Free Walking Tour | Los Angeles

We’re at it again with another of Jen’s Nearly Famous Walking Tours! This free walking tour of Los Angeles is a 2.6 mile self-guided walk focused on the fun and funky. It includes an art gallery, a quirky book store, some hipster snacks, and a high-tech circus. Get ready to get weird, ya’ll!

Jen’s Funky and Free Walking Tour: Los Angeles

  1. Walt Disney Concert Hall
  2. The Broad
  3. Angels Flight Railway
  4. Grand Central Market
  5. The Last Bookstore
  6. Little Tokyo Galleria Market
  7. Angel City Brewery
  8. The Pie Hole
  9. Two Bit Circus


First stop of our Free Los Angeles Walking Tour is the Walt Disney Concert Hall- The Places We Live

Getting Started

This Funky & Free Walking Tour | Los Angeles came about because we were warned by nearly everyone not to drive downtown. Josh is an excellent city driver, but there was no reason to deal with the frustration of it all with the number of public transit options available. Also, Los Angeles parking fees are off the charts! However, if you are going to drive in, my travel blogging buddies all suggest parking at The Music Center Parking Lot. It is secure, accepts credit cards, and the advertised daily maximum is $20.

We started off by taking the metro downtown from our house sit in Glendora. It cost $2 each for a TAP Card, then another $1.75 each for a one-way ticket. Our metro experience wasn’t particularly exciting, but the trains were clean and comfortable. The trip from Glendora to the Civic Center / Grand Park Station took about an hour and cost $3.75 each. We returned home using the Little Tokyo / Arts District Station.


Art installation found at The Broad in Los Angeles.

The Broad

*cue the opening theme music* Our first stop for Jen’s Nearly Famous Los Angeles Walking Tour is The Broad, a contemporary art museum that offers free general admission! Although it is possible to reserve a free ticket online, we opted to simply wait in line. After about fifteen minutes, we were in and had access to the entire third floor gallery. We spent over an hour walking around and enjoying all the eclectic art on display. Even the architecture of the building itself was enjoyable, adding to the overall experience. And did I mention it’s FREE?!

For anyone wanting to pump it up a notch, there is a free audio tour available for download. It is also possible to get “on the list” for the Infinity Mirror Room, which seems to be littering my Instagram feed lately.



Bullet Whiskey neon sign found at the Grand Central Market in Los Angeles. Funky & Free Walking Tour Los Angeles

Grand Central Market

From The Broad, we walked over to the Angels Flight Railway and paid the $1 ticket price ($0.50 when we showed them our TAP card) to ride this cute, 117-year-old funicular train. It was a short ride down the hill and was the perfect mini-adventure, dropping us off right across from the Grand Central Market.

I wanted to eat EVERYTHING at the Grand Central Market. There was a great selection of foods from all over the world, most of them at decent prices. We ended up snacking on some Japanese food along with a pint of beer from Gold Road Brewery.


Jen framed in books at The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles

The Last Bookstore

When The Last Bookstore opened in 2005, Amazon was busy crushing nationwide bookstore chains, and it looked like small bookstores would be subsumed by the internet giant, as well. Fourteen years on, the ironically named store is thriving, having become a cultural icon and Instagram hotspot. There are two floors of books and book-related goodies. In addition to the usual stacks of new releases and bestsellers, the first floor hosts an excellent collection of graphic novels, an Arts and Rare Books Annex, and a book vault. Josh could have easily spent most of the day just on this floor, but thankfully I knew better and stole him away to go upstairs.

The second floor consists of a large mezzanine that overlooks the first floor, hosting numerous pieces of art for sale, art galleries, and a book labyrinth. You heard me right; a book labyrinth. Shelves and shelves, stack after stack of books to get lost in. The picture opportunities are endless. As an avid reader I was in heaven, making this the perfect free and funky stop for my Funky & Free Walking Tour | Los Angeles.



Angel City Brewery flight with five beers and tasting card in Los Angeles

Angel City Brewery

After trying several LA brews, we were most impressed by Angel City Brewery’s beers. Once we actually arrived at the brewery, we were blown away. The brewery is located inside of a renovated steel cable factory. If I were to open a brewery, the historic John A. Roebling Building is exactly the kind of place I would choose to host it. The place is huge, with two levels, multiple bars, and a loading dock for food trucks.

As if the venue wasn’t amazing enough, the beer was top notch. We ordered a taster flight with the Sunbather Citra, Angel City Pilsner, Saazberry, Angel City IPA, and Double IPA. I loved them all, rating most at a 4 out of 5 or higher (which is well above my average) on UnTappd. Angel City Brewery is doing it right. We’ve been to a ton of breweries around the world now, but this place really stuck out, and I can’t wait to go back!


Mac n' Cheese Pot Pie cut in half with a side salad at The Pie Hole in Los Angeles

The Pie Hole

I usually get hungry after some beers, so it seemed only right to make this quirky cafe the next stop on our Funky & Free Walking Tour | Los Angeles. The Pie Hole has 11 locations (mostly in the LA metro area) providing locally sourced and handmade pies to compliment their organic coffees. Although the menu changes seasonally, they always have a selection of both sweet and savory pies. Although I coveted the Salted Honey Custard Pie, we ended up with their famous Mac ‘n Cheese Pot Pie. It was amazing and inspired us to try making our own at home (which still needs some work, tbh).



