10 Of My Favorite US Cities

With a move to London on the horizon, I’m growing increasingly excited to live in another country and see as much of the UK and Europe as possible during my time there.

I’ve done a lot traveling around the US the past few years, and will definitely miss the breadth and diversity of cities across the country. I say it all the time, but travel doesn’t have to be expensive or far flung- so many places in America are the perfect (affordable!) destinations for a long weekend.

10 Of My Favorite US Cities

Seattle

When I hear the “Emerald City,” a few things come to mind: Quirky music and art, the great outdoors, first-rate local produce, and, of course, adventure. Every time I visit Seattle, I’m reminded of how eclectic of a city it is.

Having visited the Pacific Northwest many times, I’ve had the chance to explore a lot of Seattle’s neighborhoods, and because I know a lot of people automatically think “Space Needle” whenever they hear “Seattle,” I’ve put together a list of my favorite places to go in the city, as well as my must-sees for Pike Place Market.

Between the food, the music and the shops, you can’t go wrong spending a few days in Seattle. And, it’s close enough to Portland, Victoria, B.C., and Vancouver to warrant spending more than a weekend in this part of the country.

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Los Angeles

Every time I visit the Golden State, I fall a little bit more in love with the land of laid back. It’s a refreshing break from the East Coast- palm trees, sunshine and warm weather year-round, what more could you ask for?

Contrary to what many people may think, LA is not just Hollywood. During most of my trips to LA, I’ve stayed in Santa Monica or Venice to get my fill of beach vibes. And, if you head outside of the main areas, Malibu, Palm Springs, Joshua Tree State Park, and even Disneyland are great places to kickback and unwind while soaking up some sunshine.

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Austin

I haven’t written about Austin yet for this blog, but after living there for a few months a couple of years ago, I fell hard for the city. Known as the live music capital of the world, Austin is all about seriously good eats, strong drinks, great beats and being outside. It’s the only place I’ve ever been where people applaud sunsets.

One of the best parts about Austin? It’s compact enough to see and do a ton of stuff during the shortest of trips. I’m planning on spending a few days here as part of a visit back to the US in early March. Already excited to discover how much the city has changed since I’ve been there, and revisit a few of my favorite spots.

NYC

After calling New York City home for over six years, it’s really tough for me to imagine settling down anywhere else. Even though I (and many New Yorkers) have a serious love-hate relationship with the city, it’s a place brimming with energy morning, noon and night- you can’t help but feel so alive when you’re here.

Aside from never-ending options of things to do, I also love how walkable New York is, and even though I complain about subway delays, the public transit system really is top notch. There’s no question this city is somewhere everyone should visit at least once in their life.

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Miami

In Florida, they salt margaritas not sidewalks. My first time in Miami was during a particularly brutal February in the northeast, but it’s the perfect escape any time of the year.

With stunning beaches, a bustling art scene, great food and nightlife, and some seriously cool art deco architecture, there’s no shortage of things to do in Miami. And, because I know a lot of people think of the South Beach party scene when Miami comes up, I haven’t spent much time there, and have still loved every trip I’ve taken to the city. Although, I love a good night out, I’ve spent more time in Wynwood, Little Havana and Key Biscayne.

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Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World conjures up images of kids in strollers, characters roaming the parks and a lot of mouse shaped things. And, sure enough, as soon as you walk into the parks, you feel like a kid again- you’re excited to get your picture taken with Pluto, wait in line for Space Mountain, and buy a pair of sparkly mouse ears because, magic.

Disney may be extra special for kids, but I’ve come to appreciate it more as an adult through vacations and runDisney events. One of the best parts of visiting Disney as an adult? Seeking out the best spots to grab a drink when you need a break from the magic madness.

Whatever your reasons for visiting Disney, you have to appreciate the attention to detail everywhere from the resorts to the parks- it’s truly astounding. And yes, I recognize Disney isn’t technically a city, but it sure is big enough with enough to do to warrant a spot on this list.

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New Orleans

New Orleans is a city bursting at the seams with Caribbean vibes and Cajun attitude.

In Nola, it’s all about the details. Strings of beads are draped on cast-iron balconies year-round, an assortment of cultures, and live music bring Bourbon Street to life. There’s savory beignets for breakfast and steamed crawfish for dinner. It’s the perfect place to spend a long weekend.

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Charleston

Charleston is the epitome of Southern charm. Quaint streets lined with sprawling, pastel homes and palm trees. Some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. And, seriously good eats.

After spending a long weekend in downtown Charleston, I realized nothing is truer than this statement: north is a direction, south is a lifestyle.

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San Francisco & Napa and Sonoma

San Francisco is the kind of city that never gets old, no matter how many times you visit, because there’s always something new to do or explore. Having been to San Francisco a few times, I have my go-to recos for things to do or see, but also have a slew of things I still want to do on return trips.

Located on a peninsula surrounded by water, San Francisco’s climate is mild year-round, although summers tend to be on the cool side. If the weather is a bit chilly during your visit, and you’re in the mood for warmer temps, plus some wine, head an hour north to Napa and Sonoma.

My first visit to wine country felt intimidating- so many wineries! According to Lonely Planet, there are over 600 wineries in Napa and Sonoma Counties. But it’s quality, not quantity, that sets the region apart – especially in Napa, which competes with France and doubles as an outpost of San Francisco’s top-end culinary scene. Sonoma prides itself on agricultural diversity, with you-pick-em orchards and roadside fruit stands.

Fortunately, one of my girlfriends has grown to love wine as much as me, and every year we plan a weekend back to the region. Rolling hills, blue skies and vineyards as far as the eye can see make California’s wine country a relaxing and fun weekend getaway.

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Portland

If you like to shop and eat, Portland is the town for you. Usually, when I’m in the PNW, it’s to visit Seattle, so I haven’t spent as much time in Portland as I’d like. If you’re visiting for the weekend, get ready for days filled with walking all over the city, popping into shops and eating and drinking all of the delicious things.

And, like in Seattle, just outside the city, there are a lot of outdoorsy activities to do, including hiking the Oneota Gorge. Off I-84 near Mulnomah Falls outside of Portland, Oregon, the Oneonta Gorge is one of those bucket list natural wonders- you kind of have to see it to believe it.

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Chicago

The third largest city in the US (by population) is known by a multitude of nicknames- The Windy City, the Second City, the City of Broad Shoulders- and for good reason. There’s a lot to do in Chicago, from cultural gems like the Art Institute to exploring the city’s booming food scene.

If you’re only visiting for a weekend, it’s impossible to do everything, but there are some things that shouldn’t be skipped over. It’s been a while since I’ve been to Chicago, but I’m hoping I’ll be able to spend a few days becoming reacquainted with the city on a return trip to the US- already excited to revisit a few of my favorite places and check out some new restaurants and bars that have popped.

