travel guide

Travel Guide: Sydney to Auckland (Pt.1)

To say this trip was spontaneous would be an understatement. When my sister called me in May telling me how she booked a plane ticket to Auckland and had no idea how long she was staying, I knew I didn’t want to miss this opportunity. Thankfully I had some sky miles and was able to get the flight cheap(er) than usual…

There were a few unexpected aspects of traveling to Australia and New Zealand that we wish people would have told us when preparing—so if you plan to head “down under” make sure before you leave, you have/remember

(1) You have to go through Australia to get to New Zealand

(2) You need a travel Visa to get into Sydney

(3) We flew out from Atlanta, so there was about 24 hours of plane travel (so rock those compression socks like it’s your JOB)

(4) Their seasons are backwards from ours, so keep that in mind while planning ;)

Because you have to stop in Sydney, we decided to spend a few days in the city. Sydney is basically like if you took all the people from Whole Foods, the coolest hipster coffee shop you know, and the girls who work at anthropology, and stuck them in one city and gave them cool accents. Everything and everyone was super fit and healthy—even the McDonalds seemed somehow not as bad for you as it is here ;)

Not letting jet lag get the best of us, we headed out to the Sydney Opera House, The Royal Botanic Gardens, the Sydney Museum of Contemporary Art, and Zumbo’s Patisserie (as seen on the Netflix original “Zumbo’s Just Desserts)

IMG_0026.jpg

The Opera House is located in Circular Quay which is a great place to chill and grab a cocktail. The Opera Bar serves famously fancy cocktails that make you feel like your on the set of Gossip Girl—but watch out for the seagulls (they are a little extra).

IMG_2121-2.jpg

Right in the same area is an amazing contemporary art museum. Most of the artwork is inspired by Asian and Aboriginal culture. The best part about this museum is that they have a rooftop cafe that is the perfect spot to grab a cup—or gallon—of coffee to get you through the rest of the day.

IMG_0156.jpg

Before you head home for the day, take a walk along the Royal Botanic Gardens. You can take a short walk or spend an hour walking to a nearby beach for a quick dip in the Pacific. The trees in this garden are outrageous and make for a great picnicking spot.

IMG_0126.jpg

Because we only had 2 days in the city, we had to pack a lot in. The second day, though locals said we couldn’t do it, we wanted to see the famous Blue Mountains, and the Sydney Zoo (because I mean come on…kangaroos!) all in the same day.

The Blue Mountains are an hour train ride into the outskirts of Sydney, tucked away in this cute little mountain village. We decided to take this double decker tour bus that would drop you off at each of the National Park sites. The bus starts the tours at 8am and runs until 5pm, so If you can, get there early so you don’t miss anything! Since we had limited time, we decided to choose three spots to spend our time on—(the Three Sisters, the famous Hot Chocolate Cafe, and the Scenic Railway). I would recommend doing this bus tour because all of these excursions cost money, and not all of them are in walking distance, so it was way more convenient to drop a few dollars on this all-inclusive ticket.

This is the Three Sisters. Around it are several walking trails with various levels of intensity. We chose the 10 minute walk and it was easy, we had a great view, and the entire walk was absolutely gorgeous!

This is the Three Sisters. Around it are several walking trails with various levels of intensity. We chose the 10 minute walk and it was easy, we had a great view, and the entire walk was absolutely gorgeous!

The  Scenic Railway  is the steepest railway in the World! At the top of the railway is a food court with a coffee shop and gift shop, but at the bottom, you can get off and explore this portion of the national park. There are several hiking trails to go on depending on how long you want to stay there. This ride is so fun—just make sure to hold onto all of your belongings hahha

The Scenic Railway is the steepest railway in the World! At the top of the railway is a food court with a coffee shop and gift shop, but at the bottom, you can get off and explore this portion of the national park. There are several hiking trails to go on depending on how long you want to stay there. This ride is so fun—just make sure to hold onto all of your belongings hahha

When they tell you this is the best hot chocolate in the world, you need to believe them…because this is the most literal form of hot chocolate. The ladies that own  Blue Mountains Chocolate Company    melt their homemade chocolate, mix it with steamed milk, and bring it straight to your table!

When they tell you this is the best hot chocolate in the world, you need to believe them…because this is the most literal form of hot chocolate. The ladies that own Blue Mountains Chocolate Company melt their homemade chocolate, mix it with steamed milk, and bring it straight to your table!

Our last stop in the Blue Mountains was the  Scenic Skyway . This all see-through, glass cable car glides back and forth between the Three Sisters and Jamison Valley and gives you the best view of the major sites of the Blue Mountains.

Our last stop in the Blue Mountains was the Scenic Skyway. This all see-through, glass cable car glides back and forth between the Three Sisters and Jamison Valley and gives you the best view of the major sites of the Blue Mountains.

Unfortunately, the best time to visit the Taronga Sydney Zoo is when it is warm outside, but it didn’t stop us from seeing those sweet koalas! The best (and cheapest) way to get to the Zoo is to buy a ticket at Circular Quay that includes the ferry boat ticket as well. The ferry gives you one of the best views of the harbor and only takes about 20 minutes.

IMG_0196.jpg

The Zoo is shaped sort of like a slanted pin-ball machine, so they take you on a a ski-lift to the top, and you basically just work your way back down to the entrance. The map was a little confusing, so just accept the fact that you’ll need to ask people where to go haha.

IMG_0206.jpg
IMG_0239.jpg
IMG_0249.jpg

To finish Part 1. of this travel guide, I’ll list some of our favorite food spots in throughout our shot stay in Sydney, as well as our cute little AirB&B that you should all check out:

Fav Food Spots:

Zumbo’s Patisserie  is so dreamy and fun! Our favorite dessert was the Lemon Tart, but everything looks and tastes delish!

