Sunday, November 22, 2020

Road To Zion- Zion National Park Travel Guide

I've wanted to experience Zion National Park for quite some time and finally got the chance to visit last month to celebrate my friend's birthday. Since traveling abroad is non-existent these days due to COVID-19 (and I'm not ready to travel on a plane just yet), my friend and I thought that a road trip to Zion would be the safest way to satisfy our travel urge. I have to admit, I've never been an outdoorsy type of girl. I don't even frequent popular hiking spots in L.A! So knowing that I was about to go on quite a few hikes, a lot of research was necessary. I am sharing essential travel tips in this post that you should consider before heading to Zion National Park. 



WHEN TO BOOK YOUR ZION NATIONAL PARK SHUTTLE TICKETS
:


Since private vehicles can't drive-in, the park offers shuttles to all the popular hiking spots. You must purchase tickets online at https://www.recreation.gov before your trip. Tickets are released on the 15th of each month for the following month at 8 am PST. Tickets sell out quickly, especially for the earlier shuttle times. My friend and I set our alarms and still couldn't get our desired 7 am shuttle time to beat the crowds. Luckily, additional next-day tickets are released 24 hours before each day. We got lucky and scored 7 am shuttle tickets the day before we headed into the park. If you plan your trip last minute, you can also book a private shuttle, but that can cost you $40+ per person when the standard shuttle tickets are only $1 per ticket. We also saw people walking or biking as an option, but since the popular trailheads are a few miles away from the park entrance, you must be in good shape to make it all those miles. 


Important to note - the entrance fee for Zion is $35 per vehicle and is valid for seven days, so if you enter and exit over a few days, don't worry; you don't have to pay each time. 


WHEN TO VISIT:


Your experience at Zion will be different depending on what time of year you go. The park is very popular during the summer months and can get way too crowded. We went the first week of October, and most trails were still quite crowded, so I can't even imagine what it's like during the summer. The weather was also a lot cooler when we were there (80 degrees during the day, 50 degrees at night), which I prefer. The summer months can get way too hot, so unless you're only doing the Narrows hike in water, the best time to go is early fall and late spring.


WHERE TO STAY:



We went back and forth for weeks while we were planning on where we should stay. They are a few different options to choose from, such as hotels in the central city of Springdale, glamping, or even camping. We finally decided on Zion Mountain Ranch because of its secluded location at the Eastside entrance to the park. There are different cabins spread out throughout the ranch, perfect for social distancing. We decided on a cabin that had a microwave and fridge so we could bring our own food to limit any social interactions we might incur while dining out. At the time, masks were not mandated in Utah, and the ranch staff was not wearing masks, so we wanted to isolate ourselves as much as possible during our stay.



We also loved the feeling of living the ranch life for a couple of days. Chickens and roosters waking you up every morning. Deer, horses, bison, and other animals roaming around just outside your cabin. The ranch also has a few dogs that roam free and visit you while you're relaxing on your porch. We also booked a sunset horse-ride to live the ranch life to its fullest.



I will note that since we stayed on the east side of the park, it ended up being best that we brought our own food as all of the restaurants were located in Springdale, nearly 30 minutes away on the west side, towards the park entrance. The drive feels a lot longer than 30 minutes as you have to drive up and down the winding mountain roads. We limited this drive to only when we needed to get into the park and on the shuttle. If you want to feel like you're staying in a city area with lots of food and restaurant options, stay in Springdale. You'll have a lot more options and won't have to do the drive to the Eastside and back. 


If you're more the adventurous type and don't mind sharing a bathroom and prefer to cook outdoors, I would suggest glamping at Under Canvas or Wildflower Resort. But of course, make sure to look up these places on a map before booking to see where they're located, and if it's in the area you want to stay.


WHAT TO PACK:


My friend brought a Yeti cooler, which was the perfect size to carry all of our food, and the ice lasted for about three days. We also brought an electric kettle, knives, plastic bowls, ziplock bags, paper towels, napkins, and utensils. We brought everything we would need in the kitchen to make the ranch feel like home. Some of my favorite items we got; breakfast consisted of oatmeal and fruit, sandwiches, nuts, apples, chips for lunch, and instant noodles for dinner. 


I would also suggest packing your own pillow and extra blankets just in case your accommodations don't have the best options. The weather is so dry in Utah that I had a hard time breathing. I woke up every morning with a dry throat and nose. I would suggest bringing a humidifier if you own one. 


