San Francisco Pride – The Exhibitor’s Guide

This is a tale of a wild, colorful and exhausting weekend told from the perspective of an exhibitor at San Francisco Pride (that’s me!). While my experience as an exhibitor was a little bit different from the regular Pride-Goer (mostly because I was contained to my booth for most of the event), I can still offer insightful tips and interesting stories that anyone looking to attend this event will find helpful. I really wish I had more photos to share with you, but I was busy working. (Wink Wink). So, let’s get started.

The Night Before

We arrived in San Francisco the evening before Pride. My car was loaded to the max full of swag and various items needed for the booth. The drive from Reno was pretty smooth until we hit the Bay Bridge – then it was bumper to bumper traffic until we reached our hotel. We were staying at the Hotel Zepplin. It was located near Union Square and about a mile from the Civic Center. We knew traffic and parking in San Francisco would be horrendous, so we picked a hotel nearish to the event. This hotel also had some self-serve parking nearby. $35/night or with no in and out privileges. San Francisco is not cheap. While the area around our hotel was decent, the area between our hotel and the Civic Center is called the Tenderloin. It’s got a bad rap, and in my opinion, it’s valid. I know every city has its own problem with homeless and vagrants, but San Francisco is known as the Poop Capital of the US for a reason.

Day One

The event registration packet says you can bring your car to your booth between 6-9am. All vehicles must vacate the premise by 9am. We decided in to invest in a nice little haul wagon and hand cart, load up our stuff and walk to the event. This way we could “sleep in” and take our time in the morning. The haul wagon worked better than I expected. You can use it for events, beach days, sports gear you name. I got mine from Costco. We were loaded up, dressed in our locally designed Pride Shirts and ready for a day of fun. Our first 25-minute walk was a doosey. We walked through the heart of the Tenderloin, and it was an eye-opening experience. It was a pretty gruesome scene to describe, but imagine people sleeping on the sidewalk in their own filth. Also, we witnessed a man creating chaos on the street and a police officer had to use his baton. Some guys started to heckle us as we crossed the street and even pointed a squirt gun at us saying he was harmless. It was uncomfortable. Luckily, once we made it into the event all was good.

The event was scheduled to start at noon on Saturday. We arrived at our booth around 10 and had a strong of people lined up by 10 am. We even had some people come by before we were fully set up. I want to keep this blog about the event, so I won’t go into too much booth detail. However, there are a lot of them. Everyone, Equality California, Red Bull, Smirnoff, there were loads of sponsors and exhibitors everywhere. You’ll need an empty backpack if you plan to go around to each both collecting free swag.

It’s basically a day of partying. Eat, drink and be merry. While the event closes at 6 pm, the party doesn’t stop there. Everyone then heads to the Castro for a long night of more eating, drinking and dancing. I never made it to Castro District because I was too tired from working, but I watched the news and saw people twerking on cars. Everyone looked like they were having a good time.

Day Two

We decided to head down a little earlier on Sunday. The rumor was Sunday was even crazier than Saturday because it was Parade Day. Yes, there are more people on Sunday, but they are all at the parade which starts at 10 am and ended around 5 pm. We had learned some tricks from Day One that we implemented on Day Two.

Tip #1

Bring Your Own Toilet Paper. There are porta-potties at the event, and they ran out of T.P. halfway through day 1 and they weren’t restocked on Day Two. Bringing our own toilet paper was a live saver.

Tip #2

Bring Your Own Hand Sanitizer. Like the T.P. running out on day 1, so did the water at the handwashing station. We brought our own wipes and Everyone supplied free hand sanitizer.

Tip #3

Be prepared for long lines. And I mean long lines. Breaks were far and few for us because the booth was always packed and the lines were always long. Like, be prepared to wait an hour for your food and another ½ hour for your beer. Lucky for me there was no line for wine, and the Kind booth hooked it up with protein bars to hold me over till dinner.

Tip #4

Be open. This is Pride after all. We saw over 20 fully naked people, interesting costumes – basically, a lot of people fully expressing themselves which is awesome and kind of the purpose of this event.

Tip #5

Have fun. This is the most important one, and the end of the day you want to make sure you’re having a great time which is almost guaranteed at Pride.

