Santa Fe - truly a place that had been on my bucket list after hearing songs from the Newsies and RENT. And for my birthday this year I thought, yeah, sunny Santa Fe would be...nice. So we packed our things and made the road trip from Denver to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Here I'm rounding up my favorite things that we enjoyed during our weekend trip, and I already can't wait to go back!
Where to stay
For our getaway in Santa Fe, we went the Airbnb route. There are countless places to stay that are all comfortable, convenient, and well accommodated, but for my birthday this year I wanted a unique experience and something kind of remote. So we went with Suzanne's vintage airstream. It was the sweetest, most stylish "glamping" experience I've ever had - thoughtfully decorated and just so dang cute! At night you could see what seemed like a million stars, and in the morning we enjoyed a peaceful breakfast outside.
Where to eat
We had the chance to sample a few of the must-go places while in Santa Fe, and all while sticking to our vegan diet! Below are the eats you can't miss:
What to do
Santa Fe has so much in store for you between shopping, food & drink, ART, music, culture, nature, and architecture. These are just a few of the things we got to do during our weekend in Santa Fe:
And there you have it! A quick roundup of all that Santa Fe had to offer us for my birthday weekend. I can definitely say that I'd like to go back someday. Known as being the oldest capital city in the country, Santa Fe is low key yet has so much to offer! There are several museums that I would like to make time for during another trip.
Every time I look at my silver rings from the railyard market I think of how nice sunny Santa Fe was as I celebrated another trip around the sun.
Let's be honest - Boston is hella expensive. And that's okay if you live there and make hella income. But for a visitor, it can be kind of daunting. Though I only visited Boston for a weekend getaway while living in Baltimore, I was able to experience the city and not break the bank. Here are my tips for visiting Boston on a budget!
See Fenway Park without actually going to a Boston Red Sox game
Hey, if you like baseball, by all means go to a Red Sox game while visiting Boston! But for me, I wanted to get the general sense of Boston sports pride/Fenway Park without actually paying for a seat at a game. I did this in two ways:
Take a Duck Tour to see Boston by land and by "sea"
Being from Pittsburgh, I'm very familiar with a duck tour because they're happening all the time! But if you haven't taken one before or are looking for a unique way to see Boston, a duck tour is the way to go! You start by boarding the boat/bus on land and driving through the central area of Boston, receiving commentary from your tour guide along the way. You then arrive at a special access point in which you plunge into the Charles River for a guided cruise. This combination of perspectives is a great way to get a bang for your buck in Boston and learn a little history, too! (Extra tip: Boston Duck Tours has great military/veterans discounts as well as a discount for tours before 10 am)
Organize your trip into neighborhoods
Boston has so much to see and do, it can feel (and honestly is) impossible to see it all during one trip. I recommend being strategic with what you want to do and organizing your activities into the neighborhoods that they're in. This can help you save time and money in transportation costs from one area to another. For example, we wanted to check out the famous Mike's Pastry shop, so we decided to get dinner on the same street beforehand. If we had time before that, I could have visited the Paul Revere House, also nearby. You can also plan out your days based on walking from one destination to another, within reason. We walked a ton, and that helped to save on Uber/Lyft costs.
Take advantage of the free stuff
Like most major cities, there's a lot to see and do in Boston that's totally free! (And there's a website dedicated to this: Boston on a Budget) We walked along the Freedom Trail and checked out some of the historical sites, wandered through the Faneuil Hall Marketplace and Quincy Market, and walked along the Boston Harbor waterfront. Certain museums will have free days as well, which is always good to look out for!
Save up hotel rewards points to use for your Boston stay
I am a big fan of Hotels.com, and I'm not being paid to say that. I love that when you book 10 eligible nights in rewards, you get 1 night free that averages what you spent on the 10. I loved even more that I was able to use a free night for our stay at The Verb Hotel in Boston. This hotel is so unique and fun! The theme is rock 'n' roll music and I instantly appreciated the thoughtfulness that went into the design and the details, and not just in the lobby area decked out in memorabilia and guitars, but in every corner of the hotel. Your room key is an "access pass" on a lanyard, making you feel like a real VIP. There's a record player in each room, and you can select records from the lobby to take to your room to play. Not to mention other nostalgic treats like a typewriter, old time alarm clock, and color-blocked window panes. There was a play-on-words at every turn that had me lol-ing the entire stay (for ex: the "Rock and (Extra) Roll" toilet paper bag) and sassy sayings in the stairwells and hallways like, "If the music is too loud you're too old." We had such a fun time staying here and the fact that we got a night for **free** was extra sweet. 10/10 would recommend!