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Honorable Mentions to: Denver, Savannah, Pittsburgh and San Diego.

On my list of cities to visit on return trips to the US over the next few years?

  • St. George, Utah
  • Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona
  • Marfa, Texas
  • Billings, Montana (aka Big Sky Country)
  • Portland, Maine
  • Nashville, TN (I’ve only been there once for a conference)
  • Oahu, Hawaii

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Weekend Getaway: San Francisco

“San Francisco has only one drawback—‘tis hard to leave.” -Rudyard Kipling

San Francisco is the kind of city that never gets old, no matter how many times you visit, because there’s always something new to do or explore. Having been to San Francisco a few times, I have my go-to recos for things to do or see, but also have a slew of things I still want to do on return trips.

Located on a peninsula surrounded by water, San Francisco’s climate is mild year-round, although summers tend to be on the cool side. After visiting in July one year, I learned to always carry a jacket- no matter the month.

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Interesting Attractions

  • Cable Cars: It wouldn’t be a trip to San Francisco without a cable car ride. Hop on a car a few stops before the end of the track to avoid long lines
  • Golden Gate Bridge: There are a few different ways to see the first thing that comes to mind for most people when they think of San Francisco
    • Walk or bike across the bridge. If you head to Sausalito on the other side, you can catch a ferry back downtown. Bay City Bike Rentals lets you rent bikes for a self-guided tour
    • Head to Lands End for great coastal views
      • While you’re in the area, check out the ruins of the Sutro Baths, a grand public swimming pool that was destroyed in a fire in 1966
  • Fisherman’s Wharf: Named for fishermen who used to sell their catches at the harbor back in the day, the wharf is now a tourist attraction. I’d recommend coming in the morning before most of the crowds arrive to check out to see the historic buildings, numerous shops and sea lions lounging on the rocks near Pier 39
    • Ghiradelli Square: Come here for your fill of chocolate
    • Boudin Bakery: While you’re by the wharf, pop in for some of the city’s famous sourdough bread
  • Lombard Street:  A steep one-block street with eight hairpin turns make Lombard one of the most crooked streets in the world. Fun fact: The curves on Lombard were added in effort to keep the neighborhood safer and quieter
  • Painted Ladies: Seven colorful Victorian row houses built in the 1890s
    • Pack a picnic to bring to nearby Alamo square
  • Mission Street murals: The Mission neighborhood is filled with vibrant murals and graffiti, use this guide for a walking tour of the art in the area
  • Dolores Park: Come here on a sunny day, pack a picnic and spend a few hours lounging in the park and people watching. The great views are an added bonus
  • Coit Tower and Telegraph Hill: Great city views from the top of the tower
  • Alcatraz: Is visiting The Rock touristy? Yes, but it’s also an interesting part of history. Book your ticket ahead of time if you plan on visiting

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Where to Eat

  • Ferry Marketplace Building (Financial District): Located at the end of Market Street, the marketplace has become a tourist attraction. Packed with shops and restaurants, there’s something for every taste
  • Red Door Cafe (Cathedral Hill): The French toast hype is true. Breakfast tacos are another standout
  • Nob Hill Cafe (Nob Hill): An Italian restaurant with cozy ambience that’s been a local staple for 20+ years
  • Mission Beach Cafe (Mission Dolores): The brioche French toast is pretty steller, but the caramelized pepper bacon was phenom
  • La Taqueria (The Mission): Good tacos, but the burritos are the real winner here
  • Mateo’s (The Mission): Huge veggie burritos, incredible
  • Dottie’s True Blue Cafe (SoMa): Order the chili-cheddar corn bread and a stack of the famous pancakes
  • Mama’s on Washington Square (North Beach): The line is always out the door, but it’s for good reason- the brunch here is incredible
  • State Bird Provisions (Fillmore District): Changing menu of American small plates
  • Brenda’s French Soul Food (Tenderloin): his place wins so hard. First, order the beignet trio (plain, chocolate, apple and crawfish). For the main meal, I loved the shrimp and grits with a side of hush puppies

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Where to Drink

  • Zeitgeist (The Mission): Outdoor beer garden, great place to hang on a sunny afternoon
  • Trick Dog (The Mission): Drinks are named after Pantone colors and are full of quirky, innovative ingredients
  • Smuggler’s Cove (Civic Center): Tiki-themed bar with rum cocktails
  • Rickhouse (Financial District): A superb cocktail bar, definitely put this on your list if you’re a whiskey drinker
  • The Alembic (Haight Ashbury): Bartenders take mixology seriously here- you can’t go wrong with your drink choice whether it’s a classic cocktail or signature drink
  • Comstock Saloon (North Beach): Loved the pisco punch and enjoyed the live music
  • Blackbird Bar (Duboce Triangle): Great mixed drinks and a good beer selection
  • The Buena Vista (Hyde Street): Home of the original Irish coffee, this place is not to be missed

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Where to Have Coffee

  • Ritual Coffee Roasters (Hayes Valley): Chill space to enjoy your morning cup of joe
  • Blue Bottle Coffee (Financial District): Dependenable choice for a cold brew
  • Sightglass (SoMa): Order the vanilla iced brew with almond milk
  • Jane (Pacific Heights): Love the pour over coffee and their avocado toast gets rave reviews, but it’s a small shop that can get crowded
  • Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters (Union Street): Famous for their pineapple wallpaper and pour over

 

Where to Have Something Sweet

  • Fenton’s Creamery (Piedmont Avenue, Oakland): The black and tan is to-die-for
  • Dynamo Donut (The Mission): All of the doughnuts are amazing, but I’m partial to the maple glazed apple bacon and orange galze
  • Mr. Holmes Bakeshouse (Lower Nob Hill): Home of the cruffin (croissant and muffin duo), but the California croissant is great as well
  • Tartine Bakery & Cafe (Mission Dolores): Morning buns and brioche bread pudding are the stars here
  • Bi-Rite Creamery (Mission Dolores): Around the block from Tartine, the creamery is knwon for their salted caramel ice cream. I had a triple scoop with salted caramel, roasted banana with fudge and peach. Out. Of. This. World.
  • Miette (Financial District): Cute candy shop selling European candy, cupcakes and macarons

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Just Outside the City

  • Big Sur is a dose of paradise. Spent a few days driving down the coast and hiking trails along the way. If you only have one day like we did, here’s what I’d recommend seeing and doing
  • Napa and Sonoma: With over 600 wineries in the region, it’s quality that sets Napa and Sonoma apart. Rolling hills, blue skies and vineyards as far as the eye can see make California’s wine country a relaxing and fun weekend getaway
  • Muir Woods: A short drive outside of the city, the redwood forest is worth exploring. Go early in the morning before the crowds arrive for the most serene experience

