Through My Lens

Exploring the World Through Photography

Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island Museum

If you have never been to New York before, then the trip out to the Statue of Liberty is something you must do. People may tell you that you can…

If you have never been to New York before, then the trip out to the Statue of Liberty is something you must do. People may tell you that you can see it from the ferry without paying or that you can just look at it from Manhattan, and those are great options, but there is something magical about being on the island and looking up at this iconic statue. Add to that a visit to Ellis Island and this is a trip worthy of your time/money. Here is all the information.

Details

  • Cost: $18, more to go inside.
  • Hours: Generally the first ferry is 8:30 AM and last is 5 PM
  • Location: Ferry leaves from Battery Park

Getting Tickets

If you are going on a busy weekend, I would recommend getting tickets online before you go. This is especially true if you want to get a specific time or want to go inside the statue. If you wait until the day of, then you might not be able to get the times you want or go inside.

Tickets are handled in Battery Park inside of Castle Clinton National Monument. If you buy them online though, you can just print your own tickets and head directly to security.Security is the same as you would see at an airport, with metal detectors and x-ray machines.

Statue of Liberty

Once past, you will be able to board the boat for the islands. From Manhattan, the boat stops at Statue of Liberty first then Ellis Island. Coming from New Jersey, it is the opposite.

As you approach the island, you will be able to get a lot of great photo ops of the statue.

When the boat docks you are free to roam around the small island, and if you have tickets to go in then you can do that here as well.

We didn’t get tickets to go in, so we just walked around the outside on the walking trail they have set up.

The statue is smaller in person, but it is still really cool to see it. When I was there, I wished I would have bought access to the pedestal (you can’t buy inside access on the island itself) as it would have been fun to get a little closer.

We didn’t spend more than 30 minutes exploring but it was well worth it to be so close to such an iconic piece of American history.

From there we got back on the boat and headed over to Ellis Island.

Ellis Island

Ellis Island, if you don’t know, is where all of the boats caring immigrants stopped on their way over from Europe. It is where people were interviewed and processed to become US citizens, and it is an important part of our history as well.

There is a large museum on the island that talks in detail about what it was like to make the journey and the process to come into the country.

I found this to be fascinating as I knew little to nothing about it but was excited to learn.

The best part of the museum is the old processing area. It is beautiful with its arched ceilings and large windows.

The also had examples of ship manifests up here which was cool to see.

After exploring for about an hour, we got on the boat and headed back to Manhattan. You could easily spend a half day at Ellis Island just by itself, so if you are into genealogy and history be sure to book enough time.

All in all, this is a great tour in New York City and one that I recommend you take. Let me know what you think in the comments.

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Grand Prismatic Overview Hike in Yellowstone National Park

When you visit Yellowstone, I believe the most impressive thing to see is the Grand Prismatic Spring. This massive hot spring is the largest in the USA and one of…

When you visit Yellowstone, I believe the most impressive thing to see is the Grand Prismatic Spring. This massive hot spring is the largest in the USA and one of the largest in the world. It has so many different colors it is unlike anything else I have seen on my travels. While most people see it via the boardwalk, and it is impressive there, it is much more impressive to see it from higher up on the newly created overlook trail that just got completed in July 2017. Here is all the information.

Details

  • 1-mile round trip
  • 100 feet of elevation
  • Leaves from fairy falls parking lot

Getting There

The trailhead for the overlook is in the Fairy Falls Trail parking lot. This lot is south of the main parking area for Grand Prismatic. The parking area can get full during the summer, so as with everything in Yellowstone, earlier is always better.

The Trail

After parking, walk to the trailhead and make sure to note the two beautiful springs on either side of the lot.

The trail starts by heading over the Firehole River on a small bridge.

From there it meanders along the side of the mountain, and it passes a few more springs.

When you turn the corner, you will see the Grand Prismatic Hot Spring poking out in front of you, but from here you won’t be able to see much.

The trail then splits with the trail to Fairy Falls, and it starts to head uphill to the left.

The uphill trail is not too bad but it can be warm in Yellowstone so take your time.

When you get halfway, you will get your first view of Grand Prismatic through the trees. This will surely get your adrenaline going and help to push you onward.

After a few more bends, you will see the overlook ahead of you and a few small inclines to get there.

The views from here are spectacular as you are at a high vantage point and can see the colors and size of the Grand Prismatic really well. It’s one of those places that you can’t even believe is real, even when you are looking at it.

