Things I’m Loving Lately: Favorite Central Florida Brunch Spots

Happy Sunday Funday! If you’re anything like me, chances are you’ve spent a Sunday or two at brunch. As someone who enjoys scrambled eggs at any time of day, I rarely turn down a chance to enjoy brunch among friends, and here in Central Florida, we have no shortage of great brunch spots at our fingertips.

For my local readers, check out five of my favorite brunch restaurants in the Orlando metropolitan area, and sound off in the comments with your own recommendations!

Five Favorite Brunch Spots in Central Florida

The Glass Knife
This trendy new spot in Winter Park is beautifully designed, with food that tastes as good as it looks. The Glass Knife is known for its delicious baked goods, but brunch is conveniently served from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends and includes quiches, breakfast sandwiches, waffles, avocado toasts, and more. My favorite? The smoothie bowl, a healthier option that is packed with fresh fruits and plenty of flavor. (If you’re not concerned with calories, the donuts are pretty fantastic as well.)

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Omelet Bar
Located in The Plaza across from UCF, Omelet Bar is the perfect stop for breakfast or brunch before a football game! From build-your-own omelets to their famous s’mores towers, Omelet Bar offers a multitude of both traditional and nontraditional breakfast options. If you’re not in the mood for breakfast, grab a burger or sandwich.

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Favorite Brunch Spots in Central Florida

Canvas Restaurant & Market
I’m always in favor of a trip to Lake Nona, and Canvas does not disappoint! With gorgeous views overlooking the water and a fun market filled with local goods, Canvas is a great choice at any time of day. Their brunch menu varies, with sweet choices like tiramisu French toast, and spicier options like the chilaquiles. For a healthier option, consider the Canvas Breakfast or the Summer Squash Hash. Don’t forget about their bottomless mimosas!

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Artisan’s Table
I have a soft spot for Artisan’s Table, which was the first place where my MBA class ever went to brunch, and immediately fell in love with their breakfast bowls. The menu changes regularly, as Artisan’s Table incorporates seasonal ingredients throughout the year. Whether you’re looking for a breakfast burrito, sandwich, salad or stuffed French toast, you will love Artisan’s Table’s fresh taste.

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Cozee Café
This scratch kitchen, based in Lake Mary, offers meal choices from a variety of cuisines around the world. Enjoy an order of Cozee Café‘s shakshuka, or lighten things up with their oatmeal berry crunch. In the afternoons, the tikka salad and the chicken kebabs are excellent lunch and dinner choices. Cozee Café also serves craft coffee and Tea Forte, in addition to a variety of juices and smoothies.

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What are your favorite Central Florida brunch spots? Share your recommendations in the comments section below!

Adventures in the Garden City: How to Spend Your Day Trip to Victoria, BC

During last month’s trip to Seattle, I crossed an extra travel destination off my list: British Columbia! As much as I love to travel, this was actually my first visit to Canada, and Victoria, BC, was the perfect place to start. From Seattle, we hopped aboard the Clipper Ferry to embark on our three-hour cruise to Canada.

For those interested in traveling from Seattle to Victoria, I cannot recommend the Clipper Ferry enough. From safe and reliable transportation to friendly service, Clipper Vacations truly outdid themselves. (As an added bonus, we even passed by a few whales on our return trip!) We arrived in the city around 10 a.m. with an evening departure around 7.

Disclaimer: As much as I loved our day trip to Victoria, I wish we had booked a hotel to stay the night and spend a little more time in the city. There are a lot of exciting things to see and do in the Garden City, and because of my injuries on the trip, my mobility was somewhat limited and I wasn’t able to cover as much ground as I would have liked in one day. Therefore, this recap post will not only include the sightseeing we did and the restaurants we visited, but also a short wish list of suggested places I’d like to see when I return.

How to Spend Your Day Trip to Victoria, BC

What We Did

  • Beacon Hill Park
    Just a mile from the port, we began our day wandering around Beacon Hill. This 200-acre park features beautiful gardens, one of the world’s tallest totem poles (the tallest at the time it was built), playgrounds, and a farm (but we’ll get to that later). The views at Beacon Hill were absolutely breathtaking. Our path ultimately led us to the rocky Spiral Beach, where I quickly remembered that we were not in Florida anymore. Spiral Beach is not the most friendly for injured walkers, but it’s certainly worth a quick trip to the waterfront.
  • Legislative Assembly of British Columbia
    British Columbia offers free parliamentary tours at the Legislative Assembly, which are well worth the trip. Our tour featured a cameo from the late Queen Victoria, along with British Columbia’s rich history and some background into Canada’s constitutional monarchy structure. Tours are only an hour, but they provide great insight, especially for first-time visitors like myself.

