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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Introducing: Wellness & Wanderlust

Introducing: Wellness & WanderlustHey there, friends!

Now that my summer semester has come to a close, I’m excited to announce some changes here on the blog. As of today, So It Must Be True has officially taken on a new identity. Meet Wellness & Wanderlust, your one-stop shop for all things health and travel! 🙂

Why the change? Over time, I noticed that my blog had taken a natural shift away from college advice and pop culture pieces, and had begun to focus more on my health journey and travels. I had always loved to travel and create itineraries, but in my first few years out of college, I never once left the state of Florida. After walking away from an all-consuming relationship, I began to reevaluate my priorities and started to do more of what makes me happy. I made time for at least one out-of-state trip per year, and discovered hidden gems in my own city.

Introducing: Wellness & WanderlustI know what it means to be busy, for lack of a better word. I’m in my second year of my MBA program, which I juggle with a full-time job and a social life. Because of this, I know about the struggles of limited vacation time and “not enough hours in the day.” It’s hard to live that perfectly balanced life — you know, the one where you somehow cram meditation, exercise, a gratitude journal, homework, and an acai bowl into your morning before 7 a.m., and visit a new exotic location every month (all while running your own business).  With limited time, I’ve learned to make the most of every weekend that I can to explore a new corner of my world. On my health and wellness journey, I’ve also learned a lot of timesaving shortcuts, and I’m so excited to share all of that and more with you!

Look out in the next few weeks for more changes to the blog. In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section. I look forward to sharing more soon! 🙂

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The Gateway to the West: Adventures in Omaha

Adventures in Omaha: YOUR Travel Guide

When I told friends I’d be traveling to Omaha for spring break, they had to laugh. After all, we live in Florida, home of some of the top spring break destinations in the country, and my friend and I were flying to a state that still had snow on the ground just a few weeks prior to our visit. However, I was excited to see one of our best friends in his new home city, and couldn’t wait to begin exploring.

So what exactly can you do in Omaha, the Gateway to the West? Much to my disappointment, it turns out that you can’t go pick corn* at a U-Pick farm in the middle of March. Luckily, there were a lot of cool spots for tourists and non-tourists alike, and we had a great time discovering a city I might not have otherwise thought to visit.

For those making the trip, check out my suggested itinerary items below! 🙂

Adventures in Omaha | YOUR Travel Guide

Places We Visited

  • Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium
    Known by TripAdvisor as the “world’s best zoo,” Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium is a must-visit for all animal lovers. I was especially excited to visit the pygmy goat enclosure (they even let us pet and brush them!), but there were other highlights throughout the zoo — penguins and sea creatures, an indoor desert, an indoor rainforest, the largest cat complex in North America, and so much more. Plan to spend an entire day at this zoo. There is a lot to see, and so many of these exhibits are among the largest in the world.
  • Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge
    Aside from a run-in with a very scary man by the river, we enjoyed our trip to see “Bob the Bridge.” This bridge crosses the Missouri River from Omaha, Nebraska, to Council Bluffs, Iowa. Not only were we able to be in two places at once, but we were able to check two states off our list!
  • Joslyn Castle
    “A castle?” you ask. “In Nebraska?” Yes and yes! Joslyn Castle was built in the early 1900s by a wealthy family who owned the Western Newspaper Union. The castle (really more of a mansion) is open for tours on the first and third Sunday of the month, when we happened to be in town, so it was kismet! I highly recommend a visit to this lesser-known landmark, especially if you’re a fan of gothic-inspired architecture.
  • Old Market Business District
    Take a stroll along the cobblestone streets of Nebraska’s Old Market.  The area is filled with eclectic shops and restaurants, but if nothing else, you can enjoy the various street performers and take in the historic buildings.
  • Spielbound Board Game Café
    On our first night, we stopped at Spielbound for some fun. The place is filled with — you guessed it — board games! We played games like Nuns On The Run and (my new favorite) Dixit over hot tea and coffee, and I would 100% return on a future visit.

