Utah: A Unique Travel Experience

Utah is a small state, geographically speaking, yet there is an endless buffet of choices for all types of vacationers.  In Utah, you have a little of everything; the great outdoors, life in the city, rich religious history, a culinary adventure, and even the home of the Sundance Film Festival.

As far as the Great Outdoors, you have some of the best skiing choices, there are several national parks including Zions National Park, Arches National Park, Antelope Island, and many more.  As for life in the City, you have Salt Lake City, although it’s not a huge city such as New York or Los Angeles, it does have a decent downtown scene with lots of shopping, restaurants (including some famous eateries), big parks, and Temple Square where you can visit some historical sights and buildings of the Mormon Church including the first Mormon Temple and the Mormon Tabernacle.

Downtown Salt Lake City:

Mormon Temple:

Mormon Tabernacle:

As for shopping, you have City Creek Mall, which is a huge indoor and outdoor mall and there is the Gateway Mall, which is smaller, but boasts a couple of nice museums.

As you can see, there are many things to do in Utah, and for those who live in Western half the United States, Utah is not more than an 8 to 12 hour drive from most big cities.  A recommended itinerary would be to spend a couple of days in Salt Lake City to visit the historical sights, eat out, visit some museums, and shop.  Then head up to the mountains or to southern Utah to visit some of the famous National Parks.  If you are into the film scene, go to the annual Sundance Film Festival in late January.


The Airbus A380: The Cruise Ship of the Sky

Over the past several days, there has been a lot of negativity floating around the internet and mediasphere about flying, especially in light of what happened on the United flight to David Dao being dragged off a flight.  However, I wanted to focus on a positive and fun way to fly.  It’s the Cruise Ship of the Sky, the Airbus A380 double decker passenger plane.

I admit, I still have yet to fly on one of these Airbus A380’s and I hope I get the opportunity to do it before the airlines phase them out entirely.

I call in the cruise ship of the sky because of it’s many features:  First, this plane is HUGE, if you have ever seen one in person at the airport or even better, if you plane-spotted one landing or taking off, you know what I am talking about.  Second, the interior of this plane is amazing.  It’s modern, high-tech, spacious (even in economy class), and it has one of the best seat back entertainment systems compared to it’s competitors, from your personal TV you can even view the outside of the plane while flying from a forward-facing camera setup on top of the outside of the airplane.    The First Class section features a bar, a small lounge, and a full size bathroom (with showers on some airlines), compare that to your normal airplane bathroom that makes your coat closet at home look like the Potala Palace.  At the bottom of this blog post there is a video of the inside of the Airbus A380.

Quite a few airlines have added this airplane to their international fleet.  One thing you will notice is that all the airlines that own these planes are airlines that are known for excellent customer service and an excellent flying experience.  British Airways, Emirates, Lufhansa, and Air France are just a few are some of the airlines that use the Airbus A380.  No American based airlines have the Airbus A380 in their fleets……surprise……. and if they did, they would probably turn the lounge, bar, and large bathroom into extra economy seating………Just kidding.  In the United States, pickup trucks and SUV’s are getting larger and larger (and higher off the ground), while airplanes for international flights are getting smaller and smaller.  Some transatlantic flights are even flown with narrow-body Boeing 757-200 jets.

All joking aside, it is my goal to be able to fly on one of these Airbus A380 jumbo jets before they are phased out as wasteful gas guzzlers.  See below video of the inside of the Airbus A380.

Video courtesy of Airbus

 


Cocoa Beach: The Old Fish House

An exciting part of any vacation is eating the local food.  Cocoa Beach Florida is jam-packed with really good restaurants.  One such restaurant I feel deserves a shout-out is “The Old Fish House” restaurant located on the NW corner of W Cocoa Beach Causeway and N Atlantic Ave.  If you like seafood, this is the place for you!  They have quite the variety such as crab cakes, pollack, catfish, shrimp, mahi-mahi, and even non-seafood items such as chicken, pork, steak, and even alligator bites (unfortunately it was not available when we visited).   All fish can either be fried, beer-battered, blackened, or broiled.  I ordered the fried feast that is a mix of different fried seafood cooked to perfection.

Fried Feast

All the food was very delicious, but above all else, the service is what stood out most.  Our server often checked back to see how we were doing, and she really went out of her way to make our experience a great one!

So, if you are visiting the Orlando area, be sure to spend a couple of days out in Cocoa Beach, and if you are a seafood lover, choose the Old Fish House for your dinner.  You will not regret it!

 


Orlando: Recommended Itinerary

Even those who have not traveled much are familiar with Orlando Florida being the theme park capital of the world.  You have all the Disney World parks, Sea World, Universal Studios,  Gatorland, and much more.  Just when you think you have enough parks in Orlando to last you an entire month, just travel an hour outside of Orlando and you have even more parks and attractions such as Legoland to the southwest in Winter Haven and Kennedy Space Center to the east in Merritt Island.  With so many parks and attractions to visit, it can easily become overwhelming.

I would like help you to NOT become overwhelmed by offering you a suggested itinerary to follow on your visit to Orlando:

First off, I would limit your parks to three parks (or 2 to 3 days in the same park) per visit to Orlando.  It’s tempting to visit as many as possible, but if you do this you will be exhausted by the end of your vacation and that defeats the whole purpose of having a vacation in the first place.  If you have kids, I would space out your park visits to every other day and let the kids and yourself relax around your hotel pool or any other relaxing area.

Second, pick a nice hotel with a nice pool and fun area and/or a relaxing area, especially if you have kids.  When you are resting between your theme park visits, you want to be able to relax somewhere nice and your kids need to be able to have fun.  One hotel I recommend is the Clarion Inn Lake Buena Vista.  It’s surprisingly inexpensive and comes with 2 pools, splash pad, a gazebo that overlooks two small man-made lakes, a bar, and a buffet.

Third, spend some time outside of Orlando.  For example, you can drive an hour east of Orlando and stay a few days at Cocoa Beach.  It’s a perfect way to wind down after walking multiple days in the theme parks.

Here is a day-by-day suggested schedule to follow:

  • Day 1: Visit theme park #1
  • Day 2: Rest and relax at hotel, maybe visit Downtown Disney for a couple hours
  • Day 3: Visit theme park #2
  • Day 4: Rest and relax at hotel, maybe visit Universal CityWalk for part of the day
  • Day 5: Visit theme park #3
  • Day 6: Check out of hotel and drive to hotel at Cocoa Beach
  • Days 7-9 at Cocoa beach relaxing, maybe visit Kennedy Space Center one of the days.

If you only want to spend a week or less in Orlando, cut your theme parks to only two or spend less days at the beach.

When we visited Orlando, we followed a similar itinerary to the above.  We only visited two theme parks (Sea World and Disney World’s Magic Kingdom) and our kids were exhausted.  The remaining days at the beach allowed us to finish the vacation fulfilled from our two days at the parks and completely relaxed from the last few days we spent at the beach.

Whatever itinerary you choose to setup for yourself, I would like to offer you one big suggestion:

******DO NOT VISIT ORLANDO IN THE SUMMER******

Unless you enjoy 97 degree weather with 97% humidity.  I would suggest visiting Orlando in the late fall, winter, or early spring (watch out for spring breakers).  The temperatures are nice, (mostly 70s), the humidity is low, and the crowds are down.

 

Cocoa Beach