The Grand Haven Lighthouse and Pier from the “Other” Side

Standing up-top the sand dunes and staring out at the pier, the lighthouses and Lake Michigan in Grand Haven is my favorite spot in all of Pure Michigan. Each time I’m there I also walk the pier to its end passing by both lighthouses. While walking I always see people on the pier across the Grand River Channel fishing or walking.

With all the time I’ve been in Grand Haven I’ve never been over there. On recent road trip along the Lake Michigan coast I was hanging out at North Beach Park just north of town. I said to myself, now is my chance.

I took the short stroll down N. Shore Rd to North Shore Fisherman’s Pier. Immediately after parking in the small lot I was on the pier heading towards the small North Pierhead Inner Light. Low and behold there were fisherman and visitors walking the pier.

Grand Haven Lighthouse and pier viewed from North Shore Fisherman's Pier

Grand Haven Lighthouse and pier viewed from North Shore Fisherman's Pier

Grand Haven Lighthouse and pier viewed from North Shore Fisherman's Pier

Grand Haven Lighthouse and pier viewed from North Shore Fisherman's Pier

Grand Haven Lighthouse and pier viewed from North Shore Fisherman's Pier

Lake Michigan and Grand Haven shoreline from North Shore Fisherman's Pier

Lake Michigan and Grand Haven shoreline from North Shore Fisherman's Pier

As I walked I looked over to the other side of the channel and it was cool to see everything from a different perspective from the dunes and the catwalk to the pier and two lighthouses.

Grand Haven Lighthouse and pier viewed from North Shore Fisherman's Pier

Grand Haven Lighthouse and pier viewed from North Shore Fisherman's Pier

Grand Haven Lighthouse and pier viewed from North Shore Fisherman's Pier

Grand Haven Lighthouse and pier viewed from North Shore Fisherman's Pier

It was a sunny day, but very windy. The waves were crashing onto the pier. People were stopping about half way down, myself included.

Grand Haven Lighthouse and pier viewed from North Shore Fisherman's Pier

Despite that, it was a memorable walk because I finally got to see the Grand Haven Lighthouse and pier from the “other” side!

Grand Haven Lighthouse and pier viewed from North Shore Fisherman's Pier

Tip: It’s a quick twenty minute drive to get here from the other side of the channel and downtown Grand Haven. While you’re there stop at nearby North Beach Park and the North Ottawa Dunes and make an afternoon out of it.

Experiencing Chicago’s Wicker Park Food and Evening Scene

On a recent trip to Chicago, I was going to meet up with a friend who lives in the Wicker Park neighborhood. Wicker Park is known as being the hipster part of town and a great place to hang out at night. Its gained steam as a food destination with restaurants and independent coffee shops springing up like hot cakes. I decided to make a longer foodie evening of it and soak some of that atmosphere in.

Wicker Park Chicago neighborhood

I hopped on the Blue Line “L” train in The Loop along with the masses getting off work and headed towards the northwest. A little bit later it seemed like half the train got off with me at the Damen station in the heart of neighborhood. What a happening place.

Since I don’t usually follow eating conventions, I’ll eat pizza for breakfast, I decided to begin with dessert. Just outside the train station entrance my feet took me into Stan’s Donuts on Damen. Starting in Los Angeles more than fifty years ago, Stan’s is a gourmet donut institution that has spread to several locations in the Windy City. Having spent only mornings in Wicker Park in the past, I’ve seen one endless line after another, with everyone grabbing pastries and coffee before hopping on the “L” to get to work. Being it was the evening this time there was no line score!

Wicker Park Chicago neighborhood - Stan's Donuts

Wicker Park Chicago neighborhood - Stan's Donuts

Upon entering I saw the donuts in the display case. The gourmet one with the longest name immediately caught the eye. Hey, the more words in its name, the more goodness it must have in it right?! I enjoyed a Maple Caramel Bacon Pecan Bar amongst the retro decor. Wait nothing to wash it down with? I was saving that for my next stop.

