Monday, March 7, 2016

City Guide: Chicago, IL

In the beginning of October, I flew out to Chicago for a quick weekend trip. Honestly, I love the short, two day trips more than spending an entire week exploring a new city. This forces me get the day started early, plan out my itinerary, and be as strategic as possible. Below are some of the best places I found while I was exploring Chicago. I still can't believe how much I was able to explore in such a short window of time!


My first AirBnB experience was when I went out to Chicago. It was a bit of a last minute trip so hotels were a little pricey and I wanted a more authentic experience; I really wanted to feel as if I was living in the city for the weekend. I really believe the best way to see any city is through the eyes of a local and my host provided excellent recommendations which really made my trip special.

I stayed in the Lakeview section of the city which reminded me a lot of Fairmount in Philadelphia, PA {where I currently reside}. You were able to walk around to many different restaurants,bars, shops and the location was pretty close to Lake Michigan as well. It was because of this trip that I decided to use AirBnB when I went to Miami in February.


Pequod's Pizza
Prior to this trip, I had never had deep dish pizza. I had done a lot of research and narrowed it down to two places. How did I decided on Peqod's? Well I asked my waitress at lunch earlier that day for a recommendation and she raved about this place. The place was pretty crowded and they do not take reservations but I was able to grab at drink at The Drinkingbird {located next door} while I waited. When it came time for pizza, I was starving and couldn't wait to give it a try. It was good, but extremely filling. I could barely eat two slices! It was worth the experience, but I still prefer my New York style pizza.

Heritage Bicycles
I stumbled across this coffee/bike shop when looking for an afternoon pick me up. It is such a unique concept; the store sells and repairs bicycles but also has the most adorable coffee shop I have ever seen. I had a cup of their pour over and brought my coffee {and pastry} outside to a bonfire they had set up adjacent to the store. It was such a great experience and I was so happy to find this hidden treasure.

S&G Restaurant
If you are a fan of diners, endless coffee and a big breakfast then I recommend you make your way here if you are ever in Chicago. I had breakfast here both days of my trip. The staff was extremely nice and you could tell there were a lot of regulars coming in for breakfast, which is always a good sign of a great restaurant.

Local Root
I stumbled across this place accidentally when I ended up getting lost on a walk, but after reading the menu I decided to stop in for lunch. Everything at Local Root is sourced locally and they are a no-waste restaurant. I was having such a great time talking to the staff that I decided to stay after lunch for a few beers. Everyone was so friendly and the food was extremely fresh and delicious.


Architectural Boat Tour
If there is one thing that you have to do while visiting Chicago, it is this boat tour. The city looks absolutely spectacular from the river and the tour guide I had was wonderful and funny. It was not only fun, but educational and informative as well. I left having a greater appreciation for architecture and a better understanding as to why some buildings look a certain way.

Lake Michigan
As a first time visitor to the Midwest, I was pretty excited to get to see one of the Great Lakes. Chicago sits right along Lake Michigan and it is quite the sight. The weather was pretty warm the weekend I was there so the river path was filled with runners, walkers and bikers. I was glad to experience the beautiful scenery and enjoy a long walk prior to leaving for the airport.

Lincoln Park Conservatory
I accidentally stumbled across this place after checking out The Lincoln Park Zoo {which is free if you are interested in exploring the Zoo}. The Conservatory was stunning with different rooms filled with ferns, flowers and palm trees. There is also a large lawn right outside of the entrance where many people were reading and playing board games with friends that day.

Other Notables: The Bean, The John Hancock Building, The Magnificent Mile - Michigan Avenue, Navy Pier, Wrigley Field

Interested in more City Guides - Check out my Miami Beach Guide, Philadelphia Food Guide and Hoboken Food Guide

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

City Guide: Miami, FL (South Beach)

One thing I always look for when I travel are recommendations from people who have been to the city I am planning on visiting. Nothing beats getting some inside information from someone who has spend time in a specific city! Below are some places that I have found on my past two trips to Miami, FL that I thought I would share.

Miami, FL


The Palms Hotel & Spa 
When I visited Miami in January 2015, this is the hotel that I stayed at for the week. I loved how it was a little bit more north which meant it was quieter at night. At the time they were running a Wednesday Night Yoga Class complete with a Farm to Table dinner. It was the perfect mix of relaxation and health and I highly recommend. Their restaurant, Essensia, is worth a visit even if you are not staying at the hotel.

This time around I rented an AirBnb and had a great experience. Our condo was three blocks from the beach and had everything we needed. The place was clean, quiet and had a wonderful kitchen (that we did not use, but it looked nice). I love AirBnB and the fact that it allows you to live like a local for a week.

Miami, FL


11th Street Diner
I was searching for breakfast options one morning and came across this diner. It was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and it was really good. The breakfasts are big enough to fill you up so you don't need to worry about lunch later on. I had the cheese omelet with hash browns and I highly recommend giving it a try.

Juice and Java
If you need something healthy to start your day, this is the place for you. The Goat Cheese Eggs are delicious and their menu of fresh pressed juices is extensive. I'll even admit that their juices are better than some I've had in Santa Monica (bold statement) and California knows how to do juices, so you know it's got to be good. Their coffee is also pretty delicious. 

The Dutch
While the original location may be in NYC, I actually had never heard of this restaurant until I was in Miami. Located inside the W Hotel, it is a little pricey, but totally worth the treat. They have an extensive seafood menu and my favorite things on the menu is the Kale Salad and the Pappardelle with Lamb Ragu.

Havana 1957
This is a small chain, but you would never know it.. the food is that good! The atmosphere was fun and the service was amazing. The waiter took his time to explain the history behind what we were ordering, which I thought was pretty cool. I recommend the Havana 1957 Specialty and the Vaca Frita.
Miami, FL


Lincoln Road Mall
I normally don't go shopping while I am on vacation but for some reason I really enjoy this place. They have a farmer's market every Sunday and a really great Zara. The mall also has a ton of small restaurants that are reasonable and usually pretty good.

Wynwood Walls
If you saw my post on Monday, then you got a sneak peak into the Wynwood Walls. Started in 2009, the walls were a way to to transform the warehouse district of Wynwood. It's a 20 minute ride from the beach, but if you get the chance to go, you will not be disappointed. There are also tons of art galleries in the area as well.

Vizcaya Museum & Gardens
I randomly came across this place when I googled, "things to do in Miami not the beach" and I am so glad I did! It was built as the vacation home of James Deering, a wealthy business man from Chicago. The building and gardens look like something you would see in Europe and the history inside the home is well worth the visit.

Interested in more City Guides - Check out my Philadelphia Food Guide and Hoboken Food Guide!