A Day at Big Cedar Lodge Spa

A Day at Big Cedar Lodge Spa

The Big Cedar Lodge Cedar Creek Spa is the most relaxing experience you’ll treat yourself to. This spa at Big Cedar Lodge will leave you feeling refreshed and polished for your Branson, Missouri adventure.

This post is all about my experience at Big Cedar Lodge Spa – Cedar Creek Spa

Cedar Creek Spa at Big Cedar Lodge

Cedar Creek Spa is part of Big Cedar Lodge Resort, however, you don’t have to be a guest at the lodge to book the experience. Anyone is able to book a spa day!

Cedar Creek is located at: 190 Top of the Rock Rd, Ridgedale, MO 65739

big cedar lodge spa
big cedar lodge spa

The Spa Experience – the cost and value.

To be real with you, the spa is not exactly what I’d call budget-friendly. I spent $250 for a Swedish massage + tip and three glasses of wine. However, you aren’t paying for just the massage.

This price includes a women’s room private hot tub, a grotto complete with a heated pool and ice room, a sauna, outdoor showers, and a full changing room including showers and a fully stocked vanity.

big cedar lodge spa

Making sure we got the biggest value for our money, we booked our massages at 12pm and spent five hours relaxing in the grotto and drinking wine. We probably could have spent even longer there, I never wanted to leave!

big cedar lodge spa

The Grotto

All guests who book a spa service such as a massage or facial will have access to the grotto. Note that salon services alone do not grant you access, it must be a spa service.

We decided to have our massages first and then relaxed at the grotto afterwards. Though you can choose to go to the grotto before your spa service or after (or both!)

big cedar lodge spa

The Massage

The massages are of course one of the best parts of the experience!

While I enjoyed mine greatly, I will say that I booked a Swedish massage and received more of a neurological massage where pressure point therapy occupied most of the time.

I’m pretty sensitive (which I voiced before the massage) and would have rather just had a light rub throughout. I truthfully was in pain most of the time, though afterward it definitely helped some of my back and neck issues. Overall it was still a great massage, I may just request a different masseuse next time.

Tips before booking

I highly recommend booking as early in the day as possible because you will want to spend several hours relaxing in the hot tubs. I do believe you can arrive as early as you’d like to enjoy the pools, in case you can’t get a booking until later.

You must arrive 15 minutes prior to your appointment.

Automatic gratuity is included in your booking price. However, your masseuse only receives 10% of the massage price, which is fairly low in comparison to other massage therapists. I tipped an additional $10 on my $160 massage.

Food and drinks can be ordered at any time.

Robes and towels are provided. Changing rooms include private changing spaces, stocked showers and vanities, lotion, hair dryers, and really thing you’ll need!

Make sure to bring your swimsuit!

big cedar lodge spa

Cedar Creek Spa at Big Cedar Lodge is truly a luxury experience worth every penny.

This luxury spa experience is perfect for special occasions, vacations, or just to treat yourself! I can’t wait to book another spa experience at Cedar Creek in the future .

Feel free to comment below or message me on Instagram if you have any questions!

Looking for a way to end a perfect day in Branson? Check out Bear Creek Winery to end your evening with wine, small plates or pizza, and live music.

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Civil Kitchen in Springfield, Missouri

Civil Kitchen in Springfield, Missouri

Civil Kitchen in Springfield, Missouri will take your taste buds through a mouthwatering dining experience that will surely have you coming back for more.

The best part about this made-from-scratch locally owned restaurant is that they have a little something for everyone. Whether you’re craving a classic dish like Chicken & Waffles, or perhaps a healthier choice like a Falafel & Veg Wrap – Civil Kitchen will have a delicious dish that you will enjoy.

Civil Kitchen is located right in the heart of downtown at 107 Park Central Square, Springfield, MO 65806.

The Civil Kitchen Experience Starts With a Drink!

With 28 beers on tap and a large selection of hand crafted cocktails, you’ll find a beverage you’ll love.

photo courtesy of Civil Kitchen

I personally am a Bloody Mary fanatic, so I was thrilled to try their Peter Piper Bloody Mary with Infused Pickle & Pepperoncini Vodka and Zing Zang.

