How to Have a Spooky Halloween Adventure

Halloween – The Ultimate Fall Celebration

Carve up your jack o’lanterns!

Boo! Halloween is right around the corner, and people around the world are in the mood for spooky season. Get your costumes ready, decorate your houses, and get ready for all the trick-or-treaters. There’s nothing quite as scary as a bunch of children dressed as Wonder Woman trying to get candy, right?

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Best Places to See Giant Redwoods from San Francisco

Best Places to See Giant Redwoods from San Francisco

Best Places to See Giant Redwoods from San Francisco
Giant Redwoods at Sequoia National Park

For many, seeing Giant Redwoods is the highlight of their trip to San Francisco. And we completely get it! The San Francisco Bay Area is the perfect starting point for visiting these giant trees because there are so many different options within proximity of the city, “but  what are really the best places to see Giant Redwoods from San Francisco? 

The U.S. west coast is home to two species of evergreen redwoods and my guests are always keen to learn about the different types. Now, pay attention! There are the Coastal redwoods and the Giant Sequoia redwoods. Their geographic ranges do not overlap so pick your favorite to visit (or visit both!).

Sequoia National Park

Best Places to See Giant Redwoods from San Francisco
Sign to the entrance of Sequoia National Park, California.

The Giant Sequoias grow inland on mountain ranges or close to them and on elevations of 5,000 to 7,000 feet. They need dry summer heat but also the water from the snowmelt in spring to survive. The Giant Sequoias differ in size and shape from their coastal brothers. They are the bigger one with huge trunks. The most well known in this family is probably the General Sherman tree in Sequoia National Park whose trunk has a circumference of 102 feet (it is only 275 feet tall). It’s estimated weight of 2.7 million pounds makes it the world’s largest living organism. How cool is that?

The Coastal redwoods, however, grow, as the name suggests, along the northern California coast. They need the moist, humid but cool climate that can so often be found here. These types of trees need elevations below 1,000 feet. The tallest coastal redwood tree is the Hyperion tree north of Eureka, CA with 379.7 feet in height. Also, did you know that this type of tree has way softer needles than the bigger brother? Feel them both!

Yosemite National Park

Best Places to See Giant Redwoods from San Francisco
Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias

So, now that you know about the different types you can see from San Francisco, you probably wonder once again, “but what are really the best places” to see them? Well, in our opinion, the best place to see the Giant Sequoias from San Francisco is the Tuolumne Grove in Yosemite National Park. So awesome! Many people don’t know that you can visit Yosemite in just a day from San Francisco (hey, it’s just a 4 hour drive!) and it’s awesome and worth it to gaze up into the canopy of those Giants and don’t think of anything else. Just be aware that the Summer months are super busy in Yosemite and parking to see these wonders of nature might be really difficult. Also, if you are not used to driving that far and that long, including windy mountain roads, you can always join one of the guided tours that travel there few times a week!  Visit the following link for more info

Muir Woods National Monument

Best Places to See Giant Redwoods from San Francisco
Funny men against a Giant Sequoia

But there is also Muir Woods National Monument, just about 1 hour north of San Francisco, which is home to the coastal redwoods. Be aware, parking is even more limited and they are starting to introduce a parking reservation system in 2018 to limit cars into the area even more. If you prefer a more relaxed experience, check one of the Muir Woods Expedition tours! Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride! Visit the following link for more info

Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve

Best Places to See Giant Redwoods from San Francisco
Up close with an old huge Redwood Sequoia tree in a beautiful landscape

Another option to see Coastal Redwoods not too far away from the city, is the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, very popular among locals and tourists and it’s just 2 hours north of San Francisco.

So what are you waiting for?  Find out what makes these Redwood trees so special and unforgettable! Visit the following link for more information:

Things to Love About: Paris

A cruise along the River Seine is a must while visiting Paris, particularly when the city is lit up at night (photo courtesy of {link url=}Wilhelm Lappe{/link})

Paris – the most romantic city in the world, renowned home of the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, haute couture, Edith Piaf, and the Tour de France. For most people, the city is a dream. But for me, it is a little bit more than that: it’s the city where I was born.

My parents were Americans living in Paris when they had me, and after six years decided to return to the U.S. to raise me (and my two siblings) closer to friends and family. For a brief shining moment (or at least a few, defining early years of my life), I was French. C’est vrai!

That was 18 years ago. Now I am a full-fledged American and have forgotten much of what I learned when I was small; I can only speak the French I learned in school. But I haven’t forgotten my origins, and a recent trip to France to visit some family friends reawakened an interest in the fascinating history and culture of the beautiful city where I was born.

