What to do in Monterey, California

Our recent trip to California led to much time in the car, admiring the stunning central coast, and a lot of humming of California songs…

What to do in Monterey, California
Street Art in Monterey

Reminiscent of a much earlier time, Monterey boasts beautiful homes, gorgeous views, and a significant history. Back in the early 1900’s, Monterey was less of a tourist stop and more of a fishing and canning town. In fact, at one time, it was considered to be the sardine capital of the world. Just walk up Cannery Row and you will see street art reminiscent of a time past. But it isn’t just the street art, Cannery Row itself seems to be of an earlier era, sprinkled with plaques and quotes from John Steinbeck’s well-known Cannery Row. It is certainly a place that a history and/or literary buff could lose herself.

What to do in Monterey, California
Housing as it was on Cannery Row

However, even if that’s not one of your interests, there is a little bit of something for everyone. Kayak rentals are readily available as are bike and jogging paths for the outdoor enthusiasts. Ocean Drive and 17-Mile Drive are littered with pull-offs for those chasing the perfect photos.

What to do in Monterey, California
Lone Cypress on 17 Mile Drive

Pebble Beach is a golfer’s paradise. In fact, as a self-proclaimed (and verified on several occasions) non golfer, it really is anyone’s paradise. You can’t help but feel you have found something special as you sit on the deck at The Lodge overlooking a perfectly manicured course on the ocean’s edge with the rolling hills of Carmel in the background.

What to do in Monterey, California
Pebble Beach Golf Course

Carmel is the quinticential dreamy California town, complete with blocks and blocks of hidden alleyways with shops and restaurants. Strolling down the hill, you are hit with the beauty of the sandy coastline (which led one of us to begin quoting the California commercials… We are dreamers. We have our heads in the clouds…and then to state that the other of us would fit in perfectly here).

What to do in Monterey, California

Farther down the coastline as one enters Big Sur, the road climbs higher and higher and the coastline rockier and rockier. The majesty of it all is something that could take all day (or a lifetime) to fully grasp.

What to do in Monterey, California
Big Sure

So, what should you do?

We had three days and these are my top recommendations…

Monterey…

Walk up Cannery Row.

What to do in Monterey, California

Explore the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

What to do in Monterey, California

Walk/Jog/Stroll along the coastline trails, taking in the amazing landscape on one side and the cozy coastal homes on the other.

What to do in Monterey, California

What to do in Monterey, California

Go out for dinner at 1833 Restaurant (I don’t have a photo because it was dark by the time we made it to dinner, but trust me, the ambiance is amazing… trendy and old school glam and cabin like… you really just need to check it out for yourselves.) 

Ocean Drive and 17-Mile Drive…

Just do it. It’s one of the most beautiful drives you will take. Do not miss the Lone Cypress stop. It will take your breath away.

What to do in Monterey, California
Views on Ocean Drive
What to do in Monterey, California
Layers of Rocks
What to do in Monterey, California
Lone Cypress

Don’t forget to stop at the Pebble Beach Golf Course for drinks (relatively reasonably priced) on the deck of The Lodge. (This is also a great place to pick up gifts for the golfers in your lives.)

What to do in Monterey, California

Carmel…

Plan on a few hours to explore downtown Carmel by the Sea (and, in our experience on a weekend, a good 20 minutes to park).

What to do in Monterey, California

Grab a quick lunch at Hog’s Breath.

What to do in Monterey, California

Walk down to the ocean and stroll along the sandy shores, taking in children’s screams of delight and dogs barking as they anxiously await another toss of the tennis ball.

Big Sur…

Again, I cannot recommend this drive enough. Someone was a bit irritated that we had to go to Big Sur before Carmel (likely due to the fact that the other of us needed to get a photo at a particular bridge starring in a popular HBO mini series). However, all doubt quickly dissipated as our assent into the mountains began. You could spend anywhere from a few hours to days exploring this rocky coastline. As luck would have it, our cell phones offered very little to no service during our time in Big Sur and that was fine with us. Being a map lover, I had picked up a few guides from the hotel concierge before leaving. Even if you are not a paper map person, it would probably be a good idea to grab one… just in case.  Moreover, although experience proved that one can survive seeing the sights in flip flops and Toms, it is probably better to approach the outlooks in more appropriate foot attire. We made two stops on the Big Sur stretch.