“Get Civilized at Civil Kitchen”

Open from 11am-11pm, Civil is the perfect spot for an early lunch or a late night dinner. I chose to come in for lunch and enjoyed the view of Park Central Square from their beautiful large windows.

For lunch, I had the C.B.A Wrap, which was SO delicious!

This flavor-packed wrap includes your choice of grilled or fried chicken, lettuce, sliced avocado, chopped bacon, tomato, red onion, cheese, and chimichurri mayo.

As I mentioned before, their menu is huge! Check out some of their other popular dishes.

Prices & Info

The average price per person ranges from about $12 – $25. I found that the prices are very reasonable for the portions and quality you are served. Check out Civil Kitchen’s menu here.

Keep up with Civil Kitchen and their special offers by following them on Facebook or Instagram.

Overall, I had such a great dining experience at Civil Kitchen.

I would highly recommend this restaurant to anyone traveling to Springfield as it will truly give you a scrumptious taste of Route 66!

Civil Kitchen is also featured on A Local’s Two-Day Guide To Springfield, MO

photo courtesy of Civil Kitchen

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Viñales Day Trip Tour from Havana

Viñales Day Trip Tour from Havana

A Viñales Day Trip Tour from Havana was the perfect solution to a problem I commonly have when planning trips – never enough time! Originally, we wanted to stay in a Casa Particular in Viñales for a few days, but we just didn’t have the time in our limited seven days in Cuba. We were so happy we found this Airbnb experience that offered a day trip.

Where is Viñales?

Viñales is a town in Western Cuba home to lush fields, tobacco farms, rock climbing, and so much more. Just a couple hours away from bustling Havana, Viñales makes for a perfect day trip to enjoy life at a slower pace!

Why book an Airbnb Experience?

Without going into too much politics and details, Cuba is a communist government. This means the government dictates all citizen’s wages and food rations. Most Cubans must work government jobs that only pay a monthly average wage of $20-40 USD (a month!) To make ends meet, many Cubans work on the side in the tourism industry.

By booking an Airbnb or Airbnb Experience, your money will go to supporting the Cuban people directly, rather than to a hotel or tourist agency. This rule doesn’t just apply to Cuba, it’s just like shopping local. Your money goes to the people, rather than larger corporations. Also, it is way more of an authentic experience!

Now that I’ve briefed you on Cuban geography and politics, let’s get to it!

– Viñales Day Trip Tour from Havana –

Depart from Havana around 8am.

We were picked up in this sweet looking car from Havana around 8-9am. Honestly, nobody is on time in Cuba, so if you have a tour booked and they are running behind – that is totally normal! Patience is key, as keep in mind internet is not always readily available here.

The 2.5 hour drive to Viñales was really enjoyable. Make sure to bring your passport everywhere with you in Cuba, as cops will often flag you down when you are leaving city limits.

Viñales Day Trip Tour from Havana

Horseback Riding through Mogotes Valley.

The first stop on our tour was riding beautiful horses through the lush valley. Anytime I think of engaging in tourism with animals, I always do some research into the specifics of how the animals are treated. We almost booked a different tour in Viñales before coming across this one, however, there were a number of reviews of how badly the horses were treated. Luckily on this tour, the horses seemed to be very well taken care of.

This photo doesn’t do the views of the valley justice, it was so stunning!

The Colorful Country of Cuba

The Art of Cuban Cigars

This was unexpectedly one of my favorite parts of the tour! I don’t typically smoke anything, but I loved the taste of these cigars. Smoking a Cuban cigar in Cuba is definitely a bucketlist moment worth all the hype. You learn where the tobacco grows, how to roll it, and of course how to smoke it 🙂

Bring cash with you so you can buy cigars and other souveniers! If you personally don’t want them, they make excellent gifts to give away back home.

Viñales day trip tour

Say hello to the little farm animals

After the horseback riding and cigar demonstration, you just get to chill and hang out with the farmers while smoking cigars. It honestly feels like your visiting your family’s farm! It was so nice, and all the animals were so adorable.

