This February, the Patel Family went to Punta Cana on a family trip, one may cay #PatelsInPunta. We decided to go on a family trip when we were celebrating Thanksgiving, but unfortunately the airline prices this year have been absolutely ridiculous so we went back and fourth on a location. We finally found reasonably priced flights (on Spirit/ Frontier), did we make it there and back? YES, would we fly with the airlines again? NO.
My parents have stayed with the Bahia Principe brand in other countries, including Punta Cana, so we decided to go with them. Over all I loved the resort and the staff was absolutely amazing. Our trip was Wednesday- Sunday, and my husband and parents were meeting my sister and her fiancé there since they were flying directly from Philadelphia. On the way to Punta Cana, we got delayed in FLL for a few hours, we still don’t know why we were delayed but we made it just in time for our dinner reservations. Good thing we spend our delay in a lounge that served espresso martinis thanks to Chaitan.
Day 1 (Wednesday):
We arrived closer to dinner, while my sister and her fiancé were able to enjoy the afternoon in the pool and at the beach. When we got the the Punta Cana airport we had a private transfer waiting for us to take us to the hotel, which was really nice. Usually, other all inclusive resorts use shared transportation base on peoples arrival times, which makes the trip to and from the hotel long with all the stops at other hotels along the way.
When we arrived, we check into our hotel rooms, and got ready for dinner. We were fortunate enough to let the hotel accommodate or dinner reservations before we arrived to the hotel instead of making them when we arrived. Our first dinner was at CAPRICCIO RESTAURANT, which was traditional Italian food. Over all the food was good, I think we like the pizza and bread more then the pasta on the menu. The calamari was actually really good. At the end of dinner they served an after dinner drink called mamajuana. Mamajuana is a smooth blend off rum, spices and honey, and it is usually homemade.
After dinner there was a white out dance party in the hotel lobby with a DJ, so we hung out for a bit. After the DJ ended, my parents went to bed and the 4 of us went to the beach. We sat on beach chairs and listened to the ocean and watched the waves in the mooning. There was a late night room service menu and for whatever reason, we were compelled to order a TON of food which I would rate 1/10 (10/10 for the fruit) LOL but it was the first and last time we ordered room service.
Day 2 (Thursday):
We woke up early and headed to breakfast, the breakfast buffet spread was pretty legit. We enjoyed mom ordering “lychee caliante” every morning so she could make chai at the table. I think after the first day I made a cream cheese veggie sandwich every morning. After breakfast, we all changed into our MATCHING T SHIRTS and swimsuites. We spend the whole day in the pool and throughly enjoyed the swim up bar. We went to lunch at the same buffet we went to breakfast for a quick lunch. My sister and I took a quick nap on the pool chairs before getting back in the pool and my husband and mom went on a beach walk and met a cute monkey.
That evening we had reservations to ORIENTAL TAKARA RESTAURANT, an asian fusion restaurant. After our pool day we decided to get ready and head to the sports bar for a drink (ALSO they had mozzarella cheese sticks on the menu). The asian restaurant had a number of vegan options, the sushi was very good considering that we were on a Caribbean Island. The dessert wasn’t that good though. After dinner, we went to the beach again to enjoy the sound of the waves hitting the beach.
Day 3 (Friday):
We woke up and went to the coffee shop for coffee and pastries before doing a long beach walk with mom. Our plan was to go on the walk, then meet dad for brunch at the beachfront buffet. The walk was beautiful, the sun wasn’t hot yet. After breakfast and mimosas we went up to put our swimsuits on and we decided to have a pool day at the larger pool in the resort next door.
After breakfast we spend the rest of the day at the the larger pool, we even got fresh cocktails made in a pineapple, they were very good but very strong. We went to a FOAM PARTY in the pool next door, which was something else. There was a live DJ and a lot of foam.
After another successful pool day, we had dinner reservations at THALI, the indian restaurant. Before dinner we went to the Sports Bar again. By this day the sunburn was setting in for sure, I was red. The indian food was decent, it wasn’t the best but toward the end of the dinner someone affiliated with the resort was talking to Chaitan and brought him back into the kitchen, and they created the best paneer(cheese) dish for us!
Day 4 (Saturday):
We started the morning off with breakfast at the beach buffet. After breakfast, we went up to get ready for our family photoshoot which turned out so nice. The boys had matching outfits and the girls wore white.
After our photo shoot, it was time for some beach time followed by pool time. The sand and beach in Punta Cana are absolutely amazing but unfortunately the water was extremely choppy with bad undercurrents. We went in for a little but before switching back to the pool. That night our dinner reservations were at MAIKO JAPANESE RESTAURANT. The dinner was good, the show and prep of the food was also good! After dinner, we went to a magic show which was fun.
Day 5 (Saturday):
This was our final day in paradise. We woke up and went straight to the coffee shop followed by a beach walk, quick brunch and pool time. Neha and Ravi left fairy early to go to the airport but our flight wasn’t until 9pm so we ended up spending once last day in the pool before packing up and heading to the airport. Overall we loved everything about this family trip! We can’t wait for another Patel family vacation!
A few months ago, we went to Philadelphia to visit my sister and her fiancé! This was the first time I’ve even been to Philadelphia so I was super excited for the weekend. I have only heard good things about the city, and it was time I finally made it out there. We flew in on Thursday night after work, after a few delays, we finally made it there. We went to bed that night, since it was late, the next morning we had brunch plans with my husbands cousin. We went into KOP and had brunch at x. The food was very good especially the French toast, and I loved the ambiance!
