MISTICO ARENAL – COSTA RICA’S WILDEST ADVENTURE

It seems the best things in life always manage to scare yet thrill you. They push you past your comfort zone, and force you to take a leap of faith. At Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park, that leap just happens to be over a waterfall!

The Spider Monkey Canyon Tour features a series of rappels, zip lines, and dives, as you follow the canyon deep into the jungle. The park sits quietly in the shadows of Arenal Volcano. A conical volcano rising almost 2,700 ft. above the surrounding cloud forest.

As prominent as the volcano is, the gorge running through the park is equally impressive. The earth drops sharply down forming a deep and narrow fissure. Water twists, turns, and topples over every obstacle, forming large waterfalls and gaping ravines. If you book the Spider Monkey Canyon Tour, you’ll be lucky enough to take the same path.

While in Costa Rica, we had the opportunity to work with Mistico Arenal and try their Spider Monkey Canyon tour. This was a sponsored outing, but the sponsorship in no way affects our opinions or subsequent review of the tour.

Hey there! Don’t forget to pin our review of the Mistico Arenal Spider Monkey Canyon Tour for later 🙂

What is Mistico Arenal

Mistico Arenal is an eco-tourism and adventure park located near Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica. Owned and operated by descendants of the original land owners, Landelina Rodríguez Sánchez and Adrian Castillo, the park’s goal is to allow visitors to experience the wild beauty of Costa Rica comfortably and safely.

In the early 2000’s, the park opened its doors to accommodate guests of all dispositions. Its tours are broken into two categories: Adventure and Nature. While each one features plenty of the other, the Nature Tours are great for the faint of heart and the Adventure Tours are perfect for the nut jobs (like us!).

Nature Tours at Mistico

Mistico Arenal’s most impressive tour could very well be the Hanging Bridges. The Hanging Bridges are a series of 15 bridges, 6 of which are suspension bridges, meandering through the cloud forest. Along the 2-mile trail hikers can expect to be completely surrounded by the Costa Rican jungle and wildlife.

As the park has grown, they have consistently expanded their offerings. Guided nature tours now include the Hanging Bridges, Volcano Expedition, Nighttime Wildlife Walks, and Bird Spotting. While these undoubtedly all have their appeal, Mistico also has a wild side.

Adventure Tours at Mistico

Mistico Arenal offers two premiere adventure tours; Paco’s Horses and the Spider Monkey Canyon Tour. Each tour is perfect for adventurers looking to get off the beaten path and truly explore the park. If you don’t mind a little dirt, the Adventure Tours are the way to go.

Paco’s Horses

Paco’s Horses takes riders to the highest peaks and pastures within the park. Above the trees, riders have an unimpeded view of the volcano and Lake Arenal. Riding experience isn’t required so there’s no need to worry about being unprepared. As long as you can hang on you should be ok!

Spider Monkey Canyon Tour

An open-air rappel drops you quickly into the mouth of the canyon. Immediately, another rappel carries you down a waterfall and onto the riverbed below. From there, each and every turn leads to a new adventure. Rappels, zip lines, and leaps into the river are all fair game.

Eventually, you’ll look up to realize you are hundreds of feet below the jungle above and you have no clue as to when you could have descended so far. You’ve managed to scale your way down countless waterfalls, glided between the canyon walls on ziplines, and splashed into the river from the rocky outcroppings above.

For two hours you’ll follow your guides in and through Spider Monkey Canyon. Wild doesn’t even begin to describe the adventure; incredible and beautiful do. Mistico Arenal got it right, the Spider Monkey Canyon Tour is an adventurer’s dream!

Final Thoughts on Mistico Arenal

Our time at Mistico was a highlight of our trip. The guides, tour, and facilities were fantastic and we left thrilled to have visited. If you have the opportunity to visit Costa Rica you should make visiting the park a priority.

From the tranquil Hanging Bridges, to the action-packed Spider Monkey Canyon Tour, Mistico Arenal has an adventure for everyone. No matter the tour, be sure you’re ready for Costa Rica’s Wildest Adventure!

So please let us know in the comments below… Where are your favorite places to visit in Costa Rica? Have you ever tried canyoneering? Have you been to Mistico Arenal? Still have questions or comments, let us know! Please remember to like and share😊 God Bless, K+J!

Almost forgot? Remember to pin our Review of Mistico Arenal for later!

Mistico Arenal is absolutely WILD!! From zip lining to horseback riding, this place HAS IT ALL. Located in the hills surrounding Costa Rica's Arenal Volcano, Mistico Arenal is the perfect place to start your adventure! Read on to learn more about their famous Spider Monkey Canyon Tour... www.theagapecompany.com #AdventureTravel #CostaRica #TravelCostaRica

Bioluminescent Kayaking – Adventures in Costa Rica’s Glowing Waters

There are a few moments in everyone’s life where they can’t believe what they’re experiencing. Our first-time bioluminescent kayaking was one of those moments. Words simply can’t express the feeling of floating on the ocean watching the water and sky literally light up around you.

Bioluminescent kayaking is like paddling through an endless wave of stars. Blue and white swirls dance in the waters below, and the Milky Way shines down from above. It’s a once in a lifetime experience you can’t truly comprehend until you try.

Our biggest regret is not being able to share exactly what we saw during our trip. While the bioluminescence is bright, the light it produces is fleeting. Try as we might, we were unable to catch it on camera. It’s one of those things you just have to see to believe and we know the perfect place: Bahia Rica.

While in Costa Rica, we had the opportunity to work with Bahia Rica and try out their bioluminescent kayaking tour. This was a sponsored outing, but the sponsorship in no way affects our opinions or subsequent review of the tour.

Hey there! Don’t forget to pin our review of the Bahia Rica for later 🙂

What Causes Bioluminescence?

Strangely enough bioluminescent waters exist around the globe almost year-round. However, few places have the perfect mix of temperature, water depth, and concentration to visibly display the trait. Bahia Rica, located on the Gulf of Nicoya, happens to be one of those magical spots where everything comes together perfectly and the waters visibly glow.

Tiny plankton line the waters surrounding Bahia Rica. The microorganisms are excited by touch and movement, meaning every stroke of the paddle, crashing wave, and hand trailing in the water, lights up the plankton. The intensity of this light can vary but during our tour it was comparable to that of a glow stick.

While the bio water is present year-round, cloudy and moonless nights make for the best bioluminescent kayaking. Bahia Rica clearly organizes their reservations into two groups: Full Moon Kayaking and Bioluminescent Kayaking tours. These tours are dependent on the lunar cycle and how bright the bioluminescence will be.

Bioluminescent Water in Costa Rica

Some of the world’s most famous bioluminescent bays exist in Puerto Rico. Laguna Grande, Mosquito Bay, and La Parguera all call Puerto Rico home. These famed bio bays have created a “must see” attraction. Tourists flock to the bays and prices for a bioluminescent kayaking tour are consistently increasing.

Luckily, in the Gulf of Nicoya these bio bays remain unspoiled. The trip to Paquera, the epicenter of the bioluminescent waters in Costa Rica, is not for everyone. Coming from San José requiress a few hours of highway driving and a 70-minute ferry ride across the Gulf. The journey itself manages to scare off many of the would-be visitors.  As such, tour prices are lower, group sizes smaller, and the bioluminescence remains undisturbed longer.

Bioluminescent Kayaking at Bahia Rica

We were lucky enough to arrive at Bahia Rica a few hours before our bioluminescent kayaking tour started. Upon arrival, we were greeted by Thomas and Vicky, the owners, and a few rambunctious monkeys. They line the trees on the property and seem to be just as intrigued by our presence as us of theirs.

While we waited for the tour to begin, we sprawled out on the hammocks and watched the sun set over the mountains across the bay. Somehow with the fading light, Bahia Rica became even more magical, and we hadn’t even seen the bioluminescence yet!

Finally, after the sun had set and it was well and dark, we got into our kayaks and paddled out. We quickly rounded a bend along the coast and could begin to see faint sparks lighting up the water.

As we drifted from cove to cove the intensity of the bioluminescence would ebb and flow. From light blue sparks there and gone in an instant, to full blue tidal waves shimmering off into the depths. As the night continued, we reached more and more impressive blooms of bioluminescence. At some points it was so spectacularly bright we could physically hold the glowing water in our hands.

After about an hour we pointed our kayaks towards home. Little blue trails whispered behind us as we left Costa Rica’s bioluminescent waters behind. We were tired but thrilled!

Final Thoughts on Bahia Rica

Ultimately, we can’t express how incredible the bioluminescent kayaking was. It’s something we highly encourage everyone try at least once. If you’re in Costa Rica you’d be hard pressed to find a better experience than the time we spent with Bahia Rica.

They limit group sizes so you can have a personal experience, are incredibly affordable, and offer a true taste of Costa Rica. Bahia Rica also offers chartered fishing trips, paddleboard rentals, snorkeling tours, cabin rentals, and much more. No matter what kind of adventure you’re looking for in Costa Rica, Bahia Rica needs to be on your bucket list.

So please let us know in the comments below… Where are your favorite places to visit in Costa Rica? Have you ever tried bioluminescent kayaking? Still have questions or comments, let us know! Please remember to like and share😊 God Bless, K+J!

Almost forgot? Remember to pin our Review of Bahia Rica for later!

Australian Adventures – 5 Epic Experiences Down Under

Kestra and I are happy to announce a new guest contributor today. He’ll be sharing his 5 Favorite Australian Adventures. Clayton Miller is an adrenaline junkie who loves the outdoors, traveling, and exploring Australia’s numerous natural playgrounds.

Australia has always catered to adventurers and adrenaline junkies. From its incredible surfing scene to its rugged, mountainous landscapes, this amazing country seems as if it were custom-built to please thrill seekers. If you like your holidays a little on the wild side, then it’s the perfect place to visit. I’ve picked five of the top Australian adventures below!

Hey there! Don’t forget to pin our guide to the Best Australian Adventures for later 🙂

Before we get to them, though, a quick word of warning: many of these activities have specific requirements and some can be quite dangerous. Before you go, you’ll need to ensure you’re physically fit, have the correct equipment for your Australian adventure, and are covered by a good travel insurance plan with emergency healthcare.

With that said, on to the list!

Scuba Diving

The Great Barrier Reef is truly astonishing, and deservedly one of the most famous sights in Australia. Visible from space, this vast living organism is bigger than the Great Wall of China! Naturally, it’s become a huge tourist attraction, and there are now many diving tour operators offering tours for everyone from absolute beginners to seasoned pros. Cairns or Port Douglas are great spots to base yourself while exploring this natural wonder. Feels like the perfect place to kick off our list of Australian Adventures!

Cycling

Just off the southern coast of Australia, the island state of Tasmania has become a mecca for cycling enthusiasts. The varied terrain, stunning views, and moderate climate make this island an ideal spot to explore by bike. Tour operators offer rides catering to every level of fitness and experience, from scenic half-day rides to demanding, week-long itineraries designed to push you to your limits. If you’re after as much excitement as you can pack on two wheels, you can visit ‘the juggernaut’, the dedicated mountain bike trail built at Hollybank Forest Reserve.

