Tag: USA

This Old House {Connecticut Edition}

The next time you visit Connecticut swing through Guilford. This New Haven suburb, located along the Long Island Sound, boasts a rich history. Located just off the town’s Green sits Connecticut’s oldest house and New England’s oldest stone house, the Henry Whitfield State Museum.

Built by one of Guilford’s founding members, Reverend Henry Whitfield, in 1693 prior to the founding of the city. The building initially served as home to the Reverend and his family as well as a place of worship and a meeting hall. Later, the house served as a fort for the founding families to provide a place of safety and refuge from the local Native Americans.

The house was opened in 1899 as the first state museum in Connecticut. There is a self-guided tour of the house that takes you through three floors filled with 17th-19th-century furnishings and artifacts, and shares not only the history of the house and its inhabitants but also the history of Guilford. In addition, the house the museum includes a Visitor Center and Education building, as well as a canon from the War of 1812.

Be sure to visit the museum website before visiting to check on hours as they vary throughout the year.

What is your favorite National Historic Landmark?

Yates Cider Mill

If you ever find yourself in Rochester Hills, Michigan, then you need stop by Yates Cider Mill. As one of oldest, continually running businesses in the state of Michigan, the Mill provides an excellent pit stop to stock up on provisions and to enjoy some nature.

The Mill opened in 1863 as a grist mill, but by 1876 the Yates family had started using the water power from the Clinton River to produce a Michigan staple, cider. The double table press can produce up to 300 gallons of cider per hour! Tours are available on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during peak season (September and October), and they are about 30 minutes long.

The Mill is open year-round, but the best times to visit is during the summer and fall months when everything is open. My visit came a little early in the season, but I was able to taste some of their delicious cider and cinnamon donuts.

If your visit coincides with the proper seasons, Yates Cider Mill offers a Fudge Shop, Ice Cream Shop, Apple Tent, and more. The Mill also provides pony rides and a petting zoo during the summer months and a walking trail along the Clinton River. The trail is about 1/2 mile long, making it an easy way to escape into nature.

During your next visit to Michigan, be sure to add this landmark to your list of places to see.

What is your favorite cider mill?

Checking In: New York Marriott Downtown

Checking In is a series for reviewing properties, whether it is a hostel, hotel or other forms of accommodation. To suggest a property please send us an email.

I recently made a trip up to New York for another National Geographic workshop, and stayed at the beautiful New York Marriott Downtown. If you are looking for a hotel in Lower Manhattan, then look no further.

The New York Marriott Downtown is located within walking distance from Battery Park, Wall Street, 9/11 Memorial and Museum, and One World Observatory. The hotel is also situated near a few subway stations making it easy to get around the city and to your favorite sites.

My favorite part of this hotel is the view. Instead of getting views of a brick wall, the New York Marriott Downtown offers views of the Hudson River, New Jersey, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The hote also is home to Bill’s Bar & Burger, one of New York’s top burger joints, as well as Bill’s West Side Bar.

If you are looking for a comfortable hotel and affordable hotel in The Big Apple, then you need to book a stay at the New York Marriott Downtown.

 

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The People of New York City

When I was planning out my trips for the year, I never expected to attend another National Geographic Expeditions trip or head back to New York so soon, but it ended up working out perfectly. This trip to New York marked my third trip with National Geographic, and I decided to step it up a bit with the advanced level class. Our assignment for the weekend was to capture the people of New York experimenting with light and flash. This assignment was kind of a lot out of my comfort zone, but it really pushed me to try out things I had never considered before with this art.

Our first location was the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain in Central Park. This section of Central Park is considered the heart of the park. It provided the perfect backdrop for capturing tourists, locals and street performers. The best way to access this part of Central Park is from the 72nd Street Station, and just follow the path for Strawberry Fields and the Lennon Mosaic.

That evening, we headed to one of New York’s more iconic locations, Times Square, to continue our lesson on street portraits. Let me tell you it is no easy task to approach strangers for thier portraits. Additionally, Times Square is one of the more challenging locations to shoot due to all the bright and changing lights.