Zumbo’s Patisserie is so dreamy and fun! Our favorite dessert was the Lemon Tart, but everything looks and tastes delish!

No. 12 Vintage  Coffee Shop: We started and ended our trip at this quaint little coffee shop within walking distance from our AirB&B. The owner was so nice and fun, and she gave us a lot of ideas for our short stay in Sydney. This was my favorite spot for cool gifts to bring to friends because everything was vintage or handmade! our favorite sip was the Turmeric Latte—and be sure to grab a ham and cheese croissant on your way out!

No. 12 Vintage Coffee Shop: We started and ended our trip at this quaint little coffee shop within walking distance from our AirB&B. The owner was so nice and fun, and she gave us a lot of ideas for our short stay in Sydney. This was my favorite spot for cool gifts to bring to friends because everything was vintage or handmade! our favorite sip was the Turmeric Latte—and be sure to grab a ham and cheese croissant on your way out!

Four Frogs Creperie : French food (check)—delicious Rosé (check)—modern & minimalistic atmosphere (check)! This little spot was vibrant and so fun! The crepes were bigger than my face, yet we each ate one savory one for dinner and split a sweet one for dessert ;) We splurged and got the seasonal dessert crepe—so when you go, trust their recommendations—because we LOVED everything we tried here.

Four Frogs Creperie: French food (check)—delicious Rosé (check)—modern & minimalistic atmosphere (check)! This little spot was vibrant and so fun! The crepes were bigger than my face, yet we each ate one savory one for dinner and split a sweet one for dessert ;) We splurged and got the seasonal dessert crepe—so when you go, trust their recommendations—because we LOVED everything we tried here.

Inner City Self Contained 1br Unit —Kensington: This AirBnB was EVERYTHING. The location was PERFECT. Were we able to walk to get coffee in the morning, then head on a bus, and within 10 minutes we were in the city center. While we were in Sydney we used public transportation to get everywhere. Our hosts were kind enough to have public transport passes already loaded and ready for us when we got there, which made life so much easier for us! The owners are some of the kindest people we have ever met. This apartment is tucked in right behind their home, but with just enough privacy so you don’t feel like you are encroaching on their lives. They gave us maps, guides, and helpful tips on navigating the city—they even gave us authentic Vegemite Toast to try:) With two people, we had more than enough space in this little studio apartment. It had a great kitchenette, a spacious bathroom, and a perfect little lounge area!

Inner City Self Contained 1br Unit—Kensington: This AirBnB was EVERYTHING. The location was PERFECT. Were we able to walk to get coffee in the morning, then head on a bus, and within 10 minutes we were in the city center. While we were in Sydney we used public transportation to get everywhere. Our hosts were kind enough to have public transport passes already loaded and ready for us when we got there, which made life so much easier for us! The owners are some of the kindest people we have ever met. This apartment is tucked in right behind their home, but with just enough privacy so you don’t feel like you are encroaching on their lives. They gave us maps, guides, and helpful tips on navigating the city—they even gave us authentic Vegemite Toast to try:) With two people, we had more than enough space in this little studio apartment. It had a great kitchenette, a spacious bathroom, and a perfect little lounge area!

Travel Guide: Carefree, Arizona

Ela Arizona

Ela, from Event Espresso, made her way across the country to the desert town of Carefree, Arizona and is sharing her travel tips and tricks with us! Get ready to suffer from some serious wanderlust as you read about her incredible trip! 

IMG_3174.JPG

Day 1:

Woke up in this gorgeous desert home that belongs to my boyfriend’s magnificent Aunt & Uncle! They have a beautiful view that overlooks Black Mountain and since we were exhausted from the flight the night before, we laid by the pool all day! Carefree is a gorgeous, quiet city filled with breath-taking desert views, coffee shops and surrounded by Mid-Western themed restaurants and bars.

IMG_3226.JPG
IMG_3227.JPG

Day 2:

The Sedona Desert has been on my bucket list for years now. I highly recommend the Pink Jeep Tours, where a lively guide takes off-roading to some favorite Sedona sites. You’ll need to buckle in and hold on tight because the ride can get super bumpy (and nerve-wracking, in a good way!) After the Sedona tour, we stopped to see The Chapel of The Holy Cross that was built into rock in 1956. The church design was approved by Frank Lloyd Wright and has more amazing views. On the way home, we stopped at some art galleries and craft shops-Sedona is very artsy with lots of unique shops to explore.

IMG_3049.JPG
IMG_3056.JPG
IMG_3063.JPG

Day 3:

We were up bright and early to go ATVing through Salt River Valley with an Extreme Arizona Motorsports Adventure guide. It was an unforgettable day scattered with blood, sweat, and almost tears. Some of the trails were scary, rocky, and even over-looked cliffs! But the views were unbeatable while riding around in the valley. On our last loop, we climbed up a rocky cliff to see Indian Mesa Ruins, a rock wall from 1,000 years ago built by the Hohokam Puebloans.

IMG_3172.JPG
IMG_3173.JPG

Day 4:

There’s nothing quite like riding a convertible through the desert. On our last day, we took a relaxing drive to Lake Pleasant, a huge outdoor recreation area where you can jetski, boat, picnic, swim, and host events around the bright blue reservoir. On our way back, we had a great view of “The Boulders”-a cluster of rocks left behind from when this area was covered in water millions of years ago. To finish off the trip, we wandered around Old Town Scottsdale which is filled with art galleries, bars, and restaurants.

IMG_3208.jpg
IMG_2892.jpg
IMG_3231.JPG
IMG_3232.JPG

Tips & Tricks

-Bring water & chap stick EVERYWHERE! Since the air is so dry, you hardly feel yourself sweat and get dehydrated very easily!

