Our Visit to Oregon’s Painted Hills

Have you ever been to the Painted Hills in Oregon? We have now been there twice. The first time though, it was about 100 degrees outside and we really couldn’t spend too much time outside enjoying the view. The second time though, wow. This past weekend, we got the chance to visit the Painted Hills when the weather was just right. 60 degrees and sunny!

We have had a very stressful couple of weeks and my hubby decided that the family needed a break from it all. He told us to pack our bags because we were headed to Central Oregon (my favorite place!) for the weekend. Some of our very best friends live in Prineville and they graciously invited us to stay with them for our trip, which was awesome! We love to spend time visiting with them and since we planned to do a little tourist-ing while we were there we didn’t have to worry about invading their space too much. What was that tourist-ing we were planning? Well, our second trip to Painted Hills, of course! Painted Hills is about 1 hour and 12 minutes east of Prineville, so it was a bit of a drive, but well worth it since we were already that close!

Where is it?

For those that don’t know, Painted Hills, is part of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument which is located in Wheeler County, Oregon. Wheeler county is one the least populated county in Oregon and as such there is lots of wide open spaces, the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument included. There are over 3000 acres included in this monument and the Painted Hills are listed as one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon. Painted Hills got its name from the many layers of colorful rock which corresponds to different geographical eras in which they were created.

Here is a breakdown by color:

Black – This is lignite that was once vegetative matter

Grey – Mudstone, Shale & Siltstone

Red – Laterite Soil (formed by floodplain deposits)

Painted Hills are a very important geological area due to the abundance of fossil remains of camels, horses, and rhinoceroses.

Another important note is that Painted Hills was considered the premier location to witness the 2017 Eclipse as it featured over two full minutes of totality.

While There

To get to the main viewpoint for Painted Hills you must walk up a one half mile trail that features several benches along the way. This photo shows what you will see from this viewpoint. You are highly encouraged to not veer off of the trail due to the sensitive soil within the monument.

little rebel

There are several other trails there at the monument. Sadly, we have only done the 1/2 mile hike to the viewpoint. I mentioned earlier how hot it was the first time we visited and this time I had completely forgotten to bring the stroller for our toddler. We had to carry him the last 1/4 mile on the 1 mile round trip hike and I didn’t think he could handle any more walking. That being said, I will definitely return again soon to try out the other hiking trails!

You guys! I literally cannot describe the beauty that is Painted Hills. I have been to the Grand Canyon before and I truly believe that the views here rival that of the Grand Canyon. The colors are like no other that you have seen before and when surrounded by the magnificent backdrop of a beautiful blue sky, you will be amazed at what nature can do.

If you are in Oregon or you are planning a trip here soon, I highly suggest you take a long road trip and head on out to Wheeler County to check out Painted Hills. The drive is beautiful and the destination is well, well worth it!

Take a Budget-Friendly Vegas Vacation with These Tips

So, for the first time ever, my husband and I went on a vacation.  To clarify, we live in Oregon near the beach so we have taken lots of beach trips, camping trips, etc., but I am talking about a real vacation with just the two of us, out of state.  We have been married for over 20 years and we finally decided that enough was enough and it was time. So, with another couple, we booked a Vegas vacation.  A budget-friendly one at that!  I always thought that a vacation like this would cost us thousands of dollars, but let me tell you my friends, we took the entire 5 day trip for just under $1500!  Plus, I made some really costly errors that could have saved over $100.

We have actually already scheduled and booked Vegas vacation #2 and this one looks to be even cheaper!

Here are my favorite tips and tricks for how to book a budget-friendly Vegas vacation:

Use a travel site

I have found significant savings by using travel sites such as Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, etc.  Use the package feature to save money by grouping your flights and hotels together.

Book 90 days out

I have been researching and testing it out for a while and it is true that to save the most money, you should book 90 days out.  I have found savings of nearly 50% when I book at the 90-day mark.  See my screenshot example below of Travelocity deals.  I decided to stick with the Luxor for each trip, which is a great hotel and casino.  The lower price is 90 days out, while the higher price is 114 days out.  This price is per person and as you can see it is a $150 difference between the two dates!  That means $300 in savings per couple!

Fly out on Wednesday

Wednesday flights seem to be almost always less expensive than flights on any other day of the week, so do what you can to be sure that your vacation starts on a Wednesday.

