5-Day Itinerary to Washington DC

Five days is the perfect amount of time to soak up Washington DC. Museums alone could fill that but having a longer visit leaves room for day trips and taking your time. DC has plenty to offer from historical sites and buildings to restaurants and shopping. Regardless of your interests, there's something for everyone. Having spent quite some time in DC, I've put together an itinerary for a 5-day trip that includes everything from sightseeing to day trips. Grab a pen for notes, and keep reading…

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5 Reasons to Visit Amboise, France

Have you ever been somewhere that makes you feel like you’re walking in a real life fairytale? That’s exactly how I felt as we pulled into Amboise, France, a small medieval town in the Loire Valley. The final home of Leonardo da Vinci and home to  Château Royal d’Amboise, it’s as if you’re walking in the real life version of Beauty & the Beast. The people are friendly, the food is outstanding and if the walls could talk...it would be a hard to top history lesson. About 140 miles outside of Paris, Amboise is one of many stops to make throughout the Loire Valley and believe me when I say - there are many. Known for the highest concentration of chateaus in the world, the Loire Valley is one of France’s largest wine producing regions, especially white wine and sparkling wine (not to be confused with Champagne which can only be made in the region of the same name). While Amboise is not the only town I suggest for a visit in the Loire Valley, it is one of my favorites. If I haven’t convinced you yet, here are five reasons why you should visit Amboise....

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1 - The History. Amboise has seen much of history from being the home of kings and hosting notable historical figures to being the epicenter of religious turmoil. It’s been used as a place of celebration and a place of incarceration. It’s amazing to realize how much this town has been through over centuries - like I said, if the walls could talk I could only imagine what they’d say. Amboise also served as a fortress during its long life. Because of this, there are underground passageways which offer a unique look back into history. Lucky for us, these tunnels as well as the towers within the fortress are accessible through special tours. The town and château  especially was nearly destroyed during the French Revolution. After being returned to the heirs of Louis Philippe in the late 19th century, the  château went under a complete restoration only to be damaged once again during World War II during the German invasion. Restorations took place for the final time after the war and are now kept by a local organization. Today, Amboise still maintains its Renaissance charm which is what gives it such a fairy tale-like character that seems at times, unreal.

🎶 “Little town…it’s a quiet village…” 🎶

🎶 “Little town…it’s a quiet village…” 🎶

2 - Château Royal d’Amboise is breathtaking inside and out. The château is smaller in size compared to many others but the quaint size is what makes it so charming. Amboise has seen its fair share of neglect but it’s always been rebuilt and today, it shares a window to the past so that we might understand what life was like throughout the centuries that came before us. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, there is much to see at Château Royal d’Amboise. For starters, Leonardo da Vinci is buried in Saint-Hubert’s Chapel which sits atop the castle gardens. For anyone who adores Renaissance art and the great minds from that generation, this is an absolute must. The rooms inside the chateau have been returned to their former glory when royalty made it their home. The gardens that sit on top of the château overlook the town and the valley for some of the best views you’ll find in the Loire.

View from the gardens atop Château Royal d’Amboise

View from the gardens atop Château Royal d’Amboise

3 - Château du Clos Lucé was the final home of Leonardo da Vinci. He lived here for the final three years of his life with a select few students and it is now a museum dedicated to his life and work. Located just outside the town’s borders, Clos Lucé holds many of Leonardo's unfinished work as well as finished pieces and drawings of ideas and inventions he had not yet gotten to. Clos Lucé was originally built by the Amboise family who the town was named after in the 15th Century. It later became a summer home of the Kings of France which is how it came to be da Vinci’s final home. King Francis I admired da Vinci and asked him to be the “Premier Painter and Engineer and Architect of the King” which obviously, he accepted. Clos Lucé pays tribute to more than just the famed artist. There are rooms dedicated to other periods of time and figures who also took up residence on the property, for example, Queen Anne of Brittany.