The first was Garrapata, and I would definitely suggest making this a priority. It is a great place to stretch your legs and walk on the trails. The photography elements are quite stunning as well. 

What to do in Monterey, California
Garrapata

 

What to do in Monterey, California
Views from Garrapata
What to do in Monterey, California
Garrapata Coral

As you may have guessed earlier, the second stop is Bixby Bridge (cue Michael Kiwanuka’s “Cold Little Heart”). Even if you aren’t a fan of Big Little Lies, the views are spectacular. Just be sure to pay attention to your footing; the drop off is far from forgiving.

What to do in Monterey, California
Bixby Bridge

If we had time and the proper foot gear, I would have been tempted to spend an afternoon at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. It’s always good to save something for next time, though, right?

What to do in Monterey, California

Who can stay away from the iconic California coastline? With it’s salty air, rhythmic crashing waves, and layers upon layers of views, it is hard to escape the laid back vibe, as though everyone, visitors and residents, are very much aware of just how fortunate they are… the dreaminess is in the landscape and in the people, and it is not to be missed. 

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What to do in Monterey

 

What to do in Petoskey, Michigan

What to do in Petoskey

Let’s talk Petoskey! Just when I think I have my Northern Michigan “spots” all figured out, we stumbled upon this little slice of heaven. Naturally, I made a list. Continue reading What to do in Petoskey, Michigan

Friday Finds, Take 4: Podcasts, Another Travel App, and Tipping Guidelines

Podcasts, Travel Apps, and Articles

Last weekend, we went to Chicago for a few days. I was expecting to have lots and lots of pictures and recommendations, but I just was having too much fun and was much too laid back to do so. Also, we didn’t plan ahead as we should have, so mostly ended up at our old favorites (read: LeColonial and The Kerryman). I did, however, take a few pictures on my 9am 90 degree run… mostly just as an excuse to take a break!

Another exciting part of the trip was that my husband connected my phone to the car’s bluetooth system, so we were able to listen all of my favorite podcasts. (It may have been disconnected after I made us listen to the second season of Serial on our way to O’Hare on Christmas Day a few years back… intriguing but not really holiday material.)

Speaking of… I have to admit that after Serial ended, I sort of gave up on podcasts. Some had fun information, but the people talking were just too giggly and giddy. Others just didn’t fit the bill. I tried to continue with Crime Writers On (which I LOVE and would highly recommend listening to concurrently with Serial) but since our cable plan didn’t cover the TV shows they were talking about at the time, I sort of lost interest there too. Of course, neither of those podcasts has anything to do with travel…

Podcasts, Travel Apps, and An Article

I recently happened upon Travelogue, which is by Conde Nest Traveler. Their most recent podcast contained all of my favorites… coffee, how to score cheap tickets to Broadway shows in NYC, and what to do in Chicago with kids (see how it compares to my list here). Anyway, as the title suggests, the hosts talk all about Where to Travel This Fall.

Having quite a few hours logged in the car this past week, I also turned to the classic This American Life. I don’t think that radio voices get much better than Sarah Koenig’s. And, I learned quite a bit about the aftermath of Japan’s devastating Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011… and about a phone booth that people who have lost loved ones visit to “speak” to their missing family members and friends… and the tragic but healing effect it has on them.

Podcasts, Travel Apps, and Articles

And another Travel App recommendation. My sister-in-law has such great travel suggestions! This app is called Hotel Tonight. Again, as the name suggests, this probably isn’t the best app for those who like to plan. However, if you are headed to a nearby city and are looking for a room, the prices do appear to be quite heavily discounted the night of. This is perfect if you are heading from a nearby suburb or state into Chicago for the day, for maybe a baseball game or quick trip to one of their extraordinary museums (just look at that view from Shedd Aquarium!), and decide that you are tired and would rather spend the night instead of driving back home. Done and done.

