If you aren’t thinking about where to go for spring break yet, you should be. It’s almost time to embark on a little post-winter, pre-spring getaway. Even I’m going somewhere this year! My trip will be a drive down to Missouri to visit family but it will still be a nice little escape from everyday life. Being someone who doesn’t particularly like crowds, I can understand why most people avoid spring break. There are drunk, obnoxious, college kids everywhere and what you’re looking for is much more relaxing. With that in mind, I’ve put together a couple of destinations so that you can get in a memorable spring break without the insanity of...well...spring break!Read More
Before diving head first into the holiday season, plan a quick getaway to relax and enjoy the final weeks of the season. It seems that most of the US had a somewhat late summer this year which means the fall leaves are appearing and sticking around later than usual. Thanksgiving is a month away and it starts the insanity that is the holiday season, but not if you start preparing now! In the meantime, give yourself a break by taking a quick trip away from everyday life. These five destinations have a mix of warmer and colder fall weather but each is a strong contender in its own right. From New England to California, whether you have a regular weekend or a long weekend, these are worth a fall getaway…Read More
Normally when people think about taking a vacation, there’s a beach involved, a few margaritas and plenty of sunshine. Me? I hibernate until fall comes around and then get my jetsetter on. Walking around and exploring all day long isn’t the same when you’re sweating through your clothes and unbearably warm. Beach destinations are fantastic if your main plans include laying in the sand all day but when you have an itinerary, it’s much more enjoyable if you can walk around for more than ten minutes without wanting to strip down on the sidewalk. I seem to be of the rare breed that prefers cooler temperatures for comfort. If you want to do some traveling over these next few warmer months but prefer not to be sweltering (like me), these destinations are just the ticket.
When in doubt, go north. Summer in Alaska is much more tolerable than summer in any part of the continental states. Alaska offers a lot of different options too. From big city experiences to getting in touch with nature, Alaska has it all and with great weather too. Get an urban experience with plenty of culture and activities in Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, or Juneau, the capital. Venture to Glacier Bay National Park for a rare glimpse at nature in all its wonder with humpback whales, sea lions, bald eagles and more. Get a taste of the Gold Rush with small historic towns like Sitka, also known for its moment of fame in The Proposal. Experience early settlements left behind from Native American and Russian cultures or venture to parts of Alaska that are still home to natives. Bethel in Southwest Alaska, is home to dozens of Native Alaskan villages making it an incredible experience for those who appreciate a cultural immersion.
On the opposite end of the planet for us living in the northern hemisphere, Argentina is experiencing winter during our summertime but don’t let that stop you from visiting! Winter in Argentina, unless you head up into the Andes, tends to average from the mid-50s to mid-60s. It’s beautiful weather for exploring and drinking in as much of the country as you can. An obvious destination to visit is Buenos Aires, also known as the “Paris of South America.” This city has everything you can think of from sidewalk cafes to historical and architectural sites. All you wine lovers, add Mendoza to your summer travel list. Boasting temperatures in the 60s, this city is known for its vineyards and wineries but more specifically, its Malbec. Think of it as the Sonoma of Argentina. Enough to keep busy but casual beyond belief.
Oh, New Zealand. The country I almost fled to after the last election with real life hobbit holes and gorgeous panoramas. While many of us are experiencing scorching summer heat, New Zealand is in the thick of their winter which has temperature highs ranging from the 50s to 60s. And if you haven’t caught on yet, this is perfect travel weather in my opinion. For all you nature lovers, New Zealand is a prime location to travel to being one of the best hiking destinations in the world. Wander along one of their beaches or tackle one of the many “Great Walks.” They have an option for every skill level, even the amateurs like me! Foodies can rejoice in the burgeoning culinary boom in Auckland, Wellington and Napier plus, the coffee scene is darn good as well. And let’s not forget the #1 reason to travel to New Zealand...the hobbit holes. For any of you Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogy nerds (fellow fans of mine), you may be familiar with New Zealand as the filming location for these epic films. Visit The Shire, take a tour, or even stay in a Hobbit Hole! It’s the most amazing thing ever and 100% on my bucket list.