After brunch we headed back to my sisters place because Chaitan was still working, and we was my future brother in law and sister. The had surprised us by getting a hotel in downtown Philadelphia Friday night to get the most out of the weekend. My parents were coming into town Saturday so this was our opportunity to have a night out together.
After we got home from brunch, my husband worked for a few hours while I took a nap since we were up late the night before. At around 2pm, my sisters fiancé and I decided to take a walk to World of Beer across the street for happy hour. Nothing like some Friday afternoon beer.
After my sister got home from work, we all got ready and headed into the city for the night, we checked into the Warwick Hotel in Rittenhouse Square. We didn’t have any reservations coming up so we stopped at HipCityVeg for a vegan Phili Cheese Steak and vegan chicken nuggets. Our next stop was Time, for some cocktails and live music. This place had a great vibe, especially with the live music. Our next stop was McGillin’s Old Irish Ale House, which is the oldest bar in Philadelphia. This was for sure a college bar, sticky floors and very crowded. We had time for one more stop before we had dinner reservations, so we went to Graffiti Bar. This bar was behind a restaurant and you had to walk down a graffiti alley to get to it, which was pretty cool. We didn’t order food, but the food menu looked amazing, definitely something I would try if we went back.
It was finally time for dinner and we had reservations at a popular vegan spot called VEDGE. We ordered a lot of items, but overall I would say that the food was okay. I don’t think it was bad, but I wouldn’t go back. And as some of your guys know, my favorite restaurant in Chicago is a Vegan spot, so I am a fan of vegan food.
After dinner, we decided to check out a place called National Mechanics, which was a former bank turned into a bar, we ordered some espresso martinis but they weren’t that great. Our last stop was an ice cream shop called Franklyn Fountain. We split a giant brownie ice cream, which was served in a Chinese take out container. Honest it was pretty good but a complete rip of, click here for the whole story! Our night cap was ordering kati rolls from Masala Kitchen, and they were 10/10 FLAME.
We woke up on Saturday morning, and decided to walk around the farmers market in Rittenhouse Square. We got some tea and fresh apple cider donuts. Then we walked to Reading Terminal Market for a food crawl. This market was legitimately the BEST market/ food hall I’ve ever been to.
We grabbed some coffee from Old City Coffee and headed to Beiler’s Donuts. The donuts were absolutely amazing, there were SO MANY FLAVORS. The best part, you can watch them make the donuts live. Our next stop was Miller’s Twist for a pretzel. Honestly I am not sure why we didn’t buy 4 of them, they were just perfect. After sweet, and savory it was time for something sweet, so we went to Dutch Eating Place and split an order of the pancakes, these were the most perfect pancakes I’ve ever had. Fluff and warm. After this course, my sister and I ventured off to pick our next item. We got a “bread boat” from Sammi Somi which was filled with cheese, mushrooms and a runny egg. Our last stop was a vegan corn dog from Fox & Son Fair Foods! We were stuffed, but I strongly suggest this market, to try all the amazing foods!
After all the food we decided to go check out Rocky Steps at the Philadelphia Art Museum, and grabbed some water ice. Then we walked up the steps, it was really cold though so we spend the rest of the day at the mall until we had to pick my parents up at the airport.
After picking my parents up, we took them to Levante Brewing Co, until it was time for our dinner reservations at Trattoira La Tavolas. We had an amazing Italian dinner with them family before we headed to my sisters apartment.
The next morning was our last day in Philadelphia, my parents were staying there for a bit. We started the morning at World of Beer for their pretzels before we went to lunch at Buddy’s Burgers followed by Rita’s for dessert. We had a wonderful weekend with the family, I can’t wait to go back to Philadelphia in the summer!
After we got vaccinated earlier in the year, we were itching to go somewhere so we decided to plan a little weekend getaway with some friends. We had rented a cute house in Coloma, MI of Airbnb. The pictures were nice, but to our surprise once we got there, it was MUCH different then what we had seen. It was evident that the pictures were edited and were were essentially catfished by our rental. This is where we stayed incase you wanted to avoid the house! We got into Michigan in the evening, and our first stop was Silver Harbor Brewing Company. Unfortunately there were no open tables, so we decided to take some beer to-go before checking into our AirBnb. Our initial reaction was “wth” when we walked into the house, it was dark and dungy and dirty. The first thing we noticed was the bathroom, the door was in the kitchen and it was a GLASS DOOR! We took a minute to settle In before picking a place to eat dinner. Unfortunately, things in the city closed early so we had to make moves. We decided to go to The Blackbird Waterhouse. It was a cute little restaurant close to our rental, it was snowing pretty bad and we didn’t want to go too far. The food was good and so was the beer!
When we got home, we wanted to call it an early night because we had an early morning snowmobiling. We got up early and made egg bagel sandwiches before heading out. We had to drive about an hour north to rent our snowmobiles at Powersport Rentals in Cedar Springs, Michigan– it looks like they have permanently. The White Pine Trail was a beautiful 100 mile trail that we were able to ride! We passed through so many small towns along the way. We stopped at Sawmill Saloon to grab a beer and a giant pretzel while the boys rode further north. We went about 42 miles up the trial before turning around. I am kind of bummed that this rental spot is closed, I was looking forward to going back and renting again.
After the 4+ hours of riding we were hungry to say the least. We decided to go to Perrin Brewing Co. in Comstock Park, MI. There was a long wait, but we decided to wait it out! In the mean time, we decided to call AirBnb and see if we could move to another house since the house we were staying at was a disaster, the beds were uncomfortable, there was a stink bug in one of the beds and there was broken glass in one of the bedrooms. They were SUPER NICE and moved us to this amazing house in South Haven, MI. We really enjoyed the brewery, amazing food and beer!
