How to Visit the Great Wall of China

How to Visit the Great Wall of China

Visiting the Great Wall of China is one of the most popular day trips you can take from Beijing. If you travel halfway across the world to China's capital city, you should make time for a trip to one of its most famous landmarks, the Great Wall. I was not sure what to expect during my visit. I was awed and impressed by the Great Wall and had a fun day exploring the area. A visit to the Great Wall of China is not to be missed!

For more great stories about adventures in Asia, read these articles about What to Expect on your Ha Long Bay Cruise and How to Visit Angkor Wat!

Note that this page includes affiliate links: this means if you make a purchase using the link I receive some compensation at no additional cost to you. Thank you!

A Brief History of the Great Wall of China

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Construction

The Qin Dynasty began building the Great Wall sometime between 221 and 206 BC. The Ming Dynasty, who ruled from 1368 to 1664 AD, completed the wall during their reign. Though its building spanned millennial, the wall you see today was built mostly by the Ming Dynasty. Few remnants of what was built by previous dynasties still exist. When the wall was no longer needed to protect China from the Hun invaders from the North - and it is unlikely it ever offered protection to begin with - it fell into disrepair. Restoration efforts in the 1980s brought the wall back to the state in which we see it today. In 1987, UNESCO declared the Great Wall a World Heritage Site.

Facts

The Great Wall of China is between 13,170 km and 21,196 km long. It contains many sections, with some looking like your typical Great Wall photos and others like mounds of dirt. The main tourist area near Bejing has ten sections. The most famous sections for tourists are Badaling and Mutianyu. There are many tours available to choose from that bring tourists from Beijing to visit the Wall. Alternatively, you may embark on your own adventure to visit the Great Wall using public transportation or a private driver.

Deciding which Section to Visit

There are many sections to choose from when visiting the Great Wall from Beijing. Most visitors find themselves choosing between Badaling and Mutianyu.

Badaling is the most famous section likely because it is easiest to get to from Beijing. This also makes it the one most tourists visit, meaning it is often very crowded. For this reason I do not recommend visiting the Badaling section if the others are accessible to you.

The Mutianyu section, on the other hand, is not yet overrun with tourists. In fact when I visited on a beautiful day in September there was almost no one there! It contains a quiet village at the bottom of the wall, a chair lift up to the top, well-preserved stone walkways, and a toboggan slide down.

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Getting to the Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is about an hour North of Beijing by car and two to three hours by public transportation. Visiting the Wall will take at least half a day. Once you decide which section of the Wall to visit, the easiest way to determine how to get there is to use the Rome2Rio website, which provides directions between any two places in the world, including Beijing and the Great Wall.

Badaling

Rome2Rio identifies many options of transport between Beijing and Badaling. The easiest way to reach the Badaling section of the Great Wall is to take the Beijing subway to the Huangtudian Railway Station. From here you can board a train that will take you directly to Badaling. This trip is the easiest and most direct way to visit the Great Wall from Beijing, which is why so many tourists opt for it.

Mutianyu

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My experience getting to Mutianyu was slightly different. I was fortunate to have my friend Dong as a local guide. I met Dong in law school in the United States. She grew up in Southern China and lived in Beijing. Dong asked me to meet her at the Dongzhimen bus station around 8:30 AM the day of our visit to the Great Wall. We planned to take a public bus all the way to the Great Wall for about $3 USD with just one transfer.

Travel by Local Bus

The ride out of the city provided a unique perspective on life in urban China. We traveled through smaller cities around Beijing using both highways and local roads. From the looks of things around us we could have been driving through somewhere in the United States: it would have looked the same except for the Mandarin writing on the signs.

The bus made multiple local stops in the different towns as we approached the wall. Looking around at the other passengers, it was clear this was transportation used mostly by locals rather than tourists. My dad, who was along with us, and I were the only non-Chinese people on the bus. We clearly stuck out as foreign tourists.

Transfer to Private Car or Taxi

At one stop, a man from outside saw us on the bus, boarded the bus through a back door, and approached us speaking broken English. Not knowing what he wanted, I tried to ignore him and pretend I spoke another language. Dong was sitting behind my dad and I, and we heard her speak Mandarin with the man. Suddenly she told us to get off the bus and quickly. I had no idea what was going on. Were we in danger?

To my surprise, as we left the bus we followed the man and got in his car! It turns out he was a taxi driver. It had been obvious to him that two white people on the local bus in that area were trying to visit the Great Wall. Had we remained on the bus it would have taken another half hour to reach the Great Wall. With our new taxi driver we were just a five minute drive away from the entrance.

Visiting the Wall

A visit to the Great Wall of China includes much more than just wandering around an elevated stone path for a few minutes. At most sections you will find a small village, information about the Wall, and transport up to and back from the landmark.

Reaching the Wall

In the Mutianyu section visitors purchase access to the wall at the main entrance. Your ticket includes a chair lift ride up and either a chair lift or a toboggan ride down. We all opted for the toboggan ride ticket seeing as that was one of the main reasons I had chosen to visit this particular section of the wall.

The chair lift from the village to the top of the wall took about ten minutes. As an avid skier, I had been on many chair lifts before. I sat back and enjoyed the views of the surrounding Chinese countryside during the trip up. If you are not accustomed to riding on chair lifts, make sure you lower and raise the safety bar at the appropriate times (there are signs), sit all the way back in the seat, and don't rock the chair! If fear of heights is an issue, just watch the chair in front of you. There will be plenty of time to take in views of the area from the top of the wall itself.

