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.

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: 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! 

How To: Travel With Ease in Europe

If you’ve been following the blog [or my personal Instagram] over the past two months, you probably know that this summer I was fortunate enough to be able to study abroad in Toledo, Spain. 

While in Spain, I visited eight cities and two countries [which would have been 13 cities and five countries, had my purse not been stolen the final weekend forcing me to cut my trip short]. A lot of people don’t know how easy [and cheap] it is to travel through Europe, so here are my “do’s and don’ts” for traveling through Europe on a budget. 

When traveling to near-ish [i.e. 250 miles or less] places — TAKE A BUS

Buses in Europe [and South America, if you’re curious] are SO much roomier and cleaner than buses in America and I would 110% recommend taking one if you’re traveling within one country or if you’re in a city near a border [i.e. Barcelona]. Bus tickets range from $15 to $100 roundtrip, depending on how far you’re going and how populated the area you are headed to is. The time for the trip will be a bit longer but when money is on your mind, losing six hours and saving $150 is definitely worth it. 

If you’re traveling alone, stay in a hostel 

While there are some preconceived notions about the safety and quality of hostels from stereotypes portrayed in certain movies [i.e. “Hostel”], all the hostels I have stayed in over the years have been great. When looking at hostels, always go to trusted hostel websites like hostelworld and hostels. From there, make sure you’re in your price range. Whether your budget is $20 a night or $200, you’ll be sure to find something. Next, I always make sure they have metro access, are at least somewhat close to popular attractions of the city, have lockers and offer breakfast. Finally, I read the reviews to find the best hostel for me. I have yet to stay in a bad hostel [knock on wood] just by following these easy rules. 

If you’re traveling with a group, stay in an Airbnb 

I’m sort of new to the Airbnb scene because I really haven’t done much group traveling until Spain. In Madrid, Cuenca and Barcelona, I traveled with a group of people [four to nine  of us for each trip] and we stayed in Airbnbs for all three. The Airbnbs were always nice, spacious and in perfect locations. I followed roughly the same rules for finding Airbnbs as I did for hostels and we were pleasantly surprised each and every time. Airbnbs make group travel much easier than a hostel [hostels fill up fast and there is no guarantee that you will be sleeping in the same room as your friends]. There also isn’t a common space to cook and hang out in a hostel. This isn’t as much of a problem when traveling with one person, however, with nine people, it’s sort of a hassle. Airbnbs offer all the commodities of a house or apartment which fit the needs of every traveler. You can spread out after a long day of walking, cook dinner, open a bottle of wine [or four] and play some card games all in the comfort of your own kitchen, 

Use incognito mode

Airlines will hike up the prices for flights when they know you’re looking so make sure whenever you’re searching for hotels, flights, etc. you are using incognito mode [meaning your data and cookies won’t be saved, so websites can’t keep track of what you are searching] on your computer. This will save you so much time, money and you will be less stressed when you don’t see the prices change every time you refresh your page. 

Picking the days of the week for your trip is SO important

When I went to Paris over my birthday weekend, I wanted to go from Thursday to Sunday. I couldn’t find a single flight below $200 to return on Sunday and I was becoming so disheartened. Would my dream of spending my birthday weekend in Paris not come true? Then, I changed the days of flights I was looking at to Friday to Monday. I booked a roundtrip flight for $96 [with RyanAir —100% recommend them for weekend trips when you aren’t packing a lot]. I was floored. Yes, weekends are the ideal time to travel for you, but that means they’re also the ideal time to travel for everyone else. Miss that Monday morning class and stay an extra day in Paris [SUCH a sacrifice], you might save over $100 😉

Use Trip Advisor or sites similar

I love doing touristy stuff when I go new places. Walking tours, museums, bus tours, etc. and Trip Advisor and Civatitis are the places to look. I booked free walking tours, bus tours, boat tours, and more using these websites for a lot cheaper online than with a travel company in the actual city. Through these, I not only saved tons of money but I met a lot of other solo travelers who I wound up spending the rest of time in that city. It’s truly a win-win. 