How To Spend Your Day Trip to Victoria, BC

  • Beacon Hill Children’s Farm
    This part of the trip was a highlight for me as an animal lover! For a small donation, you can visit the many animals at the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm from 10-5 p.m. in the summer. I was especially excited to visit the goats! Twice a day, the farm hosts the daily “goat stampede,” which is exactly what it sounds like — about 40 goats running out in a stampede across the farm! It is an absolute must-see, and as expected, the goats are incredibly sweet. 🙂

Where We Ate

  • Sam’s Deli & Bistro
    Conveniently located on Government Street, Sam’s Deli & Bistro was our first stop off the ferry. We were able to grab quick breakfast sandwiches and hot coffee and tea to start our day, all while enjoying the beautiful weather and people-watching from the outdoor seating. They also serve soups and salads, and the food is made-to-order.
  • The Sticky Wicket Pub
    This restaurant is a cricket-themed pub and a part of the Strathcona Hotel. It was the perfect spot for a quiet, late lunch in between activities. I ordered the chicken strips and salad with a delicious plum sauce, and now wish I could pour that plum sauce on everything I eat.

Future Visits

The next time I’m in Victoria, I plan to do the following (and suggest these activities for those of you who have enough time to see it all!):

  • Victoria Afternoon Tea at The Empress
    As a tea enthusiast, I would love to book an afternoon tea service at The Empress, located in the iconic Fairmont Hotel. The Empress offers its own special tea blends, as well as signature scones and pastries, and has been serving tea since 1908.
  • Butchart Gardens
    When I told friends and family that I was visiting Victoria, nearly everyone who had been there suggested visiting Butchart Gardens. The trip would have required some planning in terms of transportation and we ultimately didn’t make it out there, but those who have visited said there is nothing like it. With 900 plant varieties, the Sunken Garden, fountains and other sights to be seen, Butchart Gardens will be the perfect place to explore on a summer day.
  • Craigdarroch Castle
    This castle, a National Historic Site, is a Victorian mansion known as a “bonanza castle.” They offer extended summer hours and provide self-guided tours for visitors. I love visiting historic mansions, and look forward to returning to Victoria to tour this castle!
  • Hop On/Hop Off Tour
    As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I think hop on/hop off tours are a great way to explore a new city for the first time. Next time I visit, I look forward to embarking on one of these tours! Not only will the transportation be helpful if I’m experiencing any injuries next time, but the tours often provide valuable insights and a unique twist depending on the guide.

Have you been to Victoria? What are your upcoming travel plans? Share in the comments section below!

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Adventures in the Emerald City: Things to Do in Seattle

For those of you who follow my social media accounts, you may have noticed an influx of photos from the Pacific Northwest over the last week! Yes, it’s possible I went a little Instagram-crazy during my time in Washington, but for good reason: the trip was a blastAs a fun way to celebrate graduation from my MBA program, I decided to visit one of my best friends who now lives in Seattle. For four days, we covered a lot of ground (topping 30,000 steps more than once during the trip), and I absolutely loved my time in the Emerald City.

While Seattle is known for its rainy days, we experienced perfect weather (70s and 80s during the day) and barely a cloud in the sky. Visiting Seattle in July was the perfect break from our 90-plus degree Florida summers, and I highly recommend this time of year for your next trip out there.

If you’re planning a trip out to Seattle, check out my sightseeing tips and restaurant suggestions. Oh, and bring comfortable shoes. 🙂

Things to Do in Seattle | Wellness & Wanderlust

What We Did: The Highlights

  • Pike Place Market
    Pike Place Market was the perfect place to kick off my trip to Seattle! This market features a variety of local vendors, merchants, and farm tables, and is a great spot to begin exploring. After checking in at the hotel, I wandered around Pike Place (and yes, I did see a fish get tossed through the air!), picked up a grab-and-go fruit cup from Growing Washington, ate lunch overlooking Puget Sound, and bought a bouquet of dry flowers for my room. I also visited the Gum Wall, a wall covered in chewing gum in Post Alley. As gross as the concept is, I still had to contribute my own piece of gum to the wall. I’ll never look at Orbit Sweet Mint the same way again.
  • Space Needle
    No trip to Seattle is complete without a visit to the Space Needle. Built for the 1962 World’s Fair, this tower provides breathtaking views of the city (as well as Mount Rainier in the distance). The Space Needle is currently undergoing renovations on its observation deck, which will give visitors an even better view of the city. Tickets to the Space Needle can be bundled with other local attractions, so I highly suggest this option if you plan on sticking around.

