Travel Around the World Without a Passport
Hey Travel Lovers! I am SO excited to be sharing with you how to travel around the world without a passport! This post has been so long in the making. For those who follow me, know I love to travel especially to international destinations. I love the culture and the feel of other countries. On top of that I am married to an Italian so the desire to be somewhere overseas is always there. But our circumstances does not allow us to hop on a plane throughout the year to do so. But today, I will be discussing how I get my foreign international feel “fix” without leaving the US or needing a passport! Keep reading on how you can feel Foreign & Fresh in the US #ForeignFreshintheUS!
This was the very first travel blog post that I wanted to do when I first started my blog due to my first trip to Texas Hill Country a few years ago. I absolutely loved it because I felt like I was not in Texas. I kept putting it off and then decided to begin to do last year when visiting New Mexico, but I put it off again.
There are so many cool vacation ideas to give you that “out of this country” experience while still in the US especially Texas and all of which does not cost anything close to jet setting overseas to these destinations. So are you ready to fly around the world with me under 1000 miles?! Let’s go!
1. IF YOU CAN’T STAY AT A TREEHOUSE IN COSTA RICA….
Then book a unique stay at a treehouse in Austin! Visiting Costa Rica has always been on my bucketlist especially for their treehouses. The idea to live in a tree amongst nature was the ultimate travel experience I wanted to experience. When I discovered the Cypress Valley Treehouses last fall, I was so super excited and I knew I just had to visit.
Their treehouses built by Artistree are located in Spicewood, TX outside of Austin and not too far from Fredericksburg. They have different types of treehouses you can rent amongst the beautiful Cypress trees which they also offer ziplining tours as well. The Lofthaven treehouse has an ancient cypress tree grown in the center of it as well as a beautiful rock grotto waterfall that fills a hot tub. Each of their 5 treehouses are uniquely constructed and has something for everyone.
Cypress Valley Treehouses gets booked really fast especially. As you may know, I work fulltime and it has taken some time (over a year) for me to coordinate my schedule with the availability of the treehouses. So I have not actually stayed at one. There are only certain times of the year that I wanted to visit which I will be doing so next year. *UPDATE April 2020: Due to Covid-19 we were uncomfortable traveling here for our stay in April. We will continue to watch how things go with the virus and reschedule at a later time. We booked one of the best treehouses and I can’t wait to share!! I will update this post with photos and info as well as a separate blog post about it. Stay tuned!
2. IF YOU CAN’T TRAVEL TO CENOTE IL KIL IN MEXICO….
Then head down to Dripping Springs, TX and swim at the Hamilton Pool Perserve. Visiting Cenote Il Kil in Mexico has always been on my bucketlist. This swimming hole looks like something out of movie and jungle like. In 2015, I really wanted to vacation in Mexico and this was one of the places I wanted to see. We didn’t go to Mexico so I researched beaches in Texas that wouldn’t require to drive 8hrs south like to Padre Island. I discovered Hamilton Pool which to me resembled Cenote Il Kil. It was not too far from Fredericksburg and we decided to go there.
Hamilton Pool is located about an hour and 20 minutes from Fredericksburg and Austin. Before, anyone can could visit this hidden gem with ease. Now it has gained popularity that you have to make reservation just to visit. They allow so many people per day to visit. You have two reservation windows – morning from 9am to 1pm and afternoon 2pm to 6pm. To make a reservation there is a $11 fee and then when you actually get to site you pay $15 per vehicle.
There is a 15 minute hike to the actual pool site which is not bad of a hike at all. Once you see the pool, there is this beautiful 50 foot waterfall which was created when the dome of an underground river collapsed due to massive erosion thousands of years ago.
We visited on a gorgeous day, but we could not swim nor was there the 50 foot waterfall. Swimming is allowed but only when the bacteria levels are safe. There were recent rainfalls which can affect the bacteria levels. When its high, they still allow people to view the pool but not swim nor touch the water with your hands. In addition, the waterfall was only trickling that day which was strange since they had gotten recent rain. So we enjoyed the views and took photos. You can walk behind the falls too for beautiful views as you see in the first photo below.
3. IF YOU CAN’T VISIT THE WHITE DESERT IN FARAFRA, EYGPT….
Then visit White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. I had a bucket list item that I got to check off when I visited White Sands National Monument, and that was to visit a desert while wearing a fancy outfit. The feel of walking in desert is indescribable where it seems like nothing but pure sand for miles in either direction. When we visited Marfa, Texas, we also drove north to White Sands from El Paso.
