Coming home after a vacation is such a wonderful feeling! You are back in a familiar place and feel right at home, but then you begin to think about where you will travel to next. You have been a tourist in many unfamiliar places before, but have you ever thought about being a tourist in your own town? Many people have lived in our hometowns their entire lives, so we often take the amazing spots in our hometowns for granted. At Brentwood Travel, we are proud to call St. Louis, Missouri, our home! No matter if you were born and raised or have never been, here are the places you MUST VISIT when you're in STL!
Staff Spotlight: Alaskan Cruise
In May of this year, Travel Consultant Christine Hakenjos sailed to Alaska on Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of The Seas. She, along with her fiancé and 14 of his family members, departed out of Seattle for an Alaskan Cruise they would never forget! Keep reading for her experiences in Alaska and her thoughts on the ship itself.
We boarded the ship on Friday, May 24th after spending the evening prior in Seattle. We arrived at the Cruise Terminal and boarded Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas. The check in at the terminal was a breeze! We had completed our check in process before we even arrived in Seattle. I highly recommend doing this!
Our itinerary was absolutely wonderful! Although I will say, after this cruise I DEFINITELY want to see more of Alaska! This 7-night cruise featured stops to Juneau, Skagway and Victoria, British Columbia. We also had two days out at sea and one day cruising through Alaska’s Inside Passage as well as one day cruising through Endicott Arm & Dawes Glacier.
I will be honest, I was a bit bummed at first that we were only going to have 3 days in port, but after experiencing the views from our balcony stateroom during our days cruising, I totally changed my mind! I swear we could have sat out on that balcony for HOURS.
With a group of 16, it was hard for us all to decide on the same shore excursions so some of us did different things while in port. All our excursions & tours were booked through a company called Shore Trips because we were wanting smaller group excursions. Everyone LOVED their shore excursions! We all thought our tour guides were very knowledgeable and entertaining. The tours were very well done and worth every penny!
On our 4th day of the cruise, we arrived in the small town of Juneau, Alaska. The town was absolutely adorable and has a lot to see and do just within walking distance of the pier.
The tour that 8 other members of our group and I went on was the “Whale Watching and Mendenhall Glacier Combo Tour.” First, we were taken to Mendenhall Glacier where we were given an hour and half to do what we wanted. We decided to take the mile hike to the foot of Nugget Falls. The views from this point were just stunning! I have never seen a waterfall that big before. The waters of Mendenhall Lake were a mixture of blues and from where we were standing, we could actually see where the fresh water from the lake met the glacier’s run-off. This change in colors was beautiful to see! The glacier itself was unbelievable. I had seen many photos of it from all the research I had been doing prior to the trip but seeing it in person was a whole new perspective.
After our visit to Mendenhall Glacier, we were driven to Auke Bay where we boarded our boat and met our very knowledgeable captain and marine biologist tour guides. They were both very insightful and entertaining. They lead us directly to whales, sea lions, harbor seals, bald eagles, and other wildlife while teaching us all about life in Alaska and the habits and lives of these beautiful mammals.
Even though we had chances to see whales and dolphins from our ship, seeing them up close and personal like this was a whole other experience! We were all SO glad we took part in this tour!
Two members of our group did the “Mendenhall Lake Canoe Adventure.” They paddled their way across beautiful Mendenhall Lake leading them to the face of the living Mendenhall Glacier.
Three other members of our group decided on the “Helicopter and Dog Sled Tour” in Juneau. Their tour began with a 20-minute helicopter ride through glacier-carved mountains to the top of Herbert Glacier where they found about 80 huskies waiting to greet them. The mushers (tour guides/dog sled leaders) then took them on a 2-mile look through the mountains, even letting them drive the sleds!
On May 27, we were able to board our ship: Holland America’s Westerdam. We spent the afternoon exploring the ship, and when it was time to depart Vancouver, we made our way to the top deck for the Bon Voyage party. The scenery was beautiful as we sailed out of the port and began our journey North to Alaska!
Our first full day on the ship was a day at sea. We decided to hangout on the top deck and enjoy the sunny weather while keeping an eye out for whales and dolphins. That evening we cruised through the inside passage, and the crew opened up the bow of the ship so we could all get a great view as we sailed forward! We then went to dinner in the main dining room and got a table next to a window to continue enjoying the passing scenery.