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"Climbing" the Wall

The night before our visit to the Great Wall, Dong took my dad and I out to dinner. When we discussed our adventure planned for the next day, she kept talking about "climbing" the Wall. I kept imagining us having to climb up the side of the wall from the ground! I was very pleased, though slightly confused, when I selected the chair lift option at the entrance and learned we would be dropped off on top of the wall.

The climb to which Dong was referring occurs once you are on the wall. Because it was built many centuries ago, the architecture of the wall is imperfect. Additionally, the expanse across which it stretches is marked by rolling hills. These factors mean visitors must exert some effort  to hike along the wall between the watch towers. At various points you travel up or down along the paths on top of the wall following the hills. In some areas there are stairs to climb. Other areas are not well kept and are tricky to navigate. The stairs are not always evenly spaced. I thought this was a result of bad technology or architecture at the time, but this was often done on purpose to throw off intruders trying to run up and down the wall.

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If you are not expecting an active hike, you can still visit the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. The chair lift drop off was intentionally set at a part of the Wall that is flat and well-maintained in almost perfect condition. If you are able to travel further and make the hike you will be well-rewarded with the natural beauty of the surrounding area, the uniqueness of each historic watch tower, and the thinning out of crowds as you travel further from the entrance point.

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Descending the Wall

One of the most unique features of the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall is its toboggan ride to the bottom. Though you have the option to return to the village by chair lift, complete your visit by taking the toboggan down. Even Michelle Obama chose this option during her visit! Each rider rides in their own toboggan with a handle to hold onto that also contains a break. You use the break to control your own speed. The track looks like a metal luge or skeleton racing track traveling through the woods from the wall back to the village. The ride down takes five to ten minutes depending on your chosen speed. All three of us visiting the Wall that day took advantage of this option.

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bejing; great wall; china; visit the great wall of china

Mutianyu Village

Complete your visit to the Great Wall by exploring the shops and eating in the restaurants in the Mutianyu Village. Though the area may seem touristy, we had delicious authentic food served to us in a village restaurant, and then bought a few trinkets by which to remember our visit.

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At the end of our time in Mutianyu, we met our taxi driver - who had waited for us the whole time! - who took us back to one of the main bus stops in the area where we boarded our public transportation back to Beijing.

I highly recommend selecting the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall to visit. Regardless of which section you choose, make sure to add this day trip to any itinerary of a visit to Beijing.

Planning a trip to Beijing and looking for a great hotel? Check out the options here: Beijing City Hotels.

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Learn how to visit the Great Wall of China with my travel tips and advice!
Learn how to visit the Great Wall of China with my travel tips and advice!
Learn how to visit the Great Wall of China with my travel tips and advice!
What to Do in Denver in Every Season

What to Do in Denver in Every Season

Have you ever wondered what to do in Denver if you’re planning to visit at a particular time of the year? Denver is one of the best cities to visit at any time, whenever your schedule allows! The city offers four seasons of fun and has activities that will appeal to everyone. Denver residents are known for their healthy lifestyles, so most activities will also promote an active vacation!

Planning a trip out West? Check out Weekend Adventures in Portland, OR for more adventures for your U.S. trip!

What to Do in Denver in the Winter

When most people think of vacation in Denver, they immediate think of skiing and snowboarding. Given that there are dozens of mountains just an hour or two away from the city, this makes sense. Hop on Route 70 from the Denver airport, take a scenic ride through the Rocky Mountains, and pick your ski resort!

Loveland Ski Area – Day Trip

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If you want to experience Denver-area skiing and snowboarding for a day, head to the Loveland Ski Area. Just an hour from Denver, this ski area does not have an accompanying resort so it is meant for day trips. Loveland is a smaller mountain that has many great trails for beginners. Even so, there is still enough intermediate and advanced terrain for experienced skiers and snowboarders to have fun for a day too.

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If you have time after your day on the mountain, continue ten minutes up route 6 from the ski area to the Loveland Pass and take a photo on top of the Continental Divide.

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Keystone Resort – Weekend or Full Week

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About an hour and a half outside of Denver, Keystone Resort is a mid-sized ski resort perfect to visit for a few days. You can stay right on the mountain, or check out accommodations in the nearby town of Keystone, CO. The mountain itself is welcoming to skiers of all levels. Even beginners can enjoy spectacular views from the summit before making their way down the mountain. Expert skiers looking for a wilderness experience can take the Outback lift to an off-piste area that is part of the mountain. With 148 trails covering 3,148 acres, Keystone Resort provides enough skiing and snowboarding opportunities to last a few days. When your group is ready for a break, head to the Keystone ski village to enjoy a hot chocolate and gaufre liège.

Want more ski resort recommendations? Check out the Best New England Ski Resorts post!

What to Do in Denver in the Spring

Cherry Creek Bike Ride

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The Cherry Creek Trail is a 42-mile pedestrian and bike path that runs along the Cherry Creek River. It begins in Downtown Denver and travels South to Castle Rock, CO. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you could bike the entire path. Otherwise, rent a bike in the city from any B-Cycle Station and spend a few miles cycling peacefully by the river as it runs through town. If you choose to leave the path, most Denver city roads are bike-friendly as well.