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Extra Know Before You Go Info

  • Where to Stay: Airbnb is more affordable than a lot of the hotels in the city, so I’d look there first. If you’re okay with a 15-25 minute ride on the subway every day, there are some more affordable places to stay in downtown Oakland as well
  • How to Get Around: Take BART, San Francisco’s subway system, if you’re covering distances on the longer side. The city is very walkable- just wear comfortable shoes since you’ll be walking up and down a lot of steep hills. If you’re tired of walking and don’t feel like taking BART, Uber is another great option
  • Planning Tip: San Francisco is an expensive city so plan out your budget accordingly. When I visit, I find it to be on-par or slightly more expensive than New York City

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Weekend Getaway: San Diego

A few summers ago, I found myself in San Diego for a weekend as part of a week-long California road trip.

If you’re looking for California sunshine and great Mexican food, there’s no better place than San Diego.

San Diego is the kind of destination you want to spend more than a few days relaxing, but if you’ve only got a weekend in the city, there are a few things I’d recommend seeing and doing to make the most out of a short trip.

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*Note: Please excuse the terrible iPhone pictures, these were taken on an early iPhone and unfortunately, not the best quality. 

Interesting Attractions

  • Beaches: There are plenty of beaches to explore in San Diego, many of which are perfect for surfing. We only had time to check out two of San Diego’s beaches, but this guide is great if you’ve got more time to explore different beaches in the area
    • Pacific Beach: Beach plus bar hopping, a winning combination
    • Coronado Beach: Beautiful ocean views and Hotel del Coronado, a grand resort, make this beach worth a visit
    • Mission Beach: Quintessential California beach experience- sun, sand, boardwalk and surfers

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Hotel Coronado

  • La Jolla: La Jolla is a beautiful stretch of coastline north of downtown San Diego, there’s a cove to explore and seafront trails to walk along. Because of the marine life in the area, the cove is part of San Diego’s Underwater Park Ecological Reserve
    • Check out Seal Beach, where dozens of seals lounge on the rocks lining the beach

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  • Sunset Cliffs: Take a picnic and watch the sun set atop a cliff

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  • The Gaslamp Quarter: A historic district in downtown San Diego lined with iconic gas lamps. You’ll find lots of restaurants, bars and shops in the area

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  • Balboa Park: A massive urban cultural park, spend a morning wandering the gardens and taking in the stunning Spanish architecture
  • San Diego Zoo: We didn’t have time to visit the zoo on our trip, but with over 3,700 animals, the zoo is world famous and has something for everyone
  • Mexico: San Diego is very close to the Mexican boarder, so a day trip to Tijuana is doable if you’ll be in the area for more than a few days

 

Where to Eat

  • Bird Rock Coffee Roasters (La Jolla): Great espresso and pourovers
  • Donut Bar (Central San Diego): Delicious donuts with fun flavors
  • Cafe Sevilla (Gaslamp Quarter): Sangria, bacon wrapped dates, paella, flourless chocolate cake- everything we tried was great
  • La Puerta (Gaslamp Quarter): Great street tacos and frozen mojitos
  • Meze (Gaslamp Quarter): Mediterranean food, recommend trying the hummus
  • Jose’s (La Jolla): Inexpensive, but delicious Mexican food. Order the fish tacos and a margarita
  • Tender Greens (Locations across San Diego): Affordable, fresh salads. We ordered salads to go one night for dinner and took them to Sunset Cliffs for a picnic
  • MooTime Creamery (Coronado): Order a scoop of the green mint in a waffle cone
  • Hash House a Go Go (Hillcrest): Come hungry, portions are huuuuge. Order the chicken and waffles and a skillet hash
  • The Original Pancake House (Kearny Mesa): Oven baked apple pancakes. ‘Nuff said
  • WhisknLadle (La Jolla): Ideal happy hour spot, great food and drink specials
  • Juniper and Ivy (Harborview): Like many places in San Diego, the seafood here is great- try the baja shrimp toast
  • Breakfast Republic (North Park): Really great breakfast spot- loved the veggie tostadas and brioche french toast
  • Isabel’s Cantina (Pacific Beach): You can’t go wrong with the avocado scramble and buddha bowl

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Where to Drink

  • George’s at the Cove (La Jolla): Snag a seat at the bar, order a Caipirinha and watch the sun set
  • Polite Provisions (North Park): Craft cocktails in a former pharmacy
  • El Dorado Cocktail Lounge (Central San Diego): Great craft cocktails for $5 before 9 pm
  • Noble Experiment (Central San Diego): Hidden speakeasy near the Gaslamp Quarter, recommend ordering the bartender’s choice
  • Fairweather (East Village): A+ tiki drinks and a lovely patio to enjoy them on
  • El Agave (Del Mar): Perfect spot for margaritas at sunset
  • Gaslamp Quarter: There are a slew of bars and nightclubs on Fifth Avenue, wander into any of them and order a margarita to start unwinding
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George’s at the Cove

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Visiting Alcatraz in San Francisco

Off the shore of San Francisco, in the middle of the bay lies Alcatraz.

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Famously known as a federal penitentiary that housed criminals like Al Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly, Alcatraz held prisoners who caused trouble at other prisons. Troubled inmates were sent to Alcatraz because the cold waters and strong currents surrounding the prison deemed it inescapable.

Also known as “The Rock”, the island where Alcatraz is located has served as a lighthouse and military prison. Currently, it’s a National Historic Landmark, welcoming visitors who want a peek into former prison life. Alcatraz served as a prison for 29 years, closing in 1963 as a result of increasing costs to maintain the facility.

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The journey to the island offers great views of the city skyline.

Once there, you’ll walk to the top of a hill (~10 minutes) to the prison. There are shuttles that go back and forth from the base to the top, but they run infrequently so walking is recommended.

When you get to the prison, make sure you pick up an audio guide. The audio tour guides you through the prison with commentary from former officers and prisoners, offering first hand perspectives. Their stores really enhance the experience, they offer a glimpse inside life at Alcatraz.

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After your audio tour is over, you have the option of exploring the island’s gardens and other exhibitions. Interestingly, Alcatraz is home to rare flowers and plants, and marine wildlife. Whenever you’re ready, you can take a return boat to San Francisco.

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Alcatraz Cruises leave from Pier 33 throughout the morning, afternoon and evening. We opted for the first tour out because we figured it’d be less crowded, and we had a full day of activities planned in the city. The nighttime tours are a bit more expensive, but I’ve heard seeing the prison illuminated at night is special in its own right.

