Tag Archives: couples travel

Glacier National Park

5 Must-See Places in {or Near} Glacier National Park

Where is your favorite place to visit? Some people love big cities. Others long for the ocean. As for me and my husband of twenty-three years, we love the mountains. We love fresh, crisp air and the scent of pines. There is nothing better than strolling up a gently sloped path to the cadence of a bird’s song. Ahh . . .

One of my favorite places to visit is Glacier National Park in the corner of Northwest Montana.

I lived just thirty minutes away from Glacier National Park for fifteen years, and the sharp mountain peaks, the sight of mountain goats and rams, and the roar of glacial waterfalls is something to behold!

In fact, when I had to travel to the Austria Alps I looked around (spinning like Maria in The Sound of Music), and I told my husband, “This looks almost exactly like home!”

We’d traveled half-way around the world to gaze upon high mountain peaks that looked amazingly familiar to the ones back home.

If you are starting to consider where you want to spend your summer vacation, consider Glacier National Park. It’ll save you the plane fare to Austria! And if you go … here are five must-see stops!

Five must-see stops!

1. Lake McDonald


Lake McDonald is a beautiful lake just inside the park. Follow signs to the “village” area, and you’ll find a place to park, quaint shops, and a view that will amaze you. The lake is ten miles long and 500 feet deep. If you visit early in the year, you can even make reservations to camp in the park. Of course if you do make sure you heed the warnings about bears. They are often seen by visitors at the park!

2. Avalanche Gorge


While you’re driving along Lake McDonald be sure to stop at the Avalanche Lake trail. It’s a flat, wooden walkway about a mile long, perfect for kids and elderly people. If you’re more adventurous, hike up to Avalanche Lake. It’s a low-to-moderate incline with a fantastic view. But whether you stick to the wooden walkway or hike to the lake, make sure you stop by avalanche gorge. The green, glacial water pouring through the narrow gorge is breathtaking.

3. Going to the Sun Road.


Going to the Sun Road is an engineering masterpiece that travels more than fifty miles through Glacier National Park and over the continental divide. If you’d rather look at the massive peaks and deep valleys, you can ride a “Jammer” bus and get a tour guide to point out all the sights. Of course don’t plan your vacation too early. Snow accumulates high in these mountains, and it isn’t plowed until mid-June. It closes by mid-September. It takes approximately two hours to drive the road, but plan for longer because you’ll want to stop and take a lot of photos!


4. Lake McDonald Lodge


On your way out of Glacier National Park be sure to stop by Lake McDonald Lodge. It’s an older, beautiful lodge with on-site dining and a gift shop. Make sure you walk around the lodge to the lakeside. This is the side of the lodge that faces the lake, and it’s actually the front of the lodge. Before the roads were built visitors used to come to the lodge by steamboat. Even today you can take a steamboat ride on the lake.

5. Whitefish Lake


Whitefish Lake isn’t in Glacier National Park, but it’s closer to the town of Whitefish. It’s a wonderful place to hang out as a couple or with your kids. You can swim, rent a paddle boat, or jet ski. Whitefish Lake is popular with the locals, so you’ll get a taste of the real Montana!

As you can see, beauty awaits you in Montana. Your camera will get a workout, but don’t forget to just put away the electronics for a while and breath in the fresh, pine air.

Las Vegas

The World Outside Our Window- Vegas Penthouse Style!

The view is breathtaking and surreal. From where I sit peering through a modern picture window fitted with electronic graphic shades, I see the Eiffel Tower, a French Chateau, and a Pallazo (Italian-styled palace).

There are also Villas lining an emerald green lake featuring dancing fountains, lush and manicured pool gardens, and an enormous Ferris wheel.

That’s right! We’re in Vegas, baby!

Handsome hubby and I love to vacation. When not vacationing with our boys, we treat ourselves to little “getaways” to recharge our batteries and kindle our love.

Every married couple should take time to get away (or even have a stay-cation) to reboot and let loose like you did when you first met. Don’t neglect that time. It’s important.

My husband has the unique knack of combining frugality and luxury, a gift set that I love, and enjoy the benefits of throughout the year.

So, on this extended date night we spent two nights and one day in a fabulous suite at the Vdara hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Vdara front

The Vdara is an all-suite, non-gaming, non-smoking “boutique” hotel specializing in service to the corporate conference crowd. I’m not sure if the term “boutique” applies here because our suite is located on the 54th floor. Nevertheless, the staff have a very friendly, smaller hotel manner that helped us feel right at home.

The 100 (or so) yard driveway leading up to the Vdara sets a tone which communicates, “you are heading towards a special experience.” As we walked through the doors, I noticed the beautiful scent wafting throughout the lobby. My first thought was, “I need to make a trip to the gift store to see if they sell that scent.” My second thought was “how much did we pay for this?”

The stylish lobby was completely contemporary yet comfortable. The art, furniture and floral arrangements were understated, and did not scream “Vegas”. We checked in and headed up to our Penthouse suite which amplified my question, “how much did we pay for this?” The one bedroom, two bathroom, suite featured a beautiful living room, dining area and kitchenette with modern amenities of which we planned on taking full advantage.