Colorado Rockies Baseball Game

Watching a live baseball game is the perfect way to spend a Spring afternoon or evening in America! The Colorado Rockies play at Denver’s Coors Field in downtown Denver.  Major League Baseball’s 2019 Opening Day is scheduled for March 28. This early start gives you plenty of opportunities to pick up day-of tickets if you decide to attend a game while you’re in town.

What to Do in Denver in the Summer

Elitch Gardens

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Summer is for theme parks and water parks! Forego the big-name commercial theme parks for a chance to step back in history at Denver’s Elitch Gardens. The gardens have been running continuously since they opened in 1890 as a garden and zoo. The first theme park ride, the carousel, premiered in 1928 and is still operating today. Many other rides in the park may look familiar to patrons from around the country: I recognized a number of rides as duplicates of those I spent many years on at Lake Compounce Theme Park in Bristol, Connecticut. Don’t forget to pack a bathing suit for the water park too, which is included in your admission ticket!

Rocky Mountain National Park

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Hiking is considered a year-round activity in Colorado, but the best time to go is in the Summer. Temperatures in the higher altitudes will drop quickly, even when it is 90 degrees in the city. Go on your hike prepared with appropriate pants and a sweater. The best hiking in the area is in Rocky Mountain National Park. The park is about an hour and a half North of Denver. Hiking in the park is not strenuous itself, but if you are not used to the higher altitudes, you may become out of break quicker than usual. This is normal and you are not suddenly out of shape, it is just the new altitude! Be sure to carry water with you and go slowly if you experience this strange phenomenon.

What to Do in Denver in the Fall

Denver Broncos Football Game

As with baseball in the Spring, American football in the Fall is a quintessential American activity. Denver’s football team, the Broncos, play at the Mile High Stadium located in downtown Denver. If you want to catch a game, you could swing by after Sunday brunch, pick up a ticket, and head right into the stadium for kickoff. However, if you do that you may miss out on the best part of football: tailgating! To participate in tailgating, make your way to the parking lots outside the stadium a few hours before kickoff. Wander around the tailgate parties and engage with the fans. You may even be invited to partake in a game of cornhole (bean bag toss) or enjoy a beer with fellow Broncos fans at their tailgates.

Stanley Hotel in Estes Park

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If you’re a fan of Halloween and horror stories, you don’t want to miss the Stanley Hotel in October. This is the hotel on which Stephen King’s “The Shining” book and subsequent movie is based. Eerie in its own right, the hotel leans into its haunted fame to host Twin Terror Weekends leading up to Halloween. Visit the hotel to take a tour, explore the grounds, attend a party, or stay overnight if you want the full experience.

What to Do in Denver at Any Time

Museum of Nature & Science

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Stuck inside on a rainy day? Too cold to explore the city? Looking for someplace to take the kids? Check out Denver’s Museum of Nature & Science. Even if you’ve been before, the rotating exhibits guarantee there will be something new to see next time. For example, I saw awesome exhibits on Whales and the Silk Road a few years ago that are long gone. Next time, I would love to go see the current Cuba! exhibit. Depending on the weather, after your museum visit you can meander through the bordering Denver City Park and make your way over to the nearby Denver Zoo (also located in the park).

REI Flagship Store

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If you are interested in outdoor activities or shopping, be sure to stop at the REI Flagship store when you are in Denver. Sitting on the banks of the Cherry Creek and Colorado Rivers, this store offers much more than a chance to buy new hiking boots. There are free outdoor sports seminars, a cold room that lets you try cold gear, and the best attraction: a 3-story indoor climbing wall! Unlike your local REI, this is a destination, not just a store.

N.B. This post contains affiliate links. That means if you click on a link and make a purchase, I may receive some commission at no additional cost to you.

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Planning a trip to Denver? Check out this post for activities available year round in the city and surrounding area!

What to Do in Denver in Every Season: list of activities in this awesome city for any time you may be visiting!

Spring Weekend Adventures in Portland, Oregon

Spring Weekend Adventures in Portland, Oregon

"Where are you from and where are you going?"

"I'm from Boston and am going to Portland."

"Why don't you just take the train?"

I had this conversation with a stranger at Boston's Logan airport as we were both waiting for our delayed flights one night in May. I thought it was obvious I was flying across the country to Portland, Oregon, and not traveling up the coast a few miles to Portland, Maine, but I guess it was not.

The stranger's confusion was not unfounded. When Portland, OR, was founded in 1845, its name was decided by a coin toss. The two founding settlers were from Boston, Massachusetts, and Portland, Maine. They both wanted to name the new city after their respective former cities. The disagreement was settled by flipping a penny, and the settler from Maine won. Thus Portland, OR, was named after Portland, ME. The penny involved is on display at the Oregon Historical Society Museum in Portland.

I did not have a chance to see the penny when I visited Portland in May for the first time. However, the things I was able to do and see on my visit caused me to fall in love with the city. Boston will always be my home, but if I were ever forced to relocate, I think I would pick Portland without hesitation.

Lake Oswego: A Portland Suburb

My trip began in the upscale Portland suburb of Lake Oswego. The purpose of my visit was to see one of my best friends graduate from Lewis and Clark Law School, which is located in Lake Oswego. I arrived a day before anyone else, so I had a full day to explore the area on my own.