WHAT TO DO AT ZION:


THE NARROWS HIKE



Our number one reason for wanting to go to Zion was to do the popular Narrows hike, a 9-mile hike trek all in water. I was very nervous leading up to this hike as I'm not in the best shape and not a hiker. We told ourselves that we'd go as far as we physically and mentally could. As mentioned earlier, your experience with this hike depends on what time of year you go, but it also depends on what time you start the trek. We decided to take the earliest shuttle time at 7 am, mainly because we wanted to avoid the large crowds of people, but also to guarantee a parking spot at the visitor's center. Supposedly, all the spots get taken by 7 am! If you don't score a spot there, you have to park in Springdale and walk into the park to catch the shuttle. The downside to all this was that it was freezing! It was about 50 degrees out and windy, and then the water was about 30 degrees. We suffered for a bit but got used to the cold quickly. On the way out of the hike, we noticed the huge crowds of people just starting the hike, and we were so glad we started early. Another thing to note is that the lighting is so much better on the hike in the early morning. So if you're going to take lots of pictures, it's the best time to go.



The hike starts with the River Walk, approximately 1 mile each way, before arriving at the Narrows and getting into the water. For the most part, the water hits at about the ankles, but it went up almost to my waist in certain areas. You can turn around at any time, but we wanted to make it to "Wall Street" and back, which was about 6 miles. In total, it took us roughly 5 hours, but we did stop quite a few times to take pictures. I was exhausted at the end, but I have to say it was one of the best things I've ever done. I was so proud of us for making it as far as we did. It was an experience to remember! Here are some tips to make your Narrows hike experience better:


WHAT TO WEAR:



Hiking boots
- These are a must! The rocks under the water vary in size and are very slippery. It would be best if you had boots that are waterproof and will provide ankle and grip support. I loved the affordable Columbia pair I ordered off Amazon HERE


Socks- We went to REI, and one of the employees suggested we wear moisture-wicking wool socks. Honestly, I'm not sure if they helped or not, as my feet were soaked and cold for the entire hike. I asked a few people during the hike about their socks, and they said they were wearing neoprene, which helped with the cold. One good thing the REI employee suggested was to bring two pairs of socks. That way, you could change out of the wet ones once you were on dry land. Of course, we should've also thought to bring dry shoes to change into as well!


Clothes- All the clothes you wear on this hike, whether it's shorts or pants and a jacket, must be waterproof and moisture wicking. Most activewear these days from Lululemon, Nike, Alo Yoga, etc., is perfect for these types of hikes. 


WHAT TO BRING:



Backpack- I found this perfect sized one for a great price at REI that wasn't too large for my short frame and fit everything I needed. It would help if you had a backpack that offers an access port for a water pack reservoir called a Camelbak to stay hydrated at all times. Luckily my husband had one that I borrowed, but REI carries a bunch HERE

Walking sticks- another must! It saved me so many times while walking through the water. I fell twice, but without my stick, I would've fallen at least 100 times. The rocks are slippery, and you're walking against the current most of the time. I rented mine from Zion Outfitter, located in Springdale, super close to the park entrance. I only rented one stick, but I recommend two if you're anxious about falling and don't have great balance.

 

If you're doing an early hike as we did, make sure to bring warm clothing layers. I decided to wear shorts, but at least my upper body was warm. I also suggest wearing a hat! It keeps you warm and also keeps the sun off your face.


We brought plenty of water and lunch/snacks to eat when we got hungry. We made our homemade lunch at the ranch before leaving. It consisted of sandwiches, apples, peanut butter, etc. Make sure you pack lots of high energy foods. The sun had popped out during lunchtime, and it was so lovely to enjoy the warmth before heading back.


As mentioned before, we brought an extra pair of socks to change into, but we forgot an extra pair of shoes. The last mile on dry land back to the shuttle in wet shoes and socks was brutal. 


Lastly, Zion Outfitters offers additional rentals for the Narrows Hike besides hiking sticks. If you want to rent warm weather or cold weather gear, they offer it. Check out their options HERE.


OTHER HIKES/SCENIC OUTLOOKS TO CHECK-OUT



There are other popular hikes to check-out in the park, but we did not have enough time, and we were so exhausted from the Narrows hike. One of the hikes we planned on doing was Angel's Landing. I read that it's fantastic but can also get kind of scary if you're scared of heights, which I am! We also wanted to do the hike to the Emerald Pools, but we heard there was no water this time of year. I found a great article 
HERE that shares the ten best hikes at Zion. I hope to explore more of Zion in the future and check-out more hikes we missed.