Have you been to San Francisco Pride before? What tips do you have? Share them in the comments below!

Until next time….

Cheers!

Keelie

How to Pack for 8-weeks in a Carry-On

I love to pack light. I save money on airlines fees, I don’t have to worry about losing any checked luggage, and its less stuff to haul around during my travels. Whatever your reasoning is for packing light, I’m here to offer you words of wisdom and guidance for your next trip!

The List

I spent quite some time creating my packing list for New Zealand. I did a lot of research and even did a couple of test packs, so I knew I had everything I would want during my extended travels. One thing I always kept in mind is that if I forgot something or needed more of something New Zealand has stores, so I can buy whatever I need. It’s likely wherever you are planning to go also has stores. The only items I ended up buying was an extra long sleeve shirt (which I have since added to my list) and additional toiletry items – sunscreen, face wash etc. The list now serves as my guide and I adjust it depending on the destination and the activities I will be doing. The list usually has enough clothes for one week and then I do laundry. Ready for the list? Click here to download and start packing.

Laundry

You will be able to do laundry. Whether you are staying at a house that has a washer and dryer or visit a laundry mat, you will be able to wash your clothes. That being said, you will laundry detergent (something that can also be found in the country you are visiting), and some sort of laundry bag. My particular suitcase comes with a laundry bag, but I also like to pack a packable duffel pack that can double as a laundry bag. But in reality, a trash bag with work. You just want something to transport your dirty and then clean clothes that isn’t your suitcase. When I was in New Zealand you could always tell it was laundry day for me because usually the last clean item I had was the dress I packed.

Laundry Day!

Mix and Match Your Clothes

Don’t bring a shirt that will only go with one pair of pants. Or shoes that only serve one purpose. Multi-purpose is your friend when packing light. Bring a variety of colors that will mix and match well. Since most of my wardrobe is black, that’s kind of easy for me. Solid colors also work well. I brought shorts that I could hike in, but could also pass for city wear, or a night on the town. If you look at my photos, you’ll notice I am wearing a combination of the same 5 or 6 items the whole time. After returning back to the States, I didn’t wear any of those clothes for at least a month. Some of the items I brought with me didn’t make it home. It was time for us to part ways, and it made room in my bag for souvenirs. Check out my blog about my favorite travel items.

Layering

This is huge. Even though it might be cold enough for your big coat, you don’t really have room for it. And if you are visiting a place like New Zealand during the Spring/Summertime, you will go through about 4 different climates. Based off all the items I brought, I could layer it up pretty good if I got really cold. I had a tank top, wool long sleeve, fleece sweater, my Athleta jacket, and my Columbia raincoat that was excellent in the wind. I never once had to fully layer up. Same with the pants. The hiking pants I brought were pretty good in the cold and wind, but if it was really cold, I could layer them with some yoga pants. Layering is key.

Toiletries

I’m fully aware that in a carry-on all liquids have to be under 3 oz. My sunscreen in exactly 3 oz, and as I mentioned earlier, I tend to purchase facewash and sometimes shampoo in whatever country I’m in. It helps you feel more like a local. I also just bring the basics as you’ll see in my packing list.

Some Final Tips

I do believe the packing cubes help you save room because you can stuff them, and then make them fit in a tight spot. Plus, they keep your bag organized and neat. I also stuff my sunscreen and undergarments in my shoes. Although I bring 4 pairs of shoes, I only pack one large pair. I wear my hiking boots on the place to save room and would either wear my boots or trainers on travel days to save room. The Toms and sandals don’t take up any room. Same with my jeans. I usually wore them on travel days to save room. Lastly, don’t bring huge glasses or sunglasses cases. They now make softshell cases or stuff your glasses in a sock. It will help you save room versus the large hard case.

What tips do you have for packing light? Share them in the comments below!

Until next time…

Cheers!

Keelie

Live Aqua Resort – Cancun, Mexico

If you are looking for a relaxing getaway with beautiful scenery and great weather Cancun is the perfect spot. It’s an easy flight from the United States. Even with a layover, I arrived at the resort with time to hang by the pool for a couple of hours before dinner.