For our second day, it was unfortunately raining, but we made the most of it and headed to Grand Central Station to practice movement with people and light. Grand Central is one of my favorite places in New York. Not only does it make for some people watching, but it is a spectacular piece of architecture.

What are your favorite places to people watch in New York?

A Day by the Santa Monica Bay

Santa Monica. The land of endless sun, sand and sea. When my company announced I would be heading out to California for a brief trip, I got pretty excited and I made sure to I book my tickets so I could have a little time to play. The last time I was in California was for Alabama’s 13th National Championship, and we were only in Santa Monica for a couple of hours. With almost a full 48 hours to explore this time, I had the chance to soak in more of this city and the sights. Below is a list of things you need to do during your next visit to Santa Monica.

Santa Monica Pier

The Santa Monica Pier is a given. The pier originally opened in 1909 and it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city. Locted at the end of Colorado Avenue, you can’t miss this historic piece of Santa Monica due to its iconic entrance. The Santa Monica Pier is also the end of old Route 66, so be sure to grab a picture with the sign.

Pacific Park

Pacific Park is an ocean-front amusement park located on the Santa Monica Pier. Opened in 1996, Pacific Park is the west coast’s only amusement park on a pier and Los Angeles’ only admission-free park. There are 12 different rides located in the park including the Pacific Wheel (Ferris Wheel) and the West Coaster roller coaster. Despite the park being “admission-free” you will still need to purchase tickets for the rides. Rides and attractions are priced individually and range from $5 to $10. You can also purchase an unlimited wristband from the ticket booth that will allow you to ride all the rides as many times as you’d like.

Santa Monica State Beach

The beach is 3.5 miles long and is located parallel to the Pacific Coast Highway. The beach is located on the north side of the Santa Monica Pier, and has lots of activities for visitors including volleyball, surfing, paddleboarding and more. If you go to the north side of the Pier, you will find the original Muscle Beach. This beach is the birthplace of the physical fitness boom in the US during the 20th century, and opened to the public in 1934. Stopy by and play on “Santa Monica’s Playground”. The state park also includes Palisades Park which offers a great vantage point for people watching. Be sure to stop by so you can dip your toes in the Pacific Ocean.

Third Street Promenade

Just steps from the Pier is Third Street Promenade. The Promenade is three blocks of open-air, car-free shopping. Shopping includes farmers market, numerous restaurtants, several boutique stores, as well as fun things to do including bike rentals. It’s fun taste of Santa Monica.

What is your favorite thing to do in Santa Monica?

Tips for Trolley Pubbing

Are you looking for a new way to explore a city? A method that allows you to see the sites, drink, visit local watering holes, and get some exercise? Then a pedal-powered bar is just the thing for you!

I have seen these pedal-powered bars around on social media from friends. I thought it would make the perfect activity for a celebration of some sort. Well, that celebration was my dad’s birthday. We opted to go with Trolley Pub in Durham due to plans for the weekend, and it was an absolute blast. Check out my tips to make the most of your ride and time with friends!

Before Your Tour

The number one thing you should do before arriving at the pick-up location is to have everyone in your group sign a waiver. We ended up doing this in the car on the way. (Oops!) By doing this step ahead of time ensures a quick departure. Also, make sure you have your license and some cash on hand for your pit stops.

Next. Create your playlist. Almost all of the trolleys come with a stereo system of some sort, so create a killer playlist that will last the duration of the trip. Most rides last about 2 hours.

Last. Check the route your trolley will be taking and see if there are any additional pit stops you want to add to the list. Most companies have a flexible policy as long as the stop works with the route. If you are concerned, be sure to reach out prior to your ride.

Food and Decorating

Most trolley pub companies allow you to bring your own food. So pack a bags with some of your favorite snacks, keeping in mind that some foods are easier to eat when pedaling than others. Also, bring a cooler with your favorite beverages. Even though you’ll be stopping at bars along the way, BYOB is recommended (as long as it doesn’t come in glass). We opted to stop at one of the local breweries and grab a couple of six-packs to go.

Decorations are highly recommended, especially if you are celebrating something! Just make sure you bring your own supplies to attach it to the trolley, like masking tape; that the sign on the back doesn’t cover the turn signals; and that whatever you hang won’t hit your friends in the face as you ride. But have fun and get creative!

