Best of The Best: Big Bend, Texas

Best of The Best: Big Bend, Texas by Mandy Seymour

If you are looking to enjoy a wilderness camping and hiking trek to the Texas frontier, we recommend visiting Big Bend.  

If driving from Houston, we recommend the following route: Houston to San Antonio, Texas to  Marfa, Marfa to Prada-Marfa, Marfa to Big Bend Ranch State Park, Big Bend Ranch State Park to Big Bend National Park, Big Bend National Park to Enchanted Rock State Park and Trois Estate near Fredricksberg, Texas and Fredericksburg, TX to Houston, TX.  This route will add an extra hour to your itinerary at the end but it is well worth it!

San Antonio, Texas

A visit to San Antonio, Texas offers a festive and iconic gateway to West Texas and gets the trip off to a great start.  We recommend visiting The Riverwalk, The Historic Market Square, and eating at Mi Tierra.  Mi Tierra is a delicious Mexican restaurant offering scrumptious fare in a colorful and vibrant setting.

Marfa, Texas

Marfa, Texas is a Texas frontier town which is both historic and artsy.  Maria’s courthouse is a stately building in the center of town. Hotel Paisano is an iconic hotel which features a memorable restaurant, gift shop and the setting for the movie Giant.  The hotel has a stately heir and is fairly expensive.  On the other extreme, campers may stay at El Cosmico for $30/night.  We visited El Cosmico and found the actual campground and facilities are presented as clean, freshly painted and bursting with excitement but during our actual in-person visit, El Cosmico was dingy, run down, and not what it seems.  The staff was not hospitable, friendly or even faintly welcoming.  We did enjoy the hot coffee and warm fire in the lobby in the morning.  But we do not recommend a stay at El Cosmico.  Although marketed as a magical and enchanting place, it is not.  And even more concerningly, it lacks virtue and is not a venue we would recommend.

Prada Marfa

Prada Marfa is a contemporary art statement 30 miles outside of Marfa, Texas near Valentine, Texas.  Artists built this artwork project to make a statement against consumerism.  But due to instagram-worthy places, it has become an internet sensation.  You will drive through remote wilderness to get there.  But a visit is worth it because it’s an unusual, stand-alone experience that adds to the uniqueness of your frontier wilderness experience.

Big Bend Ranch State Park

We visited both Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park.  We enjoyed both greatly and recommend visiting both.  We highly recommend starting with a visit to Big Bend Ranch State Park.  It is an unfettered wilderness with austere, daunting mountains, a wide and expansive terrain, scenic drive, and desert-frontier wilderness solitude.  It is more remote and less developed than Big Bend National Park.  That is part of its appeal.

We stayed at the Grassy Banks Campground which has primitive campsites located on desert sand hemmed in by a mountain range.  The terrain is isolated, quiet and offers a great place to view the stars.  We enjoyed walking through the soft sand and experiencing the stillness and wonder of this remote area.  It was one of our most favorite campgrounds because it is what we most imagined Big Bend would be like.

When traveling from Marfa, Texas to Big Bend Ranch State Park, we recommend stopping in Presidio for a meal at The Bean Cafe.  The Bean Cafe serves authentic Mexican food that is local to the region.  They have delicious horchata, cheese enchiladas, Chile rellenos, and tres leches.  The owners and waitstaff are some of the most hospitable and friendliest, most welcoming people we met on our entire wilderness trek.  We look forward to eating there again when we are passing through.

En route to the campsite, there are several exquisite hikes such as the Hoodoo trail.  They are worth a visit.

Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park is a vast wilderness where the Rio Grande runs wild and free and is federally protected.  This park features the Rio Grande at its best.  In some other towns along the Texas-Mexican border, the Rio Grande is fairly muddy and wide.  Here, it is clearer, calmer and extremely scenic and peaceful (on a dry day, although things can change when flooding occurs).  

We visited three of the park’s main areas: Rio Grande Village, Cottonwood Campground, and the Chisos Mountains.  We also enjoyed a dip in the hot springs (105 degrees) and a swim in the river there.  

