If you know me, I love a good road trip. Especially the ones that make you feel like you’ve hopped on an airplane and you’re miles away from home but in actuality, you just jumped into your car. So if you’re like me, I created a list of my favorite summer destination that are 3 hours or less from Washington DC with a variety of adventures waiting for you. So if you like being in the outdoors, this list is for you:
Great Falls Park:
Great Falls Park from the Virginia side
I’ve mentioned this place a hundred times on my blog so it’s definitely a favorite. Less than 20 miles outside of Washington DC, find some peace in Great Falls Park. From the roaring falls, to plenty of space to roam or have a picnic, Great Falls is kind of an unexpected gem outside a major US city. The great part about Great Falls is that there’s a Virginia and Maryland side. You can see actually see the Maryland side while in Virginia and vice versa but they are very different.
Virginia has a better view of the falls and in my personal opinion, the park just feels a little bit more open with wider fields and more viewing spots of the falls. It’s a great place to have a picnic or go on a hike with friends.
Maryland allows you to be closer to the rocks but I personally enjoy the views on the hike on the Maryland side much more.
Don’t be surprised if you see kayakers navigating the rough waters or blue herons fishing for the dinner on either side of the park.
Old Town Alexandria at sunrise
Specifically, Old Town Alexandria. Old Town Alexandria is just 8 miles awayfrom Washington where you can enjoy a day by the Potomac River. Surrounded by cute shops and even better restaurants, it’s shouldn’t be a surprise if you find yourself smiling while walking around the neighborhood. If you of age, The BRÜT Wine Bar is a personal favorite if you like bubbly adult drinks. Waterfront Park is a fantastic place for kids to run around and to experience free outdoor art. I can’t express how much I enjoy this cute little town every time I visit.
But Alexandria is also a great central point for many other excursions. Hop on a scenic water taxi that will take you the National Harbor in Maryland or to DC destinations such as the Wharf, Georgetown, the National Mall, and Nats Stadium. It is also along the Mount Vernon trail that gives you access to Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve and Huntly Meadows Park, both wetland areas with boardwalks that make it fun for birdwatchers and photographers to enjoy the views.
Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park along Skyline Drive on a foggy early morning
Shenandoah National Park is beautiful summer, fall, spring, winter, whenever! Just 70 miles outside of the District, it’s the best place to get a great hike in. My personal favorite is Old Rag Mountain Trailand Hawksbill Mountain Trail. Both give you an unbelievable view of the mountains and surrounding areas. Just know that both of these hikes are steep but Hawksbill Mountain Trail is significantly shorter, so plan accordingly with the time you have in the mountains.
If hiking isn’t your thing, I highly suggest finding a rental company where they’ll take you down to the river. You can rent canoes, rafts or tubes to float your way down the river. It’s so relaxing.
But if you just want an easy way to enjoy the views, Skyline Drive has stunning views from multiple overlooks along the way.
I hope you all had a happy and safe night last night. 2019 was a great year for me and my travel bucket list. I am so lucky to have been able to travel to new places, destinations to see family I hadn’t seen in years and revisit some places I’ve been to in the past and relive some beautiful memories. I’m already thinking about all the places I want to go to in the new year. HAHA
Similar to yesterday’s post about my favorite images from Washington DC, these are my personal favorite images I’ve taken on my travels. They are in no special order but chronological. And I added a few more comments about each of the images now. Feel free to click on each of the images to see my original blog post.
For the past two years, Andrew and I had celebrated the New Year in San Diego, California. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen this year but I really hope to visit Southern California sometime later this year. One of my favorite parts about visiting is being able to fly my drone whenever I want. By the end of this trip, I was flying my drone so much more than taking pictures with my actual camera. One of the best parts is being able to fly over places that would be difficult to see. For example, this image is of my cousin getting ready to get some morning surf in.
When I was young, my mom would take me to visit Las Vegas every summer. I always loved visiting because I always thought that her sister, my aunt, lived in the coolest city in the world. At that time, Las Vegas was a lot more family-friendly, but it’s just as fun visiting now as an adult. So when we visited in February it was around the time of Chinese New Year. It was pretty cool to see how each of the casinos celebrated the holiday. This was taken outside the Bellagio hotel. I don’t remember if this was a water fixture, fountain or what, but it was just an open area of water that had a perfect reflection of the red lanterns. Another highlight of that trip? Visiting the Neon Museum for the first time.
