24 Hours in the Valais, Switzerland

Glaciers, ziplines, mountain peaks and stunning views–Valais is one of Switzerland’s most gorgeous regions. I explore the best things to do in one full day from the Matterhorn to Gornergrat, fat biking in Crans Montana to dining on the best food ever. Oh and don’t forget apres ski. You will love your 24 hours in Valais.

travel guide to switzerland

My Travel Guide to Switzerland

This is my ultimate guide to an incredible country: Switzerland! I spend two weeks on a road trip, and I take you with me–showing you where to eat, stay, what to drink and see and how to experience the best of the best!
Starting in the posh Geneva where I visited markets, ate amazing Michelin cuisine, took a steamship cruise and river ferry and saw the UN. Next we cruised along the coast of Lake Geneva, stopping at adorable villages like Saint Saphorin, sampling wines of Lavaux, staying over in fun cities of Vevey and Lausanne and heading into the hills on a vintage train to make cheese and roam the alps in Chateaux D’Oex.

My Coachella Journey with GoPro

2 Friends + 2 GoPros + 1 Jucy Campervan = 1 epic weekend at Coachella Music Festival 2015. Explore more of this magical, musical, camping journey and see why Coachella is best done by camping!

 

My Winter Bucket List for 2017

I grew up on the rocky, often icy slopes of Vermont so skiing was naturally a big part of my winter life. I now live in Santa Monica, where I’ve traded my ski boots for flip flops, and I find my snowy escapades fewer and far between. As the temperatures start to drop (to a chilly 65 degrees) I find my mind wandering to higher elevations. I crave the sound of skis carving down a slope, the frosty air rushing against my face as I zip by snow covered trees and dozing off to the tune of a crackling fire. It is time to head to the mountains.

With my sights set on Northern adventures, I’ve come up with a bucket list of my top winter experiences for 2017. The catch? They are all experiences that I’ve never done before. To make this list, I’ve perused some of the most well known resorts out West, looking closely mountain resorts within a short flight from LAX. My standards are high–the mountain needs to have great food, awesome slopes, noteworthy hotels and a charming village, in addition to offering me something unexpected and new. Take a look at this list and let me know if you’d like to do any of these too!

Learn to Snowboard (& get a massage after!)

Vail, Colorado

I tried snowboarding when I was around 14 years old. My teacher was my friend Sonia, a naturally athletic girl, who made it look so easy. To my surprise, I wasn’t all that bad for the first few runs. Then… I fell. And after falling once, I continued to fall, over and over again. I was so sore after that first day, I decided that I’d prefer my own two skis. Now, after all these years, I’m ready to tackle it again. I think I’d like to learn at Vail, mostly because I’ll be in need of the Après-Sport Therapeutic Massage from The Lodge at Vail immediately after.

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Ski at Night

Keystone, Colorado

First tracks on trail in the morning, the afternoon sun glinting off the snow, the mandatory hot chocolate breaks to warm up by a fire–these are a few of my favorite things–about skiing during the day. Night will bring a whole new atmosphere. I’m curious to see how the trails change, the mountain changes and my experience changes by skiing under a dark sky. Keystone offers skiing until 9pm and with sun setting around 5pm now, that’s a solid 4 hours of trail time. Bonus: watching sunset while up on mountain must be magical.

Snowshoe under the Stars

Northstar, California

Another evening event on my list, but this slower paced activity will have my eyes turned up instead of down. A Stargazing Snowshoe tour at Northstar sounds like my ideal way to appreciate nature. It combines a bit of exercise with majestic woodland trails –something most people don’t usually do at night. And all of this is under a blanket of winter stars.

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Take a Sleigh to a Yurt

Park City, Utah

I’ve never been in a yurt, let alone one at 8700 feet, so clearly I am adding this Park City dinner experience my bucket list. The Viking Yurt, heated only by a woodstove, serves up a gourmet meal to 40 people each night at wooden tables holding pewter tableware. And just getting there sounds like half the fun! You hop in a heated sleigh and a snowcat pulls groups up the 1800 feet elevation. Of course, being greeted with Glogg, live piano tunes and a serious menu of alpine specialities, (braised short ribs with lingonberry sauce!) is the kirsch on top of this memorable night.

