8 Free Things To Do in San Francisco

San Francisco is the nation’s twelfth and California’s fourth-largest city. Named after Francis de Assisi (a.k.a. Saint Francis) by Spanish missionaries in 1776, The Golden City is renowned for its hilly streets, cable cars, Victorian townhomes, and landmarks such as Alcatraz Island and The Golden Gate Bridge. Given its level of amenities, beauty, and culture, it is no surprise that San Francisco is consistently ranked as one of the most expensive places in the world. Fortunately, you don’t need to spend money to enjoy much of the city’s splendor.

Read on for a brief list of fabulous free things to do in San Francisco!

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Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center
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Baker Beach

1. Gaze at the Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge is by far San Francisco’s most iconic landmark. First proposed in 1872 and open to the public in 1937, the 9,000-foot suspension bridge spans the Golden Gate Straight, which connects the San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean.

To access the Bridge and learn about its history, visit the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center. Other great viewpoints include Baker Beach and Land’s End park.


California Academy of Sciences, Golden Gate Park
Wood Line (2011) by Andy Goldsworthy, The Presidio
Labyrinth (2004) by Eduardo Aguilera, Land’s End

2. Play in the park

San Francisco is home to more than 220 parks, playgrounds, and open spaces. My favorite large parks include Golden Gate Park (home to a variety of museums and gardens), The Presidio (site of the Golden Gate Bridge, a former military post, and four works by Andy Goldsworthy), and Land’s End (located alongside the Coastal Trail).

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Pier 43 Ferry Arch

3. Discover Fisherman’s Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf is an extremely popular tourist area located in the northeastern corner of the city. At Pier 39, there a variety of shops, restaurants, and free and paid attractions–such as the Aquarium of the Bay and Sea Lion Overlook.

To avoid extreme crowds, visit Monday through Thursday or early in the day if possible.

Lombard Street
Lombard Street (Source: http://www.wikipedia.com)

4. Take a walk on Filbert or Lombard Street

San Francisco is famous for its sloping, winding streets, and none better illustrate this than Filbert and Lombard. Filbert Street, starting at Lyon Street and ending at Telegraph Hill, has a maximum gradient of 31.5%.

Located in the eastern segment of Russian Hill, Lombard Street features a whopping eight hairpin turns. This street is so recognizable that it was featured in Disney Pixar’s Inside Out.

The Pained Ladies townhomes

5. Stare at the Painted Ladies

Anyone who’s ever seen Full House is familiar with the row of colorful townhouses (a.k.a the Painted Ladies) pictured at the end of the show’s title sequence. Although neither the exterior nor the interior of the house was filmed there, the building located directly east of Alamo Square Park is still worth visiting.

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The 16th Avenue Tiled Steps (Source: http://www.16thavenuetiledsteps.com)

6. Descend (or Ascend) the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps

The Tiled Steps, located on Moraga Street between 15th and 16th Avenue, is another popular spot in the city. Started in 2003 as a grassroots effort to connect the neighbors in a community project to beautify Golden Gate Heights, the 163-step stairway is adorned with celestial to aquatic motifs.

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7. Read a book at City Lights

City Lights is a landmark independent bookstore and publisher founded in 1953 by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin that specializes in world literature, the arts, and progressive politics.

Given our heavy reliance on the internet and digital technology, it’s good to sometimes sit back, relax, and read a book.

San Francisco seen from the summit of Twin Peaks

8. View the city from Twin Peaks

There is something truly captivating about seeing an entire city from above. At 922 feet in elevation, Twin Peaks park offers clear panoramic views of San Francisco. Though beautiful at any time, the vista is especially stunning during sunrise, sunset, and night time.

Know of any other amazing free things to do in San Francisco that should be added to this list? Please let me know in the comments!


About Me


Hi, I’m Kara!

I started karaboutlife back in July 2017 after returning from my first college study This blog is intended for twenty-to-thirty-somethings pursuing an adventurous, meaningful life and is focused on sustainable and budget-friendly travel and living. I am extremely passionate about shaping a more sustainable world, and I am looking to partner with businesses that work to achieve the triple bottom line. Please contact karaboutlife@gmail.com if you are interested in collaborating.

I invite you to join me on my journey.

10 Stops to Make in Big Sur, California

Big Sur is a rugged and mountainous section of the Central Coast of California between Carmel Highlands and San Simeon. Have only a day or two to see the stunning coastline and want to make sure you see all the highlights?