Saint Hubert’s Chapel where Leonardo da Vinci was laid to rest atop Château Royal d’Amboise

Saint Hubert’s Chapel where Leonardo da Vinci was laid to rest atop Château Royal d’Amboise

4 - The Amboise Sunday Market is a favorite among visitors and locals within the entire Loire Valley. The market features vendors selling everything from food to clothing to furniture. Many people make a day of it and finish with a picnic by the river or tour one of the aforementioned châteaux. Because of the market’s popularity, it’s important to get there early to beat crowds. Grab all the produce you need for the week with freshly grown vegetables and fruits, purchase fresh meat butchered that very morning, and enjoy pre-made cuisine that proves French street food is as good as anywhere else. The market takes place in the Place du Marchée beside the Loire River. It’s quite large and busy but 100% worth experiencing at least once.

Overlooking the Loire from the Château Royal d’Amboise gardens

Overlooking the Loire from the Château Royal d’Amboise gardens

5 - The town of Amboise is as charming as its château of the same name. Because Amboise has higher tourist traffic than similar small towns within the Loire Valley, it has novelties and conveniences that others might not. There are many restaurants, bakeries, cafes, shops and fun things to do and see. The gardens of the château provide unbeatable panoramic views of the Loire Valley. The streets of Amboise take you to a different place and time. The people are friendly and welcoming. The food is simply fantastic. It’s hard to hate Amboise from its charming personality to welcoming nature to historical significance. The town and the château have had a rough life but that alone speaks to the people’s tenacity and strength. In fact, I fell in love with Amboise so much that it’s my #1 choice to settle down for a time when I manage to get back to Europee indefinitely. When a place leaves a mark on you that strong, you know it’s meant to be.

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Walking Back In Time At Hotel Emma | San Antonio

Normally I save hotel reviews for hotels that I personally stay at but I made an exception for Hotel Emma in San Antonio. Located in San Antonio’s Pearl District, Hotel Emma feels like it was built in another time and it certainly was with a history dating back to 1894. After dining at Supper, my Noni and I meandered through the hotel to pass a little time and boy am I glad that we did. Little did I know there was so much to discover in this time machine of a building from small shops to enormous libraries. If I find myself back in San Antonio anytime soon, I will most likely be staying at Hotel Emma.

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The History
Here’s a tidbit of information I found surprising while doing some research - Hotel Emma has ties to Chicago! Who knew?! Originally Pearl’s Brewhouse, the hotel was built in 1894 by Chicago architect August Martizen who specialized in breweries creating more than 80 in his career. By 1916, Pearl Brewery was the largest brewery in Texas and the only one in San Antonio to survive prohibition. The brewery’s CEO, Emma Koehler, who the hotel is named after, came up with creative alternate services for the brewery to put out to keep her entire staff employed including dry cleaning, auto repair, and the production of near beer, ice cream and soda. These services kept the brewery in business until prohibition ended allowing beer to become their main product once again. The brewery closed in 2001 before becoming part of a renovation program which turned into today’s Pearl District.

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Becoming Hotel Emma
With the establishment of the Pearl District, Hotel Emma has become one of the many community pillars. With 146 rooms and several suites, the hotel features a design that mixes historical elements with a modern touch in a comfortable and unconventional way. What’s most impressive is the 3,700-volume library. Any book worm’s dream, this collection is one-of-a-kind donated from a San Antonio icon. As if that wasn’t enough, the library allows guests to check out books using a vintage card system. Talk about nostalgia gone wild. Inside Hotel Emma, you’ll find Curio, a boutique gift shop with interesting finds from near and far; Larder Fine Groceries and Prepared Food; Supper, a restaurant where American cuisine meets European bistro; and Sternewirth, a tavern and club room for cocktails and conversation.

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The Experience
Walking through Hotel Emma, you’re pulled into a different time. Everything is distressed, everything has character. For those who are always looking for the perfect Instagram photo, Hotel Emma is a treasure chest. From the mismatched furniture that works seamlessly to the bookshelves and the friendly staff, it’s an exceptional experience that is unique and not found anywhere else. Even if you’re not staying at Hotel Emma while in San Antonio, make a point to stop by and take a walk through their main areas. If you’re looking for a spot to grab a bite, Supper is amazing. We went there for brunch and believe me when I say I’ve never been more impressed by a restaurant. I’ll have a full review coming soon.

I’ll stop there and let the photos speak for themselves.

