Travel Blog

The 5 Best Things to Do in Austin During the Fall

Fall is one of the most beautiful times to visit Austin, Texas! While we don't have leaves that change colors or temperatures that drop, Fall is full of fun events, slightly cooler temps and an incredible city to explore. 

My Fall bucket list is shaping up and here are a few things on it: 

1. Attend a UT Game- I am a huge football fan and attending a University of Texas football game is one of my favorite fall activities. For newbies, head over to Scholz's before the game to check out the tailgating scene and enjoy a beer with fellow fans. Once you head down toward the stadium, make sure you are wearing burnt orange and ready to cheer on the Longhorns. 

2. Scour for new artists at ACL Fest- ACL Festival is a huge music festival with incredible musical talent, artists, food and more. The festival is two weekends long giving you plenty of time to check out the great bands that will be performing. If this is your first time at ACL, make sure you visit the Mighty Cone food truck for a chicken and avocado cone (trust me). You can also bring in an empty water bottle (or two factory sealed water bottles). There are tons of rehydration stations to fill up with water, which you will need because ACL can certainly be VERY hot. 

3. Eat out on a patio- During the summer it is a little warm to eat out on the patio in Austin (unless it's fully covered with AC, which is basically being inside). When Fall hits it is the BEST time to eat and drink outside. 

I'm planning on hitting up Conitgo, Irene's and Odd Duck this Fall to enjoy some GREAT food outside. If you are looking for a more casual patio area, I recommend visiting Banger's on Rainey Street. 

4. Pick pumpkins at Sweet Berry Farms- If you have kids this is the one Fall activity that is a MUST do. Sweet Berry Farms is a short drive from Austin, but has a lot of Fall fun. Between pumpkin picking, the corn maze, art projects and more, this will get you into the Fall mood very quickly. 

Just keep in mind that they get busy very quickly, so go early on in Fall and and try to arrive earlier in the morning to beat the rush. 

5. Take a day trip - With slightly cooler temps rolling in, this is the perfect time to take a day trip from Austin and explore the beautiful hill country. My favorite day trip is visiting Enchanted Rock! Arrive early to enjoy this beautiful state park and hike up Enchanted Rock for gorgeous views. On the way home, stop by Cooper's BBQ in Llano to refuel :) 

Austin in the Fall is just amazing and I can't wait to enjoy it all. What are you favorite things to do in Austin during the Fall?

36 Hours in Miami: Fun, Food and Beach Itinerary

I just returned from a weekend trip in Miami with my husband (and 20 of his coworkers :)). I've been to Miami on weekend trips at least a dozen times before, but this was one of my absolute favorite times we have visited. 

I was a little bit worried about Zika virus, but with plenty of bug spray I have to admit that I really didn't see any mosquitos anywhere! 36 hours is NOT enough time to explore all that Miami has to offer, but if you had a short trip on the calendar like I did, here is what you should do!

See Miami by Boat: One of my favorite things we did while we were in Miami was to rent a yacht for the group. Depending on the size of your group, a yacht rental can actually be pretty reasonable. If it isn't reasonable for your or if you have a small group, renting a smaller boat is also a blast. 

Our captain took us around and showed us all sorts of celebrities houses. Not that I really care about celebrities, but it was really neat to see the architecture and landscape of Miami. There are many gorgeous old houses and some new, very large houses as well. After the tour, we took a drive and anchored for swimming and jet skiing. Our group had a blast riding around on the jet ski and just enjoying the water. 

On the way back, we enjoyed the breeze and just being out on the water. In my opinion this is the BEST way to see the city! 

Eat Like A Local: Miami is home to so many great restaurants, but we ate at an absolutely amazing one while we were in Miami: Yardbird. It is a southern restaurant, but with a fun Miami twist. It's not on Ocean Drive so a nice hop away from all of the tourists and travelers. I'm embarrassed to write out everything we ate, but I highly recommend the Fried Green Tomato BLT (pork belly, pimento cheese and fried green tomato), the classic biscuits, fried chicken and shrimp and grits. 

While I really love the local food of Miami (especially Cuban food!) I thought it was fun to try something a little bit different on this trip. I highly recommend hopping over to Yardbird. PS: They have a huge bourbon bar too! 

Hit The Beach: I'm always surprised when I get to Miami and remember how beautiful their beaches are! We stayed at the Betsy Hotel, which is conveniently located right on South Beach. The water was so blue (almost Caribbean looking) and we had a blast just enjoying the ocean. There is plenty of space to walk the beach, play games, swim, etc. 