The Colorful Country of Cuba
Viñales day trip tour from Havana

Are you loving these colors? Check out The Colorful Country of Cuba. –

Explore the Caves of Viñales

Horseback, cigars, and now caves – oh my! This tour has quite the variety, which always kept things interesting. We enjoyed a nice boat ride through the beautiful caves of Viñales.

Viñales Day Trip Tour from Havana

Enjoy a late lunch with a view.

On your way back to Havana, you will stop at a delicious restaurant with an incredible view. I ordered the Cuban Ropa Vieja, which is the National Dish of Cuba. It was incredibly delicious!

Viñales Day Trip Tour from Havana
The Colorful Country of Cuba

That concludes a full Day Trip Tour to Viñales.

While Havana is a great place to base yourself during your time in Cuba, I highly recommend venturing out beyond!

You can book this Viñales Day Trip Tour on Airbnb here.

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3 Days Sahara Desert Tour – Marrakech Desert Trips Review

3 Days Sahara Desert Tour – Marrakech Desert Trips Review

(updated 2/24/2021)

This Sahara Desert Tour was the best travel experience I’ve ever had. If you can only pick one thing to do during your time in Morocco, I would urge you to take this tour!

We spent hours researching the best Sahara desert tour to take on our trip to Morocco. There were so many factors to take into consideration when picking our tour company. My top priorities were safety, comfort, and value.

The tour that we ended up booking can be booked at this website here.

Our tour specifically was: Marrakech – Merzouga, 3 Days Shared Sahara Desert Tour with Marrakech Desert Trips.

What type of traveler(s) is this suited for?

Honestly, anyone would love this tour; Couples, solo travelers, friends, etc. My best friend and I, two female travelers, took this tour together and we had the time of our life. I would suggest whoever decides to take this tour that you have a moderately active skill level as there’s some light hiking and camel riding involved. However, I do recall them even having motor transport options for those not able to ride camels.

Budget $$$

For the 3 days Shared Marrakech to Merzouga desert tour it is €89 which is approximately $97 USD. This includes really nice accommodations, transportation, and most of your meals. It’s such a great value, and totally worth it.

Here is a day by day breakdown of this Sahara Desert Tour:

Sahara Desert Tour 7 days in Morocco
Sahara Desert Tour

Day 1 – MARRAKECH – ATLAS MOUNTAINS – KASBAH AIT BEN HADOU – DADES VALLEY (6 hours driving + stops)

Depart from Marrakech. You will start your day bright and early, departing from Marrakech. Your tour guides will communicate through WhatsApp beforehand where they will pick you up and what time. Pickup should either be at your accommodation or very nearby. If you want to do this tour but will be elsewhere from Marrakech, just click on the tour link and find your departing city, they organize lots of tours.

Something you should know – you will be spending a whole lot of time with your driver. Our driver was AMAZING. He was so sweet and we came to trust him very easily. I remember when booking beforehand, some people had some hateful things to say about their driver. Like they couldn’t understand them or they didn’t talk enough. Please remember that at the end of the day your in a foreign country and everyone is doing their best to communicate clearly.

First stop, Atlas Mountains!

Atlas Mountains Sahara Desert Tour
Atlas Mountains Sahara Desert Tour

Some of the stops are really more like pulling over to take pictures for a few minutes. Not all of them are like this, but some are. However, a few minutes for a photo op is all you really need for most of these destinations.

Stop #2 – Aït Benhaddou

Aït Benhaddou is your second stop on your 3 day Sahara tour.

This is a popular filming location as it’s been seen in Gladiator and Game of Thrones. You will have a tour guide and stop for lunch (which will be on your own dime). You will be expected to tip the tour guide as well.

I do remember this guide was not particularly very friendly here, however, the tour company has no control over the guides at tourist destinations like this. Enjoy your time and get some pics in the sandy city!

Stop #3 – Dades Valley

The Dades Valley is made up of rugged gorges carved out by the Dades River in Morocco. This will be your last stop of the day! Your hotel will be found in the depths of the valley. The roads to get to your hotel are a bit crazy, so if you get car sick easily, bring some medicine to calm your stomach.