I spent a good 15 minutes just taking it all in before starting the path back down. I didn’t go to Fairy Falls this time, but if you want to extend your hike, you can head out on the spur for an additional 4 miles round trip.

All in all, this is a spot you don’t want to miss in Yellowstone, check it out and let me know what you think in the comments.

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9/11 World Trade Center Museum & Memorial

I will never forget that morning when I was getting ready for school and heard that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. Watching it unfold over the…

I will never forget that morning when I was getting ready for school and heard that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. Watching it unfold over the rest of the day was horrifying, and it is one of those days that will stay with me for the rest of my life. On a recent trip to New York, I got the opportunity to visit the memorial and museum, and I have to say that it is one of the best museums I have ever been to as every room is packed with emotion. Add to that the beautiful memorials outside the museum, and you will be spending at least a few hours taking it all in. Here is all the information so you can check it out for yourself.

Details

  • Cost: $24 for museum
  • Memorial is free
  • Hours: 9 AM – 6 PM
  • Location: 180 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10007

It is easy to find this area of New York as it is in lower Manhattan and you can see the massive One World Trade Center Building displayed prominently in the New York skyline.

When you arrive, I recommend buying a ticket for the museum first. The tickets are time specific so you can visit the memorials after seeing what ticket time you are able to get. Also, there are ticket vending machines on the outer walls of the museum opposite the ticket windows. It is much better to buy at one of these than to wait in line at the ticket window.

The Memorials

If you have to wait for a little while, then head over the memorials first. There are two, to represent the two towers, and they are stunning. The memorials form a square, right at the base of where the buildings were, and they have water flowing into the middle.

Along the exterior of the memorials are the names of the people that lost their lives etched into the metal.

On the person’s birthday, you will see a rose sitting in the etched holes of their name, it is beautiful. Both of the memorials are the same, but I recommend taking some time at each.

Survivor Tree

Also, pay a visit to the survivor tree when you are at the memorials. You will see a person who works for the museum standing by the tree, so you know which one it is. This tree is called the survivor tree because it was the only one that lived through the attacks. It was replanted here after the museum was finished.

The Museum

The museum is one of those rare places that spotlights a recent time in history, so it has access to an incredible variety of media to tell the story.

Through the multiple levels, you will hear audio quotes from the people on the plane, videos of the towers collapsing and photos showing the aftermath.

I cannot stress how emotional this museum is and how well they did in creating it. I was close to tears at many times during my visit.

Here are a few of the stand out exhibits.

Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky

This art piece was created by one artist who asked people to paint the color of the sky on that day. He took all of those colors and displayed it on one wall of the museum with a quote that read, “No Day Shall Erase You From The Memory of Time.”

Pillar

The pillar that you see in the Foundation Hall is one of the last pillars that was left standing after the attack and clean up. It was decorated by the people that worked on that cleanup.

Historical Exhibition

No pictures were allowed in here, but this area told the story of the entire day, minute by minute, through audio, visuals and written word. There were timelapses, photographs and more stories than you can read. It was incredibly hard to see but beautiful at the same time.

You could easily spend a half day in this exhibit if you take the time to read and explore it all.

As you can see, this is a pretty special place to visit in New York City. I was moved by my time here, and I highly recommend you add it to your list. Let me know what you think in the comments.

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Cave of the Winds: Exploring the American Falls Up Close

Niagara Falls is full of attractions that you can do in-between looking at the waterfalls. Some of them are so-so, and some are awesome like the Cave of the Winds….

Niagara Falls is full of attractions that you can do in-between looking at the waterfalls. Some of them are so-so, and some are awesome like the Cave of the Winds. I knew virtually nothing about this before I came, but it was one of the highlights to my time in the area, as you can get up close and personal with the waterfall and understand just how majestic it is. Plus you get soaked while you’re at it. Here is all the information.

Details

  • Cost: $17
  • Hours: 9 AM – 6:30 PM
  • Not open in the winter
  • Location: American side, accessed from an elevator on Goat Island

Video

Here is a video I made showing my time at Cave of the Winds.

Exploring Cave of the Winds

To start your visit to Cave of the Winds, either walk or drive over to Goat Island on the American side. Here you can purchase your tickets for the attraction.

After getting tickets, you will be given a plastic bag and a new pair of sandals. You can keep these after you use them if you want or recycle them.

