Adventures on the Nature Coast: A Day at the Chinsegut Hill Retreat

Chinsegut (noun): The Inuit word for “the spirit of things lost and regained.”

Adventures on the Nature Coast: A Day at the Chinsegut Hill Retreat

For all of my Orlando readers who want to make a quick road trip getaway, look no further than Brooksville, Florida. Located in Hernando County in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area, Brooksville is hardly more than a hop, skip, and a jump away — about two hours west. I was introduced to the area by the lovely Diane of NatureCoaster, a fellow blogger who had contributed to my Hidden Gems of Central Florida post back in January, and couldn’t wait to visit Florida’s Nature Coast.

Adventures on the Nature Coast: A Day at the Chinsegut Hill Retreat

Our first stop was the Chinsegut Hill Manor, a historic home last owned by social activists Raymond Robins and Margaret Dreier Robins until the mid-1900s. In fact, who better to lead our tour than Margaret herself? 🙂 Visitors can receive tours from costumed guides and reenactors, adding even more magic to the Chinsegut grounds. With two wraparound porches, beautiful original furnishings, and a gorgeous landscape, history enthusiasts will love touring the manor house. Tours are just $5 and are offered on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. or by appointment.

Adventures on the Nature Coast: A Day at the Chinsegut Hill Retreat

After our tour, our group congregated on the porch to sample some of the best wines the Nature Coast has to offer from the Sparacia Witherell Family Winery. Each bottle tells a different story about the family who owns this winery, and in addition to your traditional reds and whites, they also offer blueberry and currant wines. My favorites were the Honeymoon Wine, a muscadine honey wine (not to be confused with mead) infused with grapefruit and apricots, and the Sicilian Punch, a peach/orange sangria and overall crowd pleaser. Take a trip to their tasting room to try all of these delicious flavors! As an added bonus, the winery often houses food trucks and local bands for a fun day or night out.

Adventures on the Nature Coast: A Day at the Chinsegut Hill RetreatIn the evening, we trekked over to the Chinsegut Conservation Center just down the road for a guided night hike with Gina, the center’s director. During our tour, we learned about the various native wildlife, and had the opportunity to learn about the area’s bat population. Bat houses are located on site, and are home to roughly 250 bats per home. At dusk, we watched the bats fly out of their houses and into the night sky. I had never seen so many bats in my life! The conservation center hosts tour groups almost monthly, as well as various classes and events throughout the year.

IMG_8465

If you’re looking for somewhere to stay during your time in Brooksville, check out the charming cottages at Chinsegut Hill Retreat, on the same grounds as the historic manor house. Each cottage has four bedrooms with two twin beds each, along with their own private bathrooms, a kitchen, and communal living room area. Our group stayed in the cottages and enjoyed s’mores and popcorn by the campfire just outside on the grounds. Take time on the porch in the morning to enjoy the breeze, relax, and restore.Adventures on the Nature Coast: A Day at the Chinsegut Hill RetreatI truly can’t wait for my next trip to Chinsegut and to explore more of the Nature Coast!

What’s on your Florida travel bucket list? Share your adventures in the comments section below!

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.

 

Love is Calling: Your Guide to the Tampa Museum of Art

“Dots are symbols of the world, the cosmos. The Earth is a dot, the moon, the sun, the stars are all made up of dots. You and me, we are dots.” – Yayoi Kusama

Love is Calling: Your Guide to the Tampa Museum of Art

If you live in Central Florida and spend any time on social media, chances are you’ve seen the glowing neon tentacle-like sculptures that form the LOVE IS CALLING exhibition at the Tampa Museum of Art. As someone who spends her fair share of time in art museums, I was especially drawn to this colorful mirrored exhibit, and knew that I had to make the trip across the state to see it in person.

LOVE IS CALLING, an infinity room by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, was well worth the visit. The exhibition, which first came to Tampa in September, will be leaving the museum on February 14, so if Kusama’s works strike your fancy, be sure to plan your trip ASAP.

Here’s what you should know before you go:

  • Buy a timed ticket ahead of time. The ticket you purchase online will guarantee you access to LOVE IS CALLING at a set time, and will also grant admission to the museum as a whole. Entry to LOVE IS CALLING does not require the timed ticket, but because of the exhibition’s popularity, you may not be able to get in otherwise.
  • Go early, especially if you’re going on the weekend. I visited on Sunday and set my entry time for 10:30 a.m. to avoid the crowds.
  • Space in Kusama’s infinity room is limited, and visitors only get two minutes to enjoy the exhibition. However, you’ll have unlimited time to enjoy the other exhibits.
  • You’ll hear a recording of Kusama reading her poem Residing in a Castle of Shed Tears in Japanese. When you exit the room, you can read the poem in English. The poem has different meanings if you read it from top to bottom vs. bottom to top.
  • If you’re uncomfortable with dark enclosed spaces, this exhibit may not be for you.