On the Bike

This is pretty common sense, but just have fun! Follow the rules set by your driver and just enjoy yourself!

Happy pedaling!

Have you ever done a pedal-powered bar before? What advice would you add?

Mount Cheaha

Take a trip to Mount Cheaha, situated in the Talladega Mountains, and visit Alabama’s highest point at 2,407 feet above sea level. Located in Cheaha Resort State Park, the state’s oldest continuous operating state park, this mountaintop destination is the perfect day trip for anyone in Atlanta or Birmingham.

There are several hiking trails around the park, but none take you directly to the summit. If you desire to reach the summit by foot, then I recommend taking the Cheaha Express and cutting across to one of the roads that lead to the summit. If you would prefer to drive, like us, then there is a road that takes you directly to the summit.

The highest point in Alabama is marked with an observation tower named Bunker Tower. This tower was completed in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. In fact, the Civilan Conservation Corps statue in front of the tower is the only CCC statue in the state of Alabama. The wing to the right of the main tower is home to the CCC museum. I highly recommend taking a look around, as it is very educational.

Have you ever climbed the highest point in your state?

Checking In: Hotel Finial

Checking In is a series for reviewing properties, whether it is a hostel, hotel or other forms of accommodation. To suggest a property please send us an email.

This post is brought to you by Hotel Finial. I received a free stay at Hotel Finial in exchange for writing a review on the blog. All opinions are my own. Thank you for your support surrounding sponsored posts. 

I have mastered the art of weekend getaways. Whether it is a day trip up to the North Georgia mountains for wine tasting or driving a few hours to check out a nearby city, I am always looking for something to do on the weekends. A few weekends ago, I was provided the opportunity to visit a city I had never really explored before and to stay in one of the city’s historic hotels.

Situated on a hill above downtown Anniston, Hotel Finial is located in a Queen Anne Victorian mansion that was built in 1888. Prior to being a hotel, this mansion was home to some of the city’s most prominent families including the McKleroys, Wilsons and Kirbys. Each of these families are honored with suites named after them in the main house.

The hotel features 61 rooms including five suites. Four of these suites are located in the main house, the three mentioned above as well as a Ballroom Suite that is the entire third floor of the main house.

The last suite is The Cottage, where we stayed.

(Check out this video for a walking tour of The Cottage.)

Every morning, Hotel Finial starts off with a delicious Southern breakfast prepared by Charlene, the hotel’s chef, that you can enjoy in one of the four dining rooms. All the dining rooms are located in the main house and include the original hardwood and fireplace from the 1800s.

My favorite part about the hotel, though, is the details! The intricate fireplaces and stained glass really bring character to the main house. And don’t miss Spencer’s Bar located in The Carriage House on the property.

So, whether you are passing through on I-20, traveling on business or looking for a weekend getaway, I highly recommend booking your next Anniston stay with Hotel Finial.


This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking through my links.

The Model City {Anniston, AL}

At the foohills of the Appalachians lies the sleepy city of Anniston, Alabama. Located just 60 miles from Birmingham, Alabama and 90 miles from Atlanta, Georgia, this city makes the perfect weekend getaway destination for either city. Check out this list of things to see and do during your next visit to The Model City.

Museums

There are two museums located in the city of Anniston: Anniston Museum of Natural History and Berman Museum of World History, which are conveniently located right next door to each other. We opted to explore the Natural History museum since my mom tried to take me as a kid.

The Anniston Museum of Natural History was established in 1930, has seven permanant exhibits and is a proud member of the Smithsonian Affiliate Membership Program. In addition to the 2,000 natural history items on dispaly, there is also a wildlife garden, nature trails, and open-air animal exhibits. This is definitely worth the visit to Anniston alone.

Wall Art Scavenger Hunt

If you are looking to familiarize yourself with the city of Anniston, there is a great walking tour that will take you through historic downtown and show off various wall murals sponsored by local businesses. It is definitely a fun little scavenger hunt, and you get to walk past some cute antique stores along the way.

Oldest Saloon in Alabama

Did you know Anniston is home to the oldest saloon in Alabama? The Peerless was established in 1899 and joined the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.

