A Tale of Twin Cities [Minnesota]

Summer Road Trip 2014

Day #4 and 5: June 15-16, 2014
Minneapolis & St. Paul, Minnesota

South Dakota/Minnesota state line

The Twin Cities were our next stop after Mount Rushmore. Because of its geographic proximity (merely 10 miles apart), we were able to  explore both cities easily.

Our first day in Minnesota was spent in strolling around Downtown Minneapolis. Sports arenas are always on the itinerary every time we visit a new city, so we walked around Target Field and Target Center, two nearby venues where the Minnesota Twins and Timberwolves play respectively.

The weather was warm, yet gloomy and windy. Oh man, we sure got a taste of those Midwest wind gusts.

Perhaps one of the coolest features I found in their downtown is how their bike lanes are positioned. Cars do not park next to the curb, but rather 8 feet away from it, leaving a pocket of road for cyclists to ride more safely on (and tourists like me to pose on).

Posing on the bike lane

Minneapolis doesn’t really have a lot of attractions for us to explore, so we played it by ear most of the day. We then came across a charming bridge that sported views of the Mississippi River.

Given the large Vietnamese population in Minneapolis, it was only fitting to eat Vietnamese cuisine for lunch. With the help of Yelp, we discovered a local favorite, Lotus Restaurant. Situated just a few miles outside downtown Minneapolis in Loring Park, Lotus has been a family-owned business for over 25 years. We arrived at the restaurant just before the rain started pouring, making it all the more appropriate to indulge in a hot steamy bowl of pho.

One of the owner’s sons (whose name I cannot recall, forgive me!) seated us immediately. He noticed my cousin holding a kendama, and after watching him play a few tricks, he offered us a free plate of fried chicken wings and egg rolls! The chicken was cooked just the way we like it: crispy while moist, juicy, and tender on the inside. Finger lickin’ good!  The service was superb; our server knew what we needed even before we had to ask, from extra utensils to additional pho broth. The rest of the food we ordered were fresh, delicious, and reasonably priced.

With happy hearts and full stomachs, we made a quick stop to Mall of America! The name was definitely appropriate. Never before have I been to a mall with a theme park inside!

The following day we headed to Minnesota’s capital of St. Paul, which was a convenient 20 minute drive away from Minneapolis.

Home to American cartoonist Charles Schulz, St. Paul boasts numerous statues of Peanuts characters such as Charlie Brown and Snoopy.

One of my favorite stops in St. Paul was Candyland, a local St. Paul establishment that has been offering high-quality popcorn, candy, and chocolate for the past 82 years. A trip to Candyland feels like traveling back in time. The aroma of fresh popcorn and chocolate combined with the old-fashioned decor and vintage typography brings customers back to a place when men wore hats, women wore dresses, and everything was simple and sweet.

Sidenote: Their Chicago Mix popcorn is addicting. Consume at your own risk.

Our last stop in Minnesota was Harriet Island. We spent our lunch on a picnic table under a tree next to the Mississippi river while overlooking the St. Paul skyline. Pretty cool, right?

Thanks for the memories, Minnesota! We’re off to America’s Dairyland [Wisconsin]!

Anicka Nadine

Lotus Restaurant
113 W. Grant Street
Minneapolis, MN 55403
T: 612.870.1218

435 Wabasha Street North
St. Paul, MN 55102
T: 651.292.1191

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

Summer 2014 Road Trip

Day #3: June 15, 2014
Wyoming – South Dakota

The journey to Mount Rushmore was long. Getting out of Yellowstone was 120 miles alone. Plus, Wyoming is one wide state. I can’t recall how many naps I took during the car ride only to wake up STILL in Wyoming.

This is Wyoming. As far as the eye can see, miles and miles and miles of flatland and open road.

The open road

We drove straight from Yellowstone to Mount Rushmore, which took the whole night. This was the first day that we didn’t stay at a hotel. Instead, we spent the night at a rest area smack in the middle of the Wyoming/South Dakota state line. It was uncomfortable, it was freezing, we haven’t showered for more than 24 hours, but it’s what makes road trips… well, road trips! The unexpected detours and changes in itinerary make the adventure all the more memorable.

