Another day at the majestic Grand Canyon…

I must have dreamt about it innumerable times. But the dream of witnessing a Sunrise at the Grand Canyon became real the very next day I saw a spectacular Sunset there.

Since we were staying very close to the entrance of the South rim, it just took me about 15 minutes to drive through the curvy roads of the Grand Canyon (GC) and park at the Maricopa point in the week hours. The point is on a projection just off the main road of the GC.maricopa point grand canyonsunrise at grand canyonAs the Sun started peeking through the canyon mountains, I could hear a few voices in the distance. The tourists at the other viewpoints were in joy as we all welcomed another beautiful day!best views of grand canyonphotography at grand canyon.jpgI must have spent not more than an hour as it was quite chilly that time of the day, but I was amazed to see another wonder of nature. It is not often that I get to be at the best of attractions!

After going back to the hotel, I picked up Saru, checked-out, and we were again at the Visitor center to cover the Desert View scenic drive of GC – about a 25-mile (40-kilometer) stretch towards the east of GC that culminates in the Desert View Watchtower (see below map taken from official site of GC).desert-view-map-grand canyon

I would highly recommend the drive as there are many amazing spots that give you unique views of the GC – Moran point, Lipan, and Navajo being the prominent ones.desert view watchtower

However, the most important structure on the east end of the drive is the Desert View Watchtower. It is a 4-story and 70-foot-high stone structure that was designed by American architect Mary Colter and was completed in 1932. It is now a historic landmark.

There is an enclosed observation level at the upper level, which provides majestic views of the canyon on all the sides through large glass windows. The highlight of the tower though is the bold murals by Fed Kabotie, and other petroglyph-style decorations by Fred Greer – which may be the only surviving representations of the now-destroyed rock art paintings in Abe, New Mexico.watchtower murals grand canyonbest of grand canyonIt was about 4 pm by the time we were done seeing everything and I was keen on seeing another Sunset the GC, but we finally decided to call it a day and head to Page in Arizona, which was about 2 hours from the watchtower and the place of out next attraction – The Antelope Canyons!

The Grandeur of The Grand Canyon

This post was chosen as a Tangy Tuesday pick by BlogAdda

The only wonder of the world that I have covered (yet) – the majestic Grand Canyon! I was completely in awe of the force of nature that carved out the canyon millions of years ago. It still sends shivers down my body when I think about standing there and wondering how on earth these would have formed!the majestic grand canyonJust a day after landing in Las Vegas, we were on our way to the South rim of the Grand Canyon (we were to come back to LV and stay there for 3 days ending on Christmas eve, to enjoy the celebrations in the city).

Though many tourists specifically go to the West rim to do the Skywalk, we left it out intentionally since it is too expensive at $80.94 per person for the Legacy Gold Package. Moreover, if you are not so sacrosanct about doing the ‘walk on the glass bridge,’ you get pretty much similar views of the canyon from the south rim too.

We stayed right outside the entrance to the South rim, at ‘The Grand Hotel at the Grand Canyon.’ The stay was amazing (it is the only 3-diamond hotel around the canyon) though the internet connectivity was terrible – reception told me it’s the same with any hotel there. I must mention, we normally book our stays very close to the main attraction since it becomes easy for me to cover the Sunrise and/or Sunset there. Even otherwise, I would rather spend a bit more to experience the place than drive an hour!

After refreshing ourselves up in the hotel, we headed straight to the Visitor Center. There are numerous benefits of asking the experts at the visitor center, even though we do enough research beforehand – at the very least, we stay current with the (mis)information we found online. Since we have the Annual Pass to all the National Parks in the United States (bought for $80 last year, applicable per vehicle), we didn’t have to pay additionally to enter the Canyon area.

For the curious, check out the short video that plays every few minutes at the visitor center that tells you how the canyons were formed. Once you are ready to experience the grandness of the canyon, start from the Mather Point, which is right behind the visitor center and is a must-see. You can walk right along the canyon using the ‘rim trail;’ but if you have limited time, either drive around or use their shuttles (for free).grand-canyon-south-rim-detail-mapThe other one not to be missed is the Yavapai Point and Geology Museum. The museum tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the canyon – how they formed, the rock-layers, visual artifacts, samples of rocks, and a long glass providing a magnificent view of the canyon right in front of you. You can even see the Colorado river (that formed the canyon) about a mile away.

