Travel & Top Things to Do
For years, people have asked me for my travel itineraries. This page is filled with ideas for you and those you love to explore the world. Keep in mind that I like to mix it up when I travel -- I love nature, art, a little kitsch, good food, a little tourism, animals, and much more. And most of my vacations are planned with and for my daughter so many of the ideas are family friendly. I'll add new places each week as we've been to all 50 states and many countries throughout the world (it's just going to take me some time to recall all of the places and itineraries.)
My daughter and I love Portugal. Here are some of our favorite things to do!
While in Porto, we visited Ribeira Square, Versailles on Avenida da Repubica, and Ponte de Dom Luis I. The highlight of our time in Porto was a wine tasting, river cruise and lunch through the Douro Valley. We also loved walking through the streets, checking out all of the beautiful tile on buildings.
We spent time near the sea at Praia D’El Rey for two days. We enjoyed the beach and gorgeous views of the ocean each day.
Then we traveled to Penha Longa (which is a Ritz Carlton) for one evening. This was a beautiful stay as the hotel is housed at the site of a historic monastery. While there, we visited the National Palace of Pena. We also made a day trip to the gorgeous walled city of Sintra.
Then on to Lisbon, where we visited the
Elevador de Santa Justa, went shopping in Alfama, visited St. George’s Castle. One of the highlights of our visit was a trip to the Cathedral, and Feira de Ladre (a flee market) where we picked up the Virgin Mary in the photo above. She is placed inside of a sardine container.
One of our favorite places in Lisbon was the National Tile Museum, which features amazing tile in all forms and with many inspirations.
We then drove to Lagos and stayed at Belmar Spa & Beach Resort. It was beautiful and just a short walk to the beach. A highlight of our time in Lagos was a cruise around the coast. We also found a tiny museum dedicated to the first Africans to set foot on the shores of Portugal - they were enslaved. Given the history of Lagos in the slave trade, I wanted my daughter to understand where we were.
I planned a special day for my daughter in Lagos, one in which we visited with rescued donkeys and walked with them and their caretaker. It was beautiful and my daughter was filled with joy. (see this link for information: https://project-sanctuary-happy-donkeys.jimdo.com/contact/)
During our road trip, we visited to three unexpected places: Fatima - where we participated in a religious ceremony that was unreal and surreal; Bacalhoa Buddha Eden -- a beautiful garden filled with Asian sculpture -- it makes no sense but it's gorgeous; and Conimbriga - Ruinas e Museu Monografico -- which is one of the largest Roman ruins, I've ever seen and it's in amazing condition.
Portugal is home to beautiful people, places, waters, and delicious food. It filled us with joy.
Our favorite places and things to do in Iceland include:
Shopping in Reykjavik
Hallgrimskirkja - the church of Iceland
Thingvellir (pingvellir) (44 minutes from Reykjavick) - make sure to stop for tea at the tiny tea shop located in a mountain side.
Geyser Hotsprings (53 minutes from Thingvellir)
Seljalandsfoss waterfall (1 hour and 26 minutes from Geyser)
Skogafoss waterfall (25 minutes from Seljalandsfoss)
Dyrhólaey peninsula (29 minutes from Skogafoss)
Reynisfjara Beach (23 minutes from Dyrhólaey) - make sure to be careful as the waves are immense and fierce here - we got drenched.
Svartifoss (black falls) (62 minutes from Fjaorargljufur) - the hike allows you to take in all of the beauty of the area.
Svínafellsjökull Glacier (11 minutes from Svartifoss) - if you have never seen a glacier, it is something to behold.
Jökulsárlón Lagoon (54 minutes from Svingfellsjokul) - we thoroughly enjoyed visiting the lagoon. It's cold but beautiful. Special treat was the hot dog stand nearby where we enjoyed hot chocolate.
Diamond Beach (across from Lagoon) - this beach is a beauty with all of it's ice shining in the sunlight.
At the end our our time in Iceland, we went snowmobiling on a glacier near Gullfoss Falls (which is spectacular), we visited Crater Lake, and we checked into the Blue Lagoon Hotel (Lava). It's pricey but was worth everyone bit of the money. The decor, the bedding, the private lagoon, the food, the spa, and the facial masks (many to choose from) were breathtaking. We really enjoyed the meal at the Blue Lagoon restaurant - lots of courses and champagne.
