K8CanRelate's Guide For A Quick Trip to Joshua Tree and Palm Springs

A guide for a quick and affordable trip to Joshua Tree National Park and Palm Springs, California

A guide for a quick and affordable trip to Joshua Tree National Park and Palm Springs, California

Ah, the holidays! Such a busy yet magical time of the year. We had time off from work, but weren’t traveling home for the holidays, so we decided on a quick trip to Joshua Tree and Palm Springs. We stayed one night in each place, although technically we stayed in 29 Palms and not in Joshua Tree itself. If you are planning to visit the dessert soon, this guide is for you!

JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK

Glamping in Twnetynine Palms

Glamping in Twnetynine Palms

Where to Stay

I found this super cute Airbnb yurt-style bell tent located just outside of the park in Twentynine Palms. (If you have never created an Airbnb account, use this link and save on your first stay!) Growing up in West Virginia, we went camping A LOT. I had 2 camping trips that were awful, and hadn’t had interest in it but being married to an Eagle Scout, I thought I would give glamping a go. The tent had a bed and was spacious, there was a porta potty on property and propane for us to use for a fire but that is where the luxuries ended. If you want an actual campsite, you can reserve those here at a very affordable rate.

Taken off of the Skull Rock Nature Trail in Joshua Tree National Park

Taken off of the Skull Rock Nature Trail in Joshua Tree National Park

What to See

  • Cholla Cactus Garden - Definitely hit up the cactus garden for a little stroll through the crazy cholla cacti. There are signs about how they might look like a regular prickly cactus, but in fact, they are much more painful if you brush up against them. Danny went to kick a branch of one off the path, and we found out why there are so many warning signs. Just from attempting to brush it with his hiking boot, it sunk deeply into his boot. Pretty wild, honestly, so be extra careful.

  • Skull Rock Nature Trail - You don’t have to walk the whole trail to see Skull Rock, but I would recommend it. I really enjoyed how there are informational placards all around the National Park, and you can learn a lot about geology and see various formations on this little trail. It’s fairly close to the road, but you still feel secluded.

  • Arch Rock Nature Trail - A natural arch is found in Joshua Tree, just a quick little walk from White Tank Campground, and surrounded by boulders to climb around on. This is a pretty magical little spot.

  • Wall Street Mill Trail - This trail leads to an old mining site, we didn’t get to it on this trip, but it’s on the list for next time!

  • Drive through - if you don’t have enough time or interest in getting out and exploring, the drive through the park is worth the views. Stunning, otherworldly, and worth putting on your bucket list.

PALM SPRINGS

Part of the lobby of The Saguaro Palm Springs

Part of the lobby of The Saguaro Palm Springs

Where to Stay

We stayed at The Saguaro hotel. I found a discounted rate on Groupon, and had been recommended this hotel by a friend. It’s known for being super colorful, trendy and fun and that it was. I wouldn’t really recommend staying here if you will only be there one night because they do charge a resort fee, if you aren’t going to be there long enough to use the amenities then it’s kind of a bummer. We were able to check in super early and lounge by the pool, have a few drinks etc. It’s a super cute spot and the view from the pool is great, we would definitely stay here again. We didn’t get a chance to take one of the bikes out for a ride, and we would definitely do that if we had more time. A plethora of Airbnb options exist in Palm Springs, but we waited a bit too late to book this trip to find any affordable options.

Part of Robolights, a crazy Christmas display located in a residential neighborhood of Palm Springs

Part of Robolights, a crazy Christmas display located in a residential neighborhood of Palm Springs

What to See

  • Palm Springs Art Museum - We didn’t have time to explore the art museum, but it is on the list for next time. It’s centrally located to downtown so you can explore the shops before or after perusing the art.

  • Downtown - We were there at Christmas, so it was nice to wander the main downtown strip area and go in and out of shops. We stopped at a cigar and wine bar and enjoyed a glass on the patio while people watching. There are a few fun art galleries along this strip as well that are worth popping into. I especially enjoyed perusing the crystal shops.

  • Moorten Botanical Garden - If you are on Instagram, you have probably seen photos from Moorten’s. I feel like everyone that goes to Coachella also stops into Moorten’s and it was on my list for a long time. It costs $5 to walk through, so unless you really love cacti and botanical gardens, I would skip this one. We won’t ever go back, but it was worth doing once.

  • Robolights - This is for my fellow quirky art lovers. The craziest Christmas display I will ever see. It is the largest residential Christmas lights display in the United States with upwards of 8 billion lights or something like that. Everything is built from trash and other scrap materials. Rumor has it that this was the last year to view the display at its current location, and that it will be moving to a gallery of some sort in the future. It’s hard to explain this into words, it’s a bizarre yet very fun art installation in someone’s yard. A must see, in my opinion.

