City Guide: Nashville

nashWelcome to the south, y’all!

We headed to Nashville for a quick getaway over Memorial Day Weekend. We’ve had Nashville on our minds for a number of reasons and decided it was time to check out the neighborhoods and experience downtown already. We were not disappointed by this southern city! I’m a city girl and Cody is a southern country boy, and Nashville is the perfect mix of both.


There’s live music everywhere, from Broadway Honky Tonks to the Grand Old Opry, even stages on street corners and bands playing in the airport terminal as you deplane.

We loved the food! From the sweet tea given as you enter Reese Witherspoon’s boutique, Draper James, to the incredible burger scene at Burgerup and The Pharmacy, amazing brunch at Pinewood Social and Flipside, and of course, hot chicken and classic meat and three barbecue.

The city is surprisingly familiar feeling, and I found it easy to get my directional bearings right away. It feels both accessible and approachable. We loved exploring the neighborhoods of East Nashville and especially 12South, and spent a lot of time downtown by Broadway and The Gulch.

If you’re seeing Nasvhille in 3 days, here’s what we’d recommend:
Nashville Eats:
The Pharmacy (East Nashville) Amazing burgers, German beers, and one hell of a courtyard to sit in. Too busy? Walk across the street to Mas Tacos.
Pinewood Social (Downtown, walkable to Broadway and the Pedestrian Bridge.) This is a warehouse converted into your ultimate hangout-brunch, bowling, bocce ball, TVs, Soaking pools, chairs for laying out, and even an outdoor Airstream bar for ordering poolside.
Hattie B’s hot chicken, hot line…order ahead or go early.
Flipside (12South) Don’t even order brunch. Just order the $25 Bloody Mary. You won’t be disappointed. or hungry.
bartaco (12South) Tacos in a fun indoor/outdoor nautical feeling setting. This place draws a crowd and has some killer food and drinks.
Biscuit Love (Gulch) order at the counter style brunch, easy and fast and equally delicious.
Jeni’s (12South) a must stop for the best ice cream you’ll ever have.
Five Daughters Bakery (12 South)
Jack’s BBQ (Broadway) If you’ve had too much to drink at the honky tonks on broadway, slip into Jack’s for some quick eats and get back to it.

Explore Nashville:
Murals. These instagram-worthy murals are all over the city! The quintessential “I believe in Nashville” mural is located in the 12South neighborhood and the Wings are in The Gulch.
Broadway. Broadway packs honky tonk after honky tonk in this six block area, and is known as the bachelorette mecca. They start to fill up at 10 am and most are open until 4 am.
Pedestrian Bridge. The bridge is located downtown, just a few blocks from Broadway and Printer’s Alley, and is also a really easy walk from Pinewood Social. This bridge goes over the river and connects to the Tennessee Titans stadium. Great for taking pictures, getting fresh air, or having a picnic in the park afterward.
Grand Ol Opry. This is a destination country fans surely don’t want to miss. We took the backstage tour and learned more about the birth of country music, how the Opry came to be, how it was rebuilt, and even toured the dressing rooms and got up on stage with the mic.
Opryland Hotel. Connected to the Opry, and within walking distance to a huge shopping complex and everything kids may ever want to do, the hotel is massive and fun to explore.
12South Neighborhood. Cute boutiques & awesome restaurants!

If we had a week to spend in Nashville, we would have added in a few hikes and explored Franklin. We’re already excited to get back and experience more!

Have you been to Nashville? What are your must see’s and do’s?

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City Guide: Philadelphia

Earlier this summer, while city hopping out East, my sister and I took a day trip to Philadelphia. Philadelphia is a great city: easy to navigate, filled with both history and tourism all within walking distance of city center. Its a great city for both young professionals (as evidenced by the packed beer gardens) but also for families, with lots of historical sites, bus tours, and outdoor spaces ideal for picnic lunches.

