Summer vs. Winter: NYC Edition

I was lucky enough to visit NYC twice in 2016, experiencing both its summer and winter. I realized there were similarities between both trips, the slight difference being the levels of foliage and layers of clothing. 😉 If you are trying to decide between a summer or winter holiday in the city that never sleeps, I hope the following comparison will help you decide!

Summer version: rooftop bar hopping

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Featured bars: Le Bain and Wythe Hotel. Nothing shouts summer like drinking outdoors.

Winter version: Stone Street bar hopping

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Featured Bars: Fraunces Tavern and random lovely bars of Stone Street. This was a highlight of my winter trip and might need its own dedicated post. I mean I drank at the same place George Washington did back in the day (and got a selfie with him hehe)! Nothing feels better in winter than drinking alcohol in cozy settings.

Summer version: views from the top of the Freedom Tower

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Winter version: views from an office building in Times Square

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You can’t visit NYC, arguably the most impressive city in the world, without marveling at its skyline from above. Doesn’t matter when you visit, it’s breathtaking every time and I love finding new viewpoints to take it all in.

Summer version: exploring the High Line

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Winter version: exploring the festive streets around Fifth Ave

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The energy in NYC is undeniable. There’s always something going on no matter how hot or cold it is–from markets to window displays to public art–it’s all worth exploring!

Summer version: picnics in Central Park

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Winter version: walking past the frozen lakes and twiggy trees of Central Park as you make cover for somewhere warmer to eat

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Central Park is quintessential NYC and is an important part of any summer or winter itinerary.

You might be wondering what made the cut on both trips?… Brunch at Jacob’s Pickle and drinks at Pier A overlooking the Statue of Liberty. Because some things do not change despite the weather–and that’s our love of carbs and freedom.

Summer Version:

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Winter Version:

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Moral of the story…NYC is amazing year round and you will be impressed any time you decide to visit! So book that ticket sooner rather than later 🙂

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How to Girls Weekend in San Francisco Like a Local

San Francisco is one of the most popular cities in the U.S., so it’s no surprise that there are endless options for tourists–Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz, the Pink Ladies, etc. However, when I came to SF for my most recent visit, I wanted nothing to do with the tourist attractions. I wanted to relax and enjoy the city the way a local would. Enter my cousin Ellen: born and raised in San Fran and the perfect person to show me this side of the city. Don’t get me wrong- the tourist attractions are great to see, but once those are out of the way, I feel like that’s when you’re really able to experience a place (wherever that might be, not just San Francisco).

Here’s what we got up to over 2 days, which made for a fantastic girls weekend!

Saturday: We grabbed breakfast sandwiches from Devil’s Teeth Baking Company and headed straight for Sutra Baths. After enjoying breakfast next to the ocean and exploring the baths, we hiked Lands End Trail to the Labyrinth. No trip to San Francisco is complete without views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Later that day, we took a picnic to Golden Gate Park and enjoyed music and people watching at Hardly Strictly Blue Grass Festival. I love how you can openly drink alcohol in the park-so fun sipping wine under the sunshine. After, we went to a wine tasting and then had a delicious Polish meal at Cafe Europa. We ended a great day at some fun bars in the Marina.

Sunday: We slept in and enjoyed breakfast and good conversation at home. Then we were off to the Mission District where we browsed the shops and art stands, drank award-winning Bloody Marys at a biker bar, admired the amazing street art, and took in the dichotomy of Mission Street and Valencia Street (traditional and hispanic vs new money from hipster techies). We ended at a rooftop bar, where we enjoyed hours of drinks and food overlooking beautiful San Francisco.

It was a perfect girls weekend, and I highly recommend this itinerary for those wanting to step away from the typical San Francisco tourist spots!

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Highlights of Austin, TX

I highly recommend spending a few days in Austin; it’s such a cool city that values its nature as well. We arrived and went straight to get brisket, an Austin BBQ staple that does not disappoint (but may clog arteries). We ate at Terry Black’s and Southside (in Elgin)–both were delicious. You can’t go to Austin without eating brisket at least a couple times. Craft breweries are also very popular in Austin, and I loved the beers I had; however, my west coast IPA-loving husband did not prefer them to the breweries in San Diego. Saturday was spent tubing down the San Marcos river, drinks in hand, which was probably my favorite part of the trip. I didn’t get any photos because I don’t have a waterproof camera, but it was beautiful, relaxing, and fun! We partied on East 6th, Dirty 6th, South Congress, and Rainey Street. Austin has so much to offer in terms of night life and live music. We barely scratched the surface in 3 nights. East 6th is more of a local scene with tons of live music options and unique bars (probably my favorite area). Dirty 6th was the main strip downtown but packed with college kids and overrated in my opinion (and dirty as the name would suggest). I wish we had more time to explore South Congress than we did, but it was very cute and had a lot of brunch options. Rainey Street was also a highlight, full of old houses turned into bars. Some other activities I enjoyed: swimming in cold, natural spring water in Barton Springs Pool and exploring the graffiti at Hope Outdoor Gallery. Austin has a lot of street art, which was fun to randomly discover while walking around. If you like college football and are looking for a place to watch the Longhorns game, head to Caine and Abel’s and then walk a couple blocks to University Co-op to buy apparel. Don’t forget that Austin does not contract with Uber or Lyft, so download Fare, Fasten, or Get Me to find a ride. Your time in Austin will not disappoint!

