Tag: USA

The Queen City of the Great Lakes {Buffalo, NY}

Buffalo, New York is generally not a popular travel destination, it definitely was not on my list, but bear with me as I try to convince you to add this up-state city to your list. My opinion changed after I spent seven days exploring this city and the surrounding areas.

Buffalo Park Systems

Frederick Law Olmstead designed and built the first park and parkway system in the U.S. in Buffalo, and some claim it was his best work. The Buffalo Olmsted Park System is comprised of six parks, seven parkways, eight landscaped circles and several smaller spaces. These parks also surround many of the city’s museums.

Architecture

Buffalo is home to rich architecture, and the residents are working hard to maintain this part of their history. You have the Ellicott Square Building, built in 1896, on Main Street was once the largest office complex in the world, and other interesting buildings located downtown.

Up next, Buffalo is home to seven different Frank Lloyd Wright constructions—Chicago is the only other place with more of Wright’s works. I had the chance to visit his Darwin Martin House, which was built between 1903 and 1905. This house has undergone incredible changes and is well on its way back to complete restoration.

Gardens Galore

Are you a fan of gardens? Then you need to head to Buffalo during the summer months to join Garden Walk Buffalo, the nation’s largest garden walk. This event is comprised of over 400 private gardens and they are something special!

My favorite part of exploring the many neighborhoods of Buffalo, though, was the brightly painted houses. Who doesn’t want a hot pink house?

Buffalo is also home to Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Garden.

Niagara Falls & Lake Erie

Niagara Falls is a true natural wonder that amazes millions of visitors each year. Take a gander at this natural wonder on the US side with Niagara Falls State Park or head over the border to Canada for another perspective. (Read about my visit to Canada’s Falls here.)

Don’t have time to visit Niagara Falls? Head to one of the parks along the Buffalo River for an evening stroll or dinner and catch a glimpse of Canada on the other side of the river or the Buffalo Main Light, which was established and lit in 1833 and deactivated in 1914.

So, have I convinced you? Is Buffalo now on your bucket list?

 

The Mile-High City { Denver, CO}

To celebrate my birthday this year, my mom and I took a trip with Pack Up + Go and crossed a new city and state off our bucket lists, Denver, Colorado. We had always heard good things about the city, and we were excited about exploring a new location.

Good Food

One of our clues from Pack Up + Go was to arrive with an empty stomach because there was a lot of good food, and they were not wrong. We felt like we ate the whole time we were there, which was totally okay by me.

Our first stop after checking into our hotel was the Appaloosa Grill, per the recommendation of our concierge, located only a few blocks from the hotel along the 16th Street Mall. The restaurant boasted an expansive drink menu and delicious food. We highly recommend the Bison Sirloin and Ravioli.

On Saturday, we felt we ate the whole day. We started off the day with breakfast at Snooze, an AM eatery, in Union Station. According to one of my coworkers and our Pack Up + Go itinerary, Snooze is one of the IT places to eat when you visit Denver. We were instructed to get there early, and thanks to the time zone change, getting there at 7:00 AM before the lines was easy to do. We were able to enjoy a relaxing breakfast on their patio and watch Denver wake up. Mom got the Breakfast Pot Pie and I tried the OMG! French Toast. We were not disappointed by the western breakfast chain.

For lunch, which ended up being brunch, we headed to Historians Ale House. This restaurant came as a recommendation of my coworker, and we seriously enjoyed their bottomless mimosas. They also served up one of the best burgers I have had in a while. We topped off the day with sunset views, apps and drinks at the Peaks Lounge.

On Sunday, we grabbed a quick bagel breakfast at Bruegger’s Bagels before we explored a little more. We grabbed a quick snack after our morning excursion at The Denver Central Market. We finished out our time in Denver with lunch at Ale House for views of the city and delicious cider.

Now, let’s talk about the desserts, and ice cream specifically. Several of our Uber drivers shared their favorite ice cream shops, so, of course, we had to try them out. We started off with Milkbox Ice Creamery located in Union Station, then tested out Little Man Ice Cream. Our personal favorite was Little Man, which is conveniently located to Ale House.

Good Views

With the backdrop of the Rockies, Denver offers some pretty spectacular views. To start off with, you have the capitol views over the city. Did you know if you stand on the 13th step on the west side of the building you are at exactly 5,280 feet above sea level? It’s pretty cool to stand at the exact mark that got this city its nickname. But note, you can’t go inside the capitol building on weekends.

The second set of spectacular views is the Denver Botanic Gardens. It’s a pretty escape from the hustle of the city that offers some unique landscapes from what we are used to in the southern United States.

As mentioned above, Peaks Lounge offers some pretty views of the Rockies at sunset. You definitely want to get there early to grab a seat by the windows because it does get crowded. It’s a popular location for visitors!

The last place to get some spectacular views is Red Rocks Park & Amphitheater. Our itinerary suggested coming here for sunrise, but we opted for later in the morning. It was still a spectacular view and totally worth the excursion outside of town.

 

This weekend would not have the same without getting to spend some quality time with my mom. Thank you, Pack Up + Go, for a fun weekend to celebrate my birthday.

What is your favorite thing to see or do in Denver?

Checking In: Kimpton Hotel Monaco Denver

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.


Located in the heart of downtown Denver, Kimpton Hotel Monaco Denver is the ideal retreat during your time in the Mile High City.

Sleep in style in one of the 189 guest rooms. Rooms are designed with a playful feel of animal-print robes and turquoise boudoir pillows embroidered with images of bucking broncos. Or step your stay up a notch with one of the suites.

So make yourself comfortable, and let Hotel Monaco be your very own headquarters in downtown Denver.

Thar She Blows!

Climb aboard another era with the largest maritime museum in the country, Mystic Seaport. Located along the Mystic River, this museum boasts a recreated New England coastal village as well as America’s oldest commercial ship still in existence, the Charles W. Morgan.

One of the first things you’ll notice as you enter the gates is the 19th-century seaport village. Stroll the streets and learn about what life would have been like for those left at home during the age of sea. Learn about the maritime trades, eat lunch at the local pub, and discover how our maritime past shaped life today.

One of the largest exhibits on the property is the Charles W. Morgan, the last wooden whale ship in the world. Built and launched in 1841, the ship took its maiden voyage on July 21 from New Bedford, Massachusetts, and sailed on 37 voyages, with most lasting three years or more, over an 80-year career. Be sure to watch the clock for hands-on programs.

Also, don’t miss the other historic vessels on the property.

What is your favorite living museum?

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.

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.

Shirt // Shorts (similar)

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?