All in all, I had a great time in Boston and probably saw/did 0.0001% of the things to do in this vibrant and historic city. I feel so strongly that money shouldn't stand in the way of travel, and that there is always a way to experience a new place affordably - even Boston. I hope my mini list of tips may help you, and I'd love to hear yours, too! Leave 'em in the comments below.
Baltimore is known for its busy Inner Harbor, die-hard Ravens fans, and historical landmarks. But its proximity to other destinations was one of the things we enjoyed most while living in Charm City last year. While I haven't yet gotten around to writing about our favorite parts of B-more, here I'm sharing the quick and easy day trips we loved most.
Probably an easy guess, D.C. is a classic day trip from Baltimore. We visited the nation's capital a few times on day-long adventures and if you avoid rush-hour driving times, you won't have any problem at all. One of the most interesting things we did while day-tripping to D.C. was visiting the National Arboretum. An arboretum is a botanical garden devoted to trees - if you know Spanish, it's easy to remember that árbol means tree! The National Arboretum is managed by the United States Department of Agriculture and includes a pretty expansive collection of different types of tree gardens. We enjoyed walking through the bonsai area and making our way to the National Capitol Columns. These columns used to be a part of the capitol and went in to storage for almost 30 years after newer columns were installed. In 1984 they were moved to the National Arboretum to become a monument. So, while these columns seem kind of random in the middle of nature, they're quite precious. While they now support nothing, perhaps they represent everything that our country was founded upon and has since forgotten. It's definitely worth a visit if you're in D.C. or just visiting for the day!
Less than an hour from Baltimore is the sweet town of Frederick, Maryland. We started our day by visiting Glory Doughnuts to fuel up (100% plant-based, bless up!) before swiftly making our way to Linganore Winecellars for a wine tasting. The town of Frederick is full of sweet shops and gorgeous old buildings. We didn't spend time shopping or history-hunting, but instead opted for a self-created brewery tour of some of Frederick's best - including Red Shedman, Flying Dog, and ATTABOY. We visited in the fall and drove through beautiful landscapes of cornstalks and roaming fields in between destinations - it was such a lovely place and I wish we had been able to explore more! I bet it's lovely in the summertime, too.
One benefit to being in Baltimore for us personally was the proximity to Harrisburg and York, PA where some of our best friends lived at the time. We got to experience our home state's capital city, even if just for a day. I was surprised at how quiet and peaceful it was in the capitol district - then again, I suppose people mainly work there but don't really live there. We visited on a Friday and had a chance to walk around to work up an appetite before dining at Sammy's Italian Restaurant. This is a popular spot in the city and it was delicious! After dinner, we spent some time at Millworks Brewery, which is really more than a brewery. They have art studios and shops, games and an outdoor terrace, plus food. It gave us a great impression of what Harrisburg has to offer in art, culture, and brews.
So while we didn't stay long in each day trip destination, driving just an hour or two away from Baltimore afforded us the opportunity to see major cities and charming towns with such a variety of experiences in between. If you're based in Baltimore or just visiting for a while, consider D.C., Frederick, or Harrisburg for your next day trip adventure.
Travel nursing is a career and a lifestyle that is becoming increasingly popular among 20-somethings with a nursing degree. Essentially, it involves working with a recruiter at a medical staffing agency and signing contracts that typically last at least 13 weeks for a given hospital in the U.S. This option is available to nurses with a variety of concentrations and specialties, and there are contract openings in virtually every state. My husband Brandon became a travel nurse after our Heritage Honeymoon and we have been living the travel nurse lifestyle ever since.
While there are plenty of articles, blogs, and accounts from travel nurses themselves, I thought I may fill a void by sharing my perspective as the partner of a travel nurse - why I love it and why it can sometimes be challenging. If your partner is thinking about how to be become a travel nurse and you're thinking, how do I become a travel nurse's [boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, etc.]?, I hope my perspective will help!
