21 Photos To Inspire You To Visit Traverse City, Michigan

Traverse City, Michigan IS the ultimate summer destination. There are lakes, wineries, boating, golfing, the cherry festival, sleeping bear dunes, delicious food, and luxury digs – complete with a nice cool breeze coming from the lake.

I am from Michigan and it took me 34 years to properly visit Traverse City, but I am so glad that I did. I completely fell in love with the city (so much so that I want to move there) and the overall vibe. Visiting Traverse City reminded me of the exact lifestyle I aim to have .. one that’s a bit slowed down and relaxing surrounded by stunning scenery and delicious food and wine.

Here are 21 photos from my visit to Traverse City that I hope inspire you to visit as well.

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Moomers Ice Cream

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Sleeping Bear Dunes

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Aerie Restaurant – Grand Traverse Resort and Spa

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Grand Traverse Resort and Spa

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Brys Estate Vineyard

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Aerie Restaurant – Grand Traverse Resort and Spa

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Brys Estate Vineyard

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Aerie Restaurant – Grand Traverse Resort and Spa

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Brys Estate Vineyard

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Aerie Restaurant – Grand Traverse Resort and Spa

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Grand Traverse Resort and Spa

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Aerie Restaurant – Grand Traverse Resort and Spa

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Mission Point Lighthouse

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Aerie Restaurant – Grand Traverse Resort and Spa

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Brys Estate Vineyard

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Grand Traverse Resort and Spa

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The Village at Grand Traverse Commons

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Brys Estate Vineyard

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Brys Estate Vineyard

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Brys Estate Vineyard

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Brys Estate Vineyard

Checking In: Green Valley Ranch Resort & Spa

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Green Valley Ranch Resort & Spa

This was my 10th visit to Las Vegas and I did something different. I stayed off the strip at Green Valley Ranch Resort & Spa… and guess what? It felt like Paradise! Now don’t get me wrong, I love Las Vegas and the strip. If I didn’t, I would not have gone back 9 additional times. Green Valley Ranch is bringing something different to Vegas visitors – the property is providing that luxury resort component while still being in the Las Vegas area. Located just 8 miles from McCarran International Airport, Green Valley Ranch Resort is going to blow you away with their amenities, activities and gaming space while also giving privacy to you while staying at the hotel.

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The property is Mediterranean inspired and the architecture exudes those qualities. From the moment you pull into the circle drive, you are greeted with gorgeous landscaping, warm smiles and perfect customer service. Walking into the lobby you’ll find chic colors of black and white with arched columns throughout. The presentation of the lobby and staff upon arrival sets the mood for the rest of your stay – and guess what? It is going to be fabulous!

The Rooms:

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Green Valley Ranch Resort and Spa

During my stay I checked into a Deluxe King Room that offered a generous amount of space at 495 sq. feet. The room itself was adorned in modern contemporary decor throughout offering a plush king size bed, 42 inch TV, desk area, sitting area, vanity, minibar, spacious closet, robes, and a separate bathroom with a soaking tub and shower.

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Green Valley Ranch Resort and Spa

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Green Valley Ranch Resort and Spa

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Green Valley Ranch Resort and Spa

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Green Valley Ranch Resort and Spa

Amenities:

  • Concierge service
  • Shuttle service to and from airport & Strip
  • 24-hour in-room dining
  • Private bar
  • Iron and ironing boards
  • Down comforters
  • Separate bathtub and showers
  • High-speed internet access/web TV
  • In-room safe
  • Multi-line speaker telephone with data port
  • Access to more than 7,300 digital daily newspapers and magazines powered by PressReader
  • Plush terry robes
  • Shoe shine service
  • Fitness facility entrance
  • iPod dock

Dining:

Green Valley has a plethora of dining to offer its guests on property. With 8 sit down restaurants including a steak house, Italian, a buffet, and more. In addition, there are some quick stop fast food options and a Starbucks on the gaming floor.

During my stay I ordered room service breakfast one morning – and I have to admit, the food was incredible. I ordered a yogurt parfait and it was not overly sweet and everything worked well together on flavors.

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Room Service 

I also dined at Borracha the Mexican Cantina. I want to point out that the service here was above and beyond! I went off menu and asked for a passion fruit margarita and they delivered. The food was scrumptious as well.

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Borracha

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Borracha

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Borracha

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Borracha

I did not get a chance to dine at Bottiglia but the restaurant is stunning. It looks like they took a page out of a dream sequence and brought it to life.

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Bottiglia

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Bottiglia

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Bottiglia

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Bottiglia

Activities:

The hotel has a lot to offer its guests from pools, spa, gaming, bars, concerts, and movies. You could stay on site during your entire trip and never get bored – the property is that big and has that much to offer its guests.

The “Backyard” at Green Valley Ranch is an 8 acre area for guests to enjoy with cabanas, an adult only pool (The Pond) and a sand bottom swimming pool – giving you that true beach feel right in the desert.

Green Valley Ranch Resort and Spa

Green Valley Ranch Resort

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The Pond

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Green Valley Ranch Resort

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Green Valley Ranch Resort

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Green Valley Ranch Resort

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The Pond

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The Pond 

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The Pond

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Green Valley Ranch Resort – Sunset 

Tip: If you are not staying at the hotel, you can purchase a pool pass Monday-Friday $20 adults/$10 children.

The casino is one of the prettiest I have ever been to and they offer over 2,000 games around the clock. I highly recommend hitting the sports bar for $2 margaritas – I was skeptical because $2 drinks anywhere usually means “watered down” but alas, I was wrong. Two of those drinks and you are good to go.

Overall:

LOVED my stay at Green Valley Ranch Resort & Spa. I had been wanting to stay here for about two years to try something off the strip and I absolutely recommend it to anyone visiting the Las Vegas area. The property is very spacious and really has it all – you could spend your entire trip here and never leave. If that inclusive resort feeling is important to you, this is your next Vegas stop.

