Yellowstone National Park: A 3 Day Itinerary

First of all, if you haven’t been, you should go.

Yellowstone is basically a big figure 8 so you can take in the entire park over a few days. The park is completely magical, with an incredible amount of variation in the landscape at every turn.

We flew into Bozeman, MT and drove down through West Yellowstone. Below is a map of our route through the park; Day 1 = Red; Day 2 = Purple; Day 3; Orange. We originally planned to skip Canyon to Norris to Mammoth Hot Springs, but due to an accident, we ended up doing some backtracking on Day 3. Turns out the route from Norris to Mammoth is the least popular which worked in our favor since we loved the scenery and seclusion on our stops.

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What to See & Do

Sunrise over Lamar Valley. The amount of wildlife waking up and cruising around at that time was unlike anything. It was silent, pitch black and honestly a little scary driving over there from Roosevelt Lodge, especially since we woke up an extra hour early because the waitress thought the sun rose earlier than it did. Once we finally started to see a little bit of pale blue light rippling across the valley, we were amazed by the enormity and beauty. Not only that, but we heard and partially saw a bear just down by the river. By partially, I mean it was still dark so we saw a big hunched over animal that were assumed was a bison until we heard the sound it made.

Tower Falls. Two words. Truly EPIC.

Wraith Falls. This was a much more secluded waterfall which we liked a lot! It was raining when we walked up the trail and bright and sunny coming down. You never know what you’re gonna get!

Yellowstone River.

Roosevelt to Canyon. This drive was a trip! We went from a hot and sunny hike at Tower Falls to wind & snow at 10,000 ft near Mt. Washburn.

Tons of wildlife. Over the course of our 3 days in the park, we saw turkeys, elk, antelope, wolves (well, Matt saw 2 but I didn’t get a glimpse), a bear, and seriously hundreds of bison.

Where to Eat

Lake Lodge. We came here for dinner but I would definitely recommend going during the day for lake front views. It’s “fancy” for Yellowstone and there was a wait, so make sure to reserve your table or come early.

Old Faithful Lodge. Matt’s dad instructed us to drink a beer at the bar. We got mixed up and went to the other Old Faithful hotel across the way which wasn’t that exciting, so I recommend taking him up on his suggestion.

Roosevelt Lodge. There’s only one place to eat here so you don’t have a choice but I would recommend it if you’re staying there or not. I am now addicted to smoked trout, which I didn’t know was a thing. They also have the best huckleberry pancakes.

Where to Stay

There are lodges and cabins around the park that are very affordable ($75-$100 per night), but you have to book ahead.A lot of people stay in the town just outside of Mammoth Hot Springs and commute in, but we absolutely loved being able to spend each night in the park.

Lake Cabins. We loved waking up in the morning and walking out of our cabin and straight over to Yellowstone Lake. The lodge has a camp style breakfast and amazing views of the lake as well.

Roosevelt Lodge. We may or may not have smoked out our cabin with our wood burning stove but this place was so peaceful to stay at. My favorite part was watching a herd of bison trek their way in a single file line at sunset while we sipped on beer in rocking chairs on the front porch of the main lodge. I mean, what else can you ask for?

Mammoth Hot Springs. By far the most upgraded cabin we stayed in, our cabin was in the semi-large and busy town of Mammoth Hot Springs. There are a few places to eat here as well as hiking trails and of course, the hot springs within walking distance.

Bison cruising around the valleyGrand Prismatic SpringSomewhere along Morris to MammothEn route to Wraith FallsMammoth Hot SpringsAnother view of Yellowstone River

Next time we go back, we plan to check out Grand Teton National Park and leave Yellowstone through Beartooth Highway and back up to Bozeman. We can’t wait to come back!

 

ClaudettesCorner

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Photo Guide to Puerto Vallarta

Over Easter weekend, Matt and I took a very last minute vacation to Puerto Vallarta. I had never been to Mexico so this was a great first trip across the border.

However, I did end up with Montezuma’s revenge after I got a little carried away with my tolerance and bought a strawberry vodka slushy. But come on…how good does that sound? Unfortunately, I didn’t really get to enjoy much food after that day so my actual food suggestions are minimal and mostly based on Matt’s opinion and the view. Aside from that, we still had a great time and I’m excited to go back and check out Sayulita for a wedding next spring.

Where to Stay

Grand Miramar. Hands down best hotel we’ve ever stayed at. The staff is incredibly friendly and accommodating, the service is incredible (although slow like everywhere else seems to be), the views are insane, as were the grounds.

We chose to stay in Conchas Chinas, otherwise known as the Beverly Hills of Puerto Vallarta, because we wanted to be close enough to downtown while not being right in the middle of it all. We were so happy with this choice because Conchas Chinas was absolutely BEAUTIFUL! We looked forward to the ride up and down to town when we could scope out the cute cobblestone streets littered with bougainvillea leaves. It was absolute heaven.