 -Although it seems counter-productive since it’s so warm, a light long sleeved shirt and pants can really help keep you cool. If I wasn’t wearing long sleeves while ATVing, I would have completely fried!

 

 

Recommendations

- Janey’s Coffee Co. & Bodega: Cute coffee shop & lunch spot with a relaxing outdoor patio

- Harold’s Cave Creek Corral: Western bar & grill with great martinis and delicious bar food

- Indigo Crow: Yummy American restaurant & bar in a cool atmosphere (and the best carrot cake we’ve ever had!)

- The Mission Old Town: Modern Latin American restaurant with a dark, romantic vibe

Travel Guide: Waco, TX

So let's get real - we all know the only reason to go to Waco, TX is to visit something Chip & Joanna Gaine's related. 

Waco, TX - Magnolia Texas - Visting Magnolia - Waco Travel Blog
Waco, TX - Magnolia Texas - Visting Magnolia - Waco Travel Blog

We made the hour and a half trek from Austin into Waco on a cold, rainy morning and found that the parking lot for Magnolia table was still packed to the brim. The restaurant opens at 6am and stays open until 3pm

We had heard that the wait times can be quite long so even though we arrived at 8:45 we still had a 45 minute wait. The nice thing is that there is a cafe open on the patio where you can grab coffee and a few pastieries while you wait. 

Waco, TX - Magnolia Texas - Visting Magnolia - Waco Travel Blog
Waco, TX - Magnolia Texas - Visting Magnolia - Waco Travel Blog
Waco, TX - Magnolia Texas - Visting Magnolia - Waco Travel Blog
Waco, TX - Magnolia Texas - Visting Magnolia - Waco Travel Blog

You can also browse a menu so you'll be ready once it's your time to go inside. They put your name on a list and then text you when your table is ready. There is individual seating and communal tables but there is a longer wait for the private tables. 

If you don't feel like waiting there is a little room off to the side where you can order pasiteries and some other items to go. 

Everything about Magnolia Table is just like you imagine. From fake fireplaces, to long farmhouse tables, and amazing tile and signature pieces throughout. 

Waco, TX - Magnolia Texas - Visting Magnolia - Waco Travel Blog
Waco, TX - Magnolia Texas - Visting Magnolia - Waco Travel Blog
Waco, TX - Magnolia Texas - Visting Magnolia - Waco Travel Blog
Waco, TX - Magnolia Texas - Visting Magnolia - Waco Travel Blog

The food are classic, southern staples and of course come served with presentation in mind. Our first dish was the buttermilk biscuits with homemade, whipped strawberry butter. 

Then we choose the Oatmeal and Classic Breakfast dish to share. 

Waco, TX - Magnolia Texas - Visting Magnolia - Waco Travel Blog
Waco, TX - Magnolia Texas - Visting Magnolia - Waco Travel Blog
Waco, TX - Magnolia Texas - Visting Magnolia - Waco Travel Blog
Waco, TX - Magnolia Texas - Visting Magnolia - Waco Travel Blog

A 15 minute drive from Magnolia Table is the Magnolia Silos. Parking can be a bit of a drag but there is free parking if you don't mind walking a bit (and hopefully it isn't raining on you like it was for us) 

Waco, TX - Magnolia Texas - Visting Magnolia - Waco Travel Blog

Even the outside of Magnolia is decorated with planter boxes and decor pieces. Can you believe this was actually the side of the walk-in freezer they use for their cafe on site? 

Waco, TX - Magnolia Texas - Visting Magnolia - Waco Travel Blog

Once you make your way inside you'll be greeted by the large Magnolia entrance to the shop. I'm not going to lie the inside of this place was overrun by people. Also now that they have their Target line I couldn't actually see buying any of these pieces are they are more expensive than the Target line and the majority of them you have to ship to your home. 

Waco, TX - Magnolia Texas - Visting Magnolia - Waco Travel Blog

The grounds surrounding the silos have entertainment for kids and gardens for the adults. There is also an abundance of home and lifestyle inspiration everywhere you turn. The wait for the bathrooms is quite long so I highly suggest going before you leave Magnolia Table (and definitely head there first) 

Waco, TX - Magnolia Texas - Visting Magnolia - Waco Travel Blog
Waco, TX - Magnolia Texas - Visting Magnolia - Waco Travel Blog

The nice thing about the store is it is seperated into sections - Chips Corner and the T-shirt items are on the second level while the home goods are on the top. 

Waco, TX - Magnolia Texas - Visting Magnolia - Waco Travel Blog
Waco, TX - Magnolia Texas - Visting Magnolia - Waco Travel Blog

Don't forget to snap a photo before you go. There was always a line at every "photo op" spot but luckily customers were eager to take photos of one another. (My husband however opted out of having his photo taken) 

Overall I would say it's definitely an experience to have and if you're going to the restaurant you might as well hit up the Silos - but Target is your main resource if you want an affordable piece from the Joanna Gaine's collection. 

Let us know if you're heading to Waco and feel free to ask us any questions you have before you go. 

Waco, TX - Magnolia Texas - Visting Magnolia - Waco Travel Blog

Travel Guide: Salem

Salem, MA - Home to witches, history, and nothing but cobblestones. 

Salem is only a 45 minute train ride from Boston so the perfect mini trip to take if you find yourself in the Boston area. The train drops off in the heart of the city, right outside of the Visitor's Center, giving you plenty of information and maps on Salem. 

Travel Guide: Salem

Our first stop was the Salem Witch Museum, which gives you a 45 minute history of the Salem Witch Trials and a 20 minute presentation on the term "witch" in it's historical and present day meanings. The $12 entry fee also gives you discounts on various stores and resturants throughout the town. 