The first port we visited was Ketchikan, where we booked an excursion to go sea kayaking. Ketchikan is known for being the rainiest city in Alaska, and even though there was a light rain falling when we started our tour, the guides were prepared with rain gear that kept us completely dry as we paddled through the peaceful coves! After our kayaking adventure, we walked through the famous Creek Street. The sun came out and we had perfect weather as we did some shopping and sampled local beers. We then returned to the ship and spotted lots of eagles as we sailed on to our next port!
Our next stop was Juneau, Alaska’s capitol city. We started or day by visiting the famous Mendenhall Glacier. We took a leisurely hike down to the lake for a closer view of the glacier and Nugget Falls.
Our next adventure in Juneau was an excursion that I had been looking forward to for months. We had decided to splurge and book a helicopter tour to a dogsled camp on top of a glacier, and it was definitely worth it! The helicopter ride took about 15 minutes each way, and the views from the sky were stunning. When we landed at the dogsled camp, the workers there gave us an insight to their way of life and let us meet some of their sled dogs. (As an animal lover, I was in heaven!) They hooked up a sled and we took off on a ride around the snow-covered glacier. I was happy to see how much the dogs loved running through the snow, and we could see that they were well taken care of by their handlers. This tour was very well done and was a highlight of the trip!
Our next port was Skagway, which is known for the White Pass and Yukon Railroad. We had planned to take the famous train excursion, but there was a landslide the night before and the railroad was closed for repairs. Instead, we took a bus tour up the Klondike Highway (which runs parallel to the train route) and had a great time! Our local driver made multiple stops for us to get out and take pictures of the beautiful scenery, and we spotted a family of bears hanging out right next to the highway.
We spent the rest of the day hiking a local trail, sampling the local breweries, and walking around the historic town before heading back to the ship.
Another highlight of our cruise was sailing through Glacier Bay National Park. The weather was perfect as we sat out on the top deck and watched the glaciers calving into the water below. The captain was able to slowly rotate the ship to make sure that everyone got a great view. Holland America had invited park rangers onboard to talk about the surrounding area, and they were available to help spot wildlife and answer any questions.
When we arrived in Seward, we were sad to leave the ship, but excited to head up to Denali! We boarded a motor coach and began the drive North. We were able to stop at Potter Marsh for some free time and wildlife watching, and then we continued our drive. As we approached the park, our driver stopped at a scenic viewing point and we got our first look at the massive Denali Mountain! We then arrived at the impressive McKinley Chalet, which would be our home for the next 3 nights.
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On our first morning in Denali, we took the Tundra Wilderness Tour into the National Park. This tour took us far into the park with a guide that kept us well informed, and we were able to see lots of bears, moose, caribou, and Dall sheep. The tour took us to an incredible viewing point where we were lucky enough to see Denali’s mountain peak for a second time! That evening, we enjoyed the campfire and live music at the chalet after a wonderful meal at a local restaurant.
Because we booked a Triple Denali tour, we had another day in the park to do whatever we wanted! We decided to go whitewater rafting, and even though the water was freezing, our wetsuits kept us warm and dry. Our experienced guide told us fun stories about his life in Alaska and kept us safe as we paddled through the rapids. After our exciting rafting tour, we took a relaxing hike that followed a river and led us to a scenic mountainside with a whole family of caribou.
After our adventure in Denali, we boarded the McKinley Explorer for our scenic train ride back to Anchorage. The dome windows gave us great visibility as we traveled through the mountains. There were lots of food and drink options available onboard and we had a guide that gave us information about the areas we were passing through. This was a fun and comfortable way to make the 8-hour journey!
We had one night in Anchorage, and then our flight home was late the next day. We had lots of fun walking around town, shopping, and trying out more local breweries! I was glad that we had free time to explore this unique town before heading back to reality.
Overall, this was an amazing vacation! Holland America did a fantastic job of helping us experience Alaska by land and sea. The transition from the ship to Denali was seamless and very well organized. Each employee we met was so kind and helpful, and I would highly recommend Holland America for anyone who wants to visit Alaska. Many people consider this a once-in-a-lifetime trip, but we enjoyed it so much that I know I’ll be back again someday!