Downtown Lake Oswego

My first stop was a local spin studio. I wanted to take advantage of the three hour time difference from Boston by waking up early and having a full day of activities. Using my global Class Pass account to schedule an early-morning spin class at StarCycle, I was able to get in some fitness before a day of tourist activities. The studio was very welcoming and accommodating considering I was just stopping by for the day!

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After class, I treated myself to a pedicure at Tiffany Nails and Spa. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that clients received a free drink with their service. I opted for a strawberry mimosa, light on the champagne. When I mentioned this to my friend later, I learned that it is commonplace at nail salons in Oregon to offer free drinks with the services. Boston, take note!

I ended my morning in Lake Oswego by grabbing a pain au chocolat from the St. Honoré Bakery and taking a quick walk down by the lake. It was still a little chilly in mid-May, but I could tell the area would be gorgeous in the summer.

lake oswego; portland; oregon

Lake Oswego from the edge of the downtown area

Accommodation and Restaurant Recommendations

My friends and I stayed at the Residence Inn by Marriott* in Lake Oswego, which had an upscale summer-camp feel. Each residence had its own door, and our two-bedroom suite had two floors. The grounds were large and offered many amenities, including a pool, tennis, volleyball, and a fire pit. The hotel was nice, but if I returned in the summer, I would stay at the Lakeshore Inn* on the water in the downtown center. Its location and many water-sport offerings - like swimming and kayaking - would make for a wonderful vacation.

lake oswego; residence inn; marriott

Balcony and front door of our hotel room.

During my trip, I enjoyed an incredible meal at the Oswego Grill. This restaurant offers delicious steak, chicken, Pacific-caught fish, and vegetarian meals. The chefs also easily accommodated many various food allergies at the table, including a corn intolerance. It is the perfect restaurant for a nice, relaxing meal on vacation.

lake oswego grill

Celebrating my friend's law school graduation at the Lake Oswego Grill

Willamette Valley Vineyards

Being a wine-lover, I could not visit Oregon without exploring at least one vineyard. Before my trip, I researched some of Oregon's well-known wine regions. Dundee Hills, which is part of the famous Willamette Valley region, was only 15 minutes from my hotel. After my morning in downtown Lake Oswego, I hopped in my rental car and headed to Dundee Hills for the afternoon.

Rex Hill

My first stop was Rex Hill Vineyard. An "essence table" greeted me in the lobby. You have probably heard wines described as having a certain "nose" and tasting like things other than wine, such as blackberries, cherries, or even leather. The essence table had 24 glasses filled with various fruits, spices, and minerals that one could use to describe wine. Guests were meant to smell the items on the table then associate those smells with their wines while they had tastings. I did not make many associations during my tasting, but I had fun smelling my way around the table!

essence table; rex hill; willimette valley

I choose to sit outside on the deck during my tasting. The sommelier first brought me some cheese biscuits to enjoy with my wine. He then brought out each of the six wines for my tasting one at a time. The pours began with the recent rosé vintage, then moved on to the typical Oregon Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.

rex hill

Because the vineyard was not crowded, the sommelier had time to tell me the history of the vineyard and the wines. Most interestingly, I learned about the ancient Missoula floods that occurred when the Ice Age ice receded from the region. The floods started in Montana, ran all the way to the Pacific Ocean, and then slowly receded. This created rocky terrain, which causes the grape vine roots to dig deeper into the soil than in other regions. The effect is a deeper flavor in the wine, closer to that of a Syrah than your typical Pinot Noir. This lesson, along with my tasting, gave me a new appreciation for American wines.

Red Hills Market

The Red Hills Market was highly recommended for a quick, local bite to eat. It was also between the two vineyards I wanted to visit, so it made a perfect lunch spot. I had a simple yet delicious soup and salad combo with farm-fresh local ingredients. If you need a spot to grab a bite to eat in Dundee Hills, add the Red Hills Market to your itinerary.

red hills market

Sokol Blosser Winery

My second wine stop of the day was the Sokol Blosser Winery. Located further into the Dundee Hills region than Rex Hills, the Sokol Blosser Winery has three sitting rooms where you can taste your wine. While you are sipping, beautiful views of the region are offered through floor-to-ceiling windows in each room. I sampled the Spring Flight while I was there, which included a Pinot Gris, a Pinot Noir rosé, and three typical Pinot Noir samples.

Sokol Busser; vineyard; wine; portland; oregon

While the wine at Sokol Blosser was delicious, the experience was not as personal nor as relaxing as the one I had at Rex Hill. If you only have time for one vineyard on your trip, I would recommend Rex Hill over Sokol Blosser. However, Sokol Blosser's public areas are larger, and you are able to wander around the vineyards, whereas most of Rex Hill's vineyards are off-site. Considering this, Sokol Blosser may be more accommodating for a larger group of people while Rex Hill is better for a solo traveler.

Downtown Portland

After my day in Dundee Hills, I spent the late afternoon and evening in downtown Portland. I had a few key tourist locations I wanted to check out in my few remaining solo hours. Most of them were interesting, beautiful, and worth visiting again!

