Discover: New York City [In 24 Hours]

Recently, I had the opportunity to take a weekend visit to one of my favorite places:New York City. However, I only had 24 hours in this incredible city. There are endless amounts of activities to do in the city; how could I possibly narrow it down to only a couple, and still make the most out of the experience? Luckily, with the help of my sister, who is a Soho local, I was able to find some cute, unique spots around her neck of the woods.

After three hours of driving, my dad, brother and I arrived around lunchtime and decided to meet up at Baz Bagel and Restaurant to grab something to eat. The small cafe on Grand Street scream “old fashioned” with its black and white tiles and framed pictures [and a basket of free postcards] of vintage female icons, like Celine Dion and Judy Garland. Baz’s menu is filled with healthy soups, salads, and [most importantly] bagels. You can keep it simple and order their homemade bagels plain, or you can get one of their specialty bagels like Baz, Super Nova, or Rainbow Kitty. I opted for the Vegan Avocado Toast, a wheat bagel topped with smashed avocado, cucumber, tomato and Baz’s housemade everything seasoning [think Trader Joe’s Everything but the Bagel seasoning, but even better]. I highly recommend Baz Bagel & Restaurant— I walked out happy, full and carrying a Barbara Streisand postcard. 

After lunch, we wandered down the main shopping streets of SoHo. If for some reason you can’t find anything to do in NYC, these few blocks of shops could keep you entertained for days. There’s something for everyone, with shops ranging from Glossier and Louis Vuitton to Champion and Madewell. While strolling down Broadway, we stumbled across The Lion King interactive pop up, at Dolby SoHo. Founded in 1965, Dolby was the first company to introduce 5.1 surround sound into the cinema world, and they now focus on expanding that technology from the theater into the home. This free experience featured a number of immersive experiences that Dolby offers, including a four-wall projection of The Lion King trailer and the chance to try out Dolby’s audio mixing program. As a media major, I was immediately intrigued. Not only did it show off the Dolby products that you can buy in stores, like their TVs and headphones, but it showed some of the programs they use behind the scenes to create surround sound and 4k visuals. I’m so glad we stumbled on this experience, and although this one was only in SoHo for a limited time, there are always shops and experiences popping up throughout the city year-round that you could find.

Beginning to lose energy, we decided we needed a little pick-me-up. Instead of going to a coffee shop, my sister took us to one of her favorite places to get a midday treat: a Cha Cha Matcha. This pink and palm tree decorated SoHo café specializes in a variety of hot and cold matcha green tea drinks. Their super-powered green tea has just as much caffeine as coffee but doesn’t give you the anxious jitters and heavy crash afterward. As someone who is definitely not a tea person, I was hesitant to try a matcha drink. However, I tried an iced matcha latte with oat milk and was surprised by how much I actually liked it [after I got over the grassy aftertaste]. I’ll definitely always be more of a coffee person, but I’m happy I’ve discovered this less jittery caffeine alternative.

For the rest of the time we were in the city, we wandered down the streets of Chinatown and Little Italy. We meandered through the crowds, amazed at how many Italian restaurants could be tucked into one block. We eventually decided to stop at a small Italian restaurant that focused mostly on specialty pizzas. I honestly couldn’t tell you the name of the  place, but I will never forget the taste of their pizza. It was a fresh mozzarella and homemade tomato-sauce heaven. If I ever find myself in this area again, I’ll scour every end of Little Italy to find this restaurant. 

When we were looking for something fun to do after dinner, we found the Chinatown Family Fun Center [shoutout to my sister for this secret local hangout]. Tucked in between tourist shops and bubble tea cafés, this arcade is a hidden treasure. It’s full of various arcade games like skee ball, air hockey and at least three separate versions of Dance, Dance Revolution. Stepping inside was like stepping out of the chaos of the city and into a completely different realm, where you could take a minute to relax and forget about the world outside. You could come in for ten minutes on a lunch break or stay for hours trying to beat the highest DDR record, but either way you’ll walk out smiling [and maybe with a 15-ticket-worth plastic dinosaur like me].

