6 hrs in Key West

Since I was in Miami, I begged my friend to go to Key West for the day. It wasn’t hard, she’s up for just about anything (lucky me). Once I set foot on Key West, I knew I had to come back. I could stay a few days there, go parasailing, lay out on the beach, go snorkeling, do a sunset cruise or maybe go on a dolphin cruise. There were so many activities out on the water that I wanted to run to a boat and get on.

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But since we were only there for about 6 hours, I didn’t have time to do any of the things that I mentioned above and still have time to do some of the land things on my list. Which is reason #1 why I want to go back.

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Key West reminded me a lot of Cape Cod but with clearer and bluer water — above is me in the Gulf of Mexico, an ocean I hadn’t put my toes in before so I knew I had to do that here just to say I had!

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If you’re looking for some places to walk around and just hang out, try hitting up Mallory Square or Duval Street — while you’re at it, go to Kermit’s Key Lime Shop for some Key Lime pie. If you like Key Lime, this is the snack for you. For lunch, try stopping by Conche Republic Seafood or Waterfront Brewery which are scenically located right on the water and boat dock.

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Last but not least try Hemighway’s House — which has his “ancestor cats”, I love that the cats can go wherever they want but us humans can’t touch the bed. Don’t forget about the Southernmost point in the US! That has to be the first thing you do, don’t forget about it! Who knows when you will be able to say that you stood there again!

Overall, I can’t wait to go back to Key West and just relax for a weekend there. It’s definitely worth the 3+ hour drive (one-way) from Miami.

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2017 Round Up of Adventures

Happy Holidays everyone! I felt like doing An Adventure Roundup Post before I take a 3 day hiatus from blogging.

I’m using that time to be with friends and family during the holiday season but I will be back soon!

2017 might have been one of our best yet! I don’t normally like odd years but this one was pretty great. A first full year back in New York but we/I travelled so much it didn’t even feel like we were there the whole time.

Before I get into the adventures, I just want to talk about some random ones which were all the weddings we had. 5 in total! Not only were they fun but I got to see states (Hi Indiana and Illinois) that I hadn’t seen before!

Below is a highlight of 2017 adventures (don’t worry, a book roundup is coming) and some of my favorite pictures to go along with each.

Outside of New York Adventures

Well there were a ton of these! Here’s the big reveal for this year, I am afraid of flying but traveled to 4 locations that required it. I think I’m finally over my fear!

Those 4 locations were: 2 trips to Florida (Miami/Key West and Orlando/St. Pete) and twice to Chicago.

Chicago was such an awesome city too, it might be my favorite City that I’ve visited. At the same time Miami was a little bit of paradise.

Let’s not forget my two other trips that didn’t require travel. One is the usual trip, to Cape Cod. The little quaint area has more to do than you might think. But I have to admit, my trip to Maine might have passed the Cape. I hadn’t been to Maine in years so it was nice to go someplace different in the middle of June and really see what the area has to offer without a lot of people.

The New York Adventures

Man, that was a lot of adventures outside of my home state, but let’s not forget about all the cool things there are to do in New York!

My favorite trip of the year was probably Watkins Glen and Seneca Lake. Mainly because it was the first time in awhile that my boyfriend and I were able to just travel somewhere by ourselves. It’s also the most affordable weekend away that you can probably do which is also nice.

We also did a lot of local things, like our hikes (including some 46ers!), musicals, walking around gardens, museums, and even some chowder. All in All I would say it was a good time.

As mentioned before this year was pretty great but I am so excited for next year……….

We have officially booked our tickets to London and Cornwall England. It’s always been a dream of mine to go so I am anxiously waiting and I cannot wait to tell you all about it (any tips are appreciated).

Don’t worry, I have some other trips planned but nothing definite so more to come!

Happy Holidays everyone! Enjoy the time with your friends and family, it’s an adventure in its own right ๐Ÿ˜Š

6 Days in Miami

Hi everyone! It’s been awhile since I had a post about an adventure!ย  I took November off so I could keep my wallet from hating me before I went to Florida. I’m so excited to finally tell you guys all about my trip to Miami. I had never been to Miami before so when my friend asked me to go with her I knew I had to say yes!

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The Weather:

In December, the weather isn’t as warm as you would think for Miami. People were definitely walking around in pants, scarves and jackets but for someone from the Northeast, it was the perfect weather. High 60s to high 70s all week, I could definitely get used to that.

Where to Stay:

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I loved Ocean Drive in South Beach. It was such a classic little street with a 1950s-70s feel. There were a bunch of different hotels to choose from too, I’m sure (especially in December) you could get a pretty good deal. Ocean Drive also has a bunch of restaurants as well as being right across the road from the beach. I loved that it was away from Miami City so it felt like you were in your own little paradise. Also — I had no idea that South Beach was basically it’s own little island. It was great!