After we ate, we headed back to our house, packed up, jumped into the hot tub and chilled before heading back up to South Haven! The house we checked into was SUPER CUTE and he host was so nice! This is a perfect house to rent in the summer time with a few families!
The next morning we went on a hike and saw the most amazing views on the beach, where the water had froze in place. It was super cold that morning but it was worth it for the view!
After walking around we obviously built up an apatite, so we did what we do best– we found another brewery! We went to Three Mittens Brewery in Grand Rapids. MI. Again, it was great food and amazing beer! Highly recommend visiting if you are in the area.
After lunch, we headed back to the house and just relaxed! Later in the evening, we headed to another brewery– Three Blonds Brewing in South Haven, MI. The beer was actually very good but the food wasn’t the greatest- this was probably because we showed up right before the place closed. We found a fan favorite beer- Just took a DNA test and it’s 100% beer!
That night we went home and hung out, it was our last night in Michigan before heading home. The next morning we woke up and went to a local coffee shop called The Living Room, in downtown South Haven. It was super cute, then we went to the Olive Cart and got some oils and balsamic to go! After coffee, we decided to slide across ice to go up to the lighthouse! Again, we saw some beautiful views but it was SUPER slippery!
After our morning in South Haven, we went back to the house, passed up got ready and headed back to Chicago. On the way out of Michigan, about an hour into our drive- we stopped and got some lunch at The Stray Dog in Buffalo, MI. Great spot with amazing food! I can’t wait to visit this place in the summer, they have really nice outside space.
We had an amazing weekend with good friends in Michigan! The greatest part about this area in Michigan is that it is only about 2 hours way from Chicago, and there are so many things to do in all seasons!
As the pandemic seemed like it was coming to an end, and more people stated getting vaccinated, we decided to plan a vacation. Our front runners were Hawaii and driving the Pacific Coast! The winner was the coast trip, so we decided to fly into Seattle and drive all the way down to San Diego over a 2 week period.
Day 1: Seattle Washington
We flew into Seattle on Saturday night, got our rental car and headed to the Hotel W in downtown. We had a pretty long flight and the rental car pick up took longer than expected and we were STARVING by the time we got to the hotel. We decided to check out a local spot in the downtown area called Fogón Cocina Mexicana. It was very good Mexican food, and it was reasonable priced. By the time we got back to the hotel room it was midnight, and we were ready to call it a night considering it was 2am in Chicago!
Day 2: Seattle Washington –> Astoria Oregon
We woke up in the morning and decided to go explore the city by foot. Fortunately, our hotel was located close enough to the area of the city we wanted to explore. We walked to Public Market Center and Pikes Place Market. On the way to the market, we passed the famous Gum Wall in the Post Alley. We grabbed breakfast at Honest Biscuits and coffee at Indi Chocolate. The coffee was AMAZING, so fresh and delicious. After walking around the downtown area and the pier we headed back to the hotel and checked out. We then dove to the space needle just to check it out, we did not take the tour. Since we had a long trip ahead of us, we decided to stop at Costco in Seattle and stock up on water and snacks! On the way out of Seattle we stopped at Legendary Donuts before heading to the small town of Astoria on the coast of Oregon, just west of Portland. Our original plan was to stay in Portland, but we decided to cancel the reservation a week before the trip due to the violence and protests in the area in the preceding weeks.
We got into Astoria around 4pm an checked into our hotel, before heading out to explore the city. We stayed at the Astoria Riverwalk Inn–literally the cutest little inn. Our first stop was Buoy Beer Co. This was a beautiful waterfront brewery in the heart of Astoria. If you go make sure you go inside and check out the glass floors, you can see the sea lions swimming under the building– this was something we missed and found out about after we left! Our next stop was Rogue Pier 39 Public House for a beautiful sunset. We were able to sit outside while the sun hit our face and the sun set. We were starving after this and some locals told us to check out Voodoo Martini for an espresso martini and some pizza. We called it a night after this, and headed back to our hotel.
Day 3: Astoria Oregon –> Redwoods National/ State Park California
This was out longest drive of the entire trip, a total of 8 hours and 45 mins but we stopped along the way and it ended up being over 10 hours. We stopped in the city of Seaside to walk along the beach and take some pictures. After about a few hours we were hungry and decided to stop at Tillamook Cheese Factory for a self-guided tour and lunch. We got a grilled cheese and cheese curds, both of which were made with fresh cheder cheese.
We got right back on the road for a few more hours until er stopped at a roadside coffee shop, The Village Bean, for an afternoon pick me up.
After a few more hours we had to stop for food and to use the bathroom. We stopped in a small fishing town called Northbend and grabbed a beer (only to use the bathroom) at a local Irish Pub. After that we went Tony’s Crab Shack to grab a bite to lunch- PROBABLY THE FRESHEST SEA FOOD I HAVE EVER HAD! We got a crab sandwich on sourdough bread and clam chowder.
There were two MUST SEE viewpoints in Oregon on the California boarder. The first one was called Secret Beach; it was about a 10-minute hike down to a secret beach and it was absolutely amazing. The hike back up was a bit hard, and elevated but it was well worth it. The next stop, about a mile up the road was the Natural Bridges. We finally made it to our hotel at about 8 pm. We were staying in Klamath, which was located in the Redwoods State Park. We were told at check in that nothing in town was open anymore and if we wanted food, we would have to go back up to Crescent City 20 miles back north—this drive in the dark was probably one of the scariest drives EVER filled with fog, darkness and sharp turns—not to mention the drive took over an hour round trip.