Watch my Austin vlog here to see some of the above 🙂

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Feel Like You’re on Vacation with This Tropical Smoothie Recipe

I can’t afford to go to the Maldives right now let alone get time off work, so I’m being mentally transported there via this tropical smoothie bowl. It’s super easy to make and has been my go-to lunch lately, full of enough energy to get me through my busy day.

Start with frozen fruit, a banana, yogurt, almond milk, and almond butter:

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Slice up a banana

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A scoop or two of greek or low fat yogurt (you can pick any flavor but I use either honey, vanilla, or strawberry)

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Generous splash of almond milk to help everything blend

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Tablespoon of almond butter

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Blend together for about 1-2 minutes until smooth

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Pour into bowl and top with seed mix, granola, and honey. You can also use fresh slices of fruit if you have the time or have some available.

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I got the idea to add chia seeds after reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, one of the best books I’ve read this year, which is essentially about a man’s quest to figure out why running always hurts him and leads to injury. He ends up in Mexico learning from a native tribe that have the ability to run 100s of miles a day on foot. It was such an interesting novel about the science of running with some evolutional theories thrown in. The tribe members drink a concoction that gives them tons of energy, and it turns out it’s made with chia. I highly recommend reading the book and also adding a seed blend to your smoothie for an extra burst of energy. The blend I use also has flax and sesame seeds which have their own health benefits.

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Enjoy the bowl while browsing travel inspiration online or while reading one of my favorite travel memoirs!

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Exploring our state: Malibu, Hollywood, and Venice Beach

Since moving to California last year, I’ve jumped at the opportunity to explore more of our new state. Ollie and I spent a sunny weekend in July checking out Malibu, Hollywood, and Venice Beach (finally utilizing our proximity to LA). Although they were all quite touristy, I still wanted to see what the hype was about at least once. We strolled along Malibu Pier, the Walk of Fame, and Venice Beach. The color of the water in Malibu took my breath away. Getting to see the Harry Potter square in Hollywood was so much fun since I’m such a huge fan. And even though I wasn’t too impressed by Venice Beach, it is pretty famous and I’m glad I got to experience it. Here are some snaps from the weekend… I love you California!

Check out the vlog here: Malibu, Hollywood, and Venice Beach

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How to Spend a Layover in Dallas

Dallas Fort Worth is a busy airport hosting a slue of connecting flights. Ollie and I had a stop there on our flight from Chicago to San Diego and missed our connection due to maintenance issues and a flight delay in the windy city. We decided to make a day out of our layover, since neither of us had been to Texas before. We arrived at our hotel around 11 pm and were out the door by 10 am the following morning (we wanted to get a good nights rest). We had to head back to the airport at 2:30, which gave us about 4 solid hours to explore Dallas.

Our first stop was ATT Stadium, home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. It is located about 25 minutes outside the city center.  It cost  ~$17 to do a self-guided tour which gives you access to the field, players and cheerleaders locker rooms, post game interview room, and bars that only the fans with private suites get to use. You can also do a VIP Tour, Art Tour, and more. We opted to do the self-guided tour so we could go at our own pace and not be stuck with a crowd. We are not Cowboys fans, but that didn’t make the tour any less fun. The stadium is very impressive, and I would recommend it to anyone slightly interested in sports. The huge screen is so amazing to see in person! You also can’t beat being able to run around on a real NFL field.

I’m a sucker for views, which led us to our next stop–Reunion Tower. It is in the city and offers a great view of the skyline. There is a rotating bar/cafe at the top where we passed time enjoying a few beers. Reunion Tower entrance is also ~$17. They have interactive TVs at the top to show you the highlights of the city and give some information about the assassination of JFK. Once we noticed how close we were to that infamous block, we knew we would have to head over to check it out before leaving for the airport (it was a 10 minute walk to the site). We would have gone into the museum if we had some extra time, but we at least got to see the X’s on the ground where the shots hit the president. It was crazy to stumble upon something so historic during our unexpected layover.

Our short time in Dallas was the perfect way to wait for a flight, mixing excitement, relaxation, and history. I definitely recommend getting out of the airport and checking out this city if you have a few hours to spare on a layover!

Check out the Dallas vlog here

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