Jen inside an art installation at the Two Bit Circus in Los Angeles

Two Bit Circus

WTF is this place?! As we were walking over, I warned Josh that this stop would likely be a bust. It looked really interesting online, but the promise of an adult themed, Silicon Valley-inspired arcade was probably too good to be true. Luckily for us, I was totally wrong, and we had an amazing time.

 

YOU WERE BORN KNOWING HOW TO HAVE FUN. YOU GOT BUSY AND MIGHT HAVE FORGOTTEN. WE’RE HERE TO HELP YOU REMEMBER.

IT’S HARD TO TOP THE SIMPLE JOY OF THROWING A DART AT A BALLOON. BUT THAT WON’T STOP US FROM EQUIPPING THE DART WITH SENSORS, SPLASHING THE BALLOON WITH PIXELS, AND ADDING PEW-PEW-PEW SOUND EFFECTS.

WHEN IN DOUBT – STEP RIGHT UP.

– Two Bit Circus Manifesto

So we get inside and the Two Bit Circus is everything they promised and more. There are story rooms, escape rooms, and VR games. My first thought at seeing it all was “sh*t this place is going to be way too expensive for our budget”. Thankfully, I was pleasantly mistaken once again. In addition to the big stuff, there were free interactive art installations and inexpensive re-imagined carnival games, tricked out arcade games, and a futuristic bar with a robot bartender. The Two Bit Circus is truly nerd paradise!


So ends our Funky & Free Walking Tour | Los Angeles. We saw stuff, we ate stuff, and we played with stuff. It was a freaking blast! I love my “nearly famous walking tours”, but I think this one really takes the cake. I don’t think I could have planned a more fun afternoon for us. It was the perfect way to see the city while still being our quirky, nerdy, and playful selves.


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Fun & Funky Los Angeles Walking Tour - The Places We Live


Badlands National Park

We were so excited to visit Badlands National Park after having such a wonderful experience at Palisades State Park. South Dakota was proving to be an insanely beautiful state. We drove 288 miles (463 km) along I-90 and started our new audio book, Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut and read by James Franco. I was very skeptical about a reading by the beautiful Mr. Franco, but his voice actually fit perfectly with the feeling of the story, and the misadventures of Billy Pilgrim kept us entertained all the way to the Badlands.


Badlands National Park Overview

Badlands National Park is located in the southwest corner of South Dakota, off of the I-90 freeway. The three sections of the park include over 240,000 acres (97,000 h) of national park land. The North Unit, which is the one we explored, is the most popular and includes a convenient looped road along the major stops within the park.

When to Visit

The best time to visit Badlands National Park is in the spring or fall. There is very little shade and the sun can be quite intense against the light colored rock formations.  The spring will provide the best temperatures at 35 – 80°F (2 – 27°C), but also has increased chances of rain. The fall temperatures are a few degrees colder, but you’re less likely to get rained on. Regardless, I strongly suggest sun protection no matter when you decide to visit the Badlands.

How to Prepare

The town of Wall has several hotels and RV campgrounds (plus the famous Wall Drug), but it is bit of a drive to the park. The absolute best place to stay is within the park itself at Cedar Pass Lodge. The lodge includes cabins, RV parking, and camping sites, all of which overlook the national park.

The price to enter Badlands National Park is $20 per car, $10 per motorcycle, or $10 per hiker (as of 10/2018). Each pass is valid for seven consecutive days. As we plan on visiting at least four national parks within the next 12 months, we opted to purchase the America The Beautiful Pass for $80. This allows everyone in our car to visit all of the USA national parks for free for the next 365 days.

America The Beautiful National Park Annual Pass

I am a big fan of nuclear history and strongly suggest including the Minuteman Missile National Historic Sites in your trip. To get the best experience, reserve your Delta-01 tour as soon as possible. The tour lasts 30 minutes and costs $6. When we went in the off-season, tickets had already sold out three weeks prior. Without a reservation, we were limited to the visitor center and the Delta-09 site, where you can take pictures of the exterior of a decommissioned Minuteman silo. But if you want to tour the inside of the bunker (and who wouldn’t?!), reserve ASAP.

The Places We Live: Badlands National Park Loop

    1. Minuteman Missile National Historic Site Visitor Center
    2. Delta-01
    3. Delta-09
    4. Pinnacles Overlook
    5. Homestead Overlook
    6. Ben Reifel Visitor Center (Park Headquarters)
    7. Door Trail

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site Visitor Center

Location: North of I-90 Exit 131

Time: 30 minutes

Price: Free

Sign for Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in South Dakota with the visitor center in the background.

During the Cold War (1947-1991), the United States produced over 1,000 ready-to-launch nuclear-tipped missiles and stationed them in hidden silos throughout the Great Plains. This was done to close the missile gap between the USA and the Soviet Union, allowing the United States to apply the military strategy of mutual assured destruction.

The LGM-30 Minuteman is an intercontinental ballistic missile developed in the mid-1950s. Like the Revolutionary War’s Minutemen, whom the missile was named after, the LGM-30 Minuteman missiles were armed and ready to strike at a moment’s notice.

Walking through the visitor center gave us a great idea of what it was like to live during this time when the whole world was facing death on a hair trigger. More importantly, in my humble opinion, it outlined the history and the philosophical dilemmas surrounding such an instant killing arsenal. As a physics hobbyist with an interest in nuclear energy, I found the whole thing fascinating.