Day 4: Redwoods State and National Park
This day was dedicated to exploring the Redwoods. We woke up and started early! We drove down Highway 101 and took Newton B. Drury Scenic Pkwy. This was a beautiful off-road path, absolutely breath taking. We stopped along the way many times to take pictures. Now I am going to highlight the sites we saw all day.
Big Tree/ Circle Trail: This was a 0.3 mile loop trail which was easily accessible off the road. It was a beautiful trail!
Revelation Trail: Developed specifically for the visually impaired, this trail encourages you to engage all of your senses to more fully experience the redwood forest. You can touch the rough bark of a redwood and then compare it to the soft feel of a moss-covered fir or spruce, while sounds of the creek murmur in the background. The sharp aroma of California bay and tart taste of redwood sorrel allow for a more complete understanding of the ecosystem.
Lady Bird Johnson Grove: This is a scenic 1.4-mi. trail in an upland redwood grove, honoring environmentally-minded former First Lady.
Tall Tree Grove: Unfortunately, we did not get to do this hike, because we didn’t know we had to apply for a permit ahead time. By the time we realized it, it was too late.
Dolason’s Prairie: We took Bald Hill Road about 16 miles up into the mountain where we saw the most beautiful thing ever! Fields of purple Lupine’s in full bloom. It was truly breathtaking. Honestly when we were driving, we didn’t think it was going to be anything amazing, until we saw it. We were so grateful that we made it all the way up, we were told by the ranger that this only blooms for about 2 weeks every other year and we happened to be around for the bloom.
Fern Canyon: Some of the exquisite ferns now clinging to Fern Canyon’s shadowy 30-foot cliffs are ancient species whose ancestry can be traced back 325 million years. Look for velvety five-fingered ferns, dark green sword ferns, and delicate lady ferns. Scouring winter floods periodically rush through the canyon
Elk Meadow: Great spot off Highway 101 to possibly see some elk, have a picnic lunch, enjoy the meadow and also embark from several trails that originate here. The ranger’s at the Thomas H Kutchel Visitor Center circled this area when I mentioned I wanted to hike Trillium Falls. You can easily access this trail from the Meadow and the area is well signed. Of course the main attraction are the elk. There happened to be dozens of elk the day we went.
Sunset at Patrick’s Point: One of the rangers are the Visitor’s Center recommended we see the sunset here and we are SO GLAD we went. This was our favorite sunset of the entire trip! It was a clear day and we were able to see the sun disappear into the ocean.
Somewhere in the middle of the day we went all the way down to Trinidad, a small town south of Kalmath, right outside of The Redwoods National Park. We had lunch at a place called The Lighthouse Grill. We definitely earned our meal and beer that afternoon. We had the tofu burger and the Nut Burger (a homemade veggie burger with cashews and pecans topped with sautéed onions, goat cheese and chipotle aioli).
After the sunset, we ended up going back to Trinidad to grab beers and pizza at this local spot, Headies Pizza and Pour. Unfortunately our drive back to the hotel was over an hour due to unknown roads and terrain and we waited to eat the pizza until we got back to the hotel.
Day 5: Redwoods State and National Park –> Fort Bragg
We were exhausted after all the walking and driving the day before, so we decided to sleep in and relax a bit in the morning before we headed out. We only had a 4 hour drive so we weren’t in a rush.
We then drove into fort Bragg where we checked into our little hotel, the Beach House Inn. One of the most highly recommended restaurants in town was Silver’s at the Wharf but they did not take reservations ahead of time, however someone had just canceled and we were able to reserve a table for later that evening. While we waited for our table we drove further south into Mendocino where we grabbed local beers from Patterson’s.
Once we got back to the Fort Bragg area, we grabbed dinner at Silver’s. We had a table that overlooked the Fort Bragg harbor. Overall, the food and ambiance were great at this restaurant, would highly recommend checking them out if you are in the area. After dinner we stopped at a local ice cream shop, Cowlick’s Ice Cream. We tried MUSHROOM ICE CREAM- oddly yummy actually. We called it an early night that day since we wanted to wake up early the next morning.
Day 6: Fort Bragg –> San Francisco
We woke up fairly early and headed out, the first thing we checked out was The Glass Beach in Fort Bragg. It was kind of a disappointment; we didn’t really see any glass and we didn’t even get all the way to the shoreline because it was a terranes hike.
We say some of the most gorgeous views on the drive to San Francisco. We stopped in Point Arena and saw the lighthouse. We stopped for coffee at the Timber Cove Resort on the Sonoma Coast. It was the cutest resort ever, private cliff waterfront views—highly recommend staying here if you are thinking of something romantic and remote. The staff here was also very warm and welcoming, they let us walk around the property and check it out.
Before getting to San Francisco we stopped just north of the city in Sausalito where we had lunch at Poggio Trattoria. Great Italian restaurant—highly recommend this spot for a meal or a quick bite and wine. The service and ambiance was really nice, and there was a lot of street parking in the area with parking meters.
After lunch we took the Golden Gate Bridge into the city and checked out the Full House house. Before checking into the hotel we stopped at a famous donut shop called Bob’s Donuts and Pastry Shop. We got there around late afternoon, and there was still a line on the outside of the building – which was worth it!
We stayed at the Hotel Adagio in the Tenderlion area. The hotel showcased its beautiful Spanish colonial revival architecture on the outside mixed with and upscale contemporary design on the inside. We were upgraded to the rooftop suite with a private balcony. That afternoon we walked to the Fisherman’s Wharf to check out the area. We stopped at Boudin and ate some fresh Sourdough bread and butter—it was absolutely amazing!