We plan on going back to Iceland to travel the northern rim. Iceland is like no other place - it's as if you are on Mars.
Pro Tip: Make sure you have water proof boots, a rain coat, a winter jacket, layers, sun glasses, mittens, a hat, and lots of thick socks. We went in May when there were nearly 24 hours of da light - we were able to see so much.
In 2019, we decide to take a road trip through New Mexico. It was an amazing adventure, beyond our imagination.
We landed in Albuquerque, rented a Jeep and made our first stop in Madrid, a small town of basically one street - filled with artists and lots of color. My daughter loved the Mexican chocolate gelato.
We then drove to Santa Fe and our first stop was the Loretto Chapel outside Santa Fe. We spent the late afternoon and evening exploring downtown Santa Fe and eating enchiladas.
The next two days, we were all about museums, taking in the following - with stops for coffee, treats, and food along the way: Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, Museum of International Folk Art, Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, New Mexico Museum of Art and the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. Our favorite was the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum as it was quiet and profound.
The next day we visited Pecos National Park and the Santa Fe Botanical Gardens. These are gorgeous places where you can spend a lot of time walking and taking in nature. We finished off every day with enchiladas. The Mexican food in Santa Fe is so yummy and the enchiladas are the best!
The next day, we set off on an adventure to find the land of Georgia O'Keeffe. We drove to Ghost Ranch and saw where O'Keeffe first lived in New Mexico, walking in her footsteps. We then went to some of the places where she painted regularly, including Plaza Blanca and the Echo Amphitheater. Eventually, we started toward Taos. It was Christmas Eve and we spent the evening celebrating with the Taos Pueblo (this is a special celebration on this day). We also visited the St. Geronimo Chapel.
The next day was quiet as it was Christmas so we visited the St. Francis of Assisi Church and then went for a long walk near the Rio Grande del Norte Bridge. The views were spectacular. We also visited a local donkey and miniature horse sanctuary and met a sweet donkey named Bindy.
Our road trip continued as we headed toward some natural wonders, including the Bandelier Monument and the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks. We love climbing and exploring and these areas were stunning. In addition, being in places that hold such spiritual significance was an honor.
While we were in Albuquerque, we made sure to stop at the 66 Diner, which has the world's largest PEZ dispenser collection. We also went for a morning hike at the Petroglyph National Monument.
The next day was the biggest adventure we have had among all of our national and international road trips. We decided to drive to the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary and got caught in snow. The Sanctuary was gorgeous and the wolves were beautiful, but the drives was treacherous. We then went on a hunt for Pie Town and got lost and nearly missed all the pie! But we eventually found it and ordered berry and chocolate pies.
The next morning, we visited a local alpaca sanctuary, and headed off to White Sands National Monument. White Sands is by far one of the most unique and beautiful places we have ever been -- although it is scary how quickly you can get turned around in the vastness of the sand.
We spend out last night in New Mexico in crazy, and super tacky, Roswell. After a visit to the surreal International UFO Museum, we checked out some alien fund houses, and some alien shops. Our favorite stops were the spaceship McDonalds and the alien Dunkin' Donuts.
New Mexico is a crazy adventure filled with beauty.
Toronto and Niagara Falls
We like visiting Toronto as the air is fresh and the culture is hugely diverse.
We started our visit with ramen for dinner as my daughter is a huge fan. Our favorite was Ramen Isshin.
The next morning we got up early and visited Kensington Market. If you have a teenager or colleges student, this is a great place to visit -- actually I loved it too! “Kensington Market is a long-standing multicultural neighborhood with a unique place in the fabric of Toronto. In November 2006, it was designated a National Historic Site of Canada. It’s funky.”
We later walked to West Queen West as we enjoy walking and taking in all the sites on the way. Make sure to check out graffiti alley on the way. “Toronto’s eclectic West Queen West neighborhood was named by Vogue in 2014 as the second coolest neighborhood in the world thanks to its vibrant mix of independent shops and boutiques, bars, a large concentration of art galleries, restaurants, and cafes.” One of the highlights was have Mexican hot chocolate at a café and visiting vintage dress shops.
As we love art, our next stop was the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). “Toronto is lucky to have one of the largest art museums in North America, with a collection of more than 90,000 works of art. The collection is comprised of Canadian, European, contemporary art, photography, and more.”