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What We Ate

  • Flavors Indian Cuisine
    My first meal in Omaha was aloo gobi at an Indian restaurant called Flavors, which was true to its name and did not disappoint! They offer an awesome variety on their menu, as well as a lunch buffet for those looking to mix it up.
  • Fudge and Hot Chocolate in the Old Market
    During our visit to the Old Market, we stopped at the Old Market Candy Shop for fudge! The shop does serve small samples, but of course I ended up coming home with squares of dark chocolate and mint chocolate chip. Afterward, we popped over to Dolci next door for hot chocolate — the perfect way to warm up from the cooler temperatures! Dolci also serves ice cream and other desserts, depending on what your sweet tooth is looking for.
  • Stokes Grill & Bar
    For lunch in the Old Market, we visited the southwestern style Stokes Grill & Bar, where I enjoyed a delicious wood grilled chicken. Visit during brunch hours for an even greater variety.
  • Stella’s Bar & Grill
    This burger joint in Bellevue is known for its world famous burgers and was well worth the wait. They happen to sell T-shirts as well, so of course I left with a purple Stella’s shirt. Now that I’m back in Florida, I wear it all the time.
  • Lucky Bucket Lager
    I’m not much of a beer drinker, but a classmate from Nebraska requested a six-pack of Lucky Bucket since it isn’t shipped to Florida. I caved at the airport bar and tried a sip, and it was actually pretty good! Beer enthusiasts, stop at any Omaha bar or grocery store and you’ll be sure to find it.
  • Omaha Steaks
    I had an Omaha Steak hamburger at the zoo. The verdict? I like McDonald’s a lot better!

Any Omaha natives or recent visitors who would like to share their own local favorites? Sound off in the comments section below!

* I did not eat any corn throughout my entire trip to Nebraska. Just thought you all should know.

5 Tips For Planning Your Next Vacation

“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” – Mary Anne Radmacher

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If you can’t tell already from the bulk of my posts, I love to travel. I may not be able to do that much of it now that I’m in graduate school, but I try to prioritize even the shorter road trips so that I can experience something new. I truly enjoy visiting a place I’ve never been before, and immersing myself in the culture, food, and history. (Check out my travel guide on Savannah, Georgia, for my latest vacation recap!) However, no vacation is complete without the proper planning, and I’m nothing if not a planner. 🙂

With Memorial Day Weekend almost here and summertime just around the corner, it’s not too late to plan your next adventure. Below are my tips for making it a stress-free vacation, because you deserve it!

  • Call your credit card companies and financial institutions.
    As someone who works in the banking industry, I can attest to this! If you use your card in another state or country, your bank/credit union/credit card company may think that someone has stolen your card and is conducting fraudulent transactions. One of my credit cards was shut down before my trip overseas, simply because I purchased attraction tickets online. Let your financial institutions know where you will be and how long you will be there so that they don’t mistake your travel expenses for fraudulent activity.
  • Plan ahead with a unique itinerary.
    When it comes to vacations, I love this part of the planning process. Before we go on one of our mother-daughter trips, my mom always orders a AAA book to guide us on things to do and places to stay in a particular area. I love the U.S. News Travel site, but I also really enjoy searching for travel blog posts via Pinterest to find suggestions, including some off-the-beaten-path. Having even a rough itinerary will keep you organized throughout the trip and ensure that you have the chance to do the things you’re dying to do!
  • Look for a Hop-On, Hop-Off Tour.
    I am a huge fan of these tours because they allow you to see a lot of the major landmarks and learn the history behind them, while “hopping on” and “hopping off” at your leisure. It’s a great way to spend your first day in a new city! I first discovered these tours in London, but have done them both abroad and in the U.S. If you’re visiting one of the seven cities they serve, I highly recommend Old Town Trolley Tours.
  • Print extras of everything.
    Renting a car? Booking a tour? Designate a folder for all things trip-related, and keep copies of your reservations and tour confirmations with you in case you need to reference that information later on. You’ll thank me when the rental car company doesn’t properly compute your Costco membership discount, and accidentally upcharges you for your car! 🙂
  • Keep your home safe.
    Don’t forget about your house or apartment when you’re on vacation! It’s important to make sure you come back to your home just as you left it, from setting your alarms to cleaning out the fridge. For some more information, check out SimpliSafe’s Facebook page and infographic below about stress-free travel, as well as their tips for keeping your home safe when traveling overseas.. SimpliSafe offers wireless, customizable security systems that use modern technology to protect your home, whether you’re leaving the country or simply leaving for the grocery store. Visit their website here!

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Where are you traveling this summer? Sound off with your plans and other tips in the comments section!