Step 1: Have States in Mind, but be Open to Travel Anywhere
The very first question to answer when becoming a travel nurse is, where am I going to go? Brandon had literally no preference, but we talked about Raleigh initially since we had family there. Then we had friends who would be in Denver so Denver became our goal. But like most things in life, it didn't go as planned. There were no jobs available in any of the cities that we had considered. And another big thing to keep in mind is that you have to have a nursing license in the state you want to practice in. So choosing a destination also meant that Brandon would need to get a new nursing license before his start date. Not to mention the wedding and honeymoon we had in between.
If you are interested in pursuing travel nursing and have a specific destination in mind, you can get your license for that state, but be warned that you may not get to use it right away. It seems to be all about timing and luck and who you have looking out for you (see Step 2). What ended up being the best opportunity for us was just a 4 hour drive from home: Baltimore, Maryland. At first we honestly felt a little bummed out. We were embarking on this brand new adventure and if I had to put a sound to the feeling, it'd certainly be, "whomp, whomp." But looking back, it was a blessing in disguise. We had to be thankful that Brandon was able to get an assignment and get his license in time (literally just in time). And while I had been used to working from home in the evenings for quite some time, I was embarking on my own personal adventure of working from home full-time and having this new digital nomad lifestyle to accompany my husband's new travel nursing career. Baltimore gave us the opportunity to ease our way into it. I got to see Brandon learn the ropes of travel nursing, adapt to a totally new work environment, and build upon his already sharp skills. We went home to see family for Thanksgiving. And we had the chance to confirm that this is really what we want to do.
So I think that it's good to set goals of where you want to be, but don't limit yourself. Embrace the opportunity to travel and live anywhere, and all of the lessons and blessings it will bring you.
Step 2: Get a Squad of People Working for You
The most crucial part of the travel nursing process is getting the gig, which means having a team of recruiters from different agencies working for you to get you the very best assignment at the very best compensation. I think it's a mistake to put all of your eggs in one basket with one agency and one recruiter. It's important in anything of this nature to actively compare and incite a little competition. But that doesn't mean it's easy, either. Brandon had to go through so many applications, forms, tests, and procedures to onboard with each agency. I felt bad that I couldn't help him with any of those things, but we both knew that it was in the best interest of both of us to have an entire network of connections to find the best opportunity.
And wouldn't you know it, while he was all set with the Baltimore contract with one agency, he was able to secure his next contract in Denver with a different organization before we even stepped foot in Maryland. I don't think that's the way it will always happen, but it certainly wouldn't have happened if he didn't work with several different recruiters and organizations. That said, I'd highly recommend this approach for how to find the best travel nursing assignments. And even after you secure your assignment, there are a lot of other details to iron out - taking the provided housing or finding your own (we've found our own), thinking about how you're going to get there, and packing and preparing (on to Step 3). As a partner, the best thing you can do throughout this process is to be supportive, encouraging, and enthusiastic about the opportunities ahead.
Step 3: Be Prepared to Leave Everything Behind
Remember, being a travel nurse amounts to one word: Temporary. But it's on purpose! You don't need to take all of your belongings with you for a quick 13 weeks. This was the part of the travel nurse journey that I found to be most cathartic: living with less.
When it comes to packing, it's so important to be intentional and minimalistic. While your travel nurse partner may wear a pajama-like uniform, that doesn't mean you get to bring/pack more for the journey. Work together to decide what's necessary and what isn't. For Brandon and I, we decided to pursue housing in Airbnbs, so everywhere we lived has had everything we've needed. All of the personal items we bring can fit in our car, and that my friends is liberating.
The new lifestyle you are embracing as the partner of soon-to-be travel nurse will be so rewarding in so many ways. You'll see and do new things, experience new ways of life, and lean on each other in ways you maybe haven't had to before. But don't forget that this is your story too - your work is still important and you can still pursue your own goals, too. Find a balance of celebrating each other and your triumphs. Know that you are doing something wild and wonderful and while it may not last forever, it will be pretty amazing while it does.