Things to Do in Seattle | Wellness & Wanderlust

  • Chihuly Garden and Glass
    I wasn’t all that familiar with the work of Dale Chihuly before my trip to Seattle, but after visiting Chihuly Garden and Glass, I’m officially a fan. Located in Seattle Center next to the Space Needle, Chihuly features colorful glassworks, both inside the glass house and integrated outside in the gardens. The art is beautiful and can be enjoyed by all ages. I will definitely plan a visit to Chihuly’s exhibit in St. Petersburg sometime soon!
  • Museum of Flight
    The Museum of Flight is an aviation museum located at Boeing Field, south of Downtown Seattle, and is absolutely worth a visit. With more than 150 aircraft on display and a NASA-focused exhibit, the Museum of Flight also features flight simulators and a children’s area as well.
  • Volunteer Park
    My friend and I visited Volunteer Park early in the trip, in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Climbing the water tower allowed us to take in the beautiful city views at sunset. The park is also home to the Black Sun sculpture, which supposedly inspired Soundgarden’s song Black Hole Sun.

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  • Fremont Troll
    The neighborhood of Fremont is home to some spectacular food and beverage spots, but it also houses the famous Fremont Troll under the bridge. Naturally, I had to snap a photo! The spot is worth a visit, and once you’ve finished your photo op, there are a lot of great places to grab dinner or drinks nearby.
  • Gas Works Park
    Gas Works Park, also located in Fremont, is a former gas plant that offers some of the best views of the Seattle skyline. A DJ played nearby while we enjoyed the beautiful weather and scenery. I highly recommend Gas Works Park to take in the views!
  • Snoqualmie Falls
    We ventured out to Snoqualmie Falls, about 30 minutes outside of Downtown Seattle, where we hiked a steep half mile down to see the waterfalls up close. The view was worth every step. You can park for free in the hotel parking lot and catch some great photos from the top as well.
  • Clipper Ferry to Victoria, BC
    Stay tuned for my recap on our Canadian adventure in an upcoming post!

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Where We Ate

  • Starbucks Reserve Roastery
    Seattle is — of course — known for Starbucks, but have you ever been to one of their Roastery locations? With a full bakery and craft coffee drinks, this is no ordinary Starbucks. For an energy boost, I ordered a coffee flight with chocolate truffle pairings. My favorite? The Peru Chontali with red apple, lemon, and cocoa.
  • Veggie Grill
    After the fact, I learned that Veggie Grill is actually a chain of restaurants, mainly on the West Coast. However, this healthy lunch spot was still a welcome discovery for me! They offer vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options for those who have food sensitivities, and I absolutely loved their Summer Celebration Salad. If you’ve never tried purple potatoes, this is the place for you!
  • Pike Brewing Company
    Located near Pike Place, Pike Brewing Company offers beer flights, chowder, salads, sandwiches and more pub fare. They were especially accommodating with food allergies and provided fantastic service. I loved my sandwich, but the Wooden Hills Brewery Pear Cider was my all-time favorite.
  • Le Panier
    I’m a sucker for French bakeries, so I couldn’t pass this one up! I tried a vanilla macaron at the Le Panier in Pike Place — absolutely worth a visit.
  • Steepologie
    Steepologie offers teas on tap, so of course I had to sample their iced Crimson Fruits tea, with cranberry, safflower, strawberry, and raspberry. Bring your cup back into the store and get 50% off for your refill! Steepologie also sells loose teas online.
  • The Red Door
    The Red Door, a restaurant in Fremont, offers craft beers and rooftop dining. Their Sesame Chicken Salad was delicious, but the restaurant also features seafood, burgers, sandwiches, and delicious tots.
  • Capitol Cider
    This cider bar in Capitol Hill is actually the largest independent bar of its kind in the country! As someone who prefers cider over beer, I loved their Bad Granny Cherry Cider. For all of you cider lovers, this cider bar has a wide selection you’ll have to try!
  • The Matador
    After Snoqualmie Falls, we headed over to Redmond, where several of our friends from college moved to work for Microsoft. We grabbed dinner at The Matador, a Mexican restaurant with other locations in Washington, Portland, and in the North and Southwest. If you’re near a Matador location, check it out for delicious Mexican food!

What are your suggestions for a trip to Seattle? Share in the comments below!

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Let the Good Times Roll: Things to Do in New Orleans

Things To Do in New OrleansIf you’re wondering why New Orleans keeps popping up on your newsfeed, I promise you’re not alone. It turns out NOLA is the number one travel destination of 2018, and has topped all the major lists for where to visit this year. I was unaware of this when I ventured out to New Orleans this January (an unlikely place for a mother/daughter vacation that turned out to be one of the best yet).