Whichever time you decide to visit, book in advance- tour slots are known to sell out 1-2 weeks in advance.

Also, make sure you dress warmly on your visit. The island is often cooler and windier than the mainland, so I’d recommend wearing layers you can adjust.

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Los Angeles: City Guide

Every time I visit the Golden State, I fall a little bit more in love with the land of laid back. It’s a refreshing break from New York- palm trees, sunshine and warm weather year-round, what more could you ask for?

Contrary to what many people may think, LA is not just Hollywood. During most of my trips to LA, I’ve stayed in Santa Monica or Venice to get my fill of beach vibes. I’m planning a trip to LA in December though and will be staying in Silver Lake, as well as driving out to Palm Springs for a quick visit.

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Get Outside:

  • Santa Monica / Venice Beach (rent a bike and ride along the boardwalk)
  • Runyon Canyon: One of the most accessible hikes in LA (just off Hollywood Boulevard), Runyon becomes busier as the day goes on. Go early for great views of the LA skyline before the trails become too crowded
  • Hollywood Hills trails: Near the Griffith Observatory, and close to the Hollywood sign, there are a bunch of trails to choose from. I’d either go early in the am to catch the sunrise or at night as the sun is setting. If you go at sunset, expect to share the trails with other people
  • Palisades Park: With some of the city’s best sunset views, the ocean view trails are my favorite place to run when I’m staying in Santa Monica
    • Temescal Canyon’s loop is a local favorite, go to the top for stunning views
  • Best places to catch a sunset: Santa Monica/Venice Beach boardwalk, Malibu (El Matador beach is a favorite), Griffith Observatory (awesome view of Los Angeles and the Hollywood sign)

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View from Runyon Canyon

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View from Runyon Canyon

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Running trails at Pacific Palisades

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Sunset in Malibu at El Matador

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Sunset from the Griffith Observatory

 

Not Your Typical Museum/Tour:

  • Studio tours: On one of my visits, we took the tour at Paramount Pictures. Is it touristy? Yes, but if it’s your first time in LA, it can be a fun way to experience the Hollywood side of the city
  • The Getty: The collection of paintings and artifacts from around the world make this museum worth a visit, but the views are also amazing. The Getty sits on a hill that overlooks LA and the Pacific Ocean- if you happen to be here at sunset, you’re in for a treat
  • LACMA: If you follow anyone that lives in or has visited LA recently, chances are you’ve seen photos of the antique lampposts outside this museum. Lampposts aside, the Los Angles County Museum of Art is a great place to escape the heat for a few hours and check out cool art exhibits
  • Hollywood Walk of Fame: The famed sidewalk along Hollywood Boulevard covered with red stars with celebrity names written on them is a must-see for a lot of visitors. Pro-tip: The Walk of Fame is quite long, look up your favorite celebs ahead of time to ensure you know where their star is located
    • Also on Hollywood Boulevard is the TCL Chinese Theatre, a historic theatre which hosts movie premieres
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Studio tour at Paramount

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Studio tour at Paramount

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Walk of Fame

 

Spend an Afternoon:

  • Biking Venice Beach, watching the skateboarders or walking the Venice canals
  • Shopping at the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica or at the Grove (yes, the Grove can be touristy, but it’s also a great spot for celebrity sightings, if that’s your thing)
  • Checking out the Santa Monica Pier: The pier itself is lined with souvenir shops and amusement park rides, but the surrounding area and boardwalk are the perfect place to soak in some LA sunshine
  • Visiting the Original Farmers Market, or Santa Monica Farmers Market if you’re in LA on the weekend
  • Walking Rodeo Drive: Every store is extremely high-end on this famous shopping street. Even if you can’t afford to shop at the stores here, walking the street is still a nice experience
  • Cruising Mulholland Drive: Gorgeous views of the entire expanse of LA and grand celebrity homes
    • Pro-tip: There’s a good view of the Hollywood sign at the Hollywood Bowl Overlook spot on Mulholland Drive
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Skateboarders in Venice

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One of the overlooks on Mulholland Drive

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One of the overlooks on Mulholland Drive

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Where to Shop:

  • Venice’s Abbot Kinney Boulevard has a fantastic range of boutiques. One of my favorites, The General Store Venice, has a beautiful collection of items ranging from home accessories to coffee table books, to design knick knacks and jewelry
  • If you’re in Silver Lake, stop by Broome St. General Store–  part-coffee shop, part curated collection of home goods and fashion items / wearables (think: candles, perfume, jewelry, leather bags, etc.)
  • Creatures of Comfort is pricey, but they curate some of the best clothing brands, so it’s worth a stop in to browse if you’re in Beverly Grove
  • If you find yourself window shopping in Beverly Hills, treat yourself to a manicure at Olive & June, a cute nail shop with great color selection

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Where to get Coffee:

  • Dogtown Coffee (Santa Monica): Try the sea salt caramel iced coffee
  • Intelligentsia (Venice): The best espresso based drinks
  • Alfred Coffee (Beverly Grove): Coffee and pastries are excellent
  • Coffee Commissary (Burbank): The essence of California in a coffee shop, the cold brew is strong and smooth. Order the Iced Cubano if you’re in the mood to try something different
  • Blue Bottle Coffee (Locations across LA): The quality of the cold brew is superb

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Sea salt caramel iced coffee from Dogtown & pastries from Huckleberry, the perfect breakfast

Where to Eat:

  • 26 Beach (Venice): Awesome brunch spot with 26 types of french toast and a bunch of different egg-based dishes
  • The Tasting Kitchen (Venice): Simple, yet delicious. Great cocktails and awesome food- love the roasted grapefruit and affogato bread pudding
  • Huckleberry Cafe & Bar (Santa Monica): The pastry case here rules: maple bacon biscuit, salted caramel bars and seasonal crostatas are all great
  • Umami Burger (Locations across LA): Fifth taste eating- I’m partial to the black bean burger, but regardless of what you order, a side of truffle fries should be included
  • Gjelina (Venice): Everything on the menu is fantastic, but my favorites are: the fresh heirloom salad with burrata, mushroom toast, brussels sprouts and super thin pizza with mushrooms and truffle cheese
  • Gracias Madre (West Hollywood): One of my favorite places to eat in LA, don’t be turned off by the vegan Mexican menu- I promise you, it’s delicious
  • Urth Cafe (Locations across LA): Fantastic brunch spot serving organic and natural ingredients
  • Toast Bakery Cafe (Beverly Grove): Classic American brunch- fluffy pancakes, stuffed French toast, croissant sandwiches, eggs, bacon and so on
  • Cafe Stella (Silver Lake): Great place for brunch, try the ricotta pancakes and order an Intelligentsia cappuccino
  • Square One (East Hollywood): Nothing compares to the brioche French Toast here, the salmon benedicts are also pretty stellar
  • Republique (Hancock Park): Plan to come here for brunch with a few friends, their small plates are designed to be shared. Personally a fan of the kimchi fried rice and mushroom toast
  • Eveleigh (West Hollywood): Come for brunch and sit on the front patio that’s been converted into a garden. Everyone raves about the lamb meatballs, but the cocktails are pretty solid here as well
  • Grand Central Market (Downtown LA – Arts District): At downtown LA’s artisanal food court, you can’t really go wrong with where you eat. One of my favorites, Eggslut is known for its tasty breakfast sandwiches
  • Lemonade (Locations across LA): Don’t let the name fool you, Lemonade serves more than just lemonade (although, the blood orange lemonade is great). Lemonade specializes in Southern California comfort food made with seasonal ingredients
  • Cerveteca Venice (Venice): Fish tacos are in one word, phenom
  • Malibu Farm Cafe (Malibu): Located at the end of the Malibu Pier, the cafe serves up fresh, organic salads and sandwiches in a cozy space
  • In-N-Out Burger (Locations across LA): Animal style, cheese fries and a milkshake- ’nuff said. Don’t leave LA without coming here
  • Homestate (East Hollywood): Two words- breakfast tacos
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French toast noms at 26 Beach

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After-dinner cocktails & dessert at the Tasting Kitchen

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Pizza perfection at Gjelina

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Umami #PraiseHands

 

Where to Drink:

  • The Tasting Kitchen (Venice): The food is good and the drinks don’t disappoint either. Tasting Kitchen’s mixologist is top-notch, personally a fan of the Painkiller cocktail
  • The Varnish (Downtown): Speakeasy style in that it’s somewhat hidden inside Cole’s restaurant. You can’t go wrong with the bartender’s choice- just tell them what kind of spirits and flavors you like
  • Sonny’s Hideaway (Highland Park): An old school, classic cocktail lounge with a great happy hour ($5 appetizers, $7 cocktails)
  • 1886 (South Pasadena): The patio is the perfect place to enjoy LA weather while sipping on a cocktail
  • Melrose Umbrella Company (Fairfax): Enjoy the vibe here and the speciality cocktails- if you’re a vodka drinker, order the Croatian Vacation
  • Tiki-Ti Cocktail Lounge (Los Feliz): Come ready to get your tropical drink on here, such a fun place to enjoy a few cocktails with friends
  • Ace Hotel (Downtown LA): Although in Downtown LA, it’s worth a trip here for the rooftop view alone
  • Rosenthal Winery (Malibu): If you’re in Malibu, this winery on the Pacific Coast Highway offers flights and tastings. Best time to visit is on the weekends- Friday-Sunday, there’s live music in the backyard

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Where to Have Dessert:

  • Bottega Louie (Downtown): Known for their macarons, but the other pastries won’t disappoint
  • Jeni’s Splendid (Los Feliz): The yummy ice cream flavors never disappoint. Definitely order yours with one of their sauces, love the bitter hot fudge
  • Scoops (East Hollywood): Light, refreshing, great flavors. Highly recommended if you’re craving ice cream
  • Sweet Rose Creamery (Fairfax): Loooove the seasonal ice cream flavors here
  • Milk (Fairfax): Macaron ice cream sandwiches!
  • Salt and Straw (Windsor Square): There’s a reason why everyone in LA (and Portland) loves this place. Expect the creamiest ice cream produced in killer flavors
  • California Donuts (Koreatown): The cutest and most unique donuts, dig the lucky charms and blueberry toast crunch variations. Order the panda one as well because it’s delicious and adorable
  • SK Donuts & Croissant (Wilshire): Blueberry cake donut FTW
  • Stan’s Donuts (Westwood): The strawberry old fashioned stole my heart, but a peanut-butter stuffed chocolate doughnut (called The Huell) is what they’re known for
  • CottonHi (Koreatown): Soft serve ice cream with fluffy cotton candy on top, so fun and yummy

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Just Outside the City:

  • Disneyland: A firm believer you’re never too old for Disney, visiting both Disneyland and California Adventure is doable in one day with a park-hopper ticket. I’ve participated in a few runDisney events at Disneyland and enjoyed spending a day exploring the parks. While it’s much smaller than Walt Disney World, it’s still a great escape from reality
  • Huntington Beach (Surf City USA): Take a drive down Highway 1 to spend a few hours at this expansive beach, relaxing in the sand, wandering the expansive pier or checking out the shopping plaza across from the beach
  •  Malibu: Parking and traffic can be tough here, but on a clear day, it’s worth driving up to Malibu for the ocean views. El Matador, with its rock formations is one of my favorite beaches in the area
  • Palm Springs: A desert city known for its hot springs, stylish hotels, golf courses and spas. Hoping to spend a day or two here on my next trip to LA
  • Joshua Tree State Park: The beautiful desert scenery here is on my list of places to check-out when I visit LA in the late fall. From what I’ve heard, there’s a lot to enjoy at this state park, from the spiky Joshua trees to the cacti gardens and boulder formations

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Gorgeous day at Huntington Beach

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Road Trip: Seattle to Northern Cali

Growing up, I always wanted to take a true road trip. There was something so alluring about going off the beaten path and discovering the unknown. Two summers ago, I decided it was finally time to embark on said road trip.

Luckily one of my best friends was game enough to ride along. Over the course of seven days, we drove from Seattle through Oregon to Northern California and back to Seattle.

What I learned: Road trips take a lot of patience. We saw unreal natural phenomenons and covered a lot of ground. There’s no denying it was a great trip- but, I’m not the kind of person who can sit in a car for hours without cell service (hello Highway 101). A bucket list trip for the books but next time, you’ll find me on a beach or exploring a new city.

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Trip Highlights:

  • Started in Seattle, fueled up on doughnuts from Top Pot for breakfast
  • Drove to Astoria, stopped to stretch and climb the Astoria Column for a breathtaking view

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  • To round out our first day, we stuffed our faces with cheese at the Tillamook Cheese Factory (seriously, so nom)
  • If you ever find yourself spending the night in Coos Bay, OR, have breakfast at the Pancake Mill. You won’t regret it, it’s the cutest little place with surprisingly fresh and delicious omelets (bonus points for homemade jam!). Also, the coastal views in this cozy town are unreal

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  • Albeit, I learned I am most definitely not a camping person, I enjoyed sleeping under the stars and majestic redwoods, and roasting marshmallows for one night (camping hack: dip the marshmallows in Bailey’s before layering onto a s’more)

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  • As we continued our drive down Northern California, we drove down the Avenue of Giants (equal parts peaceful and jaw dropping), and through the Chandelier Tree

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  • Before heading across the state to Yosemite, we shucked oysters along the coast at Tomales Bay Oyster Company. I’m spoiled for life now, fresh oysters with a touch of Sriracha and lime are incredible

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Once we made it to NoCal, we spent two nights in Merced (about an hour from Yosemite).