Snowball fight!

Snowball fight!

Fat Bike on Snow

Breckenridge, Colorado

Biking is one of my favorite activities–mountain biking, road biking, beach biking–I love them all. However, I’ve never attempted hurtling down a snow-packed trail on a bike! The ‘fat bike’ trend is exploding all over the globe–it is popular in the Swiss alps, where I had a blast on a similar monster scooter during the summer. The literally fat-wheeled bikes make it possible for even beginners like myself to trek down mountain trails, over rocks, holes and other terrain that would make you wary on a regular bike. In Breckenridge, several outfitters like Breck Bike Guides, offer full and half day fat bike tours in winter. From my brief experience, I can say that fat biking is adrenaline pumping to say the list. Now I have to get to Breckenridge to try it on snow!

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Aprés Ski like a Rockstar

Heavenly, California

I love a good après ski but apparently Heavenly takes it to a whole new elevation. The Unbuckle Après party at 9150 feet is more Vegas club party than your typical post ski hot toddy. High intensity beats, half priced drinks and the Heavenly Angels all kick this party up a notch–but don’t worry, this party ends at 5:30pm so you won’t be here all night. What I particularly love is the idea of taking the gondola back down to town after sunset.

Brunch with Champagne at 11,000 feet

Keystone, Colorado

Nothing says decadence like champagne for breakfast. At Alpenglow Stube, a AAA Four Diamond restaurant on the top of Keystone, you can sip that champagne while looking out on breathtaking views of North Peak. Dinner is pricier but brunch will run you $56, but it includes a mimosa, extravagant buffet spread as well as soup and indulgent main course.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Vail Resorts. The opinions and text are all mine.

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Papua New Guinea: A Country Profile

Explore this remote part of the world with me as I go from Papua New Guinea’s mountainous Highlands to the Karawari River and Sepik in the Lowlands. With few roads, we took a charter plane between locations on the most remote experience of my life!

 

Sponsors: United States Tour Operators Association

Custom tour itinerary provided by Swain Destinations.

Tohoku Japan Ginzan Onsen

The Five Places You Need to See in Tohoku

Before coming to Japan I hadn’t heard of the Tohoku Region and now I’ve been completely charmed by this pastoral, natural part of northern Japan. This is the antithesis of the bright lights and hustle and bustle of Tokyo, and that’s what makes it special. Many retreat up North to enjoy farm fresh foods, breathtaking natural beauty and to take step back into Japan’s traditional roots.

1. Spend a morning at Hirosaki Castle

Though not quite a castle in the “fairytale” sense of the word, the Hirosaki Castle is a lovely Japanese style building, with ornate roof details and impressive silhouette. However, the real reason you visit is for the vast park that surrounds it. We happened to be fortunate enough to be visiting in the spring, when the cherry blossoms were at the height of their bloom. It felt like walking through a sea of pink, every different hue, with delicate petals floating in the breeze. The cherry blossoms created avenues of flowers, and I meandered over bridges that crossed the series of pleasant canals.  Everywhere I turned was worthy of a photo–especially when I got to the viewpoint of the majestic snow capped mountain in the distance.

My Recommendation: Go there early (like 7am) if you want more flowers than people in your photos. Also, next time I go, I am bringing a picnic so I can waste an afternoon under one of the swaying sakura trees.

2. Eat Wanko-Soba

Wanco Soba

Tohoku is famous for its buckwheat noodle, soba. I tasted it in tea, in ice cream and in many variations of the noodle form. However, the best soba experience that I had was Wanko-Soba in Morioka. Here, diners are encouraged not only to eat soba but to eat as much as they can and as fast as they can. An average lunch can turn competitive as the waitresses serve you soba in small “mouthful” sized dishes. The waitresses tower over you, shouting encouragement as you slurp, refilling as fast as you can eat. Of course the other options were delicious as well–I really enjoyed their tuna sashimi and pickled vegetables. But if you plan to nab the record, don’t waste stomach space. You are going to need it since you’ll need to eat over one hundred bowls! Slurp!