Travel Guide: Salem

Around the corner of the Peabody Essex Museum is an amazing sculpture from artist Patrick Dougherty, from his Stickworks series. Designed to mimic the historical houses in Salem this interactive site is a great photo opportunity. 

While you walk around the city don't forget to wave to Samantha from Bewitched - another popular photo opportunity. 

Travel Guide: Salem

If you're interesting in learning about witch culture that doesn't feel cheesy and over the top, we highly recommend HausWitch. This store carries unique, handmade products from local artisans, spell kits, and adorable home goods. If you spend over $75 you even earn a free tote. 

Travel Guide: Salem

A few blocks down is the "Witch House" - Although no witches actually lived here, it's an accurate representation of life during the period of the trails. This colonial "mansion" as it was considered in it's day was owned by trials judge Jonathan Corwan. Preserved to maintain it's historical accuracies this house is a unique blast from the past. 

Travel Guide: Salem

The last stop in Salem was the waterfront. We passed the Salem Maritime National Historical Site but was saddened to find that the ship is being repaired, thus all it's sails were removed. To cheer ourselves up we caffeinated with some coffee at Jaho

There wasn't the best food options in Salem but we stopped for a quick bite at Salem Beer Works before heading back into Boston. 

Travel Guide: Seattle

Everyone has been traveling to the West Coast lately. Maybe it's the weather or perhaps it's the laid back atmosphere but when it came time to plan our Anniversary trip my husband and I settled on Seattle (which also may have had to do with the fact that I had an engagement session planned there) 

We ended up catching a 6am flight which with the time difference had us arriving in Seattle around 8:30am 

Seattle Travel Guide: Weekend in Seattle: Things to do in Seattle
Seattle Travel Guide: Weekend in Seattle: Things to do in Seattle

THURSDAY: 

First thing we had to do was fill our bellies. After a 6 hour plane ride and waking up at 3am we were famished. We had heard that Pike Place wasn't too busy early on weekday mornings so we headed straight to the infamous Market Place. 

Seattle Travel Guide: Weekend in Seattle: Things to do in Seattle

Of course we stopped by the famous Piroshky Piroshky - home to delicious Russian pastries filled with meats and cheeses. (This is also conveniently located next to the original Starbucks if that's your fancy) 

While we didn't spend too much time walking around this area as it started filling with patrons as soon as the fog lifted and the sun peeked out. If you walk all the way down the street you can get to a pier that overlooks the Seattle Great Wheel

We grabbed a quick coffee at Storyville Coffee. It had been highly recommended but I found it to be so/so. They make their own almond milk with almonds and dates and had an odd aftertaste. But definitely an option if you're not a Starbucks drinker. 

Seattle Travel Guide: Weekend in Seattle: Things to do in Seattle

While we didn't stop we walked by a cool place called Biscuit Bitch that makes southern style biscuits.

 

We rented an Air BnB in the Capitol Hill neighborhood and decided to walk around this hipster area filled with coffee shops, thrift stores, and lots of bars. We were starving and were planning on stopping by Dick's Drive-In (a fast food burger joint we had heard great things about) but with a line to the road we kept walking and ended up at Tacos Chukis

This fast, casual taco place has only a few choices but with $2 a taco you can't beat this homemade, tiny kitchen, local loved restaurant. 

Seattle Travel Guide: Weekend in Seattle: Things to do in Seattle

 

After walking around the town we ended up running into a friend at Chucks Hop Shop (which we actually grabbed a beer at everyday of our trip). 

They have a large selection of beers on tap, hard ciders, and is also a bottle shop with a rotating food truck out front. They also are super dog friendly and have an entire wall dedicated to Polaroids of people's furry friends. There was even a guy who had his cat at the bar. 

Seattle Travel Guide: Weekend in Seattle: Things to do in Seattle
Seattle Travel Guide: Weekend in Seattle: Things to do in Seattle

 

Just a little ways down the street is Uncle Ike's Pot Shop. (That's right because marijuana is legal in Seattle and when in Rome ) I had to check it out. Was so overwhelmed I grabbed the first thing I saw - an infused chocolate bar. 

Seattle Travel Guide: Weekend in Seattle: Things to do in Seattle
Seattle Travel Guide: Weekend in Seattle: Things to do in Seattle

Last we grabbed dinner at a great Thai restaurant called Manao (Seriously the best food I've ever eaten). 

We ordered the crispy rolls, herbal Cripsy chicken, and Phad Prik Khing Crispy Pork Belly. 

Seattle Travel Guide: Weekend in Seattle: Things to do in Seattle

 

 

FRIDAY: 

Seattle Travel Guide: Weekend in Seattle: Things to do in Seattle
Seattle Travel Guide: Weekend in Seattle: Things to do in Seattle
Seattle Travel Guide: Weekend in Seattle: Things to do in Seattle

We had a 5:30am wake-up call to make it to Mt. Rainer for an anniversary photo shoot. My friend Megan from Megan Gallagher Photography took some anniversary photos on the mountain. I was amazed by how HUGE it was and how the pathways were already covered in snow in October. (Considering I don't get to see snow til January or if I get to see any at all) 

After a very very mild hike (bad ankle + fashion boots + snow) we headed back down the mountain. 

Since we were starving and an hour and a half outside of Seattle we made a pit stop in Tacoma (which was actually pretty cool.) This town had a super hipster vibe. We ate at a Diners, Drive-In's, and Dives approved Dirty Oscars Annex

http://www.dirtyoscarsannex.com/

We hit up Victory Records. This record store was literally the best record store I've ever been in. They had so many new, unopened vinyl, and walls of used vinyl separated by album and artist. I was able to score some really awesome albums I didn't think I'd ever be able to find. 