Additional Information:

  • Address: 2300 Paseo Verde Pkwy, Henderson, NV 89052
  • Phone: (702) 617-7777
  • Distance from McCarran International airport: 8 miles ~13 minutes
  • Casino hours: open 24 hours a day
  • For Cabana and Ca-bed rentals: (702) 617-7744
  • Dining: options

 

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Green Valley Ranch Resort and Spa

Disclaimer: I was hosted by Green Valley Ranch and Resort but as always, opinions are entirely my own. 

13 Ways To Enjoy Phoenix During The Summer

Let’s be honest – the summer months in Phoenix are hot! There is no way for me to sugar coat this fact, and even if I tried – the sugar would melt. But don’t let those warmer temps stop you from visiting Phoenix during the summer. I just spent four days in the greater Phoenix area exploring more of the area and although the temps were over 100 degrees Fahrenheit everyday, I still had the best time.

Here are 13 ways YOU can enjoy Phoenix during the summer months!

Hotels are cheap!

That is right, it is an off season for Phoenix, thus making the lodging cheaper to entice visitors to come visit. This is the perfect time to score luxury digs at a fraction of the cost AND it is not crowded. Make sure and get a hotel with a pool and get that poolside cabana so you can switch back and forth.

I loved my stay at the Wigwam Resort located just outside of Phoenix. I used the adults only pool for the day and got a cabana that came with bottled water, a fresh fruit plate AND chips and salsa!

What I loved about the hotel was the sprawling grounds, lush greenery and cacti, golf course, multiple pools, and the food!

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Wigwam Resort

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Wigwam Resort

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Wigwam Resort

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Wigwam Resort

Get a triple scoop sorbet at Sweet Republic

Sorbet is nice and light and I love the fruit. I opted for a 3 scoop cone with flavors of watermelon, coconut and strawberry! It was delicious and definitely cooled me off from the Phoenix heat. Sweet Republic offers a plethora of flavors to service all tastes.

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Take in a sunset

It can still be very warm at night but the sun is not shining on you any longer and the temps start to cool down. Some of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen radiate in the Phoenix area. I don’t know why, but the sky is generally lit up in amazing colors when the sun goes down.

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Desert Botanical Garden

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Wigwam Resort

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Wigwam Resort

Visit the Botanical Garden at 7:00am

I know, you are on vacation and you want to sleep. However, between 5-9:00 am the weather is incredibly nice and the heat hasn’t reached its high for the day. This is a fantastic time to explore the Botanical Garden and not worry about it being 110 degrees. When I went recently it was only about 75 degrees – the high that day ended around 110. 35 degrees in difference can make a huge difference when you are outside in the sun for 1-3 hours.

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Desert Botanical Garden

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Desert Botanical Garden

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Desert Botanical Garden

Visit Found: Re Hotel For the art

I recently had the opportunity to visit the FOUND:RE Hotel and explore the art. What is interesting is that the pieces do change AND they are all for sale! I spent about 1.5 hours inside viewing all the pieces the curator hand selected for the hotel and it was a nice break from being outside.

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Found: Re

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Found: Re

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Found: Re

Aperol Spritz when the sun goes down

Would it even be summer if there wasn’t an Aperol Spritz? I love how light and refreshing this drink is and it was perfect as the sun went down. I enjoyed this Aperol Spritz poolside at The Scott Resort and Spa!

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Aperol Spritz

Get a convertible

That probably sounds like a bad idea (and it can be) but hear me out. Only take the top down very early in the morning when the weather is still really nice or after the sun goes down. Once you get out of the “heat of the day” hours – its not bad at all.

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Visit Usery Mountain Regional Park

You can drive through here for the most part, so time of day is not really an issue. This is a great place to see the gorgeous desert landscape. One of the things I learned from the Park Ranger was that nothing is touched in the desert – it is all left natural to its elements. Usery Mountain Regional Park is a gorgeous desert landscape with plenty of photo opportunities.

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Usery Mountain Regional Park

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Usery Mountain Regional Park

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Usery Mountain Regional Park

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Usery Mountain Regional Park

Hot air balloon during sunrise

The sun rises around 5:20 am and the heat doesn’t really start to get hot until after 9:00 – this is plenty of time to enjoy the city from new heights. For those who are afraid of heights – I was too! I was so surprised by how calm it is when you are up in the air – literally floating. It is a peaceful experience.

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Sunrise hot air ballooning

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Sunrise hot air ballooning

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Sunrise hot air ballooning

Have a spa day!

I can’t think of a better way to enjoy the indoors. Whether you go all in for a full day at the spa or just a massage, its going to be the most relaxing time you have with yourself. I recommend a massage at the Phoenician Spa for 50 minutes called “Aroma Design” where you get to design the exact aroma that would be used on you during the treatment. After the spa, enjoy a nice lunch on the rooftop with the pool. It’s the perfect little afternoon.

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Phoenician Spa

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Phoenician Spa

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Phoenician Spa lunch on the rooftop pool

Visit the Heard Museum

This was one of the most fascinating museums I have ever been to. Offering 11 exhibit galleries and home to American Indian Art, the Heard Museum is both inside and outside. They do offer tours (check times) but I prefer to take art in my own way by walking through, reading, and looking at the art to get my own feel for the artist.

I don’t like to overshare content from museums because I think you should visit the museum yourself to truly understand the artist and the pieces they have on display .. but, there was one piece that really stood out to me called “Indigenous Evolution” and it is a large scale fence of the evolution of how fences have been made.

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Heard Museum

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Heard Museum

Olive Oil Tasting and OliveSpa Tour at Queen Creek Olive Mill

Make sure and take a tour and tasting at Queen Creek Olive Mill. They actually have an olive farm here on site and harvest them to make olive oil and all kinds of other products. While I was there I walked around their shop to see all the amazing things they make with olive oil like soaps, shaving cream, candles, fun foods, and different types of flavored oils. I also did an olive oil tasting of a variety of flavors. Don’t miss the banana bread!!