Exploring the San Antonio Riverwalk

The San Antonio Riverwalk is not a small feat to conquer yet it’s the main point of attraction for many people who visit the city. The riverwalk is located just below street level and has it’s very own water taxi to navigate long distance destinations. Many of the things people travel to San Antonio to visit are located along or within a short distance of the riverwalk from the downtown area to the Pearl District and the four Spanish missions. Instead of sharing details on how beautiful the riverwalk is, we all know it’s gorgeous, we’ve broken it down to make planning easy. Regardless if you’re visiting San Antonio for a weekend or a week, there’s plenty to do to fill that time and no reason to leave feeling like you haven’t accomplished much.

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IF YOU LOVE HISTORY
The riverwalk and the Alamo tie for first place in popularity. The Alamo is a must visit for San Antonio whether you think you’ll be interested or not. If you don’t go for the history, go to be amazed that most of this “mission” is still standing after a 13-day battle 182 years ago. That alone is astonishing. The Battle at the Alamo is an important moment in Texas history marking an almost two-week long fight that a severely undermanned army of mostly volunteers fought against the Mexican regime. There were a handful of famous names that participated in the battle including Davy Crockett and James Bowie. The grounds are gorgeous and worth walking around. Tours are available if you’d like an inside look into history but anyone can walk around the common area for free.

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Around the corner from the Alamo is Fernando Cathedral, built in 1731. This beautiful building is the oldest standing cathedral sanctuary in the United States. If you’re up for a hike, the San Antonio Missions National Park consists of four Spanish colonial missions that stand almost exactly as they were built. These are also somewhat along the riverwalk but there are no water taxis that take tourists to them, only options on land.

IF YOU LOVE FOOD
There is a ton of food to enjoy along the Riverwalk from high-class dining to walk-up gelato stations. No one will go hungry in San Antonio, that’s for sure. A few restaurants that we will be featuring in the coming weeks include: Rita’s on the River, a Tex Mex-style restaurant featuring mind blowing guacamole and Boudro’s on the River, a Texas-style bistro with a hint of French flare featuring french fries with this chili seasoning that I cannot seem to recreate.

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For a more unique dining experience, The Guenther House is a popular spot for tourists and locals with great views of the river in an old private residence. The Guenther House mixes history and dining for an original experience only this old home could provide. From the charming design to a menu filled with classic southern comfort food, there’s no wonder it’s irresistible to anyone who’s familiar. Enjoy breakfast, lunch and dessert every day of the week. A few items you’ll find on the menu include Buttermilk Biscuits & Country Sausage Gravy, Strawberry Waffles, Chicken Salad Sandwiches and more.

IF YOU LOVE THE ARTS
The San Antonio Museum of Art is not far from the Hotel Indigo San Antonio Riverwalk and also has its own water taxi stop. Take advantage of free admittance on Tuesday nights and Sunday mornings to save a buck! The museum has a large collection of American art spanning Spanish Colonial and Latin American Folk. There are also artifacts and collections from ancient civilizations such as Rome, Greece, Egypt and China.

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Right across the street from Hotel Indigo is the Southwest School of the Arts. Now a community art school, the property and building used to be a convent for Catholic nuns and a school for girls. The building is more than 150 years old and breathtaking. It's also where my cousins got married and they couldn’t have picked a better location. Finally, right across the river from Hotel Indigo is the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts. You can identify this building from around the area thanks to the large dome. This is a great place to catch a show happening during your visit. They also have free movies on the plaza each month as well as free fitness classes from March through October.

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IF YOU LOVE SHOPPING
La Villita (the little village) is a preserved neighborhood that Spanish soldiers built while stationed at the Alamo (source: Visit San Antonio). It’s a fun place to visit with cafes, galleries, boutiques and markets. It also has a well-known arts scene including live performances that happen regularly right on the riverwalk.

The Pearl District is a newer neighborhood at the end of the riverwalk’s water taxi line. It used to be the main brewing location for Pabst Beer and is now a mixed-use area with restaurants, shops, events, markets and more. If you love food, the arts, history, shopping, or anything else...there’s something here for you. It’s an all encompassing destination for the San Antonio area.

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TOP 3 RECOMMENDATIONS
1 - If you have kids, tire them out with a walk down the river to the San Antonio Zoo. With 54 acres and more than 750 species, there’s tons to explore and may even take up an entire day of your trip if you’d like it too. It’s kind of a long hike depending on where you’re walking from so you might want to drive instead.