Known for having the best weather year-round, San Francisco is one of those places that’s good to visit any time of year. While it’s not particularly cool, average temperatures throughout the summertime range from the mid 60s to low 70s and you know it’s always breezy! San Francisco is actually the warmest in the late summer/early fall, perfect if you want to enter the warmth of sunny Napa Valley or Sonoma for a weekend wine tasting during harvest season. Don’t miss these favorite sights to see, grab a little soul food or great cappuccino, and prepare yourself for the insane hills. Not quite sure where to start? Check out our Quick Guide to San Francisco.
You don't have to worry about sweltering during the summertime in Scotland! With temperatures averaging in the 60s, Scotland has beautiful summer days with elongated sunsets. Scotland may be of the smaller countries in the United Kingdom but it is jam packed with natural habitats, historical sites, castles that are hundreds of years old, and tons of culture. It’s a place that will adopt you as a local rather fast because you’re immersed from the second you arrive to the second you leave. Visit a distillery for some of the best whiskey you’ll ever sip and don’t miss the chance for a real pub meal. Not only will it save you money, but you’ll get a feel for what the locals prefer to chow down on. Finally, if you’re not planning on staying in one place, consider taking a train ride as they’re known for exceptional rail routes and scenery. The West Highland Railway Line might be the most popular but there are others as well.
There are quite a few fantastic places to visit in the summer if you’re looking to avoid the heat. Heading to the southern hemisphere is a great option as long as you’re not close to the equator and heading north is also a pretty good bet. Scandinavian and Nordic countries are a pretty good option with average high temperatures for Finland, Greenland and Iceland ranging from the 50s to 70s.
So tell me in the comments below, do you prefer to cool off in the summer or embrace the heat?
Solo travel is one of the most rewarding experiences. It’s a chance for self-discovery, adventure and getting out of your comfort zone. It’s a true test of character and resilience. You learn just as much about yourself as the culture of the destination you’re visiting. It’s an experience everyone should have at least once but something I know I try to make a regular occurrence. One of the biggest questions that I’ve been asked since my first trip is about safety. As a woman, it can be scary and intimidating to travel alone, especially in the world we live in today. While I can’t guarantee that every experience will be a positive one, I can guarantee that every experience will be a memorable one and will enrich your life in one way or another.
Each city has its own pros and cons. These factors include walkability, number of activities, friendliness of the people, etc. As a solo traveler, I prefer visiting destinations that have good walkability. I’d rather not rent a car and I’d ideally like to be able to get around as easy as possible. Public transportation is something I can figure out pretty quick so I’m not above using it when it’s available. Every other part of choosing a destination is personal to you. What are you looking to get out of your trip? What are you interested in? And what you do want to take away from it? I can’t help you there but I can share a few recommendations for first time solo travelers. These destinations also keep women in mind. I’ve personally visited all but two of these cities and I was by myself for each of them. The others come from lots of research and strong recommendations from fellow travelers.
These cities are organized alphabetically but Boston is by far my favorite on this list. As far as stateside travel goes, Boston will mostly likely always take the cake. Boston is a fantastic food city. Zagat and The Daily Meal have both recently included it in lists sharing the best food cities across America. It is a history buff’s dream city. It takes you back in time walking down the street. From trendy neighborhoods like Beacon Hill to quick trips across the river to Cambridge, the entire city is one giant adventure just waiting to be had. Don’t miss the Boston Common, grabbing a slice of pizza or a cannoli in the North End, and walking through a Harry Potter-esque, early Gilmore Girls dream come true on the Harvard Campus.
Chicago is one of those cities that gets a bad rep from the media but doesn’t deserve it. It’s a beautiful city with tons of history, stunning architecture and an endless number of things to do. Bon Appetit even named it the Restaurant City of the Year in 2017 which was a mere three months ago. The culinary scene is without question one of the best and most exciting in the US and it’s constantly evolving. There are plenty of craft coffee shops to visit in every neighborhood and our obsession with donuts can be found in too many specialty donut shops. We have some of the best museums...did you know that the Art Institute of Chicago has the second largest collection of impressionist art in the world, only second to the D’Orsay in Paris? And we’re set to receive the biggest dinosaur ever discovered at the Field Museum very soon. Not to mention, Chicago is a walkable city, the public transportation is not hard to navigate at all and the people (I’ve been told) are friendly. We might be freezing cold for several months out of the year but if you catch us in a good month, especially during fall, you won’t regret the experience at all.
