Rainy Day Adventures: The Imagine Museum in St. Petersburg, FL

A few weeks ago, I took a trip back out to the Tampa/St. Petersburg area to see Yayoi Kusama’s LOVE IS CALLING exhibit (check out the recap here!) and enjoy some much needed rest and relaxation. During this visit, I planned to visit the Sunken Gardens in St. Pete, but the unpredictable Florida weather had other plans for me.

Because of this, I decided to shift my itinerary and visit one of the area’s hidden gems: the Imagine Museum, located just outside of downtown St. Pete. Home to more than 500 pieces of American Studio Glass, the Imagine Museum is well worth the visit for any art enthusiasts who are visiting the area.

The Imagine Museum in St. Petersburg, FL

Those of you who have been reading the blog for a while know that I’m a huge fan of glass art, and that Chihuly Gardens & Glass was one of my favorite parts of my trip to Seattle last year. (And yes, I did visit Chihuly’s exhibit in St. Pete during my visit in September!) The Imagine Museum contains works by Chihuly as well, but also features a number of other artists and styles that are sure to inspire those who visit.

The Imagine Museum in St. Petersburg, FL

The Imagine Museum has exhibits on two floors, with the first floor consisting of the permanent collection. Adorned with quotes by Deepak Chopra, Nelson Mandela, and other great thought leaders and pioneers, the Imagine Museum seeks to inspire creativity and kindness in those who visit. In fact, there are handouts available throughout the museum that list the Ten Commandments of Human Relations, which visitors can bring home with them.

The Imagine Museum in St. Petersburg, FL

The Imagine Museum in St. Petersburg, FL

The Imagine Museum in St. Petersburg, FL

The pieces throughout the Imagine Museum’s collection vary by color, technique, and cultural context. From the ikebana at the front entrance to the 1,000 Buddhas to the glass-made Vitruvian Man, no two pieces are exactly alike, and each room is sure to awe.

On the second floor, visit Floating World, an exhibition by Karen LaMonte. Her kimono sculptures take on a life of their own, and you can learn more about her techniques through the documentaries playing throughout the exhibition.

The Imagine Museum in St. Petersburg, FL

The Imagine Museum is new to St. Pete, but one that I definitely plan to revisit in the future. For more tips on how to spend your trip to the Tampa/St. Pete area, click here.

 

10 Hidden Gems in Central Florida To Visit in the New Year

What’s on your travel bucket list for 2019? Each year, I love to explore new places, both near and far. (There’s a reason my blog has the word “wanderlust” in its name!) Living in Central Florida for nearly 10 years, I find myself constantly falling in love with different neighborhoods, botanical gardens, museums, and restaurants, and just as I start to think I’ve seen it all, the adventure begins again and I wind up someplace new.

There’s something magical about playing tourist in your own home, and here in Central Florida, we’re fortunate to have so many unique places to discover. We are surrounded by theme parks and other attractions that visitors travel thousands of miles to see. But we also have our share of hidden gemsboth in Orlando and in its surrounding areas.

I’ve teamed up with some amazing local bloggers and influencers to bring you 10 hidden gems worth exploring in 2019. From restaurants and events to historic homes and gardens, this list really has it all. These spots are all within about two hours (or less) of Orlando, perfect for a weekend afternoon outing! Check out their features below, and be sure to pop over to their sites for more great content. (Photos are credited to the bloggers below!)

10 Hidden Gems in Central Florida to Visit in the New Year

10 Hidden Gems in Central Florida | Wellness & Wanderlust

Photo Credit: TheOrlandoDuo.com

1. Revolution Off Road (Clermont, FL) — The Orlando Duo
One of our favorite aspects of living in Central Florida is being able to experience the outdoors year round. For us, Revolution Off Road is the perfect way to see Florida’s natural beauty in a fun and unique way. There is something inherently cool about driving a ATV and taking it around to see lakes, trees and wildlife. Plus, you go through mud puddles so you will get dirty too! If ATVs aren’t your speed, Revolution Off Road also features fishing, clay shooting and other activities. We break down our experience and give you some tips and tricks on our blog!
{ Blog: The Orlando Duo; Instagram: @theorlandoduo; Facebook: @theorlandoduoTwitter: @theorlandoduoPinterest: @theorlandoduo }