Read on for a list of places to stop in Big Sur!

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The iconic Bixby Creek Bridge (Source: http://www.bridgehunter.com)

1. Bixby Creek Bridge

Starting from the north, you will inevitably pass over the iconic Bixby Creek Bridge. For the perfect view, pull over at the vista point about 1.5 south of it.

Little Sur River Beach covered with red succulents

2. Little Sur River Beach

The next major vista point you will pass is one that overlooks Little Sur River Beach. Although fenced in, you can still get a good view of the private beach adorned with bright red succulents.

Point Sur Lighthouse
The publicly accessible Point Sur Lighthouse (Source: http://www.travelchannel.com)

3. Point Sur Lighthouse

There’s nothing super extraordinary looking about the outside of the lighthouse, but it is the only complete turn-of-the-20th-century light station open to the public in California. Tours are generally held every Sunday, Wednesday, and Saturday.

Andrew Molera State Park near sunset

4. Andrew Molera State Park

Here, take a hike through the forest or along the beach on one of the park’s several trails.

Keyhole Arch at Pfieffer Beach

5. Pfieffer Beach

If  I had to pick one place to visit in Big Sur, I would chose Pfieffer Beach, hands-down. Though the water is a bit chilly, this is one of the few places in the area where swimming is permitted.

Solar alignment at Keyhole Arch (Source: Steven Christenson)

While at the beach, make sure to checkout Keyhole Arch. Around the Winter Solstice (from mid-December to mid-January), the sunset perfectly aligns with the key hole, creating a stunning ray of light.

Partington Cove blooms with golden flowers

6. Partington Cove

If you’re up for a second hike, do the 1-mile Partington Cove Trail.  Though very short, it takes a bit of effort to climb back up the hill.

Stairs leading down to Sand Dollar Beach
Sand Dollar Beach at high tide


7. Sand Dollar Beach

Next, spend some time walking around Sand Dollar Beach (Tip: Instead of using official parking lot, park right across the road to get free parking. Don’t worry, you won’t be towed).

McWay Falls during mid-afternoon
McWay Falls during sunset

8. McWay Falls

If Pfieffer Beach is the number one thing to do in Big Sur, McWay Falls is a close second. It is one of only two tide falls (waterfall that flows directly into the ocean) in the United States, the other being Alamere Falls at Point Reyes National Seashore.

The Pacific Ocean meets the rugged California coast
Posing in front of a lesser-known bridge in Big Sur

9. Other Vista Points

In addition to the well-known places, there are plenty of other beautiful places to stop and capture rugged cliffs, winding roads, and bridges along the Pacific Coast Highway.

Fog adds a layer of mystery and drama to any lookout

10. Hidden Pull Offs

In addition to the highly visible vista points, there are many unofficial places to wander around and explore.

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Feel inspired to drive along the Golden Coast? Click here for basic driving directions on Google Maps.

Glamping in Big Bend Country: A Review of Basecamp Terlingua

Rather than stay at a campsite or hotel, my travel partner and I opted to rent a teepee from Basecamp Terlingua on our recent visit to Big Bend National Park. Offering a range of luxury vacation rentals, it is one of three sister properties in Terlingua, Texas.


Located just 8-miles outside of the northwestern entrance to Big Bend, the site of six teepees, a bath bathhouse, two adobe-style, and two bubble houses blended seamlessly with the desert landscape.



Having not viewed the photos posted on Airbnb, I was blown away upon entering the teepee. It was bright, spacious, and luxurious and had a southwestern/boho style that looked straight from Pinterest! The room featured a king-size bed, nightstands with lamps, a sofa bed, chairs, a kitchenette, an evaporative cooler and heater, and wifi.


The kitchenette, consisting of a sink, refrigerator, microwave, and Keurig and equip with mugs, coffee cups, silverware, coffees, and teas was truly great. However, I did wish it had a regular coffee machine rather than one that uses disposable K-cups. It is estimated that, in total, the amount of K-cups ever thrown away could wrap around the planet 10 times.


Outside there was a fire pit already equipped with firewood, along with a table and two lawn chairs. It would have been nice if it had kindling as well, but the setup was very nice regardless.


That evening, while my friend and I were headed into town by foot, one of the property managers, Sandy, rode past us in her Jeep and offered us a ride to the nearby Starlight Theater.