There are a lot of great places to visit in Colorado near the Denver area. Boulder is a fantastic city, there are several towns in the mountains that are great to visit. Denver is easy to access and it’s great for exploring by yourself though. It’s walkable, public transportation is easy to navigate and there’s plenty to do. One of the things that I feel is less known about Denver is the amount of graffiti art it has. The art scene is huge in general but it’s fun to walk around and see the designs. Denver also has suprisingly nice weather. For non-locals, Denver seems like it would always be snowed in and cold. It’s actually a somewhat mild climate with a few bad weather days. I’d say that those are pretty good odds for a successful trip.
Madison is a gorgeous city to visit any time of the year. The University of Wisconsin - Madison campus draws plenty of visitors and has become known as one of the most beautiful in the country. If you’re one of the many who prefers to discover destinations by foot, Madison has a unique bicycle program that makes covering a lot of ground easy and endless trails to explore as well. Madison has a food scene supported and inspired by locality. For example, a lot of the beers you’ll find at restaurants and bars you’ll only find in Wisconsin because they keep to a local business code. The lake views are gorgeous photo opportunities and if you visit in warmer months, the lake is a hotbed of water sports. If you don’t believe me when it comes to Madison, believe my cousin who moved there for college and never looked back...and also this article from Travel + Leisure.
San Antonio, TX
San Antonio is a surprisingly amazing city. I’m not sure what most people expect when it comes to San Antonio but for myself, I didn’t have any expectations. All I knew was that there was this riverwalk everyone talked about and that the Alamo was here. Little did I know that it feels like a tropical escape, the riverwalk is absolutely stunning and there is a load of things to do. Just the riverwalk alone can take up your time for days. There are a multitude of restaurants, shops, and activities from live music to historical monuments. The riverwalk has a water taxi that takes you along the majority of the city’s most popular destinations including the Pearl District, an ex-brewery turned multi-purpose establishment with a hotel, restaurants, shopping, residences, and more.
San Francisco, CA
San Francisco was the first city that I traveled to alone. It was my first trip after starting my freelance career and more circumstantial than anything since a friend of mine was getting married out there. I organized a three week trip - two weeks visiting family in Dallas and five days in San Francisco. San Francisco, while not my favorite place I’ve visited, is easy to navigate (if you don’t include the thigh killing hills) and there is plenty to occupy your time with. From gorgeous parks to interesting neighborhoods, ferry rides to abandoned prisons and day trips to wine country, there’s something for every interest. Lots of shopping, plenty of restaurants to try, you name it. Don’t miss the opportunity to ride a traditional trolly or get a beautiful shot of the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s also worth it to mention that the weather is perfect year round so packing for San Francisco is a breeze.
Seattle is one of those cities that’s always been on my radar thanks to Nirvana, Sleepless in Seattle, Starbucks and Grey’s Anatomy. The home of grunge rock, too much rain and plenty of fish markets, Seattle is a city I keep hearing about which makes me want to buy a plane ticket now. I mean, my own personal list of things I want to do in Seattle is pretty long. Visit the high school where 10 Things I Hate About You was filmed, go see a few live music performances, go to a vineyard and winery, sit in a coffee shop and pretend I’m having coffee with Frasier, Niles and Daphne, visit the original Starbucks, visit Pike Place Market, and there’s more. Seattle saw the birth of an entire genre of music which also happens to be one of my favorites. Not to mention, the cloudy days would not bother this girl one bit. For you first time solo travelers, I’ve been told Seattle has really friendly locals. That’s always a plus…
Washington DC is one of those places that is so approachable even schools send groups of students there for special trips. That’s actually how I discovered Washington DC for the first time - on an 8th grade trip. 12 years later, I returned for a 10-day visit after five days in Boston. Seeing the nation’s capital as a 25 year old as opposed to a 13 year old was a really interesting experience. DC is great for solo travel because there is an endless list of things to do, it’s a walkable city with easy to navigate public transportation, and because it’s such a high-tourist destination, the people almost expect you to approach them with a question. It’s friendly, welcoming and you certainly won’t be bored!
