26 September, 2023

Top 10 Bucket List destinations in Texas

Many people ask me, what's there in Texas to visit? What are some of the scenic places in Texas? I have many suggestions. As a travel blogger, I do a lot of research on places, history, state parks, lakes, mountains, scenic drives , blah blah. 

September 27th is World Tourism Day. On this occasion, here is a post about some destinations that I visited in Texas, which are worth a visit. Also, here is my wishlist of Texas State Parks.  

Now, coming to my bucket list destinations in Texas. 

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Here are some of the scenic places to visit in Texas:

1. Big Bend National Park

2. Guadalupe Mountains National Park

3. Padre Island National Sea shore

4. Waco Mammoth National Monument

5. San Antonio

6. Caprock Canyon State park

7. Palo Duro Canyon State Park

8. Caddo Lake State Park

9. Lost Maples State Park

10. Davis Mountains State Park

Big Bend National Park:

Big Bend National Park is South-Western Texas's most underrated and isolated national park. Due to its remoteness, it is not easily accessible. But, trust me when I say, it is as beautiful as the other national parks we visited.

There are some great places to hike, with beautiful scenery of rivers, mountains, and canyons. The park is vast and it takes a minimum of 2 days to cover the best places.

Here is my travelogue.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park:

Gaudalupe Mountain National Park in Chihuahuan desert is known for its rich wildlife, fossilized reef mountains and the highest peak in Texas - El Capitan.

3.8 mile Devil's Hall trail is very popular in Guadalupe mountains national park. It takes 3 to 4 hrs to finish the trail and it starts from pine springs campground. This trail gives beautiful views of canyons and geological formations.

Some easy trails are:
  • The trail from dog canyon campground to Marcus Overlook
  • McKittrick Canyon to Pratt's cabin and on to Grotto

Padre Island National Seashore:

Padre Island National Seashore is spread across 66 miles of coastline and it separates the gulf of Mexico and Laguna Madre (One of a few hypersaline lagoons in the world).

The beach is very clean, it has a visitor center with a gift shop, restrooms, and showers. The Park entrance fee is $10 per vehicle for 1 day. This is also the best place to drive a 4-wheeler on the sand along the coastline.

Waco Mammoth National Monument:

This national monument is a paleontological site and a museum in Waco. This preserves the fossils of Ice age Columbian Mammoths.

Weighing 20,000 pounds and 14 ft tall, these mammoths roamed across the current-day Texas many years ago. 

PC: Wikipedia

Waco is around 1.5 hrs from Austin. The park is open 9 am to 5 pm. Dig shelter access is by ticket only. Fee is $6 per adults and $5 for kids.

6220 Steinbeck Bend Drive
Waco, TX 76708

San Antonio:

San Antonio is home to the Alamo, a UNESCO world heritage site, and many historical buildings called Missions. 


Riverwalk is pleasant to stroll through, and a nice place to hang out, eat the best food, and shop. 

Japanese Tea Garden is a wonderful place for a family. 

If you have time, check out The Natural Bridge caverns as well.

Here is my travelogue. This is 1.5 hrs from Austin.

Caprock Canyon State Park and Trailway:

Caprock Canyon State Park is around 100 miles(2 hrs) from Amarillo. It is a long drive from Austin (6.5 hrs) and it takes 5hrs to reach from Dallas. This park has 90 miles of hiking trails and is home to Texas Bisons. 

Entry is $5 per person. 


Clarity Tunnel is home to a large colony of Mexican free tailed bats. The Texas Bison herd will be roaming all through the park. Haynes Ridge overlook is a famous view point  with incredible views and it can be reached by 5.6 miles hike. You can see rock formations with different colors and layers and multiple creeks on the trail. 

You can take a scenic drive of 5.5 miles through the park if you cannot do lengthy hikes. 

This park is a nice stop when you are visiting Palo Duro Canyon State Park or Amarillo.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park:

This is definitely a must visit if you love hiking and enjoy beautiful mountain views. This is called 'Grand Canyon of Texas' as it's the second largest canyon in USA. 

The Lighthouse rock is the most famous point which can be reached by 5.7 miles round trip trail. The Juniper riverside trail and The Big Cave are other points of interest. 

PC: Wikipedia

Another way to see this park is through horse riding. There is a scenic drive that is around 16 miles long with multiple viewpoints. 

Address: 11450 Park Road 5Canyon, TX 79015

Hours: 7 am to 9 pm
Entry is $8

While visiting these 2 parks, don't miss stopping at Amarillo. Cadillac ranch, and road side art installations in Combine City are great. 

Caddo Lake State Park:

The scenery and photos of this park look amazing.  The bald cypress trees and Spanish moss make this lake look misty and surreal. There are boating tours as well. We can fish, paddle, hike, or stay in a cabin. The park is around 5 hrs from Austin.