Next door is a cute boutique that sold vintage clothing, accessories, one of a kind items, and handmade soaps. 

Lastly we stopped and grabbed a doughnut at Legendary Doughnuts. 

things to do in seattle: a weekend in seattle: seattle tour guide
things to do in seattle: a weekend in seattle: seattle tour guide
Seattle Travel Guide: Weekend in Seattle: Things to do in Seattle

Since I'm a huge fan of Twin Peaks we had to visit the North End of Washington - the location of the famous Norma's Diner. After a slice of cherry pie and a "damn fine cup of coffee" we headed back to Cap Hill to end the evening at Chucks. 

Seattle Travel Guide: Weekend in Seattle: Things to do in Seattle
Seattle Travel Guide: Weekend in Seattle: Things to do in Seattle
Seattle Travel Guide: Weekend in Seattle: Things to do in Seattle
Seattle Travel Guide: Weekend in Seattle: Things to do in Seattle
 

SATURDAY: 

When you have to move your car by 7am you learn to wake up early. 

Seattle Travel Guide: Weekend in Seattle: Things to do in Seattle

First on the agenda: Coffee - We walked a few blocks down the way to Fuel. A small, quaint, local coffee shop that served delicious lattes. In the early morning it was pretty dead except for a few regulars reading papers. 

IMG-4539.JPG

We wanted to hit up the touristy spots early, so we stopped off at the Space Needle. (We didn't go inside but we got to see it from the outside) There are some cool architectural art pieces to look at and it's littered with tourists.  And strangely it's not as tall as you would think. 

things to do in seattle: seattle travel guide: weekend in seattle

One of the things I really wanted to see was the Fremont Troll. Since I've been a huge fan of 10 Things I Hate About You I really wanted to check it out. Get there early because as soon as we left there were tons of people waiting to take a photo. 

 

Seattle Travel Guide: Weekend in Seattle: Things to do in Seattle

Then we headed to the Ballard neighborhood to grab brunch at Hattie's Hat. They had Hocus Pocus on the television and the inside was decorated for Halloween. The food was delicious and the menu had a wide variety of items for everyone. 

things to do in seattle: seattle travel guide: weekend in seattle

We walked around this eclectic neighborhood and unfortunately a lot of the shops weren't open yet but the inside of them looked amazing. From clothing to art to organic dog food I wish we could have seen it when it was actually open. 

Then we had to make a Target run and I was inside a TWO STORY TARGET and it was amazing. 

things to do in seattle: seattle travel guide: weekend in seattle

Gasworks was one of the places I was looking forward to the most. An abandoned Gas facility and it reminded me Miss Peregrines. Unfortunately it was so bright and sunny it was hard to take good photos.  

 

things to do in seattle: seattle travel guide: weekend in seattle
things to do in seattle: seattle travel guide: weekend in seattle

My next stop was Carkeek Park - I had an engagement session scheduled and it was cool to see a pebble beach. There was some amazing foliage during these fall months, the brightest leaves I had ever seen. 

Seattle Travel Guide: Weekend in Seattle: Things to do in Seattle
Seattle Travel Guide: Weekend in Seattle: Things to do in Seattle
Seattle Travel Guide: Weekend in Seattle: Things to do in Seattle

Then we headed to the International District to grab some food. We went to Dough Zone - a Dumpling House and this place was PACKED. Even though we were the the party in line we got in under 20 minutes. 

We ordered so many things from scallion pancakes, vegetable dumplings, noodle bowls, and steamed buns, everything we tried was delicious. 

Seattle Travel Guide: Weekend in Seattle: Things to do in Seattle

Our final stop was a cookie shop down the road from our Air BnB called Hello Robin. They serve fresh baked cookies and ice cream. They even had a vegan/dairy free Stumptown Coffee flavor that I paired with pumpkin chocolate chip cookie and double chocolate cookie. 

SUNDAY

things to do in seattle: seattle travel guide: weekend in seattle
things to do in seattle: seattle travel guide: weekend in seattle
things to do in seattle: seattle travel guide: weekend in seattle

I only had an hour in the morning before we had to head to the airport to catch our flight so I made Andrew go back to Gasworks to see it in it's true foggy glory. If you actually time it right you can get a great view of the Seattle skyline. We got to enjoy the park with little pedestrians and enjoy it's pure eerie glory. 

If you have any questions or suggestions about Seattle let us know! We'd love to help you plan your perfect vacation. 

 

Travel Guide: Chicago (Part Duex)

While Joanna explored the Windy City a year before me - we were lucky enough to check out different parts of the city. I had 2.5 days to explore and ended up walking over 27 miles. (Needless to say we saw it all) 

THURSDAY NIGHT: 

travel guide chicago: things to do in chicago
Big Star Taco: Things to do in Chicago : Chicago Travel Guide
Big Star Taco: Things to do in Chicago : Chicago Travel Guide

Our first stop (after a 13 hour car ride) food. We heard about Big Star Taco
On a Thursday night there was still quite a wait so I'd make a reservation, or if you're in a hurry they have a take out window that has limited options and a few alcoholic beverages. But if you want the full menu definitely wait it out. 

May I suggest the fish tacos and of course the margaritas. 

The Violet Hour

After dinner we headed across the street to a popular speak easy The Violet Hour (because yes Chicago has speakeasy's) 

The door changes periodically but it usually appears as an art installation. There are no photos allowed and cell phones are prohibited, but there's an absinthe happy hour - so be prepared. 

FRIDAY: 

things to do in chicago: chicago travel guide
goddess and the baker - chicago travel blog - things to do in chicago
chicago travel blog - things to do in chicago

We started early and headed downtown in search of coffee and breakfast. I cannot say nicer things about Goddess and the Baker. This place has a pastry case packed to the brim, outside seating (which I thought was impossible in Downtown Chicago), lots of room, delicious food, and amazing coffee. 