Want to learn how to save hundreds on flights? Sign up for our newsletter and we’ll send you our exclusive guide for free! In it, we share our favorite secret travel hacks that consistently save us hundreds of $$$ on airfare. Sign up to save for yourself!

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Surfing

No list of Australian adventures would be complete without surfing. From the Gold Coast to Victoria, Australia is packed with incredible surfing hotspots. For the most authentic experience, consider booking yourself into a surf camp. From a weekend to a full seven days, these camps will throw you together with a bunch of amateur enthusiasts, encouraging you to ‘eat, sleep, surf’ while they take care of everything else.

Skydiving

If you’ve ever been sat on a flight and thought “I really fancy jumping out of this plane,” then skydiving is the extreme adventure for you. You can, of course, skydive almost anywhere in the world, but Australia’s stunning natural beauty makes it among the best locations for this high-octane activity. Consider combining your jump with a diving trip at Cairns, so that you can experience the Great Barrier Reef from above and below.

Hiking

Finally, a more sedate but no less exciting Australian adventure comes in the form of a hike. Australia features many interesting trails, but the best of these is to be found just off the coast, on Fraser Island. The largest sand island in the world, Fraser Island also boasts a 90km (56 mile), 7-day Great Walk, though many smaller walks are also available, both for solo exploration and as part of guided tours. Hiking through vast dunes and camping under towering rainforest canopies makes this walking holiday every bit as extreme as the rest of the items on the list!

Almost forgot? Remember to pin our guide to the Five Best Australian Adventures for later 🙂

Adventures abound in the Land Down Under. Our friends picked their 5 favorite Australian Adventures to share with you! Let us know your favorite adventure in Australia and see if it made our list. www.theagapecompany.com #adventuretravel #Australia #AustraliaTravel #VisitAustralia

As you can clearly see, the Land Down Under is a thrill seekers paradise. Perfect for anyone willing to get up and out of their comfort zone! Can you think of any other Australian Adventures we should try? Then let us know in the comments below!

To read more from our Guest Travelers check out:

Cathedrals in Scotland

Why You Should Visit Chicago

Stay Like a Local in Japan

13 Places to Visit in the Midwest if You Love the Outdoors

Looking to explore the great outdoors in the heart of the USA? Look no further! We’ve decided to share our 13 favorite places to visit in the Midwest.

Sure, it’s known for its down-to-earth charm and miles of farmland, but the Midwest is home to some incredible back country. Who knew that even the corn capitol of the world, Iowa, was home to 63 State Parks? Yup you read that right, there are 63 State Parks in Iowa.

Lucky for you, that’s just the start. All told our guide includes: 9 states, 2 National Parks, and countless reasons to go explore. So, if you’re up for a long weekend or a nice road trip, be sure to check out our 13 favorite places to visit in the Midwest!

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Custer State Park, SD

Custer State Park spreads over 71,000 acres in South Dakota’s Black Hills. Granite peaks scrape the piercing blue sky and wildlife abounds within the park’s borders. Black Elk Peak, the highest point in the state, also resides within Custer.

If you decide to visit, be sure to set aside some time for a dip in Sylvan Lake. The Needles and Black Elk Peak are great options for steady hikers. Have a younger crowd? Enjoy a cruise around Wildlife Loop Road and keep an eye out for bison, bighorn sheep, and boroughs. If you live for beautiful hikes, crystal clear mountain lakes, and the chance to see a wild donkey or two, Custer State Park is for you.

Gooseberry Falls State Park, MN

Gooseberry Falls State Park is known as the gateway to Minnesota’s North Shore. This is a bit of a misnomer as it deserves credit all its own. Massive waterfalls, river gorges, and expansive lakeshore all call Gooseberry home.

Any visit to Gooseberry would be incomplete without a visit to the Middle and Lower Falls. Adventurous explorers can work upstream to see the elusive Fifth Falls. More content to stay close to the visitor’s center? Paved trails branch towards the lakeshore, over the gorge, or towards a lookout over the Falls. If you have extra time, try going from park to park along the shoreline. With dozens of beautiful parks along MN 61 you won’t be disappointed!

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, MI

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is as beautiful as any place we’ve ever been. Towering cliffs, windswept dunes, wild beaches, and endless sea caves wait to be explored. If you visit late in the summer, and Superior is warm, you can even swim into the caves. Some tunnel hundreds of feet deep into the sandstone and open to a secret cove.

With over 100-miles of trail, there’s always room to escape the crowds. If you’re seaworthy, take a boat tour to view the colorful cliffs from water. Mineral deposits ‘bleed’ out of the cliffs and vibrant hues of colors trail down the cliff face. These minerals also lead to the beautiful chalky blue water color, much like the Iceland’s Blue Lagoon. Take time to explore the shore, you won’t regret it!

Starved Rock State Park, IL

Starved Rock State Park is in a class of its own. It boasts over 13 miles of trails, 18 slots canyons, and countless waterfalls. Large sandstone bluffs stretch over 125 feet high and lookout over the Illinois River.

We were lucky enough to visit at the tail end of fall. The trees were shedding the last of their colors and the park was near empty. The gorgeous canyons and waterfalls waited to be explored and begged us to come back. Over 2 million visitors annually agree, Starved Rock is one of the best places to visit in the Midwest.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is as rugged as any landscape. Located off of I94 the two park Units offer a look into the eyes of America’s history. As a young man Teddy Roosevelt came to hunt bison and left with a newfound appreciation for the wild spaces. We still benefit from Teddy’s conservation policy today.

Both the North and South Units afford visitors the chance to see truly wild wildlife. The Little Missouri River cuts through each Unit and the Badlands-esque landscape. Those brave enough can enjoy the limitless camping, paddling down the Little Missouri, and otherworldly sunsets. Though certainly a long and tedious drive away, visitors never forget their time at Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Monument Rocks, KS

Monument Rocks are simply an enigma. The large chalk formations stand up against the low-lying grasslands and stick out like a sore thumb. The strange uniqueness is all part of the draw. The National Natural Landmark is more or less Kansas’s answer to Utah’s Monument Valley.

Its important to note the Monument is actually on private land. The current landowners have been very happy to allow guests to tour the large formations. That being said, please respect the no camping and no climbing rules. If you have the opportunity, stay for the stars. That’s when the magic of Monument Rocks truly reveals itself.

Maquoketa Caves State Park, IA

Back to the corn capitol! Iowa’s Maquoketa Caves State Park is truly an All-American gem. This small park houses more caves than any other park in Iowa. Long tunnels, towering bluffs, and stone arches are linked by a beautiful trail system.

The in-park campground is a mix of reservations and first-come, first-serve spots. It’s nestled cozily among the mature pine trees and connects directly to the parks trail system. The caves our one of our favorite places to visit in the Midwest simply because they’re so different from any other parks in the area.

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, MI

The Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. They are home to large stands of old growth hardwoods, waterfalls, and of course mountains. Nestled among the wild landscape are black bear, moose, wolves, and otters.

The Porkies are equally as wild as their cousins the Rockies. Tucked in between the stony peaks lies the Lake of the Clouds. If you’re up for the hike, enjoy the Escarpment Trail and follow the lakes northern shore from above. Alternatively, you can voyage south and take in the spectacular Bond Falls. If you love rugged mountain living and hope to taste it in the Midwest, visit the Porcupine Mountains.

Indiana Dunes State Park, IN

Indiana Dunes State Park tower over 200 feet above Lake Michigan’s southern shore. The park also includes a 3 mile stretch of shoreline and 16.5 miles of trail. Vegetation helps stabilize the ever-shifting topography and limits blowing sand.

The park is only a few hours east of Chicago, so if you’re Visiting the Windy City (LINK HERE) it’s easy to make it for a day trip. Hiking, swimming, and fishing are the norm and, in the winter, you can enjoy cross country skiing. Whether you come for a dip in the lake or a chance to explore a local legend, a day at the dunes is well spent!

Badlands National Park, SD

While the Badlands didn’t make our Top 5 Family-Friendly National Parks list, it did earn its spot on our 13 Favorite Places to Visit in the Midwest. It wasn’t that we had anything against the Badlands before, its just the car ride would be a little tough for most youngsters.

Compared to the 100-acre parks on our list the Badlands look massive. At 244,000 acres it’s impossible to explore every nook and cranny. You can spend all day and enjoy the Badland’s offerings, or make way to the surrounding Black Hills and Custer State Park. It’s also extremely close to another one of our favorite places to visit in the Midwest: Mount Rushmore.

If you’ve never heard of the Badlands, think of it as the scene for every Western movie. Large pinnacles of clay and soil have piled and eroded away to form the unique landscape. Some tower hundreds of feet high and others deep. It’s a spectacular place to get away, roast a marshmallow, and enjoy the best of the Midwest!

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, WI

Northern Wisconsin and the Apostle Islands are some of our favorite places in the world. Obviously, they made our list of favorite places to visit in the Midwest. Located on the northeast tip of the Bayfield Peninsula, these 21 islands are as beautiful as they come.

The park also includes a 12-mile coast along the mainland. From sand castle contests, flies the size of bats (kidding… sort of), to starry nights spent alone in the wilderness. The islands are a beautiful mix of history, local culture, and true wild Wisconsin beauty. If you want a cheap, outdoor oriented summer vacation the Apostles are for you.

Turkey Run State Park, IN

Turkey Run State Park is located just southwest of Crawfordsville, IN. We love the parks beautiful sandstone ravines and wooden bridges. It also sports large stands of aged forests, a rarity in many parts of the world.

Visitors are lucky enough to enjoy 14 miles of rugged trails through the famed gullies. If the trails are a little too rough, try the guided horseback tour or hay ride. The saddle barn is open April through October. Call ahead for a reservation!

Tettegouche State Park, MN

Tettegouche State Park is perfect as can be. Stark cliffs look over Lake Superior. Waterfalls and inland lakes dot the 9,300 acres. It sports more than 23 miles of hiking trails, an additional 12 for skiing and 12 for snowmobiles. It’s an outdoorsmen’s paradise.

Care to try your hand at rock climbing? Go ahead and rappel down the cliff faces. Only have an hour? Check out the world class Visitor Center and short hikes surrounding it. Want to stay for the night? Rent a cabin or grab a campsite, there are plenty. There are few better places to visit in the Midwest than good ole’ Tettegouche.

The Best Places to Visit in the Midwest

Turns out, even Iowa isn’t all corn and soy beans. These 13 spots just scrape the surface. The Midwest is chalked full of wild landscapes waiting to be explored. We encourage you to give one of them a try. Pack your tents, some comfy hiking boots, and lots bug spray because adventure is calling!