The Peerless Saloon and Grille is located on the corner of 10th Street and Atlanta Avenue. The Grille is a full-service restaurant that offers some tasty offerings. We highly recommend checking out their Shrimp & Grits and Reuben. Righ next door is the Saloon if you are looking for an evening cocktail and good music. Be sure to take a look at the mirror behind the bar, it has been in the building since 1906.

Mount Cheaha

Mount Cheaha is the highest point in Alabama, and it is only 45 minutes outside of town. It is definitely worth the day trip to say you have been to the top of Alabama.

Hotel Finial

Last, but not least, you will need a place to stay. Be sure to check out historic Hotel Finial.

 

What do you want to see and do during your visit to Anniston?

The Windy City {Chicago, IL}

Chicago is a city that has been on my list to visit for awhile, so when The Tall Man texted me about an opportunity to go for a weekend, my immediate answer was yes!

The Tall Man and I flew in early on a Saturday morning, and we immediately hit the ground running. When you only have a limited number of hours in a city and your one evening is for a work event, you take advantage of every minute! Here are our suggestions of things to see and do when you have a very short amount of time to explore The Windy City.

The Chicago Bean

The Chicago Bean is probably one of the more popular sculptures in the city and is a “must” for most tourists. The Bean creates the perfect opportunity to capture the city’s skyline and get yourself in the picture. Located in Millennium Park, Cloud Gate (the actual name of the sculpture) was created by  British artist Anish Kapoor and completed in May 2006. The sculpture is open 24-7, but it is definitely more crowded on the weekends.  The Bean also overlooks the McCormick Tribune Plaza, which serves as a public ice skating rink in the winter months and dining plaza during the summer.

360 Chicago at John Hancock Center

There are several places throughout the city to get glimpses of the skyline, but the two more popular options offer 360-degree views of the city from above. The first is the Skydeck at the Willis Tower and the second is 360 Chicago at John Hancock Center. A lot of people opt for the Skydeck, but after asking around and doing our research we decided to take on 360 Chicago and its Tilt! We ended up having a beautiful clear day to see all of Chicago, and we got a kick out of the Tilt experience. It is definitely worth adding to your list!

Walk the Magnificent Mile

The Magnificient Mile is a 13-block stretch of North Michigan Avenue that runs from the banks of the Chicago River. These blocks encompass over 400 stores and 200 restaurants. It aslo has some incredibly rich architecture, and we definitely want to do an architecture tour on our next visit.

Explore Museums

Chicago has a plethora of museums on a variety of subjects. We opted to take on the Museum of Science and Industry, located in Hyde Park. We only had a few hours to explore, but this is definitely on our must-see list when we return. The three exhibits we saw were: the museum’s first exhibit, Old Ben No. 17; the Mirror Maze; and Toymaker 3000. Some exhibits have an additional charge to your entry ticket, so make sure you check as you plan your visit.

Check out this video of me getting lost in the Mirror Maze.

Food

The Tall Man and I like trying “local” restaurants when we visit new cities. I put it in quotes because they may be a chain restaurant in the area we are visiting, but it is something we can’t get at home. During our visit, we checked out a couple of seriously good restaurants in the city. See below for our list and recommendations.

Park & Grill – Located in the McCormick Tribune Plaza under The Bean, this restaurant was our first taste of Chicago. It is on the pricey side (especially for lunch), but the food was amazing! We recommend the Shaved Prime Rib Sandwich and the House Roasted Turkey Sandwich.

Shula’s Steak House – This steakhouse is located in the Sheraton Grand Chicago (our hotel), and it is where The Tall Man’s work event was hosted. We had a delicious prime rib dinner and enjoyed the company of The Tall Man’s co-workers. If you get the opportunity to get a delicious steak in Chicago, I highly recommend it. It was probably one of the best steaks I have had in a while.

Eggy’s Dinner – For brunch on Sunday, we chose Eggy’s Dinner. I’m so glad we ended up at this place. It was a super small, very cute space and the food was really good too. We recommend the Cinnamon Roll Pancakes and the Eggy’s Crepes.

 

What is the one must-see item for you in Chicago?