Live Aqua Resort

This was my first time at an all-inclusive and Live Aqua Resort did not disappoint. The rooms were large and elegantly designed, but my favorite part was the view. Every time I walked into the room the curtains would open and I would be greeted with the stunning view of the resort pools and the beach.

The resort has three pools including an infinity pool and a swim-up bar. There is a bar on the beach, and the barstools are swings. It was definitely an experience being able to go up to the bar and order whatever I want. I don’t usually go on lounging vacations, but I have to admit, it was nice.

As a lover of Mexican food, I was a little disappointed that the resort didn’t have a Mexican restaurant, but they did serve tacos by the pool during lunch. They have Asian, Italian and Mediterranean cuisine available for dinner. The portions are a little smaller than what is served in America, so don’t be afraid to order all three courses. Breakfast is a buffet and they serve everything. They even have a smoothie bar.

The resort also offers a lot of activities. They have morning yoga, beach volleyball, cornhole, cooking classes, live music and karaoke. You just have to ask the concierge for a list of the weekly activities. Then there is the tour desk where you can book your excursions while in Cancun. We choose to spend a day at Xavage – the brand new adventure park, and also booked a tour to Chichen Itza – the ruins of the ancient Mayan city.

Xavage and Chichen Itza

Xavage is an adventure park. They have 4 “main” attractions that you can only complete once, and then some smaller ones you can ride as many times as you’d like. We only had time for the 4 big ones and one round on monkey. The “main” attractions are a jet boat ride, an off-road rock crawling course (you’re the driver), river rafting, and zip lining. Monkey is a rope course. It offers 4 levels, and the highest level is reserved for professional climbers. The easiest level takes about 45 mins to complete, and the hardest can take up to three hours. It is definitely an adrenaline pumping activity.

Lunch is included in your ticket. I suggest bringing sturdy shoes you can walk in but don’t mind if they get wet. Same with your clothes. You can wear a bathing suit or comfortable clothes you don’t mind getting wet. Life jackets are provided at the water rides, and you are given a helmet at check-in. Lunch is a buffet. Since the park is “wild” they also have “wild” food. They have alligator, boar, ostrich and rabbit for you to try and a collection of less exotic foods.

Most people have heard of Chichen Itza – some sites even consider it one of the 7 Ancient Wonders of the World. Chichen Itza is located in Yucatan State which is about 2.5 hours away from Cancun. It’s a 12-hour tour, and a lot of it is spent on the bus, but they try to give you an all-encompassing tour of a different part of Mexico in a short time. You make 4 stops. The first stop is at a Mayan Village where you have lunch. There is a little shop, a tequila tasting and you meet with a Mayan Shaman. You can also purchase your own Mayan Calendar if you wish.

The second stop is Chichen Itza. To help tourists pronounce it, they call it Chicken Pizza. The ruin site is extremely hot, so bring lots of water, sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses. You spend about 2 hours at the site and will walk around a lot. The grounds were quite a bit larger than I originally thought. There are a lot of tents set up along the side with little knick-knacks to buy. The guide will walk you around the ruins and give you some history for about 45 mins, and then you can explore on your own. The third stop is a Cenote – basically an open cave with water in it. This particular Cenote is 150 ft deep. In that part of the country, the Cenotes are Mexico’s water source. After a long day in the sun, the water is very refreshing. The 4th and final stop is a small colonial town. This stop is about 20 minutes long – basically enough time to walk around the plaza and grab a snack from a vendor. It was a long and exhausting day, but I enjoyed seeing a different side of Mexico outside our resort.

All in all, the trip was fantastic. I like the idea of 5 days at the resort (keep in mind two of those are travel days). I’m sure Live Aqua won’t be my last all-inclusive. I would do 5 days again, but I would only do one excursion. I think 3 lazy days is perfect and refreshing for someone like me who is always on the go. Have you ever been to an all-inclusive? What do you think of them? What about Cancun? Do you have a favorite resort or excursion there? Leave me a comment below because I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time…

Cheers!

Keelie

8 Must-Do Things in London

There are probably hundreds of things to do in London. So I’m going to start with 8 of my favorites. Here are 8 things you must check out and experience while in London.