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Queen Creek Olive Mill

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Queen Creek Olive Mill

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Queen Creek Olive Mill

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Queen Creek Olive Mill

Take in a sunrise 

But not just any sunrise .. one with coffee and a side of Camelback Mountain!

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Camelback Mountain

 

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Phoenix Summer

Disclaimer: I was hosted by the Phoenix and Mesa Tourism Board, but as always, opinions are entirely my own. 

 

 

Foodies Guide To St. Louis

St. Louis is one of the cities this year that took me by surprise and on a culinary adventure. I was able to eat through the city with a friend and it felt like we were in a constant state of  “wow this is so good!” We ate for four days taking in the best of the city and now I am ready to share with you my favorite foodie stops in St. Louis! From breakfast to dinner and snacks in between, the cities culinary scene is booming.

Nathaniel Reid Bakery 

Never in my life have I met someone so fiercely passionate about their craft. Nathaniel Reid really stood out on my food tour through the city because he went over everything in his bakery, told his background story of working in Las Vegas, and explained how basically everything .. down to crusts, fillings, and even jams – are made in the bakery. This bakery is taking in no shortcuts in providing high quality food and the customer service is top notch – in the 40 or so minutes I was there Nathaniel greeted most customers (many whom were return customers) and his staff was equally as friendly. I think that says a lot about a business – but the food was equally exceptional. Do not miss the quiche and basically any of the pastries or desserts. Everything I tried was incredible.

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Nathaniel Reid Bakery

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Nathaniel Reid Bakery

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Nathaniel Reid Bakery

Rooster

Specializing in crepes – I went off the deep end and deviated from my normal sweet crepes and went for a savory. Now let me say this – I have never had a savory crepe because the idea just sounded off, but one on the menu stood out that had goat cheese and BACON – so here we are, trying new things, and LOVING them.

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Rooster

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Rooster

Vicia

I cannot possibly give enough accolades to Vicia as the chef Michael was just named by Food & Wine as one of the best new chefs! What I loved was all the freshness of the food, the abundance of green (lord knows I don’t eat enough of it) and creating these dishes that just paired well(here’s looking at you cold asparagus soup!). I highly recommend the soup, their ice cream sandwich, the potato salad, AND the cold brew mint chocolate coffee!

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Vicia

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Vicia

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Vicia

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Vicia

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Vicia

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Vicia

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Vicia

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Vicia

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Vicia

Retreat Gastropub

Although the space is small, the menu is fierce. When we sat down we got a menu that was three pages with a heavy focus on craft cocktails and beers. Retreat Gastropub is that restaurant you go to when you are looking to be inspired by a drink or a dish that the owners have carefully curated.

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Retreat Gastropub

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Retreat Gastropub

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Retreat Gastropub

Fitz’s

One simply doesn’t go to St. Louis and NOT get a Fitz’s root beer float. This place is an institution and should not be missed.

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Fitz’s – floats

Sardella

I found Sardella to be an interesting restaurant. They play with food in ways I have never seen it – for example, I ordered brussels sprout toast with a poached egg. I have never seen this anywhere in my life (and I eat a lot) and I could not get over how incredible it was. They brought out an order of their ricotta pancakes (something I also have never had before) and let me tell you how good they are. My friend and I both took a bite and they were piping hot, but they were so good we continued to eat them. That’s right – we actually risked burning our mouth for how damn good these pancakes are.

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Sardella

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Sardella

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Sardella

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Sardella

 

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foodie st louis

Disclaimer: This is written in partnership with the St. Louis Tourism Board. As always, opinions are entirely my own. 

Checking In: The Chase Park Plaza St. Louis

I remember arriving to The Chase Park Plaza Hotel and its location is in a neighborhood in St. Louis that is easily walk-able. This urban oasis is bringing a lot of bang for the buck when it comes to luxury hotels.

 

After you stay in a lot of hotels, they start to blend together – so I try and find something about each property that is memorable & unique in helping me to remember my stay there. I didn’t even have to go far in finding something – it hit me right in my senses when I walked into the hotel. The smell of fresh buttery popcorn! That’s right, the hotel has a movie theater connected to it and you can walk right in from the lobby area. When it comes to unique – this takes the cake as I have never been to a hotel that had a movie theater.

The movie theater is just one of the great things about the hotel that stood out to me. That staff took the time to get to know me and remembered my name, the amazing craft cocktails I went for every night just because the bartender, Joe, was incredible to watch, that fact that the bars hotel The Preston actually carried a 23 and 15 year Pappy Van Winkle – both of which made my soul happy, the beautiful outdoor pool, the guest laundry facilities (and they even provided laundry soap), and I could keep going on for days. In summary – my stay in The Gateway City felt complete staying at The Chase Park Plaza Hotel.

The Rooms:

With over 380 rooms in the hotel and multiple categories to choose from, you are sure to find a room that fits your needs. During my stay I checked into a 1 Bedroom Suite and loved how spacious (840 square feet), bright and comfortable the room was. As someone who works on the road, I like having desk space and a separate work area from the bedroom. This suite really encompassed the ideal room offering the separate living space, 2 TV’s, ample desk space, a full living ares with several seating options, large closet, bathroom with a shower and tub combo, and plenty of light leaking in.

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1 Bedroom Suite

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1 Bedroom Suite

Room amenities:

  • Complimentary Wi-Fi
  • Balconies (select)
  • Coffee makers
  • Flat-screen TVs
  • Complimentary newspapers
  • Tasteful décor
  • Pillow-top beds
  • Fine cotton sheets
  • Premium toiletries
  • Thick terry robes
  • Elegant bathrooms
  • Living rooms
  • Room service
  • Pool and city views
  • In-room safes

 

Dining:

The hotel offers 3 dining venues and in-room dining. During my stay I had breakfast twice and drinks nightly at The Preston and had a drink and the BEST short rib mac & cheese at the Chase Club. If you only go to the hotel to eat – this mac & cheese should not be missed. It may be one of the best things I have ever eaten (and sadly I ordered it late at night and did not have my camera so I don’t even have a photo to share).