My only recommendation is to bring your own water and snacks because there are very few vendors on the beach. Also pack a ton of sunscreen (and in my case bug spray ;)). 

Explore By Foot or Bike: There is SO much to explore by foot or by bike in Miami. We spent most of our time walking around and enjoying Miami on foot. I love walking the path right by the beach and just enjoying all of the views, but also being able to keep up the pace by not walking directly on sand. 

You can rent bikes almost anywhere in South Beach and that would be a great way to see the city. I was dying to visit the Wynwood Arts District, but unfortunately that was the neighborhood with the Zika warning, BUT I've heard it is amazing so you should definitely walk around there on your next visit. 

I was so bummed to only have 36 hours in Miami, but as you can see we really made the most of it! 

The Five Best FREE Things To Do In Austin, Texas

Budgeting for a vacation can be very tough and is something that stops a lot of people from planning their next trip. But I've found that if you incorporate a few free activities into your vacations, it can free up money for those bucket list travel opportunities. Eating at a fancy restaurant or trying a new activity are always fun, but you can have just as much fun enjoying the free things in Austin. 

1. For the adventurer- Visit the Barton Creek Greenbelt. 

- Austin is full of great hiking trails in an area called The Greenbelt. There a lot of hiking trails, some that lead to beautiful views and some that lead to watering holes. If you are just looking for views, take the quick hike up Mount Bonnell to see Austin from above. 

2. For the exerciser- Spend some time on the hike and bike trail around Lady Bird Lake. 

- Lady Bird Lake is a gorgeous lake that is right in the middle of the city of Austin. There is a walking and biking trail that goes around it and will give you the opportunity to explore the city. If you love to jog, this is also the place to be. Walk a couple of miles around the lake, stop on a nice bench to enjoy the views and make sure to see the statue of Stevie Ray Vaughn. If you end up visiting the trail during dusk, be sure to stop and see the bats underneath the Congress Bridge. While not free, you can always rent a kayak or stand up paddle board and enjoy some time out on the lake. 

3. For the historian- Explore the capitol city.

- As the capitol city of Texas, you must visit the capitol! Entrance to the capitol is free and they also offer free tours every 20-30 minutes during the week and on weekends. After exploring the capitol, head over to the University of Texas to see all of the history of Texas' largest university. On campus, you can visit the LBJ Presidential Library. Library admission is $8, but there are a lot of free admission days: 
- Martin Luther King Day
- Presidents Day
- Explore UT
- Memorial Day
- The Fourth of July
- August 27 (LBJ's birthday)
- Veterans Day
- Austin Museum Day

4. For the relaxer- Enjoy some time in a swimming hole. 

- There are so many beautiful watering holes in Austin. From Twin Falls to Campbell's hole, you can take a quick walk from The Greenbelt and end up in a beautiful place to lay out a towel and relax. The best swimming area in Austin is Barton Springs, but it isn't entirely free. It is $3 for adults and $1 for kids. I'm considering it free since it is so cheap, but there are a lot of other great swimming hole options that are totally free as well. 

5. For the artist- Visit the galleries and museums. 

- South Congress has a ton of fantastic shops and galleries for the art lover. There is also a great art gallery called Austin Art Garage, which is a must visit. 

If you love museums, the Blanton Museum of art is always free on Thursdays. This is a great museum on campus that includes some really nice exhibitions. If you are looking for more unique art, you can always visit the Graffiti Park. 

Incorporating a few free activities into your Austin vacation can free up budget and make space for a few bucket list items during your next trip. 

The Pantry Santa Fe: Restaurant Review

Whenever I visit a new city I especially love to check out a local breakfast place. When we visited Santa Fe, we stopped by The Pantry and it ended up being my favorite place we visited while on our trip. 

We went there Thursday at 11am and there was a 15 minute wait. What? A wait? At 11am on a Thursday? You betcha. The Pantry is a really popular restaurant, but definitely worth the wait. Try and go during an off time unless you are prepared for a long wait. 

I asked the waiter what the best thing on the menu was and he mentioned the breakfast burrito. I ordered it and wow, wow, wow!

Green chile is obviously a New Mexico speciality and this burrito is covered in it! It was so delicious and the perfect way to start our New Mexico trip. Green chili is a little spicier than I expected so I had the waiter keep bringing coffee and water, but so, so worth it. 