EaT: An Oyster Bar

Raw oysters are one of my favorite foods. Similar to wines, they develop particular flavors and textures based on the regions and waters in which they are raised. I have access to many East Coast oysters living in Massachusetts, but West Coast oysters are both more difficult to come by and more expensive. Given this, I wanted to make sure to sample some West Coast oysters while in Oregon.

EaT is an open-air bar and restaurant featuring $1 oyster happy hour specials. Its front wall is like a garage door, which was completely open when I was there to provide access to sidewalk seats. I stopped by and ordered three oysters from Washington state, three from Oregon, and an oyster shooter special. The oysters definitely had a more full-bodied and less-salty taste than East Coast oysters. This makes me wish we had better access to them in Boston, but I at least know where to return for great oysters next time I am in Portland.

oysters; portland; oregon

West Coast Oysters

International Rose Test Garden

In 1915, as World War I raged on in Europe, a local Portland rose enthusiast convinced city officials to set up the International Rose Test Garden as a safe haven for Europe's hybrid roses. Oregon was so far away from the fighting of WWI, and such an undesirable target, that it was thought the roses would certainly be safe there. Seedlings from England and other countries were sent over in 1918 to begin the garden.

100 years later, the garden provides 4.5 acres of beautiful roses overlooking the city. Access to the gardens is free. If you visit Portland in the Spring or Summer, take some time out of your trip to walk through the garden's grounds. The blooms were already so beautiful in May, and I'm sure they are even more brilliant later in the season.

rose garden; portland; oregon

Powell's Books

If you have heard anything about Portland, you have probably heard about Powells Books. This four-story bookstore takes up an entire city block in Portland's Pearl District. It covers 1.6 total acres. You can find all your typical bookstore books here, as well as rare finds and even out-of-print books. When I visited, I planned to just look around, but I was drawn to the foreign language section and ended up purchasing Dante's Inferno in both English and Italian and Dostoyevsky's Brothers Karamozov completely in Russian. I am just learning to read Russian, so I am on page 3, but I was proud that I could recognize the book for what it was with no English context! These books would have been difficult to find anywhere but Powells Books.

Japanese Gardens

The Japanese Gardens had also been on my list, but I did not have a chance to visit my first day in the city. Luckily, the group I was with all wanted to visit later in my trip. The Gardens span 12 acres and transport you to another world across the Pacific Ocean while you are there. They offer peaceful koi ponds and contemplative zen rock gardens, as well as elaborate displays of foreign flora. You could spend a few hours seeing to the displays you are most impressed with, or wander the grounds for an entire day. Either way, these gardens should be a stop on your tour of Portland.

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Koi Pond

japanese garden; portland; oregon

Zen Rock Garden

Portland Peculiarium

The Portland Peculiarium was not a place I consider worth visiting again. However, it was an interesting experience so I thought it worth mentioning. When researching things to do in Portland before my trip, a friend trying to "help" found the Portland Peculiarium listed as a suggested destination. He insisted that I visit, and even offered to pay my admission if I went. Seeing as I had some extra time and I would be passing close to the location in my travels, I took a few minutes to stop in.

portland; peculiarium; oregon

Front of the Peculiarium

The Peculiarium museum is in a warehouse-like building. There were a few odd, yet obviously fake, "peculiar" things on the sidewalk outside to entice visitors. The lobby inside included the ticket desk, gift shop, and temporary walls to hide the exhibits. The museum itself had three rooms, each about the size of a typical bedroom. The rooms were filled with objects made by the creators from random children's toys, such as a dead zombie baby in a carriage and random body parts in a blood-filled bathtub. The coolest part was the exhibit where you could stick your head through a hole and take a picture of yourself as someone subjected to an alien dissection. Overall, unless you are really into this type of thing or really bored, do not go out of your way to visit Portland's Peculiarium.

portland; oregon; peculiarium

Alien Dissection

I made sure to buy my friend a giant rubber cockroach from the gift store, and leave it unknowingly on his desk as a thank you gift for sending me to this place.

Hiking in Columbia River Gorge

On my last day in Oregon I went hiking with my friends in the Columbia River Gorge Valley. Their favorite hiking trails on the Oregon-side of the Columbia River were closed from fire damage caused by last year's fires. Therefore, we had to explore new trails on the Washington-side of the river that day. We got lucky with a beautiful, clear, sunny day with moderately cool temperatures perfect for hiking. While most of our journey paralleled the river, and therefore the road next to it, it was great to get out of the city and experience some of the nature in the area. When I return, I will be sure to save more time for hiking and hopefully check out some of the Oregon-side trails when they reopen!

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*N.B. Some links included in this article are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

 

Looking to spend a weekend in Portland, Oregon this Spring? Check out this post!
Looking to spend a weekend in Portland, Oregon this Spring? Check out this post!
Best New England Ski Resorts for Weekend Getaways

Best New England Ski Resorts for Weekend Getaways

New England ski resorts are open for 2018! For anyone looking to get away for a ski weekend in the Northeast from now until March or April, check out the resorts below. Each resort listed has great terrain, many accommodation options, villages offering you a break from your boots, and price points that won't break the bank, at least as far as ski weekends go.

Looking for more things to do in New England? Check out these posts about a Weekend in New Hampshire, Fall in Connecticut, and a Day Trip to Salem, MA!