I mentioned this before, but I thought our trip to Chicago was very successful from a photography standpoint (and pizza standpoint too). I came back from that trip with so many images I loved. So many more than what I’ve included in this travel photography post because I wanted to limit myself and only put my absolute favorites. But this image of Cloud Gate is definitely on the top. I absolutely love that glow that’s coming from the sun rising and hitting the bottom of the sculpture. Plus that lady standing in the middle is perfect.
As far as Chicago city photography, I went on the trip knowing that parking garages are a great place to go to get some nice vantage points. For this particular spot, people are usually facing to the right to photograph some L trains from above. But I thought the view on the left was really interesting as well. I really liked how all the light posts lined up. So I made it a point to look in both directions while I was taking pictures from this garage. Luckily, I turned my head at the right moment to see these pedestrians walking almost in the same pattern as the light posts, all wearing dark colors. This moment could have not been planned more perfectly.
3 days in Turks and Caicos was not enough. I spent most of the days relaxing under a beach umbrella and it was amazing. I love the calming sounds of the water and ocean breeze. UGH thinking about it now makes me really miss it since it’s so cold here on the east coast right now. At least I have these images to remind me just how beautiful the world is. I captured this image in the morning time. I try to be considerate of other people’s feelings towards drones so I knew if I had it out later in the day, there would be more chances of people not liking it on the beach. So in crowded places, I try to fly as early in the day as possible. But I just love the contrast of the blue water and pink umbrellas in this image. The shadows of the palm trees and people walking past were not expected but I think really adds to the image.
I still can’t believe how many cameras I had with me on this trip. For such a short trip, I had 5 cameras, if you include my iPhone. At any given moment, I had at least two cameras with me. So this image was taken with my GoPro. I love that little camera, especially for underwater photography. You can get so creative with all the different mounts. So I bought this FiftyFifty Dome specifically for this trip but the secret for me for capturing this image was putting the camera on timelapse mode and selecting the best one from the entire series. I’d love to do more images like this next time I’m at a beach.
The Presidents Heads in Croaker, Virginia has been on my list to visit forever. I actually have been wanting to go to this abandoned field for some time that this was actually my second attempt ongoing. The first time didn’t work out. But it’s ok because this second trip made it all worth it. I loved going there with my photography friends and capturing the Presidents Heads at sunset and night time. It made the whole experience so much more memorable. PS. I also heard they’re filming an episode of Walking Dead here soon. I’ve stopped watching the series but I will definitely be on the lookout for that episode. That’s going to be so cool.
My very first time visiting Oregon was amazing. I loved, loved, loved the coast and I can’t wait to go back again. And I was super happy when I found this framing. It was taken at Ecola State Park around sunrise time. I had to step back a little bit to find it and I believe this was one of the last images I captured from this viewpoint. I also think that the memory of showing this image to my mom and her saying that she liked this image because it reminded her of a Chinese watercolor painting also makes me like this image even more.
On our third morning along the coast, Andrew, Frankie and I woke up and went for a walk on the beach. This was actually taken on my birthday, so it makes it even more special. But I decided to take my drone out and fly it for a bit. I had every intention of capturing the haystack and ocean but wasn’t really happy with what I was getting. When I was about to land the drone, I flew it above us and saw all the long shadows the sun was creating. I loved the way it turned out, especially with the lines on the beach and how simple everything is. Its one of those images that is probably more sentimental than anything else. And if you’re wondering about the 4th shadow, that’s my camera bag. LOL.
On a last-minute road trip, my friend Sue and I decided to visit Falling Water in Pennsylvania. We booked an Airbnb in a town that was close by and had a great time visiting the surrounding areas. If you know me, I’m an early bird. My internal alarm clock woke me up super early. Like 30 minutes before my alarm went off, so I decided to take advantage of the early morning and tried to find somewhere to take pictures. I had planned to go to a waterfall, but I didn’t make it because this morning fog was distracting me. I found myself pulling over every 10-15 minutes taking pictures. Unfortunately, I left my drone in the Airbnb or else that would have made for some EPIC foggy shots.