At White Sands, the entrance is only $5 and good for 6 days. You camp on site or just visit for the day. You can slide down the sand dunes which a lot of families do. There are also picnic tables for those who want to spend the day. There are so many different areas of White Sands to visit so just don’t stop at the first patch of sand that you see. The driving trail is about a mile or two. Read my travel guide on this beautiful desert oasis here.
4. IF YOU CAN’T TRAVEL TO STONEHENGE IN ENGLAND….
Then take a trip to Ingram, TX while visiting Fredericksburg wineries. Stonehenge II is a beautiful replica of the famous Stonehenge site in Wiltshire, England. The real Stonehenge which is the iconic symbol of Britain, is considered a pre-historic site in Europe. It is mystery how on these 4,000 year old rocks came about but it is said that the Druids constructed it.
Stonehenge II constructed by Al Sheppard and Doug Hill was originally built in Hunt, TX but then was moved to Ingram, TX. Ingram is about 30 south of downtown Fredericksburg. it was a 9 month project to built is about 90% as wide and 60% as tall as the original one. So this replica is pretty close to the real thing. The best thing about visiting Stonehenge II is that it is completely free.
5. IF YOU CAN’T TRAVEL TO EASTER ISLAND IN CHILE….
Then while visiting Stonehenge II in Ingram, TX also visit the replica of one of the famous Moai statues. Right in front of Stonehenge II is a replica of the Moai statue. There are two statues Sheppard and Hill created that you can visit but this one is the most notable. How awesome to visit two countries that are thousands of miles apart in the same spot. The Moai statues is also place I have wanted to visit in Chile.
My best friend got to visit last year so I figured, until I can make my trip, this is the next best thing. The real Moai statues located on Easter Island in Chile consists of multiple heads scattered throughout this one area. It is thought that where you see just only a head, the full body is actually below the ground.
6. IF YOU CAN’T VISIT BODIAM CASTLE IN ENGLAND….
Then take a trip to Fredericksburg, TX and visit Chateau de Chasse aka 290 Wine Castle. I was so excited to finally visit this beautiful castle in Fredericksburg. It has only been opened for a year but something very unique to Texas. I have had the opportunity to visit a real castle in Calabria, Italy. We took photos there at our wedding. There is something so cool about castles but to add a winery to mix it is a very cool experience.
290 Wine Castle is located on the famous 290 road where all the Texas wineries are located on. One of the most memorable experiences was while driving on 290, you see this beautiful castle sitting on top of a hill in the distance. For a split second, you forget that you are still in Texas. Though the name is French I felt like the style most resembled the castles in England vs France.
When you first enter in there is a bridge and the doors open up to this big room with a tasting bar in the center. Right behind the bar you cannot miss the beautiful view. We got here at sunset set and opted to get a glass of wine vs a wine tasting which is only done at the bar in the inside. For wine club members, you can enjoy wine on their rooftop which I am sure the view is amazing as well.
7. IF YOU CAN’T TRAVEL TO THE VINEYARDS IN TUSCANY…
Then take a trip to either the North Texas wineries & vineyards or the wineries & vineyards Fredericksburg, TX! Tuscany Italy is not the only place where you can enjoy some great wines with a view. There are many awarding winning wines right here in Texas. I recently had the privilege to visit some wineries in North Texas Wine Country (read travel guide here). These wineries had vineyard onsite and though it was after the harvest season some still had grapes on the vines giving that wonderful Tuscan feel. which is why I call these places Texcany (Texas + Tuscany)
The wine tastings here were much cheaper than Fredericksburg but the same great quality in taste. When also visited Fredericksburg and one winery in particular really felt like we were in Tuscany with the villas and the tall skinny Italian Cypress trees which was Barons Creek Winery. The wine tasting was done indoors and all of the wines we tasted were really good and I highly recommend it.
8. IF YOU CAN’T TRAVEL TO TULIP FIELDS OF AMSTERDAM….
Then take a trip to the Texas Tulip Farm in Pilot Point and Poston Gardens in Waxahachie, Texas! We traveled to Amsterdam and it is a gorgeous city but the time of the year we visited we missed the Tulip Farm by 2 weeks. Tulips are seasonal so they only bloom in certain times of the year and then die off. Tulip season ends in early May in The Netherlands so we did not get to see it.