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Breakfast at the Preston

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The Preston

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The Preston

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Chase Club

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Chase Club

Extras:

The hotel does have a gorgeous pool on site that should not be missed as well as a spa! In addition they have the easy access to the movie theater inside the lobby as well – that delicious smell of popcorn will draw you right in!

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Chase Park Plaza Pool

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Chase Park Plaza Pool

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Movie Theater – retrieved from Sonesta

 

Attractions:

A lot of the main attractions in St. Louis are relatively close to the hotel.

Read More: 9 Experiences to have in St. Louis 

  • St. Louis Arch 6.4 miles
  • Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis 0.6 miles
  • Saint Louis Zoo 2.1 miles
  • Missouri Botanical Gardens 2.4 miles
  • Busch Stadium 5.4 miles
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Cardinals Game

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Botanical Garden – Climatron

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Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis

Additional Information:

  • Address: 212 N. Kingshighway Blvd. St. LouisMO 63108
  • Phone: 1.314.633.3000
  • Distance from St. Louis Lambert International Airport: 11.2 miles
  • Parking: valet and self both available
  • Uber friendly city

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Chase Park Plaza Hotel

Disclaimer: I was hosted by Explore St. Louis and Chase Park Plaza, but as always, opinions are entirely my own.

9 Experiences To Have In Saint Louis

I just returned from St. Louis and had a nice long weekend to explore the city and take in some great experiences. I actually had not been back to Missouri since 2004 so it was nice to return and see the state in tourist mode. I put together my top things to do, as a visit to The Gateway City would not be complete without these experiences.

Visit the Botanical Garden

Easily the MOST beautiful botanical garden I have ever been to! What I love about this location is that the gardens are broken down into sections and spread out.Visiting could easily take up half a day to leisurely stroll through everything they have to offer. My favorite attraction is the Climatron – which is a dome like ecosystem housing plants and even a couple waterfalls.

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Botanical Garden – Climatron

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Botanical Garden – Climatron

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Botanical Garden – Japanese Gardens

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Botanical Garden – Climatron

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Botanical Garden – Climatron

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Botanical Garden – Climatron

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Botanical Garden – Japanese Gardens

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Botanical Garden – Climatron

Take in a sunset 

You know I can’t visit a city and not find a sunset – that is my favorite thing to do. I say to find a sunset with the Arch in it as it is far more dramatic and the arch is an icon of the city.

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St. Louis Arch Sunset

Blues Museum 

A trip to St. Louis would not be complete without a stop at the Blue Museum. The museum is not very big or overwhelming and can be easily done in under an hour. Learning about the history of Blues, its artists and even making your own track is part of the magic the museum offers.

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Blues Museum

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Blues Museum

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Blues Museum

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Blues Museum

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Blues Museum

See a Cardinals game 

Visiting Busch Stadium was not like visiting any other baseball game I have ever been to. You could feel the sense of hometown pride and it was not chaotic – it was a family event. You really get that Midwest vibe (something I miss as I am from Michigan but live in D.C.) and feeling of community.

Don’t forget to get a Nathan’s hot dog and a beer – true staples.

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Cardinals Game

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Nathan’s hot dog

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Beer

Saint Louis Zoo 

Its free AND its one of the best in the United States .. I think that’s the two best reasons to go!

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Sample beer at Schlafly Bottleworks 

I love finding craft breweries in new cities and I especially love when they are passionate about their work. I had the opportunity to meet the owner and one of the founding brewers, Stephen Hale. I honestly don’t think I have ever met two people more passionate about beer. Both of these guys are an excellent resource and knowledge base in the brewery and I would recommend a tour.

Something that I loved right inside the brewery was a computerized monitor that showed you everything they have on tap with alcohol content, tasting notes, etc so you would know what you want before you reached the bar.

I loved the passion fruit beer! It was not overpowered by citrus, it was actually just the right amount.

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Schlafly Beer

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Schlafly Beer

Relive your childhood at the City Museum 

It is true – I am 34 .. but I make sure to take time everyday to laugh and to keep the child in me alive. The City Museum is housed in an old shoe company that has been turned into a big play park with a bar. Several story slides, ball pits, a ferris wheel and school bus on the roof, jumping rocks pretending its lava, fun flooring, and unique finds around each corner – you are in for a great time. Kids or not – visit and go play your heart out.

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City Museum

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City Museum

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City Museum

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City Museum

 

Visit Forest Park 

Forest Park is a spacious park in St. Louis that is home to the Saint Louis Zoo, Art Museum, Science Center, The Muny, and the Missouri History Museum. In addition, you can drive/walk around the park and see how gorgeous the land is. My two favorite areas were the Pagoda Circle and Jewel Box.

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Pagoda Circle

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Jewel Box

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis 

I am always on the hunt for architecture that will blow me away and that is exactly what you feel inside the Basilica.  The domes on the ceiling offer the most gorgeous grandeur and you will not be able to stop staring in awe. No matter what your beliefs, visit. The amount of work that went into  this building is worth seeing with your own eyes.

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Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis

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Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis

Eat your way through the city!

I don’t want to leave out the best part of St. Louis, and that is the food and drinks. I was taken by surprise at the bustling foodie scene that the city offers. Some of my favorite finds were Fitz’s enormous root beer floats, Nathaniel Reid Bakery’s pastries and quiche, the mint chocolate cold brew coffee and potato salad at Vicia, and the candied bacon and craft cocktails at Retreat Gastropub. If those are the only things you eat while in town – consider it a success!

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Vicia – Potato Salad

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Vicia – mint chocolate cold brew

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Retreat Gastropub – Craft Cocktail

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Retreat Gastropub – bacon!

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Fitz’s – floats

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Nathaniel Reid Bakery – pastries

 

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saint louis experiences

Disclaimer: this post is written in partnership with the Explore St. Louis Tourism Board. As always, opinions are entirely my own. 

29 Photos To Inspire You To Visit New Orleans

Just recently I got back from New Orleans where I spent Christmas with my family. We ate lots of amazing food that the city has to offer, walked the streets endlessly and just had an overall amazing experience in this colorful city that call the Crescent City.