Even though I only had the chance to be in New York City for a short amount of time, I took every second I was there to my advantage and got to visit a ton of new places, try new foods and make memories I’ll keep with me forever. If you ever have the opportunity to visit a new place, even if it’s just for a day, I promise that it would be worth it.

Finding Adventure Amidst the Unknown 

Moving eight hours away from home brings many changes, especially if you’re moving into the middle of the woods in Virginia. Now, I know what you’re all thinking — spending eight weeks at summer camp sounds incredible! Well, yes and no. While camp life has its perks, there’s a big difference between spending eight weeks outside at summer camp versus eight weeks in a hot kitchen at summer camp. This summer, I spent my time as a kitchen director for Kandle Dining Services at Camp Ottari [a Boy Scouts camp located on Blue Ridge Scout Reservation]. 

Before camp, I did what I usually do before going into a new situation — I set my expectations low, [and I mean really low]. Being disappointed is a difficult feeling. Going somewhere I knew nothing about without knowing anyone at camp, and truly not knowing what I was going to be doing in my job left a lot of uncertainty for the summer. The only thing I really knew for certain was that my days were going to be long and exhausting. Oh, and that I probably wouldn’t have phone reception. 

Turns out I was right; I rarely had reception at camp. When I did, it was so slow I might as well have not had it. I didn’t scroll through my Instagram feed for two months. Some people might have hated that and not have been able to survive without social media, but I loved the feeling of “dropping off the grid” right after graduation.

Before camp started, I told myself I was going to delete most social media apps off my phone. While I never actually did this, I still rarely went on those apps because of the lack of cell service. To do work on my laptop, I had to use a hotspot which wasn’t much “The toughest, yet best moments are the ones you realize you’re going to miss while you’re still experiencing them.”better. Unplugging was much nicer than I expected. I’ll be the first to admit I’m nearly addicted
to my phone, but while at camp, there were days I’d finish working and my screen time would be 15 minutes [and that was only from using my calculator!]. After averaging five hours of screen time prior to camp, seeing the time I spent “plugged in” to the Internet decrease made me feel so accomplished. 

Not relying on your phone is liberating. I wasn’t worried about what everyone was doing, where people were traveling or what Snapchat stories I was missing that day. I recommend everyone takes a break from their phones and social media if they get the chance. There’s a whole world out there right in front of us that we often miss because we’re buried in our screens. 

Camp reminded me of college quite a bit. I moved far away into a cabin [that did not remind me of college] with four people I knew nothing about. At the beginning of the summer, we were all just strangers with a common goal: work and gain experience in the kitchen. At the end of the summer, we were a family and saying goodbye was more difficult than expected. My staff and I spent basically every hour together. From getting in the kitchen some mornings as early as 5 a.m. to make 1,000 pancakes for campers to not getting out of the kitchen until 9 p.m. during our busiest weeks [with over 400 campers on-site!]. I was definitely right about working long hours and being exhausted, but never did I think about the joy this summer would bring.

Each week, I got closer to my staff and to the camp staff who did an amazing job of making camp feel like home to me — something I didn’t realize I needed so much. I won’t lie, the first few weeks were rough in the kitchen. My staff consisted of five girls and we cooked for 250 to 400 campers, depending on the week. As with any new job, there’s going to be an adjustment period for everyone. This summer was the first time Kandle was in the kitchens at Camp Ottari, so our staff had to learn together. Whether it was half of our ovens not working for three weeks or the fridge breaking halfway into the summer, there was always a new problem that needed fixing. While this definitely induced some stress, it taught me a completely different side of leadership and team management, an area I thought I was pretty good at. News flash —you’re never done learning or growing in a position. 

As the weeks progressed and my team and I found our flow, everything started to be more relaxed and fun. Between hanging out with camp staff after dinner, heading down to the waterfront to canoe, attending opening and closing campfires and ziplining through the camp, there was always something to do. Our day off every week consisted of less than 24 hours between Saturday breakfast and Sunday lunch, but Saturdays quickly became filled with adventures around Virginia with the kitchen staff. 