The Attractions:

We spent three days at South Beach which was awesomeย  but we also did some other things, such as Key West and attractions around Miami City. Anyway, one of the things we did was get a Go City Miami Card which is not only affordable but also provided us with some transportation and sight seeing. One of things that the Go City card allows you to do, is get on a Hop on and Hop Off ($40) bus which was awesome because parking in Miami can be a bit expensive ($20 for 24hours). The Go City Card was $98 (thanks to Groupon) below is a list of attractions with what the price would have been without the Go City Card.

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The Attractions:

  • Vizcaya Museum and Gardens ($18)– so gorgeous and old! It reminded me of Downton Abbey.
  • Miami Science Museum ($22)– this might be one of my favorite Museums EVER. It had everything you could think of.
  • Art Museum ($16) — I think you could skip this UNLESS you really like art. I don’t really like and/or understand contemporary art so this really wasn’t anything for me.
  • Botanical Gardens (Free)– Google really made me think this was going to be a lot cooler than it was.
  • Holocaust Memorial (Free)– if you take the Hop on and Hop Off bus, you can see the Memorial from it, or you can go to the Botanical Gardens which is adjacent to this Memorial. One that is very well done.
  • Lincoln Mall (Free + Parking)– feeling like shopping? Maybe on a day that isn’t really for the beach? This is one of those places to go! Also within 2 blocks from the Botanical Gardens and Holocaust Memorial.
  • Key West Day Trip($75) — that will be it’s own post coming up in a few days ๐Ÿ™‚
  • Wynwood Walls (Free + Parking)– while I’m not a huge fan of art, Wynwood Walls was amazing. I really liked the different art that was shown there. I swear, I tried that whole instagram look but failed, I’m okay with that though :).

We saved $72.50 by doing the Miami (2 day) Go City Card

Where to Eat and Transportation:

Obviously there is Uber and taxis that you can take. You could also rent a car but remember you have to pay for parking everywhere you go. We found a garage that was $20 for 24hours or $1 an hour. It wasn’t terrible but if you’re looking to be a on a budget, I’d suggest not having a car, especially if you’re on Ocean Drive AND doing the hop on and hop off. We used the car a few days out of the week but not every day.

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We also tried not to eat out for every meal. We really only ate out for dinners, partly to keep on that budget. Places I would recommend are: The Leslie and Penguin Restaurant. Both were delicious and reasonably priced. Oh and for dessert try Mammamia Gelato it was delicious!

Those are my tips for Miami. It was so much fun and so relaxing, I read, I got a tan and I just enjoyed some R & R. I can’t wait to go back! IMG_20171215_084246_857.jpg

 

Wine Tasting in Seneca Lake

Our trip out to the Watkins Glen area also included a day and a half of wine and beer tasting around Seneca Lake. I had never been to Seneca, only Cayuga — my boyfriend hadn’t been to either so I decided it was about time. We both enjoy wine and beer, so I thought why not? Let’s get away for a weekend and stock up our wine table. Here’s a quick 101 on where to go, where to eat and where to stay.

Where to Stay

We wanted to do an affordable weekend so we did Airbnb. It’s not the only option though, there are hotels in Watkins Glen (the South portion of the lake), around the lake and in Waterloo (the north portion of the lake). There are some breweries and wineries that also host their own lodging. We hadn’t researched a lot in cases of places to stay because we knew right off the bat that we wanted to rent a space.

Where to Eat:

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We went to two places for meals (then just did snack things later on). We had lunch at Ginny Lee Cafe and dinner at Scale House. Both were really good and really affordable. I really loved Scale House’s beer, they had so many varieties and the tasting was really cheap. We got dinner that gave us enough for leftovers the next night. If you get to Scale House please get their Peanut Butter Beer and then thank me for it. It was delicious!

The Vineyards:

We went to a lot of different vineyards while we were there. What I love about wine tasting in the Fingerlakes is that it’s really affordable. The most expensive tasting was $5 a person but almost every place you go will give you some type of coupon — whether it be $2 off a bottle or free tasting if you buy some wine, there’s always a way to stay on a budget. Tastings were at least 5 samples while some wineries gave you more than that. While I might have spent more than I meant to. It just means I won’t be needing to buy wine around home any time soon. I’ll take that as a win. Here are some places we went.