Rio Grande Village

Rio Grande Village is an enchanting campground where campers and local animals coexist on the campground, including free-ranging cattle and packs of javalena.  Cattle and javalena happily grazed right next to our tents.  We enjoyed a guided nature hike which we found helpful to acquaint us with the area.  While we were on the hike, we heard a bobcat capture its prey and we saw Mexican horses and vaqueros riding across the park.  Rio Grande Village’s nature trail leads to an embankment which offers a view across the Rio Grande and also Boquillos.  It is a great place to view the stars at night and to also capture photos of the iconic Rio Grande at sunset.

Rio Grande Village has a grocery store where you can get gas, a larger selection of souvenirs than elsewhere in the park, and various basic amenities.  The visitor center is nearby as well.

Cottonwood Campground

Cottonwood Campground is open seasonally.  It is on the west side of the park and is 7 miles from the Santa Elena canyon.  It is a quiet campground with less amenities than the Rio Grande Village campground.  We enjoyed the peace and tranquility of looking at the mountains there and having a short drive to the Santa Elena Canyon.  The Cottonwood trees are beautiful and there are pretty yellow-flowering trees as well.  A short drive up the hill, you will find a grocery store and a park office.  The grocery store has some basic and minimal necessities as well as delicious Mexican popsicles.  The park visitor’s center is very small at the Cottonwood Campground.

Chisos Mountains

The Chisos Mountains are definitely worth a visit.  Campsites fill up 6 months in advance and are hard to come by.  There is also a rustic lodge and restaurant.  However, we found that the cost of the lodge is expensive for such basic accommodations and the restaurant is very expensive as well so if you are not camping, your expenses can add up quickly but may not match the value you receive for what you pay.

We recommend hiking the loop (1.8 miles) as it gives an exquisite view of the infamous Window, a view of the distant mountain range hemmed in by two closer mountains and offers a different hiking terrain experience, including local trees, forest, cactus and mountains.  Hiking in Rio Grande Village and Cottonwood Campground is more of a desert land and includes striking canyons and breathtaking views of the vast wilderness.

Regarding choosing a campsite, you will need to pay close attention to whether the site is easily accessible or requires four-wheel drive.  We drove a sedan and found that even the road going to the hot springs was a little rough.  

Enchanted Rock State Park

We recommend driving from Big Bend National Park to Enchanted Rock State Park near Fredericksburg, Texas.  It is well worth a visit and offers a culminating contrast to the previous hiking and camping terrain due to the pink granite rock landscape.  At first when you arrive to the park, the batholith appears to be a large granite dome and you think to yourself, “How interesting can hiking this be?”  But when you get closer, you find that every nook, cranny, crevice, and trail is an adventure in itself and there are many of them so the rock formation is not as plain as it seems.  Camping here offers a very pleasant experience because it is not  dirt-sandy but rather the terrain is made from crushed granite rather than fine sand or mud.  

All of these parks are known as dark sky parks, recommended places to see the stars with greater viewing than in cities or towns.  Over the years, we have found this classification is helpful but not always precise, as in some places there is still a haze of light from neighboring cities or RVs or campers themselves.  But most campers try to abide by the dark sky advisory rules, such as using a red flashlight instead of a white one and turning off lights at a certain hour.

Trois Estate

If you are looking for a luxurious place to have a final night to culminate your frontier adventure, we recommend Trois Estate.  Trois Estate offers several accommodations and lodging with West-Texas flair combined with a New Mexico pink adobe feel.  The estate’s owner, Rebecca Trois, is the consummate hostess and receives many repeat visitors who eagerly anticipate a stay here. Trois Estate hosts a dinner buffet and breakfast buffet.  In addition to an outdoor swimming pool and a unique indoor grotto pool and chapel, the estate has a viewing platform where you can enjoy looking at Enchanted Rock or stargazing or reading in the tranquility of this peaceful and restorative place.

Enchanted Rock and Trois Estate are located near Fredericksburg, Texas.  Fredericksburg, Texas is a small Texas town worth a visit.  The downtown area has many shops, some restaurants and a West-Texas/German feel to it.  