Delta-01

Location: North of I-90 Exit 127

Time: 30 minutes

Price: $6 for adults and $4 for youth under 16 (as of 10/12/2018)

Tours begin and end at the gate outside of the Delta-01 compound gate. Tickets must be reserved in advance as only six people are taken in at a time; I strongly suggest booking at least three weeks before visiting. We were unable to take the tour since all of the spots had been booked out beforehand. The tour takes visitors down into an old Minuteman control bunker, including the upper support building and the actual launch control site 31 feet below the surface.

Get more information about visiting the Delta-01 Site HERE.


Delta-09

Location: South of I-90 Exit 116

Time: 10 minutes

Price: Free

Pictured: not a real missile

Honestly, I was a little disappointed with the Delta-09 compound. There is a self-guided cellphone tour available, but all of the stops are above ground, and there isn’t much to see. The main attraction is a window with a limited view into a launch silo (pictured above). It was a great way to get a glimpse into a silo without access to the Delta-01 tour, but it left us wanting more.


Pinnacles Overlook

Canyon of jagged rocks at Badlands National Park

Pinnacles Overlook is the first major pull-out we came to as we entered Badlands National Park. It ended up being one of my favorite stops. There were several different overlook areas with varying levels of accessibility. I think the view at Pinnacles Overlook gave the most expansive view of the rock formations the park is known for.

Josh from The Places We Live looks through binoculars at a bison who is grazing in the grass across the road

Just outside of the Pinnacles Overlook parking lot is where we spotted our first wild bison. Bison are America’s national mammal and are often called “buffalo” within the USA and Canada. Although they played a major roll in the lives of the Native Americans of the Great Plains, the American Bison nearly went extinct in the 19th century. Now the bison population is doing very well, though most only live domestically or within national parks and reserves.


Homestead Overlook

Midwest grassland surrounded by canyons of jagged rocks at Badlands National Park in South Dakota

Homestead Overlook isn’t particularly impressive without knowing a bit of the history of the area. The overlook offers a view of the main settlement area for homesteaders of the 19th century, Lakota peoples before that, Arikara people before that, and even the nomadic mammoth hunters before that. This place is so arid and windy, home to little more than scrub grass and hardy shrubs, so it’s strange to think anyone would call this “home”.


Ben Reifel Visitor Center

“Jen, you just skipped so much of the park!” Yes, I know. Driving from Homestead to the visitor center was absolutely stunning. We stopped at a couple of pullouts along the way but, I’ll be honest, they weren’t really worth the heat. Panorama Point was similar to the rest of the sites and the Fossil Exhibit Trail might be cool for kids, but was a huge disappointment for me (there are no actual fossils there). Save your energy for the amazing hikes that await just past the visitor center.

Ben Reifel Visitor Center is the main visitor center for the Badlands National Park and is open year round. The southern visitor center, called White River Visitor Center, is a great starting point for the Stronghold Unit of the park, but is only open seasonally. The visitor centers are a great place to learn about the historical and geographical aspects of the park. It is also a great place to hit the bathroom and cool down in the AC!


Wooden boardwalk curves between two rocky hills and into a canyon overlook at Badlands National Park

Hands-down, our favorite adventure in Badlands National Park was our brief hike of Door Trail. It begins with a short boardwalk into the canyon. Once inside, the boardwalk ends and a more technical hike begins.

The hike is no longer handicap accessible after the boardwalk ends; the ground becomes very uneven and rocky. The trail is not paved or even very obvious, marked out by numbered yellow poles you had to spot and find your own way to. It wasn’t always easy to spot the next marker (I’m still not sure where number 7 is) and reminded us a lot of the Harrier House Hash Run we did in Thailand. Although it didn’t seem particularly easy to get lost, it was obvious that we could, in fact, get lost. The surrounding landscape had very little in the way of distinguishing features, and I can imagine how easily I could get turned around if I made a wrong turn.

Jen from The Places We Live holds her hat against the wind at the end of the Door Trail at Badlands National Park. Behind her are jagged rocks and canyons

Thankfully, we didn’t make any wrong turns and successfully reached the end of the trail, which gave us an amazing 360 degree view of the Badlands. It was hot, windy, barren, and beautifully ugly. It was like being on another world.


Wrap Up

We spent three days at Badlands National Park and enjoyed every moment. Like every national park I have been to so far, it truly exceeded my expectations. In those three days, we were able to see everything the park had to offer, plus the surrounding neighborhood, and get some work done. One day should be more than enough to visit all of the best parts of the park. Next up, we’re traveling just a few hours away to the eastern border of Wyoming and our next camp site below the awe-inspiring Devils Tower!


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Badlands National Park - The Places We Live


Chicago Walking Tour (Self-Guided)

It should come as no surprise at this point that I love to walk. Lucky for me, Chicago has some amazing free walks available throughout the city. Despite all our best efforts, we hardly made a dent in my walking wish list during our brief house sit in Chicago. In order to pack in as much as possible, I created a looped, self- guided Chicago walking tour of 3.5 miles through downtown.

 


Jen’s Chicago Walking Tour


Chicago Riverwalk looking over one bridge towards another

Chicago Riverwalk

The Chicago Riverwalk is a 1.25 mile-long pedestrian path that runs along the Chicago River. It is the perfect downtown stroll, with views of the river, towering sky scrapers, and plenty more.