2 - The Pearl District is my #1 recommendation for San Antonio. I honestly love this neighborhood and spent almost two days there. From the beautifully designed Hotel Emma to classes at the Culinary Institute of America San Antonio, there’s plenty to stay entertained. Big feature on this neighborhood coming soon.

3 - The downtown area of the riverwalk has plenty to see and do. It’s easy to spend the majority of your time downtown with the amount of restaurants and activities. The Shops at Rivercenter are great if it’s a rainy day and the Tower of the Americas is an attraction that lots of people love.

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A Guide to Denver's Union Station

Denver’s Union Station is one of the more unique spaces I’ve been lucky enough to visit. Union Station brings to mind terminals and commuters, travelers and families, the hustle and bustle of people coming and going. It doesn’t bring to mind restaurants and lounge spaces, elite bars and swanky hotels. Union Station in Denver has transcended the stereotypical idea of a “train station” and transformed the historical building into a multi-purpose space with restaurants, shops, and co-working stations. It’s a traveler’s dream! A place with free internet where you can get breakfast, lunch, and dinner all while charging your phone? Yes, please!

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I could go on for hours about the many things that Denver’s Union Station has going for it. To keep my excitement reeled in, I figured I would organize it into topics: food, shopping, and accommodations. While Union Station does act as a transportation hub for trains and buses, it also serves as a space for people to pass time. It also has a lot of personality. From the elegant chandeliers hanging from the ceiling to shuffleboard tables in the center of main area, you’d never know this space was meant to serve as a transportation hub.

Where to Stay
The Crawford Hotel opened up with Union Station during the grand reopening in 2014 after going through major renovations and upgrades. The boutique hotel is built right into the original Union Station structure and embraces the traditional style and architecture of the building. It’s beautiful inside and out and is accessible to guests through Union Station as well. Lucky for those staying at The Crawford, they have easy access to several fantastic restaurants and bars without having to step outside.

Where to Eat
Where to start! I managed to try almost every single restaurant in Union Station while visiting. It helped that I stayed at the Hotel Indigo Downtown Denver right across the street during the first half of my Colorado getaway. For a quick bite, ACME Delicatessen offers deli sandwiches inspired by those you’d find in New York City. They have delicious sandwiches that are also customizable with toppings and dressings. Try them for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Pigtrain Coffee Co. is another great stop if you’re on-the-go. Order a hand-crafted coffee or espresso drink and even craft your own! They also have a variety of pastries and snacks if you’re feeling a little peckish.

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Want something for breakfast? Snooze, An A.M. Eatery is a local favorite. Be prepared for a wait if you’re going during peak breakfast, brunch or lunch hours. When you get your food, you’ll understand why it’s such a popular spot. It's amazing! For a casual meal and over 30 local craft beers on tap. They have shuffleboard tables and communal seating in the center of Union Station extending outwards from their bar. For a little more swank, head to The Cooper Lounge for high-end cocktails, an impressive wine list and fantastic views. With a tricky entrance and more elite crowd, Cooper isn’t for everyone but if you feel like dropping a few bucks on a cocktail, it’s worth it for the experience. Make sure to plan a reservation in advance. This spot books up quick!

Do you love seafood? Stoic & Genuine is a farm-to-table restaurant that has all their seafood flown in daily. Indulge in a raw oyster bar or enjoy classics like Maine Lobster, Tuna Tartare, and even Caviar. If you prefer red meat, Next Door American Eatery serves up the best burger I’ve ever eaten. They also have great happy hour specials and a menu that can’t be beat. Next Door’s ingredients are locally sourced also partaking in the farm-to-table scene. Finally, Mercantile is a European-style farm-to-table “market” and ‘restaurant” that serves both bites to go and bites to eat in. The to-go market is a bit more affordable than the restaurant but both have scrumptious choices inspired by the best cuisine throughout Europe including handmade pasta, foie gras, pastries and more. And for dessert? Milkbox Ice Creamery serves some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had including non-dairy options for poor souls like myself. If there is one spot you visit for a bite in Union Station, Milkbox has to be it. Since I’ve visited, one more restaurant has opened up. Ultreia is a Spanish and Portuguese tapas restaurant which is right up my alley. I wish it was open back when I visited so I could have tried it out!