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2. Wat Thai Temple (Brandon, FL) — Pursuing Happiness // Kiva Williams
If you are ever in the Tampa area on a Sunday, it’s a must that you check out this hidden local gem in the Palm River area of town. Wat Mongkolratanaram, or Wat Thai Temple as it is also commonly known, is a foodie’s dream! This beautiful outdoor market is sure to get your tastebuds tap dancing around. Be sure to bring your appetite and cash only! Check out my vlog’s recap about all of the yummy goodness.
Blog: Pursuing HappinessInstagram: @pursuit_of_true_happinessFacebook: @pursuinghappiness4ever }

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10 Hidden Gems in Central Florida to Visit in the New Year | Wellness & Wanderlust

Photo Credit: ChristopherCupcakes.com

3. Leu Gardens (Orlando, FL) — Christopher Cupcakes
We recently decided to tour the beautiful Leu Gardens here in Orlando, Florida. The Harry P. Leu Gardens are a semi-tropical and tropical garden here in Orlando. Well, isn’t any garden in Florida tropical? The gardens are divided into different themes across the 50 acres and Leu Gardens is bordered on one side by a lake. The grounds are shaded by 200 year old oaks dripping in Spanish Moss giving off that Old Southern charm we all know and love when living here in the South. Leu Gardens holds special events and classes throughout the year so check out their site to see what is going on. If you are ever in the area, make sure to go tour these beautiful gardens.
For more from Christopher about Leu Gardens, check out his full article at Christopher Cupcakes by clicking here.
Blog: Christopher CupcakesInstagram: @christopher.cupcakes; Facebook: Christopher Cupcakes; Twitter: @chris_cupcakes1 }

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4. General Public House (Winter Springs, FL) — Tel Wallace
We are all creatures of habit, and when we get used to doing the same thing in the same area, it can be difficult to try something new. I’m extremely guilty of this. My husband and I lived downtown for 3 years and anything outside of a five mile radius seemed too far to travel. So wouldn’t you know it, we ended up closing on a home TWENTY miles outside of downtown (shocker)! And as you can guess, we had to change our “only hang out downtown” mentality. It was honestly a blessing in disguise. With this newfound freedom to venture the outskirts of Orlando, I was thrilled to try a new restaurant in Winter Springs. My friend Dana, had been raving about General Public House, and it was about time I try it. First, can I just tell you how absolutely cute this place is, it’s like a farmhouse meets modern dream! I not only loved the aesthetics but the service was phenomenal too, and we even got a free appetizer! The kitchen demos food daily and the manager, CJ, sweetly decided Dana and I deserved it that day. I’ve only been there for lunch (the Hand Held Salmon BLT was amazing) but they offer a killer brunch that I fully intend to come back for. If you’re looking for a cute and tasty place to check out, this hidden gem is the place to go!
Instagram: @tel_wallace }

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10 Hidden Gems in Central Florida to Visit in the New Year | Wellness & Wanderlust

Photo Credit: JIsForJourney.com

5. Downtown Winter Garden — J Is For Journey // Jessica Ortega
Central Floridians have a lot of options when choosing between cute historic downtowns: there’s idyllic Mount Dora, or up-and-coming Sanford, and then there is the mainstay Winter Park. However, there is one downtown scene that I absolutely love that is not on this list: Winter Garden. My dad is a train aficionado so I’m totally a sucker for a cute train depot, and Winter Garden can check that off your list with the Central Florida Railroad Museum. They also have an incredibly lively Heritage Museum filled with historic items, memorabilia, and interesting local lore. During you can wander in and out of cute boutique shops, a brewery (a requirement for day tripping), cozy coffee shops, and swinging benches down a flower-lined median. Yep, this place has it all! And if you are still downtown in the evening, the Garden Theatre often has vintage movies or live theater shows.
Blog: J Is For Journey; Instagram: @jisforjourney }