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea is a must for anyone visiting London. Indulge in your favorite treats like scones, small sandwiches and macarons while sipping on your favorite tea of choice. Visit the Ritz in London for a luxury afternoon experience or at Number 16 for a picture-perfect afternoon in a lush outdoor garden. No matter the time of day or your location of choice you can’t go wrong with afternoon tea in London.

Harry Potter Studios

Maybe you’ve read my blog on The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and know what a huge Potter fan I am, but even so-so fans can appreciate Harry Potter Studios in London. See props from the movies, the Hogwarts model that was used to film the outside shots, costumes, Doby’s face – you name it. This place is wicked cool. The studio is located 20 miles outside of the London city-center and you can either take the train or hire the Harry Potter Studios bus. Plan ahead because tickets do sell out.

Big Ben and Parliament

This is London. All the photos you see, every time London is in a movie you see Big Ben. I’m just thankful that Big Ben and the English Parliament survived WWII. That is one thing I like about London is the contrast between new and old, and what was built before and after the war. I remember the first time I looked up at Big Ben I swore I saw Peter Pan and Wendy flying around the clock’s face. You’ll have to visit this site twice because day and night both offer unique views.

Tower of London

I love how old this place in. The oldest building – the White Tower – was build in the 1000s. Most people visit the Tower of London to see the crown jewels, but the history is fascinating. We all know about the infamous torture chamber, but that wasn’t the only place where people died. I’m convinced this place is haunted, and they should host a night tour. I thought of a movie when some thieves break in after hours to steal the Crown Jewels, but then have to deal with the ghosts and tortured souls of the tower. But definitely check it out, well worth the entry fee.

Buckingham Palace

Who doesn’t want to see where the royals live? While there might not be any royals there when you visit because they have multiple places, it’s still a cool thought. Try to make a guard laugh, and enjoy a walk around the grounds. The gardens nearby are beautiful, and Buckingham Palace is located near Hyde Park which is a great place to spend an afternoon walking around.

Jack the Ripper Tour

You might say I have a thing for scary things. I like adventure, and scary stories tend to get my adrenaline running, so I guess you can say they are a type of adventure. East London in the 1800s was not a nice place. It where the poor lived and where most of the crime happened. It isn’t necessarily a nice place today, but still worth checking out. Plus, for my Harry Potter fans, you’ll recognize a lot of East London from Diagon Alley. The tour guide will take you to different places when victims of Jack the Ripper were found and then show you photos, so you can see what that area looked like 130 years ago. I’m waiting for this tour to partner with augmented reality, that is going to be insane.

Ride the Underground

It’s a right of passage to ride “The Tube” in London. If you’ve never been on a subway system before, the London underground might seem a little daunting, but it definitely is a convenient and quick way to get around the city. The city bus is definitely cheaper, but everyone has to ride The Tube at least once. Pick up your Oyster card right away – it will be good for the underground and the city bus. The underground charges you based on how far you travel and what zones you travel through, so check the price sheet when loading your card, and don’t forget to “Mind the Gap.”

See a Play

Head to the West End and see a show. London has a similar selection of Broadway shows as New York City – The Lion King, The Book of Mormon, Hamilton. But the longest-running show belongs to the Mousetrap. It’s been going for 59 years. I saw The Lion King. London definitely fulfilled a lot of childhood dreams between Peter Pan and Big Ben, Harry Potter and seeing the Lion King in action. If you’re not sure which play to see I recommend the Lion King, though I do want to see the Cursed Child (duh), and School of Rock (another childhood favorite movie). The West End is near Covent Garden which is a touristy area full of shops, restaurants and pubs good to visit before or after your play.

There is so much to see and do in London. I didn’t even get into the museums, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Kings Cross or Abbey Way. Really you have to pick your favorites and then plan for a return trip. Have you been to London? Leave me a comment below and tell me your favorite must-do in London.

Until next time…

Cheers!

Keelie

4 Tips For Balancing Life and Adventure

So you love adventure, but you also love your job, family, house and pets. You want to bike that new trail this weekend, but the lawn really needs to be mowed. Or you want to join your girlfriends in New York, but you’re on a tight work deadline. Life is all about balance. So how do you balance life and responsibility when you’re craving adventure? Keep reading for some great tips.

