Adventure · Chattanooga · Day Trips · Family Travel · Holiday Travel · Hotels · Kayaking · Nantahala National Forrest · Nantahala River · north carolina · outdoorlife · travel · White Water Rafting

Nantahala White Water Rafting

Labor Day weekend in the US marks the unofficial end of summer and people love to celebrate over the long weekend.  I wanted to go somewhere different and some place not too expensive which meant I didn’t want to fly. While browsing Pinterest,  I saw a pin of the Nantahala National Forrest that caught my eye. I had been rafting there as a young child and always wanted to return, so thought this would be the perfect trip. As Erica already a prior commitment, I used this trip for some father/daughter bonding time.

We chose to drive to Chattanooga, TN the night before going to North Carolina.  It’s a city we both really like spending time in.  Neither one of us had ever stayed at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel, so we decided this would be a great time to try it out.  If you are worried about the price, know the courtyard  is totally worth the price to stay.  Even if you are not staying at the hotel, drop by for a visit because the courtyard is fantastic for people of any age.

We stayed one night and got up early the next day to get on the road to reach Dillsboro, NC where we stayed for the next few nights. It was a beautiful 4 hour drive that passed quickly. On the way, we passed the Ocoee River located in Tennessee in the Cherokee National Forest which we have already decided to visit next year.


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You’ll most likely run into one of these rafting buses on the trip


I chose the Best Western Plus River Escape Inn & Suites for scenery and location, but it really exceeded my expectations. The property was quiet and had a quaint feeling and look with only 65 guest rooms. The highlight was the balcony overlooking the Tuckaseegee River, located of the breakfast room. When we were at the hotel, we spent our time on the balcony. The hotel is convenient to several great breweries and restaurants we had a chance to try. It is a 30 minute drive to the Nantahala Outdoor Center, where we took our rafting trip.

Nantahala River

The Nantahala River is located on the Appalachian Trial in the Nantahala National Forest located in western North Carolina. The Forest is the largest of four National Forrests located in the state, covering more than 530,000 acres of terrain that varies in elevation from 5,800 to 1,200 feet.  It is home to a large number of beautiful waterfalls and serves as a popular place for hiking, camping and white water activities.

The Nantahala River offers family friendly white water activities, with 8 miles of class II rapids and a few class III’s in the last mile.  It is perfect for practically anyone including  children 7 + , or those who weigh 60 + pounds.  White water rafting, canoeing and kayaking are the most popular forms of white water activity on the river.  If paddle boarding and/ or duck mobile rides are your thing, you will definitely have plenty of company on the river too!


Nantahala Outdoor Center

 There are a plethora of outfitters in the area that can accommodate every white water excursion or need. For this guided rafting trip, I chose to book with the largest one, Nantahala Outdoor Center located in Bryson City, NC.  It is a must visit for every outdoor enthusiast.  The 500 acre campus offers both fully and self guided whitewater activities, ziplining, mountain biking and several others.  There are also retail shops and restaurants to visit on property and nearby.

Depending on when you visit, we suggest buying tickets in advance online to avoid long lines. We arrived 20 minutes early which gave us plenty of time to check in at the Adventure Center, take some pictures and meet up with our rafting group.  The rafting tour we chose says it is 3 hours, but one hour of that is on the ground- listening to instructions, watching a safety video, life vest checks, meeting rating group and guide and riding to the rafting site.


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We spent 2 hours on the river which was just perfect.  There were a total of 6 of us in the raft including the guide.  If you do not want to get very wet, do not sit up front!  There were a lot of people there with Go Pro’s, which this trip is perfect for.  The river was really busy because it was a holiday weekend, but it never felt overly crowded.  We saw a few birds, but not much other wildlife. The trip will take you past several campgrounds and houses, but otherwise the scenery consists the beautiful Nantahala NationL Forrest. If you would like to see a short video of our rafting trip, here’s the link:




  1.  Take a change of clothes.  There are changing facilities and you will most likely feel like changing afterwards, regardless if you get wet or stay dry.
  2. Leave as much as you can in the car, but they will hold keys and phones for you.
  3. Take the time to take in the scenery and enjoy yourself!

California · Day Trips · Family Travel · Ferry Ride · Holiday Travel · Itinerary · Memorial Day · San Diego · Uncategorized · Water Adventures

TrippinTwins: San Diego: Adventures of Day 1

San Diego had long been on our wish lists, so we were beyond excited to get the chance to visit this past Memorial Day weekend.  Initially, we had dreamed of a relaxing beach vacation spending our days sunning on the beach, drinking cocktails & soaking up those rays of sunshine California is so famous for.