We had reservations at the Waterbar that evening, located right under the Bay Bridge. We had some great cocktails with a great view. We had a little snafu with the restaurant when we got there, we made reservations in hopes to have a drink and some appetizers, but they wouldn’t allow us to eat there without ordering dinner. After taking to the manager, we were able to move inside to the bar to have some cocktails. It actually ended up being a great night after all.
Day 7: San Francisco –>Santa Cruz
We woke up early in the morning to walk over to Lombard Street to pick up our bikes, we were biking the Golden Gate Bridge that morning. It was about a 45-minute walk to grab the bikes. It was about a 3.5-mile bike ride to the bridge. This was actually the hardest part, all uphill. After we got to the bridge it was a straight shot ride. When we got back down,, we grabbed shakes at Project Juice and a bagel at Noah’s NY Bagels. We did a total of 10 miles on the bike that day. We got back to the hotel, got ready and left for Santa Cruz.
We checked into the Chaminade Resort & Spa; it was the most beautiful resort ever. The evening was even more AMAZING- my boyfriend proposed to me (I will write all about the proposal in a separate blog post). Dinner at The View, a Treeside Restaurant was fantastic. It was truly the best night of my life!
Day 8: Santa Cruz–> Carmel by the Sea/ Big Sur Area
We woke up in the morning and enjoyed a beautiful breakfast at The View, a Treeside Restaurant. After breakfast we had private access to the hot tub because of COVID. They only allowed 1 party to rent it out at a time. After the hot tub we walked around the property; they have beautiful hikes on the property which we didn’t do, but we definitely plan on doing the next time we come to the resort.
Our next stop was Carmel by the Sea. On the way into Carmel, we did the 17 mile drive around the Pebble Beach area. It was absolutely beautiful. After driving around we stopped at Sea Harvest and had a yummy crab salad sandwich and garlic bread.
We were staying at the Carmel Mission Inn. We were actually highly disappointed, the hotel looks gorgeous online and when we got there we found that the entire hotel was under construction, and it looked like an actual dump, not to mention we were woken up by the construction. Our room it self was okay, but we weren’t able to utilize any of the hotel while we were there, and the hotel forced us to pay our “pre reserved rate” through Expedia rather then let us pay the LOW going rare that night, they were trying to tell us even though it was $95 on google we had agreed to pay $275 online.
We spend the evening in the city of Carmel by the Sea and it was THE CUTEST TOWN IN THE WORLD I KID YOU NOT. We started the evening at Galante Vineyards and had a wine tasting. It was a cute tasting room in the alley, had a very European vibe. After the tasting we went to Yafa for dinner. The owner Dia was absolutely hospitable, he truly helped us celebrate our engagement and created an unforgettable night. We tried some of the best wines of our life this night. Yara was an AMAZING Mediterranean Fusion restaurant- we literally can’t wait to come back to Carmel by the Sea in the near future!
Day 9: Big Sur
Today was our full day to explore, as you can imagine we slept in that morning. We finally woke up and made it across the street to Allegro Pizzeria in Carmel, it was a really cute pizza place with fresh brick oven pizza, definitely hit the spot. After lunch we went south into Big Sur. The ocean was beautiful and blue along this part of the coastline. We noticed the more south we got, the bluer the water got. Now I am going to highlight the sites we saw all day.
McWay Falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park: The overlook trail for McWay Falls is a must-stop for anyone taking the scenic drive up Highway One along the Big Sur Coast. The waterfall is stunning, dropping some 80 feet onto a pristine beach in an enchanting cove. It is a short 0.6-mile round trip hike to a viewpoint for McWay Falls, which can be reached directly from Highway One or from parking areas withing Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park.
Pfeiffer Beach: There is a $12 entry fee to get into the beach. Pfeiffer Beach is one of the top attractions in Big Sur. Getting to Pfeiffer Beach takes a bit of effort, it was definitely an off road adventurous long drive to the beach. The beautiful scenery and serene ambience are well worth the short detour from California Highway 1. You will fall in love with this beautiful spot, guaranteed! I also realized, while writing this post, that you can walk to McWay Falls from this beach.
Bixby Bridge: Bixby Creek Bridge, also known as Bixby Canyon Bridge, on the Big Sur coast of California, is one of the most photographed bridges in California due to its aesthetic design, “graceful architecture and magnificent setting”. It is a reinforced concrete open-spandrel arch bridge.
We also stopped along the coast numerous times to take pictures! Honestly, travel times are always along the coast due to all the stops we make to suck in the views.
We ended the night back in Carmel by the Sea for dinner, we were on an Italian kick that day and we ended up having dinner at Carmel’s Bistro Giovanni. The city was packed since it was Mother’s Day but it was well worth the dinner.
Day 10: Carmel–> Las Angeles
We left moderately early to head to Las Angeles in the morning, our original plan was to head to Ventura–>LA–>San Diego but we made a last-minute switch to move it to LA–> Newport Beach–> San Diego. Our first stop after heading out of Carmel was Hearst Castle in San Luis but unfortunately when we got to the gate, we found out they closed at the start of the pandemic and now they need major road renovations before a bus can get back up there.
A few miles up the road we stopped at Ragged Point to see the Sea Elephants. I have never seen such sight, there were literally hundreds of sea elephants on shore basking in the sun. It also smelled a little weird there. It was definitely a sight to see. After our little pitstop, we were back on the road until we stopped at In-N-Out burger for some lunch. It was a bit messy to eat in the car but worth it!
We finally made it to LA, and we spend the evening with my fiancés friend and his family. We went to Zuma Beach in Malibu California to hike and watch the beautiful sunset. We went up to Point Dume. After the hike we ended up in Santa Monica along the pier for dinner.