I was happy to take a little site seeing break and stop at this place. (Also for some reason Chicago has a thing for "signs" in resturants so get ready for a lot of those). 

chicago travel blog - things to do in chicago

From breakfast it was just a short walk to the "The Loop" - Chicago's largest downtown area. There are tons of skyscrapers and provide some great photo op's but besides that there isn't a ton to do here. I suggest walking past on your way to "The Bean" at Millennium Park

things to do in chicago - weekend in chicago - chicago travel guide

Cloud Gate - as it's known - is where the silver bean is housed in Chicago's Downtown district. Usually littered with tourist this is again something to grab a quick photo with and be on your way. 

things to do in chicago - weekend in chicago - chicago travel guide
things to do in chicago - weekend in chicago - chicago travel guide

It was a steamy summer day in the Windy City which allowed us to stop for multiple coffee breaks (also I was still nursing my newly healed broken leg at the time.) Luckily we stumbled upon Intelligentsia Coffee   This was some of the best coffee I had ever tasted and smelled (we even brought a few bags home with us) 
 

things to do in chicago - chicago travel guide - travel blog

Did you know Chicago has beaches? Well really it's like some sand surrounding a lake but it was PACKED the day we were there. We happened to stumble upon the annual Air & Water show. Where jets fly all throughout the city over the water making jet stream patterns. It was quite fun but definitely put a damper on my beach going experience. Did put my feet in the water though. 

 

chicago travel blog - things to do in chicago - chicago travel guide

And since it was on the way back to our car we walked through the Botanical Gardens. 

 

chicago travel blog - things to do in chicago - chicago travel guide

We ended our journey at Brightwok - an affordable and filling asian resturants. You get to build your own bowl with either rice or noodles and then load up with 4 veggies and a meat. 

Definitely a great way to end our first real day in the city. 

chicago travel guide - things to do in chicago - chicago blog

SATURDAY: 

chicago travel guide - things to do in chicago - chicago blog

We woke up early to hit the South Side of Chicago - and grabbed breakfast at an amazing coffee shop called Robust   - I ordered the oreo waffles and Andrew snagged the banana foster. 

things to do in chicago - chicago travel guide

Then we hit up the more hipster neighborhoods, got to walk through a Spanish food festival, and took some photos in front of some amazing street art that litter's the city. 

(For a guide on the best Chicago murals - check out this post) 

things to do in chicago - chicago travel guide
things to do in chicago - chicago travel guide

Next we hit up the Milwaukee Ave area of Chicago - home to great food - amazing houses - scenic views and of course The Wormhole - an 80's themed cafe that even has it's own Delorean. Fun fact they even served Videri Chocolate

things to do in chicago - chicago travel guide

I can't go to a new city without stopping by a record store and searching for a copy of New Order's - Power, Corruption, & Lies (an old copy not a remastered one) 
And while I didn't find it at Reckless Records I did walk away with quite a few new ones for my table. 

things to do in chicago - chicago travel guide

And for a city that boasts about deep dish pizza and pickles on their hot dogs we didn't eat any of those things during our stay. Instead we had a ton of Asian food. 

En Hakkore's specialty is their poke bowls. Yum! Also if you want to split a dish their korean beef fries are killer. 

 

things to do in chicago - chicago travel guide

With only a few more hours to spend in Chicago and a desperate need to find the "Chicago" Mural - we trekked over the Milwaukee Ave bridge to the other side of town and hit up a crazy VHS rental place that was something out of High Fidelity (if they collected movies instead of records) called Odd Obsession. 

Just walking through there can kill some time and find some movies you've never heard of. 

things to do in chicago

Finally we made it to the mural after 3 miles of walking (yes everyone hated me) but we got to see parts of the city that we wouldn't have otherwise and stumbled upon another cool record store that I don't have photos of (but if you're desperate to see this mural I'd suggest calling an Uber or renting a bicycle) 

things to do in chicago - chicago travel guide

So that was my 52 hours in Chicago. We walked over 27 miles and saw a ton of stuff - even though I consider the trip pretty leisurely when it comes to how much I normally accomplish on a "trip" 

 

If you're looking for more Chicago reccomendations check out our Chicago Part 1 blog here. 

Travel Guide: Boston

I've spent quite some time in Boston over the last year with my husband living there for 3 months. So I complied a list of things to do both in and out of the city, as well as some amazing photo opportunities and of course great eats! 

 

WHERE TO STAY: 

If you don't have friends to stay with can I recommend this AMAZING Air BnB I found during my most recent trip to Boston. 

This amazing, Victorian Air BnB  - is in walking distance of the red line (which is the public transportation system) that can get you basically anywhere you want to go in the city. 

 

where to stay in boston - best air bnb in boston - boston travel guide
where to stay in boston - best air bnb in boston - boston travel guide
where to stay in boston - best air bnb in boston - boston travel guide

 

 

 

DAY 1: HISTORICAL/TOURIST BOSTON

Travel Guide: Boston

Of course the first day in Boston I wanted to hit up the toursit attractions to get it out of the way and see the "Historical Boston"

Anywhere you want to go is accessible by the underground train system which at first seems overwhelming but becomes second nature by the end of the day. We suggest heading to Boston's Historic North End where the historical Freedom Trail is located. This 1.5 mile trail hits almost every historical parts of the city and can take up to 4 hours to complete the whole trail at a fast pace. 

Travel Guide: Boston
Travel Guide: Boston

Some of the highlights are Granary Burial Ground - one of the oldest cemeteries in Boston, displaying hand drawn grave markings. 