Our one day in Yosemite didn’t even scratch the surface of what Yosemite has to offer. It’s simply not possible to do the park justice through words.

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I’ve heard every National Park should be visited at least twice. I take this approach to a lot of cities I visit- the first time, I try to experience some of the popular spots that make the city what it is, and the second time, I travel a bit more off the beaten path.

Because we only had one day in Yosemite, we opted to check off a few of the must-sees everyone raves about.

Tunnel View: We started our day here, after entering the park from southwestern entrance (we stayed in Merced the night before visiting)

  • If you want to camp in Yosemite, reserve space at a campground months in advance. By the time we started checking availability, almost everything was booked. We decided it made more sense to stay in Merced (about an hour outside Yosemite). It would have been great to wake up in nature, but having Starbucks for early mornings and In-n-Out burger to refuel after a long day of hiking worked out well for us

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  • Bridalviel Falls: When we visited in mid-June, the falls were already a mere trickle. It’s a quick (<10 minutes) walk to the base of the falls, and worth checking out even if the water flow has slowed because it’s one of the most iconic waterfalls in the park. The falls get their name from the Ahwahneechee Native American tribe, which believed inhaling the mist would improve your chances of getting married
  • The Valley floor gets mixed reviews, some people say it’s overrun with tourists and too commercial. While these things are true, it’s also part of what made Yosemite so famous to begin with and worth checking out to see Upper & Lower Yosemite falls, as well as Mirror Lake. And, if you’re an Ansel Adams fan, spend five minutes admiring the photo collection that’s taken home here, the shots are stunning
  • Lower Yosemite FallsThe shuttle stops directly at the Lower Yosemite Falls and it’s an easy walk to the base (you’ll also see Upper Yosemite Falls). When we visited, the falls were flowing but we were still able to climb a few dozen rocks at the base to get closer. If you’re trying to save time, get on a bus from the visitor’s parking lot and take it to stop number 6 to walk the trail out to see these falls.

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  • Mirror Lake has to be the definition of serenity. Even though it was a relaxing hike, if I’m at Yosemite again, I’ll probably opt to do Taft Point- a slightly longer hike, but unparalleled views

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  • Glacier Point is, in one word, breathtaking. Half Dome is spectacular and so are the views of Yosemite Valley, Bridalveil Fall and El-Capitan. We ended our day with a drive to the lookout
  • Bonus recommendation: We opted not to see Mariposa Grove after spending a few days in the Redwood National and State Parks on our road trip, but I hope I’m able to stand face to face with the giant Sequoias in Yosemite someday

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Next, we moved onto wine country. Vine-covered hillsides, lush greenery, culinary hot spots and hundreds of wineries- what’s not to love? On this tripe, we decided to re-visit a few of the wineries we’d enjoyed on previous trips, and explore a few new ones as well.

Every day in wine country should start with a sparkling flight. On our first day, we started at Mumm Napa with a toast on the patio.

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Our second day began with us returning to Domaine Carneros (a favorite from our first trip), and I’d have to say is still my preference for sparkling. It’s really just an un-matchable experience- top-notch sparkling wine on a beautiful terrace with gorgeous vineyard views.

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If a lazy, afternoon picnic in the shade with lots of cheese and blue-cheese stuffed olives is your thing, V. Sattui is the place to be.

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They say one cannot think well, love well or sleep well if one has not dined well. Our first night in Napa, we dined downtown at Uva Trattoria Italiana and indulged in handmade gnocchi with a Gorgonzola reduction. And, because we were on vacation, we also stopped at the Carpe Diem Wine Bar for delicious bread pudding to complete the evening.

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The next morning we had brunch at Fremont Diner, what a hidden gem! Cute, rustic atmosphere with great food. Order the grilled cheese and chicken & waffles, and eat outside with the chickens.

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Wine & cheese o’clock, anyone? I dare you to find a winery in Napa or Sonoma that doesn’t offer a cheese tasting (they’re few and far between). Although we only did one cheese/wine pairing this trip, think we picked a winner with Kendall-Jackson Estate. Perfect experience, great pairings and generous pours.

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With so many wineries in the region, it can be daunting to figure out which ones warrant a visit. Click here to check out my favorite spots in Napa & Sonoma.

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Kicking and screaming, we left wine country to head back to Seattle, splitting up the drive with a stop at the Oneonta Gorge. I’d first learned about the gorge on BuzzFeed, and we’d read the reviews on Trip Advisor, but really, nothing can prepare you.

A reminder to never lose our sense of wonder, the gorge is an unusual and beautiful place.

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It’s only a half mile hike to the waterfall, but it’s not for the faint of heart. Climbing over a log jam and wading through waist deep water were the least of our worries.

At times, the stream is the actual trail, and pending what time of the year you visit, water levels may be pretty high. When we visited in June, water in the final passage before the falls was high (6-7 feet) and freezing. It’s a shock to the system, but worth it to get to the other side. Pro tip: Bring a change of clothes for afterwards.

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Post-gorge explorations, we got back on the road and set our sights on arriving in Seattle in time for dinner. Seattle is undoubtedly one of my favorite cities in the world- quirky music and art, the great outdoors, first-rate local produce, and adventure. Every time I visit Seattle, I’m reminded of how eclectic of a city it is.

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If you plan on visiting Seattle for a few days, check out my favorite things to do and see in the city.

All in all, it was a phenomenal trip- we learned to enjoy the journey and explore the open road.

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24 Hours in Yosemite

The Pacific Northwest is known for open spaces, and its vast beauty is easily explored by car. A few summers ago, I spent a week driving from Seattle to Northern California with one of my girlfriends. Once in Cali, we drove across the state to Yosemite, and then doubled back to spend a few days in wine country before making our way back to Seattle.

Our one day in Yosemite didn’t even scratch the surface of what Yosemite has to offer. It’s simply not possible to do the park justice through words.

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Yosemite offers a spectacular collection of thundering waterfalls, breathtaking views and  fantastic hiking trails. One visit is life-changing, as time seems to slow down when nature takes over.

I’ve heard every National Park should be visited at least twice. I take this approach to a lot of cities I visit- the first time, I try to experience some of the popular spots that make the city what it is, and the second time, I travel a bit more off the beaten path.