After dinner, we headed back to our hotel, we were staying at the W Hollywood and we were upgraded to The Marvelous Suite. I would say in general the city of LA was dirty and I didn’t love the Hollywood area. I definitely think that LA was a one time city, I would love to go back for the food scene but I don’t think I will be back in LA any time soon.
Day 11: Las Angeles –>Newport Beach
We woke up in Hollywood in the morning, till I had enough of the smell (TMI but smelled like pee), For lunch we ended up going to a VEGAN PLACE called Sugar Taco. It was honestly the best, you couldn’t even tell that there wasn’t any meat or cheese on the food.
After lunch we went back to the hotel, checked out and went up to the Hollywood sign before we headed down to Newport Beach. We didn’t even end up parking by the sign, it was extremely hot and crowded up there. We got to Newport Beach late afternoon and checked into the Newport Beach Marriott Bayview. After checking in, we wanted to see the area so we went and checked out Balboa Pier and Newport Beach before we headed to Huntington Beach for dinner. We went to Sushi on Fire with one of my fiancés friends. The sushi was AMAZING! My favorite was the lobster roll!
Day 12: Newport Beach –>San Diego
The next morning we were headed to our FINAL STOP- SAN DIEGO! We were originally going to stay 3 nights in San Diego, but due to an unforeseen situation we had to cut our trip short and fly home a few days early. On the way to San Diego we stopped in Laguna Beach for some Lunch. We ended up eating at Carmelita’s Kitchen de Mexico and it was hands down the best meal we had on the entire trip. We ordered–guacamole, Mexican city corn, queso fundido, and shrimp taquitos– all of which were absolutely amazing!
After lunch we went straight to San Diego. We checked into our airbnb, The Rose Bungalow, a small property walking distance from the beach and the famous Ocean Beach Pier. After checking in we went and grabbed some Kombucha at Tapshack before heading to Torrey Pines to hike a bit. Before this trip the only city in California I had ever gone to was San Diego and the Torrey Pines was my favorite hike. Unfortunately it was a very cold and gloomy day and we didn’t do the whole loop that day. On the way back to our airbnb we stopped at the La Jolla Cove. We ended the day at a dinner walking distance from our place. Of course we ate some more Mexican food. We ended up at La Doña in Ocean’s Beach. We actually ended up trying some of their vegan tacos.
Day 13: Sand Diego –>HOME as an Engaged Couple
The next morning our flight home was at 1:30 PM local time so we had a relaxing morning, and we stopped at Tapshack to grab some refills of the coffee they had on tap before heading to the airport.
If you want to see our whole trip in 18 minutes click on the link–>
We took a 10 day trip to Denver last summer and it was AMAZING. Being in the mist of a pandemic, this would truly be a great trip to repeat since 90% of the things we did were outdoors! Colorado definitely became one of my favorite states after this trip. We flew into Denver airport and decided to drive out that same day. Our first stop on the way to hiking around the Pike and San Isabel National Forests was a cute restaurant called Shaggy Sheep to grab some ice cream! After our ice cream break, we decided to take a small hike around the corner from the shop.
Our next stop was Mount Evans, we decided to drive all the way up and enjoy the beautiful views. This is one of the 58 14ers in Colorado, at 14,260 feet above sea level. We were so high up there were still SNOW CAPS in August! The altitude gradient was very large, I felt sick by the time we going down from the mountain that evening. We were super exhausted after a day of traveling so we grabbed dinner at Efrain’s of Boulder Mexican Restaurant and called it a day.
The next morning, we decided to do a LONG hike, we though we were doing a 7 mile hike but ended up walking over 10 miles that day. We hiked the Walker Ranch Trail in Boulder County, Colorado . The last few miles were a bit rough considering a storm was rolling in, we were tired AND we ran out of water. PRO TIP: Bring plenty of water! At the end of that day were were at 22,500 steps! We ended the night with pool time and much needed hot tub time after all that hiking. For dinner we got Indian food take out from Curry ‘N’ Kebob, and it was just the perfect meal to end the day!
The next morning we were ready for another hike. We decided to go to the Button Rock Preserve and hike the Sleepy Lion Trail. There were beautiful views along most of the trail.
I am a big foodie, so I had to find a great restaurant in the Estes Park area. We decided we wanted to go to Dunraven Inn for dinner. Fun fact: The first thing you’ll notice when you walk through our doors are the dollar bills, floor to ceiling, hanging in the entryway and the bar. The tradition began in the ’70s when a friend wrote good luck to the owner on a dollar bill and hung it on the wall. They estimate that there is approximately $16,000 hanging in the building– they remove torn, faded and worn bills and donate them to local charities throughout the year.If you are looking for some good Italian food, this is the place to go!
The next morning we decided we wanted to grab some donuts before we picked our next adventure for the day, we stopped at Donut Haus in Estes Park. We took a drive out to Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park- we did some small hikes and stoped at view points along the way. The loop around Bear Lake was the perfect walk! We were kind of exhausted after all the hiking so we took it easy. After driving around and doing a little bit of walking, we decided to take the Estes Park Aerial Tramway for some breathtaking views!
The next morning, we were off to Grand Lake Colorado. We wanted to rent a boat, but we actually found a nice hike near by and opted to hike instead. But first– WE HAD ICE CREAM at Miyauchi’s Snack Bar. We also walked along Adams Falls that afternoon. This was our detour while we were headed to Glenwood Springs. After we got into Glenwood Springs, we just hung out and found a local Mexican restaurant for dinner!
