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.

Six Chicago Artists to Add to your Playlist

Chicago is known for its great strides within the Jazz and Blues industry. In today’s Chicago music scene, many up and coming artists try to pay homage to this history through their music, while adding their own unique style it. After realizing that more music exists other than what is repeated on Top 40 radio stations, I began to explore deeper into the music that’s created right in my backyard [metaphorically speaking]. Here are my top bands and solo artists [as well as my song recs] from the Chicagoland area. [Bonus: listen to all of my top Chicago music picks here.] 

 

Manwolves

Manwolves has to take the cake for my absolute favorite Chicago band [and one of my favorite bands of all time]. The six-piece, which even features a trumpet, has a great mix of jazz and R&B with a sprinkle of pop in its sound. The trumpet, an essential jazz instrument, adds such an interesting flair to each song that Michael Werner plays. Werner and his bandmates,  Julian Freeman [drums], Henry Wolf [bass], Eli Cohen [guitar], Ari Garfin [keyboard] and Jamie McNear [vocals]. are from a suburb outside of Chicago and have known each other since high school [where they first played as Manwolves] and have been best friends ever since. Their genuine friendship is seen both on and off stage and is contagious within the crowd. Whenever I’m home, I make it a point to go to every Manwolves concert I can. [PS: pls play in Athens.]

Top songs:  “You,” “Fisherman’s Friend,” “These Days,” “Fear and Loathing”

 

Ric Wilson

If you ever need to feel empowered, listen to Ric Wilson.  His sound is an electric hip hop that exudes feel-good vibes. At every concert, he does a ‘soul train’ which allows anyone in the crowd to show off their dance moves. He is very much into singing / rapping about the issues the Black community in Chicago are facing, like police brutality and incarceration, while also singing about black empowerment. We love a woke and empowering man.

Top songs: “Powerful,” “Hang Loose,” “We Love Us”

 

The Slaps

The Slaps are what I would consider to be a traditional “indie” band [though, what does “indie” even mean anymore?]. While two of its members originate from Kentucky, the band found its drummer, Josh Resing, when they all attended DePaul University. While in school, Resing, Rand Kelly [vocals] and Ramsey Bell [guitar] created The Slaps, thus making it acceptable for them to grace my top Chicago music blog post. Though the band is quite small,  unique vocals and minimal instruments create a sound that boasts an upbeat energy [with the occasional slower songs and ballads scattered throughout its discography]. The Slaps are still a pretty small band [less than 5000 followers on Instagram] but with the help of their friends, Manwolves, they are slowly climbing up the ladder of Chicago music and who knows, maybe they’ll be selling out The Aragon and Ravinia, two of Chicago’s most iconic concert venues, before we know it. 

Top songs: “Song for a Friend,” “Houses” 

 

Tasha 

Tasha is a solo artist who mainly creates dream pop music. Her beautiful voice mixed with a chill, groovy type of music will calm anyone [the perfect finals week soundtrack]. While her music is amazing, her social media presence is just as important. Extremely passionate about Black female empowerment, she uses her music [much like Ric Wilson] to empower black women and talk about the hardships black women face in their day to day life. 

Top songs: “Something About this Girl,” “Lullaby,” “Kind of Love”

 

Kaina

Very similar to Tasha is another solo artist, Kaina. She exudes the same dreamy and chill pop vibe in all of her songs and definitely isn’t afraid to play around with a synthesizer. She mixes Latinx sounds with the classic Chicago Jazz and Blues sound to create a one-of-a-kind sound. As a first-generation Latina [her parents immigrated to the US but she was born in the US], Kaina sings about her cultural identity and her detachment from it since she didn’t grow up living around a good majority of her family. 

Top songs: “La Luna,” “A Song to Sing” [a collab with Manwolves and Ric Wilson], “Honey”

 

Burns Twins 

I discovered the Burns Twins in a different way than all the previous artists. I was playlists deep on Spotify when I’d finished yet another Spotify Discover playlist. The next song that started playing was “Day by Day” by the Burns Twins. I’d heard of them through the Chicago music scene and from collaborations with Kaina, however, I’d never listened to any of their own music. Burns Twins collabs with a variety of artists, playing to their strengths in the technical side of creating music [usually a pop / hip hop mix]. With the twins as the driving force and the vocals of a talented lyricist, it’s hard for a great song to not be created. 

Top songs:  “La Luna” [a collab with Kaina], “Day by Day”

Influencer Spotlight: Melissa Tatti

Sustainability has become a hot topic in today’s culture due to the evident positive effects it has had on our environment. Young adults especially have started to take action in protecting and preserving our environment in various simple initiatives that already fit into our daily routines. Replacing single-use plastics with reusable ones, not consuming as many meat and dairy products [even going as far as being vegan or vegetarian] and even shopping for clothing and other material items at second-hand stores. Thrifting has become incredibly popular the past five or so years, and last summer I found myself watching various Youtube creators thrift their wardrobes and turn well-loved pieces into something fresh and trendy. 

Melissa Tatti, aka “ThreadsObsessed” on Youtube [as well as Instagram] is one of the only thrifting, fashion-based channels that I subscribe to and continually watch because she puts so much effort into what she is creating, from showing viewers when she initially thrifts the item, to transforming and styling an outfit. Melissa does “Thrift with Me” vlogs which allows viewers to see what kind of pieces she looks for in a thrift store, what older brands have a growing value in today’s fashion world, and she even puts looks together while she shops. 

Not only does Melissa thrift clothing items for herself, she also sells and transforms them on Depop, a popular [usually second-hand] retail app. Before checking out her Depop page, I didn’t expect much from it, I just thought it would be a place for her to post simple photos of what she was trying to sell from her thrifting journeys. However, Melissa beautifully and uniquely, transforms her thrifted clothing pieces into styled looks that no one else has. 

As she mentions and depicts on her Youtube channel, Melissa spends countless hours thrifting items from various thrift stores [in Canada, where she lives], transforming the pieces, and then photographing them for her Depop page. She also does all of this from her home, including packaging Depop orders. Melissa has a room dedicated to her booming Depop business and even a studio style set-up for photographing her pieces. Needless to say, Melissa is extremely hardworking and it’s inspiring to see the amount of success she’s achieved in such little time. 

Her own personal style, as showcased on her social media, has developed over the years, ranging from Nascar and Harley Davidson ‘90s style jackets, to Y2K baby blue eyeshadow and low-rise jeans type looks [the early 2000s are definitely back]. Regardless of her ever changing style, Melissa’s “girl boss” attitude remains the same, and it’s empowering to see a woman of her age as successful as she is, yet still eager to achieve more. Melissa is one of my favorite social media creators and her passion for fashion is contagious! 

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!