We arrived at Mount Rushmore around noon, and the weather was glorious! Clear skies and sunshine! Even the drive up the mountain was scenic.

It’s free admission to enter the the park, and there wasn’t a huge crowd when we arrived.

The way leading up to the mountain was a pathway lined with flags of the 50 states, which gave the place an even more patriotic atmosphere. It was surreal to finally be able to witness in person the monument itself. Pictures definitely did not do it justice. Seeing the faces first-hand makes you think just how much sweat and labor that was involved. Washington’s nose is 21 feet long. That’s about 4 of me! Insane!

Inside the park is also a small movie theater where visitors can watch about the history and controversy regarding the creation of mountain.

See short video diary below! (Yes, I am aware of my own awkwardness).

Anicka Nadine

Mount Rushmore National Memorial
13000 S. Dakota 244
Keystone, SD 57751
T: 605.574.2523

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Summer 2014 Road Trip

Day #2 : June 14, 2014
Montana – Wyoming

The serenity of Montana was restorative. My family and I stayed at a cozy 2-bedroom cabin at Island Park Village Resort, which is located just a few miles away from the Wyoming-Montana state line. Located 22 miles outside the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park, the resort is a nature lover’s paradise. Surrounded by lush forestry, the area  is open to visitors who wish to stay in cabins, tents or RVs.

Prior to entering the park, we spent a few minutes strolling around their town, which was oh so charming! As a city girl, I find the vibe of small towns so refreshing. The old Chevy pick-up trucks, the friendliness of the locals, the mom and pop’s restaurants… there’s is something about All-American small towns that warm my heart.

Yellowstone has been on the top of my list of national parks to visit, and it was surreal to finally be able to make it happen. Despite the season, the weather felt chilly,  perhaps in the low 40 degrees, with slight wind chill.

The official Yellowstone sign is only a few feet outside the main gate of the west entrance. What you guys didn’t see is the long line of cars that we created after taking at least 10 million photos.

It was a 2-way road in and out of the park, and merely five minutes upon entering, I noticed cars slowing down. I investigated  the cause of the potential traffic, and lo and behold… there was an American bison eating grass on the side of the road!

American bison!

I could not believe my eyes! I rolled down my windows and was immediately in awe of such majestic beast. It was literally 5 feet away from us! What struck me by surprise was how calm it was. Despite the lines of cars driving beside it, not once did it look up to see all the attention it was receiving from the visitors. It just continued to eat its lunch and do its thing. Little did we know what was ahead of us. A few more miles up the road was a wide open field with hundreds of bison! (the plural form of bison is also bison; English is weird)

It wasn’t long until we started noticing fumes rising from the ground. You know what that means… geysers!

I’ve never experienced being up close and personal with geysers before, so I didn’t know what to expect. The first set of geysers we observed were easily accessible given there was a wooden pathway for the visitors to walk through. Some geysers were only a few feet away that their fumes, with the right wind gust, would blow directly to your face, which to be honest, was quite a unique experience to say the least. The fumes were moist and warm and thick. The smell? Sulfuric. PEE YEW!  Aside from the rotten/boiled eggs odor, the geysers were extremely fascinating. There were a few where you can literally see the liquid boiling! The vibrant colors of the hot springs were also a favorite of mine. The bright blues and the tie-dye action of the colorful chemicals were definitely a sight to see.

Of course, a trip to Yellowstone would not be complete without visiting Old Faithful herself. By this time, the weather has been unpredictable, with sporadic rain, snow, and even hail!

There was a sign that conveniently indicates each upcoming eruption, and lucky for us, we arrived just in time! A few hundred miles out of Old Faithful were benches where spectators can safely observe the showing. It goes without saying that Old Faithful did not disappoint!

See my short video diary below!

Anicka Nadine

The Journey Begins!