Traveling through Europe isn’t just reserved for social media influencers and retirees. With these simple tricks and a little bargain hunting, anyone can make their dream of basking in the Tuscan sun or having a cappuccino while wearing a beret in Paris a reality.

Discover: Chautauqua, New York

Every year since my boyfriend, Liam, was little, his family gets together at their lake house on Lake Chautauqua in New York. I didn’t start going along on this trip till last summer but his family has always welcomed me with open arms. Lake Chautauqua is only about two hours away from Cleveland, and neighbors Jamestown, the first settlement in the United States. It’s a very small town, but it has a lot to offer. The lake house I stay at with Liam and his family is situated only feet away from the lake itself, and offers some pretty amazing opportunities for sunset watching from the porch of the house. On nicer days, the lake is definitely the place to be, for boating and even for swimming. In my opinion, the perfect way to end a hot summer day on the lake is to go for ice cream, our favorite place there is called Boxcar Barney’s.  

On rainy days the lake is still beautiful, and the sunshine peeks out at least once. Playing board games and even a good ole’ game of euchre is an easy way to pass time while the somber weather passes, and of course, we hope for sunshine. This past week while we were there, it rained almost every single day, but it was still such an enjoyable time. Regardless of the weather, there’s always an opportunity to enjoy the lake.  

Reading is also a great way to pass time while the weather isn’t so great. This past week, I read the “Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood, and as an avid lover of the show, I can say that I am equally impressed with the book. I’d have my morning cup of coffee and sit on the porch overlooking the lake with Liam, while he read his book and I took some time away from my phone to enjoy the little things. Speaking of being unplugged, my goal for this vacation was to spend very little time on my phone, only really using it during the nighttime to catch up on social media. During the average week, when I’m not on vacation, I average about 7-8 hours on my phone, which I think is absolutely ridiculous. However, when I was at the lake, I cut-down my phone time to about an hour and a half. And, ever since I’ve been home, my screen time is significantly less. It’s amazing what a little vacation can do for the mind and soul.  

I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s something very special about Lake Chautauqua. I don’t know if it’s the scenic views, beautiful weather, or friendly people, but what I do know is that it is a place I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Discover: Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

If you grew up in Ohio, chances are you’ve spent at least one family vacation on Hilton Head Island. [Even HHI locals know it and cater witty banter and jokes to the stereotype.] But, just because you may have spent one or two [or more?] summer vacations here, doesn’t mean there’s not still more to be discovered. Prior to this most recent trip, I had visited HHI three times and still, this time I experienced the island in a completely new way. Here are a few must-sees and must-dos for your next trip!

Pro-tip: Upon arriving on the island, be sure to rent a bike from one of the many bike rental companies in the area. The beauty of a small island is the fact that pretty much anywhere you go can be reached by biking [as long as you’re willing to put in the mileage ;)].


Photo courtesy Jacinta Harshe

Kayaking with Saltmarsh Paddle Tours

Looking to add a little bit of an adventure to your typical beach vacation? Saltmarsh Paddle Tours, established more than 60 years ago, offers guided and non-guided kayaking tours Wednesday through Monday from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and Tuesday from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Guides encourage you to view Hilton Head’s diverse marine life up close [bonus points if you can spot a dolphin!]. The two-hour excursion allows for plenty of time to paddle leisurely, taking time to embrace the wildlife that inhabits the coast. 

Harbour Town Day Sail

In 1987, Dennis Conner sailed the Stars & Stripes vessel in the 26th America’s Cup [a sailing contest], the oldest international sports competition. After winning four races and reclaiming the Cup for the USA, America’s Cup ’87 is often considered to be one of the greatest of all time. Now, Stars & Stripes is open to the public. Sailing out of Harbour Town Monday through Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., the sailboat can accommodate up to 25 passengers with a captain and two deckhands at your service. Soak in the sun while you sail around the island on this 90-minute tour and experience Stars & Stripes in all of its glory.