Vdara suite

How does a Pastor of a small church, with a wife who works 32 hours per week at a University afford such luxury?

We stopped at Trader Joe’s on our way in and purchased groceries which covered all of our meals for the trip. Meals which included, great cuts of steak, chicken marsala, pan roasted sweet potatoes and asparagus in our private dining room overlooking the city!

My hubby really appreciated my home cooked meal (along with the basketball game, and wifi). :)

dinner at Vdara

On-site amenities include a lovely spa for your pampering pleasure, a salon, a gourmet market (which offers delicious take out or eat in meals and tantalizing deserts), a small pool area with private cabanas, beautiful restaurants (which looked good from the outside ) and a fitness center.

Here’s the kicker, the Vdara is part of the City Center Complex, a collection of luxury hotels and residences, astonishing dining and outrageous designer shopping. If you like to window shop and see what the designers are up to, view great art while strolling arm-in-arm with your sweetie, this temperature-controlled window shoppers’ paradise was created for you!

Look what I found…Handbag Heaven!!!!

handbag heaven

If designer goods and fabulous handbags are not your bag, there are many other free experiences in Vegas. There is a wonderful conservatory and botanical garden at the Bellagio, a stroll to the iconic Welcome to Vegas sign, the wacky kitschy Freemont District, the Downtown Art District’s First Fridays’ (lots of art, vendors, and people watching). Not to mention the fun you and your husband can have in your room. We turned on the in room music and danced and laughed and…

botanical gardens

Bellagio Botanical Garden & Conservatory

By now you are asking, “how much did you pay for this?”

Drum roll please:

Penthouse Suite: $250.77 per night (for two nights)

Groceries: $89.87

Jean Philippe Patisserie: $6.22 (two scoops of gourmet ice cream and two spoons!)

Tips: $35

Transportation: $90 (we drove from Santa Barbara in our Honda Accord)

Victoria Secret: $49 and some change ;-)

Total: $771.63

Time with my handsome hubby: PRICELESS!!!

We have done similar trips for less. We’ve stayed in rooms or suites in the Wynn, Bellagio and Trump hotels for similar prices. This weekend happened to be a three day holiday so the rates were a bit higher.

Of course you don’t have to go for a suite and your total bill will be even lower. We save our pennies, live modestly throughout the year and splurge a bit as an investment in our marriage.

But the best aspect of this particular little getaway is, what happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas. The romantic fires keep burning long after we return home!

Question: What’s Your Favorite Weekend Get Away?

Tour of the Kennedy Space Center

For the Love of Space – A Tour of the Kennedy Space Center

I grew up in Florida and every time we visit Orlando, it’s to visit the parks: Disney or Universal. This year for the first time ever we took time out to visit Cape Canaveral for a tour of the Kennedy Space Center.

If there is anyone in your family who loves Star Trek, or any kind of science fiction, this will be heaven on earth for them.

Oh, and if they love *actual* science, astronomy, space flight, or trigonometry – you might not be able to get them to leave.

What you will see:

Atlantis – Space Shuttle – absolutely breathtaking in person.

Apollo Saturn V Center – the largest rocket ever flown (the one that took us to the moon).

Space Shuttle Launch Experience – this is a simulator of what it would feel like to be in a space shuttle when it launches. The Hubs did this while I watched from a video screen behind the ride. I loved that it had the option to watch if you didn’t want to be turned upside down and shaken and stirred all space-like.

Angry Birds Space Encounter – we did not do this. It’s supposed to be great for kids.

Apollo Saturn V Command and Control Center – my favorite part of this were all the little lights that light up as they reach different milestones of readiness to launch. The last two are “commit” then the rocket is ready to “launch.” As a life coach, it just thrilled me that scientifically, all rocket systems must “commit” to the take off before launching. I found it such a beautiful analogy for anything we do in life.

largest rocket ever Saturn V Center @ Kennedy  Space Center

Meet an Astronaut – this was my favorite part of the day. Yes the hardware was impressive and a bit mind-blowing, but to actually hear live stories from someone who has been in space was beyond my imagination.      

               There are two options for this,

  • You can sign up for “Lunch with an Astronaut” which has an extra fee but you get more time to listen to stories, see slides and ask questions. You and about 100 other people of course! At the lunch they have it set up where you get to take a picture with him.  Afterwards, they print the picture while you are at the park. A couple of hours later you come back to have him sign it. This was a surprise to me and I loved it!
  • There is also a theater where there are usually two showings a day of Q&A with the Astronaut.

They have about 20 Astronauts rotate through the program so there is usually one there whenever you visit.

If you don’t have plans to visit Florida anytime soon, but you are intrigued by the Kennedy Space Center, you can take the trip home:


  • Watch Apollo 13 (with Tom Hanks).
  • Watch our Astronaut’s favorite space movie, Space Cowboys.
  • Check out NASA’s website for all kinds of exciting space news and breathtaking images: http://www.nasa.gov/

 Visit Kennedy Space Center

Epic Cruise Tour Part 1

Cruise the High Seas in Love

The Norwegian Epic has so many features, activities, restaurants and events that if it was a movie, you would have to start the first one already planning the next 2 sequels!