The hotel you will be staying at is HOTEL LE CHATEAU DE DADES. It’s a pretty basic hotel, but really nice and the food was delicious. As I said, the hotel is pretty basic, when we stopped at a grocery store on our way there, we bought a bottle of wine to open up at the hotel along with some snacks.

Day 2 – DADES VALLEY – TINGHIR – MERZOUGA – SAHARA DESERT (4 hours driving + stops)

You’ll likely wake up early and get to enjoy breakfast before departing. Shortly after you depart, your driver will stop to allow you some time to explore the stunning valley.

Next stop – Tinghir

This was one of my favorite stops on our tour.

You get a glance at what a traditional Berber home looks like, along with the skill and time it takes to craft traditional Berber carpets. While they give you an extensive guide to Berber carpentry, you’ll be treated to hot Moroccan tea.

I’ll be honest, when I heard that “carpets” were the thing to buy in Morocco, I thought it was a bit silly. I’ve heard of collecting mugs, leather, and other traditional goods while traveling – but carpets!? When I saw these carpets, I understood. They were so magnificently beautiful. If I wasn’t backpacking and had a bit more money to blow, I would have snatched one up!

Berber Home - Sahara Desert Tour
Berber Home – Sahara Desert Tour
Berber Home - Sahara Desert Tour
Berber Home – Sahara Desert Tour

Next, Merzouga!

At this point, you are SO close to the Sahara Desert, you can nearly see it. Riding along the highway straight into the sand dunes was one of the most jaw-dropping moments.

Once you arrive at the tour base, you will have the opportunity to quickly use the restrooms and pack a small overnight bag. There is no way that you will be able to pack all of your luggage onto your camel, nor will you want to.

They will securely lock up the rest of your luggage for you. They will do a quick Berber turban demonstration if you’d like to ride your camel like a true Berber! Also, it really does help keep the sand out of your eyes, along with some sunglasses.

What you need before getting on the camel: thick pants, a headscarf, sunglasses, sunscreen, a small overnight bag.

Finally, The Sahara Desert.

A massive check off the bucket list! Camping overnight in the Sahara was the most exciting and beautiful experience I’ve had thus far in my life. The endless golden dunes are just something everyone must see if they get the chance to. It’s pure serenity and bliss.

The Sahara Desert
The Sahara Desert

Traveling to camp, via Camel.

It’s not every day that you can say you rode a camel to your accommodation! Your trek to your overnight camp is LONG. Like, nearly two hours long. Our inner thighs were sore for days. This is why it is especially important that you wear very thick pants.

Camel Squad in the Sahara
Squad!

Don’t worry, there will be plenty of chances to get your photos!

Camping in the Sahara Desert.

After you’ve finally arrived at the camp, you’ll quickly get settled in your tent and prepare for a delicious dinner. All of the meals on this trip were really impressive, and this one did not disappoint! Most of the dishes we ate during our tour were mainly Vegetarian based.

Following dinner, you will be treated to a beautiful night under the stars. There will be music, dancing, stargazing, and our guides even took us on a sand dune hike! Sledding down the dunes at midnight is a moment I will cherish forever.

Take this time to really engage and get to know your tour guides. They are all young, most of them in their 20s, but are very intelligent and can teach you a lot about their culture if you listen. I enjoyed my conversations with them getting to know more about their real way of life away from all of the tourism.

Camping in the Sahara Desert consists of large private tents (for an upgrade) with beds & blankets and restrooms. It’s really more like Glamping! Be sure to bring layers of close to sleep in, nighttime is freezing

Day 3 – MERZOUGA – OUARZAZATE – ATLAS MOUNTAINS – MARRAKECH (9 hours + stops)

Prepare to wake up very early the next morning to begin your camel trek back to the tour base in Merzouga, where an elaborate breakfast awaits. There will be 1-2 more stops for photo ops on the way back, but not near as many as the day before, so be sure to take advantage of your final moments in the beautiful Sahara Desert.

Don’t forget to thank your transport 😉

Back on the road again!

The route from the Sahara back to Marrakech is pretty straight (figuratively). Meaning there won’t be as many tourist stops as you had on the way to the desert.

