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

7 Experiences To Have In San Jose, California

I spent a week in San Jose, California exploring the best of the area with the Tourism Board. I, like many others, know San Jose as Silicon Valley and a tech city, but to be honest – I didn’t do any tech tours or visits during my entire stay!  San Jose has so much to offer its visitors beyond the tech world and that was the focus of this trip.

So here are my favorite 7 experiences to have in San Jose!

Check in at the Luxurious Valencia Hotel 

Located in the beautiful Santana Row, Hotel Valencia is set among the shops. If you ask anyone in the area where Hotel Valencia is their eyes light up and they say “Oh that is right down the street!” The locals even know this property is a shining beacon of luxury and the only hotel in Santana Row.

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Santana Row

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Santana Row

Offering just 215 rooms and suites, this boutique property has it all. Besides its fabulous location, you will find two on-site restaurants, a full service bar, and a rooftop bar that is open seasonally .. where you can catch an amazing sunset! Did I mention they offer a full continental breakfast with their room rate? And it’s a pretty amazing breakfast with a lot of options.

During my stay I checked into a Deluxe Balcony room. My favorite part of the room was the balcony view overlooking Santana Row. You can’t help but love the area – it is really beautiful, even from new heights. Offering 350 square feet of generous living space, I found the room to be perfect for my stay. The bed was unbelievably comfortable with 300-thread count designer Egyptian cotton linens, and when I touched my head to the pillow each night, I was out like a light! The bathroom was gorgeous, offering an Italian white marble.

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Hotel Valencia

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Hotel Valencia

Room inclusions:

Guest Room Amenities:

  • Custom design by Rottet Studios of Houston
  • 16-foot oak credenzas with custom stenciling
  • Elegant plantation shutters
  • Custom-designed Hotel Valencia beds with oak-plank headboards
  • 50″ flat-panel televisions with High Definition
  • Complimentary wireless Internet
  • Individual climate control
  • Honor Bar
  • Iron and full-sized ironing board
  • Complimentary weekday newspaper, on request
  • Coffeemaker
  • In-room safes
  • Clock radios with smartphone charging and audio capability
  • Handicap Accessible rooms available*

Guest Bath Amenities:

  • Lighted makeup mirror
  • Hairdryers
  • Bath amenities by famed California modern apothecary LATHER®
  • Waffle-weave bathrobes
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Sunrise Balcony Views

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Courtyard

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Outside the hotel

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Balcony views

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Santana Row

I would highly recommend dining at Oveja Negra, one of the on-site restaurants. The dining experience here was one of the best I had while in San Jose and the food was incredible. Every dish the chef created looked like a work of art. You could tell he had a real passion about his work and it shined through visually and in taste. If you only get one dish here I HIGHLY recommend the Beer Braised Mussels. I am STILL thinking about how good they were… and I was there about a month ago. Lasting impressions.

Eat your way around town!

You would be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t  eat some of the delicious food San Jose is serving up. I ate way too much during my stay so I could tell you guys all about how good the food is. Every place I ate at was better than the rest and never once did I eat something that wasn’t delectable!

Some of my favorite restaurants were:

Read more: Foodies Guide to San Jose!

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Recess Ice

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Huevos Rancheros – Fountain

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Cheese and Charcuterie – Fountain

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Mussels at Oveja Negra

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Fondue Aux Fromages – Left Bank

Visit the Winchester Mystery House

Before visiting I had never even heard of the Winchester Mystery House .. and then after hearing its history I was scared to even go in (I scare easily).. BUT I went anyway because I was fascinated to see what the hype was about. I don’t want to give too much away because you actually learn about the history of the house during a tour – which I recommend you do while visiting. I have never seen anything like this before – the mansion has 160 rooms over 24,000 square feet. The sheer size of this house is incredible – but what is even more fascinating is the stairway that leads to nowhere, the window in the floor, the low level stairs with switchbacks, and why this house is so intense.

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Winchester Mystery House

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Winchester Mystery House

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Winchester Mystery House

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Winchester Mystery House

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Winchester Mystery House

Find the Street Art 

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I actually did not have enough time to see all that I wanted to – BUT I found the best piece in town and that makes up for it.

Visit Wineries

Just outside the city I had the opportunity to visit a couple wineries. They were easy to get to, the wine was amazing and each winery was beautiful in their own way.

These are a must when visiting the area:

Ridge Vineyard is a bit further of a drive than Testarossa and its uphill most of the way, but I promise the wine is sensational and the views are just as great. I would highly recommend doing the private tasting with the food pairing as you get in-depth knowledge and history of the winery. The vineyard almost did not exist and I won’t give anything away but it is definitely worth it to learn about it while there. I did get the chance to taste their current wines and some of their vintage. I am a big fan of red wine (Cabernet to be more exact) and their wines just blew me away. Each wine I tasted was unbelievable .. that typically does not happen for me. There is always a wine I do not like – but Ridge knows what they are doing and that is worth noting.