After putting them on you will have to carry your other shoes in the bag and will head to the elevator which will take you down to the start of the attraction. The elevator lets out in a large tunnel which then exits above the water.

From here you will be walking on the installed platform all the way up to the base of the American Falls.

This is quite an adventure though as the water is pouring down on you and even running over a couple of the platforms.

It is a total blast, but be sure to bring a GoPro if you want to take photos as you will be soaking.

The highlight though is the Hurricane Zone, which only the brave attempt.

The Hurricane Zone is pretty much just standing in the corner of a platform nearly below the waterfall. The power that comes off it is exhilarating as it soaks you even while wearing your poncho. My wife and I both did it, and it was easily worth getting wet to experience the power of the falls.

After that, you will continue to walk along the platform to get back to where you started. This is a relatively short attraction, but it is unlike anything else you can do in the area, and I really enjoyed it.

Be sure to let me know what you thought of it in the comments and check out my other recommendations for what to do in the area here.

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Red Rock Canyon Natural Area: How to Drive, Hike & Explore the Park

Red Rocks Canyon is the closest park to Las Vegas and a popular destination for hikers and outdoor lovers visiting the city. At around 30 minutes drive from downtown, the park…

Red Rocks Canyon is the closest park to Las Vegas and a popular destination for hikers and outdoor lovers visiting the city. At around 30 minutes drive from downtown, the park features a 13-mile scenic drive and dozens of hiking trails. Here is all the information so you can make the most of your time in Red Rock Canyon.

Details

  • Cost:$7

Getting There

From Las Vegas, you will head out on Highway 95 west till it ends and then continue on Highway 215 South. From here you will turn right on Highway 159, and it will take you out to the park loop.

Scenic Drive

If you only have a short time to visit this park, then it is best spent on the 13-mile scenic drive that takes you on a loop through the park. It is one way, so if you miss a spot, you would need to drive all the way back around to see it again. The drive is fantastic though, and you will want to take your time. As you make your way around it, there are multiple spots to pull out for hikes or viewpoints.

The Overlooks

There are two main overlooks in the park and one more on the outskirts of the park.

High Point Overlook

The main viewpoint is High Point Overlook, and it is located about halfway through the scenic drive. It has a small parking lot, and it lets you look out over the park from a beautiful vantage point.

It can be busy but wait for your turn if you want to check it out.

Red Rock Wash Overlook

This is the second viewpoint, which is located across from the main one but down the hill. It is worth pulling out at as it has some great views of the mountains, but it is not as spectacular as the first.

Red Rock Overlook

This viewpoint is technically located outside of the park. If you are wanting to see the park without taking the drive, then this is the best way to do it. This overlook really does give you a great view, especially of the red rocks in the Calico area.

The Hikes

I have only had a chance to hike a few of the park’s hikes, but here are the ones I have done.

Calico Tanks

This is the most popular trail in the park, and it is easy to see why when you do it. The 2.5-mile hike heads into and through a canyon which requires some scrambling, before eventually reaching a water basin and a view of the strip.

It is a great hike as it lets you really enjoy the views and the stark contrasts the park has to offer.

At the end, make sure you have your zoom lens or binoculars so you can zoom in on the Las Vegas Strip below you.

Turtle Peak

This hike leaves from the same area at Calico Tanks, and it heads up a no joke trail to the top of one of the area’s prominent peaks.

It is 5 miles round trip, but it is a tough five miles with a lot of elevation and some scrambling. It should not be undertaken without a lot of water, and it should be skipped in the heat of summer unless you start really early.

Petroglyphs Trail

This trail is a short tenth of a mile, and it leads you back to a rock overhang that has some petroglyphs on it.

While they are nothing like the ones you will see in Valley of the Fire State Park, they are still historic and preserved.

Waterfall

This 1-mile round trip hike takes you to a nice little seasonal waterfall. I have not seen it flowing more than a trickle, but it is a fun family friendly hike as there is shade and little bit of water at the end.

There is also an elevated trail that takes you over the stream crossing, but water is not often present.

Calico 1 & 2

This area is the most striking collection of red cliffs in the park. There are multiple viewpoints of the rocks you can pull out at, and there are some trails that take you down closer to them. It is one of those places that you need to stop at when you visit the park as the views are spectacular.

