My 2015 in Review!

I can never seem to plant my feet in one place for too long! The travel bug has bit me good, and I’m always itching to explore somewhere new! As the new year approaches and big changes are coming for me in 2016, I want to take a look back on my favorite adventures from 2015. What are your favorite trips from this year?

THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER

As a millennial, I grew up with Harry Potter and the world of Hogwarts still feels like a home away from home for me every time I reread the books or rewatch the movies. So visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter has been on my bucket list for many years and my best friend and I finally made it there this summer! It was everything and more I wanted it to be! Was the butterbeer delicious? YES! Did I have more than one? ABSOLUTELY! Did I buy way too much merchandise? OF COURSE. Also I thought the Escape from Gringotts ride was the first time an amusement park really embraced 3-D and utilized it to its most awesome potential! The ride is an actual roller coaster (not a simulated one) but you are surrounded by 3-D screens projecting changing scenery and it was epic!! We also found it hilarious that we sought refuge from the Orlando heat in Knockturn Alley of all places because it was out of the sun. haha! Perhaps I am more Slytherin than Gryffindor!

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SAN FRANCISCO

My favorite vacation this year was my trip to San Francisco with my besties from college. We had a whirlwind of a long weekend in SF that included a side trip to Yosemite! We walked everywhere, ate amazing food, hiked in the mountains and with huge redwoods, and enjoyed a baseball game! When you travel with friends who love to meet new people and places as much as you do it will always be a great time and with the backdrop of the beautiful Northern California this trip turned into one of my all time favorite vacations!

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CATALINA ISLAND

A free ferry ride to Catalina and two hours of ziplining on my birthday made for an amazing day! I’m blessed to have good friends who wanted to spend the day with me in the quaint town of Avalon on Catalina Island! We were treated to gorgeous views of the island and Pacific Ocean while we ziplined and then stuffed our faces with delicious seafood and of course ice cream for dessert! This is a birthday I will never forget!

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Kayla Ziplining

YOSEMITE ROUND TWO

Because I loved Yosemite so much the first time I went I had to go back as soon as possible! And boy am I glad I did because I was treated to gorgeous scenes on my winter trip to Yosemite National Park! I mean not to toot my own whistle but the below photo from Yosemite is amazing!! I am still in awe we stumbled upon this gorgeous scene! Both my summer and winter experiences were great and I’m so happy I’ve seen the park in varying seasons! Now I can’t wait to go in the Autumn and see all the varying Fall colors!

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I have some exciting news to share soon about my 2016 that will probably blow 2015 out of the water, save for I don’t fall flat on my face lol! Stay tuned for my upcoming adventures!! Happy New Year!

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Stepping Back in Time!

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A great tip I’ve learned during my travels is always talk about your travel plans with others because you never know what information that person may share. For instance, I was talking with a former coworker over a lunch catch-up on my plans for going to Santa Barbara for the weekend and she told me I had to go to Cold Spring Tavern for their amazing chili. After our lunch I Googled the restaurant and was immediately sold on visiting. I might not have ever known about Cold Spring Tavern if not for my lunch date! It’s such a unique and cool place that it gets its very own blog post!

[I’ve written about Santa Barbara before so feel free to check out that post here!]

Cold Spring Tavern might be as close as one can get to traveling back in time to the Old West in California! I get the same feeling when I visit Death Valley that time has frozen here to allow us a peek into the harsh and often romanticized life of the Old West. The Tavern was established in in 1865 as a stagecoach rest stop where travelers could rest their horses and themselves while enjoying a warm meal. The need for a way station began after the new turnpike over the San Marcos Pass was constructed in the 1860s to make transporting easier through the Santa Ynez Mountains. The pass became a vital route connecting Santa Barbara with the rural areas in the mountains, and Cold Spring Tavern was a significant staple on that road and continues to comfort travelers today!

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NorCal in One Awesome Weekend!

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It wouldn’t be a Kayla trip without cramming in as many activities as possible in a short time frame. I’ll sleep when I’m dead! Seize the day! You only live once! These cliched phrases are my mottoes when I travel. I never know when I’ll be back to a certain place so I want to see as much of it as possible while I’m there. And my recent trip to San Francisco was no exception to my rule.

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Catalina Parte Dos

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Go to Catalina on your birthday. Seriously. It’s like a mecca for birthdays! This year I spent my birthday on Catalina Island and it was probably one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had, and not just because of all the free services and gifts! Almost exactly four years ago I visited the charming city of Avalon on Santa Catalina Island (or just Catalina for short), which is part of the Channel Islands of California, and now I’m back for some birthday celebrating!