Chicago Riverwalk: 1.25 Miles of Chicago's Downtown. Part of The Places We Live's Self-Guided, Chicago Walking TourOur Chicago walking tour began at the Merchandise Mart station (#1). Also known as theMART, this building is home to a shopping center, restaurants, and a CTA L station. It’s the last one before entering The Loop, so it’s a great place to begin a walking adventure. Once out of the station, it’s a quick jaunt across the bridge to the Riverwalk. We made the mistake of going on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, so it was pretty much back-to-back pedestrian traffic on the Riverwalk. I’m talking nearly Disney World level chaos. Someone sweat on me.

Not interested in walking through the crowds? Try some of the best rooftop views instead. We’re not much for slow moving strollers and afternoon drunks (if we’re not included, that is), so we moved pretty quickly through the remaining mile of the path. The plus side is that there were amazing picture opportunities, interesting history stops, and plenty of cocktail opportunities along the way. If you’re so inclined, you could take a scenic river cruise or hop on a water taxi to get you where you want to go.

My favorite stop was near Trump Tower which, whether you like the man or not, is a lovely building. It was really fun to see the pictures that people were taking there. Some were standing proud with heart fingers and peace signs. Others were taking pictures of their friends flipping off the building or screaming at it. It was a delightful spectacle of Americans’ freedom of speech.



Jen from the Places We Live stands on the bridge at Maggie Daley Park during her self-guided, Chicago Walking Tour.

Maggie Daley Park

Maggie Daley Park is a fun urban green space near the shores of Lake Michigan. It hosts a climbing wall, large playgrounds, tennis courts, a garden, and plenty of snack shops. During the winter months, this park hosts a skating ribbon, which we didn’t get to see in use, but I can imagine how much fun it would be, and would love to come back and try it out. In general, the park looked really fun and makes for a great place to stop and hang out on our Chicago walking tour.


Jay Pritzker Pavilion viewed by The Places We Live for the Self-Guided, Chicago Walking Tour

Millennium Park

A Chicago walking tour would not be complete without a visit to Millennium Park. The park hosts the famous Cloud Gate sculpture, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, and the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Located downtown and just off the lake shore, Millennium Park is a bustling and crowded green space.

Cloud Gate, also known as The Bean, was designed by Sir Anish Kapoor. The sculpture was inspired by liquid mercury. I loved it’s reflective surface; it gave a beautiful, warped view of the city skyline and passing clouds. I was not the only one drawn to this effect, as there were crowds of people all trying to get the perfect picture with this iconic sculpture. Be prepared for slow moving foot traffic and photo bombers.



sawyer-bengtson-256255-unsplash.jpg
Photo by Sawyer Bengtson on Unsplash

East Lake Street

Perogie Heaven in Chicago, Illinois - The Places We LiveThe final leg of our Chicago walking tour takes us down E. Lake Street, which connects us back to our metro station and has a few notable stops along the way.

While not as scenic as the Riverwalk or parks, we had an enjoyable stroll past The Chicago Theatre, which hosts top shows in music, comedy, and fine arts. We also passed the American Writers Museum. It has a mission to “engage the public in celebrating American writers and exploring their influence on our history, our identity, our culture, and our daily lives”. I would have enjoyed visiting both, but our time was short and the sight-seeing wish list was way too long.

However, we did make a quick stop at Pierogi Heaven before returning to the train station. Neither of us had ever eaten pierogies before, and now I realize what I’ve been missing out on this whole time! The advertising was spot on: it was heavenly.


In the end, we didn’t get to see nearly enough during our short trip to Chicago. Consequently, it looks like I will have to plan another trip in the near future. I am glad, however, that I put together this Chicago walking tour that allowed us to hit most of the major stops in one fell swoop. If you are also in town for a short time, I hope it comes in handy for you as well. Enjoy!


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Self-Guided Walking Tour of Chicago, Illinois. Includes Chicago Riverwalk, Millennium Park, and The Chicago Theatre. Created by The Places We Live  Chicago Riverwalk: 1.25 Miles of Chicago's Downtown. Part of The Places We Live's Self-Guided, Chicago Walking Tour  Perogie Heaven in Chicago, Illinois - The Places We Live


 

Two Bays Walking Track – Mornington Peninsula Trails

The Mornington Peninsula is covered with acres and acres of bushland, and is criss-crossed with hiking trails just waiting to be explored. One of the longer trails is the Two Bays Walking Track. At 16 miles long, it connects Port Phillip Bay to the north with Bushrangers Bay and the Pacific Ocean to the South. During our time on the peninsula, we decided to take on the challenge of walking the entire Two Bays trail.

Hiking the Two Bays Walking Track

Two Bays Walking Track map with stops and parking suggestions marked. The sign at the North end of the track lists Seawinds Gardens at 2.1 km away, Waterfall Gully Rd at 5.7 km away, and Cape Schanck at 26.5 km away.

Start – Dromana, Victoria, Australia

End – Cape Schanck

Distance – 16 miles (one way)

Although it is absolutely possible to do the entire hike in a single day (a race of the entire track is held every year), I had no intention of doing so. Instead, I’ve broken it up into  more manageable pieces, with my thoughts on each section below. There are beautiful views, quiet picnic areas, and historic light houses along the Two Bays trail, with possible animal sightings including Eastern Grey Kangaroos, Koalas, and Echidnas! If you are backpacking Australia or just visiting the peninsula, this is a must-do hike.