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Whether you’re going to camp for the summer or studying abroad, traveling alone or working the days away, these are my top tips to make the most of your time: 

  1. Put yourself out there! I know, scary right? Making friends while you’re in a new place can be a great way to get exposure to the new culture you’re in. 
  2. Ask for help. Chances are, you’re not going to be familiar with the new area you’re spending time in. The locals [and new friends you’ve made!] will have great tips for making the most out of the area, what places to see and how to spend your time efficiently. 
  3. Slow down and enjoy the moment. Working all day can be draining and there will probably be times when you can’t wait for that day to end, but there’s always room to find good in every moment. Eight weeks flew by in the blink of an eye. It’s the little things that got me through the rough days, the people I was surrounded with, and the memories I was making.
  4. Take plenty of pictures! This seems like a given, right? Especially with how popular social media is now. Looking back on the summer, I don’t have much to show for it, and I wish I had more pictures to show my friends to help explain my experiences. 

Camp is truly indescribable at times. I truly dreaded the thought of being surrounded by 400 Boy Scouts before heading to Virginia. This summer was filled with “had to be there” moments [my personal favorite], laughter, tears and, luckily for me and my kitchen staff, no food fights! 

 

Shop Local: Support Farmer’s Markets

The best part about Saturday mornings in the summer are farmers markets! Central Ohio has so many amazing options for farmers markets. This summer, I have visited two that Columbus has to offer: the Worthington Farmers Market and the Dublin Market. The two markets are unique in their own ways, from the fresh baked goods they offer to the local art on display. They are both held on Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and will continue to run until October.

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I have been going to the Worthington Farmers Market for a few summers and it has easily become something I look forward to every year. The market is set up on a strip of local shops and restaurants. One of my favorite traditions to do while there is enjoy the market and then stop somewhere for brunch [my go-to spots are  La Chatelaine and The Whitney House]. After brunch, I always make sure to pick up a Native Cold Pressed Juice to sip on while I browse the market’s various vendors. The market features a ton of vendors from all over that supply fresh produce, pastries, cheeses, plants and coffee. All of the produce I have gotten from the market have been of the highest quality. The fresh blackberries sold at Worthington are some of the best I’ve ever had, but my absolute favorite market find is the raspberry jalapeno jam [trust me, it’s life changing]. Before leaving, my family always makes sure to stop at The Fromagerie to pick up mouth-watering cheese puff pastries.  

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Though the Worthington Farmers Market has become a summer staple for me, this year I wanted to be sure to also check out a new market. A few weekends ago, I visited the Dublin Market for the first time and loved it. It’s a newer market and features a lot of different vendors compared to the Worthington Market. They have a few booths with handmade kitchenware like bamboo cutting boards and patterned serving bowls that will add a bit of personality to any kitchen. A few local boutiques also set up booths with one-of-a-kind pieces. One of my favorite booths had handmade jewelry that was nothing like I’d ever seen before. To top it off, I didn’t leave the market empty-handed. While pursuing the vendors, I couldn’t help but buy a bouquet of fresh flowers, a chocolate croissant and of course, a cold brew coffee [LVNG Limitless runs on cold brew, honestly]. It was a perfect Saturday morning spent in Dublin, Ohio enjoying all things local. 

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Farmers Markets are the best way to simultaneously support local businesses and vendors while also filling your home with high-quality produce, food and other home goods. Share your favorite local markets with us on Instagram

Discover: Charleston, South Carolina

Vacations have always been different for my family. Ever since I was a little girl, my dad coached a select summer baseball team. As a result, I have always done most of my traveling through baseball tournaments. A few of my favorite places have been Orlando, Florida, St. Louis, Chicago, Pittspurgh and Ontario, Canada. This year, I’m adding Charleston, South Carolina to that list after my brother had a baseball tournament there. My family made the 10-hour drive a few days before the tournament began so we could appreciate the scenic history and culture the city has to offer.