Mount Snow

West Dover, Vermont * Opens for the season November 4, 2018https://www.mountsnow.com/

mount snow; ski; vermont

The Mountain

Mount Snow is the closest Green Mountain ski resort to both Boston (2.5 hours) and New York City (4 hours). It runs 20 lifts for its 600 acres of terrain, including the Bluebird Express that provides a front cover to cut the wind as you ride to the summit. The mountain provides mostly intermediate terrain, with a few steep diamond trails and a nice long, easy beginner trail down from the summit.

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Accommodations

Two on-site accommodations are available at Mount Snow. The Grand Summit Resort Hotel provides ski-in ski-out privileges for the mountain. If you are looking for something more budget-friendly, stay at the Snow Lake Lodge across the street from the mountain, which is accessible by shuttle. Both locations offer hot tubs to enjoy during your après-ski time.

Village and Town

Mount Snow doesn't have a contained resort area, but it doesn't need one. The town of West Dover, Vermont, is a short drive away from the mountain and provides everything you would want in a ski town. If you want to be a part of mountain history, head for TC's Restaurant, home of Gold-Medal Olympian Snowboarder Kelly Clark. For something more upscale, sit in the dining room at West Dover Joe's. Looking for nightlife after dinner? The Snow Barn, a few feet from the mountain, provides drinks and live music most nights.

Overall Review: Given its location and size, Mount Snow is great for a short weekend ski trip or a long day of skiing if you're coming from New England or Eastern New York.

Killington

Killington, Vermont * Open NOW for the season! * https://www.killington.com/

killington; ski resort; vermont; new england

The Mountain

Nicknamed "The Beast," Killington offers the biggest ski area in New England. Its size means there are enough trails to satisfy skiers of all levels. Thrilling black diamond trails challenge the best skiers, while beginners can stick to the numerous bunny trails or try a run from the summit entirely on beginner trails. Lift tickets are also some of the most expensive in the area at full price, but Killington often offers discount tickets if you spend time investigating.

Accommodations

The Killington Grand Resort Hotel at the base of the mountain is the perfect place to stay if you want all the comforts of a ski hotel. However, ski cabins are much more popular at Killington, as many of them have lift access, offering ski-on/ski-off capabilities. Killington's Managed Condos website or AirBNB can help you locate your ideal accommodation, whether it's a 12-person cabin with a private outdoor hot tub and indoor sauna, or a single-family two-bedroom bungalow.

Village and Town

Killington's Base Lodge offers numerous dining options for hungry skiers. Favorites include Preston's and Killington House of Pizza. If you want to venture into the cold for some nightlife, you must check out the Wobbly Barn, Killington's infamous music house and nightclub.

Overall Review: While Killington doesn't offer the on-site resort experience you may expect out West or in Europe, it has the best mountain in the area, so it's the best destination for serious skiers and their friends.

Jay Peak

Jay, Vermont * Opens for the season November 23, 2018 * https://jaypeakresort.com/

jay peak; snow; ski; resort; new england; vermont

The Mountain

Jay Peak offers 385 acres of terrain with 79 trails. However, it boasts the encouragement of off piste skiing as well, with 100+ acres of glade terrain. Advanced skiers looking to challenge themselves can take advantage of this additional acreage, while advanced-beginner skiers will find the intermediate trails accessible.

Accommodations

Jay Peak offers numerous accommodation options, all connected with their convenient shuttle service. For a hotel-like experience, stay at the Hotel Jay, Tram Haus Lodge, or Stateside Hotel. Many condos and cabins are available for larger groups who prefer their own private residence.

Village

The New England ski resort with the most options available when you're ready to give the skis a break is Jay Peak. The Pump House indoor water park is a guest favorite with water slides, a lazy river, and indoor surfing. Access to the Pump House is included in your Ski and Stay ticket. The Ice Haus indoor ice skating rink lets you brush up on your other winter sport while you are on vacation. With 16 on-property restaurants, there is something to accommodate everyone's tastes at Jay Peak. At night, a few of the bars provide live music. If you want a quieter evening, see what's playing at the Movie Theater next to the Stateside Hotel.

jay peak; pump house; waterpark; indoor water park; vermont; ski resort

Inside the Pump House

Overall Review: A large mountain near the Canadian border, Jay Peak offers a full day of skiing and plenty of dining and entertainment options off the mountain to keep you occupied for a long vacation. 

Sugarloaf

Carrabassett Valley, Maine * Opens for the season November 19, 2018 * https://www.sugarloaf.com/

sugarloaf; maine; mountain; new england; ski resort

The Mountain

Sugarloaf is one of the most popular mountains in Maine. Though somewhat difficult to reach, traveling on about 30 minutes of dark, local roads after you pass Portland, the journey is worth it. Sugarloaf Mountain offers 162 trails, which are evenly divided among beginner, intermediate, and expert options. The signature feature at Sugarloaf is its summit lift that is the only lift to bring skiers to trails above the treeline in the East.

Accommodations

Sugarloaf Mountain is in the middle of nowhere, so you're going to want to stay on the mountain. The Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel offers beautiful rooms at the base of the mountain. If you don't want to stay in a hotel, your other option are the ski-in/ski-out condos and cabins on the mountain.