However, in North Texas Pilot Point is a popular spot to see the beautiful tulips as well. We go to visit this year and the tulips were quite pretty. They had various of colors and types of tulips which I was not aware of. The difference with the ones in Pilot Point is that the tulips row are spaced out and not as full as Amsterdam. So you the color rows is not as apparent.
Poston Gardens in Waxahachie opened this season and their tulip fields seems to resemble more closely to Amsterdam. I discovered it late in the season and with all the rain we got I did not get to visit but I will update this post next season with photos and my thoughts.
9. IF YOU CAN’T VISIT THE VILLAGES OF GERMANY…
Then take a day trip to Muenster, TX or Fredericksburg, TX! With both cities, they host their own Oktober Fest where you can enjoy some nice beer and both are areas for wineries as well. With searching for wineries to visit in North Texas, I stumbled across this little German town of Muenster, TX. It is about 1.5 hours north of DFW.
Downtown Muenster has the feel of Germany with the buildings and signs. As you drive closer to the city you begin to see signs all in German. Muenster is famous for their German sausage sold at Fischer’s. They had a variety of German sausage and brought some home too. They have a cool mural of the typical German style homes that you see in German Villages as well.
Another German town to visit is Fredericksburg. As you can see, Fredericksburg is near to a lot of these “international” spots that I have mentioned here. The style is very German like as well as well as shops and restuarants. You have to stop and visit the Old German Bakery. The food is so good both for breakfast and lunch and their sausage gravy is my favorite!
10. IF YOU CAN’T TRAVEL TO VENICE, ITALY…
Then take a trip to the Las Colinas Canal! Born and raised in Irving, I have been quite are of this little Italy pocket. We almost considered getting married in this area too. The famous Las Colinas Canal area a little replica of Venice, Italy. The buildings are technically fake – the doors to the spots do not open or anything but it is a great spot for photos.
There is even has a replica of the Rialto Bridge that you see in Saint Marks Square in Venice. Apart from all the scenery, you can take a gondola ride down the canal through Lake Carolyn. There are different cruise ride options to choose from – breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. The gondolier also sings in Italian as they sail through the canal. A very romantic setting!
11. IF YOU CAN’T VISIT NEW ENGLAND OR EUROPEAN LIGHTHOUSES…
Then visit the lighthouse in Rockwall Harbor. Lighthouses are very popular in Europe. I have seen lighthouses in Iceland, Denmark and Norway. The are very popular also in the New England states of the US such as in Rhode Island and Maine. Lighthouses purposes as to serve as a navigation aid for boats at sea.
Here in the DFW area we have our very own Lighthouse at the Harbor in Rockwall. It is not as tall but it is one of my favorite spots to catch the sunset. The sunsets are always so beautiful orange and fiery in there area. There are even “seafront” restaurants where you can enjoy the sunset too. Also there is a fun cruise boat that departs from this Harbor too.
12. IF YOU CAN’T TRAVEL TO THE AMAZON RAINFOREST…
Then visit the waterfalls in Krause Springs in Spicewood, TX! This year we visited Switzerland and that was truly a paradise. I have never visited a place that had so many waterfalls. So when we visited Krause Springs I was super excited to see a beautiful waterfall but this area had an Amazon Rainforest type feel. The Amazon Rainforest in South America is another spot on my bucket list. All the beautiful trees, flowers, rivers and waterfalls makes this place a beautiful oasis as well.
Krause Springs was founded in 1955 and has became a popular swimming and camping spot. It was about 1.5 drive from Fredericksburg and about a 30 minute drive North of Hamilton Pool. There are a total of 32 springs but we did not have time to explore all of them.
When we first entered in we visited first the Butterfly Garden. With the beautiful flowers and plants everywhere and the calm sounds of the fountains and wind chimes, we were immediately relaxed and could have spent all of our time here. I am not sure if there are actual butterflies there but it is definitely something you should not skip when you visit.
There is also a man-made swimming pool on the upper level to swim in which was a nice area because you were still amongst nature and the trees. Below the pool is the famous Krause Springs waterfall. The water is pretty clear from the shallow end then its darker. I did not swim because I have a phobia of swimming in lakes where I cannot see all the way down but there were other people swimming as well.
13. IF YOU CAN’T BASK ON A TURQUOISE BEACH IN GREECE…
Then bask on the turquoise beach of Canyon Lake in Texas Hill Country! Canyon Lake is one of Texas best hidden gems. This lake has some of the prettiest turquoise waters against the beautiful rocky terrain and hills and houses in the distance, you swear you were in Greece or even Italy. That is how we felt when we arrived since we have visited both Greece and Italy before. Many families come here to enjoy the beach.