That night, we both enjoyed warm showers inside the space-heated bathhouse and slept extremely comfortably against the firm mattress beneath the heated blanket. Because of the cloud cover, we were unable to stargaze in what would have been one of the best places to do so in the lower 48 states. From far off in the distance, we could here the faint chuckling of hyenas.


Almost as if we were being compensated for the clouded, near starless sky the previous night, that morning we were treated to one of the best sunrises I have ever experienced. It was truly mesmerizing watching the vivid crimson, then lavender and pink sky dance over the campground.

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While at the park, I realized that I had left my wallet sitting out on the nightstand. Through the chat feature on their website, I was able to get in contact with Morgan, one of the property managers, and she quickly retrieved my wallet and placed it out of sight.

The second night, we slept just as comfortably and soundly as we did the first. Despite the teepee having no locks or safes and the lack of a formal check-in/out process, I felt very safe and secure during my entire stay at Basecamp.

At $129 per night, the price is comparable to other accommodations in the area, such as the Chisos Mountain Lodge inside the park (starting at $109 per night) and Big Bend Holiday Hotel (starting at $130 per night).

Overall, I would rate Basecamp Terlingua 9.5/10 stars and would highly recommend this place to anyone looking to stay near Big Bend.

One Day in Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park is one of the largest and most remote National Parks in the continental United States. Have only one day to spend at the Texas National Park and want to make sure you experience all of its highlights?

Read on for a Basic One-Day Itinerary for Big Bend National Park

The limestone walls of Santa Elena Canyon

1. Take Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive to Santa Elena Canyon (~15 miles)

Start at the northwest entrance of the park and head down Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive towards Santa Elena Canyon.

On the Santa Elena Canyon Trail, watch as the moss-green river flows between the limestone walls while listening to the birds sing and wind rustling the riparian vegetation.

A large butte at Sotol Vista

2. Enjoy overlooks along the way (~ 20 miles)

Next, drive northeast and stop at the Sotol Vista and Tuff Canyon Overlooks before heading down Basin Junction towards Chisos Mountain Basin.

The top of Lost Mine Trail

3. Take a Hike (~ 25 miles)

Near the Chisos Mountains Visitor Center, hike one or several of the following trails:

Tip: If the lot at the trailhead for the Lost Mine Trail is full, drive down the road towards the Visitors Center and park at the pullout to the right. This took us just under 2 hours to complete.

Note: The Balanced Rock Trail requires driving down an 8-mile unpaved road.

Chisos Basin and The Window
Santa Elena Canyon

Is it just me, or does the shape of the ‘window’ uncannily resemble the space formed between the walls of Santa Elena Canyon?

The historic hot springs

4. Soak at the Hot Springs (~ 30 miles)

When you’re finished hiking, make your way to the far eastern portion of the park to bask in the Hot Springs. From the parking lot and along the short trail, ruins of historic settlements and petroglyphs can be seen among limestone walls and the bamboo forest. Nearing the springs, the tranquil sound of rushing water loudens.

Now contained by the foundation remains of the original bathhouse, the springs lay adjacent to the north bank of the Rio Grande. The relaxing feeling of the 105° F water, with mineral salts said have healing powers, would rival those of any world-class spa. If you don’t mind the smell,  slather some of the dark mud across your face for softer and smoother skin.

Rio Grande Overlook before sunset (Source: Love Your RV)

5. Watch the Sunset over the Rio Grande

(~ 5 miles)

Finally, end the day by watching the sunset over the Big River. To maximize your time at the Hot Springs, choose someplace nearby like the Rio Grande Village Nature Trail or Rio Grande Overlook.

Did this convince you to visit Big Bend or take a road trip to your local National Park? What did you most enjoy or want to learn more about in this post? Let me know in the comments!

8 Free Things To Do in San Diego

San Diego is California’s oldest and second-largest city. Named after Diego de San Nicolás (a.k.a. Saint Didacus) by Spanish missionaries in 1602, America’s Finest City is famous for its beaches, warm year-round climate, naval history, and close proximity to Mexico.

Read on for a list of my favorite free things to do in San Diego!

A Spanish garden in Balboa Park

1. Take a stroll in Balboa Park

Balboa Park was named after Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa in honor of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition and declared a National Historic Landmark and District in 1977. The park features Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, museums, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo.

While you’re there, be sure to check out the Casa del Rey Moro garden and Botanic Building.