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Views from Ridge Vineyard

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Ridge Vineyard

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Ridge Vineyard

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Ridge Vineyard

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Ridge Vineyard

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Ridge Vineyard

Testarossa winery has a more laid back vibe with an abundant amount of indoor space of tastings, including several private rooms. We did a tour of the grounds and learned all about the history of the property and how they make their wine.One of my favorite things about this winery is their outdoor patio area – its expansive, beautiful, there was a band playing, and a cute man drawing portraits of people. He would just spot someone and draw them and then bring them their drawing. It was really fun.

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Testarossa Winery

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Testarossa Winery

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Testarossa Winery

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Testarossa Winery

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Testarossa Winery

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Testarossa Winery

 

Get a massage 

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Now I know what you are thinking, “Nicki I can get a massage anywhere” and you are right. However, both my friend and I got a massage in Santana Row at InSpa and both had an incredible massage. This place is not the type of spa you find in a resort or luxury hotel, however it WAS one of the very best massages I have ever had .. and a 2 minute walk from the Hotel Valencia.

Catch a sunset 

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Santana Row

If you don’t already know, I am a sunset chaser by trade and lately a sunrise chaser as well. While San Jose is not by the beach – it is a great place to catch some beautiful sunsets in the urban jungle. I was lucky enough to catch 2 during my trip, one of which I was in an UBER and the driver pulled over for me to photograph ❤

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Sunset

These are my top picks for visiting San Jose – on my next visit I will make sure to cover the things I didn’t see on this trip!

 

A big thank you to the San Jose Tourism Board for hosting me during my stay. As always opinions are entirely my own. 

Life Update and Future Travel Plans

I thought for so long that if I wanted to do something amazing with my life that I would always have to be doing epic stuff. So I traveled the world solo – and while it was amazing, I realized all the little things I missed at home were what already made my life extraordinary. After sleeping in 44 beds last year and being away from everyone – it was time to hang up the full-time traveler hat and settle down. Part of me knew once I finished my MBA that I would go back to having a regular life – and there is nothing regular about traveling full-time alone.

I went back to work about a month ago and I am now only traveling part-time but plan to keep my blog and social media channels up and running. I am trying to put together a schedule to blog about 2-3 times a week if time allows. I know I have been neglecting my blog a little bit .. and it is not on purpose.

Travel on the horizon:

After receiving a lot of messages across social media accounts and emails about my travel plans, I can share more with you now. I was traveling full-time for the last year and a half and now that I have switched gears, I will be writing more on utilizing long weekends, holiday travels, staycations, and the time off given by employers to maximize my wanderlust spirit.

My next trip (that I know of) will be in June to Salamander Resort in Middleburg, Virginia. I love this area and it is about an hour from my home.

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Photo from Salamander Resort

I have this plan to go to Cuba the week of my birthday in December .. I have mixed feelings about this trip because I KNOW the country is more than the street of colorful buildings and old cars that everyone posts on social media – keep an eye out on my write up for that later in the year. Here are 10 tips I found useful when planning my trip to Cuba!

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Picture from Fathom.org

Further out (in the winter) I am booked for a week in St. Lucia. I tend to do my traveling in January right after the holiday when the crowds aren’t max capacity and the weather is good.

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Photo from Hotels.com

I am planning holiday weekend and staycation travel throughout the summer to keep exploring my area and the surroundings. Funny enough, I live right outside of Washington, D.C. and I have access to Virginia, D.C., & Maryland. There is so much to do that is local  and I plan to spend my summer seeing and writing about it.

I really want to get to more of the wineries in my state of Virginia – there are over 250!

If you have any recommendations for those areas please do tell me – I am ALWAYS interested in exploring new areas.

Twitter:

I have been spending a lot of time on Twitter and less time on my other social media channels. I feel like I have made a lot of friends and enjoy conversations and Twitter chats on this platform. It is by far the easiest platform to really get to know people and talk about things you have in common with other people. Don’t get me wrong – I love Instagram and viewing photos, but Twitter to me has more substance than a quick scroll, and an occasional like and/or comment. If you want to connect with me on Twitter -you can find me —> here.

On Sunday’s I started a #SundaySunsets chat that goes all day. You can tag myself @eatlivetraveldr, Pam @always5star, and @Roarload – we will be re-tweeting and discussing sunsets around the globe all day, every Sunday. Hope to see you there.