We drove around and stopped at many viewpoints that are shown in the map above (taken from Grand Canyon official website). You never know which one can give you a great view depending on the time of the day. mather pointyavapai pointWe were lucky to see some Elks and Deers too!wildlife-at-grand-canyonwildlife at grand canyonIf you go by the public opinion, other spots to definitely cover are Maricopa point, Powell point, and Hopi point. In fact, Hopi point is rated as the best for Sunset views, and I absolutely agree with it. I stood there in the chill of late-December to experience this sight!sunset-at-grand-canyonWe spent around 4 hours before heading to the hotel and enjoying the luxuries of that too. For me, another Sunrise awaited in the majestic lap of nature!

Best views of WTC and Statue of Liberty

In my last post, I mentioned about the best places to see Empire State Building and WTC.

For WTC, there is an even better spot – Exchange Place in Jersey City! Though the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway crosses Exchange Place, but rather than walking from the Pier C/A Parks in Hoboken (mentioned in the last post), I would suggest you drive to the exchange place…it would take you about 20 minutes though it is only about 3 miles (approx. 5 kilometers). Exchange Place is a congested area because it is a major hub for many financial companies, so be sure to give yourself enough time if you are on a schedule. If you are coming by public transport, there are many NJ Transit buses and trains that stop there.

I have been there a few times, and there is this small parking just alongside the waterfront which I have been lucky to get. Else, you can also park at the private (paid) parking lots close by.

The place has one of the best boardwalks I’ve ever seen, and you can even spend a whole day in the area. I was recently there in the night and got lucky to capture the Moon and WTC in one frame.world-trade-center-viewexchange-place-new-jerseyWhen you think of New York, another prominent structure that one can enjoy from the distance is Statue of Liberty. Situated on the Liberty Island, there are many places from where you can see the iconic structure. The best is to be next to the statue itself – you can take a ferry from Ellis Island or even Battery Park in New York. I’ve taken both of them at different times in over a decade.

However, if you wish to see it from a short distance whilst also treating yourself to the beautiful skyline of NY, head to the Liberty State Park in New Jersey. It is about a 15-minute drive from the Exchange Place (just over 4 miles).

The park is quite scenic and brings you close to the Statue (on the back side of it, though). statue-of-libertybest-view-of-statue-of-libertyIf you continue on the walkway alongside the Hudson, there is this small stretch where it is actually over the river also. As you walk a bit, you get close to the Ellis Island, with WTC visible right in the background – the walkway, the Island, and WTC are all visible in the shot below.skyline-of-new-yorkwtc-new-yorkThe park is so huge that you can drive around and halt at different stops to enjoy the scenic views.liberty-state-parkJust about a 5-minute drive within the park itself, there is the Empty Sky, the official New Jersey September 11 Memorial. The twin walls of the memorial are directed towards Ground Zero (with the new structure visible right in between them) and the passage is made of Granite. The names of the victims of attacks are etched in Stainless Steel.september-11-memorialThere is no entry fee to any of the locations I’ve mentioned in this or the earlier post. You might just have to pay the nominal parking fee depending upon where you park!

Best views of Empire State Building and WTC

I have been long enough in and around New York to guide one to the locations for best views of prominent structures in New York. Two of them that immediately come to mind are the Empire State Building and World Trade Center (WTC). Statue of Liberty is another one that has a different vantage point and will be covered separately.

Of course, you can be close to any of them and even go atop the two covered here to experience the views far and wide, extending into New Jersey too! But what about seeing them from a distance and enjoying their beauty amidst the skyline of New York? For that, the best (and free) option is to adore them from the Hudson river walkway, an 18.5 mile paved pathway just alongside the Hudson river in New Jersey. The path is open 24*7 and extends from George Washington to the Bayonne Bridge…each of the three structures can be seen clearly from the walkway, but from different locations!