So please let us know in the comments below… Where are your favorite places to visit in the Midwest? Have you ever been to any of ours? Still have questions or comments, let us know in the comments! Please remember to like and share😊 God Bless, K+J!

Almost forgot? Remember to pin our 13 Favorite Places to Visit in the Midwest for later!

The Midwest USA gets a rep for being pretty boring and tame. It's actually as wild as they come. From the plethora of epic State Parks in the Midwest and National Parks in the Midwest, we've compiled our list of favorite places to visit in the Midwest USA. Check out these awesome outdoor adventures in the USA! www.theagapecompany.com #USA #Midwest #MidwestUSA #USAtravel #outdoortravel #adventuuretravel

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Verse of the Week: Joshua 1:9

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Often, we are called to be uncomfortable. Sometimes the most rewarding moments in life require discomfort, fear, or confusion. It can be as simple as the “pain” from working out or the nerves before a roller coaster ride. It can be as complex as the dread before a big presentation or before speaking to a non-believer about your faith. In either moment, big or small, the Lord is standing with you. This week, be confident in his plans and embrace the moment.

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Touring the Windy City – Why You Should Visit Chicago

Kestra and I are happy to announce a new guest contributor today. He’ll be sharing 5 places everyone should see when they visit Chicago, one of his favorite cities. Robbie Handy hails from Fife in Scotland and has been fascinated by trains since he first saw them trundling over The Forth Bridge — one of the engineering wonders of the world. Apart from trains, transportation and travel, he enjoys writing about arts, culture and politics in English, Scots and Jamaican Patois. Hope you enjoy, and as always, please remember to comment and share. God Bless!

Let’s make this clear – Chicago is a beautiful city. Anyone who is lucky enough to visit Chicago will probably think, ‘I’d love to live here. This is my kinda place.’

If you have family ties elsewhere, that might not be a possibility. Regardless, whether you’re here for a week or a year, there’s enough urban beauty to last you a lifetime.

If you haven’t been able to visit Chicago, then we’ve got a fantastic treat for you. To lure you into vacationing in Chicago, we are going to share our five favorite places in the windy city!

You’ll read, you’ll be tempted and you’ll book a flight to this Midwest metropolis– we guarantee it.

Hey there! Don’t forget to pin our Favorite Places in Chicago for later 🙂

O’Hare International Airport

Is there anything better than an airport that welcomes you with open arms? We’d say no, mainly because a half-decent airport is such a rare surprise.

O’Hare International Airport is one such hub, and it’s arguably a holiday in itself.

When you drive up to its doors, you’ll be met by valet parking providers like Looking4.com, then, once you’ve made your way through security, it’s time to shop till you drop with the host of retail and restaurants available.

That’s not all: O’Hare Airport goes one step beyond the call of duty with a yoga room, on-site hotel, aeroponic garden, art gallery, and even a health club. This is less like an airport and more like the exclusive member’s club you’ve always dreamed of.

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The Art Institute of Chicago

Founded in 1879, The Art Institute of Chicago is the city’s premier outlet for high culture, including classical paintings, sculpture, literature and much more.

Down every corridor of this labyrinthine building you’ll see awe-inspiring works of art, whether your tastes sway towards American gothic, cubism, or classical.

You could spend weeks here and still not see all it has to offer, such is its magnificent scale.

Willis Tower

In a land of skyscrapers, Willis Tower is monumentally high, stretching over 1,450-feet (that’s 110 stories, fact fans).

Height isn’t all the Willis Tower has to offer. Travel to the top of this looming building and you’ll be gifted with a view that, on a clear day, spans over four states.

Surely not one for vertigo sufferers, but a real treat for everyone else.

Adler Planetarium

For any budding stargazers, the Adler Planetarium is the hottest ticket in all of Chicago. A museum dedicated to astronomy and astrophysics, this fascinating attraction is situated on Northerly Island. You’ll need to commute out of the city center, but it’s well worth the effort.

Buckingham Fountain

If you’re visiting the city on one of its many warm days, a visit to Buckingham Fountain, one of the largest fountains in the world, is guaranteed to cool you down.

Located in the center of Grant Park, this is the ideal way to round off a day spent milling around.

Almost forgot? Remember to pin our 5 Favorites Places to Visit in Chicago for later 🙂

That’s our list! Can you think of any other great things to do when you visit Chicago? Then let us know in the comments below!

To read about our other favorite cities check out:

25 Things to do in Tampa

5 Free Things to do in Reykjavik

16 Incredible and Cheap Summer Vacations

Cheap Summer Vacations – 16 Amazing Destinations for Your Summer Getaway

Be aware the end is near… schools are ending faster than you can count, and families are packing their bags. Cheap summer vacations are a staple of good times, tan lines, and family memories. Today we’re going to choose our 16 favorite summer vacations spots that won’t break the bank. So, pack that suntan lotion, start those workouts and take your pick of Cheap Summer Vacations—or just try them all!

To make things a little easier to navigate we’ve broken up our picks into two sections. The first 11 picks are cheap summer vacations you can take in the USA. The remaining 5 are budget-friendly adventures around the globe. Check out Packing Tips for Travelers if you need help stuffing your suitcase for your next adventure. If you’re feeling extra generous, please shoot this post a like and a share and, as always, enjoy! One last thing before you get too far, remember to…

Pin our picks for 16 Cheap Summer Vacations!

Cheap Summer Vacations in the USA

Bar Harbor, Maine

Cool weather, lots of sun, and wonderful people make Bar Harbor an excellent choice for a family trip. Located right on the coastline and just miles from Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor offers postcard views around every turn. Warm and dry summer weather allow for a refreshing dip in Echo Lake. If you’re brave enough you could even wade into the Atlantic, it’ll be chilly!

Try wandering the local streets and exploring the town’s quaint shops. If you follow the “Museums in the Streets” signs you’ll be led on a self-guided tour through downtown. Plan your visit a little later and catch free movies and popcorn in Agamont Park!

Hayward, Wisconsin

Lake Cabin Wisconsin

Hayward and the rest of Northern Wisconsin are the Midwest’s answer to Bar Harbor. The weather, people, and incredible sunshine bring many visitors back year after year. Thousands of lakes surround the small towns like Hayward. If you’re feeling adventurous you can rent a boat for the afternoon, hop on some mountain bikes, or try out the go-karts!

At night you and the family can relax around the campfire in your own cabin on a private lake. We’re serious about that part! This Airbnb Cabin is only 20 minutes from Hayward, sits on 80 acres, and has a private 20 acre lake. Kestra and I were lucky enough to visit last fall and we loved every second!

When you book, send the promo code AGAPE2019 in your message to the host to receive 20% off. That’s right folks, that’s $50 off each night!

*Promo code is subject to availability. Discount is only available on bookings in May-June and September-November. The host reserves the right to deny any bookings.

Annapolis, Maryland

Cobblestone walkways line the streets of Maryland’s historic capital. The city is well over 300 years old and steeped in history. Named after Queen in Anne in the early 1700’s the city is now famed for it’s charm, restaurants and gorgeous coast.

While there we recommend checking out both the Banneker-Douglas Museum and Ego Alley. Both are incredible, FREE!! spots to take in the history, culture, and beauty of Annapolis. After a day on the docks be sure to enjoy the city’s vibrant eateries and tour the historic mansions scattered around town.

Moab, Utah

Moab is an outdoor adventurer’s paradise. National Parks fill the state and Moab sits on the doorstep of Arches National Park and Canyonlands. From mountain and dirt biking, sand dune surfing, to camping and hiking, Moab is truly one of a kind.

If you’re up for a bit of a drive be sure to check out these 12 Beautiful Places in Utah! After a fun day in the sun you can retire to a nice glass of wine or local brew at one of the many restaurants in town. With all these epic adventures it’s easy to see why Moab is one of the best spots for a cheap summer vacation!

San Diego, California

Surfing in California

San Diego is beautiful all year and somehow extra pretty in the summer months. It has tons of family-friendly activities to keep you busy all day. If you use a multi-day Go San Diego Card you can save big on museums, cruises and local theme parks. The San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Legoland, and even unlimited access to SeaWorld are included in the bundle and some attractions are 55% off! Seriously check them out, they’re a PHENOMENAL deal: Go San Diego Card 🙂

If you’re looking for more outdoors activities there are plenty to try! Hiking and swimming at Devil’s Punchbowl, ziplining at at La Jolla Reservation, off-roading at Anza Borrego State Park are just a few options!

Tampa, Florida

Looking for fun things to do as a family in Tampa? Check out our top 25 family friendly adventures in Tampa, Florida!

As troves of flip-flopped families descend on Orlando, thinned crowds are the norm in Tampa. We loved it so much we actually wrote up our Favorite Family Friendly Adventures in Tampa. With plenty of public parks, more free movies, and epic deals at major attractions Tampa is an incredible find!

We’d start our day at the local Lettuce Lake Conservation Park and watch the abundance of turtles, birds, and gators. Follow that up with any one of the local beaches and then we’d check out the mini-golf scene. Play for fun, or bet on some ice cream, it’s a great way to spend a couple hours after the sun cools! After an intense 18-hole showdown be sure to try some local seafood, catch the sunset, or enjoy a free movie at the Sunset Cinema!

Williamsburg, Virginia

Similar to Annapolis, Williamsburg is a beautiful, historically-rich town. In the 1900’s the town was restored to its former glory and is a sparkling jewel of the east coast. When walking through Williamsburg and its surrounding downs you are treading the same paths as our Founding Fathers.

In our list of Cheap Summer Vacations, Williamsburg embodies everything we’d possibly want in a trip. Take a quick trip up to Jamestown, try a ghost walking tour, or just wander around town. Everything is reasonably priced, accessible, and most importantly fun!

Denver, Colorado

Ok I know what you’re thinking. People go Skiing in Colorado but who goes there for a summer vacation? Well for starters, you should. As a major hub flights into the airport are consistently cheap (say $200 a person +/-).  The weather is very mild and getting around the city is a breeze.

In terms of “ideal” cheap summer vacations Colorado couldn’t get much better. The CityPass allows users to book in advance and save up to 30% at places like the Downtown Aquarium, Denver Zoo, and the Air and Space Museum!

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

At the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg is a perfect mix of natural wonders and modern conveniences. We actually loved Gatlinburg and the surrounding Smokies so much they made our list of Family Friendly National Parks! The park is home to over 5,000 plant species, 100’s of different animals, and an extensive trail system stretching over 800 miles.

After a day spent hiking through and above the clouds retire to local Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg for some family fun. Dinner theaters, amusement parks, novelty shops, you name it, think of It as the Wisconsin Dells of Tennessee. If you’re looking for something a little more upscale don’t worry, Gatlinburg still offers fine dining and resort living!