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6. Orange Tree Antiques Mall (Winter Park, FL) — So Damn Local // Sarah Bolandi
A few years ago, I became a voracious record collector. Part of the fun, or I’d say most of it, has been not just the hunt for records but for shops. There’s something about the smell of old, dusty record sleeves and the faint sound of a slightly obscure but familiar song at vinyl shops that sends me into record nirvana. This summer, I was shown quite possibly the most dive-y of all record spots I’ve been to (excluding flea markets). The Orange Tree Antiques Mall in Winter Park has a bit of a hidden gem in the back. Past the retro pez dispensers and random knick knacks is small space filled with hundreds of completely disorganized records. During the rainy season, a soothing drip came from somewhere in the ceiling as I got lost in hours of vinyl hunting. While alphabetical order is typically helpful, the disarray adds to the charm. Of all the Central Florida spots, this on is my go-to shop for the old and extra smelly, super cheap records, quietly tucked inside an antique store.
Instagram: @sodamnlocalFacebook: @sodamnlocal }

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10 Hidden Gems in Central Florida to Visit in the New Year | Wellness & Wanderlust

Photo Credit: @_myownmelody_

7. Island Grove Wine Company at Formosa Gardens (Kissimmee, FL) — My Own Melody // Courtney Dias
You don’t need to travel around the world to be adventurous. Sometimes the best traveling you can do is right in your hometown. A short drive from home, I found a place I would love to share with you. Island Grove Wine Company has such a classic countryside feel with Parisian accent. Once inside, everything seemed so effortlessly placed to intrigue their guests, whether drinking around the bar located in the center or just wandering around finding the cutest trinkets, merchandise, and endless amounts of wine. You also could feel the warmth of the staff, which makes them feel more like friends rather than strangers. If you’re ever in Florida and want to explore something new or simply want to enjoy great hospitality, definitely stop by Island Grove Wine Company at Formosa Gardens for a date night. You can do anything from dinner (side note: the food is so good), wine tasting with the girls, or a paint and sip event. Trust me when I say, this truly is a hidden gem that makes being away from home a bit more sweeter.
Want to read more from Courtney’s experience? Stay tuned for her upcoming guest blog here at Wellness & Wanderlust!
Instagram: @_myownmelody_ }

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10 Hidden Gems in Central Florida | Wellness & Wanderlust

Photo Credit: NatureCoaster.com


8. Chinsegut Hill Manor Museum and Retreat Center (Brooksville, FL) — NatureCoaster // Diane Bedard
High atop a hill in Brooksville Florida, about an hour north of Tampa and two hours west of Orlando is an historically significant home that offers tours, nature trails, comfortable retreat cabins, and a spirit where lost things are regained; Chinsegut Manor Museum. Originally homesteaded in in the 1800s, this three story gem has two wrap-around porches – on the first and second stories – and views to make North Carolina proud. Chinsegut Hill’s last private owners were dedicated to human rights and moved in powerful political circles, with Raymond Robins being an advisor to 7 U.S. Presidents. Their clothing, artwork, furniture and spirits are still on “the Hill,” which they named “Chinsegut,” an Alaskan Inuit word meaning “the spirit of things lost and regained.” Visitors such as Helen Keller, J.C. Penney, Thomas Edison came to Chinsegut to visit Raymond Robins, Margaret Drier Robins and Elizabeth Robins.

Visitors can tour the grounds, opt for a self-guided tour or a guided tour, rent the cabins overnight, discover the WPA-built outbuildings, visit the tiny cemetery where some of the previous residents are resting or plan an event. The museum features a second story room where visitors can read letters of the day and explore the people that made history here.
You can read more about this beautiful manor and the families who have lived there on NatureCoaster!
Blog: NatureCoaster; Instagram: @nature.coasterFacebook: @naturecoaster }

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Photo Credit: CityWhit.com

9. Historic St. Augustine — CityWhit // Whitney Gonzalez
Hike just over an hour from Orlando to explore the oldest city in the U.S.–St. Augustine. The walkable historical destination is packed with interesting things to do, including climbing 219 steps to the top of the St. Augustine Lighthouse and exploring Castillo San Marcos for an artillery demonstration. The city also has a reputation for being one of the most haunted cities. Catch a ghost tour while you’re in town and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Blog: CityWhitInstagram: @city.whit; Facebook: @city.whit }

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10 Hidden Gems in Central Florida | Wellness & Wanderlust