Use the tram

There are 3 trams in Vegas, all of which are free.  These trams allow you to travel throughout the strip to various casinos.  The trams run every 5-10 minutes, which means you never have to wait long. We used the tram quite a few times during our stay and loved it.  Not only was it free, but it was convenient.  Plus, we met lots of fun people while on it, including an adorable Australian couple who had just gotten married and were enjoying all of the free drinks.  Here are the tram options:

  • Bellagio Hotel/City Center/Monte Carlo Hotel tram connects the center and South Strip. This tram runs every ten minutes from 8 a.m. to 4 a.m.
  • Mirage Hotel/Treasure Island Hotel tram runs every 10 minutes from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. (til 3 a.m. Fri & Sat) in the Center Strip.
  • Excalibur Hotel/Luxor Hotel/Mandalay Bay Hotel tram runs every 5 minutes from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. (til 3:00 a.m. Fri to Sun) from stations in front of these hotels.

Buy a bus pass

If you are planning on staying on the strip throughout your visit but you want to travel beyond the casinos that the tram goes to, you can buy a 3-day full access bus pass for $20.  This will get you anywhere you need to go!

Use Uber or Lyft

If you are traveling somewhere beyond the strip, you may want to give Uber or Lyft a try.  Skip the taxi though, because they are spendy!  We took an Uber from Mandalay Bay to Fremont street and it cost us like $11.  Super cheap and we rode in a sweet car which was very comfortable for us all.  Plus, if you are new to Uber, you can get a credit toward your first ride. Our friends were Uber pros, but we had never used it before, so I signed up while there and got our ride to the airport for free.

Check out Groupon

Groupon is a great way to save money throughout the country, and Vegas is no exception.  We used Groupon to save on a couple of restaurant deals to cut down on our food costs while we were there.

Don’t forget your incidentals

Okay, this is what I was telling you about.  I completely forgot our bathroom bag at home.  So we went with no toothbrushes, no toothpaste, and no razors or shaving cream.  We simply cannot go 5 days without those things so I had to buy them in Vegas.  I don’t know if you realize this or not, but this type of stuff in Vegas is not cheap.  For 2 toothbrushes, 1 tiny toothpaste, 2 single blade razors and a tiny can of shaving cream we spent over $50, I’m not even kidding about this.  I was so angry with myself.  Also, I had bought a cheap luggage set at Walmart that broke on our flight over so we had to pay $40 on a new suitcase while there (I shopped at the 3-story Ross Dress for Less for this), but had I just had a better suitcase this wouldn’t have happened.  I have since bought a nice, sturdy set for our next trip.  These little mistakes cost me nearly $100!

Buy Snacks and Drinks at Convenience Stores or Drugstores

One thing I learned from vacationing in Las Vegas is that the drinks there are not cheap.  If you plan to drink while there, consider going to the drug store (there are several Walgreens stores on the strip) and buying any drinks or snacks that you may want while there.  Many drinks cost over $20 each so I assure you, you will save money doing it this way.  You can also shop at the discount liquor store that is on the South end of the strip.  I didn’t go in there, but I hear that the deals are pretty good.

Don’t Gamble

Okay, we went to Vegas knowing that we are just not gamblers, so this probably helped us with our budget, but for the 4 of us, we spent exactly $1 gambling the entire time in Vegas.  It was me and it was only so I could say that “I gambled in Vegas” silly, right?  But hey…I did it.  To each their own, we just don’t like to give our money away, so not gambling was a huge way that we were able to save money.  There is so much to do in Vegas besides gambling.

Well, my friends, these are some of the ways that I have found to save money on a Vegas vacation!  How about you?  Have you taken a trip to Las Vegas before?  Did you spend a lot?  What ways did you find to save?

 

 

10 Free (or low cost) Things to Do in Oregon

I love Oregon, don’t you?  Yeah, the rain gets old, but it makes for some really great landscapes.  One of my favorite things about Oregon is how many things there are to do here, many of which are free or very low cost.  My family and I are outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy hiking and time on the water, both of which are pretty cheap activities.  We don’t stop there though, we love experiencing all of the activities that Oregon has to offer.

If you live in Oregon, or if you are planning to visit soon, check out this list of 10 free (or low cost) things to do in Oregon and find yourself something great to do this spring break or summer vacation.