Houston, Texas

It takes about 6 hours to get back to Houston, Texas from Fredericksburg, Texas

Big Bend is Texas’ wild wilderness and border frontier.  In our experience, it was a pristine, safe and family-friendly wilderness.  

When we did our initial research for this wilderness expedition, I asked a park ranger at Big Bend Ranch State Park if they have many issues with migrant traffic or cartels.  She said they do not because the mountain range is a daunting 8,000 feet above sea level, so it is an inhospitable route for anyone wanting to cross.

We saw Mexican residents who lived in the town of Boquillos cross back and forth several times on horseback to round up their horses who were grazing in the National Park.  Mexican nationals sell handicrafts and homemade Mexican food along the National Park trails which are available for purchase.  The National Park Rangers explained to us that the border is a place of commingling of cultures and nations at Big Bend who are trying to protect the resources of the area with an alliance between two amazing nations.

Cypress Valley

If you are looking for a “best of the best” place to stay during the Winter in the Texas Hill Country area, we recommend the Yoki Treehouse at Cypress Valley.

The Yoki Treehouse is a spa-like modern-chic cabin in a rustic setting.  It is magical, enchanting and tranquility among the trees!

We especially enjoyed our stay in the Yoki Treehouse at Cypress Valley because it was spa-serene.  We awoke to birds singing and enjoyed delicious locally roasted Cuvée coffee on the treehouse balcony.  We relaxed and rejuvenated inside the high-ceiling livingroom on a comfortable couch in front of a gas fireplace looking out at the clear water creek below.  

We luxuriated in a great night’s sleep in the king-sized bedroom with cozy, soft sheets, comfort bedding and  gigantic bison portrait overhead.

When we saw the room photos and amenities online before our stay, we were intrigued why the lodge chose a bison theme in the room.  It turns out that the family actually has raised a herd of bison for many years and they are on property.  Currently the family has 13 bison and even bison babies in the Springtime.  You may get to see them occasionally when they are grazing near the fence on the 100 acre woodland.

We enjoyed a wonderful stay, prized quality time, and the rejuvenation of nature.  Each room is filed with aromatherapy which immediately gave us a sense of being in a spa overnight.  

The bathhouse is across a sturdy trundle bridge.  It is a serene spa in itself, featuring a therapeutic cedar infused environment with a natural stone heated soaking pool which looks out on the trees.

Once we nestled in, we didn’t want to leave.  It’s a place you wish you could stay for days.  It is definitely best of the best.  We look forward to our stay here again!

The property also hosts a wedding and events venue which is mesmerizing, magical and special against a natural backdrop.

Guests may also stay at the glamping village in tents that are fully furnished.  The family has provided a truly glamping-luxurious bathroom with substantial, clean and refreshing shower and bath accommodations.

We highly recommend Cypress Valley as the “best of the best” for any Winter wilderness experience you are looking for.  It is especially known for its natural, verdant beauty in the Spring, Summer and Fall when the leaves are on the trees.  It is a wonderful place for any time and any occasion.

Please let us know when you visit.  We hope you enjoy your stay as much as we did!

Mandy and the team at Best Rated Reviews


Christmas in Historic Montgomery

Christmas in Historic Montgomery is a festive and memorable holiday event for the whole family!  Each year in December, The Montgomery Historical Society hosts Christmas in Historic Montgomery to showcase the magnificent history and heritage of this wonderful town.

The day begins with the Christmas Parade in the morning.  In 2023, the city focused on the “Twelve Days of Christmas”.  Citizens made colorful floats, marching bands played jubilant music, and many local people, groups, and students participated.

The Montgomery Historical Society hosts the holiday marketplace, annual cookie walk, and candlelight tour throughout the day.

The holiday marketplace features 70 venders who display unique and commemorative arts and crafts.  It is a great place to do some holiday shopping and find one-of-a-kind gifts!  