  • Boundary Breaks Vineyard:ย IMG_20171020_184144_198.jpgThe first winery we went to and the first where we found a bottle we both like (I like sweet, he likes dry). It had a picturesque scene but other than that it was only okay. The place wasn’t as friendly as some of the others but it was still a good first place. Also- can we appreciate the saying on top of their door? Love it.
  • Wagner Wine and Beer: The cool thing about Wagner is that you can get wine or beer and it’s next to Ginny Lee’s Cafe. The bad news? The beer tasting was expensive for what you got and the beer was not as good as Scale House.
  • Penguin Bay Winery: I had to go here just because of the name. I then found out that it’s the sister winery of Swedish Hill (Cayuga Lake and in Saratoga). This was one of those places where the wine was delicious and you got a coupon when you did a tasting.
  • Lakewood Vineyards: One of the best views of Seneca Lake. Here you got a tasting for $3 plus $2 off a bottle of wine. You cannot beat that. We were lucky enough to get the outdoor bar for the tasting too. 20171021_121303.jpg
  • Rock Stream Vineyards: $5 a tasting, no coupon — but a lot of variety and the bartender was so nice and funny. You could also do a beer tasting there too if you weren’t feeling wine.
  • Glenora: 20171021_141211.jpgThe oldest winery on Seneca Lake. You can tell they know what their doing. They have a restaurant, hotel and during tastings you also get some food tastings. Which is perfect when you’re drinking. The tasting was $5 a tasting plus $2 off a bottle of wine. They also had port. I bought some, and drank it thinking about being Demelza from Poldark…it was a good day.
  • Damiani: Mostly reds, but good reds, wait did I just say that?
  • Standing Stone: Cute setup inside (but hot). Wine was pretty good and the view is fantastic.
  • Caywood Vineyards: $2 samples, I repeat $2 samples. It was so good too. I got two bottles there, but they also had some liquor/cherry type stuff that was amazing. I felt so sophisticated!
  • Lamoreaux: This was all Francis, I unfortunately can’t tell you guys anything about this except he bought a bottle so he must have enjoyed the wine.

The Resources:

Honestly, the easier way to find these places is just by driving, they are everywhere. Francis couldn’t believe how close they were to each other but they really are neighbors. Everyone is so nice and always trying to help you to know where to go next best on your style. I would definitely recommend picking up a map though, it will give you some more information. Information not just on wine but beer, cider, food and distilleries. Need even more info? Click here and enjoy!

 

Chicago Part 2: How I planned & Kept A Budget

This was my first ever trip to Chicago. I was so excited when I was asked to tag along with a friend to a wedding so I could see this city everyone talks about.

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But then I remembered I had to not only plan but budget what I wanted to spend while there (let’s not chat about the flight out there or the fact that we have a friend out there so a hotel wasn’t needed).

How I planned:

  • Pinterest, honestly that was the first place I went. I wanted to see what everyone else thought were the things to do and the places to eat
  • The Go Chicago card: especially because it was on Groupon so we got it for cheaper than usual. There were three of us so I asked for each to pick one thing (we did the 3 attraction pass) to do. We saved $30 by doing this.
  • Once we had our 3 things, I mapped them out, found some of the foodie places I wanted to go to and mapped those as well (luckily my boyfriend did the navigating once there)
  • I broke everything out by chunks in order for me to determine what days and times to do things but to also not cram too much into one day

How I stayed on a budget

Sometimes it’s really hard to stay on a budget when you’re on vacation, especially when it requires a lot of travel. There is only so much one can do to get cheap flights and hotels but after that, it should be a breeze to budget everything else.

One way I “save” is by taking cash I had left over from other adventures. I keep that stashed away for future use, that way when the time comes, I already have some money. We also use things such as Groupon or a card like the Go city card (In this case both). Another thing I tried NOT to do is use my credit or debit card, by doing that you aren’t really paying attention to how much you are spending. Cash helps you keep track and stay on a budget more, and that leads me into my next advice….

But the big thing I do is I don’t take all my money with me everyday. Instead I make a plan — okay, I’ll take $$ with me today and leave the rest at the house or hotel. This helps in a few ways:

  • I can’t spend everything at once
  • I don’t have to worry about losing any money while I’m out

This is something new I started doing ever since we went to Costa Rica and it has really helped me not splurge. Sure maybe I come home with a souvenir but only one AND one that fits into my budget. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized pictures are way more important than things.

Anyway, here’s how I did.

Total budget (excluding hotel/flight etc) : $300

Transportation (bus and/or train): $35.35

Food and drink: $89.50

Souvenirs: $36.00

Attractions: $109.00

Money left over: $30.15

It might not be a lot of savings, but it’s still a savings and it will be used toward my next adventure in October. How do you guys budget for trips? What about planning? Do you use Pinterest as well? Do you have other budgeting ideas to help?

