quaint shops with a small town island vibe which I absolutely love. Even if fishing is not your thing it is equally appealing for divers, snorkelers and kayaking.

Fun Fact – The name Islamorada came from the early Spanish explorers in the area which means Purple Isle.

Things to do

While there are a lot of things to do in Islamorada our goal was to just enjoy the beaches, relax and sip in some cocktails with delicious food.

  1. Anne’s beach – This is one of the most popular beaches in Islamorada and for good reason. It has very clear blue waters making it picturesque. It has picnic spots to enjoy the stunning views and is a small beach with shallow waters. It does not have much of sandy areas so if you are in a large group like us you may not find enough space to enjoy the sandy areas and just relax. However, it has a great boardwalk and is one of the beaches in Islamorada where you can bring your pets.
  2. Sombrero Beach, Marathon – This beach is approximately 25 miles ahead of Anne’s beach but absolutely amazing if you are looking for a white sandy beach to just relax and soak in the sun this is great. If you enjoy swimming I would recommend heading to this one and a bonus its a great place to catch the sunset!! Also this beach has a great volleyball court and a park area for kids.

Where to Eat

  1. Morada Bay Beach Cafe– A cute cafe with waterfront dining overlooking the Florida Bay. A great place to get drinks and food with stunning views. We went here during Covid times and what I appreciated the most was that the tables were spread out making it very easy to maintain social distancing.
  2. Lorelai’s Restaurant and Cabana Bar – What can I say!! I absolutely loved the place. It has so many amazing food options to pick from even for vegetarians and everything was so fresh. A great place to grab delicious food, tasty drinks, waterfront views overlooking the Florida bay(beautiful sunsets), and live entertainment from local bands. Very well spaced table to maintain social distancing and have some privacy. Highly Recommend!!

Hope you enjoy reading this post. Check out the complete travel guide to Miami here. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions!

Food, Travel

Getaway : A Cabin Experience and Escape from Boston

I know this post has been long due and I apologize for the long break without posts. 2020 had been a difficult year to say the least and my husband and I decided to end the year detaching ourselves from technology and soaking ourselves in nature. I started university back in Fall 2020 to pursue my MBA and at the end of my semester I was exhausted and ready to spend sometime off from the computer and I could not be happier. Personally, we did not want to take a flight and travel unless absolutely necessary due to the pandemic and also wanted to maintain social distancing while enjoying sometime off. We travelled to the Getaway house towards the end of December for three days two nights and picked the Escape from Boston which is located in New Hampshire. This New Hampshire Getaway House fulfilled it all for us!

The Getaway house is located at various locations throughout the country such as NYC, Atlanta, Washington D.C, Dallas, Houston, LA, Portland, etc. Use this link to receive $25 off your stay.

If you are someone who has always wanted to try camping and enjoys the outdoors but cannot go without a hot shower or a bathroom like me then the getaway experience is a perfect balance that offers the best of both worlds. It provides a comfy escape with the most relaxing views.

What is a Getaway House ?

For anyone who does not know what a getaway house is, let me explain it simply. A Getaway house is a container converted into cabin to provide a simplified glamping experience even for people with no camping experience. There are number of such cabins at each getaway location. The various cabins are spread in wooded areas approximately 150 feet apart from each other such that there is privacy and no one can see inside your cabin but also not too scary leaving you completely alone in the many acres of the wooded area.

One thing I really liked was all the cabins are named after the grandparents of the staff to honor their services and care they put in to ensure we enjoy a seamless experience. Our cabin name was Rose as it was beautiful.

What the Getaway is equipped with?

The getaway is equipped with all the essentials we needed for your stay and nothing that we didn’t making it a minimalist but amazing experience. Do not be fooled by the small size of the cabin. It is packed with literally everything you will need to make your stay so much more enjoyable. It is equipped with AC, heat, AM/FM radio, wireless speakers, toilet, hot shower, a private fire pit, grilling area with a picnic table and chairs, stove top, a mini refrigerator, salt, pepper, olive oil, utensils, a comfortable bed, etc. Check out the complete list of what is included in the house here. We also thought that the staff was extremely helpful and only a text or call away.

There is no WIFI at the getaway house and limited cell phone service depending on your provider which forces you to embrace the nature, enjoy the simple things in life and take a real break. They also provide a box to lock your phones away and enjoy yourselves without any devices. We actually thought this was a blessing after the crazy Zoom overdose we had. The Zoom fatigue was real and we could not think of a better way to completely switch off. We even put our phones in the box and locked them away for the weekend to enjoy a quiet time without any distractions. Trust me you will love it even if no WIFI and limited cell phone service sounds daunting at first. They provide some books and games at the cabin and we took our own books to read as well. It is was great way to shrug off the stress of work and detaching ourselves from the internet.