Contact Maggie at 314-439-5700 ext. 120 or send her an email to begin planning your Alaska adventure.
Just because you're pregnant this doesn't mean you have to sit at home for the next 9 months waiting for your child to be born. Now is a great time for you to get out there and travel because once that baby comes, traveling will be put on hold for a while (still trying to figure out how I'm going to cope with this reality!). With that being said, there are some challenges and joys while traveling that I experienced first-hand and here are some tips that I put together to help you as you make your travel arrangements.
#1 - Get Maternity Leggings ASAP
Whether you choose to fly, drive, walk, run, or lay down you will want to be comfortable at all times, or as much as your growing baby will allow you. The best possible thing to wear is maternity leggings, and I bought about five pairs from Motherhood Maternity before starting my travels. Depending on the color and design they cost anywhere from $15 - $20 a piece (gotta love the cost of maternity clothes!). They have definitely been a lifesaver and I take them everywhere!
#2 - Combat Swollen Feet
If your feet don't swell while you travel then consider yourself VERY lucky. This is probably the most difficult thing I've had to deal with while traveling. If you're in a car or plane for long hours without moving those little piggies just get bigger and bigger and it can become extremely uncomfortable. Try elevating your feet as much as possible and be sure to get a pair of compression socks (aka the most attractive things you will ever wear). I purchased mine at Walgreens for about $7. If your spouse or a very considerate friend is traveling with you and they are willing to rub your feet, definitely take advantage of that as well!
#3 - Ask for Non-Alcoholic Equivalent Drinks
One of my favorite things about traveling is tasting that area's local craft beers and cocktails. In the pregnancy world, you're often left to try that region's finest Coca-Cola or aqua products instead. However, any time I found myself at a brewery or restaurant I always asked if they had any NA (non-alchoholic) beers/root beers or if they could make a virgin Piña Coloda or Strawberry Daiquiri. Just because you're pregnant that doesn't mean you can't still have something similar to the alcohol you're used to drinking. It also helps to make you not feel so left out when you're with a group of people who get to enjoy the real thing.
#4 - Take Your Maternity Pillow
First off, if you don't have a maternity pillow go out and get one now! Unfortunately they are not cheap though, I got mine for $100 at Destination Maternity but it was $100 well spent. Sleep is so important during pregnancy so why sacrifice your quality of sleep while traveling just because it's a bulky item? Obviously if you're flying this probably isn't the most user-friendly carry-on item, but on a road trip, cram that sucker in the trunk and get a good night's sleep when you check in to your hotel. You, and your growing belly, will thank you for it.
#5 - Go on a Babymoon
Babymoon? What's that? Essentially it's your last vacation before the baby is born. This is your time to be with your spouse or partner while traveling before you have to lug around Pack n Play's, strollers and diaper bags. Take the time to reflect on this exciting time in your life as a couple and enjoy the wonders of traveling before you have a new travel partner with you. My husband and I went to Gulf Shores to relax on the beach for a few days and I would highly recommend it. Pregnancy is exhausting at all hours of the day, so getting to just sit on the beach and float in the water to relieve belly weight and back pain was the perfect thing.
#6 - Talk With Your Doctor
One final piece of advice, always talk with your doctor before making your travel arrangements. Depending on how your pregnancy has been going, they may give you a cut off at how many weeks you're allowed to travel, how far you can travel, or they may give you specific restrictions. For example, my doctor has advised me not to swim at Lake of the Ozarks. Although I've swam in this lake my entire life, it is filled with bacteria that can be dangerous to the baby, so until I give birth I just have to hang out on the dock and stare at the water. I have been told other lakes, pools and the ocean are safe to swim in, however had I not said anything to my doctor I never would've realized I could've put my baby at risk.
Your consultant at Brentwood Travel will be up to date on all of the latest regulations and amenities the airlines, tour operators, hotels and cruise lines may have for pregnant women, plus the areas that could be infected with Zika. No need to go in on your own without being fully informed!