The official map breaks the trail into four sections. I’ve broken it down a little further to limit my hikes to three-hour long, easily digestible, round-trip sections. The entire 16 mile journey took five trips:


The Places We Live - Arthurs Seat - Two Bay Walking Trail. View of Port Phillips Bay in Victoria, Australia from the top of Arthurs Seat

Arthurs Seat State Park

Start – Latrobe Parade Car Park [Map]

Turn Around – Seawinds Car Park at Arthurs Seat

Distance – 5 miles (round-trip)

Duration – 2.5 hours

Map of the Arthurs Seat section of the Two Bays Walking Track in Victoria, Australia. Start at Latrobe Parade Car Park and turn around at Seawinds Car Park.

The Latrobe Parade Car Park is a small dirt lot located right off of Bayview Rd in Dromana on the Mornington Peninsula. Across from the entrance and up the hill are signs for the Two Bays Walking Track. This section of the trail intersects with several other hikes. When we followed the Two Bays trail signs, it had us completely skip Arthurs Seat. It made the hike a little dull, so I strongly suggest taking the Seawinds Gardens hike, then catching back up with the Two Bays Walking Track from there.

Optional Adventure – Seawinds Gardens and Arthurs Seat

This optional side hike was the highlight of this section. From the top of Arthurs Seat, we had a view of the entire Mornington Peninsula. There were free public bathrooms, wildlife information, sculpture garden, and plenty of kangaroos. There is also a sculpture garden in the Seawinds Gardens park for those with a taste for art. 

If you don’t wish to hike up this hill, take the Arthur’s Seat Eagle Gondola instead. The rest of this hike will be much flatter by comparison. 

Read about where we lived for FREE on the Mornington Peninsula. ♥


The Places We Live - Rosebud South St - Two Bays Walking Track. Two Bays Walking Track sign with eastern grey kangaroos in the background

Rosebud South Street Section

Start – Seawinds Car Park at Arthurs Seat [MAP]

Turn Around – Browns Road 

Distance – 6 miles (round-trip)

Duration – 2.5 hours

Map of the Rosebud South Street section of the Two Bays Walking Track in Victoria, Australia on the Mornington Peninsula. Start at the Seawinds car park and turn around at the Browns Road intersection.

This was my least favorite section of the hike. We cheated a little bit and parked at the free lot at Seawinds Gardens on Arthurs Seat, then picked up our hike where we left off from there. There was an abundance of kangaroos and lorikeets while on the mountain, but the wildlife was lacking on the lower part of the hike, mostly because the track runs along a paved road through a suburb. While it was nice to see the neighborhood, this section wasn’t an ideal “nature hike”.

♥ Check out my bird watching sightings while in Victoria, Australia.  


The Places We Live - North Greens Bush - Two Bays Walking Trail. A narrow dirt trail runs between lush, green ferns. In the distance a boardwalk disappears into the trees.

Greens Bush North

Start – Browns Road [MAP]

Turn Around – Lightwood Creek Intersection

Distance – 7 miles (round trip)

Duration – 3 hours

Map of the northern portion of the Greens Bush section of the Two Bays Walking Track in Victoria, Australia on the Mornington Peninsula. Start at the Browns Road intersection and turn around at the Lightwood Creek Camping Area. Jen wa

The majority of the Greens Bush section of the Two Bays Walking Track lies within Mornington Peninsula National Park. The trails and surrounding area were well-kept and included several informational signs along the way.

We parked in a grassy patch near the trail sign on the corner of Browns Road and Purves Road. From there, we hiked along a lightly trafficked dirt road through a farming community before reaching the national park. If I were to hike this section again, I would have chosen to drive this portion and park at the national park entrance instead. The walk to the entrance was lovely (especially at sunset) and included plenty of kangaroo sightings, but I would have preferred to spend that time exploring more of the park, instead.

Sunset over the fence of a farm on the Two Bays Walking Track in Victoria, Australia.

Once we reached the park entrance, this portion of the Two Bays Walking Track took us through bush land and overgrown valleys. Our turn-around point was the Lightwood Creek Camping Area intersection, which is a free campground that doesn’t require reservations and included a large, clean bathroom directly off the trail! This put us about half-way through the Mornington Peninsula National Park.

Read about our visits to the Mornington Peninsula breweries. ♥



The Places We Live - South Greens Bush - Two Bay Walking Trail. Trail bridge runs over trees and thick bush.

South Greens Bush

Start – Bushrangers Bay Car Park on Boneo Road [Map]

Turn Around-  Lightwood Creek Intersection

Distance – 5 miles (round trip)

Duration – 2 hours

Map of the Southern portion of the Greens Bush section of the Two Bays Walking Track on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Australia. Start at the Boneo Road car park and turn around at the Lightwood Creek Camping Area.

We parked at the Bushrangers Bay car park on Boneo Road and started our walk back to the bathroom at the Lightwood Creek Camping Area intersection in the Mornington Peninsula National Park. This was, hands-down, our favorite section of the Two Bays Walking Track. It had the most varied landscape out of all of the trails and was where we had the most wildlife sightings.