Podcasts, Travel Apps, and Articles

Yet another fabulous read (again, recommended by my sister-in-law… I’m so lucky to be part of a great traveling family!)…  Wondering about how much to tip? I typically go with the 20% rule for gratuity while in the USA when I get a bill… but what about for those extra services such as when the concierge makes a dinner reservation for you? Jettsetter has you covered. Check out their helpful guidelines here.

What podcasts have you been listening to lately? Any other useful travel apps that you don’t leave home without? And, what have been your experiences with gratuity?

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Traverse City Wineries

Michigan Wineries
Black Star Farms

“I’d like to do a flight of beer.” This was my husband’s “winery joke” and I have to say, it was a success every time. Humor aside, there are just under 60 wineries in the Traverse City area, so we are slowly adding one or two to our repertoire on each trip. Continue reading Traverse City Wineries

East Coast Cocktails

East Coast Cocktails Living Lark
Photo Credit- Bridging Her Story

I am so excited about this collaboration post! I have once again been fortunate enough to team with Kate Bolt from Living Lark – this time to share her latest summer drinks. We both recently took road trips with our families out east, so these East Coast Cocktails seemed like a fitting match. Continue reading East Coast Cocktails

What to do in Washington D.C.

If you follow me over on Instagram, you probably gathered that we recently traveled to Washington D.C.  If you missed it, below is a photo diary of just a few of the places we visited…

Continue reading What to do in Washington D.C.

Where to Stay in Denver: Hotel Teatro

Hotel Teatro Denver Colorado

I cannot stay enough good things about Hotel Teatro. We usually go for the larger hotels (you know, the hotels with the massive Christmas trees in their lobbies in December) but will without a doubt stay at Hotel Teatro on all future trips to Denver. The staff was incredibly friendly, helpful, and professional while still providing a relaxed and calm environment. The location was also very convenient, especially if you plan to take advantage of Larimer Square’s decadent restaurant scene (which we did and you can read about here), walk to Union Station, head out to a Colorado Rockies game, or enjoy a performance at the Denver Center for Performing Arts. You can also walk to mostly mainstream shopping on the 16th Street Mall or boutiques in Larimer Square. But back to the hotel… Continue reading Where to Stay in Denver: Hotel Teatro

Where to Eat in Denver

I was recently able to check a box on my Bucket List (if you missed it, here is the complete-ish list) as we headed out to Colorado. My husband and I spent 4 days in this city with a beautiful backdrop of mountains. We spent all of our time in the city, although next time, I would like to head for the mountains just to try something new. My husband was able to join me for dinner a few nights, and it was wonderful. We actually had a conversation over dinner instead of wrestling kids back to the table. We did not have a bad meal… In fact, we had several downright delicious dinners. Warning: the majority of our favorite foods and shopping occurred in Larimer Square. It was only about 3 blocks from our hotel, but I would have walked miles if needed to get to this fabulous little corner of Denver. Colorful flags fly in the wind over the street while the sun casts square shadows on the warm pavement below and strings and strings of lights crisscross over the road. It really does feel magical. And the restaurants…

Where to Eat in Denver

Corridor 44- Corridor 44 is a restaurant in Larimer Square and the menu looks fabulous. We took advantage of the happy hour. The champagne cocktail list is impressive. It appeared as though many of the drinks were traditional but rather than add club soda, bubbly was substituted. Yes- you read that correctly.  I don’t even like champagne (yes, you read that correctly, too), but I loved this restaurant.

Dining and Drinking in DenverDining and Drinking in Denver

Cru- Well, we couldn’t go on a trip and not end up at chain, albeit a very quaint and fancy one with only four additional city locations… Sooooo… that doesn’t really count, right?! Regardless, the dinner was delicious and we enjoyed the small sitting area outside on the square. I would highly recommend the Scottish Salmon. We also shared a Shiraz flight that was fabulous.