To book your Babymoon, contact the Brentwood Travel team today at
314-439-5700 or send us an email!
July 21 -The Journey Begins
For the first part of our journey, we flew on Alaska Air to Vancouver. At the airport we got Canadian currency and flagged a cab to our hotel, the Radisson Park Inn on Broadway. Nice place. That evening we walked to Granville Island and enjoyed strolling. The hills going down to the water there like San Fran. Steep! We liked Granville and had fish and chips at a local place called Tony’s Oyster and Seafood. The area on our walk was right by the water and very nice.
We were both very excited to board Holland America’s Westerdam. All the luggage & transfer to get on board and thru customs went well. It was really exciting getting to our state room on the ship. The Bon Voyage from Vancouver was grand. We stood on the top deck and next to us were two couples. We began to chat and the ladies said they were from St. Louis!
Emilie and I dined that night the first night in the main dining room of the ship, and I had shrimp Diablo. She had apple pie and I had crème Brulee’. After dinner we enjoyed the Main Stage entertainment on the ship. When we came back to our room, we watched a beautiful sunset. As we sailed out, everything seemed so quiet and tranquil. Our first experience on a ship. NICE!
July 23 – A Day at Sea
After a good night’s sleep, we woke up for this full day at sea. Had eggs Benedict in the main dining room and enjoyed meeting a wonderful couple from Tasmania! There was a tour group of around 25 folks from Australia. We loved this couple and ran into them throughout our sea/land journey all the way to Anchorage. We walked through the shops and a lovely art gallery. Had lunch with a couple from Toronto. There were afternoon lectures on the upcoming ports of call and then a 5:00 happy hour called “Sip & Savor”. Always looking for a cheap glass of wine, I personally enjoyed this event. The chief sommelier offers a tasting of the appetizer of the day and a glass of his choice red/white for five bucks. Appetizer – incredible! Wine – very, very good.
We ate in the main dining room and this is when we met Ann & Dennis from Rhode Island. I had escargot as an appetizer and they were incredible! I savored every bite! We enjoyed getting to know Ann & Dennis and a great meal. After the show we hit the main stage show which featured Jim Short, the Australian humorist.. Good show! As we turned in, we knew that we’d gain an extra hour of sleep as we cruised onward in the Inland Passage to our first port.
Join Brentwood Travel and Holland America on Wednesday, September 12 for On Stage Alaska. This exciting performance is the perfect way to begin planning your own Great Land adventure.
Click here to learn more!
July 24 – Ketchikan, Alaska
It was neat to wake up, look out our veranda and see that we were docked! We came into port at 7AM. Had a nice breakfast and then had an hour to wander around downtown and look at a few shops. Ketchikan is the salmon capitol of the state and they also get lots of rain. They get an average of 180” of rain a season!
We enjoyed wonderful weather our entire trip. It never went over 74 degrees and we walked around Ketchikan in shirt sleeves. After our walk we got the shuttle to take us to our first excursion which was a one hour walk in the rain forest & a trip to the raptor center. Our guide in the rain forest was great!
After we got back to the city we had time to walk historic Creek Street and look inside the shops. We had a late lunch back on the ship with a lovely French couple from Montreal and then sat on the deck in the sun. It was 70 and an incredible day!
I enjoyed Sip ‘n Savor, and Dennis and Ann asked us to join them for dinner. I had crab legs for dinner and after dinner we saw the song & dance troupe again, on the Main Stage. After that we went to the Lincoln Center State to listen to the string quintet play a while. Turned in for sleep after a GREAT day.
July 25 – Juneau, Alaska
Right after breakfast I went to the Crow’s Nest and watched the ship dock. It was incredible to see how the captain came slowly into the dock and literally turned the ship around and had it bumped exactly parallel up to the dock! Our excursion did not leave until 2:00 so we had time to investigate Juneau. We walked for 2 hours and went into the state office building, walked by shops and spent a little time inside the state capitol. We got a great photo outside the capitol of William H. Seward, the guy who got Alaska from the Russians for $7,000,000. Since Emilie and I met 49 years ago in Seward, Nebraska, we enjoyed seeing the man for whom the Alaska and Nebraska sister cities is named.