St. Louis, Missouri

As budget travelers few things perk us up more than the word free. Luckily for us, and anyone looking into cheap summer vacations, that word is plastered around St. Louis. Free tours of local Purina Farms spoil visitors with dog show and much more. The St. Louis Art Museum includes free admission, and on Sunday afternoon’s hands-on activities and a 30-minute tour

Additionally, the local City Museum houses a 10-story slide, Ferris wheel, and numerous more family adventures. It’s low cost of admission (around $15 for ages 3 and up) make it a must for any trip to St. Louis. If you’re hoping to catch a more local vibe, try catching a baseball game or sampling the world-famous Bar-B-Que!

Jacob’s Lake, Arizona

Grand Canyon Arizona

Located snuggly between Las Vegas and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon sits Jacob’s Lake. Strikingly, different from its neighbors, Jacob’s Lake is enveloped in the Kaibab National Forest. A retreat to the area can be spent on endless hiking trails, mountain biking, horseback riding, or even stargazing at night. Picture this as the perfect camping trip you always dreamed of as a child.

In the morning you can check out the local Jacob Lake Inn for a steaming pile of pancakes and fresh orange juice. If roughing it is more of your style, sit around the fire and get to cooking! Just be sure none of the endless deer in the area make off with your breakfast. At night you can enjoy your time at the Inn or try out the local Kaibab Camper Village, both are incredible!

Cheap Summer Vacations around the World

Reykjavik, Iceland

Wondering if the Blue Lagoon Iceland is worth all the hype? We've been there and can tell you exactly why it WON'T live up to your expectations. Let us know if you'd still include it on your list of things to do in Iceland. www.theagapecompany.com #iceland #bluelagooniceland

Hear us out here. You can easily do Iceland on a budget and add to your list of favorite cheap summer vacations if you’re willing to sacrifice a few things. Avoiding the really nice downtown hotels, eating in some nights, and not splurging on super cool Icelandic wool sweatshirts all help. Additionally, you can use WOW air to consistently find amazing rates to fly to The Land of Fire and Ice.

As for the capital itself, Reykjavik is a beautiful city with tons of incredible activities all around. From free hot pools, to stunning architecture, and incredible natural wonders, Reykjavik is truly a one-of-a-kind city. If you’re really trying to save some money and get to know the city check out Five FREE Things to do in Reykjavik!

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Nicaragua’s San Juan del Sur is a dreamy tropical getaway located on the Pacific coast. Given its proximity to the US (3 hours from Atlanta) flights are often budget friendly. Kestra and I have managed to compound these savings by using 15 Tips to Finding Cheap Flights every time we search for airfare.

We’d spend our days enjoying the beautiful Playa San Juan del Sur, that’s the beach 😉 White sand lines the coast and turquoise waters cascade end over end for miles in either direction. The local resorts also offer incredible summer discounts so prices all around are low. Sounds pretty sweet, right?

Lisbon, Portugal

If you are able to find a cheap flight, Lisbon is a budget-traveler’s heaven. The city sits on the edge of the Atlantic and is as architecturally stunning as anywhere on earth. Steep hills climb out of the city affording beautiful views around every corner. Tile work from the 1400’s still lines many walkways throughout the city.

If you’re tired of walking the hills, try hopping on the gorgeous, gravity-defying, 1930’s tram. For only a few bucks you can enjoy a low-cost, scenic tour of town. If you’re feeling adventurous, visit a local winery, tour the terraces and sample the local selection. It is almost the same price of the water after all!

San Jose, Costa Rica

There are hundreds of waterfalls in Costa Rica so finding Costa Rica's best waterfalls may seem impossible. That's why we made this amazing Costa Rica travel guide- Costa Rica's Best Waterfalls- so they aren't hard to find anymore! If you're looking for things to do in Costa Rica, planning a trip to Costa Rica, or just love looking at Costa Rica travel guides you'll love our post. Be sure to let us know which of the waterfalls in Costa Rica you like the most!

Another quick flight from Atlanta could have you exploring Costa Rica’s Volcanoes or Costa Rica’s Best Waterfalls. San Jose is a beautiful Latin-American city steeped in culture and history. The local plaza and its museums, shops, and theaters are well worth a day of your time.

If you manage to escape the city for a day endless waterfalls, jungles, and volcanoes wait to be explored. Local soda’s serve fresh meals for just a couple dollars. Beaches abound within a few hours drive. In terms of cheap summer vacations, Costa Rica offers a taste of luxury.

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest is actually two separate cities, Buda and Pest. They are separated by the Danube river and each sport their own distinct vibe. This cultural hub has exploded in popularity in recent years and airfare prices have accordingly plummeted. It’s very easy to find flights in the summer for only $600-$700.

While there, we’d recommend taking a Danube River cruise. You can often find one that includes a meal and a 2.5 hour cruise for around $20. As you float down the Danube you’ll see the Parliament, the Szechenyi Chain Bridge, among the myriad of beautiful, historic buildings. The next day, try out either the Gellert Spa or Szechenyi Spa and enjoy a refreshing dip. Both opened in the early 1900’s and have been pleasing visitors ever since.

Whoever decided cheap summer vacations were a thing of the past, were boring, or were just plain impossible was wrong. Finding budget friendly destinations may be a little tougher now, but as you can see there’s no shortage of good options. So start saving, pack your bags, and start exploring!

So please let us know in the comments below… Which of these cheap summer vacations are you going on? Do you know of any other budget friendly destinations we should add? Where’s your next vacation taking you? Please remember to like and share😊 God Bless, K+J!

Packing Tips for Travelers – 10 Spectacular Tips for Efficient and Easy Packing

Everyone knows the feeling… You’re all prepped for your next vacation, tickets are bought, reservations made, and bags are stuffed full with everything you could possibly need. There’s one problem though. You’re never going to use that inflatable pool floaty, wear those running shoes, or even bother with the super cool drone you just bought. Tired of wasted space, extra weight, and baggage charges? We’re here to help. Follow along for 10 Packing Tips that will make your next trip so much more enjoyable!

We feel your pain. When we visited Iceland, we had to cram all of our belongings into one 13” x 10” x 8” backpack. Somehow, we managed to declutter, fill it with enough warm clothes to survive, and even had room leftover to sneak some snacks onto the plane. If you follow our favorite packing tips, you’ll be surprised how easy packing for a vacation can be. You may even have enough room for that souvenir you wanted 😉

If you’re feeling extra stupendous, please shoot this post a like and a share and, as always, enjoy! One last thing before you get too far, remember to…

Pin our 10 Packing Tips for Travelers!

Keep it Fresh

Maybe its just me, but my duffle smells like a mix of wet dog, moldy cheese, and a pig farm. One of the best ways I’ve found to combat the ethereal stench are plain old dryer sheets. You can pick up a pack of these almost anywhere and they work wonders! I’d recommend throwing one in each shoe and then two or three scattered around the bag.

Fill the Dead Spaces

Child psychologists speak on the idea of object permanence being a key stage in any child’s development. The idea is that even if they can no longer see the object it still exists. Oftentimes, even as adults we forget about objects outside of plain site. For instance, who has packed inside their shoes? That “dead space” is the exact same concept. Think outside the bow and use the space given!

Roll, Don’t Fold

This was the only way we were able to pack for our trip to Iceland. Rolling saves space, limits awkward wrinkles and rumples, and makes snagging the day’s outfit a breeze. That’s right no more rummaging to find your one blue shirt, instead you’ll be able to slide it right out. I’ve found it helps to fold your clothing in half before rolling (pants one leg over the other, shirts folded in on each side meeting in the middle). It makes the rolls much more similar in size and makes packing even easier, how about that packing tip!

If you’d like to read more about our trip to Iceland, check out:

Free Things to Do in Reykjavik Iceland!

What Not to Do in Iceland

What No One Tells You About the Blue Lagoon in Iceland

Go Light and Moldable

I know how nice wheels can be on any long trek through the airport. I’ve learned to sacrifice the convenience for the adaptability of a cloth bag. They’re tough, lightweight, and mold to whatever I need to fit them in or in them. Now that’s a packing tips tongue twister! 😉 Seriously, my duffle has allowed me to bring home a skim board, has been tossed around and still comes back for more.

Layer Up

Just like we talked about in our Definitive Winter Hiking Guide, layering is essential. This is actually my favorite of all ten packing tips just because it helps so much. As you begin to think about what you’ll need on a trip try not to limit clothes to one use only. If you’re going somewhere cold you don’t need to take: a jacket, a raincoat, a cold-weather jacket, two fleeces, and a sweatshirt. Instead, look at how you could layer a couple items to eliminate others. Like pairing a fleece and a jacket and ditching the extra poofy cold weather jacket.

Additionally, try to think about outfits as layers you can swap interchangeably. This will allow you to reuse certain parts of your outfit with others. Instead of packing six pairs of pants and six shirts, you can pack two pairs of pants that go well with all four shirts. If you struggle identifying colors that work well together plan on wearing more earth tones. You can be confident whichever colors you pair will work together!

Know Your Limits

This is an extremely simple tip that will save you time, money and hassle. Baggage policies vary by airline, where you’re flying, and year. It would be impossible for us to keep up with the policies so we’ll let the airlines tell you themselves. We’ve included links to several major airline’s baggage policies below. Speaking of flights, if you’re looking for a way to save hundreds on airfare, sign up for our newsletter and we’ll send you our exclusive guide to finding cheap flights!

Hey there 🙂 Thanks for following along with our adventures! We’ve got something REALLY special for you for signing up for our newsletter. 15 Tips We Use ALL THE TIME to Find Cheap Flights and Save Hundreds. Enjoy!

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Air Canada: Baggage Fees

Alaska Airlines: Baggage Fees

Allegiant Air: Baggage Fees

American Airlines: Baggage Fees

Cape Air: Baggage Fees

Delta Air Lines: Baggage Fees

Frontier Airlines: Baggage Fees

Hawaiian Airlines: Baggage Fees

JetBlue: Baggage Fees

Porter Airlines: Baggage Fees

Silver Airways: Baggage Fees

Southwest Airlines: Baggage Fees

Spirit Airlines: Baggage Fees

Sun Country Airlines: Baggage Fees

United Airlines: Baggage Fees

Virgin America (now Alaska Airlines): Baggage Fees

Avoid Stains

I can’t imagine how bummed I would be to show up, unpack, and realize that all my clothes had shoes prints on them. There are a couple packing tips we use to avoid stains on our clothes. First, think about how you pack. Put the shoes in the bottom of the bag face down. Second, roll any lightly colored clothing inside out. This helps to cover up small stains that are bound to happen anyway. Lastly, use a shower cap or grocery sack and tie it around your footwear. This keeps all that nasty gunk in the bag and off your clothing!

Cut it in Half

One of the best packing tips I’ve ever read was to pack everything you think you might need and then get rid of half of it. It’s amazing how much you think you need on a trip compared to what you actually use. This tip just helps you to evaluate what you actually need to bring and what can afford to stay home.

Be Ready to Separate

Whether you use packing cubes, grocery bags, or laundry baskets is up to you. Either way, be sure to find some way to separate clothes as you pack and repack throughout the trip. That way you can keep clean and dirty clothes separate, wet clothes away from dry, and save time as you look for a fresh pair of socks every morning.