We decided to check-out scenic outlooks on the Eastside of the park that you can drive in your car to see. You don't need to hop in a shuttle to do this, so if you weren't able to score tickets, this is a great option to see parts of Zion. All the outlooks have either small parking lots or pull-outs that offer amazing views and shorter hikes you can enjoy. 


ADDITIONAL TRAVEL TIPS:


Most people ask how many days you need to visit the park and surrounding areas. From Los Angeles, driving time is about 7.5 hours, but we made a couple of stops along the way. We stayed a total of 5 days, but 2 of those days were travel days. Honestly, six days would've been perfect, using that one extra day as a rest day from traveling.


Now, if you're like me, you always need to keep cost in mind when traveling. I like to travel while maintaining a budget in mind, so bringing our own food helped a lot. We spent the most on gas and accommodations at the ranch, which cost us $500 each, but that was a total for four nights. There are so many places to stay near Zion, all with different prices, so whether you're on a budget or have the money to splurge, this trip is totally doable.


Another critical thing to remember is that if you're traveling from Los Angeles to Utah, they're ahead by an hour. So if you plan on picking anything up on the way from Los Angeles and are looking at closing times, make sure you account for that lost hour.


The two places you must visit if you're headed to Zion National Park - If you're driving in from Los Angeles, you must stop in Valley of Fire, which is 1.5 hours away from Las Vegas and on the way to Zion. Next, if you're staying in Zion for a few days, I would suggest adding an extra day to visit Bryce Canyon, only an hour away from Zion. Stay tuned for my next two blog posts highlighting both of these amazing places. 


Thanks for stopping by! Make sure to check out more of my #jetsetmelanee travel posts on Instagram HERE

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Staycation at The Glenmark Hotel


The Glenmark is a small boutique hotel located in Glendale, Calif. just five minutes down the street from where I live. I had seen the hotel under construction for awhile and couldn't wait to check it out when it opened. It finally opened a few months ago and I was luckily enough to get invited for a weekday staycation. With the pandemic and travel restrictions in place, my husband and I have been living for local getaways. Our staycation at the Glenmark Hotel was just what we needed to feel a sense of normalcy again. 

We were greeted warmly on arrival by the staff. I noticed right away that they are taking health and safety precautions seriously which put me at ease. Everyone was wearing masks, social distancing and there were hand sanitizers throughout the property. The property itself is a stylish retreat with modern and chic  decor. There are two amazing restaurants serving Mediterranean cuisine; Olia is located on the ground floor open for breakfast and lunch with plenty of outdoor seating. Mila is open for dinner and is located on the rooftop serving small plates, delicious cocktails, wine and more. It's actually the only rooftop restaurant in Glendale! The room was extremely spacious with a cute sitting area and comfortable bed. I am extremely picky about my pillows and the ones here did not disappoint. I slept so well during our stay and woke up in the morning feeling rested and relaxed. The best part about the Glenmark is that they're dog friendly! We didn't bring Bodhi or Milo this time around but we will definitely come back and bring them.

Sharing more on the room and meals below...keep reading! 


It was nice to get away and sleep in a comfy hotel bed since we've been cooped up in our apartment for the last 6 months or so. The bed and pillows were so comfortable that I didn't want to get out of bed in the morning. 


We arrived at the hotel early so that we could try Olia's breakfast as it's my favorite meal of the day! We ordered the pancakes and Shakshuka and holy moly, both dishes were delicious. Olia also serves Intelligentsia coffee which in my opinion, is the best coffee. Thank goodness I live five minutes away so I can come enjoy their coffee and breakfast anytime. 


We also got the chance to try Olia's lunch and I loved all the healthier options the menu offers. We ordered a delicious kale salad with chicken and a mushroom flatbread. I will be back to try the rest of the menu options!


I absolutely loved Mila restaurant located on the rooftop. It was so nice to enjoy a lovely dinner while taking in the views of the city. The menu is a mix of cuisines, all superb and delicious. 



If you're looking for a safe, relaxing staycation, I would highly suggest the Glenmark Hotel. The room, amenities and restaurants will exceed your expectations. A big thank you the hotel for a wonderful stay! I can't wait to come back with my dogs real soon.


Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, October 5, 2020

My Go-to Neutrogena Products from Rite Aid

 This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Neutrogena. The opinions and text are all mine.


