Destin Recap

As said in previous posts, our trip to Destin was filled with relaxation and enjoying time with family. We spent most of our days sitting beside the beach or pool and our nights eating way too much food and laughing until our stomachs hurt.

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One morning, we all decided to sleep in and make a huge breakfast! We had eggs, grits, toast, bacon, sausage, hash browns, and biscuits!

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This may be the only table that can comfortably fit all of us! We spent the rest of the afternoon lounging on the beach and soaking up the sun.

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For dinner that night, we ate at a family favorite, Red Bar!! IT WAS AMAZING! Since we went during the middle of the week, we only had to wait 45 minutes. Honestly, 45 minutes may seem like a long time, but we had a group of 20 people! The restaurant is pretty small and during the summertime it can become very crowded. The fact that we only had to wait 45 minutes was very impressive. While we were waiting, we took some pictures by the beach.

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Look Mom! I found a coconut! 🙂

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Romper: Dottie Couture Boutique

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The best part about Red Bar is that there are only 5/6 items on the menu each night. It makes it easy to decide what you want and your food is delivered a lot quicker. Our waiter did an incredible job taking care of us and everyone really enjoyed their dishes.

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thumbnail_IMG_3201About midway through the week, the boys wanted to spend the morning playing golf. Those of us who weren’t playing, decided to hit the outlets for some shopping and a lunch at McGuires Irish Pub. We decided to split a ton of delicious appetizers! The portion sizes were massive so we had plenty of leftovers to take home to those who played golf all morning. I think we had about 8 boxes total!

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Before we headed out for the night, we swam in the pool!

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Several evenings, we walked around the pier while trying different foods and drinks! That way, everyone got a little of something they really wanted.

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Romper: Dottie Couture Boutique

The ENTIRE time we were in Destin, we would always check to see if the Krispy Kreme Donut “Hot Now” sign was on. (We had to pass it to get back to our house.) To keep an eye on it, I downloaded the Krispy Kreme app, which let me know exactly when the sign was on! The only time it was on was when we were on our way to get ice cream…so we did both!

We ordered a dozen of the Hot Now donuts and 3 cups of milk! Like always, they were divine. After, we chose to get ice cream at Kilwins, which is an amazing place to get anything sweet! I was already extremely full from dinner and donuts, but I can’t turn down ice-cream, so I stuck with one scoop of cookie dough ice-cream. Taylor was half asleep and decided not to get anything.

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Out of the entire week we were visiting, there was only one rainy day and it was our last! We didn’t mind because most of us were burnt anyway! We started the day by eating breakfast together at the Donut Hole. Then, we all split up and spent the day packing and doing last minute activities.

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As everyone continues to get older, it’s nice to spend quality time together without the distractions of life. I’m very thankful to have been given the opportunity to travel along with Tay!

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Thank’s for following along! 🙂

Las Vegas & 2016 National Championship

Hello! This is Taylor speaking (writing)… I am not too great with writing so Ashley is helping me write this post. Ashley wasn’t able to make this trip so I was tasked with taking the pictures and remembering what all we did. Luckily for everyones sake Ashley is going to help me get my thoughts onto the page in a way that is understandable and readable. So here we go…

Bright and early Friday the 8th we flew from Charlotte to Chicago with Southwest Airlines. We had a 2-hour layover scheduled, but it ended up being about 6 or 7 due to a delay. To kill time, we got snacks and walked around the World War II Museum inside the Chicago Midway Airport. Our delay meant that we would miss our tour of the Hoover Dam, but we made the most of the day we had left.

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We landed in Las Vegas around 1pm local time and needed to get our rental car and luggage. Unfortunately, Southwest lost my grandma’s bags by putting it on a different plane. While they were figuring out the baggage situation, I tried my hand at the slot machine (spoiler alert Vegas was the winner). Once they were finished, we hopped in the car and went to find lunch.

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This was my first trip to Las Vegas, and although I was only there for a short amount of time, I was very excited to explore and see what it had to offer. We went to the old strip where we ate at Coney Island Gourmet Hotdogs and visited some casinos. After lunch, half of our group went back to the airport to pick up grandma’s lost bag, while the others went to the new strip and visited New York, New York (where I proceeded to lose a couple more dollars).