Also, the spots covered here are the best locations to see the fireworks over the Hudson, the famous ones being on the New Year and 4th July!

For the Empire State Building, my favorite has been the Pier C Park in Hoboken (a small park the gate of which is visible below). There is a metered parking just on the left side in the shot, which might be full unless you go in the morning or evening, which is what I do. However, there are many public parking spots close by, so parking is not an issue at all.pier-c-park-hobokenhoboken-waterfronthudson-riverLook at the projected walkway in the above image, it takes you closer to the NY skyline. Btw, who says padlocks are only to be found in Europe? You can see many of them in Pier C too!empire-state-buildingYou might have to zoom-in the lens quite a lot to get a good shot of the Empire State. A better option is to come out of Pier C Park and walk further towards the George Washington Bridge on the main path (visible outside the gate in the first shot). In less than a kilometer, the Empire State comes right across and the view is impeccable. I’ve been in the area on many occasions – every season, both day and night!where-to-get-best-views-of-new-yorkIf you walk towards the right side on the main path, you are heading towards the WTC. Though the structure is clearly visible from the Pier C Park also, but Pier A Park just a few feet away provides much better views of it (the Pier A Park is visible below, shot from the entrance of the Pier C Park). world trade centre.jpgAs compared to the Pier C, Pier A is quite big and one can enjoy the vast open area it has.best-views-of-new-yorkYou can head all the way to the edge and get a nice shot of the World Trade Center!world-trade-centre-new-yorkThough the WTC looks quite close above, an even better location for it is the Exchange Place. Since that spot is a few minutes drive from the parks mentioned here, I will cover the same in my next post along with the best location for Statue of Liberty.

P.S. For each of these structures, you will have to still zoom-in a bit for the close-up views shown here, not matter where you go on the entire Hudson river pathway! But these are still the best locations for the purpose!

A silver lining in the long flight to Las Vegas

In December we took a 10-day vacation to Las Vegas and the Canyons of the West, as I would call them. Our early morning United Airlines flight to LV would have made sure we are in the hotel by early afternoon, thus giving us half-a-day to do sightseeing.

I am always excited to reach early at the airports and look their international departures…it makes me happy looking at the takeoffs to some of my favorite destinations 🙂

In the process of lingering around at the Newark airport, I snapped a beautiful sunrise.newark-airport-sunrise We took off on time at 7.55am and after about 4 hours in the flight, as we were about to reach LV in an hour or so, an announcement came in that it is too windy to land there and that pilots have decided to divert to Salk Lake City in Utah till the weather gets better in LV. Huh! Anyway, I was delighted to experience another landing and takeoff and explore another airport.newark-to-las-vegasAs it turned out, it had just snowed in Salt Lake and the picturesque surroundings gave me a few views to enjoy too.salt-lake-city-airportAfter about 1.5 hours, we finally took off and I was amazed by the mountains covered in snow and the mist hovering over them.best-views-from-airplanebest-of-salt-lake-cityFinally, we touched down in LV late in the evening. After quickly renting the car from Enterprise at their airport office, we checked into the Holiday Inn & Suites close by.

That was the end of a hectic day, but I would rather choose to look at the silver lining in the form of splendid views we got to experience!

P.S. All pics are from my iPhone

A glorious Sunset in the best of Settings

As we were making our way to New Hampshire from Vermont, we passed by the famous Omni Mount Washington Resort, located at the foot of the Presidential Range in Bretton Woods area. The sheer grandness of the golf courses, beautiful landscapes, snow-covered mountains, and an imposing structure made me stop without thinking twice!bretton-woods-resortI had never seen as pretty a sight as this one! There were only a few people around, as I parked my car just alongside the road to the resort. One of the lady photographers present mentioned it is her favorite site and that she had been there for hours.

The tallest peak in the view is Mount Washington, the one we drove on the next day. It is the highest peak in the Northeastern United States at 6,288ft, and I even drove up to its Summit a couple of years back.