I really narrowed down the amount of photos I am sharing and NOLA is a very easy place to take a million photos – there is such a great use of color everywhere, street performers, food, and just amazing things going on everywhere.

I hope these photos inspire you to visit!

*Some of these are holiday themed and will only look this way during the Christmas season*

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Sunset over Jackson Square

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Colorful homes

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Beignets at Cafe du Monde

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Mardi Gras Beads

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Colors

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Mardi Gras Vibes

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Best Breakfast – Ritz Carlton Club Lounge

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Best Christmas Decor – Roosevelt Hotel

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Street Art

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Colorful homes

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Fried okra – Willie Mae’s

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Walking Bourbon Street

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Street Performs in Jackson Square

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Lafayette Cemetery

 

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Garden District Home

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Colorful homes

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Carousel Bar

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Bourbon Street area

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Frenchman Street

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Street Art

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Fun

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Royal Sonesta

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Colorful Streets

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Colorful Streets

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Courtyard – RItz Carlton

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Colorful homes

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Street Performers

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Darling Home

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Ritz Carlton Reception area

9 Experiences To Have In Phoenix, Arizona

The greater Phoenix area in Arizona is one of my favorite areas in the entire world. I visited twice this past year and already I am excited to go back and explore the state. Please adopt me, Arizona. 

During my last two trips I got to experience a lot and wanted to put together a guide of my favorite things to do so you know what I loved. Of course there are tons of things to do in the area and I haven’t done them all (but one day I hope to), here are my current favorites!

Take a hot air balloon ride:

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Ballooning – takeoff

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Early morning glow

There will never be an eloquent way for me to describe the experience of riding in a hot air balloon, but let me just say, it is the most peaceful and gratifying feeling to be gracefully floating in the air above the world. To see the world from a perspective that seems terrifying and ends up being an epic peaceful adventure is one worth doing.

If you are looking for a great company that also does a champagne/sparkling cider toast and feeds you a breakfast afterwards, I highly recommend Hot Air Expeditions. The staff was extremely friendly and knowledgeable and the experience with the balloon was amazing,.

Cruise Scottsdale:

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Scottsdale, Arizona

The town of Scottsdale to me is quaint, tree lined and has an amazing selection of shops. Whether you are looking for a bakery, art, boutique shopping – they have it.

Take the Fresh Foodie Trail in Mesa:

I love food – so naturally this was one of my favorite things to do. There was three stops on this tour and they were all different and equally delicious!

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PB&J Brisket

The first stop was at Jalapeno Bucks, B&B Citrus Farm. Dianne and her husband (the owners) KNOW their BBQ! This is a must visit place when in the Phoenix area. My favorite dish here was a PB&J Brisket sandwich – and I know what you are thinking “what in the world” TRUST ME – I CANNOT STOP TALKING ABOUT IT. The brisket is so perfectly tender and melts with the peanut butter and grape jelly. You can thank me later.

Another thing they offer is the citrus grove that dates back to 1915!! There is a shop that you can stop in and try their fruits and they are for sale. I tried 3 different citrus fruits and they were all delicious.

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Queen Creek Olive Mill

The second stop was Queen Creek Olive Mill. They actually have an olive farm here on site and harvest them to make olive oil and all kinds of other products. While I was there I walked around their shop to see all the amazing things they make with olive oil like soaps, shaving cream, candles, fun foods, and different types of flavored oils.

I tried a delicious charcuterie board they on their menu and a vanilla olive oil cupcake! The food was amazing and the staff is very knowledgeable and helpful to show you around.

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Garage-East

The third and final stop was at Garage-East at Agritopia. This was a fun experience! I did some wine tastings along with another cheese board (which had fabulous cheese curds and sausages by the way). The wine was interesting as they make a breakfast wine (which was my favorite), they have bottled wine and there was a wine they had on tap that tasted similar to fruity pebbles cereal.

Check out the street art:

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Phoenix Street art

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Phoenix Street art

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Phoenix Street art

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Phoenix Street art

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Phoenix Street art

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Phoenix Street art

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Phoenix Street art

Phoenix is full of amazing street art throughout the city. It tends to be in clusters but I would recommend having a car for to see a lot of it.

Visit Taliesin West:

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Taliesin West

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Desert around the grounds

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Furniture

Built in the 1930’s by Frank Lloyd Wright and his apprentices, this architectural masterpiece is worth a visit. During the tour of Taliesin West you learn about why he built things a certain way, how you enter the rooms and the feelings you have about them, the furniture he designed, his life, and you also learn it is still a modern day school.

I don’t want to spoil the tour as it only lasts about 90 minutes – but it is definitely worth going to see.

Take in a day at the spa:

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Hotel grounds

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Outdoor relaxation

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Spa waiting room

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Snacks

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Spa pool

I think it is important to wind down and take some peaceful time for yourself when you travel. During my stay in Phoenix I went to Spa Avania at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch. First off I want to say the property is absolutely beautiful! Definitely plan to arrive a little early or stay after to enjoy the spa, pools and grounds.

For my treatments I did a 30 minute Himalayan salt room and a 60 minute Swedish massage. I had never done a salt room before and I found it to be very interesting! You sit a in a room with the lights on (naked or with as little amount of clothes on as possible) and you can read, play on their ipads, whatever you want – and during the time yo are in there a salt is being pushed into the room. Your skin feels amazing when you leave and I felt like a new person. The 60 minute massage was a perfect was to complete my spa day at Avania.

Catch a desert sunset:

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Sunset

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Sunset

I actually caught 2 amazing sunsets in 4 days .. this is part of the reason I love the area. The desert landscape is my favorite in the world and paired with a sunset is just spectacular.

Visit the Heard Museum:

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This was one of the most fascinating museums I have ever been to. Offering 11 exhibit galleries and home to American Indian Art, the Heard Museum is both inside and outside. They do offer tours (check times) but I prefer to take art in my own way by walking through, reading, and looking at the art to get my own feel for the artist.