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When we were all together again we wanted to watch the Bellagio Water Show. This is one of the most popular attractions in Las Vegas and after watching, you’ll quickly realize why. This free show takes place outside the Ballagio Hotel- Casino and choreographs the water to with catchy songs that will have you staring in amazement. After the show, we were exhausted from our long day of traveling and the time difference, so we started our drive to Kingman, Arizona. Thankfully, the drive only took about 1.5 hours, but of course we stopped along the way for sight seeing and dinner.IMG_1584

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The views were unlike anything that I am accustomed to. Everything is so dry, there are valleys that go on as far as the eye can see, and mountains that pop up out of nowhere. Which is the exact opposite of South Carolina. Nobody could put their cameras down! After driving for a while, we stopped and ate dinner at Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner.

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I was on a hotdog kick this day! When I saw that they had a hotdog with mac and cheese AND bacon, I knew I had to try it. I also ordered a side of sweet potato fries. Any restaurant that serves sweet potato fries is the kind of restaurant I want to eat at. Not pictured is the chocolate shake I ate for dessert…

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After we ate dinner we finished our drive and checked into our hotel at the Springhill Suites by Marriott. This was such a comfortable, spacious, and beautiful hotel that we all enjoyed staying at. With such a long and exhausting day, we fell asleep pretty quickly.

The following day was dedicated to driving down Route 66 and seeing the Grand Canyon.

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While it was really neat to travel on Route 66, the Grand Canyon was closed due to bad weather. Apparently it was snowing pretty hard in some locations and the roads were closed off. This was a huge bummer because we were really looking forward to it.

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As we were driving around, we weren’t seeing any snow, but the the higher in elevation we got the more snow we saw. We could have gone a little further, but we were in a rental mini van and didn’t want to take our chances.

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Route 66 is full of strange oddities along the way. We past a dinosaur park, the worlds largest map, some unique stores, and several towns claiming to be the birth place of route 66.

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We made several stops along the way for pictures and then lunch! We chose to eat at Rosa’s Pizzeria in Prescott, Arizona. The restaurant was fantastic with a wonderful staff. We split mozzarella sticks, garlic knots, a Sicilian style pizza, eggplant pasta, a chicken Alfredo pizza, and a cannoli for dessert. We love our pizza places.

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After eating until we stuffed ourselves full of food, we drove to the Sonoran Dessert where we watched the sun go down.

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The following day we work up early from excitement because it was GAME DAY!! This was the first time Clemson had made it to the National Championship since the 80’s!!

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Whenever we travel for away games, we always like to pick up chicken and easy finger foods to tailgate with. We like to get there at least 4 hours before the games (sometimes earlier) so we have time to relax and enjoy good food and company. Clemson has such a dedicated fan base and it’s always really fun to see all the orange and purple!

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When it was time for us to go into the stadium, half of us sat down on the lower level, and the other half sat in the upper corner. No seat is a bad seat at the National Championship!

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The game was back and forth and very exciting. Although we lost, the players put up a great fight from start to finish. They gave us an awesome undefeated season with many great memories. We’ll be back next year and stronger than ever!

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It was late when the game ended and we went straight back to the hotel. The next day we had the whole day to see the Hoover Dam. Trust me there were several dam jokes made.

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We also made an absolutely necessary trip to In-N-Out to end our time out west.

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This whirl wind of a trip ended on a crazy note! Upon arriving in Chicago on our return home, our flight was over booked for our final connection and Southwest was offering a voucher to anyone that was willing to give up their seat, which could be used for future flights and they would arrange another flight home. I volunteered to give up my seat and was awarded with a nice voucher that I will be using for more travel in the coming future!

San Francisco

After spending an amazing few days in Yosemite, we all headed back to San Francisco to see what the city had to offer. We were up extra early because we had a tour of Alcatraz scheduled. For those of you who don’t know what Alcatraz is, it’s a teeny tiny island off the bay that served the army by holding a military prison as a maximum-security federal penitentiary. Although not still occupied today, they use the deserted island as a national parkland.

This is a very highly anticipated attraction so if you’re planning on visiting during peak season, I’d recommend making a reservation. You have to take a boat to the island and they can only hold so many people. I hear summer reservations fill up instantly. If you’re brave enough, they also offer night tours.
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This is the amazing few of the city from Alcatraz. You can choose to do a self-guided tour or you can do an audio tour. We decided the audio tour would be best since we really didn’t know much about the prison. It’s actually terrifying walking through a deserted prison, but a really great experience non the less. I don’t think you could pay me enough to walk through at night…

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After we finished up our tour we decided to go see the famous Golden Gate Bridge.

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There are several different car pull offs where you can stop and take pictures, each offering a different view.

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Before we all headed back to our hotel, we needed some ice cream. We visited Ghiradelli’s ice cream shop and it was DIVINE. We actually went two or three times total because it was so yummy.

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Looking extra sleepy this day.

We started our next day by taking a duck tour. If you have never experienced a duck tour, you’re missing out! You start by driving around the city and then eventually the vehicle forms into a boat when you enter water….hence the name. I’ve experienced a few and they’re always a blast, especially as a group!

Our duck tour started and ended at AT&T Park…home of the San Francisco Giants!
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It’s always fun to see behind the scenes at different stadiums, and when you have access to the field, even better!

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The Giant’s stadium is really unique because it sits on the water! Any home runs send the balls straight into the water, which would be a really cool experience.

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 For lunch, we visited Little Italy and all ordered delicious slices of pizza. Since this was our last day, we all split up and did whatever we really wanted to do.
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11214169_921268184596699_805191206601888058_nWe ended the day with a California staple. 🙂 To read about the first half of our trip to Yosemite click here.

Yosemite

To begin our trip, Taylor and I flew from Philadelphia to San Francisco where we met his family. Once we arrived and found everyone, we headed outside to retrieve our 15 passenger rental van. We all hopped aboard and started the 5 hour trek to Yosemite. The traffic in San Francisco is real and painful. Thankfully time passed quickly, and when we were about an hour away from our cabin, we stopped at a grocery store to stock up on food for the next few days. Just picture 10 of us running around a grocery store and leaving with several shopping carts PILED with food. We weren’t planning on eating out so we needed to grab as much as we could to survive.

The views on the way up were incredible! We had to stop several times to take pictures because you can’t pass up scenery like this! Fun fact: Yosemite National Park is located in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range and is roughly the size of Rhode Island.

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That white mountain peak in the very center is Half Dome!

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Yay! We finally made it!

We were up the following day bright and early and left the cabin at 9am. This wasn’t much of a problem for anyone since California is 3 hours behind eastern time. We all packed our lunches and backpacks and set out for a full day of hiking and exploring.

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One of our first stops was Bridal Veil Fall Vista. This was a really simple half mile trail that lead to the falls.

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Our next stop was Cathedral Beach where we could view the Three Brothers Vista. From there we visited the Swinging Bridge picnic area for lunch.

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These pictures don’t do the scenery justice. Everywhere you looked was breathtaking.

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If you’re wondering why we’re all pointing at the sky, there were people rock climbing up these huge mountains. Rock climbing takes so much strength and energy and I have no idea how they do it, but i’m sure the view at the end is worth it!

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Once we arrived back to our cabin for dinner, we all got out our enos and relaxed. You can’t take a trip to the mountains and not bring your hammock…

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I wish I would have tracked how many miles we walked throughout our entire time in Yosemite. Judging by how sore my legs were the next morning, I could tell it was a lot!

Remember that picture of Half Dome in the very beginning? Well this is me standing victoriously in front of it.

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This has to be one of my favorite views in the world. You just can’t find this over on the east coast.

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Laugh at the hat all you’d like, but the sun burn was REAL being that high up!

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After we were done hiking on day 2, we went back to our cabin and had another dinner at the house. We were up bright and early the following day as usual to squeeze in as much as we could.

The third day was my favorite! We were going to see the massive sequoia trees at Mariposa Grove!!

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This is me standing next to the roots of a sequoia. HOLY MOLY! Sequoia trees are not the oldest or tallest living things, but they are the largest in total volume. As you can see, Sequoias do not have deep tap roots, however they spread a good distance and they remain close to the surface where they can absorb more water. They estimate that their roots only dig about 6 feet, but they can fan out more than 150 feet.

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When you are walking through the sequoia tree forest, some of the most iconic trees are named, so it makes it easy to pick them out, such as the Grizzly Giant which is one of the largest trees in the Mariposa Grove and is estimated to be 1,800 years old!

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Some other favorites include the Faithful Couple, the Clothespin, the Telescope tree, and the Wawona Tunnel.

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The Wawona Tunnel tree is one of the most famous trees in the world. Between 1881 and 1969 you could actually drive your car through it.

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After we walked THROUGH the middle of the tree, we stopped to take a picture. What a great looking group:)

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Incase you don’t believe me when I say these trees are MASSIVE!

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Although there are a ton of old sequoia trees to see, the forest doesn’t offer a ton of young and growing ones. This is because these massive trees need direct sunlight, enough moisture, and bare mineral soil. There are so many trees in this forest that there isn’t much sunlight for the tiny guys trying to grow.

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We spent all day wondering around and looking at these beautiful trees. I would highly recommend adding this to your itinerary if you ever get a chance to visit Yosemite. Heck, go to Yosemite just to see these trees!! You won’t regret it. Somehow, we ended up on a hiking trail while we were viewing everything, which lead us to more awesome trees.