Because we only had one day in Yosemite, we opted to check off a few of the must-sees everyone raves about.

One day in Yosemite National Park

  • Tunnel View: We started our day here, after entering the park from southwestern entrance (we stayed in Merced the night before visiting)
    • If you want to camp in Yosemite, reserve space at a campground months in advance. By the time we started checking availability, almost everything was booked. We decided it made more sense to stay in Merced (about an hour outside Yosemite). It would have been great to wake up in nature, but having Starbucks for early mornings and In-n-Out burger to refuel after a long day of hiking worked out well for us

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  • Bridalviel Falls: When we visited in mid-June, the falls were already a mere trickle. It’s a quick (
  • The Valley floor gets mixed reviews, some people say it’s overrun with tourists and too commercial. While these things are true, it’s also part of what made Yosemite so famous to begin with and worth checking out to see Upper & Lower Yosemite falls, as well as Mirror Lake. And, if you’re an Ansel Adams fan, spend five minutes admiring the photo collection that’s taken home here, the shots are stunning
  • Lower Yosemite FallsThe shuttle stops directly at the Lower Yosemite Falls and it’s an easy walk to the base (you’ll also see Upper Yosemite Falls). When we visited, the falls were flowing but we were still able to climb a few dozen rocks at the base to get closer. If you’re trying to save time, get on a bus from the visitor’s parking lot and take it to stop number 6 to walk the trail out to see these falls.

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  • Mirror Lake has to be the definition of serenity. Even though it was a relaxing hike, if I’m at Yosemite again, I’ll probably opt to do Taft Point- a slightly longer hike, but unparalleled views

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  • Glacier Point is, in one word, breathtaking. Half Dome is spectacular and so are the views of Yosemite Valley, Bridalveil Fall and El-Capitan. We ended our day with a drive to the lookout

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  • Bonus recommendation: We opted not to see Mariposa Grove after spending a few days in the Redwood National and State Parks on our road trip, but I hope I’m able to stand face to face with the giant Sequoias in Yosemite someday

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Weekend Getaway: Wine Country

Drinking long islands and other fruity cocktail concoctions through college, I didn’t realize how much I liked wine until my first visit to Napa and Sonoma three years ago.

My first visit to wine country felt intimidating- so many wineries! According to Lonely Planet, there are over 600 wineries in Napa and Sonoma Counties. But it’s quality, not quantity, that sets the region apart – especially in Napa, which competes with France and doubles as an outpost of San Francisco’s top-end culinary scene. Sonoma prides itself on agricultural diversity, with you-pick-em orchards and roadside fruit stands.

Fortunately, one of my girlfriends has grown to love wine as much as me, and every year we plan a weekend back to the region. Rolling hills, blue skies and vineyards as far as the eye can see make California’s wine country a relaxing and fun weekend getaway.

Favorite spots in Napa & Sonoma

Wineries

  • Domaine Carneros: Every day in wine country should start with a sparkling flight on a vineyard’s patio. Domaine Carneros is known for its small-production Sparkling & Pinot Noir wines. Coming here for a tasting is an incredible way to start the day- top-notch sparkling wine on a beautiful terrace with vineyard views

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  • Mumm Napa: Another good option for starting your day with a sparkling wine flight. The back patio is smaller than the terrace at Domaine, but its views are beautiful too

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  • V. Sattui As family friendly as a large winery can get. This place is our favorite and we usually stop by twice if we’re staying in wine country for the entire weekend. More than just a winery, there’s a marketplace and cheese shop, where you can buy all the supplies you need for a picnic outside the winery. If a lazy, afternoon picnic in the shade with fresh bread, lots of cheese and olives is your thing, this is the place to be

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  • Sterling Vineyards: Your tour starts with a tram ride to the top of the winery. The view of the valley is incredible from the hilltop, and you learn about how the wine is made as you walk through the winery for a tasting. All in all, a pretty cool experience. Sterling usually offers a $5 coupon on their Facebook page, check to see if it’s available before you visit

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  • Castello di AmorosaGorgeous castle winery. The tour takes you from the vineyards to the torture chamber to the tasting room

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  • Burgess Cellars: If you like reds, this place must be on your visit list. Tastings are private and by appointment only, but the pours are generous
  • Kendall-Jackson Estate: Wine & cheese o’clock, anyone? Beautiful grounds coupled with great tasting options, try the wine & cheese

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  • Peju Province: Stop here if you’re at V. Sattui, it’s next door and and one of the last wineries to close for the afternoon in the area
  • Stonestreet Winery: Beautiful tasting views, worth the stop if you’re nearby
  • Swanson Vineyards: This place is the cutest. Adorable atmosphere to sit for a bit and relax with a tasting and beautiful vineyard view
  • Joseph Phelps: Tasting on a terrace with legendary cabernets. Easily some of the best wines and views in St. Helena

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Restaurants

  • Whole Foods: If you’re starting your day with a tasting, it’s important to fuel up before you head out. Whole Foods’ breakfast bar is a good pick for quick, healthy eats
  • Fremont Diner: Definition of a hidden gem. Cute, rustic atmosphere with great food. Order the grilled cheese and chicken & waffles, and eat outside with the chickens

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  • Bouchon Bakery: Perfect spot for a morning pastry and mid-afternoon baguette break
  • Jimtown Store: Cute shop with delicious sandwiches
  • Uva Trattoria: Amazing Italian food, perfect for dinner after a day spent winery hopping. We ordered the handmade gnocchi with a Gorgonzola reduction and couldn’t stop gushing about how good it was
  • Carpe Diem Wine Bar: Great place to stop for dessert and a final glass of wine before ending the night

 

Extra Know Before You Go Info

  • Play it safe: Depending on where you decide to stop, it’s easily 10-30 minutes driving from winery to winery. If you’re going to be driving around all day, have a designated driver or consider splitting/alternating tastings to ensure you have a fun, safe time. And, remember- you don’t need to finish the entire pour!
    • If you’re visiting wine country with a group of people, I’d recommend hiring a driver to take you from winery to winery so you can relax and have fun
  • Do your research: Some wineries in the region only offer tastings through appointment, and operating hours are different at every winery. Sometimes, being spontaneous is fun but to avoid going out of your way or wasting time, pick 2-3 wineries you’d like to visit each day and call ahead to see how their tasting procedure works
  • Budget accordingly: Tastings are expensive in wine country, with an average one costing $15-30. To help avoid racking up an unexpected bill, set a tasting budget and figure out which wineries are in your price range. We normally mix two nicer tastings with a few $15-20 ones to help balance cost
  • Pack snacks: There are great places to eat in Napa & Sonoma, but if you’re driving around all day, it’s undeniable you’re going to get hungry. We usually pack a cooler with water and light snacks from Trader Joe’s before heading out

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24 Hours in Big Sur

Big Sur is a dose of paradise. On a trip to San Francisco with one of my girlfriends two years ago, we decided to spend a day driving down the California coast. One day is not nearly enough time in Big Sur, and spending a long weekend driving down the coast and hiking trails is on my list of things to do someday.