I don’t like to overshare content from museums because I think you should visit the museum yourself to truly understand the artist and the pieces they have on display .. but, there was one piece that really stood out to me called “Indigenous Evolution” and it is a large scale fence of the evolution of how fences have been made.

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Take a walking tour of Phoenix:

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Alley art

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2nd largest art piece in Phoenix

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Speakeasy 

I loved this walking tour of the city – Jill who owns Phoenix Rising Tours is a wealth of knowledge about Phoenix and does such a lovely job explaining the history of the city and how it rose from ashes three times. I don’t want to giveaway anything but some of the cool stuff you will see on the tour is street art, an old speakeasy, learn some fun stuff about Marilyn Monroe, and some other cool stuff – but I don’t want to give it away! So book a tour with Jill – she is amazing.

The tour I did was about the history and last about 2 hours and is about 2 miles in distance – all flat.

These are my top 9 experiences in the Phoenix area! I cannot wait to go back and see more of the area.

Phoenix Arizona Activities

*Disclaimer, I was hosted by the Phoenix Tourism Board – but as always, opinions are entirely my own. 

24 Photos of Albuquerque New Mexico

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I just returned from New Mexico for the Balloon Festival and fell absolutely in love with Albuquerque. The food, the details, the landscapes, and of course, the balloons! I put together a photo journal of my trip to share with you guys ❤

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Balloon Festival

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Blue Corn Griddle Cakes

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Details

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Mountain Views

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Toasty Fire

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Sunset

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Street Art

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Sunrise

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Balloon Glow

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Sunset and a Fire

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Mountain Views at Sunset

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Navajo Taco

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Street Art

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Sunrise

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Street Art

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Hyatt Regency Tamaya

7 MUST Visit Places In Minneapolis-St. Paul Minnesota

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Recently I was in Minnesota for a weekend and was able to do some amazing things while I was there. Granted, a weekend never feels long enough for me, but I loved my stay and I am already ready to go back.  The Twin cities offer a lot to those wishing to explore the area. When I was planning my trip I already had a list of must see items and they did not disappoint.

Where to stay:

I stayed in Roseville right outside St. Paul and Minneapolis with easy access to both cities (about 10 minutes) at the Courtyard Marriott. I loved that hotel was so clean, minimalist but modern, served Starbucks coffee, and the staff was extremely friendly and helpful.

During my stay, I checked into a guest room with 2 double beds that had:

  • Newly renovated
  • Pillow Top Mattress
  • Free wifi
  • Pay Per View Movies and a full list of channels
  • Luxury bath amenities
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Open Seating Lobby

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Cafe with Starbucks Coffee

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Bedroom

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TV and Work Station

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Work Station

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Lounger

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Luxury Bath Products

One of the nights during my stay I ordered a movie and a pizza from the bar – and the pizza was crazy delicious! Sorry I don’t have a photo, we ate it all!

Hotel Info:

  • 2905 Centre Pointe Drive Roseville, MN 55113
  • Phone: 651-746-8000
  • Distance from MSP: about 14 miles
  • Plenty of on-site parking
  • Hotel has fitness center and pool
  • Free WiFi

Things to do:

These are my top 7 places to see in Minneapolis – St. Paul:

Minnesota State Fair

Technically this is a seasonal event (but well worth it). It was the entire reason I came to Minnesota. It takes place around the end of August and beginning of September. People flock from all over the country to come to this foodie destination. Here you will find the craziest and most delicious foods spread throughout the fair grounds. In addition, there are rides for all ages, lots of shopping, concerts, and an endless stream of fun.

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Fair finds

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Best cookies at the fair

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Spam Curds

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Ferris Wheel

Check out my foodies guide to the state fair 

Minnehaha Park

This was an easy decision for me to visit Minnehaha Park and Falls. They have a waterfall – so that sealed the deal. Parking can get a bit crowded, but once you find a spot you are good to go.

I loved that you can see the waterfall from a couple vantage points. I was only going to see it from the top because it was stunning, but decided to walk down the (110 or so) steps to see if from there, and the view paid off. Not only is the view down there just as gorgeous BUT I witnessed a couple getting engaged. How lucky!

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Minnehaha Falls from the top

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Minnehaha Falls from the bottom

Weisman Art Museum

What drew me to the Weisman Art Museum was the fascinating building. I mean, LOOK AT IT!!

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Weisman Art Museum

Located along the Mississippi River, you cannot miss this work of art. Check their website to see what they have featured as things tend to change in art museums.

Mall of America

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Water ride in the Mall

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Rides in the Mall

Technically the mall is in Bloomington, but its so close to the airport and easy to access. It is the second largest mall in America and the coolest mall experience I have ever had! One simply does not come to Minneapolis and NOT go to this mall. Its a staple tourist visit.

Pro tip: since the mall is so big, plan ahead where you are looking to go or what you want to do so that you can park close to an area/attraction.

One of the coolest features I think the mall has is the computer screen kiosks throughout the mall that show you were you are, whats close, and you can find anything you are looking for. It will show you how to get there, even a restroom!

I loved that the mall has a section with a lot of rides, an aquarium, endless shopping, and lots of food to choose from.

Cathedral of St. Paul

The Cathedral is one of the prettiest sites in all of St Paul. Perched atop a hill, you can see it from many spots in the city. The inside of the cathedral has the most gorgeous grandeur. I could have spent half a day staring and walking around, looking at all the details. If you love beautiful craftsmanship – this is the place for you.

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Details Cathedral of St. John

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Details Cathedral of St. John

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Details Cathedral of St. John

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Details Cathedral of St. John

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Details Cathedral of St. John

Stone Arch Bridge

Built in 1883 as a way to move goods and people across the river, it is mostly a pedestrian bridge and a popular destination for tourists to visit. You can walk or bike across the bridge or take in the views from below. It is made from native granite and limestone and has 23 arches!

While I was there I strolled across the bridge and then went down below. I liked the view from below because you could see the bridge versus being on it. I suggest both.