For dinner, we had Indian food as Toronto has some of the best.
The next morning, we got up early and took a bus to visit the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. It was gorgeous and refreshing. We also spent some time walking around the silly town, playing mini-golf, visiting arcades, and taking in a 3-D zombie adventure. Crazy and tacky, yet but we had fun and laughed so much.
The next day we visited the boardwalk and beaches along Lake Ontario, taking a long walk and enjoying nature. Here are some of the best beaches to visit: Cherry Beach, Sunnyside, Ward’s Island Beach, Bluffer’s Beach, and Kew-Balmy Beach.
Our next day’s outing included a visit to the distillery district, which is full of outdoor sculptures and features some beautiful restaurants with outdoor seating. We ate at a Mexican place with outdoor fire pits. The food, drinks and ambiance were lovely. “The pedestrian-only Distillery District is a great spot to get away from the bustle of the usual downtown attractions. Here, you’ll find trendy restaurants, art galleries and boutiques all set along a cobblestone street and housed in charming 19th-century buildings that once made up a large whiskey distillery. The quaint village looks like it’s straight out of a Victorian novel, but the atmosphere, which straddles cutting-edge and bohemian, is a great place to experience Toronto’s up-and-coming art and food scenes.”
The next morning we checked out St. Lawrence Market. “The city’s largest market boasts over 120 food vendors, selling every cuisine you could desire, from Montreal-style bagels and vegan tacos to handmade, small-batch mustard and fresh fish sandwiches. Note that the market is closed on Sundays and Mondays.” We love to try new foods and stroll through the vendor’s booths.
One of our favorite hidden gems in Toronto is the Allan Gardens Conservatory. You can walk right by and almost miss it. But don’t. “Slip into a tropical oasis in the middle of the city with a visit to Allan Gardens Conservatory where you’ll find six greenhouses filled with plants from around the world. The conservatory is open 365 days of the year and always free to enter. Some highlights include the two tropical houses filled with a variety of orchids, bromeliads and begonia and the Palm House filled with a variety of palms, bananas, and tropical vines.”
Toronto is very walkable so we suggest exploring and getting lost.
I’ve been to Phoenix many times for work related trips and our latest visit was a mix of work and pleasure. As we visited right after Christmas, I took my mom and daughter along for the fun. My mom is 89 and very energetic. This trip is a mix of nature and fun for all ages.
We landed in Phoenix, then drove to Scottsdale to stay at the Royal Palms Resort. My meeting was at this resort. It’s a bit dated but still really beautiful. The rooms are gorgeous and have private fireplaces and lush bathrooms.
We immediately headed out for lunch (always Mexican food as Philadelphia, where we live, is not known for its Mexican food) and then did some shopping and looking around in Scottsdale. The area has quite a few small clothing and jewelry shops and good ice cream.
Later in the afternoon, we visited Taliesin West (a Frank Lloyd Wright home). I love architecture so we usually take a lot in wherever we go. After that, it was time for full on silliness for my daughter – we visited Butterfly Wonderland, a ridiculous dinosaur exhibit nearby, and we went to an old-fashioned candy store – which my mom loved.
The next day, we visited the Scottsdale Botanical Gardens, which we love. The plants and sculptures are beautiful and the entire place is peaceful. We were also treated to a delicious high tea as part of our visit.
We were up early the next day to head over to Sedona for two nights. I knew my mom would love all the stores and the gorgeous red rocks (see photo). My daughter and I have been to Sedona many times and love to return often as the natural setting is amazing and peaceful. We also love the food and the funky shops. Every time we visit my daughter finds something original.
Our next big adventure was a drive to the Grand Canyon. My mother had never been there and had no idea what to expect. I wanted to surprise her. The drive from Sedona to the Grand Canyon is spectacular and you go through nearly all the seasons on the way. We spent about 2 hours at the Canyon as it’s a lot for an 89 year old to take in. The highlight was watching my mom look out over the Canyon, while standing near the edge.
Our last day in Arizona was spent in Phoenix, with visits to the Pueblo Grand Museum and the Art Museum.
On other visits, I’ve gone hot air balloon riding, which is a wonderful experience apart from getting up at 4 a.m. Being in hot air balloon is like riding in a slow elevator across the sky. I’m afraid of heights but I found it calming.