Las Vegas is a self-proclaimed adult playground. But that doesn't mean that it's all fun and (table) games. A trip to Las Vegas can include time spent in nature, meaningful and historical value, and quirky and cute surprises, too. Having gone to Vegas 3 times while under the age of 21 (family vacations, Sin City style), my recent trip back was a breath of new experiences and adventures. I had the chance to show Brandon what Vegas was all about, and discover new things for myself at the same time. If having reservations is holding you back from making them, take a look at my roundup of unique and interesting things to do in Las Vegas:
Explore the Downtown Container Park
A collection of shops, restaurants, and entertainment, the Downtown Container Park near Fremont Street gives old shipping containers a new purpose - with style. We made our way into the park because we were in search of vegan food in Las Vegas and found Simply Pure on the map. Wandering into the Downtown Container Park, we passed a friendly grasshopper and other odds and ends of art. Once we had a chance to get in and look around, we stopped to admire the colorful containers stacked three stories high. Simply Pure was easy to find, a 100% plant-based restaurant that's small, but mighty. While waiting for our food to be ready we perused through some of the other shops and restaurants. The Container Park is also a great place to people-watch, as we did while we ate outside. One of my favorite parts about this area was the green, where parents watched from comfy lounge chairs as their children played with soft blocks and other outdoor games. There was a stage for live music and it was just so lovely. That family feel was really nice to experience, and if I lived in Las Vegas I'd be going to the Downtown Container Park allllll the time.
Go to Seven Magic Mountains
Okay, so you have to have a car to get here, but it's so worth it! Seven Magic Mountains is an art installation created by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone in the middle of the desert right outside Las Vegas. There are - you guessed it - seven magical towers of colorful rocks stacked high into the sky. While there isn't much depth to the installation, it's an Instagrammer's paradise just waiting to be realized. It's fun, happy, and a nice opportunity to meet people too. You're more than likely accidentally in someone's picture, or taking it. But the opportunity to marvel at this massive artwork against the barren land around it is really a special thing. If you're thinking about visiting, act quick! The installation will be up for the rest of 2018, but there's no definite timeline past that (as of now). It's worth the 30-min drive to take in this manmade piece against our earth's natural backdrop, with no sign of Las Vegas and its flashy signs in sight.
Hang out at The Park
Take a Drive (or Hike) Through Valley of Fire State Park
When Brandon and I visited Las Vegas, we had exactly 1 full day during our trip and that was the day we rented a car to do all the things. What was actually last on our list for the day was Valley of Fire State Park, but it did not disappoint. This was the first state park in the state of Nevada and its incredible red rock formations are unique and gaze-worthy. There's a lot to see and do in the park, so you could spend your whole day there. We had about 3 hours and made the absolute most of it, so it's also doable in a half day! The highlights: petroglyphs, amazing views, and no cell service. You can drive from end to end of the park and make your stops in between, opting for short photo-ops or longer hikes. Either way, you'll be in awe of what our earth has been, and still is today.
If you want our crazy packed itinerary for the day, here goes:
1. Seven Magic Mountains (totally, 100% free)
2. Hoover Dam (parking fee)
3. Lunch in Henderson, NV (weird, but cool)
4. Drive through Lake Mead National Recreational Area (heads up, it'll cost ya, but it's worth it)
5. Valley of Fire State Park (also has a small fee)
6. Back to Las Vegas (priceless)
Visit the Neon Museum Las Vegas
Last but not least, one of the unique things to do in Las Vegas that I was looking most forward to was our visit to the Neon Museum Las Vegas. It's a collection of the old and forgotten neon signs that used to light up the strip, creating a cornucopia of history and Las Vegas culture. You have to sign up for a tour in order to see the display, but along the way you have the chance to learn about the signs and the stories behind them. Like the Moulin Rouge hotel marquee, which was designed by the same artist who made the famous "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign, but has an unparalleled significance. The Moulin Rouge was the first non-segregated hotel in Las Vegas, making a strong mark on history and the city itself. When the sign came in pieces to the Neon Museum, it fit best as, "in love." The Neon Museum is a must-visit destination on a trip to Las Vegas for its history, preservation, and photo-worthy set-ups. Bonus: You can go back and tour the museum at night for a totally different experience!