Exploring Charleston’s History

My family and I spent the first day downtown, admiring the historic buildings like Rainbow Row and shopping at The Historic City Market. One of the most popular items that were being sold at the market were hand-woven grass baskets. I loved the originality of the baskets and how they related to the city, so I was curious about buying one, but to my surprise, they ranged from $200 to $300! Later, I learned that the price is so high because of the amount of time and energy it takes to weave just one basket.

That afternoon, we drove to the Angel Tree. Pictures definitely don’t do this species of Oak justice! Over the years, the branches have looped and intertwined. Due to its age, the park has posted up some of the branches to help support the weight of the tree. 

Embracing South Carolina’s Marine Life

The second day we went on a kayaking tour! I love kayaking at our family cabin in Northern Minnesota, but let me tell ya, kayaking on a lake is a piece of cake compared to the currents in the ocean [my arms were noodles the next day]. We also saw so much marine life like crabs, pelicans and a family of dolphins. 

Finding a Balance

The next few days followed with baseball games and some really good food with the team. My family has always struggled with balancing these trips as a family vacation and tournament. In years past, I have been the only older sibling on the trip and have felt out of place. I don’t necessarily want to hang out with the parents, but I also don’t want to be around my brothers. This year was different. My family made a conscious effort to balance family time with baseball time and it made all the difference in making this trip a memorable one.

Discover: Chicago, Illinois

Living in the suburbs of Chicago my entire life has granted me many days trips to my absolute favorite city. With that being said, I have done so much in and around the city. It’s impossible to discover the entire city of Chicago in one week, let alone a day, but here are my top five must-sees for the perfect day in Chicago. 

Start the Day at Fairgrounds Coffee and Tea and Stan’s Donuts in Wicker Park 

Chicago is made up of a lot of little “villages.” Wicker Park happens to be one of my favorites. Head down to Milwaukee Avenue and enjoy a nice shot of espresso or iced coffee [or both] from Fairgrounds Coffee and Tea. They offer a wide variety of cold brews, espresso and matcha, as well as some sweet treats. Their nitro cold brew is ~amazing~ and Fairgrounds is definitely one of my favorite shops I’ve found. Once you have had your caffeine fix, walk around the corner to Stan’s Donuts and Coffee for a freshly baked donut [or two]. The owner of Stan’s is originally from California, but in 2014 he and Rich Labriola, owner of Chicago’s famous Labriola baking company, opened Stan’s Donuts and Coffee in the heart of downtown Chicago. They now have a plethora of shops in and around the city of Chicago and are always bustling with business [see the line that snakes out the door for proof]. Stan’s even has one or two vegan donut options [depending on the day] so they already receive an A+ in my book [education major pun intended]. While you’re there, don’t miss the opportunity to head down the street to take a photo with the iconic “Greetings from Chicago” sign. 

Check out a Museum at Chicago’s Museum Campus

One of the things that Chicago is known for are its museums. Boasting over 70 museums, there is certainly an exhibit for every kind of tourist. My personal favorite is the Art Institute. This museum is not situated on the museum campus, but just a few blocks away on Michigan Avenue. The Art Institute always has new art and exhibits for any art taste. From sculptures, the miniature room, modern art, textiles, ancient art and more, it’s easy to lose track of time and spend all day here. My tip for visiting museums on a time crunch: do some research the night before and make a list of what you want to see in the time you have so you aren’t running from one end of a museum to the next because you forgot to see the iconic Georgia O’Keefe painting, Sky Above Clouds IV [yes, I may or may not have done that].

Head over to The Chicago Diner for Lunch

Walking through museums can be exhausting and the last thing you want to do is spend an obscene amount of money on museum food. One of my favorite restaurants in Chicago [due to it being 100% vegetarian and having the ability to make every item on their menu vegan] is The Chicago Diner. A quaint restaurant in Boystown features the best milkshakes this city has to offer as well as breakfast all day long — what could be better? There isn’t one thing on the menu I would recommend more than another because every single item I have ever tried there is phenomenal. You might even score free parking [a rarity in Chicago] if you get there when there isn’t a traffic rush happening!