Photo Credit: KimKonnection.com

10. Taste Events — Kim Konnection // Kimberly Thevenin
Although it is known for sunshine, Disney World, and its hometown team (go Knights), Central Florida is also home to something usually reserved for the likes of NYC – delicious eats. From local chains to small, family-owned restaurants, Central Florida is home to a variety of tasty places to grab a bite. It can be hard to test out all the foods Central Florida has to offer but luckily a few cities are making that task a little easier with their Taste events, which allow people to try food and drink samples from nearby restaurants. For pricing, these events either charge a ticket for entry and allow you to eat anything available, or have free entry and you only pay for the food you try. Taste of Winter Park (April), Taste of Oviedo (March) and Taste Central Florida (September) are a few of my favorite local taste events and I highly recommend them if you’re looking for something
unique to do while you’re in town.
Blog: Kim Konnection; Instagram: @kimkonnectionTwitter: @kimkonnection }

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Thank you to all of our local bloggers who contributed! I can’t wait to check out your hidden gem locations in 2019. 

Readers, what parts of Central Florida are you most excited to explore this year? Sound off in the comments!

Rainy Day Adventures: Downtown DeLand & Museum of Art

Why let a rainy day stop us from having a good time? For months, my friend and I have been looking forward to visiting Bok Towers for the Christmas tour of Pinewood Estates (read about our summer visit here), but when we checked the forecast this morning, we realized that a nearly 2-hour drive to a botanical garden was probably not the best idea for the day. Instead, we decided to stick a little closer to home with a trip to Downtown DeLand.

Your Guide to a Day in Downtown DeLand

I’m a huge fan of historic downtowns, and DeLand’s historic district does not disappoint. From fun shopping to local eateries, Downtown DeLand is the perfect stop for a weekend adventure.

We kicked off our visit with brunch at a little bistro called Byte. The breakfast sandwich was a delicious pick-me-up to start the day. The restaurant also offers a bottomless bloody Mary and mimosa bar for those wanting to experience a more boozy brunch. After our meal, we wandered over to the Museum of Art.

Your Guide to a Day in Downtown DeLand

For just $5 each, we received admission to the museum’s downtown campus, as well as access to their main campus within the next three days. Exhibits change every three months, but we arrived just in time for the Barbara Neijna Full Circle: Considering Infinity exhibit. Spanning across three galleries, Neijna’s art utilizes mixed media and explores the idea of infinity through its many circles. Although the museum was small, the galleries were well worth the visit.

Your Guide to a Day in Downtown DeLand

After exploring the museum, it was time to do a little shopping. Downtown DeLand is known for its antique shops, so a must-visit for any shopper on a rainy day is Marketplace at Rivertown. This three-story, multi-dealer antique market sells a variety of antique and vintage products, from furniture to artwork to jewelry to clothing. I’ve purchased a few unique gifts here before, and you can find some great stuff if you’re willing to look around.

Your Guide to a Day in Downtown DeLand

We also stopped by The Muse Book Shop next door, where I ended up purchasing a book of poetry. On the second Wednesday of the month, they host a Wine, Women, and Chocolate event, which I’ll definitely need to attend in the future. The shop offers used books in just about every genre, and includes an entire room dedicated to Florida.

Your Guide to a Day in Downtown DeLand

The day ended with a trip to Pat & Toni’s Sweet Things for a sugar fix. (Hey, I’m not starting my Whole30 until after the holidays, right?) 🙂 I indulged in a chocolate-covered s’more (yum!), while my friend Carrie enjoyed a classic butter pecan ice cream cone. The shop is filled with chocolate, fudge, ice cream, and other candies – perfect gift items for anyone in your life with a sweet tooth!

Your Guide to a Day in Downtown DeLand

The weather may have toggled between overcast and rainy, but we still ended up having a great time exploring Downtown DeLand while sticking to mainly indoor activities. If you’re looking for a fun new neighborhood to explore, take the trip to DeLand and see it for yourself!

For other art museums and galleries in Central Florida to explore on a rainy day, check out my local art guide here!

Celebrating Curiosity: How to Participate in Smithsonian’s Free Museum Day

Happy Hump Day! It may only be mid-week, but it’s never too early to start making weekend plans. This Saturday, September 22, is Smithsonian Magazine’s annual Free Museum Day, a day when museums all across the United States offer (you guessed it) free admission.