We covered a lot of the French Quarter on this trip, sampling some great food and learning about the diverse New Orleans culture along the way. We visited during Carnival Season, so it was an especially exciting time to see the city as it prepared for Mardi Gras.

If you’re among the many planning to visit New Orleans in the near future, check out my suggested itinerary items below! Please note: This was a mother/daughter trip, so even though we stayed in the French Quarter, we did not spend much time on Bourbon Street (especially after watching the streets get cleaned in the mornings!).

Things to Do in New Orleans

What We Did: The Highlights

  • City Sightseeing Hop On/Hop Off Tour
    Longtime readers of my blog are probably aware that these tours are my favorite way to begin exploring a new city! We hopped on and off the trolley at different popular stops throughout New Orleans, and because the weather was unseasonably cold, we ended up extending to a three-day pass. Our tour guides were excellent and each provided their own unique flavor.
  • Mardi Gras World
    You can’t go to New Orleans and not experience Mardi Gras in some way! At Mardi Gras World (which happened to also be a convenient stop on our bus tour), we watched artists and craftsmen as they built and designed Mardi Gras floats for this year’s parades. We learned about the holiday’s history, as well as the work that goes into building the floats. On our way out, we were invited to try on costumes and have a piece of King Cake. Mardi Gras World is a must-visit for anyone traveling to New Orleans for the first time, and only takes about an hour and a half.
  • Ghost Tour
    Any time I visit a city with a lot of history, I like to take a ghost/cemetery tour. The Haunted History Ghost Tour did not disappoint! The tour gave a lot of background into the city’s history (including Katrina-era), and fully reaffirmed my belief in ghosts!
  • Gallier House and Herman-Grima House
    I grouped these two historic homes together because you can purchase a discounted ticket that grants admission to both houses and they are located within a few blocks of each other. Learn about the families who inhabited these homes, the architectural styles they used, and the historic context.
  • Garden District Walking Tour
    No trip to the Big Easy is complete without a trip to the Garden District, a quieter neighborhood of New Orleans lined with oak trees, historic homes, and adorable shops and cafés. Our hop on/hop off tour included a walking tour of the Garden District, but if you don’t have time for that, it is still a beautiful place to wander.

Things to Do in New Orleans

Where We Ate

  • Café du Monde
    Forget your diet — beignets are a must on any New Orleans trip! We visited the iconic Café du Monde around 7 a.m. on a weekend and managed to arrive before the crowds lined up. A few tricks to get in quickly: Be sure to grab a table as soon as one becomes available. Get there early if possible to avoid the wait; otherwise, you can get your food relatively quickly if you grab it to-go from the window. Know what you want as soon as you sit down — the restaurant is so busy that it’s likely your server will collect the bill as soon as your food arrives. Luckily, the menu is straightforward and limited, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble deciding what to order. My suggestion: a plate of three beignets and a cup of hot chocolate! Make sure you bring cash.
  • The District
    This restaurant in the Garden District was featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives on the Food Network. New Orleans is known for its cuisine, but of all the food we ate on this trip, the sliders and waffle fries at The District were my absolute favorite meal. Grab a donut to go on your way out! To stay in theme with Mardi Gras, we ordered the King Cake donut.
  • Remoulade
    Located in the French Quarter, Remoulade is the more casual, budget-friendly sister restaurant of Arnaud’s. I ordered a delicious lemon marinated grilled chicken, but the restaurant also serves po boys, seafood, burgers, franks and more.
  • Deanie’s Seafood
    I’m not much for seafood, but I did break out of my shell at Deanie’s Seafood, trying out the fried catfish and charbroiled oysters. While I struggled with the texture, I actually really liked the lemon butter flavor! The restaurant also serves a variety of gumbos, salads, sandwiches and other seafood.
  • PJ’s Coffee
    I saw more of this coffee shop than Starbucks!

Have you traveled to NOLA recently? Share your favorite spots in the comments section below!

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Empire State of Mind: Adventures in New York

Things to Do in New York City

After spending most of my life in a state where the leaves never change colors, I decided to take an October trip to New York to experience autumn. It was my first time visiting New York as an adult — I’d gone once with my family when I was 11, and once in high school for a journalism conference. This time, I’d have full control of my itinerary and truly have the chance to explore.

Although the trip was unseasonably warm, it was a much-needed escape from my real life, and a great way to spend time with old friends and family. I was only there for a few days, and there are a lot of landmarks and museums I wish I’d had time to see on this visit, but I was able to cover a lot of ground that weekend and had a great time finding my way around the city that never sleeps. I stayed with one of my best friends in Hamilton Heights, and loved getting to know the neighborhood.