We had lunch back on the ship and had time to sit on our veranda before our tour. Weather was perfect and 70 degrees! Our 2nd planned port excursion was a trip to Mendenhall Glacier and then a four hour whale watching trip. We only had about an hour at the glacier, but enjoyed seeing it, had a bear sighting and spent some time in the Park Service Visitor Center there.
Retiring to the ship, I had salmon for supper and then we stood on the deck before retiring. Great day! They say Alaska has 50,000 eagles and that 30,000 of them live in Juneau. We saw a number of eagles on our tour and near the ship. They say they are so plentiful in Juneau that the locals call them “crows”.
July 26 – Skagway
Cruising up the Inland Passage is so peaceful. The water is like a lake. We got right off the ship and hopped right onto a van that carried us out of the city and up a winding highway. We ended up in Frasier, British Columbia in Canada which was the 2nd time we needed our passports. Process was simple. Our guide stayed with us all the way and we saw lots of interesting terrain as we came back over the Dead Horse Pass and wound our way back toward Skagway.
About 5 miles north of town, we were dropped off the train with 15 other folks and three guides. The guides were young and friendly and two were EMT trained. The path into the Denver valley was very rugged with lots of roots and rocks. We had to go slow and watch all the time to avoid stumbling. Em & I ended up at the end of the group and before long the rest of our group was out of sight far ahead of us. One of the guides stayed back with us and walked with us; we really appreciated this young man and it felt like we had a personal guide as we walked at our pace.
That night at dinner I had seared kingfish with risotto and it was great. On the Main Stage we saw an incredible illusionist; he put on a phenomenal show! I’d seen this man on TV and he did some super tricks! My favorite was when he makes it snow like crazy on stage.
July 27 – Glacier Bay
This had to be one of the highlights of the cruise! Sailing into the area of the National Park, the water is like a mirror. The scenery is lovely. Tranquility. We had another picture perfect day for weather and just kept saying, “Wow!” The captain got us to four glaciers and at one of them he simply eased up near it, stopped parallel to it, and let the boat sit. For an hour we listened for the cracks and pops and then got our cameras ready. We saw the glacier calving four times and got great photos. The sound of this is really neat! Early that day, we’d picked up about 6 park rangers. They were on board, making presentations, answering questions and talking about what we were seeing. Before the captain turned the ship around 180, we literally sat on our veranda and watched all this happen.
New friends, Dennis and Ann invited us to their room for a glass of wine, and then we dined together in the main dining room. I just had to do it: steak and lobster! I thought the steak was quite good. After dinner we went to the Lincoln Center Stage where a five person string and piano ensemble played some great music.
July 28 – Day at Sea
We had no trouble with seasickness. Traveling thus far was smooth, you had to look out a window to tell we were moving. This was the day I had worried about…crossing the larger Bay of Alaska. This was the ONLY day we had rain and it really didn’t matter much. It was partly sunny most of the afternoon, 55 degrees and mostly calm sea. We stayed busy on the ship and had no motion problems.
July 29 – Disembark Ship in Seward, Alaska & Head North
We woke up early to have breakfast and to prepare to disembark. After breakfast it was fun standing on our veranda and watching the dock crews begin to unload all the luggage from the ship. They have this down to a science!
Our first stop was just south of Anchorage where we walked a bit at the Potter’s Marsh area…a large bird sanctuary. Having passed through Anchorage, we stopped for lunch at a very nice place in Wasilla. I thought that was some little town, but it is a huge bedroom community for Anchorage. On the way up to Denali, we had one more stop at an Iditarod race crossing. There was a small museum and gift shop, and one musher had his team there. Emilie was quite happy to hold one of the puppies.
July 30 – Day in the Denali National Park
We had a wonderful night’s sleep and awoke to another gorgeous morning. It was 54 degrees. Our wonderful travel agent Stacey Hoehne encouraged us to purchase a meal package at Denali. We did that and had a great dinner last night. Breakfast this morning was super! Emilie said it was the best biscuit she’d ever had; also loved the jam. With her eggs she ordered ham and the slab of ham was an inch thick! It has a huge piece, far more than she could eat. I had a splendid pecan waffle with delightful cinnamon vanilla syrup.