Today I’m sharing three of my go-to Neutrogena products that I purchase on my monthly product runs at Rite Aid, Neutrogena’s Night Calming Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes and Neutrogena’s Bright Boost Resurfacing Micro Polish and Neutrogena’s Hydro boost Hydrating Serum. These products have been my daily and weekly skincare obsession helping my skin become refreshed, hydrated and radiant. 


The Products:


Neutrogena Night Calming Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes gently and effectively removes all traces of dirt, oil, makeup and waterproof mascara. Clears away your makeup after a stressful day and the unique calming fragrance helps you to unwind and prepare you for a good night’s sleep. These ultra-soft nourishing cloths are alcohol free, allergy tested, and Dermatologist tested.


Neutrogena Bright Boost Resurfacing Micro Polish exfoliates skin and removes skin aging dullness with 3x the polishing power of a normal scrub. Formulated with naturally-derived skin smoothers and Glycolic and Mandelic AHAs, this gentle exfoliator cleanses away dirt, oil, grime, impurities, and bacteria and brightens skin.


Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Serum instantly absorbs quickly to effectively replenish skin with higher hydration levels so that your skin is fully hydrated and glows from within. The main ingredient is purified Hyaluronic Acid that acts like a sponge for dry skin, moisturizing with up to a 1,000 time sits weight in water for skin that stays smooth and supple. 

The Process:


I use the Night Calm Makeup Removing Wipes every evening. I gently wipe my face with towelette, removing dirt and all traces of face and eye makeup. There is no need to rinse with these wipes but you can follow with a cleanser and moisturizer like I do.


I use the
Bright Boost Resurfacing Micro Polish one to three times per week. I apply the product to my hands and gently massage onto a wet face in a circular motion then rinse with water and pat dry. After the first use, my skin felt a slight tingling sensation, but this is a normal indication that it’s working. I will say that my skin instantly felt more radiant after the first use. Since this product contains an AHA, make sure to wear sunscreen if you’re heading out. 


I use the
Hydro Boost Hydrating Serum once a day in the evening applying it evenly all over my face after cleansing. I love the texture of the serum, it instantly makes my skin feel more hydrated!


The Results:


My experience with all of these products has been nothing short of amazing! My skin is more radiant, hydrated and glowing and I'm finally feeling brave enough to leave the house without makeup thanks to Neutrogena’s Bright Boost Resurfacing Micro Polish and the Hydro Boost Hydrating Serum. Every night, I sleep so much better after using the Night Calming Makeup Remover Towelettes. I love going to bed stress free and with a clean face free of dirt, oil and makeup.
 
Whether you’re looking for a product to help with cleansing, anti-aging or to reclaim your glow like me, it’s time to make these products a staple in your skincare routine. You can pick up them up today at your nearest Rite Aid store!
 
Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Tips For Planning The Perfect Bachelorette Weekend in Palm Springs

For months, alongside planning my Italian Wedding, which was recently postponed again due to the COVID-19 outbreak, my best girlfriends and I had been planning a quick little escape to Palm Springs for a fun-filled bachelorette weekend. Little did we know that this was to be our last get together for quite some time as just days after our return, the Los Angeles City Mayor set forth the in-home quarantine to all Los Angeles residents. We made it out just in time! During our trip we still wanted to exercise caution so we decided to keep most of the activities at the Airbnb we rented. We went out to one dinner on Saturday evening but mostly lounged by the pool, cooked and played fun bachelorette games.

I'm super excited to share all the details from the weekend below, but first, I want to give a big thank you to my bridal party (Natalee, Crystal and Elizabeth) for putting together an epic bachelorette weekend for me. After having to postpone my Italian wedding from April to October, it was a much needed getaway to lift my spirits. Also, a big thank you to all my friends (Ingrid, Annette, Danny, Robin and Mel) who put their lives on hold to spend the weekend with me.

On to the details....

Where we stayed:


This is the house we rented on Airbnb located in Cathedral City just 15 minutes away from downtown Palm Springs. It was the perfect location and size with an enormous kitchen, four bedrooms and a swimming pool. The house also offered a pool table, an outdoor bar and bocce ball area. The house was stocked with everything we needed from kitchenware to games to towels and even bathroom amenities. If you're interested in booking this Airbnb, here's the link. There are plenty of other houses available to book on Airbnb especially in Palm Springs. Many cater to large groups like bachelorette parties with multiple beds in each room and most importantly, a pool! Palm Springs is the perfect escape for a warm, sunny weekend away from the cold. 