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Stone Arch Bridge

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Stone Arch Bridge

Como Conservatory 

The Conservatory is also where the Zoo is. You don’t have to go to the zoo or pay to get into the zoo to visit. I really enjoyed the sunken garden and walking around the tropical encounters. It is a little humid inside the tropical encounters but that is the weather it thrives in.

Pro Tip: The cost to get into the conservatory is donation only, so bring cash.

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Sunken Garden

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Sunken Garden

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Sunken Garden

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Tropical Encounters

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Tropical Encounters

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Tropical Encounters

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Minnesota with the Roseville Visitors Association. The cities have so much to offer and I cannot wait to go back to Minnesota and explore more of the area. Overall I loved all the places I went to but the State Fair takes the cake – literally.

I was a guest of Visit Roseville, but as always, opinions are entirely my own. 

 

13 Destinations To Travel To In October as Told By Travel Bloggers

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I love October. Its a month of colorful leaves in some areas, Halloween, pumpkin everything, and shoulder season for a lot of destinations – which means lower crowds and cost of travel. October is one of my favorite months to travel!

I gathered up some of my favorite travel bloggers and asked them their travel recommendations for October to see where they love to go. From the United States, Europe & Asia, below is a selection of best places to travel in October.

 

Chad & Stef of TouringTastebuds:

Arkansas

Arkansas is beautiful year round, but this state thrives in the fall. The luscious green mountains turn into a sea of red, orange and yellow as soon as the cooler air reaches the state. There are so many hikes to catch the views, but Yellow Rock trail at Devil’s Den State Park is our favorite! If you come to Fayetteville, AR for a weekend, you can make the hike, cozy up in an abundance of cute coffee shops, or stop at the Saturday Fayetteville Farmers Market before it closes down for winter. There is plenty to do, tons to eat, and an abundance of trees to awe you every step of the way!

Sarah & Tom of TripGourmets

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If you are in the Netherlands in late October then bypass the red lights and stag nights of Amsterdam, and head for The Hague. The Japanese Gardens in Clingendael Park are only open to the public for two weeks each year in the second half of October, and are free to enter. These magnificent gardens were created more than a hundred years ago by the then-owner of the Clingendael estate. Lady Daisy, as she was known, had a fascination with Japan. She visited multiple times and shipped back a number of artefacts, which she placed in the gardens with trees designed to replicate the traditional gardens of Japan. The gardens are now listed as a national monument in the Netherlands. The beautiful fall colours, tranquil waters and traditional Japanese ornaments transport you to a world far away from the bawdy nightlife of the Dutch capital. They are a must-see-don’t-miss for any October visitor to the Netherlands.

Lena & Bassam of Happilyeveradventures:

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Colombia is perfect for October travel! The weather in Colombia is different from city to city, but in October and most of the fall, you will get temperate weather in all cities. The cities that are usually cold will not be too cold yet and the cities that are really hot will have slightly milder weather. We loved the culture and everything there was to do and see in Colombia! The people are so full of color and liveliness. It’s an amazing country to explore! While there is so much to do and see, here are the top cities we recommend:

 

Bogota: The capital of Colombia! This city is very cosmopolitan. We loved the food the best here, so plan on spending a lot of time eating! There are also several museums worth checking out in Bogota.

Medellin: We loved the nightlife here and stayed up many nights partying until sunrise! Medellin is also a very inspiring city as it has recently undergone a drastic transformation. It used to be one of the most dangerous cities in the world and now it feels very safe and very regulated. Since the change is still very new, you can feel it in the atmosphere and it’s very energizing. If you are interested in learning more about Medellin’s history, we highly recommend taking 2 Pablo Escobar tours: one from the perspective of the government and one from the perspective of his supporters. It’s really interesting to see the two different narratives. In addition, you MUST go to Guatape while in Medellin. It’s the most colorful town in Colombia and just the happiest little town we’ve ever seen!

Cartagena: Most people just go to Cartagena, but we highly recommend going to Cartagena and at least one other city. Cartagena is so different from the rest of Colombia that it almost felt like we were in another country. Plan to just spend a lot of time wandering and exploring here. You will discover so much that way in this energetic, colorful, and beautiful city!

Cathy of NothingButNewEngland:

Foliage Artists Bluff Cathy ski RoarLoud.net

Foliage Artists Bluff

Mt. Morgan viewpoint Cathy RoarLoud.net

Mt. Morgan Viewpoint

My top pick of places to visit in October is the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  This beautiful mountain range offers something for everyone.  Outdoor enthusiasts will love the hiking, kayaking, and mountain biking to name just a few.  More impressively than what there is to do, October in the White Mountains offers something you just have to see…FOLIAGE.  The colors of fall in New England are just amazing, and the White Mountains are the perfect place to see the best Mother Nature has to offer.  Travel through Franconia Notch one time, and you see why a visit the White Mountains is not to be missed.  If you are ready to unwind and get away from the foliage seekers take one of the many hikes in the White Mountains.  From a short walk to challenging mountains over 6,000 feet New Hampshire has a hike for anyone!

Kana of Lifeinwanderlust

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I may be biased since I was born and raised in Tokyo but hear me out. October is one of my favorite months to be in Japan and I recommend October to visitors just as much as cherry blossom season in April. The entire country experiences fall foliage and it’s absolutely stunning, especially in Kyoto and Tokyo. If you’re in Kyoto, head to the Kiyomizu Temple for their evening ‘Fall Illumination’ where they shine light onto the foliage and temples making it look absolutely magical. In Tokyo, visit the Shinjuku-Gyoen or Yoyogi Park for an unbelievable foliage display amidst the concrete jungle

Kamelia of Hackerette:

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Bora Bora is at the top of everyone’s bucket list and is also the perfect place to go in the month of October. The weather is at its best this time of year and you’ll be coming up on the shoulder season. Go ahead and splurge on an over-water bungalow which will serve as your own private paradise. Bora Bora is magical and the turquoise water is practically fluorescent. When you exit the plane onto the island you’ll feel as if you’ve been transported straight to Heaven on Earth!