Since we’re about a 4-hour drive to New York, I try to make it a point to visit at least once a year. This time we visited, I went to my very first photo expo, PhotoPlus. The expo was very impressive and a little overwhelming. Regardless, being in the city is always a good time. On our last day in New York, it rained a lot. But that didn’t stop us from getting our last meal in the city, soup dumplings. Luckily, Chinatown was amazing for these rainy day vibes. I loved how everyone was carrying around an umbrella and didn’t seem to mind the bad weather.
Is it me or is Central Park hard to photograph? Whenever I think of the park, I always think of how big and crowded it is. It’s a little overwhelming and intimidating if you ask me. So I was really happy with the way this image turned out. A little moment of peace with some Candian Geese. That rhymed. But my favorite part about the image is the framing and the yellow leaves around the bottom of the image. It just creates so much more depth that I think is needed in this image. I also think of Home Alone 2 when I think of Central Park, but that’s a different story. LOL.
The streets of Taipei are crowded! Even waking up before sunrise, you’ll always find people on the streets. It’s pretty crazy how noisy it can get, not necessarily from cars honking but just all the different types of cars engines on the road. From trucks to cars to scooters, you really gotta watch out while walking the streets. But I took full advantage of a busy street in Taipei and waited for this moment to happen. I saw this lady standing on the corner of a crosswalk, right by the taxis. I knew if I waited long enough, some taxis would cross in front of me and create this intersection of yellow. What I didn’t notice while I was capturing the moment was all the yellow in the signs too. I love it when things like this just work out!
Right before my trip to Taiwan, I got my first prime lens! I almost immediately fell in love and probably had that lens on my camera about 70% of the time I was traveling. I can’t even describe how it simplifies street photography and finding moments like this is so much easier to capture. There were a lot of images that I captured with that lens, but this one is probably one that sticks out the most because I just love that slice of light coming from the corner of the image.
I grew up visiting Taiwan. As I’ve gotten older, the visits have become less frequent but each time I go, I am reminded of so many memories while visiting in the past that I think I grow a greater appreciation for it. This time was even more special because it was going to be the last time I saw my grandfather on my mom’s side. He was 103 years old! I’m so grateful for the time we went because I got to see him while he was still healthy. I hadn’t mentioned it in the past, but he had a stroke during our visit and passed away soon after I came home. I’m grateful to have the last memories of him while he was healthy and to have been able to help him in the hospital. I was considering sharing some images I captured of him during the beginning of our trip, but not sure if I really will on my blog…
But with all that said, I created so many amazing memories this past year. A lot of them came from my travels and I could not be more grateful for the opportunities. There were moments that made me laugh hysterically and moments that made me cry. 2019 will be hard to forget. But it makes me so excited to see what’s in store for 2020 and all the images that still need to be created. Thank you all so much for following along on my journey.
What’s on your travel list for 2020? and HAPPIEST NEW YEAR!!!
I feel in love with Oregon. I loved every minute we were there. I felt so at peace and calm during our whole road trip across the state, I would highly recommend it to anyone who’s considering visiting the Pacific Northwest.
The real reason we went was to celebrate my birthday and to visit a place we had never been to. Portland was a city that both Andrew and I had heard was a fun place to be but never been. But we also knew it was the place to be if you like good food and weird things. Both did not disappoint!
Since this was our first time visiting Oregon, we didn’t really know what to expect. We’ve been back for less than a month, I already know of somethings that I would do differently. With that said, we will be back again. Both Andrew and I left with the feeling of wanting to see and do more. But I think that’s the sign of an amazing trip. Prior to the trip, I did tons of research on the Oregon coast on Pinterest and asked some friends who I knew had visited before. Through my research, I quickly realized that Oregon is a very dog-friendly state. Minus Crater Lake that doesn’t allow dogs in most areas of the park, Frankie was allowed everywhere else we wanted to go. So we booked 3 plane tickets off we went!