Summer 2014 Road Trip

Day #1, June 13, 2014
California – Utah – Idaho – Montana

The journey begins! All of our bags were packed, and we were ready to go. At exactly midnight, we were off to our first stop 400 miles away, Zion National Park, Utah! My mom and dad alternated driving for the next six hours, and as scheduled, we reached the Utah state line just as the sun was rising.

It’s been more than ten years since I’ve been to Utah, and the banded-iron formations were just as majestic as I remembered them to be. Everything was red, from the pavement to the mountains! Talk about being in real-life Carsland!

*Sidenote: During my senior year at UCLA, I took a Geology class where I learned how these red rocks (banded-iron formations) were formed. Basically, the BIFs are sedimentary rocks that resulted from the iron in the ocean reacting with the oxygen being produced by photosynthetic cyanobacteria. So just imagine, these mountains used to be water! The Earth was literally rusting billions and billions of years ago! Shoutout to Professor Schopf for being such an awesome teacher that I still recall his lessons a year and a half after graduating.

We didn’t intend to hike or backpack around the park, so our stay at Zion was brief. After fueling up on breakfast, off to Salt Lake City we go!

Our itinerary required us to be at West Yellowstone (Montana) by the end of the day, so Salt Lake City was another quick pit stop. We visited the State Capitol, EnergySolutions Arena (where the Utah Jazz play!), and the Union Pacific Railroad Station.

Welcome to Idaho!

Idaho? No, Udaho! (sorry, can’t help it)

More driving ensued (by me this time). The further north we went, the colder it got! Eventually, we reached Montana just before the sun went down.

We stayed the night at a cozy 2-bedroom cabin in the middle of the woods. Nature surrounded us, making it a perfect setting to restore our batteries after a long adventure-filled day.

Stay tuned for day 2!

Anicka Nadine

Travel Essentials

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Exactly a week from now, I’ll be embarking on yet another epic summer road trip with my truly adventurous family. I’m a planner by nature, so I like to pack at least one week in advance  in order to make sure that I really have everything I need. Here are a few of my travel essentials:

1) Comfortable shoes – Whether traveling by air, car, train, boat, or any other form of transportation, comfortable shoes are a must. I like to stick to my white Chuck Taylor Converse. You can never go wrong with a classic.

2) Statement necklaces – They have the power to elevate any outfit instantly. Need I say more?

3) Fujifilm Instax Mini Polaroid camera and lots and lots and lots of film  – Because what better way to capture memories than with a good ol’ Polaroid camera? I like using the Instax mini because there are only four settings to choose from (super bright/sunny, sunny, cloudy/overcast, indoors). The camera automatically determines the appropriate amount of brightness for taking a picture. It’s very easy to use, and the picture quality is considerably high.  Before any trip, I like to load up on film from Amazon. I’ve discovered that it’s considerably cheaper than buying from an actual camera store.

4) LUSH Ultrabland Facial Cleanser – It’s no wonder this is the Lush founder’s No. 1 Desert Island Product. I have yet to encounter a better facial cleanser than Ultrabland. I use this product every night before bed because it is absolutely incredible at removing dirt and make-up! After massaging Ultrabland thoroughly all over my face, I wipe it off with make-up remover wipes, and it’s instant satisfaction since I see all of the dirt that’s been removed from my face on the wipes. With my skin now ultra soft and clean, I follow up by spraying my face with LUSH’s Eau Roma Water Toner.

5) Frank Coffee Scrub – Genetically, I’ve been blessed with clear skin. However, I also know that I’m not getting any younger, so I still want to take care of it even when traveling. I’ve used other body scrubs before but right now, Frank Coffee Scrub is on the top of my list. Not only does it smell like coffee, but it leaves my skin feeling incredibly soft and moisturized afterwards. Another perk is that it’s not a liquid body scrub, therefore no need to worry about TSA liquid carry-on rules at the airport!

6) A Travel Backpack – It’s a comfortable yet stylish way to carry all of my necessities. The backpack pictured above is from Francesca’s.

Anicka Nadine