Love is Calling: Your Guide to the Tampa Museum of Art

I would be remiss not to share my experience with another exhibition at the museum, Robert Indiana: A Sculpture Retrospective. Known for his LOVE series, Robert Indiana was an artist who created sculptures, mixed media, pop art, and other works over the course of more than 50 years. His exhibition is on display though March 17, and I enjoyed it as much as (if not more than!) LOVE IS CALLING.

IMG_7435.JPG

Be sure to spend some time exploring the galleries to learn about other artists and even enjoy the classical antiquities. Afterward, pop over to Anise Global Gastrobar across the street for a delicious lunch, or take a stroll along the water through Curtis Waterfront Park and take in the beautiful views of the University of Tampa (which houses the Henry B. Plant Museum from my previous St. Pete/Tampa post).

What’s next on your art-themed bucket list? Share your favorites in the comments!

Guest Post: Island Grove Wine Company at Formosa Gardens

In last week’s Hidden Gems blog post, local fashionista Courtney of @_myownmelody_ shared a snippet of her experience with the Island Grove Wine Company at Formosa Gardens in Kissimmee. Read below for more from Courtney about the winery and why it should be on your bucket list for 2019.

Your Guide to Island Grove Wine Company at Formosa Gardens | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

By Courtney Dias, @_myownmelody_

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 made them feel more like friends than strangers.

Your Guide to Island Grove Wine Company at Formosa Gardens | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

I was greeted by Chris, who served me a delicious sweet chilled white sangria. It was so smooth that to this day, I’m itching to have it once again for one of my day date adventures. I was taken around the venue by Haley, who is so charismatic I could definitely see why she is a wedding planner for the winery.

Your Guide to Island Grove Wine Company at Formosa Gardens | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

We started outside where you could watch the sun touch the earth during any special occasion. We made our way to the bright and spacious bridal suite accompanied with vintage pieces, followed by the rustic groom suite which Haley and I both agreed is a great space to work in as well. The reception hall can be fitted for any occasion of any size, which I love because the space is so versatile! What better way to end the tour, than by having a delicious pastry to complement my amazing French vanilla latte?

Your Guide to Island Grove Wine Company at Formosa Gardens | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

If you’re ever in Florida and want to explore something new or simply want to enjoy great hospitality, stop by Island Grove Winery Formosa Garden winery 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.


For more hidden gems in the Central Florida area, be sure to check out our recap!

Welcome to Miami: Art Deco Walking Tours

To all of my readers who celebrate, I hope you had a very merry Christmas! I began my holiday vacation over the weekend, when I made the trip down to my hometown in South Florida to spend time with family. Although I grew up and spent 16 years of my life down here, I rarely get a chance to explore the area. Surprisingly enough, I actually know my way around Orlando and its surrounding areas a lot better than my own hometown! This past weekend, however, I decided to change some of that with an Art Deco Walking Tour in Miami Beach.

Welcome to Miami: Art Deco Walking Tours | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

These tours, which are run by the Miami Design Preservation League, leave from the Art Deco Welcome Center every day at 10:30 a.m. and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. Although our tour group was a larger one, December was the perfect time to go — thanks to our Florida winters, we were there on a sunny day with temperatures in the low to mid 70s. With a two-hour walking tour ahead of us, beautiful weather was crucial!

Welcome to Miami: Art Deco Walking Tours | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

Our guided tour took us through Miami Beach’s historical district, giving our group an introduction to the city’s colorful buildings and architectural styles. Exploring historic sites like the Congress Hotel and the Breakwater, we learned about how the French art nouveau styles, Hollywood, cruise ships, and the ancient Egyptians inspired Miami’s architecture from the Great Depression and on. Did you know that the sidewalks are red to symbolize a red carpet?

Welcome to Miami: Art Deco Walking Tours | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

The tour also explores several interiors, which encompass different uses of light and nod to Miami Beach’s past dealings with the mafia. Although the tour mainly focuses on the Art Deco architectural style, groups also have the chance to learn about and identify the Mediterranean Revival style (a lot rarer to Miami but still present) and Miami Modern (MiMo). The tour also grants admission to the on-site Art Deco Museum on 10th Street and Ocean Drive.