If you have the chance to visit Las Vegas, I encourage you to invest your money in unique and meaningful experiences, which are not hard to find. There's more to this slice of the state than what you've known it as before, and it's worth it to dig a little deeper.
Moab, Utah is a bike rider's paradise. Those who brave the rough terrain, unbearable conditions (we're talkin the desert here, people), and seemingly endless trails, all for the love of it. I closed out the month of February by taking a road trip from Denver to Moab with a few girlfriends to celebrate one of my best friends as she turned another year wiser. We had the best time and found so much to do and explore in Moab in the winter, other than biking. If you've thought about going in the off-season but thought, "whatever will I do?!," look no further. Here's how to experience "life elevated" in one of Utah's best cities during the wintertime.
Explore the State and National Parks Near Moab
There are three main parks nearby, each of them perfect for hiking and exploring at whatever pace suits you. End of February this year #blessed us with absolutely beautiful weather - during the daytime, the sun was beaming and we enjoyed a comfortable 50-60 degrees. This was perfect for hiking through various short trails, taking photos, and just soaking it all in. I can't imagine what the same hikes would feel like in the blazing sun of summer. Visiting Moab in the winter could be your ticket to more comfortable and pleasant hiking! These are the must-experience parks:
Arches National Park // Y'ALL. This national park is just minutes away from downtown Moab and it's so wonderful. Learn about the way the arches form and get to see all kinds of examples for yourself. The best arches in Arches National Park? Delicate Arch, the Windows (North Window and South Window), and Turret Arch. Going in the winter meant being able to take photos without tons of people in the background, and getting some extra personal time with these incredible examples of nature.
Dead Horse Point State Park // This is a state park in Utah not far from Moab. If you're not in the mood to hike, or if the temp in winter is a bit too cold, this is a great place to drive through and take the short trails to the overlooks. The view from Dead Horse Point is the iconic image you'll want to capture, but be sure to also stop to get a view of the Monitor and Merrimac Buttes.
Canyonlands National Park // Canyonlands is a massive national park featuring amazing landscapes and views like no other. We made a point to get to Mesa Arch in Canyonlands for sunrise, and it was so, so beautiful. While there were some other fellow photographers and nature-appreciators, the area would be undoubtedly more crowded during the high season. While we watched the sun greet our piece of earth for the day, we basked in the complete silence of the morning. It was such a sweet moment to reflect, and I think everyone should have that experience if you can.
Enjoy the Local Eats
I've gotta be honest - there's not too much on the food scene in Moab. But, sometimes less options means an easier choice. Be warned that some cafes and shops aren't open in the off-season, but most are. On the plus side, during the winter season you have the chance to dine amongst locals instead of competing for a table with the other tourists in town.
Below are the restaurants in Moab that I had a chance to try:
Drive a Dune Buggy
While there are plenty of things to do besides biking in Moab, the list is much more limited in the wintertime. During the summer, you can do scenic boat tours on the Colorado River, river rafting, helicopter tours, hot air balloon rides, and more. During the winter, what stood out to us in terms of adventure travel opportunities was dune buggying with Moab Tour Company. We decided on a whim and they actually had to call someone in to be our guide!
Led by a local expert, we rented a 4-person dune buggy (officially called a UTV - utility task vehicle) and took turns riding through the Hell's Revenge trail. At first I was a little apprehensive, but it was so fun to do and exciting to get the hang of it. We made stops along the way to take photos, see where we'd been and where we were going, and our guide even pointed out a preserved dinosaur footprint along the way (another thing that Moab has a lot of - dinosaur artifacts!).
If you go to Moab in the winter, you won't regret having the chance to drive a dune buggy on this trail and catch some amazing views along the way - they even give you blankets if you get cold :)
Where to Stay in Moab
When you look for places to stay in Moab, you'll find a lot of options. We opted for an Airbnb called Moab Digs, which I really can't recommend enough. It's right off of the main street and so thoughtfully designed. It had everything we needed and made our stay extra enjoyable!
If you'd like to try somewhere a little more remote, you could glamp with Under Canvas Moab (but not in the winter) or splurge on a stay at Sorrel River Ranch Resort. We had dinner and drinks at Sorrel and though it's about 30 minutes from Moab proper, the drive is really wonderful and it is such a sweet spot right on the Colorado River. If you go, make sure to stay for the bonfire and have some s'mores.