For those planning a visit to New York City, check out my suggested itinerary items below!

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Places We Visited: The Highlights

  • Bryant Park
    I started my first day at Bryant Park, a beautiful park in Midtown not far from the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building. Between the pop-up shops and the life-sized statue of Gertrude Stein, this little park offers beautiful views and plenty of people-watching. Bryant Park also has its own café and food kiosks, and hosts events and ice skating at different points in the year.
  • Federal Hall
    Located on Wall Street, Federal Hall is known as the birthplace of American government, as the site of George Washington’s inauguration and the home of our first Congress and Supreme Court. Federal Hall is free to visit and a must-see for anyone interested in the early history of the United States.
  • 9/11 Memorial
    I paid my respects at the 9/11 Memorial on my first day in New York. Visiting the twin memorial pools and seeing the names of those who died was a sobering experience, but also a powerful one. I plan to spend a day at the museum the next time I visit.
  • Storm King Art Center
    For my second day in town, we decided to spend the morning and afternoon upstate. Storm King Art Center had been a bucket list item for me for a while, and our visit did not disappoint. Being surrounded by abstract sculptures in the rolling hills was the perfect way to spend a fall day! For those visiting for the first time, I highly suggest taking a tram ride around the entire sculpture park so that you can choose which sculptures you’d like to return to.
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art
    This was my first time at The Met, but it quickly became one of my favorite museums I’ve ever visited. From George Washington’s Crossing of the Delaware to the Egyptian collections, there was so much to see that we spent an entire Sunday wandering around the museum and still weren’t able to do it all. It is definitely worth future visits!
  • The Little Red Lighthouse
    As one of the few surviving lighthouses in New York City, The Little Red Lighthouse was worth the dangerous trek off the beaten paths we took to get there! 🙂 The lighthouse is located under the George Washington Bridge and has become the inspiration for a sweet little story called The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge.

Things To Do in NYC: Storm King

 

What We Ate

  • Il Cortile Ristorante
    For my first night in New York City, my college roommates and I reunited in Little Italy to catch up over wine (!) and delicious Italian food. Il Cortile featured live music and served an amazing pumpkin gnocchi to match the season. If you’re looking for a good Italian restaurant, Il Cortile is one to try!
  • Barney Greengrass
    I couldn’t visit New York and not have a bagel at some point. Barney Greengrass is known for their bagels (and their cinnamon raisin was fantastic!), but also offers sandwiches, smoked fish platters, and so much more.
  • Hamilton’s Bakery
    We enjoyed a delicious (and Instagram-worthy) Sunday brunch at Hamilton’s Bakery. Located in Hamilton Heights near my friend’s apartment, Hamilton’s Bakery serves breakfast bowls (I enjoyed the Angelica bowl!), along with sandwiches, avocado toasts, bakery items, and much more. They also offer bottomless mimosas and sangria, if you’re looking to indulge!
  • The Chipped Cup
    This little café in Hamilton Heights quickly became my favorite coffee shop in New York. With uplifting notes on the chalkboard outside, The Chipped Cup is a cozy, relaxing place to stop before a busy day of travel. My pick? The iced blueberry tea. Check them out!

What are your favorite stops in New York? Share in the comments section below!

27 at 27 Bucket List: Let the Adventures Begin!

Hey readers! For those who read last night’s post, you know that my 26 at 26 adventures have officially come to a close. 26 was an amazing year of self-discovery, travel, creativity, and the strengthening of old and new friendships. I have high expectations for age 27, beginning with my 27 at 27 bucket list. These experiences bring me so much joy, and I can’t wait to share my latest with you in the year ahead.

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Feel free to follow along here (under the 27 at 27 tab on my main menu), as I cross off each item and provide links to blog posts throughout the year. 🙂

Happy reading!

27 Things I’d Like to Do While I’m 27

  1. Travel to New Orleans for our annual mother-daughter trip.
  2. Visit the Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge in Lake Nona.
  3. Take a class at Total Wine.
  4. Travel to St. Petersburg to visit the Salvador Dalí Museum.
  5. Visit a salt room to try halotherapy.
  6. Spend the day in Miami.
  7. Take a boat tour of Winter Park.
  8. Hang out with the flamingos at Flamingo Gardens.
  9. Graduate from my MBA program.
  10. Take a bioluminescence tour.
  11. Complete another round of Whole30.
  12. Go on a ghost tour through Downtown Sanford.
  13. Visit New York City.
  14. Host a tea party.
  15. Go kayaking in Wekiwa.
  16. Visit the Maitland Art Center.
  17. Take a post-graduation vacation.
  18. Attend a performing arts show.
  19. Visit the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey.
  20. Pursue public speaking opportunities.
  21. Take a limo cycle tour.
  22. Finish an old writing project.
  23. Get my writing published somewhere new.
  24. Take a DIY class.
  25. Stroll through the Albin Polasek Sculpture Gardens.
  26. Tour the Stetson Mansion in Deland.
  27. Visit the Orlando Eye.