There are two entrances to the beach. One side you will see a lot of families since the water is more shallow before it drops off. The other entrance by the parking circle is more of a younger crowd due to the rocky terrain you have to walk through to find your own private beach “cove”. Click here for GPS location of our spot. There is a marina where you can rent boats on the beach and to get to the Canyon Lake Island! Stay tuned for more about this Island and Canyon Lake on my Tropical Texas Vacation Blog post!
14. IF YOU CAN’T TRAVEL TO TROPICAL RESORT IN MEXICO…
Then book a stay at La Cantera Resort and Spa in San Antonio, Texas! If you have followed me on Instagram I featured this hotel as a place to have a tropical vacation in Texas. It really has all the Mexico vibes and the pride themselves in doing so!
From the restaurant, palm trees and structures you can see all the Mexican influences at this resort. We definitely enjoyed our stay here. I will discuss this place more in detail in my Tropical Texas Vacation Blog post!
15. IF YOU CAN’T VISIT A TROPICAL RESORT IN HAWAII…
Then book a stay at the Horseshoe Bay Resort in Horseshoe Bay, TX! This hidden gem is located in the Texas Hill Country not far from Marble Falls and Fredericksburg! This is one of the most beautiful resorts I have stayed in the state of Texas.
It is very tropical with so many palm trees, parks and tropical lounge areas you swear you were in Hawaii especially since they have their own sandy beach! This is great spot for singles, couples and families too. I will discuss more about this place in my Tropical Texas Vacation Blog post!
15. IF YOU CAN’T VISIT THE SPANISH MISSIONS IN MEXICO…
Then visit the San Antonio Missions in Texas! Visiting the Mission San Jose has been on my bucket list for awhile. I always wanted to visit Mexico and have yet been able to visit and even more so with Covid. This mission is actually a UJESCO heritage site, free to enter and somewhat self-guided.
There are displays for you to read this history of this spanish mission in both English and Spanish. Or you can click on this link here for a free self guided audio tour! It is a great audio production. One thing that I like about this mission is that it is very big area so you can easily social distance!
16. IF YOU CAN’T ENJOY BUNGALOW HUT IN COSTA RICA…
Then rent a 2 story cabana hut in Kingsbury, Texas. Whether you want to camp or glamp, these 2 story cabana huts are available to rent at Son’s Blue River Camp which is not far from from Austin, Located on the San Marcos river, there are multiple huts you can rent for you and your family and have a great family time while social distancing.
There are grills for each cabana for you to use too, In addition to 2 story hut, they also have single story huts as well. I will discuss more about this place in my Tropical Texas Vacation Blog post!
17. IF YOU CAN’T TRAVEL TO MOROCCO…
Then visit the Monahans Sandhill State Park in West Texas and go on a camel trek! When Covid doesn’t allow you to travel internationally so you just bring the international to you! Visiting Morocco has always been on my bucketlist. I am fascinated by the culture, fashion and history of it. Due to the pandemic, it will have to remain on my bucketlist for awhile.
But with just a little bit of research and creativity, I created my own international escape right here in Texas at the Monahans Sandhills just 5 hours west of DFW. If you always wanted to visit a sand desert, this is your chance and is also a great spot for families with kids too. To drive direct to Big Bend from Dallas is about 8 hours. The halfway point is Midland/Odessa. So to break up the drive and catch the sunset, I recommend overnighting in Monahans, TX which is technically 5 hours (Midland is 4 hrs). So this way you can arrive to Terlingua/Big Bend area in early and in daylight. You can actually camp at this desert too and see some amazing stars.
If you want a really cool international/Texas experience in the desert with camels, then check out Texas Camel Corps where you can go on a 2-3 day trek in the desert and mountains on camel back! You can even trek in Big Bend National Park too. Its the same trek as the US Army Camel Experiment explored in 1857.
I will be filling you in on this cool experience soon! In the meantime, I had a nice little picnic with my moroccan inspired blanket, outfit, Teavana tea and snacks. FYI it was quite windy so it was hard to have a sandless picnic. Bring food covers to enjoy less sandy food!
I hope you enjoyed this post and found some cool spots to visit. As I visit new spots in the US that qualify as being #ForeignFreshintheUS, I will update this post as well!