 Walk Around Lincoln Park and Enjoy the Best Cupcakes Ever Made

Just a quick drive or ‘L’ [the Chicago version of the Subway] ride away from The Chicago Diner is Lincoln Park. Lincoln Park is one of my favorite Chicago “villages” for so many reasons. From the lake view to the conservatory to walking the breathtaking DePaul campus [where I almost went to school, actually] there’s always a sight to see. Also, if you have room in your stomach after feasting at The Chicago Diner, sinking your teeth into some cupcakes from Swirlz Cupcake Shop is a must. Located just down the street from DePaul University, Swirlz offers cupcakes for people with most allergies [nut free, dairy free and gluten free]. Swirlz has 18 different vegan and gluten-free cupcakes that they rotate throughout the week as well as regular cupcakes as well. Check their website or give them a call to see if they have the cupcake you want today!

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End the Day with a Cubs game at Wrigley Field

Not everyone is a sports fan, I get that. However, in my opinion, a trip to Chicago is not complete without a baseball game at Wrigley Field. With its iconic ivy, tons of [overpriced] food options and almost every seat filled, Wrigley Field is exactly what a baseball park should be. Enjoy a hotdog [Chicago style of course] and a Malt cup [or a pretzel and cotton candy if you’re like me] and enjoy a great night of friends, food and America’s favorite pastime. 

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Discover: Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Growing up, I was lucky enough to be surrounded with people who would become my lifelong friends. Being from a small town, my graduating class was fewer than 100 people, and I’ve had the same friends since kindergarten, some even since preschool. After we all graduated high school, we still have managed to find ways to stay in touch and see each other when possible, like visiting each other at school or going on vacations together during school breaks. This past week, my group of friends and I made the 12-hour journey to Kiawah Island, South Carolina, and had an amazing time.

I have a love-hate relationship with packing for a vacation, as it seems I either underpack or pack way too much. However, for this trip, I feel like I packed well; but I also seriously planned out my outfits. Many of the bathing suits I bought before this trip were actually from Amazon [they have some amazing, cheap bikinis] and I took a trip to Target before my trip to get a really cute midi dress to wear out to dinner. Other than my “nicer” outfits, I brought along a lot of t-shirts and shorts to wear to the beach. 

Obviously, the least favorite part of the trip for anyone was the car ride. On the way there it wasn’t  that bad, though, because we had something to look forward to — the beach, sunshine, nice weather, exploring a new place, etc. However, we did drive through part of the Smoky Mountains and caught glimpses of beautiful sunsets [both on the way there and the way back] which made the drive a little more bearable.  

My friend Mary’s family owns the house that we stayed at. The location was so beautiful, sitting very close to the beach. There’s only one grocery store on the island and it’s located in a little plaza with all kinds of different retail stores and restaurants, like Vineyard Vines and Southern Tide, and it even had a Ben & Jerry’s. Although the island was definitely small, it was so welcoming and we were always able to find something to do. 

The downtown area of the island, called Fresh Fields, is home to a variety of restaurants, such as a sushi place and Irish pub that me and my friends went to on our trip. There’s a definite sense of community on Kiawah, even though it’s such a small place. While we were enjoying a nice dinner at a restaurant in Fresh Fields, just down the street there was a movie on the green in the middle of downtown, and you could tell families were enjoying spending that time together. 

The beach was my favorite part of the trip by far—the sand was almost white and the water was so clear. On our final day at the beach, however, my friends Abby and Evie got stung pretty badly by some jellyfish. Regardless of the jellyfish incident, it was nice to lay on the beach and go swimming in the ocean [which was oddly very warm]. Before my trip, I bought a $5 float from Five Below, and I was not expecting it to be a good purchase, but I of course used it in the water, as well as a seat on the beach.  