What is on your list this year? Share in the comments below!

26 at 26 Bucket List: The Year in Review

Good evening, friends! 🙂 For those of you who live in Florida, I hope you fared well through Hurricane Irma and didn’t experience too much damage. Here in Sanford, I was awake for the worst of the storm, but fortunate to have my apartment and car fully intact in the morning. I am grateful that my friends and family made it safely through the storm, and will be sure to post links to any recovery efforts on the blog once I know more.

26 at 26 Bucket List Recap

It’s hard to believe that another year has gone by so quickly, and yet my birthday is already almost here. Recently, I wrote about the importance of creating mini-bucket lists and the joy that my lists have brought me over the past two years. At 25, I embarked on my first year of yes, and 26 has been equally fulfilling (if not more so). Although I didn’t check quite as many items off my list, I discovered many other adventures that I never could have imagined. I practiced yoga with baby goats on an urban farm. I witnessed the Running of the Chihuahuas. I howled with the wolves. The list goes on, and I’m so thankful I was able to see and do so much at age 26.

26 at 26 Bucket List Recap

In the coming days, I’ll post my 27 at 27 bucket list, but for now, check out the recap of my 26 at 26. I am looking forward to the year ahead!

26 at 26 Bucket List Recap

  1. Take a stroll through the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens in MiamiVisited Vizcaya with my family on 11/23/16. 
  2. Visit a fortune teller/psychic. Visited a psychic in Cassadaga and had my tarot cards read on 3/26/17. Months later, I can honestly say that there was a lot of truth in my reading — some good, and some bad. I will definitely pursue another reading this year!
  3. Take a marshmallow-making class at Wondermade. Took a class at Wondermade on 2/3/17 – so much fun! Wondermade has since expanded, and I can’t wait to attend more events at the enhanced location. Learn more about my experience here.
  4. Attend a tea party or visit a tea roomVisited Gryphon Tea Room in Savannah on 1/14/17. Visited Windsor Rose Tea Room in Mount Dora on 1/16/17. As an added bonus, my friend’s bridal shower happened to take place at Infusion Tea later this year!
  5. Take a behind-the-scenes Disney tourThis was something my family hoped to do together, but we were never all able to be in Orlando at the same time. Instead, my dad, sister and I visited the Seacrest Wolf Preserve, which was a completely life-changing experience.
  6. Get my writing published somewhere newWrote my first article for STRIVE Magazine‘s spring issue, published in April 2017. I wrote a second article for this publication, which will come out around October.
  7. Watch a Bollywood filmWatched Tanu Weds Manu on 8/17/17.
  8. Play a game of Dungeons & DragonsPlayed for the first time on 3/17/17. My character, a druidic wood elf, participated in a bizarre St. Patrick’s Day themed one-shot with a twist ending.
  9. Visit the Plant Street Market in Winter GardenVisited for the first time on 4/29/17. I tried raspberry mint tea from AntiquiTEAs and made my own mac & cheese at MAC’d Out — delicious! I will be returning to host my birthday lunch at AntiquiTEAs.
  10. Pursue new public speaking opportunitiesSpoke on an alumni career panel at UCF on 10/31/16. Taught “Saving For College” workshop for Junior Achievement on 11/9/16. Spoke on an internship panel at Valencia College on 4/13/17.
  11. Take a mother-daughter tripTraveled to Savannah, Georgia, from 1/13 to 1/15/17. Check out my recap and travel tips here!
  12. Visit the Orlando Museum of Art. Visited on 8/26/17 – pictures of a few of my favorites here! I absolutely loved this museum and will be back soon.
  13. Finish an old writing project. This was much easier said than done during my busiest year so far in grad school. Stay tuned for 2017-2018! 
  14. Go to a performing arts show. Attended ‘Seminar’ at Theatre UCF on 7/9/17.
  15. Complete another round of Whole30. Completed January 2017.
  16. Take a day trip to Bok Tower GardensVisited Bok Tower Gardens and the Pinewood Estate on 8/13/17. Check out my recap! I will be returning for the Christmas decorations.
  17. Visit my best friend in Omaha, NebraskaTraveled to Omaha from 3/16 to 3/19/17. Recap and guide to Omaha can be found here.
  18. Practice meditation every day for a monthAdded meditation to my daily routine on 8/7/17. I will be writing more about my practice in October – stay tuned!
  19. Read Gone With The WindI haven’t finished it yet, but I’m about 100 pages in.
  20. Take a candy-making classThis was another thing I had planned to do with my family, but the timing was never great.
  21. Go to a pumpkin patchVisited Santa’s Christmas Tree Forest on 10/16/16 and not only picked out a cute little pumpkin, but also cuddled with some very sweet baby goats. Check out the recap here!
  22. Visit the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey. I never made it over there, but it’s on my list for 27 at 27!
  23. Take an Art Deco Walking Tour in MiamiI didn’t get down to South Florida this year as often as I would have liked, so trips to Miami were difficult to schedule. Hopefully at 27!
  24. Visit the CARE Foundation animal sanctuaryVisited the CARE Foundation Open House event on 11/20/16.
  25. Tour the Flagler House in West Palm BeachSee #23 and replace “Miami” with “West Palm.”
  26. Visit the Wynwood Art District in MiamiSee #23.

