On day 1 of 20 Days through the Balkans Adventure, we woke up in what can only be described as a real life fairy tale city. Nestled in Eastern Europe, Ljubljana (pronounced LOO-blee-yana) is the capital of Slovenia and the hidden gem you have been searching for. Not only does the name translate into beloved, it also rhymes with my mama's name, Ljuba. ツ
When Jason lived in Las Vegas, our weekend trips when I visited consisted of quick jaunts to places like Los Angeles, Sedona, and Utah. Upon moving to Minneapolis, our choices for quick weekend getaways were…..well a tad bit more limed. Having already visited the most coveted destination, Chicago, we deiced to take the road less traveled and make the 6 hour drive in the opposite direction, to Omaha, Nebraska. To our slight surprise, the City of Omaha had us quite mesmerized.
"Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood."
Words of Daniel H. Burnham, Director of Works for the World's Columbian Exposition, 1893. Having just read the Devil in the White City and as cabin fever started to set in during the hot summer Minnesota months, we decided to make a quick 6 hour jaunt to one of my favorite cities for city planning, architecture and colorful history….and to ring in my 29th date of birth.
In late October of 2015, walking professionals and advocates a like gathered in the nation's capital, Washington D.C. to rejoice, learn and commemorate the National Walking movement at the second Walking Summit. To my surprise and excitement, I rejoiced when I was told I would be attending this highly anticipated event and to have the honor to present on the Minnesota Statewide Pedestrian System Plan.
Not only was I excited to revel in everything walking, but even more so, I was ecstatic to experience one of the greatest city designs I read about while in school and the unique vision and concept of one of the greatest city planners to have ever lived, Pierre Charles L’Enfant - the city planning geek in me was beyond joy and excitement. L’Enfant’s legacy lives in the grand plan for D.C. in which the wide avenues, public squares and inspiring buildings gave way to a magnificent plan which is unlike any other city in the U.S.
After a full week of learning and rejoicing in the walking movement and 20 miles of walking later, these are the top 6 things we enjoyed the most and would visit over and over again if given the opportunity to fly again to this wanderous city.
Having never ventured north of Duluth, MN in the 17 years of having lived in the north state, reckon it was time to take the plunge and become a true Minnesooootan. We booked a room at the cozy Lutsen Resort Lodge on Lake Superior and successfully coincided this mini-staycation with the leaves changing season. Needless to say, this ended up being one of our favorite trips and we didn't even have to leave the State. The North Shore took my breath away with its magical colors, windy roads through tunnels, dashing waterfalls and blue waters for days.
It was hard to believe that any next place would top the last pit stop at Zion National Park in Utah and the beauty of Angels Landing hike, but oh were we wrong! The last home stretch of the J♡J cross country road trip brought us through some of the most beautiful places the wild wild west of America has to offer - from scenic roads curving around edges to top of mountains, to geysers and amazing wildlife - together, we ventured through the beautiful Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Yellowstone National Park in complete awe.
Welcome to walk, bike & transit friendly Salt Lake City, Utah! Better known for its large Mormon settlement and the 2002 Winter Olympics, Salt Lake City is steadily becoming a household name when it comes to its walking, biking and public transportation infrastructure and for a good reason!
One of the top concerns for the city has been air quality. More than 5,000 people have protested since 2013, calling for government to take action in fight against pollution. These protests led to government initiatives at city, county, and state levels. Cars were found to be responsible for 60% of the pollution and in response, the City has introduced measures to encourage walking, biking, and public transportation, which has proved to be thus far successful.
Zion, a bucket list must have! Long we talked about visiting and hiking its most infamous and thrilling trail known as Angels Landing. Luckily, for our adventurous hearts and spirits, we usually set out to do what we talk about….as long as our pockets will allow. Even more so, there could not have been a better time to visit Zion National Park as it was a mere 2.5 hours drive from Las Vegas, NV and en route to Minneapolis, MN.
Second must see destination is the oldest state park in Nevada, Valley of Fire. Its name stems from the red sandstone formations that often appear to be on fire when reflecting the sun’s rays. The park is easily accessible via I-15N and is located about 50 miles northeast of Vegas, approximately one hour drive and a quick getaway from the Strip. This was our first pit stop on our road tripping adventure back to Minnesota.
If you make the trip to one of the world's most colorful cities, Las Vegas, make sure to rent a car for a day and explore one of these amazing places off the strip. In addition to these places written about before, there are TWO more MUST see places just a few hours drive from the lights and glitz.