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Hotel Review: Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage

In September my husband's law firm always hosts a retreat for all of the partners. This year it was in Palm Springs and I found myself with an extra day to try out a hotel super close to Palm Springs: The Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage. September is very off-season for Palm Springs (because it was HOT ya'll!), but that also meant that the rate was super reasonable for a Ritz at $175 a night (plus a $30 a night resort fee). We only stayed one night, but spent the entire day at the resort exploring and enjoying. 

I'll preface this by saying the Ritz is maybe one of my least favorite hotel brands. I find the rooms to be less modern than I like and the prices to be higher than I like. Despite that, I still find myself staying in one about once a year. This was definitely one of the better Ritz hotels I've been to. 

Resort:

The resort was absolutely beautiful. There are sweeping desert views and you can walk the path around the resort to see them from all angles. We spent most of our time at the adult pool, but there is also a main pool for people with children. The adult pool is small, but there were plenty of chairs and umbrellas (we were out there pretty early because of the heat though). They had lawn games out as well, which was a really nice touch. My husband and I both like to play silly games, so it was a nice thing to do for a little bit during the afternoon. You are about 20 minutes from Palm Springs, so it is certainly close enough to head over there during your stay too. Since we were there for only one night, we spent our entire time enjoying the pool and resort views. 

 Me enjoying the view from the resort at 19 weeks pregnant.

Me enjoying the view from the resort at 19 weeks pregnant.

Food:

Biggest shocker of my stay here was that the food was good...like really, really good! We ate breakfast and dinner at the hotel and while not cheap, I was impressed with the quality of the food and the selection. Food at a hotel like this is always expensive and I've pretty much come to expect that. Service in the restaurant was very good (I wish I could remember the name of our waiter because he did a really nice job). We were there on a Thursday night so the Edge Steakhouse was closed, meaning we ate at State Fare for both meals. I was 19 weeks pregnant  AND gluten free and they were very accommodating (I did call ahead to let them know, but I don't think it would be a problem to walk in needing accommodations either). Overall, I was super pleased with the food.  

Room: 

This is where my love/hate for the Ritz comes into play. The room was totally fine. It is spacious, comfortable and has everything you need, but it is not my style. I prefer my rooms a little more modern and this room definitely had some wear and tear. We were in a desert view king and the view outside the balcony was spectacular, but it  got hot VERY quickly so there was minimum balcony time available. The room had a nice bath and shower. Nothing wrong with the room, but nothing WOW either. 

 The desert view from our room.

The desert view from our room.

Service: 

While I was super impressed with the service in the restaurant, I thought the service at the pool was only so-so. There was one waitress serving the entire pool which made service slow, but fine. My real service issue though was with the valet. The valet stand was always packed and it took a while to get your car (even if you called ahead). For a hotel that requires you to valet your car (and includes a $30 a night resort fee), I would expect there to rarely be a wait to get you car.  

Did the TripAdvisor reviews mid-lead me? Surprisingly I found them to be pretty spot on. I would 100% stay here if I found myself near Palm Springs again. It's a fun and enjoyable resort! 

What to Do in Sedona on a Babymoon

When I started planning our Babymoon, I knew I wanted to go somewhere beautiful but close to home. With Zika still an issue, I didn't want to hit up Mexico or the Caribbean, which only left us with a few choices. I ended up picking Sedona because it would be slightly warmer when we went in October. It was a great pick for the perfect Babymoon. Below is what we did:

Hiking and Walking: We started our first day by driving the Red Rock Scenic Byway. This is a drive that goes from North to South and includes many beautiful pull offs for hiking and walking. 

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Along the way we stopped at Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock and the Chapel of the Holy Cross. Parking fills up early at all of these locations, so I recommend trying to go first thing in the morning. We stopped at Bell Rock and did a little bit of hiking, but my pregnant body wasn't up for too much. I started off in a light pullover and my favorite maternity leggings, but it quickly got very warm. Pack your sunscreen and a LOT of water in your backpack. The views were just incredible!

Shopping: The hotel is walking distance to many of the shops in Sedona. In addition to your regular touristy shops, you will also find great craft shops and crystal shops! I also recommend hitting up and walking around the Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village.