Safety and Security

Every Getaway house has a digital lock on the front door and a unique code which was texted to us on the day of check in with the name of your Cabin. This allowed us to securely lock our cabin while we explore around without worrying about your belongings.

Stay Options

The Getaway house offers two different kinds of cabins. One for two people (where we stayed) and one which can accommodate a maximum of four people(bunk beds) which is a great option for anyone traveling with kids. All the cabins have the bed located right next to the big glass window so we had the perfect view to wake up to. This is a great experience for anyone who wants to unplug and get away from the hustle of the everyday life. I thought it was a great place for even a solo traveler who loves to get inspired by nature and write a book, music, or any fun creative project on their mind.

Waking up in the morning with the perfect backdrop of nature was such a surreal experience. We absolutely loved the seating area created right next to the window and enjoyed sipping hot chocolate and reading a book in the cold. Could not think of a better way to start the day looking at the snow covered trees and enjoying the nature. Cannot wait to go back and try the other Getaway Houses at the other locations!

What to Pack/Bring ?

  1. Carry your favorite games, books or a creative project you would like to work on.
  2. Carry a bug spray if you are visiting during the summer months.
  3. A grill pan is optional not necessary.
  4. Grilling Food – Corn, strawberries, pineapple, ingredients to make kebabs, paneer/tofu, potatoes, bell peppers, onions, marshmallows, marinades, burgers, Maggi, etc.
  5. Snacking or any other Food items.
  6. Wine, champagne or anything you like to drink.
  7. Hot chocolate.
  8. Comfy clothes.

There are grocery stores nearby but I highly recommend planning and carrying what you need to save yourself a trip to the grocery store. The cabin also offers a survival kit if you like which includes food options.

Things to do Nearby

  1. Blasty Bough Brewing Company – If you want to check out some local brewery and try some local beers with beautiful views and live music check out the Blasty Bough Brewing Company. Check the link here for all the details.
  2. Pawtuckaway State Park – Located around 30 minutes from the cabin this state park offers hiking trails and boulders to climb. We did not do this during our stay but would love to check it out another time.

Things to do at the Getaway

  1. Movie/Game Night – We also did a movie and game night with popcorn and wine which we enjoyed a lot. We took some of the DVD’s of movies we wanted to watch and games we enjoyed. This was so much fun and I dont remember the last time I used a DVD before this experience. This was a great way to leave behind the reliance on Netflix and other streaming services.
  2. Grilling outside the cabin – Grilling under the stars, with a firepit was a perfect way for us to enjoy our nights with some music, wine and amazing food. They gave us a kit for grilling marshmallows, making s’mores too which was perfect to enjoy the fire pit outside during the cold month of December. They also provide fire wood, fire starting materials, a lighter and instructions on how to light a fire. They charge you at the end of your stay for the fire wood and the fire starting materials you used. It was our very first time to start a fire and the instructions were easy to follow. We enjoyed grilling kebabs, pineapple, strawberries and marshmallows, corn, paneer (an Indian version of tofu), and toasting s’mores and relished them. We loved it so much that we barely used the stovetop for any cooking even when it was freezing outside.
  3. Walk in the woods – If you are not in the mood to get out, the backyard of the Getaway House has nearby hiking/walking trails you can explore. We enjoyed walking around the trails nearby and collecting pinecones on the trails for the house.

Highly Recommend trying the Getaway House for a unique experience and coming home rejuvenated from the day to day stress of life. If you have any questions please feel free to reach out and leave a comment! Use this link to receive $25 off your stay

Travel

Kayaking in the Ocean at La Jolla – My First Experience

Kayaking is a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and gives us a front row seat to the best shows Mother Nature has to offer . It is a great way to destress and a great outdoor activity for all ages.

On my trip to San Diego, I had a bucket list of things to do and kayaking in the ocean was at the top of my list especially since I had never done it before. Even though my husband had done kayaking before neither of us had done it in the ocean and we decided to take on a new adventure, which brought us to the pristine waters of La Jolla.

We booked our experience Kayak in La Jolla (Sea Caves and Marine Reserve) around 10 days before our travel with Michael and were all set to take on this experience. On the day of the tour in March 2019 we arrived 30 minutes prior to gear up and receive some instructions. The place offers lockers to store valuables and also sells phone covers though I recommend leaving it back in the lockers unless it is waterproof as it will definitely get drenched.

Once we were all geared up in our wetsuits and our group was ready our guides led us to the ocean where they gave us a quick paddling tutorial. The distance from their store where we assembled to the ocean is just a few blocks away.