The Monarch chapter of the National Charity League hosts the Annual Cookie Walk.  Mothers and daughters bake delicious homemade and ornamentally-decorated cookies for months to prepare for this special day.  The Cookie Walk is held in the community center.  Local residents and visitors wait in a long line in anticipation to get to be among the first to enter this festive cookie wonderland!

While patrons wait for the long-anticipated Cookie Walk to open, they are serenaded by Montgomery’s top talent, The Madrigals.  The Madrigals are students who beautifully sing classic Christmas songs, carols and other holiday music.  Their beautiful voices fill the air and waft across the entire event throughout the morning and early afternoon.

Visitors can enjoy hearty Texan-Southern fare at The Old Montgomery Steakhouse.  Portions are generous and the food is very flavorful.  They have culinary options for all kinds of palates.  We enjoyed chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and green beans, a delicious Cobb salad, Texas-sized onion rings, and having a glimpse into the watering hole of the community as we dined.

During the day, we learned about the intriguing and impactful history of Montgomery from Dr. Robin Montgomery, one of the area’s leading scholars and a humble yet prominent connection to the rich legacy of the Montgomery family through the years.  Ms. Montgomery is very devoted to history as well.  They both have a twinkle in their eye.  Dr. Montgomery hosted guests that evening at the day’s crowning event, the Historic Homes Candlelight Tour.

Residents open their historic homes which  feature layers and layers of fascinating history.  Locals volunteer and help history come alive by wearing historic attire and sharing captivating stories about the enduring history of Montgomery, Texas, the birthplace of the Texas flag!

The Magnolia House has a very rich history.  Sam Houston stayed there often when he was in town.  The current owner has preserved the integrity of the house as well as many of its substantial furnishings – which were shopped from New York to Galveston in the 1800s and then carried by wagon to Montgomery, Texas.  Yes, the owner, Mr. Willis, purchased an entire household of furniture in New York and had it shipped.

He was a mercantile trader.  He played an instrumental role by establishing Montgomery as a trading post.  Montgomery is also the birthplace of the Texas Flag.  

December 2023 marked the 46th year of the Candelight Tour and the 33rd year of the Cookie Walk.  

We especially enjoyed visiting Montgomery, Texas because life here reminded us of a nostalgic era of times gone by when people took time to stop and talk to one another, enjoy their community, friends, and work with more depth while at the same time having a more relaxed pace, less stress, but still leading a highly successful and productive life.  In short, we really enjoyed the pace of life and the candor of the people of Montgomery.  And if you are looking to buy gifts for loved ones this holiday season, Montgomery has antique stores, clothing stores, and giftware in addition to great people!

We highly recommend a visit to Montgomery, Texas during the Historic Christmas in Montgomery or any time throughout the year, really. We are thankful for the volunteers and many others who make this day a day to remember!

Montgomery, Texas is only a 1-hour drive from Houston, Texas and makes a great day trip or staycation!

Rating: 5 Stars!  Best of the best!

Find out more at

Cinderella with Theater Under The Stars

If you are looking for an enchanted evening during the holidays, we recommend Cinderella.  Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella, presented by Theater Under The Stars.  

Cinderella is portrayed by Brianna Kaleen. The Prince ( Christopher) is portrayed by Jason Schmidt. The cast sings, dances and acts in a masterful production featuring top talent.  If you are looking for a family-friendly event during the holidays, we recommend Cinderella. 

Cinderella as a musical features many dazzling musical numbers.  We especially enjoyed and were moved by, “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?”  The prince and Cinderella take turns singing, “Do I love you because you’re beautiful?  Or are you beautiful because I love you?”  

We especially enjoy when a musical or other performance focuses on deep, beautiful and profound moments and questions to ponder like these.  They make our hearts sing!  And say, “Awwwww!” That is the beauty of Cinderella.  It is truly a story that anyone can relate to and dream of.  Theatre Under The Stars puts on a masterful production in their 2023-2024 season.

Cinderella takes place at The Hobby Center, which offers an elegant and memorable experience all its own.  Theater patrons can enjoy concessions in the lobby before and during the show.  The theater goers who attend are friendly, enthusiastic and upbeat, so it makes for a very enjoyable evening! The Hobby Center also has easy, ample parking.