IMG_6179.JPG

The verdict? I absolutely loved it! This tour combines the perfect mix of architecture, history, and pop culture, leaving room for plenty of photo ops and questions along the way. Whether you’re planning a vacation in Miami or you happen to live close by, I highly recommend an Art Deco Walking Tour. 🙂

What are your favorite ways to explore Miami? Sound off in the comments section below!

 

Bok Tower Gardens Part 2: Pinewood Estate Holiday Home Tour

It may be snowing across the country, but here in Central Florida, ’tis the season to visit the botanical gardens. Did you know that Bok Tower Gardens is the perfect place to ring in the holiday season? Nestled in Lake Wales between Orlando and Tampa, Bok Tower Gardens is an idyllic garden and bird sanctuary that knows how to bring the holiday spirit. I’ve visited Bok Towers before (check out my guide and recap here!), but over the weekend, I decided to take another trip to the gardens for their Holiday Home Tour at Pinewood Estate.

Bok Tower Gardens: A Guide to the Holiday Home Tour at Pinewood Estate

Located on the grounds of Bok Tower Gardens, Pinewood Estate is a 20-room Mediterranean-style mansion that was once the winter home of Charles Austin Buck, an executive from Bethlehem Steel. From November 26 through January 6, Pinewood Estate is completely decked out for Christmas, and guests can enjoy the Holiday Home Tour.

Bok Tower Gardens: A Guide to the Holiday Home Tour at Pinewood Estate

Each year, the house is decorated in a different theme for the holidays (with this year’s theme focusing on Christmas in the 1940s, post-World War II). No two years are alike, and hidden throughout the home are several Pinewood Estate squirrels. Learn about the history of the home, as well as the family who lived there, and take time to appreciate each room and its elegant decorations.

Bok Tower Gardens: A Guide to the Holiday Home Tour at Pinewood Estate

I loved all of the details laid out in each room, especially in Lucy Buck Fox’s bedroom upstairs (and her bright pink bathroom). With Christmas trees in nearly every room and beautiful glass ornaments, the house is well worth taking the time to explore.

In addition to the Christmas tours, Pinewood Estate offers musical afternoons throughout the Christmas season on select dates throughout December and January.

Bok Tower Gardens: A Guide to the Holiday Home Tour at Pinewood Estate

The house is a beautiful place to visit year-round, open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Beginning January 29, you can take one of the regularly scheduled historical tours of the home, learning more about its architecture and interior design.

Visiting Pinewood Estate for the Holiday Home Tour was a fun holiday experience, and I look forward to seeing how Bok Towers continues the festivities in 2019!

What are your favorite holiday homes and traditions in Florida? Sound off in the comments below!

28 at 28: Let the Good Times Roll

Hey readers! With my birthday just around the corner, it’s time to close the books on my 27 at 27 bucket list adventures and make way for a new year. (For anyone asking, I’m turning 21 again.) Every year, my birthday bucket lists expose me to so many new experiences, and I’m excited to see what the next year brings. 🙂

IMG_2335.jpegFeel free to follow along here or by tapping that 28 at 28 link on the main menu. I’ll also share links as I blog about my experiences!

Things I’d Like to Do While I’m 28

  1. Visit the Casa Feliz in Winter Park.
  2. Tour the Oak Haven Winery in Sorrento and go strawberry picking.
  3. Take our annual mother/daughter trip.
  4. Go to Top Golf.
  5. Take a coding class.
  6. See a movie at the Enzian.
  7. Tour the Howey Mansion.
  8. Tailgate at a UCF football game.
  9. Take a class at Total Wine.
  10. Visit the Avian Reconditioning Center in Maitland.
  11. Travel to a new state.
  12. Attend a performing arts show.
  13. Take the Mr. Rogers Walking Tour at Rollins.
  14. Get my writing published somewhere new.
  15. Complete another round of Whole30.
  16. Take a Christmas tour of the Pinewood Estate at Bok Towers.
  17. Attend a non-UCF sporting event.
  18. Finish an old writing project.
  19. Hike the Shingle Creek Trail to Pioneer Village.
  20. Take a Downtown Sanford Ghost Tour.
  21. Celebrate Smithsonian Museum Day.
  22. Visit the Bronze Kingdom art gallery.
  23. Take a weekend trip to St. Petersburg.
  24. Visit the Back to Nature wildlife refuge.
  25. Take an Art Deco tour in Miami.
  26. Visit one of the local springs.
  27. Go out for Magical Dining Month.
  28. Do the annual grape stomp at Lakeridge Winery.

What are you looking forward to this year? Share in the comments section below!

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!

*

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

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

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!

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave