Diary of My State-Side Trips Since 1995

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After living in the United States for almost twenty-two years, I have realized I haven’t seen much of it. Part of the reason behind this was I was always fascinated with what the rest of the world had to offer rather than explore my adopted homeland. I wouldn’t say I regret the decision, however. In my teens, I had decided that state trips will be reserved for those vacations when I have a family of my own. Who knows what whiners I will produce? Lol. Anyways, because of this decision, I spent most of my time and money on grand vacations in Europe and other exotic countries. Honestly speaking, I don’t think I will have the stamina anymore to see so much so I am glad I checked off many places from my international bucket list.

So for this post, I decided to pen down some highlights for people who would love to explore more of the United States. Unfortunately, I haven’t visited the popular state of Hawaii or remote Alaska, in fact, in the twenty-some years I have lived here, I have only visited eight states, not including California (that’s where I live, so it doesn’t count. haha)! Through this post, I hope my readers learn some of the fun things I did in each state I visited. So here goes!

“A”

Arizona:

This was a great trip! My sister and I (of course!) went to visit her friend who lived in Scottsdale at the time. We flew in and some of the first impressions I remember were the spring heat and the absolutely stunning rock formations. During our week there we checked out many random things like their outdoor mall and a housing development (random, yes, I know). The highlight of our Arizona trip was the Grand Canyon, of course. We drove from Scottsdale and stayed overnight midway in a hotel. The next day we woke up and drove early to the Grand Canyon National Park and spent the day there. We explored the South Rim, which is much more impressive than the West Rim. The famous pictures you see on postcards are from the South Rim. Grand Canyon was an absolute awe-inspiring, God-remembering, question-your-whole-purpose-for-being-there kinda location. It is stunning! My first reaction to it as we were driving through the entrance was a loud “OMG! This place is huge!”. We took many pictures there, but since we had a child we didn’t go hiking or river rafting. But still worth a trip.

Another memorable experience was the hot air balloon ride. My sister and I (while her friend’s family slept) woke up in the wee early hours of the morning and got picked up in a tour van. It was a tour we had organized we booked online. Sorry, I don’t remember what the name of the tour or the website, but don’t fret, there are plenty of reputable companies offering tours. I had never done hot ballooning before so it was so fun seeing it puff up and then gently ascend. We flew over beautiful and rugged Arizona landscapes and then ended the tour with a snack. If you come here, please book a tour to go hot ballooning.

Another experience not to miss is spoiling yourself silly in one of Scottsdale lavish spas. I booked a full body mud mask and a massage, while my sister got some kind of wrap treatment done at the Boulders Resort and Spa (See HERE). Heavenly! During the treatment, you get a private suite which includes a shower and a view to die for. The hot tub and steam rooms are free with a purchase of a spa package. So fun!

“I”

Illinois:

I have been lucky to see Chicago in the summer and “unlucky” to see it in winter. The first time I was there was for the Oprah Winfrey show. I will spare you the details of the show, but it was “interesting” and downright depressing. The rest of the trip entailed us acting like the complete idiots from California enjoying one of the toughest blizzards in Chicago history. The second time I was there, it was much nicer. We stayed close to the Millennium Park and saw all the sights, including The Drake Hotel. Chicago is quite neat and vibrant in the summer. We took the architecture boat tour which was highly recommended by everyone, went up the Willis Tower, and window shopped on the Millennium Mile avenue (do check out the original American Girl store there). The rest of the trip was spent on eating great food. The best deep dish pizza is honestly in Chicago, which makes sense since it was founded there. We ate at Giordano’s and had their world famous pizza and also snacked on Garrett Popcorn. If you are there, try some of Chicago’s famous restaurants. They are really the best!

“M”

Massachusetts:

This was one of my recent trips. My brother was graduating medical school in 2014 and the entire family made a visit to Boston. His girlfriend (now wife) also joined us. Boston is a historical city, which is a pretty obvious thing to say, but it’s also a beautiful city. We went in June and the weather was gorgeous! Traffic is horrible so do put on your sneakers and walk. We took an Uber once and it took so long in the traffic that we got out and walked the rest of the way. The food there is so yummy too! Try a hot pot place there. Soooo good! One of the fun things we did was take a Swan Boat ride. I learned about the swan boat ride while teaching “The Trumpeter Swan” (See HERE) in 4th grade. SO cute! Also, do take the Boston Duck Tour (See HERE). We took some day trips too. One of the day trip we took was to Martha’s Vineyard. Highly recommend it! Some people stay here overnight, but we didn’t do that because of the summer high prices. We booked a day tour instead and the driver took us everywhere. Another day trip we took was to Salem. I was fascinated with this historical New England town so I had to visit it. To be honest, I was a little disappointed because it was more commercial than a quaint little town like I expected. Mostly I saw advertisements for psychics and witches, which seemed too gimmicky. I did check out Nathaniel Hawthorne’s House of Seven Gables (See HERE). If you like the author and the novel then this place is a must-see.

Michigan:

I have been to Michigan twice in the summer. It is absolutely breathtaking (pun intended). I didn’t see much of the sights there but there was plenty of natural beauty to see. Both times I went to Michigan was for a wedding. On my first visit, I stayed in a fully furnished house by the lake. That was absolutely a unique experience. Even though we were busy with the wedding festivities, I managed to fit in mornings on the patio and jet skiing with my brother. So fun!

The second time we stayed there was in Dearborn, Michigan. Not much to say about it. A little glimpse of the blues culture here and there. The Dearborn Inn, where my brother had his wedding was absolutely gorgeous (See HERE). Not much to see in Dearborn but to be honest, if you live close to the lakes, then visit one of the many lakes here. There is the Ford’s Museum (See HERE), which is worth a visit if you are here.

Missouri- For my trip to this beautiful state, click here.

“N”

New York/New Jersey:

This was the first trip of many to come for just my sister and me. We were young girls, me in my teens, my sister in her early twenties and we were so excited to see the Big Apple. My first memory of New York was seeing Manhattan for the first time from the plane. I honestly hadn’t seen a skyline like that before and we certainly don’t have such impressive urban skyscrapers here in California, just company few story buildings. In New York, we stayed in Long Island. If you can afford it, then stay in Manhattan and I highly recommend that. The family we stayed with showed us around the city, but we didn’t see much and they didn’t know much about Manhattan as well. We kinda figured out the traffic situation and subway system as we visited place to place. Some of the sights I remember seeing are the Metropolitan Museum, the Empire State Building, and the Twin Towers. I didn’t see much of anything else and because of that, I want to go back. However, I regret to say how much I would miss those towers. Nothing there impressed me more. We were like little kids in a candy store when visiting the twin towers. It’s a tragedy people can’t visit them anymore. The family also took us on a day trip to Atlantic City in New Jersey. We walked on the pier, smelled the sweet sea air, and took a nice break from the craziness called The New York City.

For my 2018 New York City trip, see HERE.

Nevada:

I have seen both Reno and Las Vegas and Nevada doesn’t have much to offer than that. Reno is cool if you live close-by and want a cheaper Las Vegas type experience. When we were in Reno we stayed at the Silver Legacy (See HERE), which was nice. The light show and the circus at the connected hotel Circus Circus (See HERE) are pretty awesome. If you want to check out Nevada and its casinos then you need to go to Las Vegas. I enjoy the strip both during the day and at night. I have stayed at the MGM Grand, Luxor, and Wynn, and by far Wynn is my favorite. When we stayed at the Wynn, we had the strip view and the rooms were so luxurious and high-tech. The air circulation is probably the best here because other hotels I visited always have a smoky atmosphere and smell. The decor inside is pretty cool too and it has the best lunch buffet on the strip in my opinion. I recommend coming to Las Vegas in the winter. In summers, Las Vegas is a frying pan and you miss out on all the holiday decorations. Even in the winter, we spent days by and in the pool and checking out the hotels. The nights were for the lights and free shows. We also took trips to the Grand Canyon (the West Rim this time) and the Hoover Dam. This time we saw the Grand Canyon in a helicopter. So terrifying, but it was a bucket list item for me! I made a dumb decision to walk the whole strip in ballet shoes once. Ouch! It took like three hours and I felt like a camel in Arabia by the time I returned. You don’t have to do this all in one go :).

“T”

Texas:

I came to Houston for a work conference. I have some bad memories from the job so I will not write about them. Lol. When I visited Houston, I loved it immediately.  However, there is something about the roads there that you always end up getting lost. I went in May so the weather was gorgeous. Houston downtown is quite cute and clean, but I didn’t get to see it much aside from when I was getting lost while getting my morning coffee, of course. I did make it a point to visit the Space Station Houston/Johnson Space Center (See HERE). It’s about 40 minutes away from Houston and a must-see for adults and families. I was so upset that I missed the last tram to the actual Johnson Space Center, mostly because of my slowpoke co-worker who was taking his time to read about each and every astronaut on the Hall Of Fame wall. I think that would have been so cool. The space center was truly the highlight of Houston. There are other cool exhibits and programs like being able to go into an actual rocket or seeing the surface of the moon up close. The whole experience was pretty darn cool!

“U”

Utah: 

Check out my Salt Lake City and Park City trip HERE.

Well, that’s it, guys! Happy Traveling!