The next morning, we decided to enjoy some morning pool time before heading to my FAVORITE HIKE in all of Colorado! We hiked up to Hanging Lake, this was a rather difficult hike, but it was defiantly worth it when we got to the top! You need to get a permit, reservation to hike which should ideally be done a few days before you decide you want to hike. There are limited slots per day.
We decided to continue the hike up to the waterfall above Hanging Lake, and it was defiantly worth the extra mile!
The next morning we were doing another hike, we decided to do the Maroon Bells Hike in Aspen. Maroon Bells Scenic Loop Trail is a 1.9 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Snowmass Village, Colorado that features a lake and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, running, and nature trips and is best used from May until October.
The next morning we decided we wanted to go up to Pike’s Peak. Pikes Peak is the highest summit of the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, in North America. The ultra-prominent 14,115-foot fourteener is located in Pike National Forest, 12 miles west of downtown Colorado Springs. The drive up was pretty scary!
After spending the morning on another 14er, we decided to visit the Garden of Gods. The Park is a unique biological melting pot where the grasslands of the Great Plains meet the pinon-juniper woodlands characteristic of the American Southwest and merge with the mountain forest of the 14,115-foot Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain.
The next morning we stopped at Amy’s Donuts and grabbed breakfast before heading to Manitou Springs to do a self guided Mineral Springs Water Tasting in the area. This was on the way back to Denver.
7 MINUTE SPRING
Drilled to enhance the park of the Mansions Hotel in 1909, carbonation caused it to erupt at 7 minute intervals. It was re-drilled in the 1990’s and again in 2014.
A natural spring with the highest levels of many minerals, Shoshone Spring was highly recommended by physicians of the 1800s for its curative uses before modern medicine.
The natural soda water of Cheyenne Spring was originally bottled at the Manitou Bottling Plant. The stone Manitou Spa Building was built around Cheyenne Spring in 1893. Today this spring is piped to the cast bronze font designed and built by sculptor Paul Rogers.
Navajo Spring was near the Ute Pass Trail and was a rendezvous for indigenous peoples, explorers and early settlers. The font is located on the back outside wall of current-day Patsy’s Candies Store. The candy store was originally a sampling room for the bottling works.
Wheeler Spring was donated to the city by the family of Jerome Wheeler, one time president of Macy’s department store, mining and railroad magnate, banker, and chief promoter. He was also the past president of the Manitou Mineral Bottling Company.
Drilled by the Stratton Foundation during the Depression as a service to the town, this popular spring stands at the intersection of indigenous trails, the historic trolley lines, and the modern highway system.
Twin Spring is the locals’ favorite spring for its sweet taste, calcium and potassium content and for making Manitou Lemonade or Manitou Mojitos. Originally two springs, Twin Spring now has been merged into one font.
IRON SPRING GEYSER
Once the most popular spring in Manitou, thousands of health-seekers would travel to Ruxton Ave. to drink the iron waters. The current spring was drilled by a local entrepreneur in 1910 and made wildly popular by adding orange and lemon flavoring.
Our next stop was the Red Rock Amphitheater. Red Rocks Amphitheater is an open-air amphitheatre built into a rock structure in the western United States, near Morrison, Colorado, ten miles west of Denver. We had lunch at the Ship Rock Grille in the Amphitheater were we had the best mushroom burger- we have recreated this burger a few times are home after this trip: CLICK HERE FOR MY VREY OWN HOMEMADE VERSION OF THE MUSHROOM BURGER!
The next day we were headed home, so we ended up staying in Denver.
<– Here is a 4.5 minute video highlighting some of Colorado we saw! I wish I took more videos!
Since international travel has been indefinitely put on hold, this is the best time to plan ROAD TRIPS! We recently went on a weekend trip to Northern Wisconsin. It was a 3 day get away Monday thru Friday, so I added stops along the way to make the drive a bit more entertaining.
For starters, we rented a cabin in Ladysmith Wisconsin– AirBNB was pretty booked out and we ended up 6 hours north because we wanted a house with a hot tub. We happened to find exactly what we were looking for through Vrbo, click here for a link to the property we stayed at- I highly recommend it! It was super cute and remote- we didn’t even have cell phone service while we were out there, but the house had internet.
On the way up to Ladysmith we stopped at Devil’s Lake State Park, for a hike. We hiked up to the Devil’s Doorway and it was absolutely stunning. You have to purchase a parking pass before you go to the state park and print it out to leave on your dashboard- click here to get your parking sticker- good news is the sticker is good for 1 year. We did the East Bluff / Ice Age Trail, when you get on the trail head you want to go RIGHT to take a more adventurous path to the doorway, then coming back down we took the regular gravel path all the way. We hiked for a total of about 2.5 hours. The views were absolutely beautiful! There are longer hikes at the park if you have more time.
When we were done with the hike, we did a quick outfit change in the car. We then headed to a local winery in the area. The winery allows outside food, so we packed a lunch before leaving home in the morning and brought it along. We went to Baraboo Bluff Winery. The views were absolutely amazing!
As you can see, I can’t make it up, the views were breathtaking. We were literally on the top of the hill looking down at the winery. The wine tasing was defiantly COVID safe, they had small group tastings and everything looked very clean!
We spend a good hour or so at the winery before continuing our 3 hour journey up north! We stopped an hour before our Vrbo in Eau Claire to grab pizza to bring to the house. We got the the house around 7pm, started up the hot tub and enjoyed the rest of the evening at home! The next morning was relaxing, the air was nice and cool and it was perfect weather to make some pancakes. After breakfast and some morning hot tub time we decided to explore the area and do other hike! Some of the Blue Hill Trails were within a 30 minute drive from the house, We decided to check our the Ice Age Trail. It was definitely a great hike BUT we only got about 15-20 mins in before we were eaten alive by mosquitoes- pro tip: BRING BUG SPRAY!