However, when we began packing for the trip, we ruled out beach time when we learned the temperatures were only going reach the low 70’s. If you are thinking that’s a bit strange, you’re probably not from the Deep South where it’s not considered the perfect beach day unless the temperatures are at least in the mid-80’s! So, we revamped our itinerary and packing list.

Upon arriving in San Diego, it was nearly midnight. We wearily grabbed our bags from baggage claim and found our way to the exit where we took a taxi to our downtown hotel. We commented to our driver about the chill in the air and were promptly told that the forecasted temperatures and overcast skies were completely  normal for the May/June time frame. We even learned the weather pattern had names  – “May Gray and June Gloom”.

Where We Stayed:

While many people choose to stay in the Gaslamp district, we decided to stay in the downtown area also known as the “Centre City” at the Westin San Diego. It was the perfect location because it put us within easy walking distance to Little Italy, the Gaslamp district,  Broadway Pier and public transportation.

Day 1: Shopping, Food and a Ferry Ride!

We began our first full day a little late as we had a late arrival the night before. When we were ready to leave the hotel, we headed to a nearby coffee shop to grab a cup of coffee and a quick snack. We figured this would hold us over until our lunch we had planned for later. We needed to make a stop in a nearby CVS in Westfield Horton Plaza to pick up a few things we had forgotten to bring. As we arrived, the bold colors and architecture of the indoor/outdoor mall, amazed us.  We had not planned to spend much time there,  but once we realized there were over 100 stores on various levels set up like a maze, we spent a few hours window shopping and taking in the scenery.

When we decided our bank accounts were done with the mall. Since we were already in the trendy Gaslamp Quarter, we set off to find the 94 restored Victorian era buildings the area is famous for.  When it was founded in the 1850’s, it was well known for gambling halls and brothels before cleaning up its act during the 1980’s. It is now a thriving district offering eclectic dining and shopping options.  After spending some time window shopping, the smells coming from the surrounding restaurants had made it impossible to ignore our hunger. We headed to Little Italy, where we found the restaurant that had been recommended to us,  Filippi’s Pizza.

We were advised to check out this location   because it is the original and operates as both a grocery and a restaurant. Even if you aren’t hungry, it is worth stopping by to check out the ceiling covered with wine bottles. Our waitress told us we should not miss their famous homemade meatballs, so we choose to put her recommendation to the test. We agree, it was delicious!


Wine Bottles that adorn the ceiling at Filippi’s Pizza

After we finished lunch, we headed to Broadway Pier. We bought ferry passes for $4.75 , and took the 15 minute Coronado Ferry to Coronado Island. We choose to take the ferry because it gave us time to take water pictures of the picturesque area and was the first US ferry  we had the chance to take since we were children.

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Broadway Pier waiting on Ferry to Coronado Island

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Tara enjoying the view on the ferry
Once we landed on Coronado Island, we walked to the Coronado Ferry Landing. This is the view you will see when you land and walk towards the island. We were tired after a long day of shopping and walking, so we decided to hang around this area to browse the shops, grab a bite to eat and watch the sunset.

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Shops on Coronado Ferry Landing

We enjoyed some time relaxing on the beach. It was too cold to get in, but the views were great.

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View from Centennial Park looking back at San Diego
After enjoying the views, we decided to check out the restaurant options. We settled on Candelas on the Bay for a quick bite to eat. We enjoyed the views and the food. The service could have been better, but it didn’t bother us because the scenery was great.

It had been really cloudy for most of the day, so we did not have high hopes for a good sunset. However,  we got lucky  because the sun made an appearance as it got later and cleared the fog to reveal a stunning sunset. This was a great way to end our evening on Coronado Island.

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Sunset on Coronado Island Ferry Landing

After the sunset, we took the return ferry back to Broadway Pier where we walked the few blocks back to our hotel. We had an early activity planned for day 2 -a Whale and Dolphin tour that we were really looking forward to and decided called it a night.




Christmas · Europe · Holiday Travel · London · UK

Christmas in London, Take Me Back!

Ever dream of spending a magical Christmas in London?  We got the chance this past Christmas when our New Years plans hit a snag. You see, we were very excited about booking a New Year’s trip to Edinburgh to experience Hogmanay. Wanting to ensure we did not miss out on festival tickets, we bought tickets before securing airfare. After realizing it was not within our budget to fly into Edinburgh from our hometown, we began looking into alternatives. Luckily, we found a fantastic airfare deal that had us landing in London on Christmas Eve!