Make a List (or Use Ours!)

One of my least favorite parts of packing is creating and sticking to a list. What if I forget something? What if I leave something off and need it? What if, heaven forbid, I pack without one? Packing is so much easier and stress free with a nice checklist. Follow it, check it off, write notes, do whatever you need to make it work for you.

Packing for vacation should never be stressful. Yet every time we start to pack for our next trip we can feel the anxiety start to build. We put together 10 Spectacular Packing Tips to save you time, space, and pain! We even included a FREE Packing List!! Check out our post: 10 Packing Tips for Efficient and Easy Packing and get your free Packing List today! www.theagapecompany.com #budettravel #adventuretravel #travel #travelhacks #traveltips #packinglists #packing

Packing for your vacation shouldn’t be so stressful. It should be quick, easy, and dare we say it, fun! Yes, fun! Thinking of all the adventures you’ll take and what you need on your next vacation should never be a drag. That’s why we put together our Top 10 Packing Tips. We want to make your next vacation easier and more enjoyable.

So please let us know in the comments below… Which packing tips are you going to try? Do you know of any other packing tips we should use? Where’s your next vacation taking you? Please remember to like and share😊 God Bless, K+J!

Northern Wisconsin – 17 Best Places to Visit Up North

As trends change and vacation plans become all the more extravagant, many have forgotten about the secret gem that is northern Wisconsin. Referred to as “Up North” by Wisconsinites, this area is blanketed in forests, bursting with lakes, and dotted with quaint towns. If you’re looking for a family and budget-friendly adventure, look no further than northern Wisconsin.

And the best part? Northern Wisconsin’s a year-round vacation destination. The summer is filled with boat rides, hiking, stargazing, and bonfires. Autumn boasts changing leaves, cool temperatures, and dead mosquitoes. Winter warms the soul with a cup of hot cocoa, pillows of snow, and abundant opportunities to strap on a pair of skis. Spring brings about sprouts of green, the return of animals and their young, and cuddling up on a rainy day with a good book.

We make our way Up North at least a few times every year and always manage to hit up our favorite places, which we’re going to share with you. If you’re feeling extra generous, please shoot this post a like and a share and, as always, enjoy! One last thing before you get too far, remember to…

Pin our picks for the Best of Northern Wisconsin!

Tremblay’s Sweet Shop

Started in 1963, this “Olde Tyme Candies” shop has been a family-favorite for years. In fact, no trip to Hayward is complete without a stop at this Main Street store. At just $6/lb you’ll find yourself filling your wicker basket to the brim with individually wrapped Salt Water Taffy. Mixed amongst the old-fashioned candy (Slo Poke’s, Mary Jane’s, and Coconut Long Boys) you’ll find an array of more recent favorites too—Laffy Taffy, Blow Pops, and Gummy Worms. Did I mention there’s an entire wall devoted to all the different flavors of Jelly Bellies? Yeah, this place caters to kids and adults alike.

Is candy not really your thing? That’s fine, they have a huge display of homemade specialties. Fudge, truffles, brittle, almond bark, nut rolls, clusters, caramel, hand-dipped chocolate… this list goes on and on! My favorite is the chocolate-peanut butter fudge, but if you’re ever unsure about a flavor, pop a sample in your mouth beforehand!

One of the most notable things about Tremblay’s is that you get to watch them make all the homemade specialties, whether window-shopping or standing in the store yourself. Watching them pour out chocolate onto the table, slice it up, and throw it through the air like putty is seriously jaw-dropping. And if you’re not planning on making a stop in Hayward, there are also stores located in Eagle River, Wisconsin and Stillwater, Minnesota.

Website: Tremblay’s Sweet Shop

Scheers Lumberjack Shows/Lumberjack World Championships

By the late 1800’s, northern Wisconsin was one of the nation’s leading lumber producers, thanks heavily in part to the northern part of the state. Since then, much of the industry has vanished, but the memory of logging has been kept alive in the hearts of Wisconsinites. In its place, they created lumberjack sports. These include: log rolling, boom running, pole climbing, cross-cut sawing, axe throwing, springboard chop, and underhand chop, amongst others.

Log Rolling: two competitors stand on either end of a long and try to get the other to fall off… without pushing them or crossing onto the other side of the log! This is the most popular sport, and kids as young as four and five can begin competing.

Boom Running: a race from one dock to another and back, across nine logs, without falling in!

Pole Climbing: If you get nervous easily, cover your eyes for this event. Competitors speed climb up either a 60- or 90-foot pole and back down.

For a complete description of the events and times, head to the website below.

Scheers Lumberjack Shows are a mix of sport, history, and comedy. They’re good an audience of all ages, and even have a special “Yo-Ho!” event for the kids. Shows take place almost every day in the summer, but make sure to book in advance! Shows take place in both Hayward, WI and Minocqua, WI—so take your pick!

The Lumberjack World Championships are taking place from August 1-3, 2019 in Hayward, Wisconsin. Spectators and competitors alike flock from countries across the world to watch the best of the best compete for a “World Champion” title.

Website: Scheers Lumberjack Show

Website: Lumberjack World Championships

Namekagon River Tubing

Nearly 100 miles long, this river snakes through some of northern Wisconsin’s most pristine forestland. The relatively calm water and rocky bottom makes it ideal for a plethora of outdoor activities. The river begins at Namekagon Lake as a small trout stream, perfect for fishing. As it meanders around its dozens of islands, through lakes and wetlands, it picks up in size as it eventually merges with the St. Croix River, a tributary of the Mississippi River.

Canoeing and kayaking are popular pastimes, many of which are several day-long trips, with campsites dotting the shores (and probably some of the islands too—I mean, how cool!?) South of Hayward, the river has the potential to speed up into Class II rapids in a few areas, but generally the water is too shallow. Instead of rafting, many people choose to go tubing down the river. This is my personal favorite river activity, as it’s a good bled between relaxation, swimming, and fun!

I’m sure there are many tour agencies that offer this service, but I’m going to recommend two I know and trust.

The first is through the Hayward KOA, located in Hayward. You don’t have to be camping here to punch your ticket to an afternoon of fun. You can choose to canoe, kayak, or tube down the river. The KOA will then shuttle you to the drop-off point, and pick you up later at a designated spot down-river. All you have to do is sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride! 😉

Website: Hayward KOA

The second is Jack’s Canoe Rental, located in Trego. Again, you can rent tubes, canoes, and kayaks. For tubing, shuttle service is free with the rental of a tube, and you can go as many times as you’d like during the day (between 9 AM and 3 PM and weather dependent, of course). If you bring along a cooler, they’ll even pitch in a free tube for it and rope to tie it to your own tube… making it a whole day adventure!

Canoe and Kayak rentals pay an additional shuttle fee, but patrons can choose from a variety of different rental options and trips (just a few hours to a few days), giving options to beginners and experts alike.

Website: Jacks Canoe Rental

Apostle Islands

Apostle Islands Wisconsin

This is, hands down, my favorite place in the entire state—if not the entire world (which is saying a lot!) Just off of Wisconsin’s northern shore in Lake Superior, 21 islands surround the state’s uppermost peninsula. These rugged, sandstone cliff islands jut out of the water with spectacular magnitude.

Several different options exist for island cruises, but most are out of Bayfield. Nine historic lighthouses are present on six different islands, which are a photographer’s dream. You’ll be amazed with the picturesque coastline of these islands and the light blue water that surrounds them (You thought bright blue water was only in the Bahamas??? Think again!)

Camping is available on 19 of the islands, but the most popular is Madeline Island. A ferry runs directly from Bayfield to La Pointe (the island’s only city). You can walk aboard, bring your bike, car, or entire camper. Campsites on this island fill up extremely fast, so make sure to book almost a year in advance if you want a site (I’m not joking). There are a few first-come-first-serve sites, but they’re always immediately filled, so don’t bank on it.

Madeline Island boasts a quarter-moon beach cay with white sand and calm, shallow water. Lounge around, sign up for the sand castle building contest, go snorkeling, cliff jumping, biking, hiking, or take a walk on shore’s rocks during sunset. Lake Superior’s water is notoriously cold, but once you’re numb you can’t feel it anyways. 😉

If you’re just there for a day-trip, check out the Madeline Island Museum, grab a bite to eat at The Beach Club, a drink at Tom’s Burned Down Cafe, and ice cream at Grampa Tony’s (just a few of our favorite places 😊).

The fun doesn’t stop when summer ends. When Lake Superior freezes, take the Madeline Island ice road (via a wind sled to be safe) to the only year-round occupied island. Take a winter hike, watch the aurora borealis, or explore one of the ice caves!

Website: Superior Trails – Madeline Island

Copper Falls State Park

Copper Falls Wisconsin

Another year-round attraction, Copper Falls State Park is a 3,068-acre park near Mellen. Famous for its deep gorges and thundering waterfalls, the golden-brown color of the park’s Bad River derives its name from the copper mineral found in the nearby rocks.

Well-groomed trails and amenities, plenty of campsite options, and its pet-friendly atmosphere earned its spot on our list. Some of the waterfalls need to be enjoyed from afar, but there are several smaller ones for the little ones to splash around near. It truly is one of our favorite spots in northern Wisconsin!

Plus, when you go in the winter, nothing is cooler than half-frozen waterfalls. You can either take my word for it or book your own trip to see it yourself, and I suggest the latter! Are you a huge waterfall fan? Check out our post: Best Waterfalls in Costa Rica!

Website: Copper Falls State Park

American Birkebeiner Ski Race

The Birkie (literally burr-key😉) is North America’s largest cross-country ski race. The race starts in Cable and ends 50-55 kilometers later on Hayward’s beautiful Main Street. Skiers from all around the world come to northern Wisconsin to compete in this monumental event, and crowds pack tightly together with hot cocoa in-hand at the finish line to ring their cowbells and cheer on the exhausted athletes.

Does skiing more than 50 kilometers not sound like your idea of fun? That’s fine! You can choose to ski the shorter Kortelopet (29 kilometers) or participate in the un-timed Birke Tour (for 15, 26, or 46 kilometers) on the nation’s best cross-country ski trail, just for fun!

Still not interested? What about the Prince Haakon 15k (ages 13+), the 3.7km race for adaptive skiers, the 1.2-5k Junior Birke for ages 6-18, or the infamous Barnebirkie, a non-competitive 500m-3k race for youth aged 3-13.

Or maybe you hate winter, who knows? The well-maintained trail is open year-round for hiking, running, or biking!

Website: American Birkebeiner

Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame

Fishing in Wisconsin

More commonly known as “The Giant Muskie”, the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame is just that—a giant Muskie. Located in Hayward (the spot of one of the world’s largest caught muskies), guests enter the giant fish at the tail, and make their way through the museum to the fish’s mouth, which provides views of the surrounding area. It’s a great way to spend a few hours learning more about wildlife and fishing in northern Wisconsin!