Itinerary for the weekend:


My sister Natalee, my Maid of Honor, created a printed itinerary for the weekend. She found the perfect design on Etsy that matched the theme of my bachelorette weekend: pink, white and gold! If you're currently planning a bachelorette party, I believe picking a color theme is super important. It makes for pretty photos and the bride will be super impressed! Don't forget to also create a unique hashtag =) Make sure to check Instagram to see if the hashtag has already been used as you don't want your posts mixed in with thousands of others.

Link to the itinerary design HERE. 

Having an itinerary allowed us to have the perfect mix of relaxing and party time. I didn't want anyone to feel overwhelmed with too much of this and too little of that which is why I also decided early on that we would only go for two days. Finding the perfect balance is key to any weekend trip! Here is the itinerary we followed:

FRIDAY
3pm | Check-in
4pm | Poolside Lounging
6pm | Pizza Time
8pm | Party Games and Drinks

SATURDAY
10am | Brunch
12pm | Poolside Lounging
02pm | Light Bites
07pm | Dinner at Birba Palm Springs
10pm | After Dinner Drinks and Games at Airbnb

SUNDAY
11am | Brunch
12pm | Check-Out

Spending most of the time lounging either by the pool or inside playing games allowed for the trip to be such a great bonding experience amongst all us girls. My cousin and sister went above and beyond to cook and clean (god bless them!) for everyone Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, we went to one of my favorite Italian restaurants, Birba Palm Springs. If you ever visit, I can't recommend this restaurant enough! Since we were a large party, we shared a delicious prix fixe menu family style with pizza, pasta and more! Definitely the comfort food we needed while talking about the craziness of what was is going on with the Coronavirus.

Here are a few bachelorette games we played over the weekend:

1. Team Bride How Well Do You Know the Bachelorette

2. Truth or Dare Scratch Off Cards

3. Never Have I Ever

4. Banana Race- This one was the most fun and very interactive! You basically tie a string around your waist, attach a banana on a string as well and tie it to the center of your stomach and let the banana lightly graze the floor. You and your opponent have to use the banana to get a ball (we used a lemon) across the finish line first using no hands or feet, you can only use your hips.

Bachelorette party decor and supplies:



My cups, napkins, barrel matches, shot glasses and coasters were all custom designed from Foryourparty.com. If you've never heard of them, definitely check them out for all your future party needs! You can personalize everything from graphics, colors, fun facts, and hashtags to really give that custom unique experience. I went with the same pink, white and gold theme as the itinerary. I chose Best Wknd ever on the frosted cups and cocktail napkins with my hashtag #MelsBachWeekend and the date. For the barrel matches, I personalized them to say "Get lit with Melanee" and my hashtag. For the coasters, I personalized them to say, "Drinks For Melanee" and for the shot glasses, I kept it simple with "Bride Tribe."

Visit this LINK to check out Foryourparty for your next event! Bride-to-be's, their party supplies are not only perfect for bachelorette parties, but also for bridal showers, welcome parties, engagement parties and weddings! 


My sister got these personalized drink stirrers that say "MelsBachWeekend" made off Etsy HERE. They made for a perfect bachelorette prop!


My sister and I got these cute personalized totes made for all the girls from Etsy HERE. We thought it would be the perfect gift for them to use later on for shopping or going to the beach. Who can't use an extra tote right? We filled the gift bags with candy, bachelorette themed sticker tattoos, biscotti cookies, pink visors from Fashion Nova, a custom Ciao tee from Etsy, and gold pens with a diamond top from Amazon


Since my wedding is in Italy, I wanted to do something Italy themed! I decided to get these customized Ciao tees made from Etsy for a fun group picture. Most of the girls ended up wearing the tees all weekend! You can shop them HERE

If you're planning a bachelorette, tees that go with the wedding theme is a way to get everyone excited for the big day!


One of my bridesmaid's, Crystal, made me this beautiful balloon arch for me! She also hand-cut all the paper pieces hanging down the middle. It made for the perfect photo backdrop and we definitely took advantage! 


My other bridesmaid, Elizabeth, got us these cute pool floats from Big Mouth Inc. Can't have a pool without some floaties, am I right?! You can shop them HERE


I had such a great weekend with all the girls and feel so blessed I was able to celebrate my bachelorette after having to postpone the wedding and before we all got quarantined. Thanks again to everyone who came and celebrated with me. And to all you bride-to-be's who are affected by the Coronavirus, I'm praying for all of us that things get better soon so we can have our dream weddings! 

If you have any questions, feel free to message me below. 

Thanks for stopping by!

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