Even if you don’t think that solo travel is for you, I encourage you to try at least one trip. Make it a city you’ve already been to so it’s not a completely new experience. Imagine a trip where you don’t have to think about what anyone else wants to do or when they want to do it. The only opinion that counts is yours. If you want to stroll around aimlessly one day and pack in a full schedule of activities the next, you can! If you want to change your mind last minute about what restaurant you’re heading to for dinner, do it! That’s the best part of traveling solo. The only person you need to consider the entire time is yourself. When was the last time you were able to do that?
Fall is my favorite time to travel. The weather is at its best and depending on where you go, prices can be more affordable than usual. For example, I bought a round-trip flight from Chicago to Dallas to San Francisco and back to Chicago for under $200. I’m not making that up either, it was a steal! My travel time is typically from October to April, breaking during the holiday season. Fall and spring are ideal for traveling in the north and winter is perfect to visit the south. I love putting together mini guides of sorts sharing where to travel when, where to travel for certain things, etc. Today, we’re going with three great cities to visit in the fall. While this list could be endless, I’m tailoring it down to a few places that have made an impact on me during this time of year. Keep reading to find out why.
This is probably not a hard sell for the fall season. The New England area in general is known for spectacular fall colors and Halloween celebrations. It’s a dream of mine to make it to Salem close to Halloween and take a trip throughout the entire Northeastern region but baby steps. Boston is a city where you can feel the history and age. From the cobblestone and brick streets to the century-old buildings, it’s the closest you can get to Revolutionary and pre-Revolutionary times. Each road, each building and each neighborhood has a special story waiting to be discovered. Add the chilly, cloudy fall weather and colored leaves, it’s a magical experience. While I recommend everyone to visit Boston at least once in their lifetime, I recommend even more visiting at least once in the fall.
Maybe not the most obvious choice for a fall trip but one worth mentioning. I visit the Dallas-Fort Worth area every year, usually in the fall. I’ll arrive sometime close to Halloween and stay through mid-November. The best of Chicago’s fall is just about ending by the time I leave and Dallas’ fall is starting to begin. It means I get an extended fall each year, something I’m not mad about. Texas doesn’t get as chilly as the north during fall but it can get cool enough to wear cute sweaters and boots. You’ll also get treated to a few trees turning colors. Like the rest of the south, Texas is unbearably hot for at least 4-5 months out of the year. The weather in fall is sunny, breezy and beautiful. It’s the best time, in my humble opinion, to visit the state. There’s also a decent-sized wine country so fall also means harvest season! How can you resist celebrating a grape harvest?
What to Do:
Take the free trolley along McKinney Avenue to see some of the Dallas neighborhoods or simply walk
Grab a burger at Village Burger Bar
Visit Grapevine! Later in November, all of the decorations are out for Christmas.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA
San Francisco has gorgeous weather year round but it's also within driving distance of Napa Valley and Sonoma, the US’s favorite wine country. The city of San Francisco itself has plenty to offer in the fall and any time of year. The Presidio is one site in particular beautiful to visit in the fall. For those who love the sunshine and want to soak up every last minute of it, San Francisco is your friend. Go for a hike, enjoy one of the many parks or stroll along the ridiculously hilly streets. Venture outside of San Francisco for the Muir Woods, Yosemite Park, Montery or Carmel. California might not have a traditional fall experience but the northern region provides a spectacular one nonetheless.
Happy International Coffee Day! If you haven’t figured it out already, coffee is the main attraction around here. Without it, I’d probably resemble something that walks out of the gates of Mordor each day in both physical appearance and behavior. Work would not get done, conversations wouldn’t be had and sanity would definitely be lost. If you caught a few of my latest Instagram stories, you’d know that I’m dealing with a malfunctioning Keurig at the moment. Let’s just say, mornings have gotten a little extra strenuous managing a French Press and I have greatly increased my Starbucks spending habit. I know...pathetic. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta to for a good cup of the strong stuff. That’s all I’m going to say.