My husband and I quickly hopped onto the two seater kayak and paddled our way into the water along with the group. Along the way the guide made various stops to provide us with some history. Kayaking in La Jolla is an amazing experience, one that I highly recommend especially because of the La Jolla Underwater Park – a marine sanctuary full of seal life and clear water.

While Kayaking we saw sting rays, fishes, whales, sea lions, seals, sea turtles and leopard sharks alongside with us. This was quite an experience, one we never had before. If the weather permits, they also take you inside the Clam’s Cave which is the only visible sea cave from land. Tip : Our group was fairly small which really comes in handy especially if you get to do inside the caves as there is a limit for the number of kayaks that can go in together at once. A big group would just mean you would have to wait that much longer. We went on kayaking further to other sea caves and then explored more sea life along the way.

After spending time near the sea caves we paddled back towards the shore and as we neared the shore we were sent towards the beach one kayak at a time so that the helpers could pull out the kayak and you don’t get toppled by the waves. It was a great experience and even though I was initially scared to kayak in the ocean especially when I do not know to swim I had an incredible time. It is a great way to experience the pristine La Jolla waters and the sea life.

And the best part is, you can even get some exercise done without even actually trying and enjoying the beautiful landscape.

What to Wear?

You can wear a swimsuit or a tank top with shorts. On a cold day I highly recommend renting the wetsuit to wear over the swimsuit from them as once you are inside it gets a little chilly. Definitely wear a sunscreen. If you get sunburnt easily I highly recommend wearing a fast drying cover up or a wetsuit. They will provide you with helmets and life vests to be worn too at no additional cost.

If you haven’t done this yet I highly recommend it when in San Diego!

Travel

My First Bungee Jump Experience – Taking the Plunge

They Say – Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.

Bungee jumping is one of the most extreme sports ever invented, an adrenaline rush like no other, and of course, we had to try it. I went to New Zealand for my Honeymoon and since we knew that bungy jumping was a must-do adventure activity in New Zealand we knew that if we were going to do a bungy jump anywhere, this was definitely the place to do it! The Kawarau Bridge Bungy Jump is actually the first commercial bungy jump in the world. Queenstown, New Zealand is ground zero where this extreme sport started.

We had made our bookings well ahead of time to get the desired time slot and the required day for this nerve-wracking experience. Fast forward several weeks and the day had arrived. From Queenstown, we took a bus ride about 30 minutes to the Kawarau Bridge.

As we entered the bungy center from the car park, we walked down a spiral ramp that lead us to the reception area, a video showroom, a cafe and a shop with all kinds of bungy souvenirs. When we checked in for our bungy the staff at the reception asked us to fill in a health questionnaire and sign a liability and indemnity waiver form. We were then asked to empty our pockets and remove all loose items basically anything we could loose while jumping, and then we were asked to step on the scales! Our weight was written on the back of our hand with thick felt pen, so the bungy instructors at the bridge know how to calculate the length of our bungy rope. We then headed to the bridge and watched a few jumpers go first thinking that it would prepare us for the big jump. But trust me nothing prepares you for that.

We got into our safety harnesses waiting in queue for our turn. Once it was my turn I sat down on the platform, facing my jump instructor. He started by putting my legs together and wrapping a thick towel around my lower legs and ankles. Then he fastened the towel really tightly with some sort of harness which was later connected to the end of my bungy rope. While a zillion thoughts were racing my head the music playing was soothing and my instructor tried to engage me in a pleasant conversation.

As I walked towards the edge of the bridge and gazed down, the mighty Kawarau river seemed miles away. I could hear my heart in my ears!! I am usually not scared of heights but jumping off the edge is another thing. I was standing at the edge of the bridge, 43 meters above ground, ready to take the leap of faith. I told my instructor I needed a minute and then took a deep breath and took the plunge when the instructor went Three — Two- One — Bungy!!! as that is your cue.

I screamed out loud a mixture of fear and laughter as I took the plunge as jumping off the bridge was the scariest thing I have very done but at the same time made me overcome my fears. Midway in the air I enjoyed the scenic surroundings, the wind blowing and took it all in. After a few bounces, the bridge crew lowered my bungy rope, and I saw a yellow raft approaching towards me and asked me to grab the pole they were holding out while I was still tied to my rope upside down. They then removed the harnesses once I was lying in the raft.

It was a magical experience which gave me memories of a lifetime. We then headed to center to see the pictures and the video captured quickly and bought them straight away. They also gave us a complimentary Tshirt and a certificate of Accomplishment. All in all, I had an amazing experience and was thrilled to be able to tick this experience off my bucket list.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. – Mark Twain

So go for it and overcome your fears!!