Exploring the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge

2. Walk the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge

The Spruce Street Suspension Bridge is a hidden pedestrian footbridge in Bankers Hill–less than one mile west from Balboa Park.

Supported by cables embedded in massive concrete slabs beneath the soil, the 375-foot construction shows a beautiful vista of the Sessions Canyon 70-feet below.

Sealions in La Jolla Cove

3. See marine life in La Jolla

Almost translating to “the jewel,” La Jolla occupies the area between Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve and Pacific Beach. Here, I recommend starting at La Jolla Cove and passing through the Children’s Pool, Cuvier Park, and ending at the Tide Pools.

In addition to large mammals like sea lions, harbor seals, and dolphins, countless marine birds like seagulls, cormorants, and pelicans can be spotted here.

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Gentle waves at Mission Beach

4. Hit the beach

Whether you want to swim, snorkel, surf, or sunbathe, a trip to San Diego wouldn’t be complete without a visit to one of its beaches along 17 miles of coastline.

My favorite is Mission Beach, which is home to a 2-mile boardwalk and Belmont Park. Come by on a weekend morning if you wish to join or watch people of all experience levels surf.

Pretending to be a model in front of Scripps Pier

5. Pose like a model at Scripps Pier

The Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier is located at Scripps Beach, which is adjacent to the UCSD Scripps Institution of Oceanography campus in northern La Jolla.

Both the series of frames created by the reinforced concrete structure and the perfectly tousled hair you get from the funneled wind makes this a perfect shot for a small photo session. Besides, who hasn’t dreamed of moving to California to become model at some point in their lives?

Cabrillo National Monument around sunset

6. Visit Cabrillo National Monument and Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery

Cabrillo National Monument, located on the southern point of Point Loma, commemorates Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the first European to set foot on the West Coast of the United States.

In addition to the statue, the site encompasses the Old and New Point Loma Lighthouse and Point Loma Tide Pools. Just up the road is Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, which is marked by approximately 100,000 marble headstones.

Old Town San Diego
The very festive Old Town San Diego (Source: http://www.sandiego.org)

7. Explore Old Town

Created in 1769, Old Town San Diego was California’s first settlement consisting of only a mission and a fort. Today, you can experience 19th century Mexican-American life by exploring original and reconstructed buildings and furnishings.

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A fiery sunset at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

8. Watch the sunset

As cliché as it sounds, watching the sunset is one of my favorite things to do both at home and on vacation.

There are several good spots to watch the sunset in San Diego, including Cabrillo National Monument and Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. Pictured is a sunset at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park on what had been an overcast day.

Do you agree with my picks for best free things to do in San Diego? Please let me know in the comments!

For greater detail on what I did each day in San Diego, check out my previous post, A Long Weekend in San Diego.

A 3-Day Road Trip From Phoenix to Big Bend

Last week, I embarked on my final adventure of the year to Big Bend National Park. Starting in Phoenix, my friend and I traveled nearly 1,000 miles in 48 hours to visit one of the most remote National Parks in the U.S. We had a wonderful time exploring Big Bend, and also paid visits to Guadalupe Mountains and Carlsbad Caverns National Park along the way.

Read on for a basic 3-day road itinerary starting in Phoenix and ending in Big Bend.

Day 1: Begin in Phoenix, visit Guadalupe Mountains (540-miles), stay in Carlsbad (50-miles)


At around sunrise, head east on US-60 towards Globe. Alternately, you can go south towards Tucson on I-10 with a similar ETA. However, I enjoyed taking this route instead because I was recently on a trip to White Sands National Monument where we took the latter.

Instead of heading straight to Carlsbad, take a small detour to Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Depending on what time of the year it is, you’ll have one to three hours to explore the park.  At the suggestion of a park ranger, we did the Pinery trail, which took us to the ruins of a station built in 1858 along the Butterfield Overland Mail Route–the first transcontinental mail system. The trail was mostly paved, scenic, and only took us about 20 minutes.

We then backtracked a little and watched the sunset at Guadalupe Peak, Texas’ highest mountain at 8,749 feet.

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Source: The Trinity Hotel

Before heading to your accommodation, grab some dinner in downtown Carlsbad. We dined at The Trinity Hotel & Restaurant, which is the top-rated restaurant in town. The food was decent (we both ordered spaghetti) and the service excellent. That night, we stayed in a 4-person cabin at Carlsbad KOA Holiday. Fortunately, were still able to get our keys after the reception desk had closed (which is at 7:00 pm).