Another purchase my friends and I made before our trip was disposable cameras. We were inspired by one of our favorite Youtubers, David Dobrik, who carries around disposable cameras all of the time to take random pictures of his friends. This was really fun, and I like the idea of being surprised about what pictures were taken and what moments were captured, that weren’t captured on our cell phones. 

Overall, I’m so glad I got to spend the week with my friends, as this will probably be the last summer that we’re all together. I’m also glad I got to explore Kiawah Island, South Carolina, and I hope I’ll be able to visit it again someday soon. 

Discover: Columbus, Ohio

Growing up in a rural village, I always was driving for at least fifteen minutes to find something to do. My house is situated on a corn field in Johnstown, Ohio, which has a few pizza parlors, too many auto shops and a Kroger. The village is so small that I usually tell people I’m from Columbus, and in reality, that’s where I spend most of my time, anyway. I used to hate being so far away from stores and restaurants, but I realized that many places in Columbus are worth the drive. Ohio’s capital may be intimidating to some, but once you find these hotspots and hidden gems, you’ll never want to leave. 

The Roosevelt Coffeehouse

If you’re planning an adventure through Columbus, the best place to stop for a latte [and arguably the best pastries] is The Roosevelt. This coffeehouse is dedicated to fighting against unclear water, human trafficking and hunger, which makes me feel much less guilty for spending money on coffee, and the employees are dedicated to providing the most uplifting experience possible. This coffee shop was introduced to me by a good friend, and now I’m always looking for an excuse to go back! While The Roosevelt is good for a cup of joe on-the-go, at some point, you have to sit in the aesthetically pleasing environment. [Pro tip: you can’t go wrong with their caramel latte!] 

The North Market 

Once you’ve had your fill of coffee, the next place to go is the North Market. I’m a huge fan of farmers markets and love supporting small businesses, and the North Market is the perfect place to do exactly that. Every time I go, I see something new to try! What I love most about it is that you can grab lunch from one of the local vendors and then shop for groceries, like fresh vegetables, all in the same place knowing that every dollar spent is for a good cause. My boyfriend and I love the Taste of Belgium, which makes waffles that are absolutely to die for. If waffles aren’t your thing, they also have tons of other delicious choices [I’ve confirmed]. On the way out, stop for some bubble tea at Bubbles Tea & Juice Co., which, if you haven’t gotten around to trying yet — you need to. 

Pins Mechanical Co.

My boyfriend and I are both fans of old school games, and if you can say the same, Pins Mechanical is the spot for you. This place has almost any game you can think with a design that fits so perfectly into the Columbus aesthetic while still providing old school entertainment and  classic vibes. Bring out your competitive side over a game of bowling, pinball, foosball and more with good company. Before you know it, you’ll lose track of time — I always do! 

Mikey’s Late Night Slice 

If you’ve worked up an appetite from gaming, or if you’re just craving great pizza, Mikey’s Late Night Slice is sure to satisfy. I love coming here because the staff is always hilarious and the food never disappoints. This is one of the best places to sit outside and people watch, and really see Columbus come to life. Not to mention, a whole pizza is absolutely enormous, perfect for sharing with a large group. While there are tons of quirky and creative menu items, I always go for the classic pepperoni. If you go, don’t forget to try all of the different sauces they offer, especially the unicorn sauce — I could tell you about it, but it’s best to try it for yourself! 
These Columbus staples are literally just a few of the venues that make the city so great. I’ve been going back and forth to Columbus since I was a little girl, and still, there is so much for me to see! It’s a huge place to explore, but definitely a must. The next time you’re out and about, consider making the trip over — I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Discover: Lincoln, Maine

Road tripping to Maine has been a yearly tradition since the summer after I graduated high school. The first year I went, I absolutely fell in love with the state. The small towns and the beautiful outdoors captured my heart. My best friend has a cabin that her family built in 2002 in Lincoln. The cabin is small but holds so many memories and has quickly become my summer home away from home! 