No matter where you stay or what you do in Moab, you really can't go wrong. Life is simpler and nature is more grand. You have the chance to immerse yourself in a community of active people who conserve and appreciate the world around them. Moab was never a place I had thought about going, but I'm so glad that I did. I hope you will too. Embrace the beauty that our world has to offer. The history that's so visible and permanent. The lessons we can learn from it. Moab in the winter is the perfect opportunity to take it all in.
Just like that, our time living in Baltimore, Maryland was up. My husband Brandon completed his very first travel nursing assignment and we were back home in Pittsburgh for belated holiday celebrations and lots and lots of family time. Up next was Denver, Colorado. No matter how much we tried to set aside the items we were going to pack throughout the two weeks we were home, nothing could prepare us to fully pack up and move across the country until we were just a day away. Not to mention Brandon took a long weekend trip to Salt Lake City, I had a ton of work going on, and we bought a new car! But hey, how can we really complain? We made it work and packed up everything we thought we needed and started our journey. Keep reading for a recap of our trip to Denver and our first impressions after almost two weeks in the Mile High City.
Day 1: Man, I wish you could have seen us. We scrambled to finish packing, wash the car, pack the car, visit Brandon's grandma, and run back to my mom's house to grab a few things we forgot. We finally left Pittsburgh around noon but we weren't in too much of a rush, thankfully. There are two main routes from Pittsburgh to Denver, one north and one south. The north route goes right near Jackson, Michigan, where two of our friends just recently moved. We had the opportunity to stay the night at their home and experience a local favorite: Klavon's. The highlights were a veggie stuffed pizza and local wine.
Day 2: We hit the road early driving south to get into Indiana and sort of merge into the southern route, eventually. We knew a snow storm was coming through, but we didn't realize that we'd find ourselves right in the middle of it on a highway that hadn't been plowed/salted/touched yet. It was one of those moments where you have to admit that you made the wrong decision and leave your pride out in the cold (literally) to make the rest of the experience better. As Brandon drove through the still-dark, snow flurrying sky, I found an alternate route that, if we just backtracked about 30 minutes, would put us on the right track for smooth sailing out of that snow storm. So, we turned ourselves around and escaped the storm that plummeted the East Coast that day. 15 hours later, including a stop in Pontiac, IL, we had made it to our goal destination of day 2: Topeka, KS. I used Hotels.com to set us up in the Hyatt Place and everything was groovy.
Day 3: Kansas. That's really all there is to say about this day. The journey was barren and beautiful and boring, too. But about 8 hours later we finally arrived to our new home: Denver. Reflecting back on our trip, the drive really wasn't that bad and frequent stops helped break up the monotony. Brandon and I took turns driving and we took a few naps when passenger to pass the time. My two favorite travel accessories that I brought along for the ride were my plane hat from Serengetee and my inflatable neck pillow from Sleeper Scarf. My hat helped shield my face from the sun and my Sleeper Scarf helped make my snoozes so much more comfortable - seriously! It's an infinity scarf with a secret neck pillow inside. All you have to do is unzip, inflate, and deflate when you're done. I'm definitely taking my Sleeper Scarf with me for my next flight, too - I'll be out like nobody's business before the plane even leaves the ground.
Favorites - So Far
We've now only been in Denver a little over a week and a half, but I feel like we've seen and done so much already. As far as first impressions go, this city is pretty cool. It's outdoorsy, casual, liberal, and fun! Not to mention there's a brewery on every corner. The people are friendly and really my only complaint is that the roads are a little funny - sometimes you have stop signs, and other times you don't. But that's just a matter of something to get used to. I'll be sure to do a round-up of my all-time favorite Denver do's and eats, but for now, here's what we've had a chance to experience so far:
There you have it, folks. Do you think we'll make it through the winter? A common misconception about Denver is that it's the most winter-y place on earth. While we've been here less than two weeks, it's quite the contrary. We've had several days in the 40's, 50's, and 60's. And every day is always better because the sun is shining. I'm so excited for the rest of our time in Denver and to share our favorite experiences and memories with you. Thank you for reading, and I hope you find something new to explore today!