The walk started with a small, winding trail between farms that was intersected by game trails at regular intervals. These were frequented by kangaroos of varying size, who were very active. At one point, I had been talking to Josh and therefore didn’t hear the typical thumping of a nearby roo. This four foot kangaroo and I nearly collided with each other as we both blindly crossed each other’s paths! Thankfully, it was just as startled as I was and hopped off without any confrontation.

Narrow, dirt trail runs between leaning trees and lush, green grass

Once through the farmland, we weaved through some hills as we followed a stream. This allowed for plenty of bird sightings and some fun bridge crossings. Despite the lack of rain that day, the area was wet and lush. It was also the least trafficked portion of our hike; we crossed paths with only three people on this section.

Love walking? Check out my self-guided walking tour in Guilin, China! ♥


The Places We Live. Bushranger Bay. Two Bay Walking Trail. Coastal view of Cape Schanck in Victoria, Australia.

Bushrangers Bay Section

Start – Cape Schank Lighthouse Reserve Car Park [MAP]

Turn Around – Bushrangers Bay Car Park on Boneo Road 

Distance – 6 miles (round trip)

Duration – 2.5 hours

Map of the Bushrangers Bay portion of the Two Bays Walking Track on the Mornington Peninsula of Victoria, Australia. Start at the Cape Schanck Lighthouse Reserve car park and turn around at the Bushrangers Bay car park on Boneo Road.

The Two Bays Walking Track begins/ends at the southeastern corner of the car park at Cape Schanck. There are a couple of side trails, but the main walk was easy to follow and well signed from the car park at Cape Schanck to the car park on Boneo Road.

Although the Two Bays trail runs along Bushranger Bay, there are very few ocean views. However, what few lookouts there are provide amazing views of the bay and cape. The main views from the trail are of the inland bush, as well as the stunning green rolling hills of the nearby Mornington Peninsula farms. We didn’t encounter much wildlife in this section of the walk, but the farmland views still made the Bushranger Bay Section a highlight of our Two Bays Walking Track adventure.

Optional Adventure: Cape Schanck

Technically, the Two Bays Waling Track ends at the car park, but I strongly suggest spending the extra time and effort to visit the cape. The walkway down is narrow and can be a little slippery, but is otherwise a beautiful walk with photo opportunities at every turn. 

Read more about our walk through Cape Schanck. ♥

The Places We Live presents Cape Schanck on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Australia. It is a lovely walk part of the Two Bay Walking Trail. The hike to the cape includes a wooden staircase and boardwalk with amazing views of the cape and the Cape Schanck Lighthouse. - The Places We Live

Optional Adventure: Bushrangers Beach

A little over halfway through the hike, we made the steep climb down to Bushrangers Beach. It is a small cove with lovely views of the coastline, cape, and farmland. Despite the fact that it was the off season, and that it was not accessible by car, there were still quite a few people at the beach. It seemed odd to visit a beach that was so well hidden away and challenging to visit, just to be joined by a dozen other people.

Bushranger Beach.png


And that concludes our Two Bays Walking Track adventure in Victoria, Australia! All in all it was a great way to spend our time on the Mornington Peninsula. The views of the ocean and bushland were incredible, and we got to see a ton of the local wildlife. There are many other trails on the peninsula as well, but if you only have the time to do one, choose the Two Bays Walking Track; you won’t be disappointed!


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Two Bays Walking Track on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria Australia - 16 miles of beautiful bush walking and hiking  Two Bay Walking Track on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Australia. 16 miles of beautiful bush walking and hiking.  Two Bays Walking Track on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria Australia. Discover the 16 miles walking trail that connects the Pacific Ocean with Port Phillips Bay


Guilin Walking Tour in Guangxi Province, China

Guilin, China is a fantastic tourist destination, drawing tons of people from all over China and foreign lands each year. From the bustling market, towering Sun and Moon pagodas, to the gumdrop mountains, it has something to satisfy everyone. My Guilin Walking Tour will take you around to some of my favorite sights around the downtown area. If you just walk the loop, it will probably take around an hour and a half, but there are plenty of places to stop and take in the local scenery and culture. Allow me to introduce you to one of my favorite places in all of China, Guilin!


Guilin Walking Tour Overview

Duration: 1.5 Hours

Distance: 3.0 Miles

Cost: FREE

Suggested Start: Xi Cheng Lu Kou Bus Stop MAP

Suggested Time: After Sunset

Map of downtown Guilin, China outlining The Places We Live's free Guilin Walking Tour. The map includes locations for the Guilin's South Gate, Pedestrian Shopping Street, People's Square, Sun and Moon Pagodas (Gold and Silver Pagodas), Elephant Trunk Hill free viewing area, and Guilin' Night Market. Credit for the image is listed to traviswilldesign.com, theplaceswe.live, and maps.google.com

This free, self-guided Guilin Walking Tour is focused on the top sights for an evening stroll, but if you have the time, it’s worth it to do the loop during the daytime as well, especially since some of the optional, paid attractions are only open during the day. The tour is laid out in a loop, so you can start wherever is most convenient for you. For the purposes of this blog, I will be starting on the corner of Zhong Shan Road and South Ring Road near the Bank of China Self Service Center MAP.


