Niagara Falls: Words of Wisdom

On our road trip back from Green Lake, Wisconsin, we decided to take a spontaneous detour to visit Niagara Falls. Although the waterfalls are pretty spectacular, we learned a few things that I’d like to share with my site visitors:

  1. There is a U.S. side and a Canadian side to the Falls, so book your hotel accordingly. If you don’t have your passport on you, you won’t be able to take the shortcut through Canada (if you’re coming from the Midwest, as we were), and you won’t be able to stay in a hotel in Canada, either. It seems like common sense (and it is), but it bears repeating, since even seasoned travelers can suffer from mush-brain sometimes.
  2. Research. Hotel locations, areas, etc. In our opinion, the U.S. side of things was not particularly nice once you got away from the main attraction, but we’ve heard the Canadian side is better. We stayed at the Best Western Summit Inn, which was pretty inexpensive and decent, but rather far from the Falls.
  3. Wear comfortable shoes. There is plenty of walking to do!
  4. Check out the fireworks schedule online… watching fireworks explode at almost eye-level over the waterfalls is spectacular. 
  5. Worthwhile sights: Maid of the Mist and Cave of the Winds.
  6. The food was surprisingly good at Top of the Falls restaurant.
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Grand Cayman Getaway

Four nights in a tropical paradise? Total tease, but yes, please.

This trip had to be one of our least planned vacations ever. Most of our “adventures” usually involve painstaking research, excessive review-reading, and lots of planning to ensure we get the most out of our time. Sounds spontaneous, I know. Grand Cayman, however, went something like this:

HUSBAND: I found a great deal online for a trip to Grand Cayman. Wanna go?
ME: Yes!

That was pretty much it. He found the deal on cheapcaribbean.com, which does have great packages sometimes, so it’s worth a look if you’re trying to plan an inexpensive beach getaway. We got airfare and hotel for 4 nights for some obnoxiously low price, so we jumped on it without giving it too much more thought.

Here are links to the reviews I posted on TripAdvisor:

  1. Marriott Grand Cayman Beach Resort – Right on Seven Mile Beach.
  2. Solana – Restaurant at the Marriott where we ate most of our meals.
  3. Chicken! Chicken! – Yes, that’s the name of a restaurant. I can’t make this stuff up.
  4. Kittiwake Shipwreck Dive – Beautiful wreck for any level diver.
  5. Red Sail Sports – The dive tour operator we used for the Kittiwake dive. Yes, the overpriced underwater photos are beautiful and totally worth it.
  6. Camana Bay – A great place to walk around, shop, eat, and drink.
  7. Karoo – A fantastic tapas restaurant in Camana Bay.
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Green Lake, WI – Jewel of the Midwest

Last summer, we went on a road trip to a small town in Wisconsin called Green Lake. Upon hearing this, most people asked, “Uhhh, why Wisconsin?!” Even people IN Wisconsin asked us that, so I’ll give you a little background…

Earlier that year, my husband decided he wanted to enjoy the 4th of July festivities in water-oriented, small-town America, and he chose Wisconsin. I set about researching the entire state, and happened to stumble upon Green Lake, which fit the bill perfectly. With only around 1,100 year-round residents, it certainly qualified as a small town, and its namesake is the deepest natural inland lake in the state. There was a list of festivities that would be taking place that week, so we took a chance and booked a B&B for an entire week. We’ve never done that before, but we couldn’t be happier that we did… The Miller’s Daughter Bed & Breakfast was probably the best B&B we’ve ever stayed in.

You might be thinking, “what is there to do in a town that small??” The answer is, plenty! We rented a boat and spent a whole day on the lake, took scenic drives, went biking on the plentiful trails, joined the locals for a 4th of July parade and music festival, watched the fireworks, gawked at the mansions on the water, visited a couple of nearby museums, went shopping, and ate tons of food (two words: cheese curds). It was just good, simple fun.

For more information on the town that many consider to be “the Hamptons of the Chicago area,” please check out the links I’ve provided below:

  1. The Miller’s Daughter B&B
  2. Boat House Pub
  3. Christiano’s
  4. Adam’s Rib
  5. Green Lake’s Tourism Site
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Quiet Retreat in Wine Country

Going for long stretches of time without a vacation can be challenging, so we try to go on short getaways to break up the work grind. Why is it sometimes more relaxing to take a couple of days off in a hotel rather than in the comfort of your own home? I’m sure it has a little bit to do with having someone make your bed, clean your room, and cook your meals!