Wicker Park Chicago neighborhood - Stan's Donuts

Wicker Park Chicago neighborhood - Stan's Donuts,  maple caramel bacon pecan bar

A short walk down W. Milwaukee Avenue, the main street of Wicker Park, brought me to my favorite coffee shop in the city and arguably anywhere, The Wormhole Coffee. I entered the sci-fi themed coffee shop already knowing what I was craving, a Peanut Butter Koopa Troopa latte. I sat next to an Apple II computer bringing back memories of childhood, while listening to one Depeche Mode song after another. That brought back memories of road trips pasts. I was in heaven. Of course I had to say hi again to the Back to the Future style DeLorean that sits in back.

Wicker Park Chicago neighborhood, The Wormhole Coffee

Wicker Park Chicago neighborhood, The Wormhole Coffee

Wicker Park Chicago neighborhood, The Wormhole Coffee, Peanut Butter Koopa Troopa

chicago-wicker-park-food-008

It was time to meet up with my friend, who recently moved here from Michigan. He gave me some choices on places where we could grab some dinner. Dessert first, then a specialty coffee, with the main course last, that is indeed how I like to roll! Burgers, pizza and ramen noodles were the choices. I thought to myself I eat the first two things a lot, so let’s go with ramen.

We hit up Furious Spoon and both ordered the Shoyu Ramen. Fresh ramen noodles made in-house mixed in with Chashu pork belly, bamboo, bean sprouts and more foodie goodness. The outside seating along Milwaukee was full, so we hung out and caught up at a long, wooden communal table alongside the open kitchen. I thought to myself, what a great place to hang out after a long day. That was my first time dining in an authentic ramen restaurant. What took so long?

Wicker Park Chicago neighborhood, Furious Spoon ramen noodle shop

Wicker Park Chicago neighborhood, Furious Spoon, pork belly ramen noodles

Wicker Park Chicago neighborhood, Furious Spoon ramen noodle shop

I continued to get my first taste of Wicker Park at night as we walked some of the neighborhood afterwards before calling it a night. It was a quick, but memorable evening of treats and food in one of Chicago’s more popular neighborhoods. All the other establishments and outside seating we walked by makes me want to experience more of it on another trip soon.

Wicker Park Chicago neighborhood

What other food and coffee spots would you recommend checking out in the Wicker Park part of Chicago?

Introducing Travel and Coffee, Coffee and Coffee To Someone

2016 has indeed brought a little traveler and future coffee drinker into the world. Well at least he is smelling the coffee. Give it time haha.

The father and son time “Out on the Open Road” has begun. Shorter trips to start, taking him on weekend morning trips to semi-local coffee shops. Got to venture a little bit! Little Cruz Man (one of his many names) and I are enjoying the sights, smells, sounds and quality time at the coffee shop. Pictured here is our recent venture to Lafayette Corner Cafe in downtown South Lyon, Michigan. Lots of latte deliciousness. He was awake shortly after this shot so got the chance to soak everything in.:)

Family travel and family coffee, kid travel

To different but new and wonderful coffee adventures ahead! We hope to see you out on the open coffee shop trail.

Hanging Out With Dolphins Along The Las Vegas Strip

Real live dolphins hanging outside along the Las Vegas Strip you say? You bet. Head to Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat tucked away within The Mirage hotel. On a hot summer afternoon day we headed to the back of the resort near the main pool to this Vegas sanctuary.

The dolphins at Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat within The Mirage in Las Vegas

The dolphins at Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat within The Mirage in Las Vegas

The dolphins at Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat within The Mirage in Las Vegas

We could have signed up to be a trainer for the day, gone on a VIP tour, or done yoga with the bottlenose dolphins. We decided though to just hang out with them below ground and pool side. There play area is an expansive pool and 2.5-million-gallon saltwater tank.

The trainers fed the dolphins fish and ice while putting on a show. Lots of bottlenose smiles were to be had. We were in a relaxing environment amongst many kids and families. It didn’t even feel like we were on The Strip.

Well without further ado, some cute photos of the dolphins we saw.