Life Itself is an Adventure

You don’t have to fly halfway across the world, or even leave your state to have an adventure. Sometimes the best adventures happen in your own back yard. I’ve shared blogs on signing up for a fun run in your hometown, or if you’re lucky enough to live in Reno, there is plenty to do from hikes to events to satisfy your adventurous spirit. Grab your family and your pets and explore a new part of town, or eat at that restaurant that will allow dogs on the patio. Life itself is a wild and fun adventure, so enjoy it.

It’s Okay to Stay Home

We are human, and we need rest. So what if you walk into work on Monday morning and don’t have a crazy Instagram story to share. You are still allowed to love adventure and travel if you spend a weekend in your garden, or sitting on the couch binging Netflix. A full work week can be exhausting. Combine that with back to back travels and a quiet weekend at home sounds amazing – at least that’s how I feel. Plus, I probably need to give my house a good clean and give my cats some extra love.

Plan Ahead

If you are busy like me, then planning ahead is going to be your friend. I put everything in my calendar – even when I want to start thinking about planning for another trip. Planning ahead will help you save time and money because you will be fully prepared for whatever is thrown at you. Plus, you’ve probably had some time to research what you want to see or do on your trip, so you can get the most of it. I know how precious time is.

Make the Most of the Opportunities Given to You

A great example of this is a bleisure trip. If you are able to extend your stay over the weekend that’s great. You’re basically killing two birds with one stone. But if not – take an evening to go out and explore. Family reunions are a great opportunity. If everyone is coming to you, this is your chance to show your family your favorite spots around town, or if you traveled out of town even better. I’m sure there is a family member who loves adventure (almost) as much as you.

The most important tip though is to not get so caught up in the adventure itself and just remember to have fun. Life is too short to worry about the trips you couldn’t go on or the fact that you have to do yard work one weekend instead of going skiing. If you plan ahead, you’ll have plenty of adventures and wonderful memories that will last a lifetime. Do you have any great tips about balancing life and adventure? Please share them with me in the comments below. 

Until next time…

Cheers!

Keelie

Bachelorette Party – Chico, CA

Destination bachelorette parties are definitely a thing now. Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Lake Tahoe you name it are all popular places for the bride-to-be to spend a wild weekend with her bridal party, but they can also take a hit on your wallet. My friend was getting married, and she wanted to go someone fun, where there was wine, not expensive, and nearby so no one had to take time off work. We live in Reno, so the only place for us to go to a city is west. San Francisco was out of the question, and I didn’t really want to go to Sacramento, so I suggested Chico. It had everything she wanted, less than 200 miles from Reno, cheap, a fun nightlife and nearby wineries. PSA: We went before the Camp Fire. I do not know the hotel and Airbnb situation post Camp Fire.

Where to Stay

The town of Chico is not very big, and taxis and rideshare are both available and relatively inexpensive. You can stay in a hotel downtown, however, the nicer ones and the branded hotels are closer to the freeway and maybe 10 mins from downtown. We voted for the Airbnb option, so we could all stay together. It was a cute little house near Bidwell Park. We felt like we were miles from town, but really it was maybe 10 minutes. We liked that we didn’t have to split between hotel rooms, and having a kitchen was great – one of the girls made us a delicious pancake breakfast one morning.

The Wineries

Chico is not your usual wine destination. And technically, the wineries are about 30 minutes away in the foothills of Orville, CA. We went to Hickman Family Vineyards first. Not only did they have delicious wines, but they have a pet pig that roams the grounds, and they rent out an onsite Airbnb. The view from here was absolutely gorgeous, and we took some obligatory bridal party photos. We picked up lunch from Wagon Wheel and went to Long Creek Winery and Ranch. I loved their tasting room. They have some cute hay barrels and trucks out front (again perfect for photos), and a pond nearby. The third winery we went to was an urban winery called Purple Line Urban Winery. It also happened to be Cinco De Mayo, so they had drink specials in addition to wine tasting. One of the girls doesn’t drink, so she was our designated driver, and we all fit in the explore. It was such a fun outing and perfect for our group. I can guarantee that the wine tasting fees in Oroville are nowhere near the same price and Napa or Sonoma. Plus, since we were the only bridal party, we got all the attention.