Village

Because of its remote location, Sugarloaf offers plenty to do on its property, and provides frequent shuttle buses to bring visitors to all its dining and entertainment options. The premium restaurant for a nice night out is 45 North. During the day, pick up a quick snack at Hunker Down or Alice & Lulu's between runs. If you're looking for a nice drink, The Widowmaker or Shipyard Brewhaus has got you covered. At night, take the shuttle to The Rack to grab a drink while listening to live music.

Overall Review: Sugarloaf's remote location mandates great customer service, a standard that the resort definitely lives up to. 

BONUS REVIEW: Mont Tremblant

Mont Tremblant, Quebec, Canada * Opens for the season November 22, 2018 * https://www.tremblant.ca/

mont tremblant; ski resort; canada; quebec

While this post is meant to focus on New England ski resorts, I would be remiss if I did not mention the absolutely best ski resort in the Northeast, just over the border in Canada. A 6-hour drive from Boston, or a quick flight from New York City, Mont Tremblant ski resort is absolutely worth the trip.

The Mountain

With 102 trails on four separate slopes, you could spend your entire trip covering new terrain with every run. The slopes are well-maintained with packed powder. Just remember to pack all your cold-weather ski gear: temperatures at the summit when I was there were below zero degrees Fahrenheit, without a wind chill!

Accommodations

There are cabins and condos available in the area of Mont Tremblant, but with such diverse options in the village, you should pick one of the official lodgings for your stay. The Fairmont and Le Westin provide the high-end, luxurious options. Homewood Suites and the Holiday Inn Express round out the hotel chain options with hotel suites including gas fireplaces and kitchens. For a more traditional experience, look into the Sommet des Neiges, Ermitage du Lac, and the Tour des Voyageurs.

Village

When you arrive at Mont Tremblant's village, you will think you've been transported to a European ski village in the French or Swiss Alps, and not just because everyone speaks both English and French. The village was built in 1939, creating Canada's first ski resort area. As you walk through the lower and upper villages, you will pass many shops, restaurants, bistros, and bars. Make sure to stop into a shop for your traditional Canadian maple taffy, freshly made on Mont Tremblant's snow!

mont tremblant; canada; ski resort

Overall Review: If you want a proper European ski resort experience, take the time to visit Mont Tremblant. Also worth noting for American visitors, this luxury ski resort is a bargain due to our favorable exchange rate! It is also advised to take advantage of American bank holidays to visit this Canadian destination: many Montrealers venture to Mont Tremblant on the weekends, but it is virtually deserted during the week. I had an entire trail to myself on Martin Luther King Day a couple years ago!

 

Ready to plan your ski weekend? Find some of my favorite ski gear, like goggles, helmets, jackets, and base layers here!

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*Note: some of the links contained in this post are affiliate links. This means if you make a purchase through them I may receive some compensation, at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.Thank you for supporting this page!

 

Best New England Ski Resorts for Weekend Getaways
Best New England Ski Resorts for Weekend Getaways
How to Spend a Fall Weekend in New Hampshire

How to Spend a Fall Weekend in New Hampshire

This past weekend, I celebrated the New England transition from Summer to Fall in New Hampshire. I stayed with some friends in a cabin near the Vermont border. Throughout the weekend we engaged in both Summer and Fall activities, and enjoyed the beautiful, relaxing weekend that New Hampshire offered. You may not think of Northern New England as the most exciting area to go on vacation, but as the leaves begin to change this month, you should reconsider. There are many fun and adventurous things to do in this area!

Looking for other recommendations for New England Fall activities? Check out the Best Fall Activities in Connecticut post!

Accommodations

If you’re heading to New Hampshire this Fall season, definitely stay in a cabin. It gives you a more authentic nature experience in a very tranquil setting. You will also likely be closer to many of the outdoors activities in which you are probably looking to engage. There are cabins of all sizes and prices available on AirBNB (click here for $40 off your first reservation). If you love the cabin my friends and I stayed in this weekend, contact me for details about how to rent it!

new hampshire, cabin, loft, autumn

View from above of the spacious, cozy interior of our cabin

Eating

When my friends and I rent a property with a full kitchen, we often cook all our meals “at home.” There are many local grocery and general stores around New England where you can pick up provisions for your own cabin. If you are in the Western part of the state and looking to eat a meal out, check out The Farmer’s Table Café in Grantham. This restaurant provides both a cozy and upscale feel inside. It is located near ski resorts and hiking mountains like Sunapee. Wood-fired pizzas are its specialty – and they are delicious – but all the local options on the menu are amazing. Service was a little slow when I was there for lunch, but if you’re looking for a laid-back weekend this place will fit right into your schedule.

farmers table cafe, new hampshire, cafe, lunch, grantham

Farmer’s Table Cafe

Local New Hampshire Activities

Don’t miss out on these quintessential New England outdoors activities on your next trip to New Hampshire!

Hiking

New Hampshire has some of the best mountains and trails to hike. If you are an experienced hiker, you can challenge yourself with a 4,000-footer like Mount Tecumseh or Mount Washington. If you want to keep things closer to the ground, there are many trails available that circle lakes and mountains without requiring a strenuous ascent. My friends and I opted for the latter and hiked around Lake Eastham.

While I don’t consider myself to be an expert hiker, I’ve been on many hikes with friends who are experts. My best piece of advice for novice hikers is to look out for the colored paint or symbols along your trail. They will indicate which trail you are following and where your trail leads. You should be able to see the next colored marker from your current location. If you follow this rule, you will never get lost while hiking!