Recently I traveled to Philadelphia for a John Mayer concert, and learned a few things during my time there. Full of history and energy, it's the city on the other end of the state I've called home for all of my life so far, but I hadn't been until now. Here are a few quick tips from my quick trip:
Tip 1 - Bring walking shoes // Philadelphia is a very walkable city, which I loved! We stayed in South Philly and were able to walk to many shops, restaurants, and attractions. I recommend preparing to walk if you visit - it's a great way to see the city and get your steps in, too.
Tip 2 - Make reservations // We had brunch reservations, which came in handy, but we didn't have reservations for Philadelphia's Magic Gardens, which was on my list of to-dos. They were sold out until 5 pm that day, which was too late for our schedule. Instead, we walked around the side streets and alleys to see the mosaic artwork there, but it wasn't quite the same as going in. I recommend buying tickets online in advance for this and anything else that you might want to see or do. Other activities like seeing the Liberty Bell were free and the wait in line wasn't bad at all.
Tip 3 - Do your research // Before the concert, we decided to get dinner at XFINITY Live! Philadelphia, which was close to the Wells Fargo Center. What we didn't consider is that the Phillies home opener was happening simultaneously, and it ended up being packed with people watching the game or who were at the game but left to be inside since it was so cold out. This made for a less than awesome experience, but we made the most of it! Had we known there weren't any other large restaurants nearby the stadiums, we would have gone somewhere completely different before the concert instead. Definitely do some research to find out about other events that are happening while you're there, and have a back-up plan for dining options if you find yourself in a similar situation!
Where we ate:
And that's it! Less than 48 hours in Philly reminded me that sometimes it's better to plan things out, but that there is so much to explore if you take the spontaneous route instead. What I liked the best wasn't necessarily anything that we did there, but the vibes there. It's one of America's oldest cities, holding so much significance and yet it's very progressive, modern, and friendly, a perfect example of how an American city should be! I'm looking forward to spending more time there, but in the meantime I'll think of Philadelphia in a whole new way.
A few months ago I made my first trip to the great big state of Texas with my fiancé for his birthday. We spent a long weekend in Dallas and our only plan was to see a concert that was in town. Through the time that we had to explore the city and its surrounding areas, we learned a few dos and don'ts for a trip to "Big D."
Your research // When you're planning your trip and looking into hotels, be sure to get a solid understanding of where they are located, exactly. There are a lot of different neighborhoods and areas surrounding the city, so look for a hotel based on your interests, and do a little research to make sure it's in a convenient location - especially if you're not planning on renting a car. We stayed at The Highland, which is right across from SMU's campus. It was convenient for us to walk across the street and catch the DART or get an Uber.
The touristy things // I always encourage breaking away from the norm, but there are some major things in Dallas that you really should see. Visit the JFK memorial site, even if you don't go into the museum. Walk through the plazas and parks. Go to an art museum or gallery, or just stand and admire the sculptures and street art that consumes the city. I never knew about how full of art and culture Dallas is, and I was so pleasantly surprised by it!
Expect the stereotype // Cowboy boots. Football. Conservative. Southern accent. - These are some of the things that are stereotypes of people living in Texas. These are, however, not at all the norm and in no way represent Texas or Dallas. I found that the majority of people we interacted with in Dallas had no distinct accent at all. They were friendly, trusting, and open-minded. We met so many interesting and unique people, not one of them the same and not one of them reinforcing what so many people believe to be true about them.
No matter where you go, never let a stereotype dictate the way you see the world. Every person is an individual. Every place is a collective of the individual passions and personalities of the people who call it home.
Stay in one place // As with its people, the areas around Dallas are so diverse - from calm and cute Belmont to artsy and edgy Deep Ellum to classy Uptown - and there's so much to see and do. Don't miss the opportunity to explore and get a sense of Dallas as a whole by getting to know each neighborhood and district. If you're not sure where to start, look up events that are happening in Dallas and map out your day based on things to do and easy access to transportation.
So there you have it - some quick tips for a visit to Dallas, Texas. Have you visited a place that you knew very little about? I like to strike a balance of doing my research for the planning phase but also saving room for fun surprises and things to learn whenever I get there.
We will never fully understand our world until we get out there and explore it! Where will you go next?