  1. The Beach.  I have lived in Oregon my entire life (save for a couple of years I lived in Texas when I was young), and I just recently learned that in many other states you have to pay to go to the beach?!  Is this true?  I have never in my life paid to go to the ocean, I’ve never even paid for parking to go on to the beach.  If you live in Oregon and haven’t visited the beach, I implore you to do so at the first opportunity.  We have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world here. Bring a sweatshirt though!  It can get windy on these beaches.
  2. Silver Creek Falls.  For just a nominal parking fee, you can check out some of Oregon’s most beautiful waterfalls.  You can complete the 7+ mile hike and view all 10 waterfalls, or you can walk among the shorter, easier trails and view just some of them.  Plus, at the main park, there are plenty of picnic tables available and a great family-friendly swimming hole. This is one of my favorite places in Oregon to visit.
  3. Salem’s Riverfront Carousel.  The Riverfront Carousel in Salem is a non-profit attraction.  It is also very unique to Oregon in that all of the characters on the carousel were handcrafted and made with the theme of symbols important to Oregon.  Additionally, all of the carousel animals have been sponsored by people and companies that are local to the area. The carousel costs just $1.50 per ride.
  4. Mt. Hood.  Yeah, it is going to cost money to ski or snowboard at Mt. Hood, but you can take a drive to visit and see some amazing views of this beautiful mountain.
  5. Water play.  Kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding are all wildly popular activities in Oregon.  If you already have the equipment, these activities are super cheap and Oregon is full of awesome lakes that you can park at for free and spend your day on the water.
  6. Jamison Square.  Jamison Square is a park in the Pearl District that is located in the middle of high rise condominiums.  There is a fun tiered fountain that runs non-stop that is a blast for the kids to play in, plus there are tables available for picnics or just to relax for us grown-ups.
  7. First Thursdays of Portland.  If you are in the Portland area, First Thursdays of Portland is a great event to attend if you enjoying visiting local artists and vendors.   At this event you will find booths featuring artwork, food, wine and beer tastings and more.  The vendors charge, of course, but you can see a lot of local flair for free just by walking around.  This event happens monthly, on the first Thursday.
  8. Oregon Zoo.  On the second Tuesday of each month, the Oregon Zoo offers discount days.  On these discount days, it costs just $5 for admission to the zoo.  If you have never been before, the Oregon Zoo is amazing.  On our recent visit with a family member from out of town, they commented on how beautiful our zoo is compared to other zoos throughout the country.
  9. Brewery and distillery tours.  Okay, so this one isn’t exactly child-friendly, but this is a fun way to spend a date night or day out with your spouse or friends.  Oregon is a treasure trove of breweries, distilleries and wineries and most tours are free.
  10. Tillamook Cheese Factory.  Tillamook Cheese is well known throughout the country for being among the best cheese and you can actually watch it being made!  The Tillamook Cheese Factory opens their doors for free tours where you can watch cheese and ice cream being made.  They also offers lots of free samples of their cheese varieties.  As of this date of this post (early 2018), their visitor center is closed because they are building a new one that is scheduled to be opened later this year.

What are your favorite things to do in Oregon when you are on a budget?

 

Our Camp 18 Experience

Over the last couple of years we have been trying to do a lot of traveling on a budget.  That means that we have been taking a lot of local/semi local road trips and exploring the super awesome stuff that Oregon has to offer.  I plan to talk about some of our many adventures, so I figured why not start with Camp 18 Restaurant.

We took a small trip to Seaside this week and we had a blast, but we were wanting to explore outside of the area as well and my in-laws had recommended that we go to Camp 18 Restaurant.

Camp 18 Restaurant is logging themed restaurant located on Hwy 26 which connects Portland to Seaside.  It took us about 25 minutes to get from Seaside to the restaurant.  Camp 18 is located in a Log Cabin Style structure that is amazing in itself.  It was built in the 70’s by Gordon Smith and features authentic materials such as an 85 foot (4 foot in diameter) ridgepole that is the largest that you will find throughout the country.  It is simply amazing.  We couldn’t stop looking at it throughout our meal.

Our meal, oh my goodness, where to begin.  My son and I each ordered a cheeseburger.  They were absolutely delicious and so much food.  My one complaint is that they were messy!  The fries were cooked just right, not too greasy or salty.  My husband had the clubhouse sandwich, which was probably the best one I have ever tasted (he shared a bite with me).  My daughter ordered the biscuits and gravy breakfast (served until 2) and they came out with 2 plates of food for her!  The biscuits and gravy on one plate; eggs, bacon and sausage on the other and she ate every last bite.  I didn’t taste her food, but she says it was delicious.

The food prices were pretty much what I expected.  For the 4 of us to eat (baby doesn’t get his own meals yet), it was around $50 with drinks.

The adorable little old ladies at the table next to us had one of the famous cinnamon rolls delivered to them once their meal was done and wow!  The one cinnamon roll took up the entire plate and it smelled delish!  We were too full to even consider it, but I can’t say that we will pass next time.

The outside of the restaurant was almost as exciting as the restaurant itself.  They have lots of authentic and antique logging equipment, train cars, etc.  They even have a little hiking trail.  Luckily we went on a beautiful day in May so we got to stroll around and check everything out and even went hiking. 🙂 (okay, it’s only 3/10 of a mile, but it’s beautiful!).

If you are traveling from Portland to Seaside, definitely consider stopping by and if you are going to be in the Seaside area, head East and have fun!