The dolphins at Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat within The Mirage in Las Vegas

The dolphins at Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat within The Mirage in Las Vegas

The dolphins at Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat within The Mirage in Las Vegas

The dolphins at Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat within The Mirage in Las Vegas

The dolphins at Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat within The Mirage in Las Vegas

The dolphins at Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat within The Mirage in Las Vegas

The dolphins at Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat within The Mirage in Las Vegas

The dolphins at Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat within The Mirage in Las Vegas

The dolphins at Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat within The Mirage in Las Vegas

The dolphins at Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat within The Mirage in Las Vegas

The dolphins at Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat within The Mirage in Las Vegas

The dolphins at Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat within The Mirage in Las Vegas

The dolphins at Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat within The Mirage in Las Vegas

The dolphins at Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat within The Mirage in Las Vegas

The dolphins at Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat within The Mirage in Las Vegas

The dolphins at Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat within The Mirage in Las Vegas

The dolphins at Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat within The Mirage in Las Vegas

The dolphins at Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat within The Mirage in Las Vegas

The dolphins at Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat within The Mirage in Las Vegas

The dolphins at Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat within The Mirage in Las Vegas

Some other notes:

  • Checkout the white lions, white tigers, leopards and more while visiting.
  • Cost is $22 for adults, $17 for children 4-12 and those 3 and under are free.
  • There are two gift shops on site to explore.
  • Who knows you might even see Siegfried and/or Roy while you are there.

The dolphins had as much fun as we and everyone else did on this day. A recommended stop for families. Checkout the Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat page on The Mirage website for more information.

What other hidden family friendly gems are there along The Strip that you would recommend?

Sunken Gardens a St. Pete Tropical Paradise

When people visit St. Petersburg (St.Pete) in Florida many come for the tropical experience. They will hit the beach, stay at a coastal hotel, hang out in outdoor bars and enjoy lots of seafood. There is an off the beaten path gem inland and just outside of downtown where you can just add to this tropical fun. Visit Sunken Gardens a hundred plus year old garden and tropical paradise.

Sunken Gardens, a botanical and tropical gardens paradise in St. Petersburg, Florida.

After paying the nominal fee to get in, we spent two hours on a summer afternoon day walking the curvy paths of the four acres of gardens. All the twists and turns made the gardens seem much more expansive. It definitely did not feel like we were in the middle of a big city.

Operated by the city of St. Petersburg, you will find hundreds of species of tropical and subtropical plants, with 50,000+ plants in total. Many palm trees, birds and mini-waterfalls were spotted as we walked, not to mention geckos. Being Florida and the summer, we got rained on pretty good which just added to the tropical experience. Below are some highlights of what we saw at Sunken Gardens.

Sunken Gardens, a botanical and tropical gardens paradise in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Sunken Gardens, a botanical and tropical gardens paradise in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Sunken Gardens, a botanical and tropical gardens paradise in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Sunken Gardens, a botanical and tropical gardens paradise in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Sunken Gardens, a botanical and tropical gardens paradise in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Sunken Gardens, a botanical and tropical gardens paradise in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Sunken Gardens, a botanical and tropical gardens paradise in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Sunken Gardens, a botanical and tropical gardens paradise in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Sunken Gardens, a botanical and tropical gardens paradise in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Sunken Gardens, a botanical and tropical gardens paradise in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Sunken Gardens, a botanical and tropical gardens paradise in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Sunken Gardens, a botanical and tropical gardens paradise in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Sunken Gardens, a botanical and tropical gardens paradise in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Sunken Gardens, a botanical and tropical gardens paradise in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Sunken Gardens, a botanical and tropical gardens paradise in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Sunken Gardens, a botanical and tropical gardens paradise in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Sunken Gardens, a botanical and tropical gardens paradise in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Sunken Gardens, a botanical and tropical gardens paradise in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Sunken Gardens, a botanical and tropical gardens paradise in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Sunken Gardens, a botanical and tropical gardens paradise in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Sunken Gardens, a botanical and tropical gardens paradise in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Sunken Gardens, a botanical and tropical gardens paradise in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Sunken Gardens, a botanical and tropical gardens paradise in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Sunken Gardens, a botanical and tropical gardens paradise in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Are there any other off the beaten path spots in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area you would recommend visiting?