Road Views

I love taking road pictures when I make drives like this, and the best ones I found was at the corner of Calico Basin Road and Charleston. Right when you turn you will see the road winding out in front of you with the red rocks and Turtle Peak dead ahead. It is a great spot for a photo but be sure to watch for traffic.

As you can see, Red Rock Canyon is a great place to visit when you are in Las Vegas, I highly recommend you at least check out the scenic drive, even if you don’t want to hike, as it is worth the $7 entry fee. Let me know your favorite spot in the comments.

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Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada: Arches, Trails, Vistas & Rock Formations

While most people who visit Las Vegas are familiar with Red Rock Canyon, they are often not familiar with Valley of the Fire State Park, which in my opinion has…

While most people who visit Las Vegas are familiar with Red Rock Canyon, they are often not familiar with Valley of the Fire State Park, which in my opinion has a lot more unique stuff in it. This state park is located about an hour northeast of the city, and it is a fantastic place to spend a day. Here are all the spots I recommend you see while there.

Details

  • Cost:$10
  • Sunrise to sunset unless camping

Getting There

From Las Vegas you will get on the 15 North and head out of town. You are on this freeway for about 30 miles until you get off at exit 75, there is a sign that lets you know this is the exit for the park and for Lake Mead. You will head about 15 miles back into the hills on Valley of Fire Hwy until you finally make it to the park entrance. Here are the spots you can see from this entrance all the way to the east gate.

Beehives

Beehives are the first point of interest you will get to, and these rocks can be seen from the parking lot. It’s a quick 5 minute stop to see rocks that really do look like massive beehives.

Arch Rock

This is another 5 minute stop, as the small arch can be seen from the road and it is not really that impressive at only 10 feet or so tall. You can hike around this area if you want to though as there are a lot of fun rock formations and boulders.

Atlatl Rock

Atlatl Rock is one of the best stops in the park for fantastic examples of petroglyphs. The stone has amazing rock art about 40 feet off the ground.

The park has built a set of stairs to take you all the way up to the art.

It is one of the best-preserved petroglyphs I have personally seen.

Petrified Logs

This short quarter mile trail takes you to a series of four petrified logs. The logs are from millions of years ago, and they are protected with small gates.

Mouse’s Tank

Mouse’s tank is named for an outlaw that used the area as a hideout back in the late 1800s. The small pool is located about 3/4ths of a mile from the parking lot.

On the trail, you will pass many great examples of petroglyphs so keep your eyes peeled. I found this to be one of the most fun trails in the park as it seems like you are on a scavenger hunt to locate the rock art.

Rainbow Vista

We never actually found the vista point on this trail as it was hard to follow, but we did find some beautiful multicolored sandstone.

Also, you can get some great views down into Fire Canyon here as well.

Silica Dome

The stop for silica dome is an excellent viewpoint for both the dome itself and fire canyon. You can hike to the dome from here, but even if you don’t want to do that, it’s still an excellent spot for a panoramic view.

Fire Wave

Fire Wave is the most popular hike in the park and for good measure. It is about a mile and a half round trip and it takes you to a unique rock formation that looks like a red wave, much like the more famous wave in Arizona.

The trail is beautiful as it heads downhill and then crosses over a large selection of red rocks before getting to the eventual wave. Go early though as this one has no shade at all.

White Dome

The rock formations here are massive and white, unlike there red counterparts throughout the park.

The 1.25-mile trail heads through the middle of the rocks and past an old filming location.

From here it leads into a small slot canyon, which is really fun to see if you haven’t been through one before.

The trail then just heads back up to the parking lot completing the loop.

Balancing Rock

This rock can be seen from the road outside of the visitors center. You can walk to it from the visitors center, or you can just see it from the parking lot or road.

Visitors Center

A great spot to stop and learn more about the area and the recommended hikes.

Seven Sisters

The seven sisters are a set of seven rocks jutting out from right next to the road. There are picnic benches here that you can relax at or you can just take a few photos of the rocks from one of the pullouts as well.

Elephant Rock Trail

Right next to the east entrance station, there is a trail that takes you to the famous elephant rock. This rock does look like an elephant, and it is pretty fun to see for the whole family.

As you can tell, there is enough here for a full day of adventure. If you are looking to get out of Vegas and explore the surrounding area then this is a great spot. I wouldn’t recommend a visit in the summer though as it can be incredibly hot and there is not a lot of shade. Let me know if I left off one of your favorite spots in the comments.

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