Do you love a quick stop at a delicious diner when you travel? Don't forget to stop by The Pantry! 

Geronimo Restaurant Review: Santa Fe New Mexico

When we went to Santa Fe to celebrate our 4th wedding anniversary, I knew we wanted to enjoy one fancy meal. I picked Geronimo because it had really good reviews and the menu looked interesting to me. I made a reservation on Open Table about a month in advanced and it mentioned to call if you preferred outside or inside seating. I didn't call and we were placed outside, which was really, really nice. The patio around the restaurant is gorgeous and they do have heaters if it gets too cold outside. 

The service at Geronimo was really professional and personalized in a nice way. Our waiter was really helpful in explaining the menu and made a few great recommendations. 

We started out with the Sweet Corn & Lobster Bisque and Ahi Tuna Sashimi and Tartare. They were both really good, with the tuna being one of our favorite things we ate. 

We ordered two of their signature entrees: 

Elk Tenderloin- Roasted Garlic Fork-Mashed Potatoes, Sugar Snap Peas, Applewood Smoked Bacon & Creamy Brandied-Mushroom Sauce

Green Miso Sea Bass- Bok Choy, Scallions, Ramen Noodles, Truffle Essence, Lobster Miso & Citron Rouille

Both were really good depending on what you like best. I ordered the fish and my husband the elk...both delicious! We ended with a chocolate dessert and had the best night at Geronimo. This is definitely a special occasion restaurant, but I highly recommend it if you are visiting Santa Fe. The atmosphere is gorgeous and the food is fantastic as well. 

Ten Thousand Waves Spa Review in Santa Fe, New Mexico

My husband and I just visited Ten Thousand Waves while celebrating our anniversary in Santa Fe. Before we arrived in Santa Fe SO many people had recommended this spa to us. Every time I mentioned Santa Fe someone would mention Ten Thousand Waves. Even my parents, who visited in 1999, went and loved it. 

We booked a package, The Natural, which includes time in a private tub, a head treatment, 50 min massage and salt glow. My therapist for the treatment, massage and salt scrub was absolutely the worst therapist I have ever experienced. I love going to spas and usually enjoy a great therapist so much but this lady was absolutely inappropriate and just plain weird. She told me to relax no less than 15 times within the first 15 minutes of the treatment. At first I laughed it off and sort of joked back that I was relaxed. At one point she even aggressively shook my arm to try and get me to relax. The only thing that was really stopping me from relaxing and enjoying my treatment was her constant talking and telling me to relax over and over again. 

About half way through the treatment things really took a turn for the worst when she started asking me if I had any trauma in my life and if I needed her there to support me. I was so confused and annoyed that I told her she was really bothering me and to stop talking and asking me to relax. I don't know if the massage therapist was a psycho or just really annoyed that I wouldn't relax, but it ruined the entire experience for me. I found her constant talking to be really inappropriate. My husband's therapist on the other hand was totally normal, nice and generally quiet during his treatment. 

While this experience was absolutely awful, I didn't exactly enjoy the rest of my time there either. When we arrived it was a little disorganized and we were not sure where to go. After waiting for about 15 min we were taken to the Kobuta private tub, which was nice, but I think 55-minutes is a little long for sitting in a hot tub. There weren't any lounge chairs or anything inside the private tub area, so you were either in the tub or sitting in a regular chair outside of the water. The area was clean and very beautiful though (lots of trees, greenery, very serene). 

 This is the Kobuta Tub.

This is the Kobuta Tub.

I truly hope that no one who goes to Ten Thousand Waves has the same strange experience I had, but truthfully even without that experience I would probably pass on visiting Ten Thousand Waves. It isn't as luxurious as most spas I've visited and if you really want to enjoy the hot tubs I would just buy the $25 day pass (versus paying for a treatment or package). I think maybe if you visited during winter you might enjoy the time in the hot tub a little bit more.

Long story, short...I don't understand the hype of this spa or why people love it so much. 

The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum and International Folk Art Museum Review

Santa Fe is FULL of museums and on our weekend trip I definitely wanted to hit up a few. The Georgia O' Keeffe museum was definitely the one I was most interested in and it did not disappoint. 

The museum isn't huge and it is in walking distance of the plaza in Santa Fe. Tickets are $12 a person unless you are a NM resident. If you aren't going to take a guided tour of the museum, I recommend watching the video at the beginning area of the museum. It talks a lot about her life and the different types of art she created in each stage.