Last spring, we took a chance on a Living Social voucher to stay at the Stone Manor B&B in Loudoun County, Virginia, and we were pleasantly surprised! A very short drive from DC or Baltimore lands you in a completely different world… a quiet, peaceful retreat away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The owner/operators of this bed and breakfast were kind, charming, and keen to provide their guests with every amenity possible to ensure a pleasant stay. The area itself is surrounded by lush hillsides, small wineries, plentiful hiking and biking trails, and all-around great hospitality. It’s not overly commercialized (which we liked), so don’t expect much glitz and glamour… but if you want a nice place to relax, this might be a great option for you!

  1. Stone Manor B&B
  2. Magnolia’s at the Mill – Restaurant
  3. Loudoun County’s Tourism Site – Plan your trip!
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From Sin City to Zen City

Ok, I’ll be honest: Vegas is NOT one of my favorite places to visit. From the hordes of tourists gawking upwards at the flashy lights to the hordes of salesmen hawking every variety of show you can think of, Vegas just doesn’t scream “vacation” to me. So, why did I go? (See, I can read minds too). Well, we had to go for a work convention. Four. Years. In. A. Row. That’s called irony.

The first year we stayed at the Luxor, which happened to be one of the worst hotels I’ve ever stayed in. On a separate trip, I stayed at the Aria, which was phenomenal. The next three years, we stayed at the Paris, which was underwhelming, at best. I’m not sure why it’s the only one I ever reviewed on TripAdvisor, but if you care to read more about it, click here to read “Shabby… and not in the chic way.”

The trade-off last year was that I convinced my husband to drive down to Arizona for a few days of relaxation before heading home. It took us roughly 5 hours (allowing for lots of breaks) to drive from Vegas to Sedona, which is an epicenter of zen and natural beauty in the United States. Part of the trip features some pretty barren landscapes, but if you don’t mind driving, I can promise that Sedona and the Grand Canyon are well worth it!

We stayed at the Sedona Rouge Hotel & Spa, which proved to be comfortable, well-located, and well-priced. I have a few recommendations for this area, so please check out my reviews for more information and access to newer user reviews:

  1. Sedona Rouge Hotel & Spa
  2. Reds – A wonderful restaurant for any meal at the Sedona Rouge Hotel & Spa
  3. Coffee Pot Restaurant – 101 omelettes and more, plus a great shop to buy souvenirs.
  4. Wildflower Bread Company – a fantastic place to eat a healthy lunch!

If you have any questions about my trip, please feel free to post a comment!


 


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2013 Travels in Review

2013 was a CRAZY year (as evidenced, perhaps, by my incredible lack of contributions to my blog!). Keeping up with a blog is often like keeping up with photo albums–once you’re about 2 vacations or major milestones behind, you think, “can I ever catch up? Is there any point in trying?!” But after much soul-searching (ok, just a little), and a lack of good excuses (because really, I can zip through my DVR tomorrow), I find myself back here. Wanting to share my adventures and reviews with anyone who may be interested!

Without further ado, I will give you a list of destinations we visited last year so that you can click on the ones you’d like read:

  1. January 2013: Las Vegas to Sedona and the Grand Canyon
  2. April 2013: Weekend Getaway to Loudoun County, Virginia
  3. June 2013: Grand Cayman Island
  4. July 2013: Green Lake, Wisconsin
  5. July 2013: Niagara Falls
  6. September 2013: Day trip to Frederick, Maryland
  7. September 2013: Day trip to Annapolis, Maryland
  8. October 2013: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico (coming soon!)
  9. November 2013: Thanksgiving in Vermont (coming soon!)
  10. December 2013: Weekend Jaunt to New York City (coming soon!)
  11. December 2013: New Year’s Eve at the National Harbor (coming soon!)
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Pitango Gelato: Sustainable and Spectacular

I never actually set out to find a healthy, sustainable source to feed my sweet tooth, so finding Pitango Gelato was a very happy coincidence. Located in the heart of Fells Point in Baltimore, this little shop makes high-quality gelato that tastes too good to feel “healthy.” Their frozen treats have no artificial anything (a big plus in my book), and they make every effort to obtain natural products to include in their recipes. You’ll savor organic milk from Pennsylvania,  chocolate from Venezuela, hazelnuts from Italy, and vanilla beans from Papua New Guinea, just to name a few. Their treats are vegan, non-dairy, and gluten-free. While I’m not in those categories, I do appreciate foods and products that are good for my body, and it’s nice to have a place to take out-of-town visitors who want something special for dessert. Their website also shows locations in Washington DC and Northern Virginia, so check it out if you don’t live close to Baltimore.

Link to my TripAdvisor Review and others for this restaurant

Link to my TripAdvisor Profile

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