Osteria Marco- Yes, another fantastic restaurant in the same square. When we walked in, I was immediately impressed with the tiled hostess station. Because it was rainy, we ate in the restaurant downstairs flanked by bottles and bottles of wine on all sides. The food was again amazing. Seriously, some of the best. You can choose from full meals, panini, and pizza.

Where to Eat in DenverWhere to Eat in Denver

Terminal Bar- We did leave Larimer Square one afternoon to check out Union Station. The building itself was incredibly impressive. It is a working train station complete with restaurants, benches, work tables, a book store, a flower stand, and a hotel. The scene is well worth checking out. We ate at the Terminal Bar and again were impressed. The craft beer selection in Denver is amazing and we had fun trying a couple new brews. (Side note: we are not wine snobs- not even close. However, when it comes to beer… we admittedly are. When you are from Beer City, USA, you tend to get spoiled with good beer without even knowing it. Denver crafters, you also do a nice job- we were impressed.)

Dining in Denver

 

Hotel Teatro- I cannot say enough good things about this hotel (and will say even more in a separate post, so stay tuned), but for now, I will stick to the food. We sat outside and had the most wonderful charcuterie while watching all of the people going home from work or going out to eat or doing whatever you do on a weekday at 5:30pm in Denver. Inside, the restaurant and bar are beautifully decorated. While we didn’t eat a meal at the Nickel (which is regrettable), I did pop inside to take a picture and noticed a delicious-looking Bloody Mary bar. Next time…

Where to Eat in Denver

Dining and Drinking in Denver

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Where to Eat in Denver

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Top 5 Travel Hacks

Hi all! I feel like it’s been awhile. It’s just incredibly wonderful to feel the spring sun and watch the beautiful flowers in bloom. Also, we’ve been out traveling twice in the last month… that along with birthdays, school plays, soccer, yard work, shooting hoops in the driveway too late past bedtime… you know how the springtime awakening goes… Since packing (and unpacking) have been fresh on my mind lately, I thought that a few travel hacks were in order.

I try to be a no stress traveler. The whole point of going on a trip is to relax and explore. That said there are a few travel hacks that make life easier and don’t require too much planning ahead.  I have also narrowed it down to my top five. While there are plenty of travel hack articles out there,  most of them have lost me at “top 25.” Who has time to read 25 hacks when you are trying to get ready for a trip?

#1  Take a photo of the information plaques while out sightseeing.  This hack came from my sister-in-law and is my favorite hack of them all. We all think we are going to remember our pictures in the details (or even where we took the picture), but there is so much to see that the details often get lost. Having a picture of the info from a historic monument or the name of the restaurant you loved helps when you are sharing pictures with family and friends. Or perhaps, you are just in awe of the architecture (or chasing down your energetic young ones) and don’t have time to read all of the history behind the site. Your picture allows you to read the plaque later that day in the quiet of your hotel room.

#2  Plastic Gallon Bags. Not good for the environment (so obviously try to reuse them as much as possible) but great for packing. This hack is especially useful if you are sharing a suitcase with your children. I put an outfit for each day in a plastic bag and also have one for toiletries, pajamas, and swimsuits. This helps alleviate the drama of them tearing through the suit case to choose an outfit or find a swimsuit and disrupting the order with which I so carefully (most of the time) packed it.

#3  Blue Apron. I love it. I would use it every week if I were able to. However, Blue Apron is a once-a-month kind of thing at our house. As such, I always reserve an order for the week we return.  We will undoubtedly be making several trips to the grocery store, but it is nice to avoid having to plan at least one meal a day until the bags are unpacked and the laundry is done.

#4 An Empty Stainless Steel Water Bottle. (My redemption for using plastic bags.)  The water bottles are great for filling up at the airport once you have passed through security. This can save you quite a bit of money in the long run. I also like having the water bottle at our hotel. If the water tastes funny or we are not supposed to drink it, I can always take my water bottle down to the fitness center to fill it up for the day.