  • Aerial Tramway - It costs to get into the tramway parking area, and costs even more still to ride the tram itself. However, you can park at the bottom and walk up if you want some exercise. We just drove up until the pay gate, and then drove back down. The view alone is worth it even if you do just turn around like we did!

Native Foods Cafe

Native Foods Cafe

Where to Eat

  • Chef Tanya’s Kitchen - We loved this little spot. It’s kind of in an odd location, but they have plenty of parking and it’s very quaint and nice inside. You order at the counter and they also have a cooler of takeaway items. I had the Caesar salad with avocado and seitan chicken added on, Danny had the El Cubano with a side of pozole and key lime pudding for dessert. Yum! We really loved the food and will definitely be back. Bring your own water cup, or plan on drinking from very tiny paper cups and my dressing came in a single use plastic container.

  • Palm Greens Cafe - We went here for breakfast and were pleased with the number of vegan options on the menu.. They had juices and smoothies as well, and I had a turmeric ginger shot which wasn’t quite gingery enough for me, but still good. We shared the biscuits and gravy and the breakfast bowl. They were both yummy, and we would go back to try some of their lunch options. Again, with the single-use plastic here in the form of water cups so try to bring your own.

  • Native Foods Cafe - This is both a grocery store and a cafe. They also have a takeaway cooler for grab and go items. I had the tofu egg salad sandwich and a side salad with balsamic dressing and Danny had the special which was a Beyond Sausage and a side of potato salad. Their coffee they sell here is also on point (Joshua Tree Roasters or something like that?…), and we got a bag of it to bring home with us. Out of everything that we ate, I enjoyed this the most. Again, with the single use plastic. What gives, Palm Springs??

  • Peppers Thai - We didn’t get a chance to dine here on this stay, but it was recommended by a friend and the menu looks delicious. Next time!


Have you been to Joshua Tree or Palm Springs? What are your recommendations for when we go back?

K8CanRelate's Vegan Guide to Universal Studios Hollywood

What to eat, ride and experience within Universal Studios Hollywood

What to eat, ride and experience within Universal Studios Hollywood

Did you know that I am obsessed with Harry Potter? Did you also know that I love amusement parks? Now you do. I did a lot of research prior to our first trip to Universal Hollywood, trying to determine if there would be any vegan food for us to eat. Most of the articles are outdated, but it seemed like they would at least have a few options. There are also a ton of little hidden gems and secrets throughout the park, so I wanted to put all of those together for you here in this post. Hope this helps you plan your next visit!

TICKETS AND PARKING

Let’s make this quick because it’s boring. Look for tickets and special offers on Universal’s website. If you live or are staying near a metro, it literally has a stop in Universal. That’s how we got there the first time, and it was super easy and seamless (and cheap as hell). The second time, however, we drove, because I don’t LOVE riding the metro after dark. Parking is $25, disgusting. But this allows you to pack lunches, changes of clothes, all of that stuff. We will probably be getting season passes to avoid the parking cost for the future.

Lunch at the Three Broomsticks

Lunch at the Three Broomsticks

WHAT TO EAT & DRINK (VEGAN)

Theme park food doesn’t exactly get me excited, but Universal has some nice options. We found a quinoa super-food style salad at the French Bistro’s cooler, super easy grab and go style. There are various locations around the park that carry a vegan patty, and we had one at Krusty Burger with fries. Beware, either the burger or the fries upset our stomachs, and I think it was probably the oil from the fries. The buns at Universal weren’t vegan until recently, but we asked multiple staff members and they all advised that yes, the buns are now vegan. If you would prefer, you can ask for lettuce to wrap the burger in.

The Three Broomsticks has a rotating menu, so you can’t always count on them having exactly what you plan for, but we gave it a shot. This is going to sound biased because of my love of all things HP, but honestly this was such a lovely meal. The asparagus plate is “accidentally” vegan, but be sure to mention that you would like it veganized with no butter. The corn on the cob can be ordered without butter as well, and the potatoes are A-Ok. There are lots of fresh fruit options around Wizarding World which was really nice, and there are plenty of candy options at Honeyduke’s, just read the label!

Universal’s City Walk is just outside of the park and where you can probably find the most vegan-friendly sit down options. We haven’t yet eaten here, but I know there are a few places that at least have the Impossible Burger on their menu. City Walk also has a Ben & Jerry’s if you’re feeling like some ice cream and a VooDoo Donut shop with vegan options as well.

As for drinking, we enjoyed Moe’s Tavern and Hog’s Head! Butterbeer is sadly not vegan friendly so steer clear, opt for a Pumpkin Fizz instead.