Website: Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame

CABIN TIME!!!

Lake Cabin Wisconsin

Locals live in them, visitors rent them. Cabins are woven into northern Wisconsin so tightly that the area, quite frankly, would look strange without them. Some are tucked away behind thickets of trees, some line the pristine lakes, others form a city block. A quick Google search will provide you hundreds and hundreds of options, which can be overwhelming.

So, we’re going to give you our favorite one, and a discount to use should you decide to book a few nights here (which you should 😉). It’s located 20 minutes outside of Hayward on 80 acres of land. There’s a small, 20-acre lake that only you have access to for the duration of your stay. I could keep rambling about how awesome this place is, but pictures do it a better justice than words.

When you book, send the promo code AGAPE2019 in your message to the host to receive 20% off. That’s right folks, that’s $50 off each night!

*Promo code is subject to availability. Discount is only available on bookings in May-June and September-November. The host reserves the right to deny any bookings.

Website: Airbnb Cabin Rental

Horseback Riding

Horseback Riding

Honestly, you can find a place to go horseback riding almost anywhere in northern Wisconsin. It’s a relaxing way to meander through the beautiful forest and check horseback riding off your bucket list (we know it’s on there). Here are a few local favorites for you to choose from.

Spider Lake Ranch

Located in Spider Lake, just 14 miles east of Hayward. $32/person for a one-hour ride, $24 for a half-hour, $8 for a pony ride. Discounts available for groups of 8+, boys & girls club members, active duty military, and college students.

Hoofbeat Ridge

Located in between Stone Lake and Spooner. Several different rides are available: ½ hour ($25), 1 hour ($35), 1 ½ hours ($65), All-day (5hrs- $175), or pony rides ($10). Discount on all-day ride for groups 3+ or if customers pay in cash.

Ranch of Rescued Hope

“Connecting with God by Connecting with Horses” is the tagline for this ranch. Located in Phillips, this ranch offers riding lessons, family packages, and birthday packages, amongst more! Riding lessons are for kids or adults, $25 for a one-hour private lesson or $25 for a 1 ½ hour semi-private lesson. The Family package is a 1- 1 ½ hour lesson and can accommodate group sizes 3-4 ($20/rider) or 5-8 ($18/rider).

On Twin Lakes

Did someone say sleigh ride???

Located in Birchwood, On Twin Lakes focuses on taking time to slow down and reflect. “We have been blessed with an amazing piece of God’s green earth, and we want to share that with everyone we can.” The farm hosts weddings and events, provides camping, rides, and trails, and even farms produce and meat.

Sleigh/wagon rides are available year-round. Prices start at $75/person (for up to 4 people, $10 for each additional person).

Boating

Boating and Wake boarding in Wisconsin

Minnesota may be “The Land of 10,000 Lakes”, but Wisconsin has over 15,000, making boating a very popular summer activity. Go tubing, water skiing, wakeboarding, and knee boarding, try your hand at the jet ski, wave runner, paddleboard, or paddleboat. Or maybe you’d rather take a cruise in a pontoon up to a sandbar and spend the afternoon watching the waves roll slowly in.

Don’t have a boat? It’s likely that you can find several marinas within the vicinity of any body of water… so basically, everywhere. The two hottest tourist destinations in northern Wisconsin are Hayward and Minocqua, so we’ll recommend two great marinas, where you can rent any type of boat for the afternoon or for the entire week. And the best part? Add on a few tubes, skis, and other water toys for an additional price.

Round Lake Marina – Hayward

This marina strategically sits between at the meeting point between two of Hayward’s most popular lakes: Big Round Lake and Little Round Lake, but is a short drive away from the Chippewa Flowage (and about a dozen other lakes of your choosing 😉).

Wave Rentals – Minocqua

Located on Minocqua Lake, Wave Rentals offers a variety of different watercraft—from pontoons and fishing boats to kayaks and paddleboards.

Minocqua, Wisconsin

Speaking of Minocqua… this quaint little town has an official population of less than 500. However, when the summer months start creeping around, that number grows exponentially. It’s a Northwoods hub for vacation, adventure, fun, and relaxation.

The year-round opportunities are endless. From the bustling, picturesque Main Street, live entertainment, art, history, water activities, trail hiking, hunting, fishing, ATV rides, and snowmobile trips, this area is stuffed to the brim with things to do, see, and eat. All these activities make Minocqua one of our favorite spots in northern Wisconsin!

Website: Minocqua, WI

Mini Golf

Mini golf, a vacation classic. If you’re anything like us, you scout the area for the best courses and the loser buys ice cream. What can I say? We’re competitive people who love ice cream—and winning. (Jacob likes winning more, but let’s be honest, I’m mostly in it for the ice cream). Any vacation town in northern Wisconsin is going to have at least one course, so we’ve gone ahead and pulled the top ones off our list for you.

Big Bear Mini Golf – Tomahawk

This course definitely isn’t jaw dropping, but it’s family-friendly, has a well-maintained green, and an attached ice cream/shaved ice shop. What more could you ask for?

Settlers Mill – Minocqua

A 19th century settlers themed mini golf, this course merges history with the present. It’s topped off with a covered wagon (AKA prairie schooner), water wheel, and of course—frozen custard.

Eagle Falls Adventure Golf – Eagle Falls

This 1950’s fishing camp-themed course is complete with a fishing cabin, bait shop, and dock. But why let the fun stop there? Try out their new northern lights-themed laser tag!

Pirate’s Cove – Sister’s Bay

With locations all over the country, this Door County mini golf is, you guessed it, pirate themed! Pirates, ships, and waterfalls await you at this award-winning course.

Moose Mulligan’s – Siren

With newly-carpeted green, this is your average family-friendly course. The holes aren’t too complicated, making it perfect for the little ones.

Scheers Lumberjack Village Mini Golf – Hayward

Remember this unique Wisconsin sport? After the show, head across the street to the neighboring mini golf course. Sloped holes make for an interesting game as you (probably) compete for post-game ice cream! If you love mini golf be sure to check out our favorite courses in Florida here: Family Friendly Adventures in Tampa!

Apple Picking

Bayfield Wisconsin

I may be biased, but some of the best apples in the world are picked in Bayfield. With its unique location on the shores of Lake Superior, the micro-climate helped it earn its name as the Berry Capital of Wisconsin. That’s right, it’s not just apples. There are several pick-it-yourself orchards filled with cherries, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries, as well.

The first Friday in October kicks off the annual Applefest, a three-day celebration that’s consistently rated as one of the nations top fall harvest festivals. Head on up to northern Wisconsin to check it out yourself!

Website: Bayfield, WI

The Whitecap Mountains

Skiing in Wisconsin

Although it’s a four-season resort, we suggest checking out these Upson, Wisconsin slopes in the winter. With four separate peaks, this mountain is Wisconsin’s snowiest ski resort! There are 43 downhill runs ranging from beginner (green runs) to expert (double black diamonds). It’s no Vail, Colorado with gondolas and 5-star restaurants, but for midwestern ski bums—this northern Wisconsin resort is the place to be. (Plus, if your K-12 child gets all A’s, they get a free season pass… talk about motivation!!) Want to hear more about Colorado’s resorts? Check out our post: Skiing in Colorado!

Website: Whitecap Resort

Bear River Pow Wow

The Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians are a federally recognized Ojibwa Native American tribe located in northern Wisconsin. Each summer, Lac de Flambeau puts on an annual Bear River Pow Wow bringing together tribes from across the nation. Everyone is welcome to share in the celebration and this year’s Pow Wow is July 12-14, 2019.

Website: Bear River Pow Wow

Amnicon Falls State Park

Amnicon Falls Wisconsin

This 825-acre state park is located in South Range (just south of Superior). Similar to Copper Falls State Park, the Amnicon River runs through this park, filling it with waterfalls and rapids. Picturesque in all four seasons (especially fall!) this park is perfect for hiking, camping, or picnicking with your family and friends.

Website: Amnicon State Park

Door County

Door County Wisconsin

Arguably northern Wisconsin’s most famous county, Door County is located on the tip of Wisconsin’s “thumb”—the peninsula that juts out into Lake Michigan. Just like the Apostle Islands, Door County is filled with 300 miles of rugged coastline, long stretches of sandy beaches, and inviting blue water. Picturesque towns fill the space in between with cherry pie, art galleries, wine tasting, and local restaurants.

Website: Door County

Northern Wisconsin is more than just a summertime weekend getaway. Vast trails, quaint towns, and incredible scenery are the norm year-round. If you’re looking for a place to explore and reconnect, look no further than Up North. It’s more than affordable and will surprise even the most seasoned travelers with its beauty.

Thanks for tagging along on our tour of northern Wisconsin. Is any place calling to you? Think we forgot to mention somewhere? Do you plan to visit northern Wisconsin? Let us know in the comments below! Please remember to like and share😊 Until next time, K+J!

Cathedrals in Scotland – Religious Buildings Everyone Should Visit

Kestra and I love visiting churches and religious sites on our travels, and while we haven’t had the chance to visit the Cathedrals in Scotland but our friend L is a native to the region. As a mental health advocate (who also loves to travel!) she has been kind enough to share her favorite Cathedrals in Scotland.

Again, thank you L for your contribution. You can help thank L by checking out her blog here: One More Light. Hope you enjoy, and as always, please remember to comment and share. God Bless!

Scotland has a long history of Catholicism and Protestantism, and although violent at times, the heavily Christian influence in Scotland has left a variety of beautiful religious buildings all across the country. They are spread throughout Scotland but some of the most iconic buildings are in central Scotland such as Edinburgh and Glasgow. I love the various Cathedrals in Scotland and I think they add such beauty and culture to increasingly modernizing cities. In this post I’m going to talk about my favorites of the ones I’ve visited in central Scotland, and places I think you should visit if you’ve ever in Scotland.

Remember to pin L’s picks for the best Cathedrals in Scotland!

St. Gile’s Cathedral, Edinburgh.

St. Gile’s Cathedral dominates the Royal Mile in Edinburgh and it’s absolutely iconic. A beautiful building inside and out that’s a jewel in the tourist hub of Edinburgh city center.

St. Gile’s was founded in 1124, and is steeped in Scottish history. Having been destroyed and rebuilt twice in the 1300’s during attacks by English military forces. Existing as a Catholic place of worship for 400 years, it changed allegiance in 1560 when the Scottish government declared Scotland a protestant country and Presbyterianism was established.

Today it’s still an active place of worship but also welcomes tourists from all over.

University of Glasgow Memorial Chapel

I recently attended a wedding here and was utterly blown away by how classically beautiful this chapel is. Especially at Christmas with the addition of seasonal decorations. It also sits in the stunning campus of Glasgow University which is the highlight of the West end Glasgow skyline.

Rosslyn Chapel, Midlothian

Movie buffs might recognize Rosslyn Chapel from the Da Vinci Code, but it’s so much more than a prop. It’s hidden away in Roslin, Midlothian but is well worth the detour.  Founded in 1446, it still stands as a place of worship today.