In years past, we’ve gone to Bar Harbour, Acadia and whitewater rafted at the Penobscot but this year we decided to spend the whole week at the cabin and give ourselves only one day to go out and explore. For that one day we did something way out of my comfort zone. We went to Baxter State Park and hiked Mount Katahdin, the highest point in Maine. 

Hiking the mountain was hands-down the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. It took us 15 miles, over 36,000 steps and 12 hours to climb the whole mountain. But, the views from the top and the feeling of accomplishment were enough to make up for the tiring journey. One thing that has stuck with me since climbing Khatadin is how the process of climbing wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it was going to be. I doubted my body’s ability to hike and climb for that long but have since learned that my body is capable of way more than I think it is and I shouldn’t be so quick to doubt myself. I am so proud of myself for climbing Katahdin and I am excited to be able to say that I’ve done it. 

Other than climbing the mountain, I also got to paddleboard and kayak on the lake, have a cookout, read by the water, watch movies and play card games. The time spent at the cabin was so relaxing. After the hectic summer I’ve had, this week away from the chaos of working full-time was a necessity. I took the time to fully recharge [I even slept for a whole 12 hours one night!] and take a mental break. 

Going to Maine is a trip I look forward to every summer. The whole state is absolutely breathtaking, from the views from the top of Katahdin to seeing a moose walking across the road during sunrise [yeah, we actually saw that! It was amazing]. My friend has been coming to Maine since she was a kid and had told me all about it throughout high school. Once we graduated, we finally got to go and I got to experience it myself. Now anytime I can, I try to share my love for Maine with others and try to get them to go. So if you ever get the chance, visit Maine!

Discover: Dayton, Ohio

While Dayton, Ohio is not as big as its neighboring cities, it is just as full of culture and rich history. Tourists will often just visit Dayton for the Air Force museum and to learn more about the Wright Brothers [Dayton is the birthplace of aviation], but Dayton has so much more to offer. We have a wide variety of places to visit, with something new and exciting around every corner. I’m going to share with you my three favorite ways to spend the day in Dayton!

2ndStreet Market

On the weekends I often myself drawn to the 2nd Street Market. Located downtown, it’s a market with a variety of vendors.In a remodeled factory in the heart of the city, the market is both pleasing to the eye and a piece of Dayton history. From produce to handmade jewelry, the market has it all. My personal favorite booth, Rahn’s Bread’s, is a must. They have fresh baked breads, pastries and muffins that’ll blow you away. I HIGHLY recommend the blackberry Danish and ciabatta loaf. Aside from fresh groceries, I also enjoy eating at many of the food vendors within the market for breakfast and lunch. The market has many lunch options, from Mediterranean cuisine to Mexican street food. After your grocery shopping and lunch splurge, it’s nice to wander through the rest of the market and visit the booths owned by local artists and entrepreneurs. It’s always a good day to shop local!

Oregon District

Only a few blocks away from the 2nd Street Market is the historical Oregon District in Downtown Dayton. The Oregon district is home to several bars, restaurants and boutiques. However, my favorite shop has always been Omega Music. Having been a loyal customer for years, I cannot recommend a better place to pick up all your vinyl needs, although I may be a little biased. Aside from vinyl records, they have a large selection of CD’s, cassettes and turntables. Although it’s received a name change, Omega Music has been around for decades, always blessing the Dayton area with the best music finds. Another shop that’s always worth checking out is Heart Mercantile. They sell all kinds of knick-knacks, funny mugs, Dayton t-shirts and the best greeting cards you’ll ever find. Whenever I am in search for a birthday present, Heart Mercantile is my first stop!

