I can’t tell you how many people said I HAD to go on a waterfall tour after telling them I was headed to Portland for a few days. Beyond the insane food scene (and ahem, stripper and weed activities), the city of Portland is absolutely dreamy. From the mountainous landscapes to the bodies of water, it’s definitely worth venturing out of the city to explore the great outdoors.
We had the absolute pleasure of checking out the Columbia River Gorge Tour with Peter Woodburn of Oregon Tour Co. While I thought this tour would just be a scenic drive to visit Portland’s most famous waterfalls, I was pleasantly surprised to learn about the history of Portland, its unique geography, rivers, and local fish species, all while exploring some of the area’s beautiful sights.
Oregon Tour Co. is a father and son operated tour company that brings locals and visitors along for a scenic ride. Peter and Pete (too cute, right?!) offer tours of downtown Portland, local gardens, wine country, Mt. Hood and the Oregon Coast.
The Columbia River Gorge Tour is more than just a waterfall drive-by tour. On our trip, we learned about the formation of the Columbia River, salmon spawning and runs at Eagle Creek, the giant sturgeon population, a bit about the local inhabitants, and so much more.
Obviously, the main attraction was the stunning waterfalls. Multnomah Falls is the most popular in the area, but Peter showed us a handful of other waterfalls that were less crowded and equally, if not more beautiful than Multnomah. Hop aboard the tour and you’ll see my favorite, Latourell Falls. Hidden off the path a bit, Latourell’s stunning patch of yellow fungus makes this destination totally unlike the others. If you don’t mind getting wet, I highly recommend walking down the path a bit to the base of the waterfall. It’s totally unreal and completely magical.
For one of the best vantage points of the day was from our trek up the mountain to the Vista House near the Portland Women’s Forum Memorial. This is definitely a spot I would have never even known about and offers amazing views of the Washington/Oregon border and Columbia River.
The guys behind Oregon Tour Co. are super friendly and have an insane amount of knowledge about the area. If you’re looking to discover your own Portland waterfall tour, book a date with these guys. For more information, visit http://www.oregontourco.com.
I’m sure you’re sick of hearing it: I don’t do touristy things. But when you have friends or family in town for the first time, or if you’re helping someone knock things off their SF bucket list, sometimes you gotta give in. Case in point: My friends and I wanted to see SF not by foot or by car. But by GoCar.
Let’s face it. You can walk miles in SF and not realize it. Unless you’re walking uphill, then that sh*t hurts. Parking and driving in the city without getting stressed out by the car and foot traffic? Yeah, that’s a joke too. So the next best alternative is GoCar. I guarantee you’ve seen these yellow, three-wheelers buzzin’ around in San Francisco and San Diego. But don’t be fooled. These little guys have some power and you can zoom around the City better and more efficiently than by foot or full-sized car.
We magically scheduled our rental on a sunny SF Sunday, got some instruction on how to maneuver around, checked out a couple of paths we could take, and were on our way. I’ve gotta say that I was completely shocked as to how fast the cars went and how much fun these things could be.
We started our ride in Fisherman’s Wharf, rode to Chrissy Field, went to the beach, through Golden Gate Park and everywhere in between. If you stay on the pre-determined route, you’ll hear a really cool history of SF from the speakers within the car. The tour is self-paced so even if you decide to make a pit stop or get off the route, the GPS will pick up again once you get back on the trail.
Some of the best parts of the day were zooming down Lombard, up to Coit Tower and around Alamo Square. Although they were highly touristed areas, you’d be surprised as to how much stuff you can pack in a single day.
Some things to keep in mind:
Unless you’re planning on just driving these cars around, I’d book these GoCars for a few hours. It’s hard to see everything with just a one-hour rental. Splurge a little and rent the cars for a few hours.
If you plan on having these cars into the late afternoon. Make sure to bring plenty of layers because it gets chilly. I suggest a hoodie, scarf, light throw blanket, sunglasses and gloves.
Bring a group of friends along when you go on these tours. Each car seats two people and I guarantee you’ll have a ton of fun with more people in your group.
If you’re looking for an alternative way to show some out-of-towners the City, or if you’ve lived here awhile but want to see SF in a whole new light, GoCar Tours is how you should do it. For more information, visit www.gocartours.com.
I take pride in myself as being the token friend my peeps go to when it comes to the following phrase: “Hey, I’m going to this place and need off-the-beaten-path recommendations on where to go and what to see and eat.”
That being said, when I got the invitation from one of my girls from back home to go to Alcatraz while she was in town, I had some mixed feelings (sorry Brandie!!). Taking a ferry to check out Alcatraz conjures up images of silly shirts that say “Alcatraz Swim Team” or weird and boring tours led by overly-enthusiastic guides. But, I had the chance to take the Alcatraz Night Tour and it was pretty freaking fun. All of my biased expectations were thrown out the window…And into the chilly waters of the Bay.
If you’re even remotely thinking of visiting Alcatraz while you’re in town, you better get your tickets early. Time slots to visit “The Rock” sell out like hotcakes and it may be nearly impossible if you’re trying to buy tickets for a day out. You can visit the island throughout the day, but I recommend you enjoy the city by day and line up for the Alcatraz Night Tour around sundown.
The ride to Alcatraz is quick so make sure you grab a seat upstairs and outside for the best view. Once you disembark, you’ll be guided on a semi-steep walk up to the entrance into the cell house through the shower house. Grab a pair of headphones and start the self-guided walking tour, available in 11 languages.
The story of Alcatraz is pretty unbelievable and the audio tour is about 45 minutes. It’s all self-paced so if you want to spend some extra time learning about famous inmates or at “The Hole,” you can do that too. Make some time to check out the hospital, which is not part of the audio tour, and see what other programs and presentations are on the schedule.
While the Gardens of Alcatraz won’t be visible at night, thrill seekers will definitely appreciate the extra time they have peering around the cell block avenues, the library and dining hall. Alcatraz, which spans over 12 acres, is definitely something to experience in person, even for a skeptical like me. While it may look extremely touristy from the outside — or the mainland — it’s definitely something worth checking out at night.
It’s kind of amazing to live in such a small, yet diverse city that’s just dripping in art. From the street art and installations subsidized by the city, to the random art formations you’ll find in alleys and our green spaces, art and inspiration is everywhere. And don’t even get me started on all of the museums in town — especially the ones that are walking distance from my place. One of the museums I’ve grown to love is the de Young Museum. Known for its beautiful, geometric look-out point that towers over Golden Gate Park, the de Young also promotes artists in residence and unique photo, art and mixed media exhibits.
The de Young celebrated its 10th anniversary of its building remodel in GGP with free admission for a full 12 hours. We spent the day — and night — checking out the exhibits, listening to live music, making our own art, and talking to artists in residence. Check out our photos of the people we’ve met along the way. Read more
As if we needed another reason to visit New Orleans — all those who have a penchant for art, literature, music and culinary bliss can flock to the historic French Quarter for the 29th annual Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, March 25-29, 2015. Known for A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Glass Menagerie, Hard Candy and more, Williams lived in the city of New Orleans, revolutionizing the way people saw plays, literature and the world.
The event takes place at 16 French Quarter venues in New Orleans over the span of five days, allowing for visitors to truly immerse themselves in the splendor of the Big Easy, just as Tennessee would have wanted it.
“Tennessee Williams is universally loved,” said festival representative Ellen Johnson. “We celebrate Tennessee because when he was living here, he was only Tom. He became Tennessee here.”