Sweet Carolina Cupcakes

Just like its name states, Sweet Carolina Cupcakes [located in Coligny Plaza] are on a whole other level of sweetness. These gourmet, freshly made cupcakes are offered in two sizes: mini and large. There’s no in between. While the mini cupcakes are just the right size to temporarily satisfy your sweet tooth, you can’t help but be left wanting more. But, with the rich icing and dense cake, the large cupcakes are a bit too much for one person to handle. My family’s solution? Buy a bunch of large cupcakes and cut them into fourths … this also offers the perfect excuse to taste-test multiple flavors [my favorite was definitely the strawberry cupcake topped with strawberry icing].

Frozen Moo Ice Cream

Still craving more after those cupcakes? Frozen Moo Ice Cream is just around the corner in the same plaza and is the perfect relief after a long, hot and humid day at the beach. The rich, creamy ice cream is offered in a variety of flavors [listed two columns long in tiny font on a menu, to be more precise]. Fortunately, the long line that often spills out the door provides ample time to choose which flavor to go with [we promise, the ice cream is worth the wait]. Warning: one scoop of Frozen Moo is comparable to two scoops elsewhere, so decide accordingly 😉


The Jazz Corner

As a passive fan of jazz music [meaning I only really listen to it with people who are avid fans], I wasn’t sure what to expect when my family said we were going to a dinner at The Jazz Corner. However, after being seated [and learning that it was acclaimed as one of the top “100 Great Jazz Rooms” in the world by Downbeat Magazine] I was immediately intrigued. The small dining room includes a handful of tables to seat four while smaller two-tops line the wall. Louise Spencer & Lavon Stevens have been performing at The Jazz Corner for 15 of the 20 years that it’s been open [and with Spencer’s silky smooth, soulful voice and her playful stage banter with Stevens, it’s easy to see why]. The mouth-watering entrees add the perfect complement to the night’s entertainment. 

Side stop: Savannah, Georgia

Though it’s common to tackle the 10[ish]-hour drive from Ohio to Hilton Head, my family decided to fly instead this year. Like most HHI tourists, we flew into the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport … meaning that with our departure time of 9:30 p.m. on the last day, we had a LOT of time to kill. The historical building blocks of Savannah, Georgia run too deep to squeeze into one day, so we decided to explore the shopping instead [if you know me, you’re probably not shocked reading that]. I hadn’t heard much about Savannah before, but was pleasantly surprised by the culture and art that flourished within the small part of the city I visited.

City Market

After walking from the visitor’s center [with no real destination in mind], we stumbled upon Savannah’s City Market. The architecture and atmosphere of the restaurants, cafes and boutiques that lined the street mimicked a blend of New Orleans’ French Quarter and Seattle’s Public Market [or at least the pictures I have seen of them … those two still go unchecked on my bucket list]. I couldn’t help but stop at Byrd’s Famous Cookies the minute I saw the slogan “May your cookie jar never be empty.” [We’ve already established I have a massive sweet tooth, right?] The crunchy, bite-sized cookies were some of the best I’ve ever tasted [granted, I usually eat break-and-bake from Pillsbury, but still]. I even left with a jar to bring home!

Broughton Street

After browsing the market, we ended up on Broughton Street. If you’re looking for typical name brands [Banana Republic, Urban Outfitters, etc.] this is the place to be. However, scattered throughout the big corporations are many locally owned cafes and boutiques. I stopped in a few that showcased work made by local artists, my favorite of which was Arrowleaf Boutique [thanks for my new sunglasses!]. It’s both a blessing and a curse that I was out of space in my luggage … I truly believe I would have bought everything in that store!

Share your favorite ways to rediscover cities with us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!