Where to Eat

Chico has some great places to eat. I grew up nearby and lived in Chico for a bit before moving to Reno, so I was excited to be heading back, so I could show the bride around. We chose, Tres Hombres for Cinco De Mayo and their avocado margaritas, B Street for breakfast and Burgers and Brews for dinner the first night. Other places I love are the Sierra Nevada Brewery, Madison Bear Garden, Moms and the Pour House.

Chico Nightlife

Chico is a college town, so the bars and the nightlife are plenty. Our first night we bar hopped a little bit hitting up places like Argus and the Bear (Madison Bear Garden). On our second night, we wanted to get a little country and spend all night at the Crazy Horse Saloon. If there is one thing Chico doesn’t lack, its bars. And since it was also Cinco de Mayo, there were drinks specials and people everywhere. It might not be your traditional bachelorette party destination (everyone thought we were celebrating a birthday), but it should be. It has everything you want minus the hefty price tag.

Depending on what time of year you go, or how much time you have to spend, floating the Sacramento River and exploring Bidwell park are other activities I recommend. In early May, the weather is basically perfect, but it can get quite hot in the summer, so anything in or near the water is always encouraged. Have you ever been to Chico for a bachelorette party? What did you think? Tell me in the comments below.

Until next time….

Cheers!

Keelie

A Mammoth Sized Adventure

Thinking of heading down to Mammoth California for some late spring skiing? Watch my video and get all the details to make your trip an epic one!

Mammoth is a popular destination for folks in the LA area, but if you live in Reno, it’s really just a 3-hour jaunt down the road. This place is also a Mecca for outdoor enthusiasts and offers something year-round. When I first envisioned our trip to Mammoth on Memorial Weekend, I was picturing us skiing, hiking, fishing, hot springing and I even considered bringing my bike or paddle board. However, Mother Nature blessed us with the snowiest May on record, and it kind of turned into your typical winter ski trip, but that’s okay.

No matter the direction you’re coming from, the drive down Hwy 395 is a pretty one. You’ve got the high-desert landscape on one side and the snow-capped Sierras on the other. Coming down from Reno, you’ve got some awesome vista points like Bridgeport, Mono Lake, or even Bodie the Ghost Town if you have time for a detour.

I highly recommend you take the June Lake Loop on your way to Mammoth. It’s about 25 minutes north of Mammoth Lakes and 15 mins south of Lee Vining. The loop is 15 miles long and will take you past alpine lakes, hiking trails, waterfalls in the springtime, a ski resort in the winter and a brewery.

We had originally planned to camp during our Mammoth adventure, but since there was snow on the forecast, we booked an Airbnb instead. It was a cute little condo right in the middle of town and about 7 minutes from the mountain.

When exploring the Eastern Sierra, definitely add Brewery Hopping to your list. I already mentioned June Lake Brewery on the June Lake Loop, but in Mammoth Lakes, there is Black Doubt Brewing and Mammoth Brewing Company. Mammoth Brewing Company recently joined forces with Great Basin in Reno, I’m curious to see if they start bringing any of the Great Basin beers down south.

Hot Springs is another must do. Most of them are near the airport. I always like to refer readers to Travel Nevada’s Hot Spring Etiquette. This is a fun and free way to enjoy nature, and we want to make sure the Hot Springs stay that way. If you found the Hot Spring on google maps and it was easy to get to, it will probably be crowded. Some of the springs in Mammoth comes with multiple pools and can accommodate a crowd of people. Even with the people, the views are gorgeous and the water is warm, so make your way to an Eastern Sierra Hot Spring.

And then there is the big reason everyone heads down to Mammoth Lakes – Mammoth Mountain. This mountain is gigantic, and it always stays open late into the spring with a base at over 7,000 ft and a summit over 11,000 ft. The mountain has over 23 chair lifts and 3500 acres of skiable terrain. We went for one (epic) spring day, and only got a taste of the mountain. With all the recent snowfall the conditions were amazing, and we essentially had the resort to ourselves (comparably).

Coming from Reno we have a lot of ski resorts within driving distance of our home, but we had such a good time in Mammoth Lakes, I know we will be planning a trip back soon. Have you been to Mammoth before? What was your experience like? Tell me in the comments below or tweet me at keeliecox5.

Until next time…

Cheers!

Keelie