The Forbidden Journey ride is housed inside of Hogwarts

The Forbidden Journey ride is housed inside of Hogwarts

WHAT TO RIDE

It’s probably important to note that Danny and I both LOVE roller-coasters. There isn’t a ride we won’t try at least once, and we love the thrill of going upside down/dropping one million feet straight down/ you get the idea. Universal is NOT THAT TYPE OF AMUSEMENT PARK. Do not expect thrilling roller-coasters, that is not what they are trying to do here. This park is about movie magic and the rides are true to that as well. It’s more about visuals and effects than speed and loops. With that being said, we still really enjoyed the rides for what they were. We will just have to get our thrills elsewhere. I have always been a fan of set and costume design, and that is something that I geeked out over for sure. Just waiting in line, there are so many things to look at that are done so exquisitely well. There are no mistakes at this park, every design decision was made purposefully, so take notice!

My favorite, for obvious reasons that we will get to in the next section, was the Forbidden Journey ride. Get in line early for this one, fam. Danny said he felt really sick afterwards, and never wants to ride it again (lol), so if you get motion sickness of any kind, take heed before boarding. Danny’s favorite ride was the Simpson’s ride. It has an added layer of comedy that makes the ride so much fun! I 100% recommend the studio tour, there are ‘rides’ along the way and if you are a movie buff, you will love it even more! We both really loved The Mummy, it is the most “thrilling” and got a genuine scream from me.

Get there early and you might just feel like you have the place to yourself!

Get there early and you might just feel like you have the place to yourself!

WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER

Upon entering the Wizarding World, you will see the Hogwarts Express and a conductor. You can’t board the train as it is stationary, but you can take photos with the conductor and visit the 9 3/4 shop next door. As you pass the train, you will find yourself in Hogsmeade. From Honeyduke’s to Ollivander’s to the Owl Post, you will not be disappointed. Things were not put here on accident; every window display, every storefront, all of it were chosen and executed with a true fan in mind. The little show at Ollivander’s is cute, and worth a wait of 25 minutes or less. Any more than that and I wouldn’t really bother. There are both interactive and non-interactive wands. You can choose a character wand or your own wand. This is quite an authentic experience and felt very magical!

Walking through the various shops was truly a treat, there is so much to see! We went at Christmas which is another recommendation of mine. The lights, the garland, all of the Christmas merchandise for sale, the snow at night, not to mention the Christmas light show that is projected onto Hogwarts after dark! This was so special and such a wonderful time of year to visit. Albeit a bit busier, it wasn’t unbearable in early December.

Be sure to use the bathroom while in Hogsmeade and do so quietly, you might just get a visit from Moaning Myrtle.

I really loved the details of the Owl Post. You can buy postcards, stamps and pens and the employees will take care to stamp each postcard with the Hogsmeade postal stamp. They literally wiped the stamp after each one so that it wouldn’t smear. You can then fill out your postcards and drop them just outside of the Owl Post to be sent to friends, family or yourself! After you drop the cards into the box, be sure to look up. I didn’t realize until the second visit that there are owls all up inside the rafters, and there is even owl poop.

Hogwarts will take your breath away. Or maybe it won’t, but if you are a fan of Harry Potter, expect a few tears, squeals of delight, and breathlessness. As I stated earlier, this ride isn’t for everyone, but please know that you can request a castle tour! Just because you aren’t a fan of rides doesn’t mean you can’t experience the magic of Hogwarts. Don’t feel pressured to move with the line, enjoy each detail. There are props from the movie inside, and it is a lot to take in! We spent 5-10 minutes watching the portraits move and talk.

At the exit of the ride there is a shop called Filch’s Emporium, which I found to be my favorite. They have a good selection of merchandise, and the shop itself has many decorations and pieces that are fun to see. If you ask the employees nicely, there may or may not be a Sorting Hat that you can put on your head to be sorted.

The Flight of the Hippogriff ride is very quick and kinda meh, but it’s worth walking through the line and the view of Hogwarts and Hogsmeade from the top of the ride is stunning. You will find Hadrid’s hut, motorbike and even see Buckbeak in and around the line for the ride! It really is the details of the set and props that makes it so special. We really enjoyed peaking at Hagrid’s hut and wondering if we could perhaps knock to see if he might be home.


Have you been to Universal Hollywood? I really want to visit Universal Orlando next year! What’s your favorite ride? Let me know in the comments!

K8CanRelate's Guide on How to Spend a Layover in Mexico City

K8CANRELATE's Guide on How to Spend a Layover in.png

When planning for our honeymoon in Mexico, we purposefully chose our flights to include long layovers for us to explore Mexico City. I hope you find this guide helpful when planning your time in Mexico City. If you’re familiar with traveling in Mexico City, please drop your favorite places in the comments as I already want to go back!