The room contained one double bed, one bunk bed, two small chairs, and a heater, with the bathroom located very close by. The only downside to staying here was the strong petrochemical smell (which others have noted)–most likely a result of gas operations nearby.  However, I would still recommend this place to those planning to stay for just one or two nights.

Day 2: Continue road trip, visit Carlsbad Caverns (30-miles), stay in Terlingua (290-miles)


The next morning, drive down to Carlsbad Cavern National Park. At 8:30 sharp, my travel companion and I (plus two men we met who were coincidentally both from the same town in upstate New York) made our way through the Natural Entrance and eventually into the Big Room.

Throughout the otherwise pitch-dark cave, LEDs illuminated the Permian-age speleothems. From columns, stalactites, and stalagmites to soda straws and popcorn, the formations and descent of the cavern reminded me of how I envisioned Inferno by Dante.



Next, head south towards the Lone Star State. If time permits, take a small hike (such as the Santa Elena Canyon Trail) or watch the sunset at Big Bend National Park.

Rather than stay a campsite or at the lodge inside the park, we opted to rent a teepee from Basecamp Terlingua.  While in Terlingua, be sure to explore the Ghost Town and stop for dinner at the Starlight Theater, which is open from Sunday to Friday from 5pm–midnight. Happy hour is from 5–6 pm, where you can get $3 margaritas.

For an honest review on Basecamp, see Glamping in Big Bend Country: A Review of Basecamp Terlingua.

Day 3: Big Bend National Park (8-miles)


Spend the remainder of your trip exploring Big Bend National Park. Since we only had one day here, we left just after sunrise and spent most of the day hiking light trails and driving along the main roads of the park. During your visit, be sure to do the Santa Elena Canyon Trail and enjoy the Hot Springs.


For dinner, eat at La Kiva Restaurant and Bar. The stone walls, dinosaur decor, and caldrons, along with the eclectic music gives the semi-subterranean hideaway a warm charm. I ordered a veggie burger, which came with a side of Shiner Fries–classic french fries with Shiner Rock Beer Salt. Our food came very quickly, and both the burger and fries tasted great.

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Feel inspired to take a trip down to Big Bend country?Click here for basic driving directions on Google Maps.

For a basic one-day itinerary for inside the park, see One Day in Big Bend National Park.

A Long Weekend in San Diego

Almost as soon as finals ended, my friend and I began our long-awaited trip to San Diego. Prior to the trip, we created a working itinerary of our daily activities, but made adjustments to it as we saw fit. Now, I am sharing a brief summary of our trip with lots of pictures. Enjoy!

Day 1: Joshua Tree National Park and Cabrillo National Monument

Starting in Phoenix, we followed I-10 to Joshua Tree National Park. The drive through the park was easy and straightforward, with only one major fork in the north towards I-62. We chose to go left for better views of Sand To Snow National Monument, which we attempted to visit after exiting the park. However, the road leading to the Monument was rocky and ultimately closed. In retrospect, we suggest using the Forest Falls Welcome Center address rather than the GoogleMaps location.

In San Diego we checked into our hostel, then headed to Cabrillo National Monument and Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery where we watched the sunset.

Day 2: La Jolla

On the second day, we took a morning stroll along Mission Beach, enjoying the morning mist and watching surfers ride the subtle waves. Next, we explored the coast of La Jolla, starting at La Jolla Cove and passing through the Children’s Pool, Cuvier Park, and ending at the Tide Pools. At the Cove, we (and many other tourists) were able to get up close and personal with the native sea lions. At the Children’s Pool, we saw a small group of harbor seals, but did not spot any sea life at the Tide Pools. Along the way, we saw countless marine birds, including seagulls, Brandt’s Cormorants, and Brown Pelicans.

After this, we took a kayak tour of the Seven Caves. Our tour guides were very friendly and knowledgable about the unique aquatic ecosystem, and our group had only about 10 people total. Some fun facts: (1) Footage from the Green Seas episode of Blue Planet 2 were filmed at the San Diego-Scripps Coastal Marine Conservation–which is known because a production camera was reportedly found washed up inside one of the sea caves and a $5,000 reward was given for returning it. (2) Giant kelp can grow up to 18 inches per day and prefer cold, nutrient-rich waters, but are threatened by climate change. Unfortunately, the waters that afternoon were too turbulent for us to go inside any of the Seven Caves, but the company gave us free passes for Sunny Jim Sea Cave.