We decided to go back to the house after the traumatic mosquito situation! The house does have a beautifulbonfire pit but we didn’t use it- we even brought starters and s’mores stuff! We had a little family photo shoot at the house that evening- we even brought matching outfits!
The next morning was a lazy morning, the check out wasn’t until 11am so we relaxed and took our time getting out of there. We started the drive back to Chicago, but we had to stop and get Culver’s along the way! The last stop about an hour and half away from home was a sunflower maze at Von Bergen’s Country Market. Unfortunately it rained while we were headed there, so they were closing down right as we arrived! It was still the most beautiful thing!
Nashville is a great place to spend a weekend. Both times I went, we rented an AirBNB and it was a great experience! I definitely recommend it. We got in on Friday afternoon and headed to The Gluch, a neighborhood near downtown Nashville. Our first stop was The Pub Nashville, a British Pub with an extensive selection of draft beer! I got a seasonal beer: the Wicked Weed Passion Fruit Lychee Burst beer, and it was amazing. Also the home made pretzels were soft and warm, served with beer cheese!
Our next stop that afternoon was Yazoo Brewing Company. I came here the first time I was in Nashville and it is a great place, both with indoor and outdoor seating. The weather was beautiful even though it was April.
At that point we had definitely worked up an appetite so we decided to try Burger Republic for a late meal in the afternoon. They claimed to be one of the best burgers in America. I don’t know if I would necessarily agree with this statement being from Chicago, but it was pretty good. One of the things we quickly recognized was that tater tots were on every menu we saw in Nashville!
Since we traveled that morning, we decided to watch the sunset on the rooftop of our building and call it an early night. We just grabbed a bite to eat at a local bar in East Nashville before going to bed that evening. A lot of our friends told us to go to Biscuit Love while in Nashville, and they are usually not wrong. So we started Saturday morning off in a line for about an hour to wait for a table at one of the most talked about places in Nashville, and it was WELL WORTH IT! While waiting in line, we grabbedd coffee from around the corner at Killebrew, which made the line go a little faster!
After a long wait in line we were finally inside. We decided to get the East Nasty, which was a buttermilk biscuit sandwich with fried boneless chicken thigh, covered in aged cheddar and sausage gravy– fun fact: this was named the best sandwich in America. We also got the Bill Neil, which was cheese grits, gulf rock shrimp, mushrooms, applewood smoked bacon, lemon tabasco sauce and green onion. This was also very good! PSA: get the chai tea latte, comes in both hot and iced!
The weather was beautiful, so we decided to walk to Broadway and wanter down the street until we got to the river. After our long walk, soaking up all the sun we could get, we decided to go to Five Daughters Bakery to eat some 100-layer donuts. YES 100 LAYERS…SO AMAZING AND FLAKY! We then spent the rest of the early afternoon walking around the very hip 12 South area.
We then headed back to our place for the afternoon, to rest and come back out for happy hour. The started our evening on the rooftop at Bourbon Steak. The views were amazing, and we enjoyed the sunset up there.
Our next stop was Milk & Honey, another highly recommended restaurant in Nashville. We decided to head here for dinner and were not disappointed! The dinner was delicious, just what we needed before heading back into Broadway for the night!
After dinner we spent the evening on Broadway barhopping. We started at Honky Tonk Central, then Acme Feed & Seed, and ended the night at Mellow Mushroom. The weather was beautiful so we actually were able to hang out on the rooftops. The last rooftop even had heat lamps. We enjoyed some live music throughout the night and had a great time!
After that we were ready to head to the airport and go home! It was a wonderful weekend!
I wanted to add a bit in here about my last trip to Nashville. It was for my friend’s Bachelorette party, so the night on Broadway was similar but we did a few things that I wanted to highlight as fun things to do while in Nashville. I highly recommend Arrington Vineyards!
Another fun activity was the Pedal Tavern. We decided to do it mid afternoon, and use it as our “pregame” into the night!
Overall, I definitely recommend Nashville for a weekend trip! Great with your girls, your spouse, or even a big group!
I absolutely love New York, it is a fun city to visit but I don’t think I would be able to live there. I think it is just too crowded and too busy for me. I decided it was time to have a quick weekend trip to New York. There were flight delays to New York, as per usual, and I was miraculously able to get on the 5:10 pm flight after work since it was delayed. Fortunately I didn’t have to wait for my 8:35 pm flight which had been pushed to 10pm!
I landed in New York earlier than anticipated, and was able to enjoy Friday night. I dropped my bag off at the hotel and met friends at Buddakan. The evening was filled with good food and good company.
We decided to continue the night and go out for 1 more drink at The Empire Rooftop. We were one of the only ones on the rooftop, it was beautiful. They had the rooftop enclosed for the winter so it was nice and cozy.
The next day, Saturday, was a beautiful and sunny day. I made my way to Best Bagel and Coffee in New York to get an everything bagel with jalapeno cream cheese. Later that morning, we met friends up for brunch at Baar Baar. The indian fusion food was one of my favorites from the weekend! I don’t usually like fusion restaurants, but they did a good job. There was also a DJ there!
The rest of the day we had a food and drink crawl around the city! Our first stop was Mr. Purple, on the 15th floor of Hotel Indigo in the Lower East Side. The ambiance was amazing, also there was a hot tub on the roof that hotel guests could use.
Our next spot was dessert! We decided to go to Stuffed for some ice cream + donuts! After dessert we went to Holiday Cocktail Lounge for another drink, it was a dive bar walking distance from Stuffed.