I have been really good about responding to every tweet ❤

Consulting:

I am still doing consulting. I offer 30 and 60 minute sessions to help you with starting a brand, building a business, website design, social media, creating media kits, helping you create a pitch to land sponsorship’s, graphic design, and helping you with any of your blogger and/or social media needs. Please do email me if you want to chat or discuss your business –> eatlivetraveldrink@gmail.com

Blog Posts:

I will be changing my blog post structure a tiny bit. I have spent a lot of time focusing on luxury hotels (because that is what my travel style is) and I still want to write about them – but I also want to write about other things like restaurants, city guides, Instagram guides for cities, walking tours, and my life at home. I think travel is so much more than hotels and I want to share that other side with the world. I am always going to stay in hotels and I will always love them and write about them – but there is more to say ❤

I have over 40,000 photos that no one has seen before – and so I want to start sharing them in posts.

Guest Writing:

I am doing more writing for Matador Network – when those articles publish I will share them 🙂

That is all I have for now – and I will be posting very soon as I am working on my next blog post already 🙂

Nicki

 

Girls Weekend – Virginia Beach

Girls Guide

The time of year is here – beach weekends! No time like the present to kick the cubicle and go relax with your best girlfriends. My friend Emily and I spent last weekend in Virginia Beach swimming, drinking wine, eating amazing food, going to the spa, and relaxing at our hotel. This was the perfect escape from Washington, D.C. where we reside. Bonus – it is less than a 3 hours drive!

Where we stayed:

We stayed at the Founders Inn and Spa for two nights in a fireplace suite room. I know you are probably thinking “fireplace in the summer?” We actually used it! We were chilly after swimming, so we turned it on and ordered pizza for room service!

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Suite

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Fireplace Suite

Once we checked into our room, we were delivered some yummy treats!

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The hotel has grand furnishings and portraits of Founders past on the walls. You will feel like you stepped back in time with an elegant stay.

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The hotel has an indoor pool and spa that we were able to enjoy during our visit. Bonus: the pool is open until 11pm! Most hotels I have stayed in close around 8-9:00pm.

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Indoor Pool

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Spa

The hotel has a sprawling English garden on the backside over looking a small lake. You can stroll the gardens, take a seat on a bench, or if you stay in the Presidential Suite, you can view the entire gardens from your room balcony that sits at the overview.

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What we ate!

We ended up eating most of our meals at the hotel – and with good reason. Excellent prices and incredible food.

Dinner at the Swan Terrace Grill is a MUST DO if you are in Virginia Beach. We couldn’t figure out what to eat because the menu looked fabulous – so we tried a bunch of dishes. I feel like the pictures speak for themselves – the food was to die for.

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Crab Cakes

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Pungo Spinach Salad

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Founders Cut

They also serve a breakfast buffet each morning in the Swan Terrace that has the best bacon! I love bacon – the Queen of bacon, I have been called.

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Breakfast Buffet

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The Bacon 😉

Spa Day!

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Flowering Almond Spa

I enjoy going to the spa but I rarely get a chance because I am always running around working and traveling. Having this spa day with my friend was a great way for us to unwind and decompress from life. We went to the spa at our hotel and the services were excellent.

I ended up getting a Wild Lime Scalp Treatment and we both got a Lemon Verbena Body Scrub. If you want your skin to feel baby bottom smooth – definitely go for the scrub. The scrub smelled nice and it was made with sugar and not salt – so it wasn’t harsh on the skin. 5 days later and my skin still feels amazing. As for the scalp treatment, I cannot stress enough how much everyone should get this done. I have been working a lot and having tension headaches. My spa therapist was aware of this and the way she relieved my scalp has been a blessing. I left feeling like a new person.

Don’t forget to enjoy your spa day with champagne and chocolate covered strawberries!

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Activities:

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I had read about a winery called Mermaid Winery in Virginia Beach – so I suggested we go. Can’t have a girls weekend without wine, now can we? They have free tastings on Friday nights, so we did that and then we each ordered a flight of wine. I ended up trying their signature wines and Emily went with a flight of red wines from around the world.

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Some things to note about the winery: I loved their wines! All of the ones I tried. I even bought a bottle of white wine to take home – which is bizarre because I don’t really like white wines. If you are looking for a good white wine, The Siren’s White is it. They stack their flights (shown above) and I actually now prefer this. Keeps the table cleaner and you can keep track of what you are drinking. The winery was very busy when we went – so plan for that if you decide to go.

Definitely go to the beach! Be aware that parking can be challenging and take cash with you. A summer picks up, the beach will get more crowded. We lucked out and had a beautiful day that wasn’t very busy.

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We drove down from Washington, D.C. since it isn’t far. We enjoyed Aerosmith tunes, white kit kat candy, arguing over not having Wendy’s (haha), and this glorious bathroom sign at a gas station.

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Overall we had a good stay, fabulous food, great wine, and relaxed in the spa and pool.