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Where to Play
While Union Station’s best feature is certainly all the food options, the building also has a few shops to browse through as well. Tattered Cover Book Store has a satellite location in Union Station. It’s small compared to the other locations but that doesn’t mean they don’t have it stocked to the ceiling with books! It’s the perfect taste of the small local chain that speaks to book lovers everywhere. For odds and ends, souvenirs, clothing and other random items, 5 Green Boxes and Bloom carry a variety of items from home decor to t-shirts.

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7 Free Things To Do In San Antonio

Have you ever traveled somewhere and been completely surprised? I went to San Antonio for a wedding and made it into a 5-day trip. I didn't have any preconceived expectations for San Antonio. It’s not a city I had ever thought much about and I barely even knew it existed. This lack of expectations led to amazement at the beauty, friendliness and diverse nature of the city. Walking along the riverwalk, it felt almost tropical. There were tropical-like trees, birds I’ve never seen before and so many colorful flowers. I’m not one to admire nature too often but San Antonio was so pretty, it would have stood out to anyone. San Antonio has plenty to offer, even for those on a budget. So grab a pen and paper and get ready to take notes because we have a few freebies to kick off your list of to-dos.

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The Alamo
One of the original Franciscan missions in the area, The Alamo has become one of America’s most famous battlegrounds. After Mexico had released itself from Spanish rule, Texas entered a war with the country to gain their independence. While Texas won in the end, The Alamo was a bloody yet hard-fought battle that was ultimately lost. What makes this particular battle so famous was the 13-day fight the small army of 200 put up against a much larger one. This persistence has become a symbol to the people of Texas and one of pride. A few famous names were part of the Battle at the Alamo including Davy Crockett, James Bowie and William Travis*. It’s not a heartwarming story, it’s pretty sad to be honest not to mention violent. It is an interesting historical moment that you can see with your own eyes though. Parts of the mission are still standing and it has been preserved well. Visiting The Alamo is free if you’d like to walk around the grounds on your own or visit the Alamo Church. Tours start at $15 and are around an hour long.

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McNay Art Museum
See American and European art that dates from the Renaissance to modern day at the McNay Art Museum. Admission costs $10 for adults and $5 for students, seniors and military. If you visit on Thursday nights or during the first Sunday of the month, take advantage of free admission. The museum has a collection of 20,000 pieces of art including Medieval and Renaissance art, 19th-20th century European and American paintings, sculptures and photographs, Art of New Mexico and much more. The grounds and mansion alone are incredible to explore. Besides the main collections, the museum holds exhibitions and events. Check them out before visiting to take advantage of what the museum has going on during your trip!

Thursday night complimentary admission goes from 4-9pm and on the first Sundays of each month it is available from 12-5pm. Access to special exhibitions is $10.

Pearl District/Pearl Brewery
The Pearl District is a newer neighborhood towards the end of the riverwalk in the heart of San Antonio. The district was named after Pearl Brewery which used to be the main brewing location for Pabst Beer. It's now a lively mixed-used area full of restaurants, shops, events and more. The river taxi stops at the Pearl District which also marks the end of its route. Businesses in the district include Hotel Emma, The Culinary Institute of America San Antonio, a year-round Farmers Market, The Bottling Department, and more. Stop in for a quick bite at Bakery Lorraine or enjoy an expertly crafted meal at James Beard award-winning Chef Andrew Weissman’s Il Sogno Osteria. Browse through a variety of shops from cozy bookstores to boutique clothing. It’s a beautiful neighborhood to walk around. Hotel Emma alone is so much fun to walk through and explore.

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San Antonio Missions National Park
See history with your own eyes at San Antonio Missions National Park. A World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the park consists of four Spanish colonial missions - Concepcion, San Jose, San Juan, and Espada - along with the Alamo. All five missions are standing almost exactly as they were first built. They’re beautiful pieces of history that have been maintained as much as possible. Mission Concepcion and San Juan are the closest to the original construction. The original frescoes are still visible at Concepcion. It’s a bit of a hike to visit all four missions on foot, especially if you’re coming from the heart of San Antonio, but they’re completely free to visit. There are services that take you to the missions for a small fee if you’re not up for a day’s hike.