245 Park Road 2
Karnack, TX 75661

Hours: 8.15 to 4.45 PM
Online Reservations needed

Entry is $4 


Lost Maples State Natural Area:

This is not a state park, but it is a popular destination to visit in the Fall season. You can see fall colors from last week of October through second week of November.

This autumn oasis is near Vanderpool in Texas. There are two main trails to see fall colors. The one mile stretch where west and east trails merge is an easy hike. There is a scenic pond at one mile marker. Check this page for fall foliage report before visiting.


The area has 10 miles of hiking trails, but most of them are challenging. The monkey rock in the east trail is an interesting rock formation.


37221 F.M. 187
Vanderpool, TX 78885

Hours: 8.30 to 4.30 PM

Entry is $6

Davis Mountains State Park:

Davis Mountains State park is situated high in the mountains of West Texas. These mountains near Fort Davis reach at an elevation of 8500 ft above sea level. 

There is a scenic drive, a 5 mile loop called Skyline drive which is steep and winding. This gives fantastic views of the mountains and valleys. The 4.5 mile skyline trail is moderately challenging, but if you are an experienced hiker, this is worth it.

Look out tower 
PC: wikipedia

The histroic Indian lodge built around mid 1930s draws tourists to stay in this oasis of the desert. 

This park is 6.5 hrs away from Austin and it is nearer to Marfa, Elpaso and Big Bend National Park. This can be a nice stop on the way to Big Bend. 


TX-118 N., Park Rd. 3
Fort Davis, TX 79734

Hours: 8.15 to 4.45 PM

Entry is $6

So, how did you like these spots in Texas? Now that the weather is cooling off and we are going to 2 digit temperatures, happy exploring Texas :-)

Until next time,

This post is a part of Blogchatter Blog Hop and link it to www.theblogchatter.com

24 September, 2023

Free Simple Online games without ads which are relaxing and fun

I am not a gamer and I don't enjoy video games with violence. But, I certainly love playing word games, solitaire , candy crush , Tetris blocks, chess, sudoku etc.,

Fun Games

I believe, Gaming should be fun and relaxing. It shouldn't be addictive. I don't like to install games on my phone and waste the memory. You know, I take a lot of high resolution photos and videos for my travelogues, so memory on my phone is precious :-)  

I love this website where I can play some of my favorite games for free and without ads. It's a WIN WIN as I need not install any app on my phone. 

Image by thank you for like from Pixabay

Free Games without Ads

Who doesn't love free games? That too without ads? I like the part about no ads. Even with the apps that I install on my phone, I am frustrated with ads and the waits until the ads load and complete. In-App purchases are another annoying thing for me about gaming apps.

Now, Coming to the part of my favorite games which are simple.

Candy Fiesta:

The most simple game of matching 3 candies with same color. This is so fun and relaxing. Super Simple to play. 

The steps are clear incase you don't know how to play. The colors are good and not glaring. The candies look yummy. 

Zuma Ball

This is not so simple, a little challenging and a lot of fun. I love this for it's complexity while giving some fun. 

You just have to shoot the colored ball matching on the ones coming down like a train before time is up.


My kids love this guessing game. 

We should guess where our opponent might have placed their battleship and try to fire it before he does.

A simple guessing game, not a lot of strategy. It is similar to minesweeper game.

I also like the classic games like Solitaire, Chess and Sudoku.

What games do you usually play? Let me know in comments.

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Until next time,

08 September, 2023

One Perfect Day in Las Vegas With Kids

This post may contain affiliate links, clicking on those links may earn some commission to us without any additional cost to you.

Las Vegas also known as Sin city in Nevada is popular for its' casinos and night life for adults. So, what's in for kids? or parents with children?

Here is this post about the best fun things to do with kids in Las Vegas:

We flew to Las Vegas for our South west Utah trip covering Zion, Bryce Canyon, Grand staircase Escalante, Capitol Reef and Goblin Valley State park. 

Read the previous travelogues here:

Zion National Park - Part1

Zion National Park - Part2

Bryce Canyon National Park

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Capitol Reef National park

Goblin Valley State Park

Arches National Park

Canyonlands National Park

How to Reach?

The economical option is to fly to Las Vegas if you are far.

Here are some flight options:

Options to rent a car

Where to Stay?

We stayed in Sahara resort. It's a nice place and economical. We got a room on 14th floor with a nice view of Strata Tower. 

The View from the hotel window

Here are a few other options:

Kid-Friendly places in Las Vegas:

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1. Water fountain show and Flower show at Bellagio

The first thing you do in las Vegas is to take a cab to drop you on the Strip. Outside the Bellagio hotel, the musical fountain show is great to watch. The show is every 15 mins after 8pm and every 30 mins in the morning till noon. This show is free to public.