Here is a recap of everything we did and the things I would do differently next time:
Day 1: Fly into Portland
We arrived early in the afternoon, grabbed our rental car and went straight to pick up the essentials: Blue Star Donuts. I know I don’t normally give food recommendations but if you like fancy donuts, then Blue Star is where you want to be. I’ll have another donut recommendation later on our trip that ended up being our favorite.
Home from our amazing trip to Oregon. It was Andrew, Frankie and I’s first time visiting the state and in one short week, I feel like we got to see a lot. I was so excited to start looking at my images when I got back that I didn’t really know where to start.
So I started with this one 🙂 I love it and reminds me of all the amazing adventures the three of us got to go on.
This image was taken on the second half of our trip while we were hiking to the Toketee Falls in the Umpqua National Forest. The hike was short, 0.8 miles roundtrip but its heavily trafficked. So much so that it was hard to find parking and there were times where we would have to wait for people to pass on the trail before we could even go further. With so many people, we figured it would be easier to put Frankie in the backpack and go at our own pace instead of his.
We let him out right after I captured this image when we arrived at the waterfall. It was great because there was a little viewing platform for all of us to see the waterfall and Frankie could stretch his legs a bit. After a little rest, Frankie went back into the backpack, we hiked back to the car and drove straight to Bend right after.
I think one of the best parts about this trip is that even though we would have long driving sessions, there would be places where we could park and go on like hikes like this. It was a great way to get a little bit of cardio in while checking out the sights.
My camera settings for this image are F4.5 and 1/2500th sec and ISO 800 with my Sony A7II and 24-70mm lens.
If I had to guess Sue’s favorite part of our 2017 road trip, it would either have been Santa Fe, New Mexico or the Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Arizona. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed Saguaro National Park but while we were there, we were in the middle of a huge heat wave. I thought Arizona was hot in previous visits to the state, but it was so HOT when we were there. Even after sunset and the sun went down, it was still so humid and hot. I even remember hearing on the radio that mailboxes were melting. That’s HOT! Holy cow. And how many times can I say hot in a row? LOL
Since it was so humid and hot, we only spent an hour or so around sunset in the national park. The rest of the time was spent in our hotel’s outdoor pool. We wanted to go when the sun was lower and maybe a little bit cooler, but that didn’t make much difference but you better believe there was lots of ice cream afterwards. Out of all the places on our roadtrip, I hope to visit Tucson again sometime soon because I actually enjoyed the time while we were there. It seemed like a super cute city with so much to do and see. We just didn’t get enough time. I just remember waking up the next morning and wanting to get out of the heat wave as soon as possible. The next stop on our trip was Los Angeles and that was nowhere close to being as hot. So we made our way over and spent the rest of our time in California before flying back home.
My camera settings for this image is F3.5 at 1/320th sec at ISO 400 with my Sony A7II and 28-70mm lens.
In honor of our road trip this past weekend, I thought I would use this week to reflect on all the travel and adventures my friend Sue and I have had together. We have been friends for over 15 years. It’s crazy how long we’ve known each other considering we’re just 16 years old. LOL Just Kidding. But it’s safe to say that we have lots of fun and embarrassing stories about each other. Just because we don’t live within 20 minutes of each other now, doesn’t mean we won’t be friends for life.
So this image is from our very first road trip across the country together. Neither one of us had ever been to New Mexico before so we ended up spending the majority of our trip in the state. We went all over but my absolute favorite place was definietly White Sands National Monument. It had been on my list to visit for forever and this road trip was the perfect opportunity to visit. But we were super lucky. The only night that we had planned on staying in Alamogordo, New Mexico was a night a storm was approaching. It was comin in hot right around sunset and made for the best moody skies. It was like a dream.
I distinctly remember being so excited trying to climb up these white sand hills but being so out of breath because 1. climbing up sand is difficult but also 2. because I was so excited to be there. ESPECIALLY with the storm approaching. I handed my camera off to Sue to ask her to take some pictures of me but I could barely get my sentences out. She looked at me with so much concern like “Are you ok?” And I just screamed, “Yea I’m just excited” and ran to my posing spot. LOL.
My camera settings for this image is F6.3 at 1/10th sec and ISO 200 with my Sony A7II and 28-70mm lens.