GETTING THERE

Flying from LAX into Mexico City via Volaris was a breeze, not to mention very affordable. Danny decided to rent a car from Enterprise to get from the airport to our hotel, which was more centrally located than the airport. The car rental itself was easy, a van transported us from the airport to their office and soon enough, we had our vehicle. Honestly, if you aren’t super confident in your driving, I wouldn’t recommend this. It wasn’t a big deal but I was holding my breath (and death gripping the door handle) the entire time. The roads were pretty crazy, and we had not prepared at all prior to the decision by doing research online. If we did it over, we would have just used Uber the entire time. We did end up using Uber on the last leg of our trip in Mexico City, and it was the same experience that we have in the US. If you aren’t staying overnight in Mexico City, you can store your bags in the luggage lockers outside baggage claim at the airport so you don’t have to drag them around all day. The main part of the city is about 20 minutes away without traffic (but traffic gets cRaZy so check Google Maps), so it’s an easy drive to get there.

This view though!

This view though!

WHERE TO STAY

This might come as a shock to you, but we actually stayed in a h o t e l the first night of our honeymoon. I know, honestly so out of character. We cashed in some airline points and got a junior suite at the Hilton Reforma. It was SO lovely and the best part? The views overlooking the city. That sunrise will be etched into my memory for years to come.

We also stayed in this super cute (and affordable) Airbnb on our last night of the trip. There is a security guard on duty at all times, which is a nice perk if you are a weary travel or traveling solo!

The Centro Historico District is where our hotel and our Airbnb were located and where many museums and other attractions are, so it’s the perfect place to hang out if you don’t have much time. It was a really fun area to wander around.

This waffle sandwich at Vegamo was as delicious as it looks

This waffle sandwich at Vegamo was as delicious as it looks

WHERE TO EAT

We had less than 24 hours to spend in Mexico City for the first leg of our trip, and we took to the streets almost immediately. From our hotel, we walked to Vegamo for dinner. Danny ordered the Chewbacca waffle sandwich with horchata to drink and I got the protein bowl with a golden mylk latte. That golden milk latte was pure magic, and so was Danny’s meal. The protein bowl was very filling, Danny ended up finishing it for me. We loved the ambiance, food and location of this place so much that we actually went back for brunch the next day. I got the chilaquiles with mole and Danny got the omelette. Does anyone else get pissed off when their partner always orders the better thing? That omelette was pure magic, ya’ll. If you are ever in Mexico City, we definitely recommend this place.

If you are a vegan traveling to Mexico City, check out these recommendations from Happy Cow. We perused this list a few times, and can’t wait to go back and try more!

Part of the courtyard at the National Palace

Part of the courtyard at the National Palace

WHAT TO DO

I was in Mexico City on a mission: to find Frida and Diego. I am a huge fan of Frida Kahlo’s work and a fan of her as a person. I also love Rivera’s mural work, and wanted to see at least something by them. With this in mind, we took to Avenida Juárez which runs straight through the historic heart of Mexico City. We wandered through Parque Alameda (which had many vendors set up at night, and in daylight is a great place to people watch and look at various sculptures and statues) Oh, and the park also has free wi-fi. As we strolled on, we awed at the beauty of Palacio de Bellas Artes but didn’t go inside, peaked our heads into a few cathedrals on our way. The courtyard area of Museo Nacional de las Culturas is breathtaking, and reminded me so much of my time in Spain.

One of Diego Rivera’s murals in the National Palace depicting Frida

One of Diego Rivera’s murals in the National Palace depicting Frida

Zócalo is the true heart of Mexico City, and where you will find the Palace, the Metropolitan Cathedral, Templo Mayor Museum and many other historical buildings. We had time to briefly visit all of these. When you enter the queue for the Palacio Nacional, expect that they will ask for your passport or some kind of identification. Entry is free, and this is where you can find many of Diego Rivera’s murals. I could have spend hours just sitting and looking over the detail in his work. I won’t make this an art history exposé, but everything about the National Palace is exquisite. If you have any time at all in Mexico City, this would be my top recommendation.

After our stay at the resort near Puerto Escondido, which you can read more about here, we flew back into Mexico City. Our flight back home the next morning was super early, and we just kind of felt like having a lazy night in. Our Airbnb might have had something to do with that, because it was cozy as hell! Something that we will do every so often is order delivery or take-out and eat it all in bed while watching a movie. We wanted to end our honeymoon as the indulgent royalty that we are, so we ordered delivery from a vegan taco place. Honestly, it was kind of a shit show. The way that things were packaged for delivery was super strange, and the tacos weren’t super great. We thought we were ordering chips and vegan queso but in reality we got the queso and straight up tortillas (LOL). Not a big deal, as it was definitely something to remember.


We wish we would have had more time to spend exploring Mexico City, but we are grateful to have experienced what we did. Have you been to Mexico City? Where did you eat, what did you see, what should we experience when we go back?