72 Hours in Chicago (Part I)

We finally made it to Chicago! Lucky for us we had a wedding to go to which finally got our butts moving to the Midwest.

I’ve always wanted to head to the Windy City, it’s been on the bucket list, so I took my handy travel notebook from owlcrate and went exploring. Before I dive into the highlights here’s some things to keep in mine in relation to transportation. The “L” is so simple and affordable. A 3-day train pass is only $20.00, I think on the first day we got our money back. You can also use the Metro (though only if you’re leaving the city) and Uber or Lyft if you really can’t get someplace any other way (we ran into this when we were leaving the Cubs baseball game).

Okay! Now on to where to eat, what to see and where to go!

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Where to Eat

Like any city, Chicago is known for its food (especially it’s pizza) and while we had some dish deep pizza, it wasn’t my favorite. But there were SO many other places that were delicious and I’d recommend to anyone. One of those being Big Star. 20170831_130347

The tacos were SO good, and you could get a pitcher of Margaritas to share at the table as well. Not only were the tacos delicious but the atmosphere was pretty awesome too. Basically you got one of the above tacos an order, you could mix and match what you wanted and then it was delivered family style. It was different, but delicious — if/when we go back, I wouldn’t be angry if we went there again. Big Star isn’t expensive either, it was $30 a person but only because we got Margaritas. You could easily go there for cheaper without the alcohol.

Our favorite quick breakfast place ended up being Stan’s Donuts. The inside felt retro and sleek and the donuts were legitimate donuts. Probably the best I’ve ever had for sure. There are so many options too, ones with fruit in them, some with nutella or peanut butter — something for anyone which makes it even better. A breakfast here is an easy $6.50 and totally worth it. Other places we went included Public House Chicago, Portillos, Kanela’s (seen below), and Lou’s Pizza House. The foodies in us loved them all. For drinks, check out Tapster if you have time. It’s basically a tasting room but you get to walk up and just taste whatever you want. It’s also really affordable, we had a lot of fun here.

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The Attractions

If you’re planning to really explore, I would recommend the Go City Card (more on that in two days). There are so many places to see in Chicago that you could probably spend an entire week there (hello to all the museums).

Our first stop was to the Bean in Millenium Park, one of the staples of Chicago, after which we walked to the Buckingham Fountain which not only provided a lovely park but awesome views of the city from all sides and angles. It wasn’t on the list (or maybe it was?) but my boyfriend surprised us with the little detour. It’s really close to the Bean so it’s not out of the way in any means.

Other attractions we saw were the ones that really got my blood moving — I’m afraid of heights but I still managed to do both 360 Chicago and Skydeck Chicago. I wanted to like the Skydeck better because of the actually ledge (shown below) but it was so crowded it was kind of a let down. 360 Chicago offers some of the same views, plus a bar and the tilt (for $7 extra) which includes you tilting OVER the building (no thank you), I’ll stick to the ledge. On the left is a view from 360 Chicago, while on the right is me freaking out sitting on the ledge of the Chicago Skydeck.

But my favorite thing was the architecture tour. One of things stunning about Chicago and what makes it so different from other cities I’ve been to is that there is a river going right through it. One that people can kayak on or take a boat through that really goes through the heart of the skyscrapers. Of all the things we did, this is the one I would tell everyone to make time to do.

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If you have time, which I think you would, go see the Chicago sign, a staple of the city that everyone knows, and if you’re lucky like us, you might be able to check out a Chicago Cubs game. Very Fenway-esque, you feel like you’re walking back in time to the good old days.

Other things I’d like to do next time:

  • The Planetarium
  • Science and Industry Museum
  • Rent some bikes and bike around the waterfront/beaches

Have you guys been to Chicago? What did I miss? I’m heading there for about a day in half in October so advice is welcome!

Adventures Updates

Hey everyone! I realized that this blog has lately been all about my book reviews and nothing about adventures! In fact, since July the only adventure we have done is go for a hike at Cascade Mountain.

Have no fear though! We haven’t had a lot of adventures because we’ve been planning so many that we just haven’t had time to go on any! I can’t wait to tell you all about them and if I’m MIA for a bit it’s because of them all.

Here’s what you can get ready for:

  • Chicago
  • Chicago x2
  • Seneca Lake
  • Miami Fl.
  • England –London, Bath, Cornwall

Some of these are far away but I’m so excited I just couldn’t wait to tell you guys!ย  I want to be able to not only share my adventures with you but how we went about planning and budgeting for them (you can check out my Pinterest site for some helpful pins as well). So you’re probably going to see two posts for each adventure; one on how we planned it all and another on the actual experience of the trip.

Anyway, do you any travel tips? Have you guys been to any of these places? If so, what would you recommend?

Talk soon โ˜บ