It has been a great year! What are some of your favorite adventures from the last year?

Adventures in Florida: Bok Tower Gardens

“Make you the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it.” – The grandmother of Edward W. Bok

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A few weeks ago, I took a long-awaited mini road trip to Lake Wales. A little more than an hour from Orlando, Lake Wales is home to Bok Tower Gardens, a national historic landmark and one of my 26 at 26 bucket list items.

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For those unfamiliar with Bok Tower Gardens, they are named in honor of their founder, Edward W. Bok, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and the editor of Ladies Home Journal in the late 1800s and early 1900s. He commissioned a landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr., to design a “spot of beauty second to none in the country,” and the gardens were even visited by President Calvin Coolidge.

Bok Tower GardensOne of the coolest areas to visit at Bok Tower Gardens was the Singing Tower itself. The tower stands at more than 200 feet and houses carillon bells, which play concerts twice a day. During our visit, we sat in the garden and listened to the bells, all while admiring the intricate Gothic design and the nearby reflecting pool. (I also happened to make friends with many of the koi who were swimming around out there!)

Strolling through the gardens, even in the Florida heat, was a breathtaking experience. Spending the day among nature was tranquil and meditative, and the perfect way to separate oneself from the hustle-and-bustle craziness that we constantly face.

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We also visited the Pinewood Estate, a Mediterranean Revival mansion on the property once owned by the Vice President of Bethlehem Steel. As an architecture enthusiast, I loved touring through the home and learning about the estate’s unique fixtures and furnishings. No two doors in the mansion are exactly alike, and the tiles (while well-coordinated) differ by room. The docents were helpful and extremely knowledgeable about Pinewood, and they shared that the estate is at its very best when decorated for Christmas. I know I’ll be returning in December! 🙂

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I was so in awe of Bok Tower Gardens and all of its natural beauty, but I was also drawn to the gardens’ spirit of kindness and making the world a better place. Edward Bok put it best: “Give to the world the best you have and the best will come back to you.” It is a beautiful sentiment, one that will keep me coming back to the gardens in the years to come. 🙂

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One Year at a Time: Why Everyone Should Create a Mini Bucket List

If you’ve been reading my blog over the last two years, you’ve probably seen a lot of posts about my birthday bucket lists. For those who haven’t, a little background: in my first few years out of college, I worked hard but put very little time into my own interests and self-care. I never took a single vacation in that time (except to visit family in my hometown), rarely saw my friends, and was constantly telling myself “I wish I did more of [xyz]” without actually doing anything about it. I consider myself to be an unapologetically enthusiastic person by nature, and so I wanted to bring that excitement back into my life again. Thus began my bucket list adventures, starting with my 25 at 25.

One Year at a Time: Why It's Important to Create Mini-Bucket Lists

Creating that first bucket list for my 25th birthday was one of the best things I could have done for myself. My list was simple – just 25 things I hoped to do by the time I hit my 26th birthday – and it encompassed many of the things in my own backyard that I’d always wanted to do. It “forced” me to book a trip to the mountains, treat myself to a spa day, and visit local museums and performing arts shows. I also became a lot more social again, as friends began to join me on these adventures and suggested their own.

