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Farewell. Kind of. For now.

In the land of the internet, four years is an eternity. Many blogs come and go pretty quickly, so when I realized last August that I’d surpassed Wandering Off’s fourth birthday, I was pleased.

Since 2009, I have written over 400 posts and shared 700-800 photos. That’s a fair amount of information, not to mention an investment of time, thought, and – yes, on a couple of occasions – tears.

Although I still love to travel and write, I’ve decided that this blog has run its course.

My daughter is getting older. She has after-school activities, sports, and homework. I have embarked on a freelance writing career and do some volunteer work here and there. Like most parents, I struggle to find enough time to do everything that needs to be done. Something had to give, and I decided that “something” would be the blog.

This is certainly not the end of my traveling-and-writing days. In fact, I have already started another (very simple) website, which includes a portfolio of my work and occasional blog posts. And of course, you can still find me sharing tidbits from our family’s travels on Twitter, Facebook, and Google +.

Although I won’t be writing new posts on Wandering Off, the blog will continue to live here at wanderingoff.com. There is just too much information here to delete it all on a whim. I hope that it will continue to be a resource for those wanting to travel with their kids.

Thank you so much for reading, commenting, and sharing. I truly do appreciate it.

Happy trails!

Kid-Friendly Activities in Las Vegas, PART 2

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kid-friendly Las Vegas

One of the most-visited posts on this blog is my list of kid-friendly activities in Las Vegas. I’ve lived in Las Vegas long enough to have some new activities to add, so here it is: Kid-Friendly Vegas Activities, Part 2. Everybody loves a good sequel, right?

Henderson Bird Preserve: I’ll admit it. This place wasn’t really for us. But if you visit when the weather is nice, or if you are an avid bird-watcher, this might be an adventure you and your family will enjoy.

Natural History Museum: It isn’t exactly the Smithsonian, but that’s ok! This museum features several automated, gigantic dinosaurs, an exhibit on ancient Egypt, and much more. My daughter loved our visit.

Neon Museum: This one is best for older kids, since you can only visit the museum as part of a guided tour. The Neon Museum features many of the historic neon signs that once decorated the streets of Las Vegas. You might want to consider booking your tickets ahead of time for this attraction.

National Atomic Testing Museum: Like the Neon Museum, this activity is best-suited for older kids and teens. The museum focuses on the atomic testing that occurred in Nevada. For an extra fee, you can visit the Area 51 exhibit while you’re there.

Flamingo Habitat: Walk through this outdoor garden to see flamingos and other birds. It’s free and is located right on the Strip on the grounds of the Flamingo Hotel and Casino.

So, get out there and continue exploring beautiful Las Vegas! But before you go, check out my first list of kid-friendly Vegas activities. Or, if you’re in the mood to venture further afield, you can read my Vegas day trip ideas. Happy trails!

The Honolulu zoo…because sometimes you need a break from the beach

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Excited to visit the Honolulu Zoo

After spending most of our time on Kauai building sandcastles at the beach and swimming at the resort pool, we were ready to try something a little different after we took the short flight to Honolulu. Don’t get me wrong: sipping an ice-cold tropical beverage in the sun is nothing to complain about. However, a chance to visit a real zoo, since we don’t have one here in Las Vegas, was a welcome opportunity.

The Honolulu Zoo couldn’t be located in a more convenient spot. Located in the heart of downtown, across the street from Waikiki Beach, there’s a decent chance the zoo will be within walking distance of your hotel. Although it was a hot and humid day when we visited in late June, the zoo offers some shade in the form of lush vegetation. (That said, be sure to bring your sunscreen and a hat.)

Kids will be thrilled to learn that most of their favorite animals are represented at the Honolulu Zoo, including giraffes, zebras, elephants, colorful birds, monkeys, orangutans, and huge tortoises. My daughter particularly liked seeing the zebras. We were also fortunate to be there while the giraffes were being fed by the zoo staff members.

Be sure to keep an eye out for the wandering peacocks that roam the zoo. At one point a peacock took flight much to the delight of several kids standing nearby. (Heck, I’m an adult, and I thought it was cool. I don’t think I had ever seen one fly before!)

If you’re ready for a break from the beach (as crazy as that might sound), consider a visit to the Honolulu Zoo, especially if your family lives in a zoo-less town.

Happy trails!

Snapshot of a Chicago weekend: Pearl Jam at Wrigley Field

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chicago skyline

I first went to Chicago many years ago as a senior in high school with my Art History class. In some ways, that trip—and that class as a whole—helped set the course my life would take. I fell in love with art thanks to an inspiring teacher who made every moment, from ancient sculpture all the way up to contemporary painting, seem exciting. I would go on to major in Art History in college and earn my Master’s degree in the field after deciding there was no other subject I could bear to study.

During that school trip, we were only in Chicago for a weekend, but that one weekend was packed. We visited the Art Institute of Chicago where I saw Seurat’s famous scene at the park. At the Museum of Contemporary Art, I gained even more appreciation for Cindy Sherman, and during the architectural walking tour I marveled that such beautiful examples of American design were located in the Midwest.