Ouarzazate will be your main stop on the way back to Marrakech, where you’ll enjoy a leisurely lunch & quick look at Atlas Studios.

the worlds largest film studio
The world’s largest film studio

Atlas Studios is the world’s largest film studio. Iconic film and television shows such as Indiana Jones, Game of Thrones, Aladdin (2019), Mummy, Gladiator and more have used this lot to film on. Unfortunately, you don’t really get a tour of the grounds, it’s really just a quick stop to stretch your legs and walk around outside the gates.

Back on the road to Marrakesh.

You should arrive in Marrakesh/ Marrakech at around 7 pm (19h00). Your driver should drop you off at, or within walking distance to your accommodation.

This tour was so spectacular, and completely exceeded our expectations. For such a low price, you really get your money’s worth and an experience of a lifetime.

That concludes a full 3 Day Tour from Marrakech to the Sahara Desert!

Sahara hoorahs!
Sahara hoorahs!

*my fab travel bestie, Annika Berntsen, contributed some of these photos.

La Guarida in Havana, Cuba

La Guarida in Havana, Cuba

Ah, La Guarida! Just saying the name makes me think of swift jazz music and caviar. La Guarida is one of, if not the, nicest restaurant in all of Havana.

La Guarida in Havana Cuba
La Guarida Restaurant Reivew in Havana Cuba

I knew when I booked my trip to Havana, that I just had to experience this staple of Cuban culture. After all, the Cuban film “Strawberry and Chocolate” was filmed at this iconic restaurant, and it’s been bustling with business ever since.

La Guarida in Havana Cuba
La Guarida in Havana Cuba

Getting there

The actual location of the restaurant is likely quite aways from where you are staying, so be sure to leave early. It’ isn’t located in any part of Havana where tourists would be booking a hotel or Airbnb.

My friend and I decided to walk about 20 minutes from our Airbnb and then took a cab home afterward. If you do decide to take a cab, make sure to negotiate a price BEFORE getting into the cab. I believe we paid around $10 CUP for our short taxi ride, however, we certainly played our poker face to negotiate that price.

La Guarida in Havana Cuba
La Guarida in Havana Cuba

Reservations are a MUST.

It is essential that you make reservations to dine at La Guarida weeks in advance. When you make your reservations online in advance, be sure to include in the notes that you’d like a table outdoors if they are able to accommodate it!

Now the best part.. the food!

Now let’s get to the most important part of any dining experience… the food! At first, I was disappointed because they were out of all chicken, but it was not the restaurant’s fault. Unfortunately, at the time, Cuba was experiencing a severe food shortage.

This shortage obviously affected many restaurants, and of course the Cuban people. However, this forced me to go out of my comfort zone to try a pork dish the server recommended, and it was incredible!

We started off the dining experience with Piña colada’s, bread, and pesto ravioli. The pesto ravioli (Ravioli de Queso) was actually my favorite dish if the evening as it was light and full of flavor. Definitely the perfect appetizer to begin your meal with.

La Guarida in Havana Cuba

For our entrees, I ordered a Pork dish (Solomillo de cerdo) with mango salsa and added on a side of rice. It was absolutely delicious! My friend ordered lobster, and while she said it was very good, it was just a tad below her lobster expectations.

La Guarida in Havana Cuba

We ended the meal with Chocolate Tres Leches cake and Sopa de Coco (coconut “soup”) dessert, which were both very tasty!

The price $

Our ticket came in the most charming little box. Our bill ended up totaling to around $50 each. However, we really went all out ordering mixed drinks, bread, appetizers, extra sides, and dessert. You could definitely eat here if you were on a tighter budget. We knew this would be our most special meal, so we really took advantage of all the delicious options presented to us.

La Guarida in Havana Cuba

We left La Guarida totally full and satisfied. Dining here was an enchanting experience that I recommend everyone takes the time to have during their time in Havana. Be sure to stop by the restrooms on your way out, which just as impressive as the the restaurant!

La Guarida Bathrooms in Havana Cuba
La Guarida Bathrooms in Havana Cuba

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