They say only about 30% of the tourists get to see Mt. Denali ‘cause of the clouds. It’d say we say the bottom 2/3 of the mountain. We saw one Dall sheep, a bear in the distance with two cubs, a moose with her baby and 14 caribou. Caribou were much more visible and close to the bus when sighted. In fact, when we stopped for a break, two of them walked down a roadway right behind the bathrooms where we were! We got back to the resort late and went straight to bed.
July 31 – Scenic Train from Denali to Anchorage
The train ride was another real highlight of the trip. If Glacier Bay was the high point of the cruise, this ride was the highlight of the land portion of our adventure. Luxury is the best word to describe them! The entire top of the upper seating area is glass to allow viewing. At the front of the car is a full bar. The dining car is beneath the seating area. White table cloths. First class, like on the ship.
There were hours of forested views and lovely lakes, mountains and vistas. We had a great bar tender and an absolutely fantastic guide in our car. She was a 4th grade teacher from Portland. Her ongoing commentary (along with the scenery) made these 8 hours fly by. This young gal was very knowledgeable and had a great sense of humor. She had us laughing almost as often as that humorist on the ship.
To our surprise our Denali meal package included coupons for lunch on the train, dinner that night in Anchorage and breakfast the next morning. Nice surprise, as we thought we’d bought meals only at the resort! Sandwich in that dining car was fun and tasty.
Motor coaches took us from the train station to our hotel in Anchorage, the Westmark, downtown and owned by Holland. Like magic somehow our luggage again made it from our room in Denali to our new room here at the Westmark!
We had dinner in the hotel restaurant. Great service. Food good, but not out of the ordinary. We walked around downtown after supper and ran into Dennis & Ann. We walked about five blocks to a place called Simon & Seafood. We had a night cap and watched evening fall over the bay. The walk back to the hotel was nice, but then we had to say our final good-byes to our lovely, new friends and feel the sun setting on the last day in Alaska.
August 1 – Fly from Anchorage to Seattle
We enjoyed breakfast and there was light rain this morning. A nice motor coach took us to the airport for our 3 ½ hour Alaska Air flight to Seattle. Everything was on time and Meredith and the girls drove us home. Matt spoiled us with a glass of red wine upon our arrival and grilled steaks for us. Tacoma had lovely weather that evening and we sat by their fire pit and enjoyed talking and making s’mores.
August 3 – Home Again. Home Again…
All good things must come to an end and this was the concluding day of our vacation. Great adventure! Many, many memories. We’d taken over 250 photos, so I know we’re going to have a great photo album as well to remember these blessed and fun days! Great to be with family, to make pleasant new friends and to see so much of God’s beautiful creation!
to being planning an amazing Alaska Adventure!
Staff Spotlight: Mount Rushmore
One of the biggest destination's on my grandmother's bucket list has always been to see Mount Rushmore in person, so this year we decided to let her check this off her list (and mine!) and finally make a trip up to South Dakota. I also wanted to see this destination however I was not prepared for how gorgeous the surrounding area would be. I expected it to be similar to the Midwest - flat farmlands with just one random mountain for the monument. As we started the 14-hour drive my perception quickly changed because it was absolutely breathtaking! On our itinerary we visited Badlands National Park, Devils Tower in Wyoming, Spearfish Canyon, Black Hills National Forest and Mount Rushmore.
While making our drive from St. Louis to Wyoming to first see Devils Tower, we did a side detour through Badlands National Park. We noticed signs on the side of the highway for a 30-minute scenic drive that loops back to the highway so we decided, why not? I'm so glad we decided to do this because it was one of the most gorgeous areas I've ever seen. I've never been to the Grand Canyon before, but based on pictures I've seen this seemed like a mini version of it in areas. There were multiple spots that you could pull over for scenic views both high and low, so naturally we went picture crazy.
Once we finished our drive through the National Park we headed up to Wyoming to see the first ever National monument Devils Tower (as seen in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind"). It was such a unique thing to see in person. The surrounding landscapes were large rolling hills with a few small mountains and then all of a sudden there's this tall figure! We took the drive up to the top and then walked around the base of the Tower. Experienced rock climbers are able to climb up to the top but that was a hard pass for me!