Eating: We only ended up with two nights to eat dinner out and we loved both of the restaurants. We ate at SaltRock Kitchen, which had gorgeous views of the red rocks and really, really fantastic food. We also at Cress, which is the upscale dining restaurant at the L'auberge. I was a little nervous to eat at Cress because of their set menu. I was pregnant and gluten free and had a ton of eating restrictions. They were incredibly helpful and the waitress had no problem offering me tons of options and subtitutions. They also have great mocktails! 

Star Gazing: I have never been star gazing before, but I had read that the sky in Sedona was incredible this time of year so we gave it a try. We used Sedona Star Gazing and did their two hour tour. During the tour you get a chance to look through a gigantic microscope and to learn about the constellations you can see from Sedona. The night sky was absolutely gorgeous, but it gets very, very cold out there. They provide a parka and blanket for you, but layer up for this cool experience. 

Where to Stay and Spa: We decided to stay at the L'Auberge de Sedona. There are so many beautiful resorts in Sedona, but I liked the location and reviews of this one best. The L'Auberge has an amazing river running through it that makes it a beautiful and scenic resort. 

I book the hotel using American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts with my Platinum Card. When booking through Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts you get free breakfast daily, a room upgrade (if available) and a $125 food and beverage credit. The free breakfast is a great deal because they serve a gorgeous, gorgeous breakfast out on the river each morning. 

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There are heaters out there and it is the perfect romantic stop. We were also easily able to use our food and beverage credit by grabbing drinks and dinner the night we arrived at the hotel. You could also use it for a quick lunch or room service (of course :)). 

I loved the hotel for many reasons, but especially because the rooms are like little bungalows with fire places and patios. In my opinion, you could never leave your room and still feel like you are in paradise. 

I also got a prenatal massage at the hotel and it was fantastic! You will need to be in at least your second trimester, but they do an incredible job. This was my first prenatal massage and really helped me relax and unwind. 

Maternity Photos: I really wanted to take maternity photos while we were on our babymoon to preserve the memories from our final trip as a party of two. I found a fantastic photographer on Instagram and Jayde met us at Cathedral Rock to take our photos. Before the photos I had my hair and makeup done by Sedona Beauty Team. Jayde took a good mix of couple shots and solo shots. 

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We did the photos around 5pm so we still had time to hit up dinner afterward. I am so happy we have these precious photos to remind us of my pregnancy and our babymoon. 

The dress I wore for my photos is sold out, but here are a few similar ones:

We had the absolute best time in Sedona on our babymoon! I would highly recommend it, especially for a Fall babymoon. The weather was lovely and it is such a great town to explore. 

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 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 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!

 

Update Your Travel Wardrobe for Fall

Even though it is still 100+ degrees here in Texas (yay...not), I'm starting to think about a bunch of trips I have planned this Fall. Last Fall I was planning a trip to Peru and Ecuador, which included mostly hiking and workout clothes. Truthfully though, I barely packed any going out clothes and was sort of bummed to look so casual at night. This year I'm updating my travel wardrobe for my upcoming trips to be a little bit nicer. 

The first outfit I bought for Fall travel is below! I love this super casual Lush dress for travel because it looks fancy, but is made out of a nice material. I always try to carry a pair of cute earrings like these in my bag, because they don't take up a lot of space and always dress up an outfit. I also love these booties because you can wear them day or night. 

I only really travel with one nice outfit like this, but I always need a couple of casual day time outfits as well. I am obsessed with the outfit below, mostly because the entire outfit is $104. The ribbed BP leggings are one of my favorite Fall purchases (I have them in two colors), because you can easily pair them with many, many different tops. I paired them here with a super casual and comfy tshirt and sweater. This is a really good outfit if you are not sure what the tempature will be on a trip or if you are going from indoors to outdoors a lot. 

I also wanted one updated work out outfit for the trips. I love the Zella brand at Nordstrom. It is less expensive than Lululemon, but very high quality. The high-rise leggings are amazing too if you don't like your pants falling down while you hike a mountain. 

With these three new outfits, I feel very prepared for all of my upcoming Fall trips!