Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree for a weekend

If you want to get away from the city, Joshua Tree is the perfect getaway if you live in SoCal. The park, located in the Mojave Desert not too far from Palm Springs, is a great retreat location in Fall and Spring until Mid May. It does get too hot during summer time.

You can camp inside of the park as they offer many camping grounds or stay at a cabin or at the Joshua Tree Inn, in Yucca Valley,  1 mile away from the park. The closer to the park, the better you will be able to admire the sunset and the stars at night. The best way to finding cabins is to go to Airbnb, they offer so many great choices but they best cabins sell out very fast.

I entered the park from Yucca Valley. Make sure to stop at the visitor’s center to collect your national park stamp and take a map of the park.

Start your day early, maybe around 9am with the most strenuous hike. Ryan Mountain is a great 3 miles hike that allows you, once at the 5,458-foot summit, to have a beautiful view if the vast park.  You can then discover the park with different short trails. The Arch Rock trail, the Skull Rock trail, the Barker Dam Trail and the Chella Cactus Garden will allow you to discover a different aspect of the park. Make sure to stop at the Key’s View, also called inspiration point, from where you can see the San Andreas Fault, Mt. San Jacinto and Coachella Valley. The Park is also known for its rock climbing spots like Hidden Valley Trail.

The Park is vast so you might explore the Hidden Valley to Skull Rock side in one day and the Cottonwood Spring side of the park the next day.

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Austin

Austin is an amazing city to visit during events such as SXSW  Music Festival in March, the F1 Grand Prix in October or at any other time.

Austin is not like other Texas City. You do get that Southern Texas feeling, especially when you go to the bars, but just enough of it. The people are very welcoming to a big city and most of the population is young and outgoing.

Here is how you can spend a weekend in Austin

I stayed at an Airbnb on East Austin on S Congress  Ave. The street has Antique stores on one side like the Uncommon Objects that is one of the best antique stores, and Food Trucks on the other. On a Parallel street, East Cesar Chavez St., you have the 3 famous food trucks, Le Barbecue THE place for famous Texan barbecue meat. Make sure you get there before they open as the line can get long or the meat can sold out . Next, to it, you have the perfect donut dessert place Gourdough’s. I just wanted to try all of them from the Fat Elvis to the Funky Monkey.  A little bit further they have the Taco Truck Torchy’s Tacos, great place for a late night craving stop.

From East Austin, you walk 5 minutes and you cross the bridge that will take you to Downtown Austin. Visit the State Capitol. The building is mighty and so is inside. Take a tour, visit the different chambers and see the pictures of all of the governors hang on the walls over 4 levels. Next to it, you have the University of Texas at Austin.

At night, go to the famous 6th St. It is full of bars. Pick any Piano Bar and enjoy the beer and the ambiance.  In Austin, in every bar, you have a great band signing, all you need to do is to grab a drink and enjoy the music. This is how locals like to spend their outing nights.

You have to take a cab or the bus to go towards Barton Hills and get to Barton Spring Pool which is a natural pool where you can go skinny dipping ( or not). From there continue your route to the Zilker Botanical Garden and enjoy the many gardens it has to offer; Cactus Garden, Japanese Garden and the amazing Butterfly Garden.

From East Austin, you also need to take a cab to go to the French Place which is also the Art District. During the day all the galleries are open and offer unique pieces. At Night, the bars and French restaurants like Justine’s Brasserie live up the neighborhood.

If you are a F1 fan like me you have to go to The Circuit of the Americas outside of town. That Circuit is breathtaking. If you are lucky to be there during a F1 Grand Prix or another Car Race, the Cars noise is very impressive.

 

Lake Tahoe

If you love to ski, the best time to go to Lake Tahoe is obviously during ski season and this year there is a lot of snow. If not, go there during the summer time to enjoy the town and the lake activities.

The best part of Lake Tahoe is North Lake Tahoe. You can rent a cabin or stay at a resort like the amazing The Resort at Squaw Creek.  That resort has all the needed amenities and more like an outdoor heated pool and a skating ring.

Spend your day the Squaw Valley Ski, home of the 1960 Winter Olympics. It will be a very enjoyable ski day.  The ski town by the slopes is very nice to have lunch or just a hot chocolate.

Of course, don’t forget to go to the Lake Tahoe. During summer time, you can go boat riding on the Lake. During winter time, take the road along the Lake to go up the mountain and have a breathtaking view of the Lake.

Weekend Gateway, Houston 

Day 1 :

Start the day at the Rice University. The campus is beautiful, you can have a walk around and have coffee at one of the coffee shops there. Take a look at the James Turrell Twilight Epiphany Skyscraper in the middle of the campus. The art structure lightens up at sunset and sunrise.

By the university, take Sunset Boulevard. It is one of the famous streets of Houston. The route is covered with those gorgeous old oak trees.

Head to the Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park by the Galleria Mall. The huge waterwall looks like a waterfall. There is a Mexican restaurant by there called El Tiempo Cantina. The best fajita I ever had, so sizzling.

At sunset, go to Jackson Hill Bridge. You will see the crowd waiting for the bats to come out. Under that bridge in the Bayou area, the bats come out at sunset time.

At night go to the Midtown neighborhood. It’s is the young neighborhood with bars and restaurants.

Day 2 :

Start your morning with a walk in Hermann Park. It is a beautiful park in the university area, it has a concert area, a lake with a cafe where you can have breakfast and the zoo is at the end of it. The park is crowded with runners and everybody is just walking around or relaxing on the grass. A part of the park is constructed like the Great Mall of DC.

For the test of the day, you can go to Kemah Boardwalk. It is about 35 miles from Houston. It’s a Pier area by the Houston bay. They have a lot of fun attractions for the kids and they also have restaurants. Enjoy the bay before sunset and have dinner at the best seafood restaurant, Landry’s.

Houston Hermann Park
Hermann Park

 

Houston Hermann Park
Hermann Park

 

Houston Hermann Park
Hermann Park

 

Houston Bat Show by the Jackson Hill Bridge
Bat Show by the Jackson Hill Bridge

 

Houston Seafood Restaurant Landry's at Kemah Boardwalk
Seafood Restaurant Landry’s at Kemah Boardwalk

 

Houston Kemah Boradwalk
Kemah Boardwalk

 

Houston James Turrell Twilight Epiphany Skycraper
James Turrell Twilight Epiphany Skyscraper

 

Houston Oak trees on Sunset Blvd
Oak trees on Sunset Blvd

 

Houston Waterwall
Waterwall

 

 

Newport Beach

A long weekend is the perfect occasion to head to a beach town and Newport Beach is part of the must see small towns in the U.S

Things to do:

  • Start your day at Crystal Cove State Park where you can hike and relax at the beach. The Palm Shaded Path at Heisler Park is the perfect hiking trail during hot summer days. You should grab breakfast or have Fish Taco at lunch at the beachcombers, the beachfront restaurant.
  • Spend a day at Balboa Island. Take the Ferry to Balboa Island. Wonder around, enjoy the scenery and don’t forget to have a chocolate covered banana at Dad’s.
  • Walk on Balboa Pier located at Balboa Peninsula. Have Lunch at The Landing Restaurant ; they have a great water front dining balcony.
  • At night, try one of those Bars:
  • Make a detour and go to Laguna Beach. The great beach and the small old town full of cafes, restaurants and bars make it one of the best places to celebrate special occasions.
  • Stop by Long Beach. The Main Street, with it cafes and small stores, mixes shopping and relaxing.
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Fishing Time at the Pier
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What a nice sunset
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THE Beach