Since then, I create a new bucket list each year leading up to my birthday. I can get a little too focused on “serious” goals throughout the year, so I try to steer my list away from things like “clean out my closet” (which is on a completely different list!) or “write the next Great American Novel.” Some of my bucket list items may focus on personal development (i.e. pursuing public speaking opportunities, getting my writing published in a new place, etc.), but the majority of these relate to places I want to visit or activities I want to try.

Creating your own annual bucket list, rather than an exhaustive list of everything you’d like to do in your lifetime, makes everything that much more immediate. Breaking down your list one year at a time is a powerful thing, because it allows you to prioritize your happiness while thinking about what you can do now to attain it. It is my dream to go to the opera at the Palais Garnier in Paris someday, but based on current obligations, that isn’t feasible right now. I can, however, fit in a weekend trip to Savannah or a few hours at the nearby wildlife refuge.

If you’re like I was, and constantly putting off the things you want to do, I highly recommend creating a list that matches your own interests. Do you ever find yourself saying “I’ve always wanted to go there” or “I wonder what that’s all about”? Start with those items, and go on from there. Your list can be as wild, silly, serious, academic, wellness-driven, or creative as you want it to be — after all, it’s your life!

Stay tuned for my own bucket list for 27 in the coming weeks, as well as a recap of 26 as the year wraps up! In the meantime, share your own potential bucket list items in the comments section below!

Central Florida on a Dime: 5 Adventures Under $20

Happy Sunday, readers! One big piece of news since Wednesday’s post: Wellness & Wanderlust officially has a domain name! You can now access all of my content at WellnessAndWanderlust.net. I am so excited for the changes to come!

As I mentioned last week, juggling grad school with a full-time job means that vacation days are often limited. Because of that, I love to take advantage of my weekends by playing tourist in my own backyard! Central Florida is well-known for its tourist activities — and I’m definitely a fan of the theme parks! — but there are so many other awesome ways to explore the area without standing in long lines or breaking the bank.

This weekend, I’m sharing five of my favorite (non Disney-themed) activities in Orlando and some of the surrounding cities, all of which you can enjoy for under $20. Check them out and share your own favorites in the comments!

Central Florida on a Dime | 5 Adventures Under $201. Take a marshmallow-making workshop at Wondermade.
Yes, you read that correctly! Wondermade is a locally-owned café that sells handcrafted marshmallows in a variety of flavors, along with hot chocolate, coffee, ice cream, and more. Any time I bring a friend to Downtown Sanford for the first time, we always have to stop at Wondermade. Throughout the year, they host Friday night workshops, where attendees can enjoy hot drinks and treats, learn about the marshmallow-making process, and make their own. The workshops are just $15 per person and perfect for a date night or a night out with friends.

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2. Gaze at the stars at Buehler Planetarium.
Also in the “Orlando North” region, Buehler Planetarium is located on the Sanford/Lake Mary Campus of Seminole State College, and hosts shows every weekend. I first visited the planetarium in December 2015 for the Star of Bethlehem show, and had such a great time that I returned for the Winter Sky Festival a few weeks later! The planetarium hosts interactive shows and presentations relating the night sky to mythology, upcoming holidays, scientific phenomena, and more. Admission is $6 for adults (only $4 for poor grad students like me!). You can access their calendar of events here.

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Central Florida On A Dime: 5 Adventures Under $203. Stroll through Leu Gardens.
Not far from Downtown Orlando, Leu Gardens is home to about 50 acres of beautiful plant life. Entry is only $10, unless you visit on a free “First Monday”. Leu Gardens also hosts classes and community events throughout the year.

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4. Visit the Morse Museum.
One of my favorite museums in Central Florida is the Morse Museum, which is home to the world’s largest collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s works. I’ve always been a fan of Tiffany glass, so my favorite area of the museum is the Chapel, which was constructed for the 1893 World’s Fair. Located on Park Avenue in Winter Park, the Morse Museum is ideally located for a day of good food and shopping, but is also a perfect destination on its own. Admission ranges from $1 to $6, but is occasionally free.

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Central Florida on a Dime | 5 Adventures Under $205. Pick berries at a U-Pick farm.
I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love visiting local farms and picking my own fruit! This activity is entirely dependent on the time of year, but it’s fun to come home with your own hand-selected produce. My favorite farm in the area is Tom West Blueberry Farm in Ocoee (check out last year’s recap here!). Admission is free — all you pay for are the berries you pick! During blueberry season, they have other free activities taking place on the farm as well. I’ve gone out to Tom West for the past two seasons and will be returning next year for some delicious Emeralds! A few other local U-Pick farms to consider include Pappy’s Patch in Oviedo and Sledd’s in Mims for strawberries.

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What are your favorite inexpensive activities in Central Florida? Share your suggestions in the comments section below!

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