Since we only had one day, we decided to make the most of it. We left San Francisco early in the morning and drove down Highway 1 as the fog started to lift off the bluffs.

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A rugged stretch of California coastline, Big Sur is a magical place. Home to hikes that’ll take your breath away, it’s quite the experience.

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Rolling mountains and ocean bluffs- driving Highway 1 with your windows down is the epitome of awe-inspiring.

Favorite Stops Southbound on Highway 1:

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Pro-tip: If you’re going to drive through Big Sur, plan your route and stops ahead of time. Cell service is scare throughout Highway 1.

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Tips for Running a Disney Race

Some people may think dressing in character and running around Disney is silly, but as Walt said, “That’s the real trouble with the world. Too many people grow up.”

Plus, the best reason to do a Disney race? Visiting the parks afterwards!

Running a Disney race is unlike a typical road race. I’ve done quite a few Disney races and can tell you first hand, they’re all about the experience.

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How Disney races I’ve run have stacked up for me: 

  • Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend: I did the 10k and half marathon in 2016, and ran the full marathon in 2014. The marathon experience was great and served as a catalyst for me getting back into running Disney events. However, while I liked these races, they didn’t hold the same magic as my favorite runDisney event does- the Princess Half
  • Tinkerbell Half Marathon Weekend: Held on Mother’s Day in 2015, I enjoyed running  with other runners dressed as princesses or fairies. However, I did enjoy the 2014 Disneyland Half Marathon course more- it felt like we were in the parks longer and we ran through the Angels stadium. Overall, I’m hesitant to do another Disney race in California because travel costs are higher than in Florida (cross-country plane ticket, fewer resort/hotel options, crowding more people into a smaller space, etc.)
  • Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend: Ran the half in August 2014 and really enjoyed the experience. Loved the course at the time, not sure if it’s still the same, but there’s also something to be said for the level of support from the town of Anaheim- really motivating!
  • Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend: I did this race in 2015 when severe weather cut the course short by 6 miles and resulted in some pretty frustrating organization issues. While we didn’t get to run the half distance, the after-party at the Wine & Dine Food Festival was still a lot of fun. I’d give this race another chance- it feels less “Disney” than some of the other themed runs, but it’s fun in its own way. And, you can’t beat a race that ends with wine and food bites from around the world!
  • Princess Half Marathon Weekend: After running the half marathon for the first time in 2012, doing the Glass Slipper Challenge in 2015, and running the half again in 2017, I can honestly say this Disney race is my favorite. The course goes through the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, and there may be a lot of highway in between, but there’s also a lot of spirit from other runners and Disney’s entertainment. Also, I loooove that so many people dress up as the different princesses for this event (including men in tutus!)
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10 Miler: Sadly this nighttime run through Walt Disney World, ending in Hollywood Studios with a villain themed after-party is no longer offered. If it was, I’d definitely recommend doing it- I ran it in 2014 and loved the experience
  • The Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend & Disneyland Paris Half Marathon are both on my list of races I’d like to do in the next two years

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Tips for Running a Disney Race:

  1. Choosing to run a Disney race is really about expectation setting. When you look at runDisney’s site, it’s easy to get caught up in what your experience will be like: Pictures of runners high-fiving characters, confetti tossed at the finish line. The truth: Unless you’re the first to finish, it’s going to be just like any other race finish, and there will likely be lines to take a photo with characters. Don’t expect it to be a perfect experience. Go into it with the mindset of having fun.
  2. Plan early, entry feels go on sale 6-8 months before the races and usually sell out within hours or days. The Disneyland Half Marathon weekend sold out in a single day, and the Princess Half Marathon has been known to sell out in hours. Registration fees are also pricey, so start saving early.
  3. Most Disney races start early (5 am), so I recommend staying at a host resort or a good neighbor hotel the night before the race. WDW provides buses to the start line/from the finish line back to the hotel, so it’s one less thing you need to worry about. At my first Disney race, I stayed with friends in Orlando and tried driving to the start. My friends live 20 minutes from Disney and we sat in traffic for almost 2 hours on the way there.
  4. Whether it’s your first race or ninth, take advantage of the training plans Disney offers.
  5. If you’re flying, pack your running gear in a carry-on bag so you have it when you land.
  6. Since Disney races start so early, it’s often chilly at the start line. Bring warm clothes (garbage bags work well) to take off when you start running. Disney donates clothes left behind to charity.
  7. Experience is what sets a Disney race apart. Yes, you’ll likely pay a lot of money in registration and travel fees (not to mention cost for hotels or time spent in the parks), but the expos are some of the best I’ve ever attended, the medals are beautiful and t-shirts are top quality. There’s also great on-course entertainment, and something to be said for the level of organization throughout (it’s top-notch).
  8. Wear a costume or at least a fun running outfit. Trust me, everyone runs in tutus or dressed as characters. Pinterest is go-to for inspiration, but I like this Etsy shop for ordering character skirts, this Etsy shop for custom mouse ears, and this store for wings/sparkling skirts.
  9. Try to get to the expo on the first day it’s open. They’re great expos, but usually pretty crowded and official race merchandise sells out quickly.
  10. If you’re checking a bag at the race, dry socks and a shirt change can make the post-race experience much more enjoyable (especially if you’re running one of the nighttime races and going to the after-party).
  11. Take pictures with the course characters. Make sure you have your phone and camera ready, stay charged throughout the race with a back-up battery.
  12. Spend some time at the finish line– Disney provides water, Powerade and a box of snacks. There are also fun photo opps with characters.
  13. More so than at other races, Disney runners are so encouraging. My first half marathon was the Disney Princess half in 2012. Around mile 9, I just wanted to sit down and give up. The runners around me wouldn’t let that happen. Even though I didn’t know any of them, they challenged me to run with them when I slowed to a walk.
  14. Don’t forget your confidence. When in doubt, I always tell myself: The voice in your head that says you can’t do this is a LIAR.
  15. Obviously, you’ll be bringing a photo ID and running clothes/shoes, but there are a few other things I bring to every race: energy gels (obsessed with these salted caramel gels); hydration belt; mini foam roller; headphones, sunscreen, chapstick; flip flops to change into post-race.