Example of a Marker on our Lake Trail

Swimming

The swimming season in New England is wrapping up but a few exceptionally warm days in September may provide the last good beach days of the season. The lake waters in New Hampshire are pristine. They provide a refreshing dip that is welcome on a hot day or after an activity like hiking. Next time you are in New Hampshire, grab your towel and pick a lake at which you can relax and cool off.

Many lakes also have a variety of boats for visitors to rent

Apple Picking

I really can’t talk about Fall in New Hampshire without mentioning apple picking. This typical New England activity is especially enjoyable in New Hampshire because there are so many orchards to pick from.  My friends and I selected the King Blossom Farm. Though we went on a beautiful day in the middle of September, the farm was empty when we arrived! The owners gave us some background about the farm and described the different varieties available, including the heirloom mixes that had developed over many years. We then set off into the orchard to pick all the apples we could want. The trees were abundant with beautiful-looking fruit, and at less than $1/pound we couldn’t resist picking over 10 pounds! Any farm or orchard in New Hampshire would give you a similar experience, but King Blossom Farm is worth a visit if you’re in the area.

Dozens of apples sitting on the trees just waiting to be picked

The farm also had a farm stand with fresh vegetables, homemade fruit butters and local maple syrup

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Best things to do in New Hampshire in the Fall

Fitness in Boston

Fitness in Boston

There is no shortage of fitness options in this city! Boston is an epicenter of young professionals, and we certainly uphold the millennial stereotype of enjoying our studio classes and other workouts in the city.

Outdoor Options

Boston has many green spaces perfect for working out year-round. As the top running race in the world, the Boston Marathon, is held here, you will always see people who are either training for the Marathon or inspired by the runners running through the streets and on the Esplanade along the Charles River. If you are not at a level to participate in the Boston Marathon, the Boston Athletic Association offers 5K, 10K, and Half Marathon Races that run on the same streets through the city. In fact, the 5K occurs two days before the Marathon and the route has runners race right over the Marathon finish line after making the infamous right on Hereford, left on Boylston turns that marathon finishers make.

marathon; running; boston

Boston Marathon Top Runners

Biking has also become popular in Boston recently. Many people use the city’s well-constructed bike lanes to commute to and from work, but if you’re looking for more of a leisurely ride you can rent a Hubway bike with a credit card from any of the Hubway stands and then ride along the Esplanade or the Charles River Bike Path in Cambridge with no risk of interference from motor vehicles.

Many fitness centers offer free outdoor classes in the summer as well. Through these programs you can find yoga in the parks, early morning outdoor boot camp classes, and Zumba® by Healthworks at the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade in the evening!

Spin Studios

spin; cycle

What city full of young professionals would be complete without a plethora of spin studios? In Boston, you will find the national studios Soul Cycle, Turnstyle, and Flywheel, as well as local studios including B Spoke, The Handle Bar, and C-Town Cycle. Most of these locations offer free or discounted classes for first-time students, so you can try as many as you’d like without spending your entire vacation budget! My favorite – so far – is Turnstyle’s South End studio, but I have friends who prefer B Spoke, Soul Cycle, and Flywheel as well.

Yoga Classes

As with the spin studios, Boston’s residents would not be content without yoga studios around every corner. There are really too many to list, with local studios seemingly appearing every week, but some of my favorites include Down Under Yoga and Core Power Yoga (especially the C2 class). I’ve never had a bad experience at a Boston yoga studio, and similar to the spin studios, most studios will offer first-time student discounts or free classes so you can check them out while you’re in the city.

boston; yoga; fitness

Yoga in the shadow of Boston’s Faneuil Hall

 

Indoor Rock Climbing

A recent phenomenon in the Boston area is indoor rock climbing. Brooklyn Boulders and Rock Spot Climbing are the two favorites among Bostonians. Just show up with your sneakers and the gyms will have all the other equipment that you need, like helmets and ropes. A professional on site will be available to explain everything and help belay if you’ve never done rock-climbing before, so if you are up for something new this is certainly worth trying out!

Dancing Lessons

A common theme you will come to notice in my posts is that I love to dance, and try to fit dancing into my life as much as possible. Because of this, I must talk about dancing in Boston as a fitness option. In addition to just sweating it out in one of our clubs or lounges on a weekend night, Boston offers dance lessons at various studios for those looking to learn the basics of different styles of dance.

The Boston Ballet, the company that produces The Nutcracker each year, offers open adult classes to which you can drop-in. If you’ve never danced before, the company provides an Intro to Ballet Workshop where you can start your journey towards becoming a ballerina. If you travel a bit outside the city, The Studio in Brookline also offers drop-in adult dance classes for all levels in many styles of dance including ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, contemporary, and pointe.

To learn some Latin dancing, especially Caribbean-style salsa, check out the lessons offered by Salsa y Control in Allston and Cambridge. The instructors from Salsa y Control also offer lessons at The Havana Club in Cambridge on Friday nights before the club is open to all levels for the best Latin dance party in Boston, where you can show off the moves you learned!

salsa; dance; boston

Night Out at the Havana Club

 

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Fitness Recommendations in Boston, Massachusetts

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