If you love cruising, this is a ship to explore and enjoy. I am so glad we took the trip while in the Caribbean instead of Europe because there is so much to do onboard, the ports are almost secondary. *Almost.*

Important things to know about the Epic if you ever plan a cruise on it –

  • There are so many restaurants onboard, you will not visit them all. Read and reserve online so you don’t miss out on your favorite style of food while onboard.
  • Same for the shows. You could sail for 7 nights and not see every show. Make sure to plan for the ones you don’t want to miss.
  • The magic of NCL is really in the Freestyle Cruising concept – you don’t reserve a specific dinner time unless you want to and you don’t have to sit with the same people every night.
  • Some people feel nickled and dimed because so much is for sale onboard. So many choices are “a la carte” means that you get to choose what to experience. There are main dining rooms with delicious meals included in the cruise fee. You *can* do the whole cruise and never visit any of the specialty restaurants that have cover charges. However, you might not want to because there is maximum deliciousity going on there too. And you don’t want to miss that!
  • The rooms are curvy and the bathrooms can be awkward – sinks in main room with a separate toilet and shower. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

My personal highlights

epic collage1

If you enjoy Saturday Night Live, Jon Stewart and adult comedy (think The Hangover) you will love the Headliners Comedy Club with fabulous improv comedians from The Second City. If you don’t enjoy that type of comedy, skip the comedy club completely, it won’t be fun.

Don’t expect to see Cirque du Soleil at Cirque Dreams. While there are acrobats and dancing, it is more of a comedy-revue-mixed-with-cool-cirquey-stuff than a full acrobatic show. It’s fun and entertaining, just a different style.

Linger at the Maltings Whiskey Bar – it’s right in the middle of the ship and you are sure to pass it on your way somewhere. When I was onboard there was a solo-guitar-singer who knew over 100 songs and would take requests. For all the spectacles of the Blue Man Group and Legends in Concert, this was my absolute most favorite entertainment of all.

Have your first lunch at one of the Main Dining Room Restaurants. I know there aren’t many secrets left in the travel world but this one seems to be overlooked on every cruise I have ever been on. I like to get there early and board as soon as they let me. Instead of heading for the Buffet, where everyone is, The Hubs and I head over to the Main Dining Room which is usually empty. We have a calm and delicious meal, away from the hoolaballoo of hundreds of people storming the buffet at once.

What is your favorite cruise tip? Please share in the comments.

*Full Disclosure – although I don’t work there now, I worked at the corporate office of NCL for over 6 years and am totally biased in their favor.*

Lake Tahoe: The Heart of Travel

The Heart of Travel – Lake Tahoe

I was recently at a Conference near Sacramento so the Hubs and I added a day to the trip and spent a very romantic night in Lake Tahoe. I had never been there before and had no idea how peaceful and beautiful it could be.

We love hotels and always try to stay in the best hotel we can afford. This time, we were able to get a great rate at the Hyatt Regency on the North side of Lake Tahoe. The rates were so cheap we upgraded to a Suite. We stayed there one night and we felt like Rock Stars.

Travel Tip – if there is a hotel you dream of staying at, always check their rates in the “off season.” You might score a 600 dollar room for less than half that price.

South Tahoe has all the casinos, nightlife and partying, North Tahoe is for the peaceful, relaxing vibe we were looking for on this trip.

One of the benefits of staying at the Hyatt Regency was that it has its own private beach and pier. Once we unpacked the first thing we did was go explore. It was dusk and they had just hosted a wedding at the hotel so we got to enjoy many couples all dressed up taking romantic walks and pictures on the pier.

We drove to Lake Tahoe from Sacramento and the drive was about 2 hours long and absolutely spectacular. If you come from the flatlands of Florida like I do, being surrounded by mountains and trees automatically puts you in a different state of mind.

Besides being surrounded by beautiful Mountains, the best part of the drive into Tahoe was stopping at “Cake Tahoe” in Truckee. They have the most heavenly cupcakes you have ever tasted and would be worth a detour if you are ever anywhere near the area. Fortunately for us, they were right on our path to our hotel so we stopped, got a Red Velvet Cupcake for me and a Double Chocolate cupcake for the Hubster. We exercised maximum self control and waited to get to the hotel to have them as dessert with our room service.

 Travel Tip – if you are on a road trip, check if there are any major (or minor) landmarks you might want to visit along the way. Sometimes a 20 minute detour can bring you one of the best memories from the trip.

Frommer’s calls Lake Tahoe “the most awesome summer camp for adults ever.” We were there in the spring and could see all the possibilities for water sports, biking, horseback riding, etc. Although there is a Casino right inside the hotel, you could walk right past it and never know it was there if that’s not your thing.

The variety of activities and experiences available in Tahoe are wonderful, however the heart of Lake Tahoe is the Lake itself. Viewed from any angle it is breathtaking.

Until next time, love & light from Maggie @ www.modernmarried.com

Have you been to Lake Tahoe? Do you have an insider’s tip or a favorite memory there? Please share in the comments.

Tahoe Collage2