Here are my highlights and suggestions for a visit to the city of brotherly love:

Reading Terminal Market
51 N 12th St
Reading Terminal Market is located in city center and boats dozens of shops and eateries, with everything imaginable under one roof: cheese shops, sweets, fresh cut flowers, barbecue joints, local butchers, hand rolled sushi, ice cream, and more.
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Historical Sites and Architecture
There’s a lot of historical sites in Philadelphia, most notably Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. Visitors can tour Independence Hall and the various buildings surrounding the area and learn about the Liberty Bell and when/why it has been rung throughout American history. The architecture, attention to detail, and ornate sculptures in the buildings are something not to miss around the city.
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Independence Beer Garden
100 S Independence Mall
Located directly across from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall is the Independence Beer Garden. Packed on the weekends, its the perfect place to grab some friends and hang out with yard games in the afternoon over some beers and apps. They had corn hole, giant jenga, cards, and bocce ball located throughout the garden, with various seating options: bar, picnic tables, lawn chairs and stumps.

Philly Cheesesteak
I think it would be a crime to visit the city of brotherly love without ordering a Philly Cheesesteak. We couldn’t decide on traditional or creative, so we ordered one at the market and one at Sonny’s and split them both. Dinic’s is located within the Reading Terminal Market and Sonny’s is located in Old City, a few blocks from the liberty bell, and was named best Cheesesteak by GQ.

Cheesesteak #1: Dinic's

Cheesesteak #1: Dinic’s (roast beef, mozzarella, broccoli rabe)

Sonny's: Voted #1 by GQ

Sonny’s: Voted #1 by GQ

Sonny's Cheesesteak

Sonny’s Cheesesteak

Rocky Steps
2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy
No trip to Philadelphia is complete without running up the Rocky steps (added bonus: working off a few cheesesteak calories.) The infamous Rocky steps are located at the Museum of Art. Run the steps, explore the museum and beautiful botanic gardens, take in the view of the city from the top of the 72 steps, and explore the nearby museums like Rodin.
What are your favorite Philadelphia locations? I’d love to hear!

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Village Cheese Shanty: Leland “Fishtown” MI.

There are few things that I love more than a sleepy Michigan beach town that comes alive in the summertime. Its a common phrase, “Up North”, an all encompassing term for any destination in Northern Michigan. US-131 starts to back up around 3:30 on Friday’s from Grand Rapids, everyone headed to lake houses, cottages, and campsites. “Up North” includes unique, one of a kind, irreplaceable locations like Traverse City, Charlevoix, Petoskey, Leelanau, Glen Arbor, Frankfort, and many, many more.

The water Up North on Lake Michigan is often clear, majestic in its shades of blues, shipwrecks visible from Sleeping Bear Dunes and the Manitou Islands. June-August, the colors of the water rival that of the Caribbean, a sight you have to be present to believe.

I love the beach town feel: the sound of seagulls, the smell of bonfires at night, clear skies illuminated by billions of twinkling stars. I love sitting around the fire in a cozy sweatshirt, surrounded by friends and family, telling riddles and roasting smores. I love the feel of the warm sand under my feet at the beach and the way a shower feels after a long, sunkissed day outside. I love the boutiques, small town shops, and quaint restaurants serving up impressive happy hour’s. I love watching the boats glide effortlessly through the lake and harbors, the grandiose ones beckoning the drawbridge to raise and let them pass.

More than anything else, I love specialty shops and delis. I love sampling the jams, jellies, cherry salsa’s, and cheeses. I could stand in front of a fromagerie or charcuterie case for hours, reading every label, pouring over every description.

One of my all time favorites is the Village Cheese Shanty in Leland, MI. Affectionately known as “Fishtown,” Leland is the ferry passage to the Manitou Islands, and home to cottages, beachgoers, wineries, and more. The small village has shops lining the water, and the best is the small, unassuming Village Cheese Shanty, easily dismissed if you don’t know what you’re looking for. (A favorite of Mario Batali’s as well!) My friends Ross and Kari introduced me to the Village Cheese Shanty last summer, a suggestion for boxed lunches to take along on our wine tour through the Leelanau Peninsula.

The sandwiches are made with the best ingredients: creative toppings, local, fresh, topped on homemade pretzel bread. With names like the Shipwreck, Fishtown, Lake Effect, and Manitou, the only thing better is the price: boxed lunches are only $8.95 and include a sandwich, chips or cole slaw, a pickle, and a drink.

My favorite: The Orchard
Chicken Breast
Dried Cherries
Sunflower Seeds
Cherry Vinaigrette
Pretzel Bread

I’ve gone several times now, always ordering The Orchard (on pretzel bread!) and crave it CONSTANTLY, to the point that I recreate it with a few substitutions at home for lunch on a weekly basis. I rarely have pretzel bread on hand, so I will bake a small ciabatta for 5-7 minutes at 400 degrees, lay down the brie (so it starts to melt a bit) and top with either chicken breast or prosciutto, and top with spinach, tomato, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, and sprouts.