Guilin Walking Tour Stops

Elephant Trunk Hill
Sun and Moon Pagodas
Pedestrian Walking Street
People’s Square
South Gate
Night Market


Elephant Trunk Hill

View from the Elephant Trunk Hill free viewing area in Guilin, Guangxi Province, China. At night, the small mountain that is shaped like an elephant bending over for a drink is lit up with multiple colored lights. Credit for the image is given to Travis Will Design and The Places We Live

Distance from Zhong Shan Road to Elephant Trunk Hill Free Viewing Area: 0.3 miles

From Zhong Shan Road, head East on South Ring Road along the Tao Hua River. To your left, you’ll find shops aimed to catch the attention of passing tourists as well as travel agencies to help you plan your cruise along the Li River. Fish is very popular at restaurants in Guilin, so you will find that many of them have tanks and cages lining the front of the shop. You may even see what looks like a large, caged rat. These are bamboo rats, a dish enjoyed by many people from the southern regions of China.

To the right, the river weaves through the city. Once over the bridge, you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of Elephant Trunk Hill, all lit up in the customary Chinese style.

Just before the road starts to veer North, there is a small area where you can get a free view of the Elephant Trunk Hill through the trees. The location is marked on most maps with GPS, but can also be spotted by the number of other tourists also looking to get that free view.

Considering a Li River Cruise? Read THIS first! Link  Food in Guilin

Elephant Legend Show Option

The best part about unguided walking tours is that you can take them at your own pace and find your own stops. One such stop could be the Elephant Trunk Legend Show. It is a nightly show with music, live elephants, and a great view of Elephant Trunk Hill. The ticket office is only steps away from the free viewing area and has signs in English. [Note: This is not the ticket office for exploring the mountain itself. That ticket office is located across the river.]

Show Times: (Nov to Mar) 7:35PM – 8:00PM & (Apr to Oct) 8:05PM – 8:30PM

Duration: 30 minutes plus time to explore 

Cost: ¥130


Sun and Moon Pagodas

Sun and Moon Pagoda - Guilin Walking Tour - The Places We Live.png

Distance from Elephant Trunk Hill Viewing Area to Sun and Moon Pagodas: 0.3 miles

Continue your Guilin walking tour along the sidewalk as it heads North. On your right stretches the Li River, overlooked by trees and homes lit up in fun colors. You have the option of either (A) walking on the main sidewalk or (B) heading down to the riverside walkway.

A: The main sidewalk is a bit more exciting. There is often loud music, performers, groups of exercisers, and food carts. The food in these carts looks quite tempting and usually tastes even better than it looks. The cart attendants do have a tendency to rip off foreigners though, so remember to barter. No snack should be worth more than ¥10, with the possible exception of slices of walnut cake, which are purchased by weight.

B: There are multiple sets of stairs that branch off from the main sidewalk towards the river. These lead down to the riverside walkway. This is a more relaxing and romantic walk. You will have an uninterrupted view of the river and the buildings that line the other side of it. These river walks can be found along most of the rivers in Guilin and are definitely worth exploring during the day (if you have the time).

Less than a five minute walk will bring you from the Elephant Trunk Free Viewing Area to the Sun and Moon Pagodas. Hop across the street when the way is nearly safe and enjoy the sights and sounds of the Riyue Shuangta Cultural Park.

Walking through this park is completely free, both day and night. The walkways are well kept and clean, but they are a bit narrow and fill quickly with other walkers.

River Walk  Fubo Mountain

Twin Pagoda Option

It is possible to climb the stairs of the pagodas as late as 10:30PM. Although the evening view is listed as the best, the underwater tunnel that runs between the two pagodas is better appreciated during the day. The ticket office is located to the South of the lake on the bank closest to the pagodas. 

Operating Times: 8:00AM – 10:30PM

Duration: 30 Minutes

Cost: ¥45

Two Rivers and Four Lakes Cruise Option

Getting tired already? Or maybe you would just rather do this walking tour without all of the walking? Easy! The Two Rivers and Four Lakes Cruise is an excellent option to enjoy all the night lights of this Guilin walking tour without the hassle of walking. The ticket counter is located on the North side of the lake and will have signs in English.

A fellow blogger describes their trip on the cruise. 

Operating Times: 7:30PM – 9:30PM

Duration: 2 Hours

Cost: ¥190


Pedestrian Walking Street

Pedestrian Street.png

Distance from Sun and Moon Pagodas to Pedestrian Street: 0.3 miles

Near the northern-most corner of the lake is a small road that quickly turns into a pedestrian-only sidewalk. Following this road will take you past a bunch of small craft stalls and then into a busy pedestrian-only street filled with shops and people.

This is an enjoyable walk both day and night, but the street seems to truly come alive in the evenings. The music gets a little louder, the food stalls get a little brighter, and many of the shops put their best entertainers at the doors. I have never found myself judging anyone’s ability to clap before experiencing the shop entertainers on the Chinese pedestrian streets.

Enjoy the sights, sounds, and amazing shopping of pedestrian street. If the prices are marked, that usually means the shop keeper either won’t barter or won’t barter far. Anything else is fair game. Prices can be negotiated down to as low as 25% of the asking price, but that is with a fluent Chinese speaker who has a lot of practice. Unless you are really struggling for cash, a good starting point is 50% of the asking price, with an ending price at 75%. The locals will appreciate it.

Budget  yangshuo

Shangshui Delicacy Street Option

Near the center of the pedestrian street is a four-way intersection. On the right are some stick-food vendors in a small alley, where people are often crowded up, eating their purchases. Head down this packed alley. Keep an eye on the other guests enjoying their tasty and bizarre treats. At the end of the alley and to the right is the street food market. I hope you have an adventurous stomach!