San Antonio Museum of Art
Another great museum for your list, the San Antonio Museum of Art does have an admission fee. Visit from 4-9pm on Tuesdays or 10am - 12pm on Sundays and you’ll be treated to free admission! The museum has a rich collection of American art including Spanish Colonial and Latin American Folk Art. Other collections range from Egyptian, Greek and Roman art to Chinese ceramics. Interesting enough, they have one of the largest collections of art from ancient Mediterranean civilizations in the South. It’s a beautiful space with plenty to see and learn. And you can’t beat free admission opportunities!

Take a Self Guided Tour
Get in a variety of destinations at once using one of San Antonio’s free Self-Guided Tours. Visit one of five wine trails to experience Texas Hill Country. Tickets are available for special privileges but I’ve never found myself bored in a vineyard before. If you love history, there are several tour options including one focused on Spanish Colonial San Antonio and a four-day historical tour. There are two tours available for romantics and a few for families including a self-guided ghost tour. There are tour options for sports fanatics and nature lovers looking for a good hike or bike tour. Visit San Antonio is a great resource to find maps, guides and ideas.

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The San Antonio River Walk
Other than The Alamo, the River Walk is the most famous destination in San Antonio. Located just below street level, the river walk provides paths and arched bridges for pedestrians to explore on foot. For tours and a ride to farther destinations, water taxis are available for an affordable fee. The taxi extends all the way down to the Pearl District. There’s plenty to explore along the river walk from restaurants to shopping, venues featuring events and performances, historical sites and more. The heart of the city is located just off the river walk as well as The Alamo, four missions plus more. Strolling down the river walk is completely free and one of the easiest ways to discover San Antonio.

*Information on The Alamo sourced from: http://www.history.com/topics/alamo

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Capitol Hill Neighborhood Guide | Washington DC

The neighborhood I spent the most time in while visiting Washington DC was Capitol Hill. For starters, it was steps from where I was staying and many of the main sites in DC are close by as well. It’s one of the more exciting neighborhoods with lots to see, eat and do. Navigating around is simple and it’s located next to a few other neighborhoods that also have plenty to explore. Some days you might find yourself walking through Capitol Hill to get from point A to point B. Others, you might find yourself immersed in the neighborhood discovering a few of its best hidden gems.

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Where to go for a little culture…
Ambar on 8th street is a great restaurant to experience Balkan cuisine. Their brunch menu is top notch and offers plenty of options for even the pickiest of eaters. Eastern Market, which is not too far from ambar, is an indoor/outdoor market with artisan goods ranging from specialty foods to art. It’s a large market with lots to discover. Remember to bring cash with you because there are a few cash-only vendors. My personal favorite, the Folger Shakespeare Library, has the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare’s work. Find a variety of collections from the Renaissance period including books, manuscripts and art. If you have the opportunity, stop at the Folger Theater for a play. It has an Elizabethan-style design providing as authentic of an experience as you’ll get.

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Tackle a tourist spot…
At the Capitol Building. This is one of the most popular attractions that people who come to Washington DC visit. It acts as the Western boundary to the Capitol Hill neighborhood and also the namesake. Get a chance to see congress in action at the Capitol Building and tour the beautifully designed space. Reservations aren’t required but they are recommended. Day-of tours are not impossible but they can be difficult. It’s best to reserve a tour in advance so that you’re guaranteed a spot.

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Eat like a local…
Tortilla Coast
on 1st and D Street has amazing margaritas. Stop in for happy hour where they serve appetizers and drinks for incredible prices. I mean, where else can you get a frozen margarita for $6?! We the Pizza along Pennsylvania Avenue is another great local spot with homemade sodas that include flavors like Pineapple, Co, Co, Nut, and C.R.E.A.M. Enjoy a classic Pizza Pie or a Cast-Iron Pie using one of their ingredient combos or a combo of your own. Finally, Ted’s Bulletin on 8th Street serves up some of the best milkshakes including adult milkshakes with killer breakfast. The menu has classic diner food options done better for an extra touch of comfort.

And if that’s not enough…
Capitol Hill Books is a used book store with first editions, rare books and so much more. It’s a book lovers dream. You can smell the books out on the sidewalk. Barracks Row Main Street often hosts festivals and events for locals and visitors alike. There are plenty of shops and restaurants to enjoy. The Library of Congress is an incredible building with some of the best views of the city if you’re willing to make the climb. Browse among thousands of books and collections. Finally, visit the US Botanic Gardens for a peaceful escape from the regular bustle of city life.