Glasgow Cathedral

Standing alongside the old hospital building a stone’s throw from Glasgow’s famous Necropolis. Glasgow Cathedral is said to be built on the burial place of St. Kentigern (or Mungo) the patron saint of the city.

It’s also the only cathedral on the Scottish mainland that survived the aforementioned reformation in 1560.

One of my favorite things about traveling around Europe is visiting the stunning cathedrals and religious buildings each country has to offer, but I never stop appreciating the beauty of the ones in my home of Scotland too. Simply put, the Cathedrals in Scotland are too beautiful not to enjoy!

Have you visited any of the Cathedrals I’ve mentioned? Have you visited another Scottish religious building you think deserves some recognition? Sound off in the comments or give me a tweet and let me know your favorite of all the Cathedrals in Scotland!

Winter Hiking Guide – The Definitive Guide to Hiking in Winter

The chance to escape into a winter wonderland certainly has its appeal, but the inherent beauty of the landscape is also its main danger. Cold kills folks. We decided to put together our definitive winter hiking guide to help you start exploring safely.  From winter hiking gear recommendations, identification of cold related illnesses, to proper food and hydration you’ll have everything you need for a successful hike.

We know the thought of hiking in winter can sound absurd to some people. Who would want to go freeze their butts off for hours, in the snow, with only a few chances of seeing anything cool (stinking clouds)? Strangely enough, we would. We love the solitude, the chance to see wild landscapes blanketed and unspoiled under pillows of snow. Sure, winter hiking isn’t always glamorous— get snow in your boots and you’ll know exactly what I mean— but man oh man is it worth it.

If you’re feeling extra generous, please shoot this post a like and a share and, as always, enjoy! One last thing before you get too far, remember to…

Pin our Winter Hiking Guide – The Definitive Guide to Hiking in Winter!

Winter Hiking Clothing and Gear

Staying comfortable consistently on a cold hike is probably the hardest part about hiking in winter. There are three main factors to consider when choosing clothing: layering, material, exposure. Gear is all about covering your bases. It’s not entirely a “better to have and not need” situation but it’s close. Odds are (and hopefully) you will carry items you won’t ever use. If you wonder why I say hopefully, I’m pretty sure no one wants to use their first aid kit but you sure as heck want it when you need it.

How to Pick Your Winter Hiking Clothing and Gear

Layering is actually a pretty simple process that makes winter hiking so much more comfortable. Each layer has a unique purpose in the goal of keeping you warm. The idea is that you add and remove layers as necessary to stay comfortable throughout your hike. Sweating means you’re too warm and need to remove a layer, whereas, shivering means you need to add one. Ideally, you realize what you need to do before you’re actually sweating or shivering 😊 Your base layer should wick moisture away from your body, the middle layer is the nice warm insulation layer, and the outermost layer is simply a shell to keep out rain, wind, snow, etc. Pretty simple

Choosing the correct material for your clothing is another simple way to stay warm. First and foremost, ditch the cotton. Cotton is a notoriously slow drying material, meaning once you get wet, you’ll more than likely stay wet. That sounds like a good way to be miserable the whole hike to us. Look towards synthetic or wool clothing instead, not only does it wick moisture away but it also comparable thermal conductivity.

Exposure is also a very basic concept. If you can see the skin, its going to get cold. Extremities like your nose, ears, cheeks, fingers, and toes are extremely prone to frostbite and need to be covered accordingly. Additionally, that pesky half inch between the base of your glove and the end of your coat will quickly freeze up if not covered. Basically, if you can see it, cover it!

Winter Hiking Clothing and Gear Recommendations

Now that we’ve covered how you should bundle up we’ve compiled a list of our favorite winter hiking gear. We’ve broken it down into clothing and gear by body part and use. In the sake of honesty: this page contains affiliate links. In the event of a sale, as an Amazon Associate we will be awarded a small commission (at no extra cost for you).  This allows us to continue to produce great content, so thank you!

Warm Winter Hiking Boots

Look for winter hiking boots rated for 20 below zero Fahrenheit at a minimum. This should cover the majority of day hikes you’ll go on. If you plan on venturing above tree-line look for even heavier duty boots. Plan on buying between a half and full size larger boot. This will allow you to wear multiple or thick socks and still fit comfortably within your boot. Our favorite insulated hiking boot is the Keen Summit County Boot.

Buy it on Amazon HERE

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Warm Socks

There are a couple approaches to socks for winter hikes, some choose layers others a thicker wool pair. Personally, I love a single pair of wool socks. Extra pairs just seem to lay funny in my boots. Whichever approach you choose make sure there is enough room left in your boots to wiggle your toes. Why? Partially for comfort and partially for warmth. Blood flow is a good thing! EchoGorge makes some amazing wool socks, I even wear them skiing!

Buy it on Amazon HERE

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Waterproof Gaiters

Gaiters are those really cute (not) puffy things that run from below your knee and over the boots. What they lack in style they make up for in practicality. They do an excellent job of keeping cold wet snow out of your boots and socks. Look for Velcro gaiters instead of zippers. The Velcro holds up to the constant cold and flexing much better than their zipped counterparts. I personally don’t use Gaiters but I’ve heard the best are Outdoor Research Crocodile Gaiters. Again, practicality not style my friends.

Buy it on Amazon HERE

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Winter Hiking Traction Systems

Traction on the trails is critical. Ideally, you’d get to hike in an inch or so of fresh snow over a soft pack base every time you hike. Unfortunately, we’re not usually that lucky. For hardpack and slick conditions we turn to Hillsound Trail Crampons. They’re lightweight, easy to pack (watch the spikes though), and work well in most snowpack conditions.

Buy it on Amazon HERE

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If you venture further out or find a nice powder stash you may also be in the market for some snowshoes. For mountainous hiking look for heels with a lift. The lift makes climbing hills so much easier— just don’t ask me how it actually works. Also evaluate the binding system, if you think you’ll need to take off your gloves to adjust them look elsewhere. We have a couple pairs of Tubbs snowshoes by K2 and they work spectacularly.

Buy it on Amazon HERE

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Waterproof Hard Shell Pants

Hard shell pants are like a nice raincoat for your legs. They keep all the water (snow and rain) and wind on the outside. They aren’t quite as warm as a softshell so most winter hikers recommend wearing long underwear underneath. Try to buy a pair you can zip down the side to take off so you can leave your boots on when you’re too warm. KAILAS makes an amazing pair of hard shell pants. They’re fairly light, extremely durable, and pretty easy to slip in and out of.

Buy it on Amazon HERE

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Warm Softshell Pants

For those of you who run a little more cold blooded softshell pants are a lifesaver. Think of them as superpowered long underwear. They fit a little more snugly but boy do they pack the heat. Pack a pair of hard shells to keep the wind off your legs. Again, KAILAS makes some amazing pants, their soft shells are just as packable, rugged, and user friendly.

Buy it on Amazon HERE

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Insulated Jacket

I know that the beauty of layering is that you’ll always have a certain combination that should be the right warmth. That all works fine and dandy for when you’re hiking but what about when you stop and take a break? That’s when you need the big, fluffy, puffy jacket with a hoody. Something all about comfort and heat. This is where Kestra immediately screams, “Get a parka!!” and she’s right. They’re long enough to keep your legs and core warm, comfy, and extra puffy. I really like the look of the Western Mountaineering Meltdown Down Parka.  Avoid anything much lighter weight because those are better served as mid layers.

Buy it on Amazon HERE

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Hard Shell Coat (Outermost Layer)

These guys are not meant to be warm or really even that comfy. They serve the same purpose as a nice hard shell pant, they keep you bone dry and the wind off of you. Look for one with a built in hood that you can put up when its really coming down. Non-hooded jackets are nice but do you really want a drain circling water around your neck? We recommend looking for jackets with armpit zippers (you can thank us later) and a couple exterior pocket to store hats and gloves. The Outdoor Research Panorama Point Jacket is really the perfect epitome of those sentiments.

Buy it on Amazon HERE

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Mid Layer Insulation

Almost everyone has a mid layer they swear by. That’s all fine we just recommend you try out a few options and see which fits you and your budget best. The three main schools of though are jackets, pullovers, or vests, depending on how warm you run. Additionally, most people look towards fleece, wool, or synthetic (polyester) for the material. All are warm and good at pulling moisture away from the body. I love and use the North Face’s Glacier fleece, in fact I wear it around the house because it’s so comfy.

Buy it on Amazon HERE

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Base Layer Shirts

There are two main key to base layers. First, ALWAYS avoid cotton. Again cotton absorbs but doesn’t wick away moisture. Second, believe in wickability! Wicking removes any moisture or sweat away from your skin, and since you’ll have your base layer on all day it’s very important you aren’t wet. The Patagonia Capilene Lightweight is a great choice. They run as jerseys (loose) or as long underwear (tight). I used to wear the long underwear version to school all the time back when Under Armor and other tight shirts were cool.

Buy it on Amazon HERE

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Warm Hats

For winter hiking most people will recommend bringing at least two hats. One is a lighter “day” hat, the sun is up and you’re working hard so not as much insulation is needed. The other “night/sunrise/sunset” hat is much thicker and keeps you warm when you’re sitting still or as the temperature plunges. Mountain Hardware makes a phenomenal lightweight “day” and heavy “night” hat. Perfect from piling on or switching in between. Personally, I use the hand knitted Grandma Hardware version but I may have to switch over soon if they’re as great as everyone says!

Lots of people also carry a neck warmer and reinvent its use as a hat, or face mask, or even the trusty neck warming option. I’d recommend the SmartWool Merino 250 Gaiter. Double the insulation, machine washable, wicking so you don’t get that awful water buildup on your chin.

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Warm Gloves

Kind of like the hats most hikers use a two pair glove approach when it comes to hiking. Don’t be surprised to hear some people say they take along even more though. Again, this should be approached from the heavy duty and light duty perspective. Your heavy-duty gloves should be modular in design with a waterproof shell exterior and warm liner interior. This way you can ditch liners as your hand sweat throughout the day. As for mitts or gloves. Mitts are a bit warmer but gloves allow you to maneuver more freely, weigh what matters more to you! Outdoor Research Mt. Baker Modular Mitts are named after one of the snowiest peaks in the USA so can be sure they can handle a day of winter hiking!

Buy it on Amazon HERE

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The lightweight pair of gloves is meant more for the strenuous sections of your hikes. Your blood should be pumping enough that a thin lightweight glove should be all you need. Personally we’d recommend thin softshell gloves over medium fleece gloves for your second pair. Typically, if you’re cold enough for the medium you should wear the heavy-duty anyway, and the snow is less prone to stick to the softshells. I’ve used the Marmot Glide Softshell Gloves on a couple runs and I think they’d be perfect softshell winter hiking gloves.