If you go (and you should!)
Village Cheese Shanty
Leland, MI
Call ahead for pickup! 231.256.9141
CASH only.

Have you been to the Village Cheese Shanty? I’d love to hear what you order!
What are your favorite Northern Michigan businesses? I’d love to hear your must stop’s, see’s, and do’s!

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Travel Guide: South Dakota

Travel Guide: South Dakota

I recently had the privilege of joining my friend Kyle on a trip to South Dakota. Kyle is an insanely respected photographer and instagram influencer.  His work often means traveling around the world on behalf of major brands and campaigns, so when the South Dakota Tourism team asked him to come to their great state, I jumped at the chance to tag along.

Every state has a tagline and South Dakota’s, or “SoDak” is known as the state of “Great Faces, Great Places.” Although the tagline commonly refers to iconic Mount Rushmore, it certainly applies equally to the amazing, fun, thoughtful, and hospitable South Dakota Tourism staff that hosted us throughout the week.

South Dakota is an ideal state for road trips and camping, small town stops, and outdoor adventure. There is so much to take in, especially “The Great 8.”
Mount Rushmore
Crazy Horse Memorial
Wind Cave National Park
Custer State Park
Badlands National Park
Historic Deadwood
Jewel Cave
Missouri River

Upon arrival to SD, we drove to Prairie Berry Winery and Miner Brewery for a welcome reception. Not only was the beer delicious, we were greeted with charcuterie boards, bacon topped brownies, and delicious flatbreads. Our welcome to the great state even included gift baskets filled with SoDak gear, wine, blankets, water bottles, stickers, confections, and travel notebooks.
SoDak Welcome BasketAfter touring (and sampling) our way throughout the winery, we headed to Mount Rushmore for the evening lighting ceremony. The next morning, we woke early to go back to Mount Rushmore, before the daily crowds arrived. We learned all about the history, the time it took to complete the monument, and even sampled amazing ice cream with breakfast.
Mount RushmoreFrom there, we headed to Crazy Horse Monument for an exclusive tour to the top of the arm. Did you know all four presidents from Mount Rushmore could fit into Crazy Horse? It’s that big! We had time to explore the grounds, shop the merchants, learn about the cultural history of the tribes in the area, and explore the college at Crazy Horse before lunch.
Crazy Horse from the TopCrazy Horse Memorial

After lunch, we headed to the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary for a private tour. There are over 700 wild mustangs that call the Wild Horse Sanctuary home. It was amazing how close the horses would get to us and how many allowed us to touch them. Driving through the reservation, we had the unique privilege and timing to witness part of the assembly and preparation for the annual rain dance by one of the tribes in the area. It is a very sacred and emotional event and a rite of passage in their culture.
Black Hills Wild Horse SanctuaryThis Year's Christmas CardBlack Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary

After heading from the Black Hills to Custer State Park, we were treated to a dinner at the State Game Lodge. I indulged in the Elk Osso Bucco…incredible! We experienced a sunset buffalo jeep safari ride after dinner. Our driver was not only hilarious, but also a ton of fun. (Although there was one scary descent from a hill incident involving a branch where nearly everyone gasped and looked back at me, thinking I died!) I would definitely recommend this experience.
Buffalo Jeep Safari

The next morning we headed to Needles Highway to check out the Spires and amazing landscape. The scenery was so lush, so green, so quiet, and so peaceful. It was truly remarkable.
SpiresNeedles HighwayEye of The Needle

I was able to check off a huge item off my bucket list as well, with a helicopter ride in the Black Hills over Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, and Needles Highway. The aerial views are an experience unlike any other!
Black Hills Aerial ViewCrazy Horse Aerial View

We headed to Sylvan Lake at Custer State Park for sack lunches on the rocks. Sylvan Lake was featured in the film National Treasure and is an incredibly beautiful area. You can kayak, hike, camp, picnic, or even watch a lakeside wedding here.
Sylvan Lake, Custer State ParkHike Around Sylvan LakeWedding at Sylvan Lake

I had to cut my trip short to head back to work, but can’t wait to get back to South Dakota and explore the Badlands, Wall Drug, Deadwood, and Spearfish Canyon!