Joella of Rovingjo:

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Scotland is a land of magical castles, historical cities and rugged and wild landscapes. There is no bad season to visit Scotland but autumn has got to be the best of all. While weather can be a bit unpredictable, the landscapes come ablaze with the change in season and the skies light up with a special glow. It is a season to behold natures palette and enjoy the sweet smell of fall in the air. Tourists have fled with the end of summer providing the perfect opportunity to meet locals for a true cultural experience. October also brings to life the award winning Enchanted Forest. Voted best cultural event in the UK, it’s an out of this world lighting display set against the natural backdrop of the autumn woodland.  If that is not incentive enough, the bloodsucking midges which plague the highlands during the summer months are gone, allowing the opportunity to roam the glens, lochs and mountains in the cool, crisp days of fall. October is the perfect time to take advantage of the lower cost of travel and accommodation and visit one of the most magical and enchanting countries in the world.

Hannah of eatsleepbreathetravel:

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Ottawa is often skipped over for the bigger cities of Toronto and Montreal, but while Ottawa has a lot to offer year round, it’s especially beautiful in the fall. One of the best things about Ottawa is all the green space; the nearby Gatineau Hills, city parks, and even Canada’s Great Trail (the largest recreational trail in the world) along the Ottawa River. During the month of October, these places are ablaze with colourful leaves; reds, oranges, and yellows across the city and surrounding area. It’s perfect for hiking and walking then coming back and enjoying a warm cup of tea, coffee, or hot chocolate in one of the city’s many coffee shops. You can also take advantage of the nearby apple orchards, Pumpkin Inferno celebrations at Upper Canada Village, or join a haunted tour in preparation for Halloween. Travellers should also know that Canadian Thanksgiving falls during October, so there may be some special events on as well.

Brianna of Casualtravelist

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Visitors flock to Virginia Beach in the summer for it’s miles of wide, sandy beaches and gentle waves but those in the know head to the Resort City in the fall. The temperature in October is still in the 70’s and 80’s and you practically have the beaches to yourself. The famous Virginia Beach Boardwalk is hot to several festivals throughout October(including the Neptune Wine Festival and the Virginia Beach Craft Beer Festival), while those looking for outdoor adventure rent a fat tire bike to ride through the dunes of False Cape State Park. October is also a great month for oyster lovers to head out on an oyster farm tour where they can savor their favorite bivalves straight from the water.

Kelly & Adam of DestinationAddict:

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Nestled right on the Llyn peninsula the small village of Morfa Nefyn in North Wales is a perfect October getaway. With only a few stores, a couple of pubs & the locals speaking Welsh as their first language this is a great place to come for an authentic & quaint British experience. The Llyn peninsula is part of a long-distance footpath which runs 870 miles along almost the whole coastline of Wales. Needless to say this makes for some beautiful walks & if the coastal path is not enough for you there are plenty of hills to climb nearby. Garn Boduan at only 280m high is one of our favourites & offers a great view-point of the sea & surrounding countryside, sunrise being a particularly special time of the day. The iron age hillfort of Carn Fadryn is another great hike, sitting at 371m it also has spectacular views. The beaches of Nefyn & Porthdinllaen (Morfa Nefyn) offer beautiful & rugged coastal views & are both great for a stroll. Porthdinllaen is the more scenic stroll of the two & has the added bonus of the Ty Coch Inn at the very end. This beach side pub is one of our absolute favourites & was actually voted 3rd best beach bar in the world by a British newspaper, biased maybe but we can vouch that it is a pretty cool place to hang out & enjoy some beers & lunch. In terms of places to hang out, Morfa Nefyn only has a handful. There’s Caffi Porthdinllaen, an awesome little shack style place that offers great breakfasts, pizza & afternoon tea, with traditional Welsh cakes that are not to be missed! The Cliffs Inn is a newly refurbished, real British style pub with a great menu offering local produce & a must try when at the British seaside, good old Fish n’ Chips! October is a great time to visit Morfa Neyfn & it’s surroundings if you like to beat the crowds & are for a more relaxed vibe. With the unpredictable British weather you never know if you’ll be getting fall shine or fall rain but with this area having so much natural beauty even the heaviest of British downpours would struggle to dampen your spirits. Our top tip is to come well prepared so that you can enjoy this stunning piece of the world come rain or shine. It really is a very special place & one of Wales’ best kept secrets!

Victoria & Terrence of Followmeaway

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Believe it or not, Oregon is one of the best places to visit in October! While many travelers choose to visit Oregon during the summer, the fall is often overlooked. October in Oregon is beautiful as the leaves change and the air becomes cooler. Oregon is home to the highest concentration of covered bridges in the west so if you are looking for an alternative Fall destination to New England, head to the Pacific Northwest! There is even an official ‘Oregon Covered Bridge Scenic Bikeway’ you can cycle along and enjoy the view. After all, nothing screams ‘fall’ more than covered Bridges couple with vibrantly changing leaves and locally made apple ale!

Lee of LeeAbbamonte:

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To me, October means sports, especially football.  Fort Worth, Texas is one of my favorite cities in America and it’s still one of its best kept secrets often overshadowed by nearby Dallas, Austin and Houston.  But Fort Worth is home to top notch college football at TCU and just down the road from AT&T to watch the Dallas Cowboys.  Add in, great food, museums, music and the worlds largest Honky Tonk and Fort Worth smells like October travel!

Lastly, Myself, Nicki!

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Waikiki Beach

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Masaladas

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Flying over Oahu

I went back and forth about what location I thought was the best and ended up with Hawaii specifically Oahu. The crowds have died down because people are back in school, hotels and airfare have gotten cheaper, and the beaches have gotten a little emptier yet the weather is still about 80-85 degrees. Basically it is the perfect time to go! The food is fantastic, the sunrises and sunsets are amazing and it is basically one of my favorite destinations.

Let us know your favorite October destinations if we missed one.

Thanks ❤