Exploring the USA: Grand Canyon, San Antonio, and New Orleans
You might have heard this before, but there are so many benefits to traveling. It helps you think creatively, broadens your horizons, and most importantly, it gives you real-life education. After a phone conversation with my cousin Britt about having something exciting to look forward to, we decided to plan an adventure. This time, we were headed to three places we’ve never explored: the Grand Canyon, San Antonio, and New Orleans. Read on below for my favorite parts of our September 2019 getaway!
Since the Grand Canyon was on my bucket list, it was the destination I was most excited about. I’ve seen plenty of photos, followed by the photographer proudly stating, “the pictures don’t do it justice.” Wanting to understand while wishing to inspire others with that line, Britt and I jumped on planning this experience.
First, we had to find a place to stay. The quickest route we found was to fly into Las Vegas and take a bus to Arizona the next morning. We booked a room in a hotel away from the strip just to get a good night’s sleep and were ready and rested the next day.
Although the drive from Vegas to the Grand Canyon took about four hours, we did some sightseeing on our tour bus, which was operated by Gray Line. As we ventured toward the canyon, we stopped to explore Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam. Both were for a short time but that’s all we needed.
Once we arrived at the Grand Canyon, we were astonished. The scenery was breathtaking! It was like we were living in a painting and it reminded me how beautiful our planet really is. The layers of rocks in shades of browns and reds, the deep gorges casting shadows, and the Colorado River snaking way below was stunning.
Since we were exploring the west rim, we had to experience the Skywalk. Sitting 4,000 feet above the canyon floor, it’s a horseshoe-shaped cantilever bridge with a glass walkway, located at the part of the canyon called Eagle Point. It was quite thrilling, and when we looked down, we saw birds. Flying birds!
As our grand adventure settled down, we ate at the Guano Point Cafe, listened to live Native American music, and checked out the gift shop. We also chatted with other travelers, since the Grand Canyon was quite crowded in the month of September.
On our way back to Vegas, we were fortunate enough to spot a herd of bighorn sheep. Everyone aboard the bus was enthusiastic about getting a closer look, so our driver pulled over so we could take photos and be amazed at such gentle yet powerful wildlife.
With its charming River Walk, San Antonio was our next destination. We stayed at a cozy Airbnb tucked into a residential street not far from the water. Although we enjoyed the restaurants, bars, and energy surrounding the River Walk, we agreed that much of San Antonio can be explored quickly. We stayed in the city for three days and I think we both enjoyed the food best.
Of course, we had to try Tex-Mex in Big Texas. Our host suggested Rosario’s and we really enjoyed the chips, salsa, and tacos. As nighttime rolled around, we came across Howl at the Moon, a lively bar located on the River Walk. We were quickly immersed into an atmosphere of live music, flowing drinks, and crazy-dancing people. We befriended a few and joined them for Whataburger.
To explore a bit more of the Lone Star State, we decided to drive our rental car (you’ll need one of those) to Fredericksburg, about an hour and 15 minutes north of San Antonio. Since the city is of German heritage, we thought it made sense to try a biergarten. We settled on Auslander and enjoyed schnitzels and cabbage.
Since we were in Texas Hill Country, we also frolicked in the colorful fields at Wildseed Farms. It’s a pretty sight to see if you’re in the area.
On our last day in San Antonio, we took a drive to the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch. Basically, it’s a carnivore-free African safari on 450 acres of rolling hills. We drove through and saw gazelles, antelopes, wildebeest, zebras, deer, goats, ostriches, and emus. We bought bags of feed for the animals, so they really came up to say hello (our rental almost got hit with antlers so watch out for those horns!).
New Orleans (NOLA) has rhythm like nowhere else! I loved NOLA just the same as I loved the Grand Canyon, but in a different way. With the Grand Canyon, it was all about feeling connected to the earth, appreciating my environment, and being physically active. In New Orleans, I craved the energy, and it was there in the form of colors, jazz, and Cajun cuisine. Pretty much, I liked having so much from the world within my reach.
Britt and I stayed at the Wyndham in the French Quarter, AKA in the center of the action. As soon as we put our suitcases down, we headed to Cafe Du Monde for beignets, which were fantastically delectable. We went back a few times, because fried dough covered in sugar is the perfect dessert after experiencing Johnny’s Po-Boys.
Because NOLA is considered to be one of the most haunted cities in the U.S., I recommend going on a ghost tour. We went with a group one evening while enjoying a bit of spooky city history. During the day, we went on a cemetery tour and got to see Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau’s tomb. The ghostly vibes are real here!
If you’re looking for something real Louisiana-esque to do, a swamp and bayou tour in search of alligators is an experience you’ll never forget. Britt and I found out about this through a pamphlet in our hotel lobby and immediately booked it. During the tour, we saw several alligators, including one huge one who jumped up to grab the marshmallow from the stick our tour guide was hanging over the boat. Apparently, they mistake the marshmallows for turtle eggs. Toward the end of the adventure, we also got to hold a 26-week old alligator named Allie!
Once back in the city, Britt and I were pleasantly surprised to partake in the fried chicken festival. Set in Woldenberg Park, there were dozens of restaurants with their own stations, all offering a variety of fried chicken dishes. It was crispy, delicious, and finger-lickin’ good. There was also live music, and someone dressed as Colonel Sanders made an appearance. The park’s also located right near the Mississippi River, so taking a stroll — especially after eating fried food — is relaxing and beneficial.
Overall, I’d say Britt and I made incredible use of our time. We visited three new states in a week and had experiences that are now cherished memories. There’s so much to explore, and traveling allows your most authentic self to surface. In my opinion, travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer!
Have you ever been to the Grand Canyon, San Antonio, or New Orleans? Leave a comment below!