#5 Take a Photo of Your Row/Level at the Airport Parking Garage. Haha- yes, our phones are full of random signs. However, this again is extremely helpful. When in a rush to make our flight (as we undoubtedly always are), we always take  a quick snap and are grateful we have when we return from our trips with our heads in the clouds and sleepy children. 

There you have it- 5 quick, no-stress, no-plan travel hacks. What about you? Do you have any travel hacks that you implement regularly? Planning to stay put and enjoy all that spring and summer have to offer? Me too… but here’s the pin for next February 😉

 

**This post may contain affiliate links, meaning that, at no cost to you, I may receive some compensation. Thank you!

 

 

Top 6 activities in D.C. with Small Children

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Washington D.C. is one of my favorite U.S. cities. Not only is it beautiful and historic, but it also seems completely manageable regardless of who your travel companions may be. I have visited D.C. several times throughout my lifetime~ with my family, with my husband, with the Close Up program, and this time with our children, ages 5 and 2. We brought our double jogger and are so grateful that we did because walking was our main mode of transportation during this trip. We were able to walk to most of the activities described below with the exception of the National Cathedral area. Below are the top 5 activities that I would recommend in D.C. with small children.

Air and Space Museum

The Smithsonian Museums (National Mall)- I love, love, love the Smithsonians. The free admission takes all the pressure off parents and children. We were staying just a short walk away from the Smithsonians, so I could take the kids to a museum, and if we had to leave for naps or meltdowns, it was fine. We could also do quick walk throughs of the museums and then decide where to go back to spend more time or choose specific exhibits we wanted to revisit. The Air and Space Museum was the clear winner on this trip.

The National Cathedral- One of the most beautiful places in D.C., the National Cathedral took 83 years to complete and is the second largest cathedral in the United States, the 6th largest in the world. When we went, there was also a festival going on with all sorts of activities for the kids, including face painting, rides, and games. My husband and I could enjoy the beautiful architecture and our kids could enjoy transforming their faces into woodland creatures.

 

Beauvoir-  If you are up by the National Cathedral on a weekend, you should check out the National Cathedral Elementary School’s (Beauvoir) playground. It is immaculate, and there is a nice variety of activities for various age ranges.Beauvoir

Georgetown- Again, this is one for the adults and the children. My husband and I enjoyed pushing the kids in the stroller and window shopping. We finished at a kid-friendly, Mexican restaurant with friends in a nearby neighborhood. We went mid-afternoon, grabbed dinner, went to a nearby park, and were back at our hotel at a reasonable hour (we did take a taxi back). You can adjust the time you would like to spend in Georgetown depending on how much you want to explore or how long you want to shop. If you have small children with you an afternoon or even half of an afternoon would probably be enough time.

National World War II Memorial- Opened in the spring of 2004, this memorial has significance as a tribute to those who served during World War II. It is nice to visit in order to have meaningful and age-appropriate conversations with your children. Bonus: it is outside and our children had fun finding our state name engraved in one of the 56 granite pillars located around the plaza. Win, win, win.

World War II Memorial

Memorial Run- Speaking of memorials, we ran almost every morning by the monuments. While we could have spent more time (obviously) at each monument, I’m not sure our children were quite old enough to spend hours at them. Our runs seemed the most efficient and effective for our children’s ages, and there was just something so peaceful and serene about seeing the monuments before the hoards of tour groups descended on them for the day. During our run, we would stop to catch our breath, talk with the kids about the monuments, and take a picture. We were able to see the Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Washington Monument all within our 35-minute run. Amazing.Memorial

 While there is so much to see in D.C. and we were not able to do it all, I feel that this list has a nice balance of history and activity considering the ages of our children. I hope that other families traveling to D.C. with small children will also find this list to be helpful. 

*Please note that some of the links in this post contain affiliate links, which means that, at no cost to you, I may be compensated.