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North End Neighborhood Guide

If you’re looking for a serious carb overload, Boston’s North End is your destination. With an unlimited amount of trattorias and pizza joints, the Italian neighborhood serves up famous cannolis and pizza in every imaginable style...except deep dish. That seems to be limited to Chicago and being a native, I wouldn’t trust it anywhere else. The North End is also home to several destinations along the Freedom Trail including the Paul Revere House and Old North Church. Many of the streets and sidewalks are paved with brick or cobblestone and the buildings are so old you can feel the history seeping through each crack. While Beacon Hill offers an elite experience into historical Boston, North End offers an intimate look into the lives of its residents, many people who were just like you or I. The main difference being they lived a hundred or so years ago...maybe even more. It’s a neighborhood that offers a deeper connection to the stories of those who came before us. All it takes is one walk through the neighborhood and you’ll understand exactly what I mean.

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First thing for your to-do list, walk down Hanover Street. Hanover works as the “Main St.” of Boston. It’s full of shops, restaurants, homes, businesses and more. It’s also a great starting point to use when discovering the neighborhood for the first time. Walk down the street and branch out when you want to explore. A few places in particular we recommend include:

  • Thinking Cup: this quaint, local coffee shop is serving up delicious coffee and serves breakfast and sandwiches all day. It’s a great spot to grab something on the go or sit down, grab a bite and plan out the day.
  • Galleria Umberto: bring cash and comfortable shoes because this Sicilian-style pizza joint serves up some of the best pizza in Boston. Lines are known for being long and once they’re out, that’s it for the day!
  • Mike’s Pastry: after pizza, head down to Mike’s Pastry for unbeatable cannolis and other sweets. This is another cash-only spot so make sure to have plenty on hand and be prepared to stand in line. This is a local and visitor favorite so the line can get a bit long.
  • Paul Revere Statue: right off Hanover Street, there’s this towering statue of Paul Revere on his horse. It leads towards the Old North Church, one of the Freedom Trail stops and makes a for a  great photo.
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For anyone interested in history, North End has several spots off the Freedom Trail you can knock off the list. The Paul Revere House is tucked away on North Square Street which runs parallel one block away from Hanover Street. It’s across the square from Sacred Heart Church which is a gorgeous Roman-Catholic Church. No surprise there considering this is the Italian Village of Boston. Old North Church on Salem Street is right down the mall from the Paul Revere Statue. It was the starting point for Paul Revere’s ride made famous by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Finally, Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, Boston’s second cemetery. This isn’t an official stop on the Freedom Trail but has been adopted since it brings many visitors in and runs along the trail anyway.

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Still hungry? North End is loaded with plenty of wonderful restaurants, coffee shops and cafes. A few more in particular we recommend include La Galleria 33 for bomb bolognese and a traditional white tablecloth restaurant experience. The service is spectacular and I wish I could have brought home the basket of fresh baked bread. My mouth drools thinking about it. For those looking for a traditional New England cuisine experience, Neptune’s Oyster Bar is a must-visit. It’s a bit pricey so be prepared to stretch the budget and wait. Neptune’s doesn’t take reservations so get there early or be prepared to find something to do while waiting for the call that the table is ready.

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4 Tips
1 - Hanover Street is a must but also venture down Salem Street. There are a number of hidden gems from cute residences to small bakeries and shops. If Hanover Street feels historical, Salem Street feels downright ancient.

2 - Not exactly in North End, there’s a pub outside the North End boundaries on Union Street called the Bell in Hand Tavern. It’s the oldest tavern in America founded by “Boston’s Town Crier for 50 years,” Jimmy Wilson. The pub became known for only serving beer and the best beer at that. The Bell in Hand Tavern was founded in 1795.

3 - Walk through North End Park. This small but long park along the edge of the North End has one of the best views of downtown Boston. Those skyline photos you’ve seen me share and post on social media were taken at North End Park.

4 - Have a picnic in Christopher Columbus Park. Located on the waterfront, this favorite spot has gorgeous views of the water, a play area for kids and gardens. It’s also a popular spot for events.

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