To find out more, visit

The Nutcracker Ballet In Houston, Texas

The Nutcracker Ballet in Houston, Texas by the Houston Ballet will enchant and delight the whole family for years to come!  Houston Ballet’s annual performance of The Nutcracker Ballet is one of the most dazzling, magical versions of The Nutcracker you will ever see!    

To start your evening off in magical wonder, you can catch a lighted carriage ride in Downtown Houston.  When you arrive inside The Wortham Center, you can take a classic family holiday photo in front of one of the tallest, most bedazzled Christmas trees in Houston.

The Wortham Center lobby is filled with all kinds of memorable souvenirs and also hosts a gourmet pasta and salad dining experience before the show.  Patrons can also enjoy champagne and desserts while they wait.

The Wortham Theater stage is decorated in the finest regalia of the year. A beautiful golden frame filled with satiated cherubs adorns the stage around the stately red curtain.  

When the Houston Ballet Orchestra plays the first notes, the audience is hushed in awe of the glorious splendor of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece.  Clara, masterfully played by Monica Gomez, delivers a first-rate performance.  The Nutcracker Prince, regally played by Connor Walsh, enchants every heart!  Aoi Fujiwara dances beautifully as the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Clara and The Sugar Plum Fairy make every little girl want to become a ballerina by their spellbinding performances!  

The orchestra plays the perfect rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker.  The costumes and the set are both magical and memorable as well!  And the entire cast in The Nutcracker presented by Houston Ballet is truly the “best of the best!”

We especially enjoyed the enthralling Spanish, Arabian, Chinese, Russian, Danish, English and French dances in Act II.  At one point during the performance, snow falls from the ceiling and sparkle confetti showers the audience at the end!

Rating: 5 Stars!  Absolutely “best of the best!”


Renaissance Festival in Houston, Texas

The Texas Renaissance Festival

The Renaissance Festival is one of Houston’s best-kept secrets.  Located about 45 minutes Northwest of Houston, The Renaissance Festival transports visitors into Medieval times.  Fairies, knights, princesses, and other costume-themed festival-goers fill the landscape with festive revelry, hearty fare, and unique shopping.  The Renaissance Festival also hosts an enchanting garden forest which gives visitors a serene respite and leisurely nature walk away from the crowds.  Camel rides, elephant rides and various children’s rides and games also attract many families looking for unique experiences in Houston, TX.

The Texas Renaissance Festival is fun for all ages!

See photos from the event here:

Rating: 5 stars!  Best of the best!


The Houston Ballet Nutcracker Market

Each year, The Nutcracker Market in Houston, Texas draws 100,000 visitors during it’s annual debut in November.  Merchants and artisans display colorful, festive and desirable gifts, apparel, jewelry gourmet food, and an abundance of holiday-themed items.  If you are looking for the ultimate Christmas-shopping destination in Houston, this is it!  

The Nutcracker Market is full of gifts and other items which glitter, sparkle, shine, and draw any shopper to a feast of wonders and delights.  

When we were planning to visit The Nutcracker Market for the first time, my daughter wisely asked me, “Mom, what’s your budget?”  I gave her an estimate.  “You know there will be sparkly things there, right?” she said.  She is savvy and astute because it’s so true!  The Nutcracker Market is a holiday shopper’s paradise!  It is the “best of the best” in holiday shopping.

The Houston Ballet Nutcracker Market presents a wide array of all-things-Christmas as well! If you want to have a special day with your daughter, a shopping outing with the girls, or a family shopping extravaganza for the holidays, this is the event for you!

The Nutcracker Market draws visitors of all kinds.  It is a wonderful Mama-daughter holiday event which can become a cherished tradition for years to come!  

The Nutcracker Market is presented by The Houston Ballet prior to its annual run of The Nutcracker Ballet.  Find out more about The Houston Ballet Nutcracker Market and The Houston Ballet Nutcracker at

Best of The Best: The Pacific Northwest – Washington State

Best of The Best: The Pacific Northwest

If you are looking for one of the most pristinely beautiful destinations for hiking and camping, we recommend the Pacific Northwest.  