To be honest, I didn't really know much about Connecticut before one of my best friends moved there - apart from it being an oddly challenging state to spell and the name of a place that my dad used to travel to for work. But just a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to spend a long weekend exploring New Haven and Milford, and I was very pleasantly surprised! Now I'm breaking down my top to-dos in both of these areas.
New Haven // Yale / Louie's Lunch / Barcelona Wine Bar
Yale - Yep, that's right! New Haven is home to the prestigious Yale University. We spent our day exploring the campus, taking in the sights and marveling at the history. If you're ever in town, be sure to spend some time in the Yale art gallery (artgallery.yale.edu). Admission is free and they have works ranging from sculptures to scriptures to Picasso and Dalí.
Louie's Lunch - A famous destination in New Haven, Louie's Lunch is the home of the very first burger (featured here on The Travel Channel)! Louie's was a must - and it did not disappoint. Still made in the original cast-iron grills, the burgers come on bread just as they did when the hamburger sandwich was first created in 1900. You have a choice of adding tomatoes, onions, or a cheese spread, but otherwise you won't find any condiments on site. Louie's maintains the belief that the burgers are meant to be enjoyed as-is, nothing masking the awesome juicy flavor. A tip for visiting Louie's - it's cash only, and it gets extremely busy. Try going outside of the lunchtime and after-bar hours.
Barcelona Wine Bar - The Barcelona Wine Bar is an absolute must! Dark and sophisticated, it's a tapas restaurant and bar in full Spanish style. We were wise to make a reservation (go late - we made one for 8:45 pm), but since they were still running behind, they passed out a delicious white sangria to all those who were waiting. Minutes later our table was ready, and the four of us girls enjoyed an evening of sharing stories and sharing our meals. Each of us ordered two tapas and passed them around. My favorite plate was the gambas al ajillo (shrimp with garlic) - seriously unreal. We also opted to share dessert. Considering the high quality food and service, the price was very reasonable. There are additional locations across Connecticut and in Georgia, Massachusetts, and the D.C. area.
Milford // Milford Harbor / Eli's
Milford Harbor - The New England area is special because it's full of gorgeous beach towns, each a chic and sweet little escape from the city life. And Milford is no different. Though it was a chilly 40 degrees during our weekend getaway, we walked along the beach and enjoyed a beautiful view of the Milford Harbor. Definitely a must-see no matter when you visit!
Eli's - A gastropub featuring 20 micro brews, Eli's Tavern is an awesome go-to spot in Milford. Eli's began in Hamden and has grown to have a few locations. We first went to Eli's for dinner, and I tried what is a staple in the region: mashed potato pizza. New Haven is known for its pizza, and the mashed potato pizza tradition has extended into Milford. My pizza was actually a flatbread, and it was delicious! Eli's is also a great spot to grab drinks at or go out to on the weekends.
Other notable mentions from our tour of Southern CT:
Two Roads Brewing Co. (Stratford) - Taking the road less traveled - a refreshing approach to life and the hallmark of Two Roads Brewing Co. Two Roads was founded in 2012, which makes the huge, beautiful facility and variety of offerings and programs even more impressive. A visit to Two Roads is the perfect Saturday afternoon activity. They offer tours (with samplings!) throughout the day, and you can get food delivered or bring your own lunch. Sometimes they have food trucks outside and host special events. We got a few flights and spent time in their massive tasting room for a few hours. It was like one big party! There were groups of friends hanging out, birthday celebrations ensuing, and dates happening all around us. Oh, and did I mention that the beer is awesome?
Gouveia Vinyards (Wallingford) - While at Two Roads it was recommended to us that we also check out Gouveia Vinyards. We thought, well, a brewery and then a winery - we're really living! So we made our way to Wallingford to enjoy the beautiful view and delicious wine at Gouveia. We sat down with a bottle of white table wine and ordered a pizza from a local pizzeria. It was lovely. The room was full of people just like it was at Two Roads - families, friends, and loved ones spending time together without distractions.
If you ever find yourself in New Haven or Milford, CT, try to check some of these places off of your list. Or if you don't have a list, start here!
Have other suggestions for to-dos in the Constitution state? Leave them in the comments below!
Lover of life.