Since London was a last minute add on, we did not have much time for pre-planning. We knew we wanted to stay for a few days to give us time to take in the sites, lights and sounds of a quieter time in London. We secured a hotel at the best place we could find at a reasonable price, which happened to be just outside the usual tourist areas. We did not book Christmas Lunch reservations in advance. Although, this made us a bit apprehensive, these few days turned into some of our favorite Christmas memories. If you have yet to experience Christmas in London, we hope we can provide you with some insight and suggestions to assist you plan your next Christmas in this magical city.

Where should I stay?

We started the search for lodging immediately.  The best deals we found were in Westminster,  so we chose to stay at DoubleTree by Hilton London – Westminster. Although we enjoyed the hotel, there were very few businesses open during Christmas and the days after. Although we found this a bit disappointing, it encouraged us to explore other areas where we could find more dining choices. During our walk, we found quite a few areas that had better options for tourists: Trafalgar Square, The Strand, Covenant Garden and Piccadilly Circus.  Of course, if you have your own mode of transportation, do not mind paying cab fare, or walking, your lodging choices are limitless.

Transportation options from Heathrow to London?

We noticed from Twitter that people were surprised at the lack of public transportation available from Heathrow to London during the holidays. The Heathrow Express Train  that runs to the city does not run on Christmas Day. Some years there is bus service offered in its place. Use the Transportation for London website for the latest schedules.  If you do not rent a car or book transportation in advance, be prepared to pay between £70 and £75 in taxi fare from Heathrow to the city hotels.

Transportation options in the city?

The London Underground does not run from late Christmas Eve through Christmas Day. It does run on 26 December, Boxing Day, with a reduced schedule. Several lines can have construction with limited service through early January. Verify schedules Transportation for London.

Taxis and Uber are both readily available. We only took cabs when under time constraints as there was a £4 holiday surcharge added to every fare. Bike share services proved to be a popular option based on the number of people we saw on bikes and the empty bike racks around the city. Otherwise, London is a walkable city and we walked practically everywhere we went.

Is Christmas Lunch/Dinner Hard to Find?

For Christmas Day dining, making advanced reservations, or staying in a hotel with a full-service restaurant is the surest bet. If you are searching for food on your own, as we did, we found heading to Westminster and St Paul’s Cathedral areas in the early afternoon to be a good option as they had pubs open for lunch service. Other sure bets are the Piccadilly Circus and Covent Garden areas where restaurants were open late.  We did not manage to find a Starbucks or a Pret a Manger open, although we were told by several people that they would in fact be open.  Therefore, for mid-day snacks and drinks,  we visited several family owned stores that were open and a street vendor at Westminster Pier.


A Fantastic Christmas Lunch at St. Stephen’s Tavern


A much needed Cappaccino at St. Stephen Tavern

More restaurants open on Boxing Day, the 26th,  though many in less touristy areas remained closed, sometimes through early January.

What Activites are Available? 

On Christmas Eve, there are Christmas markets to visit, performances and church services to attend. Although, we had wanted to go to midnight mass at Westminster Abbey, we did not get tickets, which are made available each November. There are also popular services at St. Paul’s Cathedral and St. Martin’s-in-the-Field !

We ultimately decided to forgo services and instead attend a performance of  “Carols by Candelight”, which was fantastically fun.  Performance dates and info can be founds here: Royal Albert Hall. It was there we discovered just how much Londoners enjoy the carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, which had us reminiscing of our caroling days.

On Christmas Day, take advantage of the fairly empty streets and closed businesses to enjoy the sights and sounds of the city. Walk through the various historic neighborhoods, take in the historic statues and buildings and take in those  famous and magical Christmas lights.


Neon Snowflakes over Jermyn Street


Bond St Pacock Feathers


Picadilly Circus lights


If you are looking for a more formal tour, check out London Walks. They have 2 walks on Christmas Day that meet in Trafalgar Square.  If you are looking for a museum to visit, Ripley’s Believe It or Not in Piccadilly Circus is open on Christmas Day.

December 26, Boxing Day, is a big sales and shopping day.  Most major stores are open offering sales on everything from the high end brands on Bond Street to the bargains that can be found on Tottenham Court Road. There are also a few Christmas Markets open and a few West End shows.  We chose to attend the Nutcracker with the English National Ballet which was the perfect choice! It was the highlight of our trip. The costuming and dance talent is some of the best in the world.

We lucked into fantastic weather this year and did not let the drizzle keep us inside. We enjoyed our few days so much, that we know we just have to come back for another Christmas. Have you ever spent Christmas in London?  If so, do you have any tips to share?