My Recommendation: Bring a competitive friend and have a soba eating contest!

3. Stroll through a Samurai Village

Kakunodate

Kakunodate

Tohoku is known for it’s storied Samurai culture and to get as close as you can to it today, visit Kakunodate, a well preserved Samurai town. There is one completely original house dating back 200 years and it’s still in the ownership of its original Samurai family line. There’s another home that also has a museum, just a few steps down. The museum has an impressive display of Samurai gear, with intimidating swords and helmets. Even just wandering down the streets, stopping for an ice cream  and to admire this organized village, makes for a picturesque visit.

My Recommendation: Earlier is better to avoid the crowds!

4. Commune with Nature

Sanriku Fukkuo

The rugged coastline of Tohoku blew me away. It looked like the Mediterranean coast or even New Zealand–but it certainly did not look like Japan. The Sanriku Fukko National Park stretches along a pristine part of the coast, with three steep trails that allow you to walk through old forests and view the majestic cliffs. There are three lookouts with views, number 2 being the best.
My Recommendation: If you want a good workout, hike all the way down to the beach to get up close with the bright blue waters.

5. Visit Teapot Workshop Iwachu Nambu Tekki

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I hadn’t paid much attention to teapots until now. Tea is an extremely important part of Japanese culture and here at the factory, you can witness how some of the finest traditional teapots are made by hand. You can step inside the workshop, watching the craftsman painstaking create the signature dots that cover these iron pots. Each teapot takes about 2 weeks to create so it’s no wonder that they aren’t cheap. I toured the museum but was most taken by the gallery where their finest work is on display. Neon colors and even Hello Kitty tastefully grace some of the newer models of this old brand.

My Recommendation: Visit the workshop first to understand the intense labor and dedication needed to create each teapot. Then go to the shop and buy one for yourself!

BONUS TIP: GINZAN ONSEN

Ginzan

Ginzan-Onsen is a hot spring town, built lining a central spring. Stay at one of the handful of traditional style hotels, from boutique to more contemporary, each with their own onsen experience. The postcard worthy town has charming pedestrian bridges, boutique shops and several eateries. But the real reason to come here is to soak in the geo-thermal waters. I didn’t realize how therapeutic it could be until I tried it for myself. After a few minutes in the healing waters, I felt renewed from the inside out.

My Recommendation: Check out Ginzanso if you want large tatami style rooms with your own private onsen on your deck.  

For more recommendations, leave me a comment! Be sure to tune in to CNN on May 18th to watch the full video of my Tohoku experience!

Living my Bucket List for China

China has certainly always been on my bucket list and I was thrilled to get to experience the country with Wendy Wu Tours. I toured 3 cities and found each to be filled with world wonders and bucket list sites. Check out my favorite spots in China—including the Great Wall!

 

China Travel Guide: Xi’an, Shanghai & Beijing

What to do, see, eat and experience in these vibrant Chinese cities.

I had a whirlwind week in China with Wendy Wu Tours and I experienced so much in this exciting, ancient and modern country. From the skyscrapers of Shanghai, to biking the old wall of Xi’an, to seeing the Terra Cotta Warriors up close and exploring the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall—China was full of life changing moments. Here’s a glimpse into what we did on our tour through this amazing country.

Show: Live like a Local in China with Kelley Ferro: USTOA Travel Together Series featuring Wendy Wu Tours & Visit China Now

Papua New Guinea: The Lowlands & The Sepik

We visited the Lowlands, an area of PNG located along the Karawari River. This region is known as the Sepik and we were exposed to local life along the river. Custom tour itinerary provided by Swain Destinations.

Sponsors: United States Tour Operators Association

Custom tour itinerary provided by Swain Destinations.

 

 

Papua New Guinea: The Highlands

Let’s travel to Papua New Guinea! Explore the tribes of Tari, the famous Birds of Paradise and all the adventure of the Highlands.