It can get a bit tight inside of the market, so stay calm and remember “Bu yao le” (boo yow la), meaning “I don’t want”. Armed with your new phrase, you are ready to explore the adventurous world of Chinese street food. 

If you’re interested in trying some snacks, but don’t have the stomach for anything crazy, I have a couple of suggestions. One of my favorite weird but deliciously normal foods is Omurice (a fried rice omelet topped with ketchup) from Japan. I’m also a big fan of just about any of the meats on sticks. Don’t worry, you can usually watch the worker cook the meat. It will be grilled all of the way through and topped with delicious seasonings that aren’t usually spicy. If you have a sensitive stomach, I do not suggest eating any of the raw fruit sticks nor drinking any of the raw fruit smoothies. Pretty much anything raw should be marked off the list.

For those of you ready to show off to your #instafriends during this Guilin walking tour, the collections of bugs are cooked just like the stick meats. You order a stick and the stall clerk will grill it right there in front of you. It will be well cooked and seasoned. This is great because it usually gives just about everything a crunchy, rather than squishy, texture. The scorpions and small bugs often come out crispy and salty, similar to a potato chip.


People’s Square

Peoples Square.png

Distance from the Pedestrian Street to People’s Square: 0.2 miles

It wouldn’t be a proper Chinese city without a People’s Square. From the pedestrian street, turn left at the major intersection of Yiren Rd. To the left, you will see a large concrete park.

These squares are popular throughout China, often being some of the major transportation hubs of the city or hosting some of the more important buildings. Guilin’s square is not one of particular note. It is a large and interesting part of Chinese culture, though, and therefore worth a visit. Walk to the end of the square to the free-standing pavilion at the far left corner. It is a stairway down to Little Hong Kong Commercial Market and also the safest way to cross the street.

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Little Hong Kong Commercial Market Option

This market is much larger than it appears at first glance. It actually spans the entire area underneath People’s Square and beyond! This is a great place to buy discounted items, fun trinkets, and all the beauty services you can think of. Gel nails or detailed designs will cost around 60RMB and will include a short massage. Foot massages are around 100RMB per hour and will usually include a short shoulder and head massage as well. 


South Gate

South Gate.png

Distance from People’s Square to the South Gate: 0.9 miles

If you have taken the safer option of using the underground crosswalk at Little Hong Kong, you should be at the bottom of the stairs, having just descended underground. Turn left and walk under the main road of Zhangshan Middle Road. There will be another set of stairs on your left to take you back up to the street. Once up the stairs, continue heading southwest until you reach the bridge. Before crossing the bridge, take a right and join the other walkers along the lovely riverside path.

The South Gate is my favorite part of this Guilin walking tour. It would be easy to spend hours strolling along the well-lit river and lake. There are plenty of restaurants, bars, and shops lining the opposite side of the street, but along the water, it is fairly peaceful… by Chinese standards, that is.

At the intersection of the first major bridge is Gunanmen or The South Gate. It is a remaining piece of the city wall that stood guarding the city of Guilin long ago. Now it is a tourist attraction and open square for dancers and exercisers. These groups of exercisers may sneer if you try to take their picture, but are often very welcoming if you choose to join them in a dance.

(A) Long Loop: Continue along Northwest past The South Gate. Take a left over the next bridge to stay on Ronghu Rd North, then over the next (keeping the river on your left side), to Ronghu Rd South. Take a left on the other side of the bridge and you’ll be heading back towards the main road to do a full loop of the river.

(B) Short Loop: Head over the bridge directly across from The South Gate. Then take a left onto Ronghu Rd South. This will take you back to the main road where we left off near People’s Square.

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Xicheng Night Market

Night Market - Guilin Walking Tour - The Places We Live.png

Distance from the South Gate to the Xicheng Night Market: 0.5 miles

At this point, you will have done plenty of walking, so let’s treat ourselves with a little snack at the Xicheng Night Market. Once you have returned to Zhongshan Rd, take a right (heading southwest). Three blocks down, Xicheng Pedestrian Street will be on the right. This is a much smaller and less corporate market. All of the prices are negotiable and the food is local and cheap.

One of my favorite snacks over here are the grilled scallops with rice noodles and garlic. They take a minute to cook, but are packed with flavor. There are also plenty of restaurants, bars, and KTV (karaoke) halls.

So, continue the evening by partying the night away, having dinner at one of the restaurants at the end of the market street (there are a couple that serve some delicious sweet and sour fish), or wrap up the loop by turning left on S. Ring Road and following it back to Zhongshan. Look familiar? Good, since you’re supposed to end up where you started! You should now be back at the same bus stop you left from, only on the opposite side of the road to catch a ride back to wherever you’re staying. Wasn’t that thoughtful? 😉

Instagram  Medium


And so ends my evening walking tour of Guilin, China. Although the full loop is quite long, the actual distance between the various locations is quite short, so feel free to break the walk up into two separate trips. If you do one during the day and one at night, I suggest saving The South Gate and the Night Market for the evening. The rest of the tour is equally as lovely during the day, if not as colorful.

Thank you so much for joining me on this little walking adventure. I hope you enjoy it and I can’t wait to read your comments and suggestions!

Special thanks to Travis Will Designs for the amazing graphics! ♥



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