Paul Reverie Monument & home right outside the Old North Church that signaled the "Midnight Ride." 

Located around the corner is the Old State House - the site of the Boston Massacre. (Note the giant unicorn on top of the house.) 

Travel Guide: Boston
Travel Guide: Boston
Travel Guide: Boston

For food Little Italy is the only place to go. Stop by a small restaurant called The Daily Catch - an Italian seafood restaurant that is the size of a small living room, where patrons are forced to eat side by side. This is a cash only establishment so bring plenty ! While the dishes are a little pricey they keep you full and are served in large pots and pans. Be warned - there will be a wait.  

(SIDE NOTE: There is also a location in South Boston that is bigger and takes credit cards.) 

Things to do in Boston - Boston Travel Guide
Travel Guide: Boston
Travel Guide: Boston

After you feel that you can't eat anymore - walk across the street to Mike's Pasty - famous for cannolis as big as your hands and come in a variety of flavors. They also serve cream puffs, lobster tails, gelato, cookies and more. The line is always out the door but it moves quickly so don't be discouraged. 

Travel Guide: Boston

After lunch we continued on the trail to the New England Holocaust Memorial and small greenway park - a great place to snap a photo of the Boston skyline. Next you'll run into Samuel Adams statue and the Benjamin Franklin statue outside the old Latin school. 

things to do in boston - where to eat in boston - boston travel guide
things to do in boston - where to eat at in boston - boston travel guide

Looking for a cheaper alternative to lunch? Or perhaps you want to grab something to go so you can picnic at the park? 

Look no further than Monica's Mercato & Salumeria. This place always has a line out the door but they are serving up the most authentic and fresh subs you've ever eaten. I recommend the Italian of course. With a small coming in at $10 and a large around $16 these subs are perfect for sharing or munching on all day. 

 

 

 

Travel Guide: Boston

The trail ends at Boston Common's - the central park of Boston. This large, open area is outside the State House. From there we wandered to find dinner discovering the Theater District and Chinatown. 

Things to do in Boston - Boston Travel Guide

We ended up settling on Stoddards, an Irish eatery with vintage cocktails. The perfect meal to end the long day. 

 

 

DAY 2: SOUTH BOSTON/UMASS

Things to do in Boston - Boston Travel Guide

Power up with Union Square Donuts - with three locations you can find one close to you using the location finder via their website. They also have their doughnuts and doughies at various coffee shops throughout the area (SEE DAY 3) 

 

things to do in boston - boston travel guide
things to do in boston - boston travel guide

Travel JFK Presidential Library and UMass. There is a free bus available outside of the rail station that I highly recommend, and prepare yourself for strong winds coming off the harbor. 

With an affinity for learning about history and a love of retro items  one could spend a whole day at the museum. 

Don't forget to tour the outside of the property as well. JFK's sailboat sits outside of the museum and you can view home videos of JFK sailing with his son inside. 

There is also a breathtaking view of the Boston skyline - 

There is also a bottom level to the museum that hosts a rotating exhibit. During our time there we got to experience Ernest Hemingway "Between Two Wars." 

South Boston is more commonly known as the business center - is deserted on the weekends, which gives tourists the run of the land. This side of Boston is the site of the Historic Boston Tea Party harbor which has a historical tour and replica of the ships. 

things to do in boston - boston travel guide

The most popular tourist destination on this side of Boston is Harpoon Brewery - but make sure you get there early, the line tends to wrap around the building around noon and the tour tickets are sold at least two hours in advance. 

things to do in boston - boston travel guide

But this gives you tons of time to feed your belly at Yankee Lobster before you guzzle all that beer. Within walking distance this tiny eatery with limited seating has a menu of nothing but authentic seafood that is caught in the harbor right outside of the restaurant. 

I recommend the lobster roll or splurge for the 1 1/4 lobster - the prices will be some of the cheapest you can find in the city. 

things to do in boston - boston travel guide

Next head to Harpoon Brewery - the oldest brewery in Massachusetts that brews a wide variety of beer. Their product is so good they only rely on social media and word of mouth as advertisement. They also have a cafe inside known for it's variety of pretzels that they bake from the spent grain they use in their brewing process, and donate the rest to local farms for cows to eat. 

You can try every beer for two minutes with unlimited refills in their tasting room so brace yourselves. I recommend UFO Big Squeeze Shandy - which tasted like an orange wine spritzer and the UFO Razz, a raspberry beer. 

Things to do in Boston - Boston Travel Guide
things to do in boston - free things to do in boston - boston travel guide.

 

This is also where the Boston Aquarium is located. Usually I don't hit up aquariums but my clients had year long passes and invited us! There is a great photo op outside the aquarium with all these amazing boats! 

 

things to do in boston - free things to do in boston - boston travel guide.

 

Looking for some more culture? The Institute of Contemporary Art is also in this area and is Free on Thursdays from 5-9pm. Go ahead and take in the odd art and don't forget to hang out on the deck for great views of the harbor. 

 

Outside the Daily Catch - South Boston location 

Outside the Daily Catch - South Boston location 

 

DAY 3 & 4: HIPSTER BOSTON (BRIGHTON/ALLSTON/CAMBRIDGE) 

things to do in Boston

I'm going to gush about Tatte Bakery for a second. With locations near Boston Common, Cambridge, and more (find locations via their website) This is one of my favorite bakeries in Boston. 

They have the freshest baked goods, delicious coffee, and their TOAST PLATE is everything!! I've had almost everything on their menu and it is all to die for.

Don't miss an opportunity to stop in and grab snacks. 