The Pacific Northwest contains some of the most iconic natural beauty the United States has to offer.  We spent 12 days hiking and camping in Washington State.  It was one of the best travel experiences we have ever had.

What we loved most about it is that we were immersed in the beauty of nature in a landscape that was truly vibrant, pristine wilderness, and contained an abundant variety of picturesque natural beauty.

One of the questions we always have before we visit a place is, “Does it really look like the pictures we see online?  Or did someone photoshop it to make it look better or more beautiful or more colorful than it really is?”

We have traveled many places.  We have found that sometimes travel sites will market a beautiful beach but you get there and the water is not clear and turquoise blue or the forest is not vibrant green.  In the Pacific Northwest, it’s different.  These colors are true!  And we pride ourselves on taking authentic, actual pictures.  So what you see really is how it looks!  

One of the places I was most surprised in my travels is Antelope Canyon.  People have always photoshopped it!  The canyon looks very drab and is not vibrant in real life the way it is in pictures.  But as I said, regarding the Pacific Northwest, it really is vibrant and colorful!

We visited Olympic National Park, North Cascades National Park, and Seattle, Washington and surrounding areas.

Olympic National Park is an ethereal piece of paradise which draws Instagrammers and travelers, alike, for iconic photographable places.  

Olympic National Park is home to Rialto Beach, Hoh Rainforest, Lake Crescent, Shi Shi Beach, and Cape Flattery.  

Rialto Beach

Rialto Beach is reachable by visiting the Mora Campground.  We enjoyed camping at the Mora Campground.  When you hike to Rialto Beach, the coastline is rocky so you will need good water/hiking sandals.  We trudged through medium-sized rocks and occasional water for 1 1/4 miles to reach Rialto Beach from the parking lot.  It is important to know where you started from because if you go to see the sunset, on the way back, all the terrain tends to look similar at dusk and dark.  

Hoh Rainforest

Hoh Rainforest is a temperate rainforest in the Pacific Northwest.  The moss-covered trees and unique tree formations make it surreal and other-worldly.  Hoh Rainforest is highly promoted through marketing and travel and for this reason contained more crowds than any other place we visited.  

Lake Crescent

We especially enjoyed camping at Lake Crescent. Lake Crescent is a gorgeous, clear-water glacier lake with turquoise waters.  We enjoyed a delicious meal and dessert at the lodge there.  We camped at the Fairholme campground.  We originally thought camping in one of the forests would be our favorite camping, but it turns out Fairholme Campground was our favorite.  It offers an exquisite combination of forest camping and glacier lake views.  Our experience there was so peaceful and it offered great respite and renewal for anyone seeking to find a place to be still and take in the wonder of the Pacific Northwest in a beautiful setting.

Shi Shi Beach

Shi She Beach is located in a remote area near Cape Flattery in the Pacific Northwest.  To get there, it is a 12-mile round-trip hike from the parking lot.  We hiked through both dry and then muddy trails for several miles.  When you get to the descent, you will follow a long, steep trail down (and back up).  Once you reach the shore, you will need to hike almost 2 more miles to arrive at Shi Shi Beach.  

We are explaining this because it was not clearly described in most of the travel books and research as well as websites online.  Rather, it makes it seem as if going to Shi Shi is much closer and easier than one would plan or think.  This is important to know because it is a very isolated area and will be very dark on the way back if you get delayed.  All of this is part of the adventure, of course!  But it just requires knowledge and planning for you to have a wonderful adventure without those kinds of unexpected surprises.

We enjoyed experiencing the wonder of Shi Shi, its regal rock formations, immaculate tidepools, and solitude.  We brought a travel picnic along and one of our favorite moments on the hike was sitting on a rock eating our delicious travel picnic and immersing ourselves in the beauty of this pristine and tranquil wilderness.