Grand Miramar offers a free shuttle and free entrance to the El Dorado beach club, which came in handy. We especially loved their pastries, french toast, guacamole, and strawberry margaritas.

Where to Eat

La Palapa. This place was stunning at sunset, with a view of the pier and twinkling lights.

Los Conos on Las Animas, Yelapa. Beach front dining with sand between your toes.

El Set. For a very romantic sunset dinner with less of a crowd, we went to El Set in Conchas Chinas. Matt had the mixed fish bowl and was obsessed with it.

 

What to Do

Visit Boca de Tamatlan. While there’s not much to do here, it is a very pretty stop before heading out to Yelapa by boat. Grab a beer and wait for your water taxi or get some sun on the sand! I heard from multiple people that Ocean Grille is the place to go over on Yelapa but you have to make a reservation.

 

Visit Quimixto by boat. There are cobblestone streets, horses everywhere, a suspended bridge, AND a waterfall. Need I say more?

After some negotiating, we chartered a boat for 1000 pesos from Boca de Tamatlan for 5 hours to Quimixto and then Las Animas for a very late lunch. For $60, this was the best “tour” we could have taken, especially since it was private with no timeline or schedule!

 

Jewelry shop from local vendors. There are vendors everywhere but it’s also fun to visit the flea market next to the Rio Cuale or at Isla Rio Cuale.

 

Explore Downtown Puerto Vallarta. Our favorite part of downtown was seeing the street actors who pretend to be part of the human sculptures along the main street next to the ocean. Sometimes they were hard to spot! There were also a ton of impressive sandcastles.

 

ClaudettesCorner

Florida Keys Road Trip

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Matt and I had a trip to Costa Rica planned for Thanksgiving week, but unfortunately we had to cancel only two days before because of the big hurricane that was rolling in. Thankfully, we were able to book flights to Miami with the ultimate goal of heading down to Key West, Florida.

We started and ended in Miami, taking a road trip down to the tip of the continental US – Key West. On Our way back up, we stayed in Islamorada, a cute little fishing town that was right up our alley.

One thing to note…there are pretty much no beaches in the Keys. Surprised? So were we. Luckily there was plenty to do and it was so fun walking around the islands. Laid back doesn’t begin to describe how cool the Keys were. To watch our video from the trip, click here.

Below are some tips and recommendations from our stay:

Miami

Hotels:

Vintro Hotel South Beach, Curio Collection by Hilton. Very cute boutique style hotel. It was perfect for one night but we would have liked to stay in South Beach where everything is much closer.

Hilton Cabana Miami Beach. Hilton hooked us up with a poolside room on the 3rd floor. No one was out, so we had the entire outdoor area to ourselves and the downstairs hot tub at night. The view was amazing!

 

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Drinks:

Watr at the at 1 Hotel. This is exactly how I envision Miami. Crisp whites, poolside, chic, and views for days. I set up a reservation for night one, which was Matt’s birthday, but unfortunately it rained and they had to cancel on us. We got drinks the first night and came back during the day on our last day. Love this place.

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Hotel 1 – South Beach Miami

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Watr at 1 Hotel

Wynwood Yard. Live music in a backyard setting, this place is v. cool.

Food Must:

Suviche. Matt and I will both swear that we’ve never had a better meal anywhere. They do ceviche many ways but the real treat was their Pescado A Lo Mocho seafood dish. The flavors. Oh. My. God. Needless to say, we tried to convince them that they need to open one in Orange County.

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Suviche

Key West

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Hotel:

DoubleTree Grand Key Resort. If we did it over again, we would stay at a hotel closer to Duval street and the main part of Key West. It gets pretty expensive down there, but we also booked our lodging two days before going so I’m sure rates would’ve been better if we booked at a normal time. The Doubletree offered a free shuttle to and from downtown every hour but hinging your daily plans on making a shuttle can get a tad annoying.

Drinks:

Kelly’s Caribbean Bar, Grill, and Brewery. We loved it so much, we came back three times.

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Kelly’s – Key West

The Porch. Exactly how it sounds, grab your beer or wine and hang out on the giant porch of an old Victorian style home, overlooking the main strip.

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The Porch – Key West

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The Porch – Key West

Green Parrot. This is apparently where the locals hang.

Cuban Coffee Queen. When in Key West, cafe con leche is a must.

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Cuban Coffee Queen – Key West

Must-Do:

Latitudes on Sunset Key.With a reservation at Latitudes, you can take the complimentary ferry from Key West to Sunset Key, which is a private island for Westin guests only. We like to get the most bang for our buck, so we may have “accidentally” gotten lost while heading towards the restaurant, and ended up exploring the rest of the island which looks straight out of Stepford Wives. The lunch view was spectacular and the appetizers we got were pretty good too.

