In my opinion, Utah may just be the most beautiful state in the nation. As I travel the globe and see the world’s most famous paintings and buildings, I realize that our national parks are the earth’s greatest masterpieces…and none of them were made by human hands, they are God’s handiwork. These are all museums of ‘Ancient Art’ and five of them just happen to be in southern Utah. Explore the colorful, canyons, and iconic arches of all five of Utah’s unbelievable national parks!

This southwestern state is a top destination for skiers and hikers, history buffs and adventurers. With outstanding geological formations and ever-reaching landscapes, its natural wonders (which tourists can either climb over or drive through), are unparalleled, from salt flats to red rock canyons, on to the desert and Rocky Mountains.

Utah’s “Mighty 5” National Parks are variations on a theme — petrified Jurassic sediments sculpted by wind, water and time — but each one is very unique in its own way. To my surprise, all five of the national parks in Utah are within a stone’s throw of one another — in fact, you could literally drive through them all in a busy single day. You could… but you shouldn’t. That’d be like sprinting through the Louvre!

Over 150 million years the soft stone sediments in these five spots relented in, beautiful and fascinating ways, cutting open a color spectrum of reds, pinks, yellows, grays and whites, and dusted with green. It’s a photographer’s dream!

Arches →

There are 2,000 named arches in Arches National Park. (An opening in the rock earns a name and an “arch” designation by stretching 3 feet in one direction.) Forty-three are known to have fallen since 1977. Fortunately, humans didn’t cause any of them.

Canyonlands →

This area is a result of years of slow work of determined rivers and is located near Moab, Utah (just 30 minutes from Arches National Park). You will see carved-out canyons, sheer drop-offs and body-wide footpaths that slice through red rock. Exploring Canyonlands National Park is intense. The whole park is red rock that has been engraved and chiseled by years of endless wind and water.

Capitol Reef →

It’s 100 miles long and is named for what it looks like white rock domes (like the U.S. Capitol) and rocky ridges (like marine reefs) — but isn’t — because it wasn’t like anything anyone had ever seen. Capitol Reef National Park is a pinch in the earth’s crust and is overloaded with geological, cultural and sensory aspects.

Bryce Canyon →

Your first view of the park is a dramatic unveiling! Wind through groves of pine trees until they break at the rim of Bryce Canyon National Park, revealing a magnificent panorama of goblins, towers and a hue of colors. One fun way to see it is by horseback.

Zion →

Zion National Park is the oldest and most visited in Utah. Millions of years ago, ancient iterations of the Virgin River started carving out southwestern Utah. It’s a reddish-orangey-pink swath that’s eroded in spectacular ways. You can witness amazing desert geology firsthand, where ancient rock is shaped by the powerful and ever-changing flow of water.

If you want to add a little extra adventure and incredible scenery, hike up the Virgin River Narrows a mile or two. Know that the trail is actually the shallow river and you are walking on slippery rocks. You will need special equipment, like water-hiking boots and a walking stick. At an outfitter store they we help you prepare and provide an educational short film to watch so you know what to expect, becausethis is not a typical hike. I think The Narrows is one of America’s coolest, scenic and most unique hikes!

Our National Parks are our American Masterpieces. You can easily see the beauty of the Mighty 5 by driving through parts of these parks; it is probably the most stunning drive we’ve ever seen. Many of these parks are unique because you can see so much by car. It’s perfect for those who do not want to hike, are handicapped or for the elderly. But for those who do want to hike – it’s an awesome adventure!

Experience what southern Utah is all about as you travel through “Canyon Country” and work your way up the Colorado Plateau to some of the most incredible and diverse sights in the nation. There’s one iconic site after another. This trip promises to be unforgettable and will allow you to see and witness some of the most scenic and epic national parks in America!


In 1981, as newlyweds, we were thrilled to move to northwest Florida. My husband, Ron, had his first Air Force assignment at Eglin Air Force Base flying F-15 Eagles in an operational jet fighter squadron. It was very exciting! It’s still a common sight today to see and hear fighter jets fly over the Gulf of Mexico as you play on the beach. My first job was at the Destin Chamber of Commerce and then as a radio news anchor at WFTW. This piece of paradise is a treasure and is our second home.  It holds a very special place in my family’s heart as we go there several times at year. That’s why I wanted to share some of my favorite places on 30A – a very scenic two lane road that is filled with charm and natural beauty!

Santa Rosa Beach: Gulf Place is a great stop. Cruise through the Art Walk and listen to live music through the gulf breeze.  Our favorite – The Forrest Williams Band, plays weekly in this area.  Shunk Gulley Oyster House is just across the street and has a fabulous upstairs bar, coastal view and live music! Or, for a dressier place, drive nearby to one of our favorite restaurants, The Vue on 30a.  It has amazing beach-front dining. We love their early-bird specials and fiery sunset views.

Blue Mountain: Head over to For The Health of It. It’s an organic food and produce market where you can fuel-up with fresh juices or smoothies. It’s also a great place for a body massage. There’s actually large hills so be prepared to take stairs down to the beach. The is a great place to also have a bonfire. You must get a permit from South Walton or hire a Beach Bonfire service. They will set up and tear down everything. It is well worth the money!