Buy it on Amazon HERE

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Spare Clothes

Spare clothes are a necessity plain and simple. It’s amazing how quickly winter hiking can go from fun and pretty to damp and miserable. Not changing between layers, a slip in deep snow, or even a quick dip in a stream will certainly put a damper on any hike. Plan accordingly, be sure to pack additional socks, underwear, a base layer, and some pant in case of an emergency. While those alone won’t allow you to finish your hike home, they will give you time to dry out your essential clothing and get on the move again.

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Additional Gear for Tree Line Hikes

Once you exit the tree line winter hiking grows exponentially more difficult. Windblown conditions mean you need to carefully consider wind protection and traction for ice and slides. Personally, we recommend a full-face balaclava and a pair of ski goggles. This will keep your eyes from freezing shut and protect any exposed skin on your face. The googles also will protect you from any blowing material and snow blindness (yes, it is real!). The Self Pro Balaclava is an integrated facemask and balaclava that’s super warm, windproof and wicking, perfect for above tree line hikes. Kestra has a pair of Zionor goggles that she uses and loves, plus they have a ton of cool colors 😉

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Back to the traction aids. The ice, snow slides, and windblown conditions will require extra traction. If you plan on venturing above tree line you’ll need to carry both an ice axe and a pair of heavy duty crampons. Ideally, you’ll visit a local Co-op or outdoor store where they can train you accordingly. If you’re properly trained and just looking for some recommendations, I’d check out the Yaktrax Summit Crampons and Black Diamond’s 505g Raven Ice Axe. Both are superb for intermediate level hikers looking to push the boundary a little further without breaking the bank.

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Backpack

As you’ve noticed, winter hiking means you’ll wear and carry a lot more stuff than normal. All this extra gear means you need a bag large enough to accommodate it. Anywhere between 30-50 liters should do the trick. Additionally, you should look for a bag with numerous attachment points. That way whatever doesn’t fit or doesn’t need to fit inside can hang out (think crampons, snowshoes, waterbottles, etc.). Always make sure your winter hiking pack has an easily sealable lid and several pockets to keep things tidy. I’m still using my summer pack for winter hikes and things can get a little tight. If I get a little more spending money, I’d get the Osprey Mutant 38, it has tons of colors options, a flap over seal to keep stuff dry, and its matches my summer pack 😉

Buy it on Amazon HERE

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Water Bottles

I know this may seem goofy but hear me out. Your normal water bottle probably won’t work. Anything with a straw will freeze solid. Thin mouthed bottles will freeze shut. Reservoir hoses will freeze up. You need to carry a couple wide mouthed bottles. If you carry outside of your pack be sure to place an insulated sleeve. Kestra and I both love our Nalgene bottles, they’re wide mouthed, carry a ton of water, and have their own line of sleeves you can buy.

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The 10 Essentials

The ten essentials are basically ten items that you should always have on you when you go explore. They alone should be enough for you to spend multiple nights outside and survive, and be able to respond positively to an accident or emergency. There are two main schools of thought: the classic bare boned approach and the functional system approach. Personally, I subscribe to the bare boned school of thought. I carry enough to safely navigate the situation but don’t over-prep for every scenario. If you’re a little greener maybe try a mix of the two list.

The Classic List
  1. Map
  2. Compass
  3. Sunglasses and sunscreen
  4. Extra clothing
  5. Headlamp or flashlight
  6. First-aid supplies
  7. Firestarter
  8. Matches
  9. Knife
  10. Extra food
The Functional Systems List
  1. Navigation
  2. Headlamp
  3. Sun Protection
  4. First Aid
  5. Knife
  6. Fire
  7. Shelter
  8. Extra Food
  9. Extra Water
  10. Extra Clothes

If you’d like to read more about either list you should be sure to check out Mountaineers.org’s post here: What are the Ten Essentials. The do a phenomenal job highlighting the highs and lows of each system, the history of the list, and how to stay safe on the trail.

Survival Gear

If you’re planning on winter hiking you need to account for the chance that something might happen on the trail that won’t allow you to return that night. Maybe it’s an injury, a storm, or maybe you just got lost, things happen and you need to be prepared. If you’re alone you’ll need to plan on a larger pack to accommodate the extra gear but if you’re in a group you can split it up as you see fit.

There are five main things (along with the Ten Essentials) every group should carry along on their hikes. A sleeping bag, sleeping bad, and bivy sack will keep you warm and dry if you have to sleep outside. You will also need a way to melt snow for drinking water to keep hydrated, look at liquid fuel stoves and collapsible pots. Personally, I like the Coleman Mummy Bag, the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite, and the Outdoor Research Helium Bivy for staying warm and dry. I turn to the MSR WhisperLite and the Sea to Summit 1.3L collapsible camp pot for staying hydrated.

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Food and Hydration Tips for Cold-Weather Hiking

You can practice good layering all you want but your body is your best chance at staying warm. Just like you feed fuel to a furnace you have to keep your body fed. This means consistently snacking and sipping water as you go.

Try packing you bag according to this philosophy. If you plan on eating, and pack smartly, you can easily reach food and water while you hike and won’t have to stop near as often to refuel. Also pack according to the snack and temperature. Avoid snacks with lots of pointless wrappers (you have to carry those out you know!) or snacks that become hard to eat as they get cold. Everyone loves a Milky Way until you break a tooth biting into one. Looks towards more natural snacks like nuts and cheese that hold up better to the cold temperatures and still pack some protein. No matter what you decide to bring the closer you keep it to your core the better chance there is you’ll be able to eat it.

The worst thing you could do is let your water supply freeze. I know we warned about reservoirs and thin mouthed bottles and if you said, “What do they know?” more power to you I guess. Regardless, If you decided to use a thin mouth or reservoir try searching for similar hose or bottle insulation. You should also sip often to prevent the water from freezing in the line and try blowing into your reservoir to keep the tube empty.

If you’re using a water bottle there are a couple more tips that can help you keep hydrated on the go. Think about a lake, what freezes first? The top or the bottom? Try flipping your bottle upside down to ensure your lids won’t freeze shut. Insulation sleeves also add an extra layer to protect your drinking water from the cold. Lastly, try packing warm drinks in vacuum bottles. This little bit of heat will go a long way to keeping your core temperature and spirits up. Plus, who doesn’t like hot chocolate? Just remember, don’t do it in your Nalgene or plastic versions.

Cold-Related Injuries and Illnesses

Being able to quickly identify cold-related injuries and illnesses is vital to your safety. Winter hiking exposes you to the elements like you haven’t experienced them before. Frostbite and hypothermia are both very real threats and your ability to identify and begin treating them can make a tremendous difference on their severity.

Frostbite

Frostbite is the freezing of healthy tissue due to exposure or extreme cold. It’s most likely to happen on small extremities like fingers, toes and nose or on exposed skin. Frozen tissue often dies and the surrounding tissue is damaged due to the lack of blood flow. It can cause extreme pain and even fester into gangrene. Frostbite afflictions are categorized in three ascending stages: frostnip, superficial frostbite, and deep frostbite. All three levels can look similar while frozen, so it can be difficult to assess the damage until after the skin has thawed.

Signs of Frostbite:

  • Skin is cold, pale, or even waxy
  • Red, white, bluish-white, or grayish-yellow skin
  • You may feel tingling, numbness or pain in the affected area
  • Clumsiness or muscle stiffness
  • Your skin can feel soft if partially frozen or hard if frozen
  • Blisters often form with superficial and deep frostbite after rewarming

Treatment of Frostbite:

Frostnip can be treated immediately by covering up exposed skin and slowly warming the affected areas. Try placing cold fingers in your armpits or use a partner to warm cold toes and other extremities. The consistent warm heat allows the affected regions to slowly be brought back up to temperature. Do not attempt to place affected areas under hot water and do not rub the cold skin. This violent and drastic change can damage the tissue.

If the initial treatment fails and skin blisters or peels it is time to see a doctor. It is likely you have superficial frostbite or deep frostbite and educated medical attention is your best chance at recovery. Again, avoid direct heat and rubbing of cold skin. Do not let any frostbitten areas refreeze, the tissue is very fragile and any chance of recovery can be mitigated.

Hypothermia

Hypothermia is caused when the body loses heat faster than it is capable of replacing it. Hypothermia also comes in three ascending stages: mild, moderate, severe. It begins when the body drops below 95 F (35 C). Hypothermia does not only occur in winter. It can happen anytime and anywhere, even inside your home. Age, medical conditions, dehydration, and alcohol use can all have an affect or your susceptibility. Stay warm, use proper layering, and try to stay dry.

Signs of Mild Hypothermia:

  • Shaking, shivering, or chattering
  • Minor clumsiness (eg. zipping or clasping bag)
  • Slow thinking, confusion, mood swings

Signs of Moderate Hypothermia:

  • Intense shaking, shivering, or chattering
  • Obvious change in coordination (e.g. tripping, falling, stumbling)
  • Obvious change in mental state (e.g. forgetfulness, anger, irritability)

Severe Hypothermia:

  • Shaking may stop due to exhaustion
  • Extreme deterioration of mental state (e.g. disorientation, irrational behavior)
  • Pulse may be faint or week
  • Flushed skin in infants or young children

Treating Hypothermia:

To begin treating hypothermia you need to immediately change the environment. You need to move the person away from what is causing the cold stress. If you can get them inside do so immediately, if you cannot, get them off the snow (pine branches or even packs work) and out of the wind. Immediately swap any wet clothes for dry clothing and make sure they are well insulated. Keep them fed and make sure they drink water. They will need energy to shiver and make heat. Making sure they have the fuel to do so is part of the process.

Taking the proper steps, it is possible for hikers with mild hypothermia to recover and continue with the trip. If you or your partners exhibit symptoms of moderate or severe hypothermia immediately seek medical attention and evacuate them from the situation. Begin the same steps for treating mild hypothermia until help arrives.

Preventing Frostbite and Hypothermia

Prevention is always a better option than treatment. Actively looking out for yourself and your winter hiking partners is part of the process. Proper clothing, gear and technique can only go so far. Use common sense and think about the following:

Start Warm:

It is way easier to start and stay warm than to get warm later. Using the proper clothing and layering approach you can easily maintain a consistent temperature. This is much easier than trying to warm up once you’re too cold.

Don’t be Stupid:

If you start to feel yourself getting cold check on yourself. Take a break and warm up, switch clothes, rehydrate, refuel, you name it! Do what you need to take care of yourself and make sure you’re comfortable and if you feel somethings wrong speak up.

Look Out for Your Buddies:

A good winter hiking buddy always keeps an eye out for their friends. Talk and ask how others are doing often. Make sure your friends are dressed and prepared appropriately. Don’t let them attempt portions they aren’t equipped for and watch their backs.

We hope you have a blast out on the trail and found some value in our Winter Hiking Guide. Did we miss anything? Are you planning on trying winter hiking? Have any good trails we should try? Let us know in the comments! We hope you’ll continue to follow along and as always, God Bless!