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.
After a year and a half of living across the country from each other and countless dates and road trips in different cities and states, it was time for him to say goodbye to Las Vegas and make the big move back to the Twin Cities. For me, it meant no more frequent jaunts to what has become one of my favorite cities, but in retrospect, it also meant a real start to a lifelong companionship with my best friend. Before starting the long journey back home, we decided to live up this last weekend in Las Vegas by reliving some of our old memories and spots while adding some new experiences along the way.
Grand Canyon, Arizona – one of the seven natural wonders of the world and the last pit stop on our desert adventure before heading back to the glitz of Las Vegas, Nevada. I have always yearned for a chance to visit the Grand Canyon for as long as I can remember, especially after watching the film National Lampoon’s Vacation and hoping to one day embark on a cross-country road trip myself.
Sedona, Arizona – If the two-hour scenic drive from Scottsdale up to this small rocky city was any indication of its startling beauty, then I knew we were in for a treat. On all of our trips in the past year, we prefer to explore the various places we visit by foot. And this was the case, nonetheless, as Sedona provides some of the most breathtaking views if you can hike up one of its many trails in Red Rock Country. Nonetheless, walking in unfamiliar areas will open your eyes to new tucked away gems and you are guaranteed to discover so much more.