Yellow Springs

Often referred to as a hippie oasis, Yellow Springs is a must-do when visiting Dayton. Located about 25 minutes outside of downtown, it’s a short drive to enter an entire new world. The town is filled with boutiques, coffee shops, and even a comic book store. It has something for everyone to enjoy. The town is one of love, acceptance, community and is the perfect get-away from everyday stress. Home to many mom-and-pop shops, environmentally friendly goods and the strongest hippie aesthetic, you can’t go wrong with Yellow Springs. Just outside of town is some of the best day hiking in southwest Ohio. I recommend taking the time to visit the Clifton Gorge and John Bryan State Park. Once you’ve finished your shopping, hiking and coffee stops be sure to stop by Young’s Jersey Dairy for the best locally made ice cream and cheese curds [made right on the farm]!

Discover: The Great Smoky Mountains

Over the past weekend, my boyfriend and I took a somewhat spontaneous hiking trip to the Great Smoky Mountains, and now that I’m back home in the busy city of Columbus, I’m already planning our next trip! We spent three days in the mountains, and above everything else that made it so monumental, I loved the opportunity to relax and clear my mind.

Instead of staying at an expensive resort by the Smoky Mountains, I decided to try an Airbnb for the first time. I admit, I was somewhat nervous to stay in someone else’s home, but now that I’ve tried it, I can confidently say I would do it again! My Airbnb was in the tiny town of Maggie Valley, North Carolina. The town had many tourist-oriented shops, but after further exploration, we found that the people and the local restaurants were what made Maggie Valley so wonderful.

To get to our Airbnb, we drove up a pretty steep road that led us to a perfect cabin situated next to a creek and a private pond. We stayed in the lower level of the owner’s home, but it felt like we had the whole place to ourselves. Each night after we got back from exploring, we enjoyed grilling out on a deck and relaxing in a hot tub right next to our back door. I’ve tried relaxing in the past [and somehow always fail] but it was impossible to feel anything but calm while listening to the sounds of the creek, with no cell service for miles. 

Another highlight of our trip was our full day of hiking. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has so many trails, but I would recommend Clingmans Dome and Chimney Tops Trail. Clingman’s Dome is actually the highest point, at over 6,000 feet, in the Smoky Mountains, North Carolina and Tennessee! We left to walk this trail early in the morning to beat traffic, and it was well worth it. The climb was decently steep, but easily manageable [there were many resting points]. This trail was amazing because we got so high that we were literally surrounded by clouds, standing on a lookout that was easily 10 degrees cooler than the point at which we started. It was unreal to see the park from so high off the ground! 

Despite having sore legs, we went to our next trail about an hour away. Chimney Tops trail seemed like the perfect addition to our day, afterall, it is only 3.3 miles. However, we couldn’t have been more wrong about what that would entail. The distance is short, but the climb was incredibly steep. After climbing for about an hour, we were relieved to see a sign for the overlook, only 0.8 miles away, but we would be climbing over 900 feet to get there. The hike was insanely challenging for both of us, but we had fun supporting each other and stopping to take in the incredible views along the way. It was difficult, but I would do it again! 

After spending our day hiking, nothing sounded better than a shower and a nap. That night, we were completely spent, and decided to relieve our muscles in the hot tub, before going to bed around 10 [the earliest I’ve gone to sleep in about 5 months; it was awesome!]. Because we only spent Saturday evening through Monday morning there, we had to pack up and leave early the next day. On Monday morning, we decided to stop for breakfast at a local restaurant called Joey’s Pancake House. If you’re ever in North Carolina, I totally recommend getting breakfast here. My boyfriend and I both loved the small-town vibes and had fun observing how social and friendly everyone was! 

Instead of immediately going home, we decided to make a quick stop at Ripley’s Aquarium of The Smokies to see the 340-foot shark tunnel, pet the stingrays and watch the penguins. Tickets to the aquarium are pricey, but it was well worth it. There were so many types of sea creatures we would never have imagined existing, and I had never seen them at any other aquarium! 

Driving home from our trip was bittersweet, but we both know we will be back in the Smokies sooner rather than later. I loved exploring a new place with such a great travel buddy, relaxing and catching up on some much needed sleep. The best part about this vacation was that the entire trip was less than $200! If you’re looking for a quick getaway, take a trip to the Smokies!