Grayton: The Shard Shop is a trendy make-your-own-art boutique. They offer classes in ShardART.  This is a place where you can create an original art piece. Or buy a piece of original art from artist and owner Mary Hong. The classes are a fun and therapeutic. I’d recommend Chanticleer Eatery while in the area. They have fantastic salads and foods with a French twist served at this comfy joint with an outdoor patio & a casual ambiance. And now there’s AJ’s nearby that has nightly live music, a great place to eat and dance.

Seaside: This is such a picturesque little village. Bud and Alley’s is great for waterfront dining and the rooftop bar is a local favorite. Nearby there’s lots of great shopping.

I love stopping at Modica Market, a quaint gourmet grocery. They have an eclectic mix of cuisine, libations & culinary essentials.  If you want to learn to surf attend Austin Magee’s Surf School at Seaside. It’s his mission is to provide each student with a safe, creative, and fun surfing experience. Austin is our cousin and is an awesome international and professional surfer.

Watersound:  There’s always something happening at The HUB! From Funk and Jazz, they have nightly live music on a huge outdoor stage. Or, watch family-friendly movies under the stars. Another option is a burger and beer, relax and watch sports all season long on the 25’ outdoor jumbotron. This is a great bike ride destination!

Rosemary Beach: Spend the day in this scenic area – we love The Pearl Hotel. The breezy rooftop, reminiscent of a European villa, has an awesome open air patio. Have a cool drink and take in the views of the glistening gulf.  Ladies, don’t miss the many great boutiques here. Bike rentals are popular on 30A so consider riding from Rosemary Beach and travel west into Alys Beach to see stunning architecture. This area is my favorite… really chic and beautiful!

Fun Fact – Coastal Dune Lakes are arare and natural phenomena that only occur in a handful of locations around the globeOn Scenic Highway 30A it has 15 named coastal dune lakes, the only in North America. 

South Walton’s coastal dune lakes are said to be as much as 10,000 years old and were formed by winds that redistributed sand and created the shallow basins, surprisingly…most lakes average only about 5 feet deep.

There are miles of things to discover along the 24 mile stretch of 30A crowned by the pristine sugar sand beaches.  It’s always a great family vacation or a nice romantic getaway!

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The first time I went to Dubai, all I could think about was Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz saying, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” Dubai is part of the United Arab Emirates and is a very unique. It’s known to be one of the most interesting and fastest growing cities on earth.

Over a very short period of time this desert city has transformed itself from a humble pearl-diving village into an international hub for tourism and trade, and is now a gateway between the East and the West. The official language is Arabic, although English is the most commonly used in this city of over 3 million people.

The following are some things we did that I would highly recommend:

Tour “Dubai Creek” in an “Abra” and see outstanding views of the city’s futuristic and traditional architecture.  Abras look like an ancient wooden row boat but are now powered by diesel engines and can seat about 20 people.

Shop ‘til you drop and stroll through the endless maze of Souks and Malls. The Spice and Gold Souks are not to be missed. And amazingly, there’s over 50 shopping malls in full operation and many more under construction. My husband Ron has even gone “snowboarding” inside the Mall of the Emirates at their ski resort. It features a 200 foot tall “mountain”, five slopes of varying difficulty – including the world’s first indoor black run.

It’s fun to just walk around Dubai and see people smoking ‘Shisha’. Another local name for it is ‘Hubbly Bubbly’ and it has a sweet, fruity smell. Shisha is a water pipe used to smoke tobacco through cooled water. The tobacco is heated by charcoal at the top and inhaled through a water chamber at the bottom. Shisha pipes date back over 500 years in the Middle East.

No trip to Dubai would be complete without a visit to “Burj Khalifa’, the tallest building in the world. There is an observation deck on the 124th floor called ´At The Top´ and on a clear day the views over the city are spectacular. While you´re in the area, visit the Dubai Fountain and see the spectacular water and music show. There are many wonderful coffee shops and restaurants nearby. We enjoyed dinner at Sammach, an excellent Lebanese seafood restaurant that had a fantastic view of the ‘dancing fountains’.

Everyone has heard of Dubai’s ‘Artificial Islands’ but we had to see it to actually believe it. In the Persian Gulf there are three man-made islands which are in the shape of palm fronds and consist of luxury hotels and residences, restaurants, water parks and sports facilities. Our favorite spot is the stunning Atlantis Palm Hotel. It features guest rooms with floor to ceiling glass views of their fabulous Lost Chambers Aquarium, from your bed you are surrounded by an enormous aquarium where you can watch sea creatures swim around until you fall asleep.

Consider a day trip – we went on a really fun Desert Safari Tour. I don’t know when we’ve laughed more. We really enjoy an exhilarating drive over huge red and gold sand dunes, camel rides and a Bedouin Camp for an evening feast while being entertained by belly dancers. Our daughter Kelsie got “temporary” henna there that is very popular in the UAE.

Dine at sunset in one of the many excellent restaurants on the waterways in the shadow of the magnificent ‘7-star’ Burj Al Arab Hotel. On my next trip I will be having High Tea there.  As a hotel guest, you can be picked up at the airport in a Rolls Royce or perhaps,  a helicopter. It is the self-proclaimed most-luxurious hotel in the world. The Burj Al Arab is also one the world’s tallest hotels and is designed to look like a sailboat. When guests arrive, they are presented a gold plated 24-caret iPad worth $9,000.

This Arabian oasis is clearly an exotic place with enormous wealth. Dubai is safe with almost no crime, a good education system, up-to-date healthcare facilities, modern infrastructure…and everything is tax-free. I can certainly say Dubai is a great destination and is well worth a visit!