After the fountain, check out the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. The flower show is excellent and good for photography.

2. Coco Cola Store

This multi story building with a big coco cola bottle sculpture is in the middle of the strip. 

It's a good place to walk inside, check Coco cola merchandise and taste different flavors from the world. We got the tray and tasted different flavors of coke. It's fun.

3. M&M Store

This definitely excites kids. M&M store is full of fun stuff. All merchandise, different M&M candies which kids can pick and choose what they want.

The colorful candy machines are a treat to watch even if you are not interested in chocolate and M&Ms.

4. Newyork Newyork

The Big Apple roller coaster ride in Newyork Newyork is fun to ride for the kids. Kids must be 54 inches tall to ride.This is on the opposite side of M&M store and you can also watch the replica of Brooklyn bridge there. 

We loved the waterfall there, where we can also touch the water. 

The sculpture 'Bliss Dance' which is 60 ft high at the center of City park is beautiful.

5. Hershey's World

This is next to Newyork Newyork and kids will love it. As usual, big candy machines, different types of chocolates from Hershey's, great smoothies are a few things which interest kids.

Every store will have some cute branded sculptures outside if your kids want to take a photo with Hershey's kiss sculpture or similar.

It's really impossible to cover all cool places in just one day. So, we could cover only these.

But, if we visit next time, we don't want to miss these:

Flamingos at Flamingos Hotel

Gondolas at the Venetian

Mandala Bay Aquarium

Meow wolf

Circus Circus

High roller Observation Wheel

The Eiffel tower

Mirage Hotel Volcano

Egyptian Pyramid and a lot more..

I know, this list is endless. 

A word of caution:

You can see a lot of performers on street with little to no clothing, so expect kids to ask questions on why they wore those kind of costumes. Many people distribute cards about porn content, so, try to avoid those.

The strip is always crowded, so please keep children nearer. 

So, that's it about experiencing Las Vegas with kids.

Until next time,

This post is a part of Blogchatter Half Marathon 2023

Effective Tools to keep track of Daily Activities

In our busy lives, it's important to effectively keep track of daily activities so that we don't miss any important tasks. I am a detail oriented person with a memory which is not very sharp. I tend to forget things easily and depend heavily on checklists. I use tech everyday to make my life easier.

Here are my favorite tools that help me to track my daily activities:


I am not sure if you have heard / tried this app, but it's a must on every phone. I have been using Evernote since 7 years or more. I am a dedicated user of this app.

How is it useful?

  • To save grocery checklists
  • To save blog post ideas
  • To save info about travel - accommodations, places to see, restaurants to eat
  • To save important info 
  • To save a screenshot

One advantage is this app can be accessed through cloud. So, we can make checklists on phone and can view them from any other device like a laptop on evernote website by logging in. This makes it easier to sync. 

Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

When I work and on my laptop, I open the website and create notes. I will check them later through my phone.  That's the cool and useful feature for me.


This is not a tip really. Most of you might be using your calendar app on phone to manage reminders , tasks and appointments.

How is it Useful?

  • To save kids class times and set reminders
  • To save doctor appointments
  • To save meetings
  • To set reminders for specific tasks like buy gift for a friend

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

I also use Samsung health app to keep track of my steps and daily activity level. I use a notepad which sticks to my fridge to note down grocery items quickly without even opening the phone. I also take a screenshot of grocery list while visiting store or tear and paper and carry it.

Do you use any apps to keep track of your daily activities? Please do share them in comments.

Until next time,

This post is a part of Blogchatter Half Marathon 2023

07 September, 2023

Dance Recital and Preparation

This is the most exciting time for the year. It's like Christmas or Thanks giving to me, as it's the time for our Annual Recital.

Most of my blog readers might know that Iam a professional classical dancer and I own a dance school - Kala Deepika Dance Academy in Austin, TX.

Annual Recital:

This is an event that we do every year to showcase whatever students have learned in that current year. It's a good way for parents to see how their kids are progressing.

This is the most anticipated event of the year to parents and students alike.

PC: www.pixabay.com


The planning and practice takes place almost 1 year ahead. With the recital date on radar, I start teaching specific songs to each batch and make them practice rigorously. 

It's sometimes challenging to schedule practices and train kids also considering their off days. Even the students who couldn't attend all classes should perform. So, it becomes tough and I plan extra classes for those students.


I have several batches of students at different levels and I usually select the songs that they can perform comfortably. I usually choose songs which they might have practiced a lot in the current year.