Before going to dinner, we stopped by Scripps Pier at Scripps Beach for a quick photoshoot. That night, we visited Old Town, regarded as the birthplace of California. There we explored shops, listened to Latin music, eat churros, and sipped margaritas.

Day 3: Balboa Park and Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

On our final day, we headed back to La Jolla to use our passes to see Sunny Jim Sea Cave, which requires a 144-stair descent from The Cave Store. While in La Jolla, we also spotted sea lions playing and a small pod of dolphins.

We then visited the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge and took a walk through Balboa Park.

Named after Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa in honor of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, Balboa Park was declared a National Historic Landmark and a National Historic Landmark District in 1977. The park features Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, museums, and other attractions such as the San Diego Zoo, Botanic Building, and Japanese Friendship Garden. For lunch we eat at El Prado restaurant and recommend ordering the walnut salad.

On the way to Sunset Cliffs, we took a quick stop at Dog Beach. If you go there hoping to get some doggie love, you’ll be out of luck because the dogs there were all very much in “play mode,” with too much energy to stop and let you pet them. At Sunset Cliffs, we spent our time exploring the tide pools, admiring the adjacent houses, and watching the crimson sunset.

Arizona State University: A Virtual Tour of the Tempe Campus

The process of choosing which college or university to attend can be one of the most exciting yet stressful times in one’s high school career. Key to this decision is determining whether a college is a good fit, which is best done by visiting its campus in person. However, it may not be feasible to visit every school on your list, especially if you are considering going out-of state. As a Senior at Arizona State University (ASU), I am writing this to give prospective students who are unable to visit a better understanding of what it’s like to attend and live at the Tempe campus.

We’ll begin our tour up north at Sun Devil Stadium. By far, the most popular game of the season is the Arizona State University versus University of Arizona (UofA) football game–a rivalry that dates back to 1899. Pictured is the 2015 ASU vs. UofA football game, where the Sun Devils defeated the Wildcats 52-37.

ASU Sun Devil Stadium

Nearby is Tempe Butte or “A-Mountain,” which serves as a landmark for the City of Tempe and the university. It is a popular hiking spot due to its convenient location and views of downtown Tempe and the location of annual traditions such as Whitewash the “A” and Lantern Walk.

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On Cady Mall, there is Wrigley Hall–home to the nation’s first School of Sustainability and the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. Although the roof wind turbines do not generate electricity, they are a symbol of ASU’s commitment to renewable energy sources and sustainability.

ASU Wrigley Hall

Further down is Hayden Library, the largest and most visited library at the university. Built in 1966, it was named after Tempe’s Founder Charles Hayden and is currently undergoing major renovations to be completed in 2020. I spent many long nights here studying and writing essays during my freshman and sophomore years, and continue to use it as a meeting place for many of my group projects.

ASU Hayden Library

On Orange Mall there is the Memorial Union (MU), a three-story complex containing a variety of dining options, facilities, and organizations. Considered the “living room of campus,” this building is one my favorite places to visit between classes because of its  casual atmosphere, lounges, and central location.

ASU Memorial Union

The Student Pavilion, located directly across from the MU, is an event venue for lectures, musicals, performances, and student productions. Outside of these buildings is a large outdoor seating area beneath a solar panel-covered shade canopy, which is also a very popular place for students to socialize, study, and relax.

ASU Student Pavillion

Also of interest is Palm Walk, an avenue of palm trees dating back to 1916 that is said to be the most photographed place on campus. Originally fan palms, the trees were replaced by date palms in 2016 to provide more shade for pedestrians and fruit for the university’s annual date harvest.

ASU Palm Walk

Finally, we’ll end our tour at the Sun Devil Fitness Complex (SDFC) at the southern edge of campus. The SDFC is the main facility for sports and physical wellness on campus and features gyms, exercise rooms, game courts, and a swimming pool. Prior to coming to ASU, I seldom exercised or visited the gym. However, the free Devil-X group exercise and yoga classes have made staying fit much more enjoyable.


I hope that by showing you some of the highlights, you were able to get a taste of the Arizona State University Tempe campus and better determine if ASU is right for you.


Exploring Iceland’s South Coast

After spending four weeks in Denmark for a study abroad program and over a week exploring Hamburg, Lüneburg, Berlin, and Amsterdam, my group and I finally made it to our final destination—Iceland!