On our second day we drove through several areas before making our way to Mount Rushmore. We took the scenic route to Keystone (where Mount Rushmore is located) and we started north and made our way south thru Spearfish Canyon and Black Hills National Forest. Even though it adds about an hour and a half on to your commute it's absolutely worth it! While driving through this area I felt like I was in Colorado with the winding roads, tall pine trees and rapid rivers off to the side of the road. One of the most breathtaking parts was seeing Bridal Veil Falls just right off the side of the road. We pulled over for a quick photo op and to take in its beauty.
When we finally reached the small tourist town of Keystone we decided to go for a unique lunch opportunity instead of just dining in a regular restaurant. Instead we went to Rushmore Tramway Adventures and took a chairlift to Mountaintop Grill for a scenic view of Mount Rushmore! I was terrified to be on the chairlift on the way up and down, but it was totally worth it to have a view of Mount Rushmore for a simple lunch of burgers, fries and sodas.
With a full belly and being very thankful to be on flat land we finally made our way to our final destination - Mount Rushmore! It seemed so surreal to stand at the base and look up and this incredible piece of artwork. I couldn't help but just stare at it and think "wow!". It also was a great feeling to know my grandmother was finally able to check this off her list and to share the moment with my family.
This is a great summer getaway trip for families that I highly recommend. Be sure you don't fly because the drive is half the fun and this trip should be on everyone's bucket list. Head out West and start exploring!
To book your trip to Mount Rushmore, contact Brentwood Travel at 314-439-5700!
Staff Spotlight: Tour of Hawaii
Hawaii has been at the top of my bucket list for years! When I decided to make this trip happen in 2018 I invited a few friends along and made it the ultimate girls trip; Jenn, Rachel, and Abby joined me on this adventure. Hawaii had everything we wanted in a vacation- perfect weather, beaches, hiking, water activities, and city life. The choice of which two islands to visit was a hard one, but for this trip we landed on Oahu and Kauai.
Oahu was the perfect start to our vacation! Our first few nights were along the famous Waikiki Beach. Here we were able to walk all around our hotel to restaurants, shops, and different sections of the beach. We really enjoyed the beach and the hustle of the Waikiki strip.
Oahu has so much more to offer than just Waikiki. It’s a must to get out of that area whether you rent a car or take a guided tour of the island. Some of our highlights from around the island are below.
Any visit to Oahu isn’t complete without a stop here. It was a very humbling experience to learn about the attacks in such detail and see how much it affected the people of Hawaii personally.
We love to hike, so a trip up Diamond Head was an easy choice for an activity. Even if you are a light to moderate hiker this trip is worth it for the view. The path is paved, but it is mostly uphill so be sure to take your time and bring water.
This private nature reserve is home to the filming location of many favorite movies and TV shows. I enjoyed fangirling over the sites from “Jurassic Park” and “Lost”. Here you can zipline, take ATV tours, horseback rides, or a film bus tour. We decided to go for the 2-hour ATV tour and I’m so glad that we chose that. It was a highlight for our time on Oahu.
Beaches on the North Shore
A huge bonus surprise for us was when we stumbled upon the unofficial Turtle beach, known as Laniakea Beach. We arrived just as some members of a rescue society were releasing a rehabilitated turtle back into the ocean. Seeing these beauties up close was amazing. It’s important to respect the wildlife and stay 10 feet away.
These botanical gardens blew away our expectations! The variety of flowers and historical sites leading up to the waterfall was so impressive. Rachel majored in Conservation Biology, so this stop was especially exciting for her.
Polynesian Culture Center
We decided to stay two nights on the North Shore so that we could really enjoy the quieter pace of Oahu and enjoy a full day experience at the Polynesian Culture Center. Our tickets were for the Ambassador Luau Package, which included visiting the villages from noon to 6pm, a dinner buffet show, and the “Ha: Breath of Life” performance. Each village had exhibits on their island and gave special little shows throughout the day. Have the guide was so beneficial because she was able to take us on the best route to maximize our time. My favorite was the Samoa act! I truly recommend spending the full day here from noon until the “Breath of Life” performance!