I fell in love with Chicago, art, and travel that weekend.

Little did I know that my future husband would appreciate Chicago too. As a former resident and diehard Cubs fan, he is the one who truly introduced me to the city. Sure, I’d been there before on the high school trip, but it wasn’t until I went with my husband that I attended a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, had a beer at a locally owned bar in Wrigleyville, and became familiar with the El. I remember my first game at historic Wrigley, watching the numbers change on the vintage scoreboard. It is a unique place and a shrine to baseball.

Years have passed and my love for Chicago is still strong, so it was a thrill to see one of our favorite bands, Pearl Jam, play at the historic ballpark recently. The show was outstanding. Eddie Vedder sounded (and looked) amazing. Sure, we had to endure a three hour rain delay, but now that I look back at that night, the delay seems insignificant compared to the music.

I’m participating in Instagram Travel Thursday. Stop by and check it out to see what other travelers have been up to this week. Also, if you’d like to follow me on Instagram, I’m wandering_off.

Kauai food: best bets with kids

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There’s no question about it: the food on Kauai is expensive, at least compared to the mainland. However, it is also (at least in our experience) consistently good.

Here are three places we tried during our recent trip to Kauai:

The Beach House: The food here was so delicious we tried it twice! Fresh seafood and salads made from local ingredients plus a spectacular view of the ocean make this restaurant a winner in our eyes. The first time we ate here, I ordered the fish and chips. Not exactly a bold choice, but it was probably the best fish and chips I’d ever eaten. On our return visit, I ordered the spinach salad, which included candied macadamia nuts and papaya dressing.

We went for lunch on both visits rather than dinner. This is a great trick for trying nicer restaurants with kids, since lunchtime is usually less formal.

Looking out from The Beach House

Merriman’s Downstairs Cafe: Located in the Shops at Kukuiula, Merriman’s Downstairs Cafe is more casual than its similarly-named upstairs counterpart. This is a perfect spot for dinner after a long day at the beach. Unique pizza options include the prosciutto, melon, and organic arugula wheat crust pizza and the 100% vegan Kauai pizza. Merriman’s offers a kids menu, and our server was very friendly. We were able to sit in a booth that had a window looking into the kitchen. I think my daughter enjoyed watching the action while we waited for our food. What more could you ask for?

Uncle’s Shave Ice and Smoothies: Shave ice is a Hawaiian staple. But have you ever heard of shave snow? Uncle’s is the place to go for this unique treat, which is similar to its colorful, icy cousin but includes milk. Located in the Shops at Kukuiula near Merriman’s, this is a great stop after a day in the sun at Poipu Beach.

Shave snow at Uncle's

For more on our trip to Kauai, check out my posts Shipwrecks Beach and Re-Entering the Real World and Driving to Waimea Canyon.

A Week in the Life: Instagram Travel

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Late June and early July have been a whirlwind. A picture is worth a thousand words, and my most recent Instagram photos tell the story of what I’ve been up to lately.

As readers of this blog already know, I recently returned from a trip to Kauai and Oahu. I was mesmerized by all of the beautiful flowers on Kauai.

Flower in Kauai

Flower in Kauai

I also created my first Instagram video, showing the view from our hotel room in Honolulu (we stayed at the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort).

Once we returned home to Las Vegas, we were met with insanely high temperatures. We’re talking highs in the 110s. It was quite a change from the weather in Hawaii, but we didn’t let that stop us from enjoying some July 4th fireworks.

July 4th, 2013

Despite the fact that I’d just returned from a vacation and had plenty of work to keep me busy at home, I headed to Kingman, Arizona over the holiday weekend to check out some Route 66 sites.

Roadside adventures in Kingman, AZ

For a look at Instagram photos from other travelers, stop by Skimbaco Lifestyle for Instagram Travel Thursday. You can find me on Instagram at wandering_off.

Driving to Waimea Canyon

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During our visit to Kauai, we spent a significant amount of time exploring local beaches and swimming at the hotel pool. However, we did have a few adventures on dry land during our trip.

Waimea Canyon, Kauai

Our last adventure, right before we drove to the airport, was a visit to Waimea Canyon, often called the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Having recently visited the real Grand Canyon not too long ago, we were curious to see Waimea Canyon before we left Kauai.

Waimea Canyon

Although not as big as its mainland cousin, Waimea Canyon is beautiful. It’s much greener than the desert-dwelling Grand Canyon.

The drive to Waimea Canyon involves lots of steep inclines and sharp turns. Our six-year-old daughter complained that she didn’t feel well, and I too felt a little queasy as we made our way from sea level to 3500 feet. Luckily, the drive down seemed easier.

road to Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon, Kauai

the road down from Waimea Canyon

I recommend a stop at Waimea Canyon for those travelling to Kauai. However, if beach time is what you’re looking for, be sure to check out beautiful Shipwrecks Beach.

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