Back to International Coffee Day though. To celebrate this glorious food holiday, I’m sharing my favorite spots to grab coffee from each coffee guide that has been on the site as well as a few recipes you can make in the comfort of your own home. Once you’ve browsed through, tell me in the comments below where your favorite place to grab a cup of the good stuff is and what your favorite coffee beverage is!
Downtown + River North Neighborhoods: While I love all the coffee shops in this guide, Two Zero Three is my favorite. It has a prime location in the Virgin Hotel and I can always count on a spot to sit and trusty internet to use. The drinks are great, the music not too loud and the ambiance perfect for getting things done.
Logan Square Neighborhood: This was a tough one. Gaslight has the best grilled cheese and tomato soup combo I’ve ever had plus the space is hip making me feel like one of the cool kids. But since it’s International Coffee Day, I’m going to have to go with Brew Brew Coffee Lounge on Diversey. They serve up great espresso drinks and it’s particularly charming during the holiday season.
South Loop Neighborhood: This neighborhood is continuing to grow and change which makes it so exciting. Our list of coffee shops for the South Loop might be small but I have no doubt it will continue to grow over time. With that said, Overflow is our top pick. There’s a ton of seating making it the ultimate remote office location. They have good internet and tasty coffee drinks including seasonal options.
West Loop + Ukrainian Village Neighborhoods: Considering the West Loop is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Chicago right now, it should be obvious my #1 pick would be from this area. Sawada Coffee gets the top spot for originality, location, vibe and caffeinated beverages. I had one of the best lattes of my life in this coffee shop and the space is so fun. From the graffiti door to industrial, loft-style space, it’s one of the more unique coffee shops I’ve been to and especially one of the more laid back.
Beacon Hill: Anytime I visit Boston, Tatte Bakery & Cafe will be on my list of spots to visit. The Charles Street location feels like it could be a second home with how welcoming the atmosphere is. And while this might not be coffee, they have Belgian Hot Chocolate that is to die for. Besides that, it’s in my favorite Boston neighborhood.
Cambridge: Crema Cafe on Brattle Street is a local hot spot. It makes sense since they know how to brew a good cup o’Joe. This two-level space has tons of seating but it doesn’t matter because it fills up quick! Don’t be surprised if you need to share a bistro table with a stranger. I did but I had a wonderful conversation with two New England natives.
North End: Also know as Boston’s Italian neighborhood, it’s no doubt this part of town knows how to make a good cup of coffee. Thinking Cup on Hanover Street is one of the larger coffee shops I’ve ever been in. Extending way back, there is plenty of seating and a full menu making it a great location when you have a full day’s work ahead of you.
Jane on Larkin will always hold a special place for me when it comes to San Francisco. Serving up a bomb cappuccino and quiche, this corner coffee shop is everything you’d expect in San Fran. It has an urban yet chic vibe but isn’t stuffy. It’s not a large space but there is a bit of room to sit down and get work done. It became my home away from home for a few days.
Dallas: This is a tough one thanks to the Bishop Arts District which was so much fun to explore. The winner here is Sip | Stir Cafe in Uptown. What quickly became my favorite neighborhood in the city, it’s an urban spot that’s also casual which I love. There’s also tons of seating both inside and outside and good internet which is something that’s important to me.
Fort Worth: BREWED will always be one of my favorite spots to visit along Magnolia Street. It’s a coffee shop, a brunch spot, a bar, a patio, a live music scene. The food is great, the drinks better and it’s always a great time.
For those of you interested in making your own caffeinated beverage at home, check out these seasonal coffee recipes as well! Happy International Coffee Day!
Visiting Napa Valley involves a lot of driving around. It doesn't matter if you're staying somewhere else and planning a day trip or spending it all in the valley. Chances are you'll have at least a 10-15 minute car ride to your next destination. Always prepared on the music front, I've put together a playlist for your Napa Valley adventures. It's not hard to get creative musically for a Napa trip. The amount of songs about wine or champagne are endless. I chose a few favorites for your listening pleasure.