Kauai was our second island choice because of the amount of natural beauty on the garden island! About 80% of Kauai can’t been seen by car. It can only be accessed by water, air, or hiking—so we decided to do all three!
We really chose to live it up in Kauai and stay at the Grand Hyatt Kauai. This hotel was gorgeous! Having Club access, we also enjoyed the spa access and use of the club lounge for breakfast.
Na Pali Coast Catamaran Cruise
I love to be out on the water, so the catamaran cruise was the activity I was most excited about and it did not disappoint! We woke up bright and early and made it to the ship in time to sail away just after sunrise. Breakfast was served as we enjoyed the salt water breeze! We had an amazing sighting of dolphins swimming and even a whale tale! First, we stopped in a cove to snorkel. We had a blast seeing the variety of fish and a sea turtle swimming. After snorkeling we set out to get our first glimpse of the Na Pali Coast. I can’t even put into words how stunning the landscape is in person. Captain Jeff and his crew shared stories and facts about Kauai along the way. Our deli lunch and beverages really hit the spot for our scenic ride back to Port Allen.
Since so much of Kauai can only been seen from above we decided to spring for a helicopter tour. We saw some amazing waterfalls and the Na Pali Coast again! Our pilot gave some great commentary and played some touring music. If there is any place to take a helicopter tour, Kauai must be at the top of the list.
Another item at the top of our list was hiking. We decided to visit the lookouts of Waimea Canyon and choose a trail there. We ended up on the Canyon Rim trail. This gave us some fantastic, unspoiled views and a few bonus waterfalls. The trails are not very well marked so be sure to read the signs on how long the hike is and bring plenty of water.
This was such a truly spectacular trip and I was so lucky to share it with three friends. Hawaii is perfect for friends, romance, and family! It’s all about the islands and places you choose. I’m happy to share more details about my accommodation, activities, or trip planning!
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Most of the time when people mention they're traveling to Iowa people question "why?". No, it's not the most popular state, but hidden in each state of our county is a gem and Iowa's is the small Dutch town of Pella.
Pella is located right outside of Des Moines, IA that Hollanders claimed as their new home in 1847. They named it Pella, otherwise meaning "city of refuge". This Dutch community has grown since it was first founded and it still holds on to its founding roots of traditions, food, customs and more. One of the most popular traditions that they celebrate like their European ancestors is the famed Tulip Time Festival. When I heard about the Festival (and it only being 4 hours away from St. Louis) I knew I had to go and I'm so glad I did!
When my husband and I arrived in Pella we were absolutely blown away - when they say "tulip" festival they MEAN tulip festival! We were greeted by THOUSANDS of tulips beautifully planted all over the city with the most vibrant colors I've ever seen in flowers. The orange tulips below were almost as tall as my waist - I had no idea they even grew to be that tall!
As we walked around this city we couldn't believe how much it actually felt like we could be in Europe. All of the buildings in the city had similar architecture to that of the Netherlands with bricks, towers, colorful shutters and of course, windmills! Pella actually has an authentic windmill that was built in Hoogmade, the Netherlands, and was de-assembled and then re-assembled in Pella in 2002. Visitors are able to take a tour and go up the windmill however we were unable to during our visit (we'll save it for next time!).
In addition to the Vermeer Windmill, Pella also created an area similar to Amsterdam with a river following through the middle of a few small shops and right in front of the Royal Amsterdam Hotel. We had hoped to stay at this unique hotel (which you can somewhat see behind my husband and I in the picture above) however it was all sold out.
The streets were alive with dancing in wooden shoes, Dutch food trucks, beautiful Dutch clothing, presentations and parades. I honestly didn't anticipate for there to be as many people at this small festival, but it turns out Pella usually has around 150,000 visitors for the Tulip Time Festival each year. It made it fun and exciting to be around so many people who were interested in learning about and celebrating a different culture.
Pella is a destination I fully plan to visit again with my family. It offers something fun and unique to a large audience and it's great for a quick weekend getaway. This town also has local wineries and a lake for even more activities outside of the Festival. If you're interested in visiting the next Tulip Time Festival in Pella then mark your calendar for the first weekend of May in 2019 - we'll see you there!
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