Cape Flattery

Cape Flattery is located on the Northwest tip of the United States.  It is a place of iconic beauty and requires a fairly short hike to get to the well-developed trails and overlooks.  En route to Cape Flattery, we ate a delicious and hearty breakfast at a restaaurant in the Indian Reservation territory.  We also visited the grocery store – which contains a large totem pole on the outside.  When we camped in Mora campground a few days before, we heard a man a few campsites over conducting a Pow Wow.  It lent to an authentic travel experience in the area for sure!

Sol Duc Falls

We spent the night in Sol Duc Falls and hiked to the various waterfalls.  Sol Duc Falls is a beautiful park and contains a wide variety of flora and fauna.  Deer unabashedly grazed right next to our campsite.  Sol Duc Falls hosts a rustic lodge from the FDR era.  They have thermal waters (which are not in their natural form but rather have been converted to swimming pools).  The facility has showers to rinse off after your dip in the sulphuric thermal waters.  In addition to enjoying the beautiful waterfalls and bright green nature trails, we enjoyed a delicious skillet cookie at the Sol Duc Lodge restaurant!  Desserts are always a delight!  Especially when you get to sit and enjoy them for a refreshing pause after being on the go to fulfill your travel mission!

North Cascades National Park is the Northernmost remote park in the continental United States.  Mountain vistas, glacier lakes, and serene forests adorn this lesser-known wilderness.  We highly recommend it.  The park has a helpful General Store.  We enjoyed breakfast and dessert at a wonderful mountain bakery called 5bs bakery.  Everything is made from scratch.  The chocolate cake was especially decadent and rewarding after our hike through the North Cascades.  

Regarding North Cascades National Park, when you research online, there are articles about how North Cascades National Park is a dangerous park because of the sheer cliffs and remote location.  In our experience, we found it can be just as safe or dangerous as any other park; that often depends on the wisdom of the traveler or hiker.  

On travel safety, if a person takes great care to stay on the marked paths, they will have a greater chance of staying safe when hiking or climbing.  Regarding its remoteness, if you take bear spray, you will be able to defend yourself against bears or other dangers as needed.  In our experience, it was a remote and wonderful park.  We are so glad we visited.  When you read about park accidents or travel accidents anywhere, they are oftentimes the exception, not the norm.  Be smart, safe, and situationally aware and you will more than likely be able to enjoy a very wonderful time at this or any park.

All in all, our trip to the Pacific Northwest Washington State area was one of the best travel experiences we have ever enjoyed.  The region and its parks are truly the “best of the best!”

Rating: 5 stars!  Best!

Information you will need:

Olympic National Park

North Cascades National Park

Lounger DL Chair by Eagles Nest Outfitters

If you are looking for a “best of the best” portable lounge chair for camping, hiking and events, we recommend the Lounger DL Chair by Eagle Nest Outfitters.

The Lounger DL Chair is colorful, compact and comfortable. You can use it on daytrips to the park, camping, festivals and enjoying a leisurely afternoon in your backyard.  

When we tested it, we found that it is sized to comfortably conform to a man’s body shape and height, giving him maximum support.  The chair contains a pouch for your cell phone, sunglasses and wallet.  Kids and families alike enjoy the vibrant colors and relaxing design!

Rating: 3 stars!  Good!

You can find the Lounger DL Chair here by Eagles Nest Outfitters.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Houston Ballet

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, presented by The Houston Ballet, offers an intriguing and other-worldly look into Shakespeare for modernistic times.  The ballet transitions between a classical love theme to an almost sci-fi fairy-forest realm where time seems to stand still while a cacophony of love triangles arise and get sorted out among the various characters.

It is an intricately woven tale of love and woe and love again.  The Houston Ballet dancers perform masterfully and with memorable artistry.  A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs from September 8-17, 2023.

If you are looking for a pre-show dinner, the Houston Ballet offers custom pasta, gourmet bowls, salad, sandwiches and pastries.

Find tickets at

If you are looking for a post-show dinner or dessert, Table 7 Bistro features a wide variety of entrees and desserts.  We highly recommend the Shrimp Carbonara and the homemade carrot cake.  Table 7 Bistro is within a 10-minute walking distance from the theater.  Find out more at