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Latitudes – Sunset Key

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Sunset Key

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Sunset Key

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Sunset Key

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Sunset Key

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Latitudes – Sunset Key

 

Islamorada

Hotel:

Drop Anchor Resort and Marina. This place is so amazing. The rooms are HUGE and you walk out of your room straight onto the sand. Paradise on a very affordable budget.

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Drop Anchor Resort and Marina

Drinks:

Cheeca Lodge Tiki Bar. This place must be awesome during the day!

Food:

Islamorada Fish Company. Right on the water with a fire dancer for entertainment. For $10 each, they cooked our freshly caught fish, which was oh-so-satisfying.

Must Do’s:

Bud N’ Marys fishing trip. I probably caught 25+ fish and the only reason I didn’t catch more is because I was catching so many that I had to let me arm take so long breaks! We filleted Matt’s Kobia and had it cooked at Islamorada Fish Company.

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Worldswide Sportsman (Bass Pro). Islamorada is the sports fishing capital of the world, so you kind of have to stop by the Bass Pro and pick up some tourist stuff. We both bought long sleeves which were perfect for spending half the day on the boat under the sun.

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Islamorada Fish Company

The Moorings. If you’ve seen Bloodline, this is the resort where it’s filmed. If you haven’t seen it, it’s still a must-see.

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Moorings – Islamorada

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Moorings – Islamorada

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Bloodline House – Islamorada

 

Comment below if you have other recommendations that we should check out next time. We seriously cannot wait to go back!

 

ClaudettesCorner

7 Things to Do in Mammoth When It’s Not Ski Season

For Memorial Day Weekend, we took a trip up to Mammoth Lakes. Even at the end of May, there were still some snow caps and the mountain was open for half days. Aside from skiing and snowboarding, there was plenty to do around the area.

1. Gondola to Mammoth Mountain

At over 14,000 feet with some ridiculous drop offs for skiers, it’s pretty cool (and a little scary) to near to edges. But anything for a photo right?

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2. Hiking

Less snow means easier hiking. And there’s plenty of it!

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3. Mammoth Brewing Company

With flights, Mammoth-made beer and corn hole overlooking a snowy mountain, how can you go wrong? Just keep in mind that 2 beers is more like 4 there. I may have forgotten the affect altitude has on alcohol tolerance…

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4. Whitmore Hot Springs

About 20 minutes south of Mammoth is a really awesome place called Hot Creek. Scenic views? Check. Stunning winding creek? Check. Steaming geysers? Check!

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5. Convict Lake

We only got to do a drive by of this lake but it was very visually pleasing. In case you’re curious how it got its name, it’s a story about inmates.

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6. Twin Lakes

There are a couple places to check out at Twin Lakes – top of the waterfall, besides the waterfall, and on the bridges that look up to the waterfall. Any way you slice it, the waterfall is obviously the main feature and it’s a pretty great one.

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7. Visit Yosemite

Yosemite National Park is only 45 miles north of Mammoth! If you have the time, I highly recommend taking a half day to go explore. See photos from our trip to the park.

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BONUS: Enjoy the Ride

Depending on where you’re coming from, the drive can be a bit long. From Southern California, we took the 395 north and packed the truck full of my old cds (think Brittany Spears, Elvis Presley, Now 6-14, and Garden State Soundtrack) and tons of snacks. It’s actually a very unique drive full of lots of surprises, including fun mini hills that make for a great little roller coaster ride.

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What’s your favorite thing to do in Mammoth? I’d love to hear!

 

ClaudettesCorner

Yosemite in a Day

Can I first just say WOW!? Matt and I have never been to Yosemite National Park but it’s always been on the bucket list. When his family planned a trip up to Mammoth Lakes, it wasn’t long before I realized Yosemite is only an hour north – and a beautiful drive at that.

Since we had a few days in Mammoth over Memorial Day Weekend, we cruised up to Yosemite early one morning and spent half the day “driking” around the park. [Driking is a term we made up which means drive hiking – our favorite way to explore. Drive a bit, stop when we see something too pretty to resist, get out and explore the area, repeat.]

Every part of the Yosemite we were able to see was absolutely stunning. The constantly changing terrain which was absolutely incredible. One moment, you’re in a lush green valley and the next you’re standing high up on top of a snowy mountain. I am so glad I brought layers!

Since we entered on the East side, we walked around Lembert Dome, Tuolumne Meadows, Ellery Lake, John Muir Trail and Olmsted Point.

Here are a few of my favorite stops during our short time in the park.

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Ellery Lake

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Lembert Dome

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Dana Fork/Tuolumne Meadows

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Ellery Lake

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Olmsted Point

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Lembert Dome

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Tuolumne Meadoes

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Lembert Dome

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Ellery Lake

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Lembert Dome

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Olmsted Point

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Lookout over Warren Fork heading East

 

 

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