For this part of the trip, we basically followed an itinerary that I found on Guide to Iceland a few months back and made a few tweaks.

Read on for an overview of what we did on our five-day road trip along Iceland’s South Coast!

Day 1: Arrive in Keflavik and stay in Reykjavik (30 miles)

After we arrived and got our bags, we took a shuttle from Keflavik International Airport to the Reykjavik City hostel. The six-person mixed-gender room I stayed in was bright, relatively clean, and definitely spacious enough for the amount of people.

During that time, thousands of Boy Scouts from all across the globe were in Iceland for the World Scout Moot, and I was able to witness a large group of them camping outside the hostel from my window during my stay.

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The Open-air Folk Museum
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The exterior of Hallgrimskirkja church was inspired by basalt columns
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View of Reykjavík from the church window
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Iconic view of downtown Reykjavík from the top observation room
Soaking in the Blue Lagoon

Day 2: Explore Reykjavík

The next morning, our car rental company came to our hostel and took us to the nearby rental lot. We then stocked up on groceries, eat lunch, and visited the Open-air Folk Museum. After this we headed to the city for our free CityWalk Reykjavík walking tour (we were able to book it earlier that same day). At the end of the tour,  I paid $9 to visit the top of the Hallgrimskirkja church tower (so worth it!).

Finally, we ended our day by relaxing at Blue Lagoon– a large geothermal spa about 49 km outside of Reykjavík. It took nearly an hour to get there, but sights on the way were otherworldly.

Before entering the Lagoon, we were required to shower and told not to wet our hair. But of course, we—and practically everyone else—did. The water was a soft, opaque, blue-green color and felt like a warm bath. After five weeks of constantly scrambling from one place to another, it was wonderful to just be able to have fun, take some pictures, and relax. We also took advantage of the free mud face mask that was situated at the swim-up station.

Tip: If possible, head straight to Blue Lagoon from Keflavík International Airport. In the summer months, tickets can sell out weeks to months in advance.

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A geothermal vent in the Geysir Geothermal Area
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The Great Strokkur Geysir
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Gullfoss waterfall (a.k.a. Golden Falls)
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The surface of an active volcano in Vestmannaeyjar
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A street of colorful buildings in Vestmannaeyjar
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Seljalandsfoss waterfall

Day 3: Begin road trip around the south coast, stay near Hella or Hvolsvöllur (175 miles)

The next morning, we left early to begin our journey along the island’s south coast. On our way, we passed through the stunning Þingvellir National Park, before arriving at the world-famous Geysir.

After this, we went to the Gullfoss waterfall, then to Landeyjahöfn to take the ferry to Vestmannaeyjar, an archipelago off the south coast. In Vestmannaeyjar, we took a puffin and volcano tour with Eyjatours where learned a lot about the island’s unique history and culture, visited an active volcano, and got to see live puffins.

Once we returned to our car, we headed to Seljalandsfoss waterfall, then to our cabin in Hella.

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Dyrhólaey arch at Reynisfjara
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Reynisfjara black sand beach
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Classic view of Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon
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A different perspective of Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon

Day 4: Continue road trip, stay near Jokulsarlon (425 miles)

On the fourth day, we began at Dyrhólaey, then made our way to Reynisfjara black sand beach, Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon, Jökusárlon glacier lagoon, and the adjacent Diamond Beach.

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The red chair in Þjóovegur
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Birds fly over Jökusárlon glacier lagoon
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Top of Skógafoss waterfall
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Skógafoss waterfall
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Trying not to slip into Kerið crater lake
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Kerið crater lake

Day 5: Finish road trip, stay in Reykjavík (350 miles)

On the last full day, we headed further east to see the red chair in Þjóovegur, then back west towards Reykjavík. We visited the glacier lagoon once again, then Skógafoss waterfall and Kerið crater lake.

Before checking into our hostel, we entered the city one more time for me to try one of Reykjavík’s (apparently) famous hotdogs. I didn’t find Bæjarins Beztu Pylsurn (the chain I was looking for), so I ended up going to Pysuhúsh Hot Dog House instead. I ordered the classic Icelandic, which was a mix of pork, lamb, and beef (a departure from my normal diet) and was quite impressed!

Screen Shot 2018-12-28 at 1.12.51 AM.jpgFeel inspired to take a trip along the South Coast? Click here for basic driving directions on Google Maps.