Other Notables:
-South Dakota is also home to the famous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, celebrating its 75th anniversary this year!
-If you’re visiting in September, be sure to check out the annual Buffalo Round Up in Custer State Park. This event is celebrated with crowds and picnics, and you can watch all the buffalo be corralled to be counted and checked for pregnancies. Photographers and tourists all around come in to see this!

South Dakota is filled with tons of outdoor adventure, awe inspiring monuments, natural elements, breathtaking sunrises and sunsets, and countless great faces and places. I am so grateful for the adventure!
Have you been to SoDak? I’d love to hear what’s on your must see and do list!

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City Guide: Newport, R.I.

City Guide: Newport, R.I.


I love beach towns. I live in Michigan’s West Coast, just 30 minutes from Lake Michigan. Michigan has amazing, quaint, friendly beach towns: South Haven, Saugatuck, Holland, Grand Haven, all easily within an hour of Grand Rapids. As you travel Up North in the mitten state, you are met with hot, white sand beaches and crystal clear, tropical blue hues in the water that immediately mentally transport you to the Caribbean: Frankfort, Charlevoix, Petoskey, Glen Arbor.

Growing up, my family spent a lot of time and created many memories along Lake Michigan, and I grew to love the beach, small town boutiques, sunsets over the water, and local restaurants. My favorite places to travel involve the water in some aspect and I love searching out new beaches, new restaurants, new boutiques, and watching the colors change as the sun dips beyond the water. I don’t mind traveling alone, especially when by the water. Its where I do my best reflecting on life and feel most at peace.

Rhode Island is known as the Ocean State and the views certainly earn the title. Rhode Island is also the smallest state, which makes getting around the East Coast easy. Newport is everything nautical: cape cod style houses in town, boutiques selling Lilly Pulitzer, Vineyard Vines, and every anchor decorated knickknack you can imagine. There is money in Newport, certainly, and you can tell by the entrée prices, B&B rates, and the outfits.

Here are my Newport recommendations for a daytrip or weekend in town:
Diego’s: $$
Diego’s is located just off Thames St. in the harbor, tucked into shops and restaurants. There is plenty of outdoor seating for dining al fresco and the cocktail menu is incredible. I recommend the crispy pork belly tacos with zesty mango pico de gallo, queso fresco, cilantro, and chipotle crema. Order the chips and trio of salsas on the side.

22 Bowen’s Harbor: $
Kale salad and prosecco in the middle of the harbor? Can’t be beat.

The Mooring: $$$$
The Mooring is an excellent dinner choice and right off Thames St. There are many different dining rooms available, both inside and outside, overlooking the marina. It is a perfect place to watch the sun set. They have an impressive oyster list to choose from (although I almost always go with Blue Point!) and a great wine list as well. For the main, I’d recommend the 8 oz filet with blue cheese potatoes and asparagus paired with a glass of red.


Thames Street:
Thames Street is the main road running through downtown Newport. It is where all the action is-shops, restaurants, people watching, activities, where to catch the Ferry, etc.


Cliff Walk/Bellevue Mansions:
Hands down, my favorite part of Newport. The Cliff Walk (off Bellevue Street-plenty of parking for up to 4 hours) is a 3.5 mile trail along the coast of Newport. The path ranges from sidewalk, to rocks, to sand, to grass, and everything in between. It makes for a great run and you’ll be able to see the dreamy, famous mansions of Newport along the way. While the houses in town are more cottage style, cape cod, and craftsman, the enormous mansions along the coast are mainly Elizabethan and Victorian revival, or Beaux Arts. I’ve never been a fan of the Beaux Arts style, and often find it creepy or haunted, but nonetheless, they are spectacular to view!


Volvo Ocean Race:
I was extremely fortunate to visit Newport while the Volvo Ocean Race was going on.  If you haven’t heard of the Volvo Ocean Race, it is a 9 month sailing race around the world. Nearly 39,000 nautical miles and 11 ports, they start in Alicante, and travel to Cape Town, Abu Dhabi, Sanya, Auckland, Itajai, Newport, Lisbon, Lorient, and end in Gothenburg. Each port sets up a race village for the time they are visiting. You can learn about the teams, watch them practice, shop their gear, and so much more. It is truly remarkable.
Have you been to Newport? I’d love to hear what you’d recommend!

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