Celebrating Curiosity: How to Participate in Smithsonian Free Museum Day

In order to participate, you can click here to search for participating museums and claim your admission voucher for two. As someone who loves to explore various museums, I first participated in Free Museum Day a few years ago, when I had the pleasure of visiting the Orange County Regional History Center. The museum featured a traveling Gone With The Wind exhibit, and I had the opportunity to see costumes, awards, and letters from the film, all while learning about the history of my very own city.

Celebrating Curiosity: How to Participate in Smithsonian's Free Museum Day

For those in Orlando and the surrounding areas, a few favorite attractions of mine that will be participating this year include:

  • Cornell Museum of Fine Arts
  • Art & History Museum of Maitland
  • Orlando Museum of Art
  • Orange County Regional History Center
  • Mennello Museum of American Art

I can’t wait to share my own Museum Day 2018 adventures on the blog soon! How are you celebrating?

27 at 27 Bucket List: The Year in Review

Happy Saturday, readers! With a busy start to the month of September, I’ve been enjoying a quiet weekend to relax, reorganize, and regroup. We’re in the midst of Virgo season, and next weekend will be a lot less low-key as I celebrate my birthday!

For those who are new to the blog, every year I create a new bucket list of things I’d like to do before my next birthday. I think it’s a great way to prioritize the things you want to see and do, and having the list always gives me something new to look forward to. I’m in the process of creating my 28 at 28 bucket list, which will be posted soon on the blog (please comment with your suggestions!), but I also love to recap the previous year and all of the adventures that took place.

27 at 27 Bucket List Recap

You’ll notice that I didn’t check off everything on my list this past year. During that time, I was juggling work with a challenging second year of grad school, so time for myself was limited. I did experience other exciting adventures, such as throwing the first pitch at a UCF baseball game, attending the most adorable goat stampede, getting splashed by the penguins at SeaWorld (my first visit to the park since childhood), hosting a volunteer meal-packing event, taking an impromptu trip through St. Augustine, and much more.

Below is my recap of my 27 at 27 bucket list. (Check out my older posts recapping 25 and 26 as well.) Stay tuned for 28 at 28, and share your own suggestions in the comments below!

27 at 27 Bucket List Recap

  1. Travel to New Orleans for our annual mother-daughter tripMy mom and I traveled to New Orleans from 1/12 to 1/15/18. Check out the recap and travel tips here!
  2. Visit the Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge in Lake NonaI didn’t make it out there this year, but it will be on the list for 28.
  3. Take a class at Total WineSee above. 
  4. Travel to St. Petersburg to visit the Salvador Dalí MuseumA trip is in the works very soon! Stay tuned.
  5. Visit a salt room for halotherapy. Tried halotherapy for the first time at Antidote Apothecary & Spa on 11/18/17 and felt amazing! I have since been back for other visits. Check out my recap of the experience here.
  6. Spend the day in MiamiThis was another one that was hard to schedule this year because of school and limited time in South Florida.
  7. Take a boat tour of Winter Park. Took a tour on 8/26/18 and had a great time. I learned a lot about the area’s flora, fauna, and history.
  8. Hang out with the flamingos at Flamingo GardensVisited Flamingo Gardens with family on 3/31/18. 🙂 I also was nearly attacked by a peacock.
  9. Graduate from my MBA programGraduated from UCF on 5/5/18 – we did it!
  10. Take a bioluminescence tourSomeday!
  11. Complete another round of Whole30Accomplished this! I started my Whole30 on 5/14/18 and have been living a more healthy post-graduate lifestyle ever since.
  12. Go on a ghost tour through Downtown SanfordThis one is in the works!
  13. Visit New York City. Visited NYC from 10/6 to 10/9/17. Check out the recap here!
  14. Host a tea partyHosted a birthday tea party for my 27th birthday at AntiquiTEAs in Winter Garden on 9/17/17. What an amazing way to celebrate!
  15. Go kayaking in WekiwaOutdoor adventures were limited because of allergies and other concerns.
  16. Visit the Maitland Art CenterVisited the Art Center, History Center, chapel and grounds on 6/3/18.
  17. Take a post-graduation vacationTook a trip to Seattle and Victoria, BC, from 7/11 to 7/15/18. See my recap of Seattle here and my recap of Victoria here!
  18. Attend a performing arts showAttended Godspell and saw my friend, Danielle, perform on 7/22/18.
  19. Visit the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey. Stay tuned!
  20. Pursue public speaking opportunitiesI did a lot of public speaking this year, but a few highlights include serving as a panelist at UCF Career Fest, speaking at the Graduation Reception for the Burnett Honors College, serving as a panelist for new PMBA students at their orientation, and being a guest speaker for Athena Women Empowered at UCF.
  21. Take a limo cycle tour. Went on a pedal pub adventure around Downtown Sanford with my MBA class on 10/21/17.
  22. Finish an old writing projectThis was hard to embark on in the midst of graduate school, but I did begin dedicating a lot more time to writing this year, especially on my blog.
  23. Get my writing published somewhere newI wrote two articles for STRIVE Magazine on financial wellness.
  24. Take a DIY classMaybe next year!
  25. Stroll through the Albin Polasek Sculpture Gardens. Visited on 11/10/17. Recap coming soon!
  26. Tour the Stetson Mansion in DeLand. Visited on 11/19/17 for the Christmas tour — so beautiful! 
  27. Visit the Orlando EyeComing soon!