Then, I make a schedule with all the songs so that each batch gets some breathing space and rest in between. We plan on someone singing the prayer song. We check our times and decide on the whole show timeline. This will help us to decide the time of the recital, and stage rental.

Image by Asi from Pixabay


Through all these years, I have been learning a lot about planning logistics for a performance. It starts with a stage or auditorium rental, and confirm the facilities we need like focus lights, mics, speakers etc.,

Then, choosing a Event RSVP software to collect the RSVPs, get an estimate of guests. This helps us in planning to arrange food, water etc., for our guests.


The important part of the Recital is the execution. Choosing an MC, writing a script, and preparing the final schedule.

For little kids, A stage rehearsal and a dress rehearsal are very important so that they can perform comfortably in their costumes on that day and know where to stand on the stage.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Cleanup and Wrap up:

Preparing a good vote of thanks speech, taking as many photos as we like, and networking with people is as important as event itself. 

Cleaning up of the place before leaving, thanking the guests, and discussing the feedback form parents are all necessary to plan the next recital in an efficient way.

So, that's crazy amount of work to plan a recital. Wish us luck for our Annual Recital on September 10th. It's going to be fun and challenging of course.

Until next time,

This post is a part of Blogchatter Half Marathon 2023

05 September, 2023

The Last to Vanish by Megan Miranda - [Book Review]

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Book Details:

Title : The Last to Vanish

Author: Megan Miranda

Genre: Fiction, thriller

Publisher: S&S/ Marysue Rucci Books

Print length: 336 pages



“This eerie thriller…can stand next to Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and Stephen King’s The Shining.” —Booklist (starred review)

New York Times bestselling author Megan Miranda returns with a gripping and propulsive thriller that opens with the disappearance of a journalist who is investigating a string of vanishings in the resort town of Cutter’s Pass—will its dark secrets finally be revealed?

Ten years ago, Abigail Lovett fell into a job she loves, managing The Passage Inn, a cozy, upscale resort nestled in the North Carolina mountain town of Cutter’s Pass. Cutter’s Pass is best known for its outdoor offerings—rafting and hiking, with access to the Appalachian trail by way of a gorgeous waterfall—and its mysterious history. As the book begins, the string of unsolved disappearances that has haunted the town is once again thrust into the spotlight when journalist Landon West, who was staying at the inn to investigate the story of the vanishing trail, then disappears himself.

Abby has sometimes felt like an outsider within the community, but she’s come to view Cutter’s Pass as her home. When Landon’s brother Trey shows up looking for answers, Abby can’t help but feel the town closing ranks. And she’s still on the outside. When she finds incriminating evidence that may bring them closer to the truth, Abby soon discovers how little she knows about her coworkers, neighbors, and even those closest to her.

Megan Miranda brings her best writing to The Last to Vanish, a riveting thriller filled with taut suspense and shocking twists that will keep you guessing until the very end.

Purchase Link:


Audio book

Audio book is free with Audible Trial

Try Kindle Unlimited to access millions of books. 

My Review:

I loved the plot and the suspense it carried till the end. The story starts with multiple disappearances at a small town near Appalachian trail. Abby joins as an employee at an inn after her mother dies. The inn owner Celeste takes care of Abby as her own family.

There were 2 mysterious disappearance near Shadow fall trails and the mystery was never solved. After Abby comes, one more girl hiking Shadow falls vanishes. No trace of anything.

Eventhough all town people want to forget these mysteries and move on to make the town safest for tourists, Abby feels like she is at the center of everything happening around and finds some clues and investigates connecting the dots.

In this digging, she finds interesting and disturbing about her life and how she is connected to the town.

The mystery is maintained till the end. Most of the characters are sketchy not sharing any details with Abby considering her as an outsider. Characters of Landon, Trey, Celeste and Sheriff are interesting along with Abby's.

We really feel the small town atmosphere reading the book and visualize the Shadow falls trail. We keep on guessing as reader who might be the culprit.

I would recommend this book to readers who love Thrillers.

I gave one star less only because it is confusing at a few points. The why part for many actions are not clear.

Overall, A Wonderful read and couldn't put the book down.

My Rating: 4/5

About the Author:

Megan Miranda is the New York Times bestselling author of All the Missing Girls; The Perfect Stranger; The Last House Guest, a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick; The Girl from Widow Hills; Such a Quiet Place; and The Last to Vanish. She has also written several books for young adults. She grew up in New Jersey, graduated from MIT, and lives in North Carolina with her husband and two children.

Her next book, The Only Survivors, will be published on April 11th, 2023.

Follow @MeganLMiranda on Instagram, @AuthorMeganMiranda on Facebook, 
or visit www.meganmiranda.com

Until next time,

This post is a part of Blogchatter Half Marathon 2023
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