From there, you enter the main exhibits, which are separated out into time periods of her life. While it only takes maybe 30-45 min to walk through the entire exhibit, the work is really incredible. 

She is just such an iconic NM artist that I really don't think you can skip this stop on your visit! There is a great smart phone app too if you want to learn more about her work (thought I found the abundance of signs around the art to be helpful in learning more). 

After the O'Keeffe Museum, we headed up museum hill to the International Folk Art Museum. Admission here is $12 as well. Folk art can definitely be an acquired taste, but I found this stop to be very, very interesting. 

They had two unique exhibits open on Flamenco and Asian Sacred Art, both of which were fantastic. They also had a gigantic collection of over 10,000 folk art pieces collected by Alexander Girard. I found all of these exhibits to be interesting in their own right. 

If you absolutely love museums there are plenty more to visit on museum hill, but by the end of this visit my husband was a little tired of looking art (just wait until you see my review on Canyon Road...).

The Hacienda at Hotel Santa Fe Review

My husband and I just returned from a fantastic weekend stay in Santa Fe. Before our trip, I was really unsure about what hotel to pick for our stay. There were some really nice hotels running $500+ a night, but I really had trouble justifying that price. On the other hand there were some $100-200 a night hotels that had awful reviews (and since we were celebrating our anniversary I didn't want a bad hotel either). 

We settled on the Hacienda section of the Hotel Santa Fe. If you don't want to read to the end, just know that I really liked his hotel a lot! 

A few things really stood out to me about our stay:

1. The service- The service in this hotel is totally fantastic! Every person we encountered was so nice and welcoming. The room includes continental breakfast and happy hour on the 6th floor and the hotel employees were always so helpful (refilling drinks, asking if we needed anything, etc). The hotel also has a shuttle to downtown, which we used a handful of times. The shuttle was always very easy to grab and always picked up promptly from downtown (within 7-10 minutes of calling). I can tell that the employees at the Hacienda really pride themselves on their service and it showed.
2. The location- The location of this hotel is really nice. It is about a 15 minutes walk or so from The Plaza, but is right next to the Railyard, which has a great farmers market and artist market on Saturday. We found it really easy to get around the entire city.
3. The room- I was really surprised at how nice the room we stayed in was given some of the other reviews. I thought maybe it would be dirty or really old, but it wasn't at all. The rooms are a little bit rustic, but very much fit in with the style and history of Santa Fe. The rooms were updated in the areas I would expect (larger shower with marble, comfy bed, gas fireplace with a remote, etc). 

I would definitely recommend staying at the Hacienda when you visit Santa Fe! It's less expensive than many hotels in the area, but still provides a high service and lovely experience.

Want to read more about Santa Fe? Check out my full weekend guide here. 

The Ultimate Weekend Guide to Santa Fe

My husband and and I just returned from an awesome weekend trip to Santa Fe. I have always wanted to visit Santa Fe given its close proximity to Texas and its awesome reputation for art. 

The views didn't suck either...

Stay tuned this week for full reviews of:

I can't wait to share my ultimate weekend guide to Santa Fe with you!

 

Restaurant Review: Central Restaurante in Lima Peru

I can't believe I am just getting around to review Central Restaurante in Lima. They were voted one of the best 50 restaurants in the world, so we definitely had to check it out when we were there in November. I should start this review off by giving a small disclaimer...over the last few years of traveling I have really grown to dislike large tasting menus. I have trouble eating every dish because I get full easily and I don't particularly like a lot of the textures these meals usually come with (lots of foams and milky sauces usually). I skipped out on the last few dishes at both French Laundry in Napa and Test Kitchen in Cape Town (this literally brings tears to my eyes). On the other hand, my husband loves tasting menus so we end up trying them a decent amount of times. 

The tasting menu at Central is very unique in that it is based on food items taken from different elevations. You start below sea level and head up to above sea level. I found this approach to be really interesting. 

The dishes at Central were so, so beautiful plated. Some of the most beautiful dishes I have ever seen. They all looked very earthy. 

While I really enjoyed some of the dishes, I didn't find anything to be extremely spectacular. Everything tasted good, but I didn't leave the restaurant wowed by any particular dish. 

On the other hand, the service was fantastic and we did enjoy the experience. While the overall meal was fantastic, I felt that the food left a little to be desired. 

They have the option to not do a tasting menu at Central and I would definitely do that next time. While I enjoyed the experience, I definitely liked the food at Maido in Lima better. What are your thoughts on tasting menus? Do you love them? Hate them?