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Southwest Road Trip, Part 3: A Day at the Races

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This day was spent at the racetrack! Albeit the slowest race on Earth, but it was a day at the races nonetheless! Alright, I’ll stop speaking in vague terms lol. The sailing, or moving, stones at the Racetrack in Death Valley National Park have long been a mystery for both scientists and interested parties since their discovery nearly a century ago. I myself have been intrigued since I saw a program on the History Channel when I was a kid and finally got to check this sight off my bucket list! This is actually my second time at Death Valley National Park in the past year. And there is still so much to see and do I can’t wait to go back a third time. When I was in Death Valley a year ago I was not able to visit the Racetrack. But this trip I properly planned for the grueling drive to the Racetrack and it’s truly a one in a lifetime trip that was a childhood dream come true for me!

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Southwest Road Trip, Part 2: Playing the Slots

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I never used to consider myself a fan of road trips. But now they are my favorite way to travel. There’s just something so liberating about being on the open road and taking in the scenery. Road trips offer chances to stumble upon off-the-beaten-path sites, unplanned adventures, and unique discoveries. Often there are hiccups with road trips like “are we going to run out of gas?”, “are we going to starve before the next restaurant?”, “where are other humans?” or  just simple “where are we?” (especially when you have no cell service or GPS.) But that’s what makes road trips so exhilarating! They can be spontaneous, mysterious and eye opening and a welcomed opportunity to see life in between the big cities.

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Southwest Road Trip, Part 1: Miraculous Works of God

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The day before Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day of the year. It’s the worst. I have flown on that day for the past few years and know the horror first hand. So this year I flew on the day of Thanksgiving, and you know what? It was glorious! I had an entire row to myself on the airplane. That hasn’t happened since at least 1998. And I didn’t even care that I am a grown woman in my mid-twenties, I laid down across the entire row and, for once, actually fell asleep during my flight. That is definitely going on my list of favorite travel moments from 2014. Don’t you laugh or roll your eyes at me! Seriously a whole row to yourself is the best! Though I might be waiting another decade for it to happen again…or maybe by then I can just afford first class. #lifegoals

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Classic California

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If you google (that is an official dictionary word now, sorry Yahoo and Bing) “best road trips”, you will be hard pressed to find a list that does not include the California Coast. The Pacific Coast Highway (aka Highway 1, aka the PCH) is a must for everyone’s bucket list and a once-in-a-lifetime trip! Literally it is probably a once-in-a-lifetime trip because the scenery might be some of the most breathtaking and gorgeous landscapes I will ever see, but the winding PCH is a slow, car-sick inducing, sometimes scary drive. But let’s not focus on the ONE negative here otherwise I would be doing a crappy job of convincing you all to take this amazing road trip. I mean you can’t get to the incredible Machu Picchu without traveling on rough roads or hiking strenuous trails to reach that far off the beaten path site!

I have actually driven the PCH twice in my life now, so it’s been more than once-in-a-lifetime for me! [I’m an over-achiever like that.] The first time was on my drive to San Francisco in 2011. The California Coast is truly an exhilarating drive that offers constant breathtaking views. Make sure your camera has lots of memory space for all the gorgeous vistas! My friend Hillary (and co-host of my other travel blog) and I wanted to explore central coastal California, specifically Big Sur, and we set out for a four day adventure we titled our “Classic California Road Trip”!

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California’s Highway 1

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Off the Paved Path

If you had asked me six years ago if I enjoyed hiking I probably would’ve given you a “are you serious?” look. Honestly I’m not even sure I went on a legitimate hike until my first true camping vacation in the great outdoors in the summer of 2008. I spent six days rafting down the Green River and Colorado River in Cataract Canyon and experienced my first challenging 1200 foot hike up to the Dollhouse. That hike was an incredible experience, full of rookie mistakes such as awful blisters and not bringing enough water, but I think it was a subtle turning point in my life where I connected more with nature. From then on I visited several Missouri State Parks and walked/hiked to some great sites, and my interest in hiking has only risen since my move to the beautiful state of California.

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From mountains to desert!

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Snowboarding + a ghost town + Vegas in one vacation…why not! I am a mulit-tasker and overachiever, so when I find myself mere hours away from various adventures I want to explore them all!

Hillary flew in from Texas to join in on this hodge-podge trip, and we accomplished it all in a four day time frame. Life is short and unexpected so I want to seize every opportunity when I can! At least that is my motto for now. 🙂

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