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What suggestions do you have for 28 at 28? Sound off in the comments below!

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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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!

The Hostess City of the South: Adventures in Savannah

Savannah - 12While discussing upcoming travel plans, my friend Karina brought up an important point: if you didn’t blog about it, did it even happen? Back in January, my mom and I took our much anticipated annual mother-daughter trip to Savannah, Georgia, a city with culture as rich as its cuisine.

The Historic District of Savannah, where we spent the bulk of our vacation, includes 22 town squares as originally planned by James Oglethorpe in the 1700s. The squares are easy to navigate, and each one we visited had its share of landmarks, restaurants, and eclectic shops.

I’m excited to share the highlights of our trip on the blog, and provide a guide for those traveling to this city for the first (or fifth!) time. 🙂

Places We Visited

  • Wormsloe Plantation
    We began our visit at the Wormsloe Plantation outside of Savannah’s Historic District, first occupied by Noble Jones. We toured the museum and watched a short film about the city’s establishment, but the highlight of visiting these tabby ruins was our mile-long walk down the Spanish moss-lined avenue. What a gorgeous view and a perfect photo op!
  • Savannah - 195Owens-Thomas House
    My mom and I are both big fans of historic homes, so visiting this English Regency-style house was a must. The house served as a home for many over the years, including (temporarily) Marquis de Lafayette. We enjoyed learning the history of the home and its architecture. If you only have time to visit one historic home on your trip, this is the one!
  • Telfair Academy
    Telfair Academy is an art museum located in Telfair Square (near the Owens-Thomas House) and boasts a beautiful sculpture gallery. It also boasts its share of ghost stories. For those planning to visit Telfair Academy, your ticket will also grant you admission to the Owens-Thomas House, as well as the Jepson Center, a contemporary art museum.
  • Sorrel-Weed House
    The Sorrel-Weed House is located very close to our hotel, so we decided to pay the home a visit. The home is currently undergoing restoration efforts, but it was interesting to see how people lived in the 1800s when it was first built. It is also a site known for its ghost sightings, so be wary of any paranormal activity!
  • Savannah - 73Massie Heritage Center
    This former school house was converted to a museum after the school closed in the 1970s, and provides a great overview of Savannah and its history. From its interactive 3D map of the city with a laser show to the 1800s classroom replica, we had fun stepping back in time at Massie.

Tours We Took

  • Old Town Trolley Tours: Hop-On, Hop-Off
    Whenever visiting a new city, I always recommend taking a hop-on, hop-off tour if available. Not only do these tours allow you to learn a lot about the city you’re in, but they also happen to stop at all of the major attractions and can be a great guide for getting to know the area. We toured the city on an Old Town Trolley Tour, which transported us to the picturesque Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Congregation Mikve Israel (one of the oldest synagogues in the country and the only one designed with gothic architecture), Massie Heritage Center, River Street, and many more destinations.
  • Ghosts & Gravestones Tour
    You can’t visit a historic city known for its hauntings without taking a ghost tour! My mom and I did a Ghosts and Gravestones tour on our St. Augustine trip last year, so it was only fitting that we returned for our 2017 trip. The tour gave us some additional insight into Savannah’s history, but it also stopped at the Andrew Low House as well as a ship chandlery. Definitely spooky!