Within an hour or so the sun went down, providing for a dramatic change in the scenery. I was holding my breath for the last beam of rays as the colors changed from yellow, to orange, to pink, and everything in between!best-sunset-in-new-hampshireI couldn’t help admire the reflections in a small pond there. Even the fall colors on the other side of the highway added to the mesmerizing views.fall-colors-in-new-hampshireAnd then the time of the hour which I had been waiting for…with a perfect postcard-type setting!sunset-at-bretton-woodsI had never heard of the resort earlier but it’s a highly rated 4-star hotel. The Ski area close by was ranked #1 in the East for snow, grooming, service, and weather in 2013/14 by SKI Magazine Reader’s Poll.

If you just want to admire the beauty, my recommendation would be going there early-mid October just when the fall colors are at their peak, but after the snow has fallen.

Ben and Jerry’s and the tranquility of Lake Champlain!

Ever since I went to Lake Tahoe early last year, I have been sort of obsessed with lakes! Lake Tahoe was so mesmerizing that I wish I encounter such sights every time I am at a lake. Just to put things into context, here’s one such view of lake tahoe captured at the incline village in Nevada.alok-singhal-lake-tahoeSo, during our trip to Vermont, I made sure we go to its soothing Lake Champlain. Though most of the natural freshwater lake likes in the United States, a part of it extends across the border into Canada too.

After we were done with soaking-in the beauty of Mt Mansfield (by driving to its summit) in Stowe, we still had half a day left, just perfect to explore Lake Champlain in the town of Burlington and experience the Sunset there. However, before reaching Burlington, we made sure to stop at the famous Ben and Jerry’s and enjoy its premium ice-cream. Actually, we are guilty of driving a cool half-an-hour from Stowe for 3 days to have their mouthwatering favors!
best-ice-cream-usaWe even took their factory tour which is priced at a reasonable $4 per person and lasts about half-an-hour, followed by tasting one of their flavors for free. You would easily need 2-3 hours if you plan to tour and buy ice-cream…there are long queues for each. Or you can buy from the above van parked just outside, which carries limited flavors but is not open always!

They have a gift shop too, where one can chose from a plethora of souvenirs.ben-and-jerrysThe place provides for some fun too…Saru makes sure she doesn’t skip through such sights, and I make sure to capture her 🙂ben-and-jerrys-vermontHaving spent a couple of hours at the ice-cream factory, we drove half-an-hour further to the west to reach the waterfront of Burlington. The boardwalk there is pretty nice and long, something I have not seen much in my travels so far. Though it was cloudy that day, the lake had spectacular beauty!lake-champlain-alokAnother aspect of this boardwalk is that it has swings, (again) something i’ve never seen so far! One can also take a ferry for the Sunset, though we chose to indulge in our own merry-making.best-lakes-in-the-usEven though the Sunset was not that spectacular, it still was a memorable visit. Moreover, both Ben and Jerry’s and the Lake provided a variety to the fall colors that we had been seeing for the last 2 days.best-sunset-in-vermontWith this, I finish off the trip to Stowe in Vermont…the next day we headed east to North Conway in New Hampshire (about 1.5 hours drive) after experiencing the gondola ride up Mt Mansfield, which i’ve already covered.

Having experienced it all, Stowe is undoubtedly one of the best destinations for fall colors! We stayed at the Mountaineer Inn there and had a pleasant experience. Here’s an early morning shot from the balcony of our room.mountaineer-inn-stowe

A gondola ride straight to Heaven!

To contrast with my last post on driving up Mount Mansfield in Stowe, Vermont, I am going to add our gondola experience first (will come back to visiting Lake Champlain the previous day in next post).

Even though we had driven up Mt Mansfield, Gondola sky ride up the same mountain is a different experience altogether. Even if the ticket appears expensive at $28 per person (round-tip), it is still all worth it! Partly because you would get to experience the magnificence of fall colors while zipping over them, and you might get lucky with seeing some bears too!