Napa is classy so I tried to keep it that way but I won't deny a few guilty pleasures. You'll find songs from classics like Nina Simone and Billy Joel to chart toppers like Nick Jonas and Meghan Trainor. There's also a 90s throwback with UB-40's "Red, Red Wine." Remember that one? I also did a little digging and found a few songs that I wasn't expecting like "Killer Queen." Never one to stay in the box, I squeezed in a few songs that might not be wine related but felt natural for a Napa road trip. There are a lot of love songs because apparently wine and love are not mutually exclusive. But there are also some surprising, upbeat numbers. All Time Low and Fall Out Boy made the list as well as Ne-Yo, Nas & Amy Winehouse and Hozier. Don't be surprised to find a few country songs in there too. How can anyone resist "Strawberry Wine" by Deanna Carter. That's one of my favorite country songs of all time.
I felt very relaxed and comfortable in Napa. It felt as if it were an extension of Europe and I've been missing it terribly lately. I tapped into that nostalgia to create this playlist putting care into the vibe. It embraces mood swings from zen to ready to party. It's great road trip music, at least I think so, and might even get you through a little bit of your workday. Since I've put this playlist together, I've gotten so much work done that it might become my new favorite.
One day in Napa Valley isn't enough time to enjoy everything this slice of heaven has to offer. From fairy tale estates to infinite rows of vines and a bright, warm sun, it's hard to believe Napa is real. It took less than an hour for me to fall in love. One day, one tour, four tastings and one meal. Three vineyards, four wineries, one old friend and many new friends. Maybe it was the people I shared this experience with or maybe Napa has a magical quality that draws you in making you want more. I can't say for certain but what I can definitely guarantee is that I will be returning and for much longer than a day. When I make it back, these are on the top of my list of things to do.
Visit St. Helena
Driving through the valley, we passed this romantic, quaint town that I instantly fell in love with. After doing a little research, I discovered that St. Helena is one of the more popular towns within the valley. Locally owned shops and restaurants dominate main street. Local wineries and vineyards provide the best of the best wine for tastings, pairings and simply just sipping. What's most intriguing are the gorgeous bed and breakfasts and boutique inns. Why stay in a hotel when you can stay in a mansion that feels like home but even better?
Attend A Wine Pairing Dinner
Tasting wine is fun on its own but dinners with specifically designed tastings are even better. The people who put these events together know what they are doing which makes the end result nothing short of spectacular. There are seasonal pairings, themed pairings, specialty pairings. It's the ultimate foodie and vino experience.
Visit Historical Wineries/Take A Historical Wine Tour
There are several wineries in Napa Valley that have a strong history. V. Sattui is one with a long, rich family history. One on my list is Chateau Montelena at a whopping 132 years old and known for winning the Judgement in Paris for its Chardonnay in 1976. Among many others, I'd also like to experience Schramsberg Vineyards. Over 150 years old, this winery is known for its sparkling wines and features a cave tour.
Take a Spa Day
Of all the things to do in Wine Country, USA, you wouldn't think a spa day would be one of them. I think this is an ideal place to relax and treat yourself to a little TLC, especially on your last day. Detox from all the wine and food tasting, relax those muscles from days of walking around and treat your body so that when you return home, you're feeling ten times better than when you left. Napa Valley's travel website has a guide to the best spas with local insider tips.
Take Part In Harvest Season
Harvest season is a special time of year anywhere that has vineyards. It's a time of prosperity and celebration. There are plenty of opportunities all over the world to experience the wonderful world of harvest season and Napa Valley is one. Some places allow you to volunteer your time, others will pay you and most offer celebrations for the locals and tourists to enjoy together. That's where you'll normally find grape-stomping activities.
Experience The Judgement Of Paris
The Judgement of Paris was a wine competition in Paris in 1976. French judges blind tasted wines from France and California and chose the best of Chardonnays and red wines. It was a big deal because France was believed to have the best of all the wines and California won many of the awards. Many of the wineries and vineyards that participated in this competition are still in business. I'd love to go on a tour of them and see what had the French all flustered.