I had three weeks to reconnect with the many faces and places of Paris. But you don’t need that long – whether you have a day, or a weekend, or a week, just a handful of Paris experiences will make your visit truly special. And here are a few that are both simple and unforgettable:

A slice of Parisian life at le Jardin du Luxembourg (photo courtesy of Irene Gifford)

1. Taking a walk

There is so much to see in Paris, so many ornate monuments, cathedrals, fountains, parks, and museums, that any trip will just scratch the surface of its many charms. From iconic attractions like the Eiffel Tower, l’Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral, and the Musee d’Orsay, to less well known sites like Sacre-Coeur Basilica, Pere Lachaise Cemetery, la Fontaine de Saint Michel, and countless others, you could spend weeks touring each and every location. Or worse, you could waste much of your valuable time rushing from place to place trying to tick things off of your itinerary. That’s why, to me, a simple stroll is one of the best ways to get to know this gorgeous city. There is nothing like walking down a bustling Parisian boulevard, eating a baguette or crepe that you bought from a street vendor, and admiring the ornate, ancient architecture and beautiful sculpted gardens that you pass. You’ll understand and appreciate their context, intention, and beauty much more moving around them slowly than you would jockeying among crowds trying to get in or passing through on your way somewhere else.

In Paris, eating is a ritual, where conversation is savored along with each course of the meal (photo courtesy of {link url=}Moyan Brenn{/link})

2. Eating the food

If anything is important to the French people, it is their food. In France I had my first taste of duck, enjoyed the simple luxury of a fresh baguette from the local boulangerie every day, as well as sampled a wonderful assortment of cheeses, delicious croissants, pain au chocolat pastries (a personal favorite), wines (I had a glass with nearly every meal), and of course, warm crepes right from the stand. The fruits and vegetables are fresh, the courses are carefully and artistically arranged, the meals are delicious, and the French people take time to enjoy it. Restaurants are filled with more than tourists; Parisians spend long lunch breaks in restaurants and cafes, talking and enjoying each other’s company. Dinner can last for hours, and Parisians savor each course as they discuss the intrigues and issues of the day. The French approach to food represents a different way of life, one in which people celebrate what they have; meals are rituals, rather than something to be rushed through or eaten in front of the television. So grab a seat at a cafe and enjoy!

3. Cruising on the River Seine

A final Parisian experience that is an absolute must is a cruise down the River Seine. The river passes by many ancient and beautiful bridges as well as some of Paris’ most famous attractions, including the Eiffel Tower, Musee d’Orsay, and Notre Dame Cathedral. And at night, the city sparkles as bridges and major sites all along the river are lit, casting colorful, dreamlike reflections on the water. (It isn’t called the “City of Light” for nothing.) All visitors should see the city in this slow, contemplative way – floating, serene, magical.

Paris offers these sorts of experiences and so much more. If you would like to be a bon vivant in Paris – to live a little bit of the French good life, even for a day – TakeTours can get you there. Our vendors offer multiple Paris tours and excursions to acquaint you with this romantic and beautiful city. Or, you can let Paris be your gateway to other countries with one of our flexible European tours. It’s up to you!

Emma Gifford is a full-time college student and a summer intern here at Her favorite travel destinations include Quebec City, Quebec and Paris, France, and she has plans to visit many more exciting places in the future.



Design Your Own European Adventure!

Duomo of Florence, Italy
The Duomo of Florence, Italy {link url=}(photo courtesy of ccblaisdell){/link}

Much of what we hear about Europe in the news these days is similar to what’s going on in the U.S.: currency fluctuation, fears of economic default, political battles. And yet, take a vacation in Europe, and you’d hardly know these troubles exist. Because their cultures have survived far worse events historically than the devaluation of the Euro, most Europeans take such economic turmoil in their stride. The fountains still bubble. Bread is still baked. Wine is still made. Life goes on as it has for decades, and even centuries, in Europe’s cities, towns, and villages, and it’s easy to get lost in the sights, sounds, and flavors of each new country you visit.

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Say Aloha! to Hawaii on Your Next Vacation

Statue in Kona Village, Hawaii
Wooden Statue in Kona Village, Hawaii {link url=}(photo courtesy of tinyfroglet){/link}

It can be easy to think of Hawaii as simply a pretty vacation spot, with white sand beaches, clear blue water, a few volcanoes, and a little hula dancing for the tourists. But beneath its gorgeous exterior, the state of Hawaii has a rich and multilayered culture, with Polynesian, Asian, and European influences and the highest “minority” population of any state in the US (it’s actually a minority-majority!)

So what unifies such a diverse citizenry? It can be summed up in one word: “aloha.” Known in English as a term that means both “hello” and “goodbye,” aloha, in Hawaiian, is much more than a simple greeting; it is a way of life. It refers to a spirit of love and compassion, giving and generosity that defines this friendly, easy-going, gift-giving culture. In a place where all dinners, parties, and luaus are potlucks, where returning with special gifts for friends and family after traveling is customary, and where aromatic leis (garlands) are frequently given to honor visitors and loved ones in times of celebration, it’s no wonder that such a diverse population can knit together. Aloha even pervades the roads – you won’t find any aggressive drivers blaring their horns here! In fact, there is even a law declaring that all citizens abide by the gentle spirit of the ancient Hawaiians.

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