Things to do in Boston - Boston Travel Guide
things to do in boston - where to eat in boston - boston travel guide
Things to do in Boston - Boston Travel Guide

If Tatte is insanely busy or you just need an alternative try Lamplighter Brewing Co. / Longfellows This coffee shop/brewery combo has iced coffee flights along with beer! They serve Union Square doughies (doughnut holes) and make insanely delicious coffee. Their hop infused cold brew is not one to miss. 

things to do in boston - where to eat at in boston - boston travel guide
Things to do in Boston - Boston Travel Guide
Things to do in Boston - Boston Travel Guide

And right next door is Niche Succulent store - if you want to bring home a little potted plant! 

 

Things to do in Boston - Boston Travel Guide

Even after traveling to Boston three times I knew there was one place I wanted to see - the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Yes - that was someone's house ! Can you imagine living in that. This woman collected great pieces of art, literature, and more and was actually the site of one of the greatest and biggest art heists in America. (read about that here) 

You could totally spend a few hours looking through the 3 floors of artifacts and get caught up in the calming sounds of her solarium. 

Things to do in Boston - Boston Travel Guide
Travel JFK Presidential Library and UMass. There is a free bus available outside of the rail station that I highly recommend, and prepare yourself for strong winds coming off the harbor.   With an affinity for learning about history and a love of retro items  one could spend a whole day at the museum.   Don't forget to tour the outside of the property as well. JFK's sailboat sits outside of the museum and you can view home videos of JFK sailing with his son inside.   There is also a breathtaking view of the Boston skyline -   There is also a bottom level to the museum that hosts a rotating exhibit. During our time there we got to experience Ernest Hemingway "Between Two Wars." 

The Allston area of Boston is one of my favorite places. This run-down, hipster neighborhood is full of great resturants, tattoo parlors, artwork, and music venues. 

Things to do in Boston - Boston Travel Guide

And my favorite restaurant in Boston is HANDS DOWN - Lulu's

I stumbled upon it one night after had drove 13 hours from NC to Boston. Whew ! The food is here AMAZING! So amazing that Andrew actually made this his weekly outing when he lived up there. I think he sampled everything on the menu and never had a bad experience. If I could get them to franchise in NC I would. 

I heard that their brunch was not to be missed, so the last Sunday we were there we woke up early (they open at 10 am and it was PACKED when we got there at 9:45) The chef always has specials on pancakes and we just happened to walk-in during chocolate on chocolate! We also got their award winning "White Trash Hash" that I devoured. (Again can I just say how great this place is) and reasonably priced for Boston. 

Things to do in Boston - Boston Travel Guide

Travel Guide: Chicago

We had 24 hours to give to the Windy City, and we were going to do it up right. While I prefer to stay at an Air Bnb, someone bought us a hotel room at the Hampton Inn Majestic (you can't pass up free). We got in pretty late, but we were determined to hit Chi-town in the early hours before the heat got crazy.We grabbed that complimentary breakfast (i'm always a little scared of those things. You tentatively make your way to the lobby with pictures of gelatin eggs, mystery sausage and those fun-size cereals if you're lucky). 

We compromised on breakfast, but we weren't going to compromise on coffee. We made our way three blocks north and one block east (.4 miles) to one of the renowned Intelligentsia locations. I ordered the La Tortuga pour-over and wasn't at all disappointed. 

Chicago-63.jpg

With hot coffee in hand on a hot July day, we walked two more blocks east, passing the Jay Pritzker Pavilion can only imagine the serious concerts held here.  

Chicago-3.jpg

We cut down through Millenial Park (which sadly was mostly gated off for the Taste of Chicago festival that we were a day too early for) to Cloud Gate, otherwise known as the Bean. What struck me about the structure was its perfect placement in the city and the arches and angles that reflect the sky scrapers and city's silhouette so masterfully.

Chicago-8.jpg

From the Bean, we walked to the riverfront and stopped at the Cancer Survivors Garden on the way. We watched a few ships come in, but we needed some fuel for our two mile walk to the Skydeck at the Willis Tower (previously known as the Sears Tower).

We headed west and were lucky enough to run into the Doughnut Vault! If you see the Vault you have to stop because there's no promise it will still be there in an hour. It might look like a rickety old van, but the van has got some serious doughnut game. We went with the coconut cream, but I have a feeling you can't go wrong.

 

With renewed energy, we finished our trek to Skydeck. The blisters and the lines were worth it. The view was breathtaking and it really offered the full perspective of the city.  If anything, you have to do it once.

Chicago-17.jpg
Chicago-18.jpg

After we finally got down from the tower we had worked up an appetite. We couldn't leave the city without sampling some real deep dish Chi-Town Pizza. We hopped right over to Giordano's. When we walked in they told us up front that they bake it all fresh and if wanted a deep dish (I mean what else would we be there for?) it would be between 30 to 40 minutes. It felt like the longest 30 minutes of my life, but it payed in dividends. 

After lunch, we walked off the food coma, making our way 2 miles back towards the lake to the Art Institute of Chicago. (Don't forget to bring your student ID even if its expired--you'll get the student's admission price) Really, we could have spent all day there. They had an authentic Georgia O'Keefe display, and we barely made it through that exhibit before we had to leave the city.

Chicago-35.jpg

We ran back to the hotel to pick up our car. We had about 20 minutes before we had to get out of the city to miss the traffic. We ended the day the way we started, with coffee. On our way out of the city, we stopped by Ipsento (their original location on the north side).

This has ranked on my top 3 favorite coffee places. the colors and the cozy small town feel in the middle of a bustling urban scape was awesome. I ordered the Ipsento latte-- bold expresso, coconut milk, milk, honey and a dash of Cayenne pepper. You have to order it. Trust me. The peppery, spicy sweet flavor finish was the perfect way to end our speedy tour of the Windy City. 

Chicago-44.jpg
Chicago-45.jpg

-Jo