While still at the bottom, at the Stowe Mountain Resort from where the gondola starts, I couldn’t help admire the beauty of mountain with contrasting aspects – of colors and snow at the summit – all this while the sun was gleaming over just a stretch of trees!dsc08229dsc08211The majestic gondola cars are newly renovated and they are picturesque in their own right. Now, you might be tempted to think the gondola just takes you the distance you see below; however, the ride is actually thrice this distance…and it takes about 15 minutes to reach the top. The slow up-move makes you feel as if you are going all the way to heaven!dsc08189On reaching the top, we were welcomed by a thick blanket of clouds and freezing temperature. It was even difficult for us to be out in the cold, let alone follow the trails up there. However, there is a souvenir shop and a restaurant right where you get off the gondola, enough to spend some cozy time.

Mt Mansfield is one of the three spots in Vermont where true alpine tundra survives from the Ice Ages.dsc08197However crazy it might sound, we saw some people doing zip-lining all the way back to the base. Guess, adventures have no bound! You can even chose to trek down…at your own risk 🙂dsc08205

Up-Close-And-Personal with Nature!

The very next morning after we had an amazing time at the Kent Pond while driving North US 100, we were staring at the highest mountain in Vermont – Mount Mansfield. Though the public forums didn’t mention much about driving up 4,393 feet to the summit (they normally talk about taking the Gondola ride up through the Stowe Mountain Resort, which we also took next day), I found it to be a pleasant drive. Maybe because we were the first ones to be there, thus having the road to ourselves!

As soon as the gate to the toll road opened up at 9am, we paid the price – $22 for the vehicle and driver and an additional $7 for Saru – and started the drive uphill, which was steep at times. Being fall season, every few minutes I had to stop to capture the amazing scenery. It was cloudy, and with the foliage colors all around, it was quite a sight to behold! One also gets stunning views of Lake Champlain (we went there later that day) and Adirondack Mountains on the way up the zig zag road to the summit ridge.fall-foliage-in-usaOnce at the top, it was freezing up there (we were warned about it at the gate itself). There are many trails one can take up there, and we did walk about quarter-a-mile. However, poor visibility called for an early return. Instead, we thought of enjoying more spots on the way back down the mountain while the traffic was still less. By then the sun also had started peeking through the clouds and some panoramic views looked much better because of the glaring contrast in falls colors.where-to-see-fall-colorsbest-fall-trips-in-usaautumn-colors-in-usIf you ask me was the drive worth it, I would emphatically say Yes…especially because of the colors all around! It might not have been that great a drive if there was just greenery out there. Though you would get similar views by taking the gondola to the summit (will write about it in another post), the experiences differ as you are more up-close-and-personal with nature while driving!vermont-fall-trip

Merry Christmas from Las Vegas!

As you might know from the last post, we are on a 10-day trip to Nevada, Arizona, and Utah. Though I will write in detail on the attractions we have covered and would be covering till Sunday night before flying back home, here’s wishing everyone a Merry Christmas from Las Vegas 😊

The most amazing decorations we have seen in LV are in Bellagio’s. Their conservatory garden is a must-see and is fully decked-up in festive spirit.

An eye-catcher is this section of adorable bears and penguins…they look super-cute ❤The flowers you see on the bears and around are all freshly cut…there are a total of 27,000 white carnations used in this display (and are maintained daily). And, don’t miss the luminous moon, enhancing the atmosphere with its soft glow.The newest addition to the conservatory is the train station, and the whole colossus has been custom designed for the Bellagio conservatory.Look at the two character toy soldiers in the shot below…there are a total of four of them on either side of this ‘central station’ and they turn around in sync with each other.Next is the section on snow globes, with the skaters enjoying in their forest wonderland. An italian village is depicted in this display with a fountain of carolers singing and dancing around the holiday tree. The toy train running below is a sheer delight to see!Christmas tree – this holiday tree originated high and deep in the forest of Mt. Sasha and is adorned with 2,500 ornaments. The predominant jewel to this masterpiece is an exquisite silver sparking star.And they’ve created North Poles around the tree…There is just too much to show on how they are entertaining visitors.

I loved a couple of other decorations also just alongside the conservatory.
If you are around, don’t miss the celebrations in Vegas.

Since this is also my last post for the year, I wish you a very Happy Holidays and a rocking New Year.

P.S. I wrote this entire post while i was in the conservatory…took me about an hour. All pics are from my iPhone 7Plus…a first for me!