What We Ate

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My mom and I don’t consider ourself major foodies, but we did eat a few delicious meals and treats during our visit! Here are some of our favorites:

  • The Public Kitchen and Bar
    Our first dinner in Savannah was spent at The Public Kitchen and Bar, a farm-to-table restaurant located near our hotel. I tried a Thai Coconut Red Curry, while my mom ordered one of the grass-fed burgers the restaurant is known for.
  • River Street Sweets
    River Street, while iconic, was a little too crowded and touristy for our taste. However, we did make a special stop at River Street Sweets, where we sampled free pralines and purchased some candy to bring back to the hotel. The long lines were worth it!
  • Gryphon Tea Room
    Gryphon Tea Room was the perfect lunch spot for our second day in Savannah. The restaurant itself is a sight to behold, with beautifully carved bookshelves, stained glass, and ornate light fixtures.  While I enjoyed my chicken marsala, the highlight of our visit was definitely the pot of Atlanta Peach Tea that accompanied my meal. On my next visit to Savannah, I would love to return for high tea.
  • Chocolat by Adam Turoni
    How can you walk by a store called “Chocolat” and not go inside? Like Gryphon, Chocolat by Adam Turoni is filled with bookshelves and actually resembles a bookstore more than anything else. The store sells gift book boxes of chocolates, mint julep truffles, and a variety of other unique food products. I enjoyed a piece of the Savannah Honey Chocolate Bar and a Raspberry Chambord Truffle. Definitely worth the visit!

Savannah was only a four-hour drive and the perfect way to spend a long weekend for a mother-daughter trip! I can’t wait for my next visit to the Hostess City of the South, and look forward to getting to know this city even better.

Have you been to Savannah? What are some of the highlights from your trip? Share your suggestions or questions in the comments section below!

Adventures in Florida: The Seacrest Wolf Preserve

Over the weekend, I experienced the adventure of a lifetime when my dad, sister, and I took a trip to the Seacrest Wolf Preserve. Tucked away in Chipley, Florida, the Seacrest Wolf Preserve was one of those bucket list items I never even knew I had until recently, when I met one of the volunteers at the Blue Springs Manatee Festival. I come from a family of animal lovers (who also happen to be involved in German Shepherd rescue efforts), so visiting the Seacrest Wolf Preserve was the perfect family getaway.

For those who are unfamiliar, the Seacrest Wolf Preserve is a non-profit organization dedicated to wolf conservation. Covering more than 400 acres, the preserve is a safe haven for several wolf packs, as well as foxes, skunks, a coyote, and other wildlife. Seacrest offers both public and private tours, allowing visitors to meet and interact with the wolves and smaller animals.

For our first visit, we decided to check out the Saturday Wolf Encounter Tour. When we arrived, we met Cynthia Watkins, one of Seacrest’s co-founders, and it was easy to see her passion for these beautiful animals. For just $25 admission, we had the chance to tour three wolf habitats and meet the packs who live there, as well as visit the foxes and skunks in the small animal areas.

This experience was life-changing, and I can’t wait to return for another visit. Within the wolf habitats, we were actually able to pet, play, and howl with the wolves– we even received a few wolf kisses! I fell in love with an energetic 10-month-old pup who reminded me a lot of my first German Shepherd, Shana, at that age. 🙂

Throughout the day, we learned about how packs form and how difficult it truly is to be a “lone wolf.” We also learned about why conservation efforts are a necessity, as wolves are incredibly vital to the ecosystem, and how greed and legislation have put their lives in danger.

During the tour, we talked about how important it is to speak for the wolves, because they cannot speak for themselves. Supporting organizations like Seacrest is a great way to give back to these incredible animals and fight against the regulations that have put them in harm’s way. Visiting the preserve gives you a greater appreciation and empathy for an often misunderstood creature, and is a must-do for anyone who wants to get up close and personal with a wolf.

I’m excited to return with my family for a VIP Tour in the near future! I highly recommend Seacrest (learn more about tours here) for all of you animal lovers. It’s an experience you won’t forget.