How to Spend a Weekend in Asheville

Over Labor Day weekend, my husband and I traveled down to Asheville, NC to visit some friends who live in the area. I had been to Asheville a handful of times before but my husband had never been, so we were really excited to explore the city together! Here are my top recommendations for how to spend a weekend in Asheville.

Grab a Drink at Sierra Nevada Brewery

Our first night in town our friends took us to Sierra Nevada Brewery, technically in the nearby town of Fletcher. The taproom is absolutely massive, featuring an indoor dining room, outdoor kitchen/bar, garden, and an outdoor stage for live music. The whole space was really laidback and fun to explore, and even though it was busy, the property was large enough that it never felt crowded. I tried an Oktoberfest beer which was delicious! Asheville is definitely known for its breweries, and Sierra Nevada is one of the best.

Hike to Black Balsam Knob

Our first full morning in Asheville we set off for the Blue Ridge Parkway to hike up to Black Balsam Knob. The weather was very chilly, windy, and rainy – which we weren’t super prepared for – but we still had a blast! The hike follows the Art Loeb Trail up to Black Balsam Knob, a beautiful mountain bald with 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains. The hike is short, sweet, and scenic, perfect for visitors from out of town! I plan to write up a whole blog post with more info about this hike, so stay tuned.

Enjoy Some Amazing Food

Asheville has a surprisingly amazing food scene, and we definitely ate good on our trip. Even though I didn’t take many pictures of the meals we enjoyed, every single one of them was delicious! For breakfast, we enjoyed some biscuits at Biscuit Head, a super popular spot that offers all kinds of biscuit platters and sandwiches. Lunch one day was at Laughing Seed Cafe, a delicious vegetarian-friendly spot in downtown Asheville where I got some amazing (albeit a bit ugly) loaded fries. Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack was also a great lunch spot that even offers vegan chicken! Finally, we also enjoyed some tasty tacos from White Duck Taco Shop, which features fun menu items like Greek and Korean-inspired tacos.

Spend an Evening Bar-Hopping

Though Asheville is better known for its breweries, the downtown area is also home to some awesome and unique bars. The first stop on our evening of bar-hopping was Citizen Vinyl, a record store/cafe/bar that also prints its own records! I got a gin and citrus cocktail which was delicious and I thoroughly enjoyed the art deco-inspired interior.

Next up was Top of the Monk, an intimate rooftop bar with a casual, unfussy vibe. I tried a tropical drink with toasted coconut (which was lit on fire right in front me!) and even though it wasn’t my favorite drink of the night, the fun, laidback atmosphere more than made up for it.

Our last stop was Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar, a small cocktail bar situated inside a bookstore! This was definitely my favorite bar of the night, and the sangria I ordered was absolutely delicious. We all had fun sipping on champagne and wine and browsing the extensive collection of books.

Visit Biltmore

One of the most popular attractions in Asheville is the Biltmore Estate, the largest home in the country which was built by the legendary Vanderbilt family. I have actually toured Biltmore before but Solomon had never been, so we wanted to at least stop by for him to see the property. We didn’t go inside the house this time, but we did get to explore the gardens and conservatory which were beautiful. There is a lot to see and do on the Biltmore property, and it’s definitely worth a trip if you’ve never been.

Explore the River Arts District

Last, but certainly not least, was the River Arts District (RAD), a super artsy and quirky neighborhood of Asheville. RAD is full of art galleries, studios, vintage shops, and some great food and drink spots. We grabbed a beer at Wedge Brewery before checking out some thrift stores and then ended our visit with a trip to Summit Coffee, where I got a delicious iced maple latte.

Asheville is an amazing weekend destination in the Southeast. With amazing food, drinks, hiking, shopping, and so much more, there’s really something for everyone to enjoy. Huge thanks to Grant and Callan for hosting us and showing us around this awesome city!

Review: Get Out Gear Down Puffy Blanket

Make sure to watch my video review here.

I was recently contacted by the company Get Out Gear about sending me one of their Down Puffy Blankets to test out and review. Get Out Gear is a California-based company that specializes in puffy blankets meant to “bring happiness, comfort and joy as you experience the great outdoors.” I love how inclusive their mission statement is, and I was really excited to receive the blanket and check it out for myself.

Their Down Puffy Blanket, officially called the Bouffi Blanket, is a lightweight and durable camping blanket perfect for backyard adventures or backpacking treks. At only 17 ounces, the blanket is a very light addition to your camping setup, and the whole blanket (77″ x 50″) conveniently fits into a compact 5″ x 12″ stuff sack. I opted for their teal color which is beautiful in person, but the blanket is also offered in olive, black, blue, gray, and orange.

I was immediately impressed with the quality of the material and just how lightweight and compact the blanket was. Once unfolded, the blanket is the perfect size to cozy up in by myself or spread out to share with a partner. When paired with your camping sleep system, the Bouffi Blanket also adds 10-15 degrees of warmth, which is pretty impressive!

Two of my favorite features about the Bouffi Blanket are the snaps that turn the blanket into a poncho, and the water and stain-resistant material the blanket is made of. The snaps are a great way to go hands-free while still keeping warm as you hang out around camp. Meanwhile, the water and stain-resistant material is especially handy for folks like myself who are prone to spills!

All in all, I was super impressed with Get Out Gear’s Down Puffy Blanket. At $70, the blanket is also very reasonably priced considering how warm and lightweight it is. Get Out Gear also offers a synthetic puffy blanket which is just a touch heavier (24 ounces) but more cost-effective at $58.75.

Huge thanks to Get Out Gear for sending me the blanket – I can’t wait to try it out on my next backpacking trip!

How I Spent 30 Hours in Washington DC

I recently had the opportunity to take a quick solo trip to Washington DC, and I ended up only spending about 30 hours in the city. Even though my trip was super short, I still got to see some incredible sights and do some top DC activities. Here’s exactly how I spent my 30 hours in Washington DC!
P.S. make sure to also check out my vlog from the trip right here!

Day One

8am – land in DC and hop on the metro
9am – get off at Capitol South station and walk over to the Capitol
9:20am – head over to the National Mall and walk over to Museum of Natural History
10-11am – explore the museum

11am – walk to National Archives Museum and check out the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence
11:20am – head over to the White House
11:40am – take some pictures of the White House
11:50amOld Ebbitt Grill for lunch (don’t forget to check out my post about Everything I Ate in Washington DC)
12-12:45pm – lunch

1pm – check in to Sofitel
1-3:30pm – shower/nap in hotel
3:30pm – head to Museum of American History
3:45-4:45pm – explore the museum

4:45pm – walk to dinner at Oyamel
5-6pm – dinner

6pm – head to Dolcezza for dessert

6:30pm – walk back to hotel
6:45pm – in for the night!

Day Two

8:45am – Uber to Farmers Fishers Bakers in Georgetown
9-10am – breakfast

10am – walk to Compass Coffee for a pumpkin spice latte

10:30am – Uber back to hotel and pack up
10:40am – hop on a scooter and head over to Lincoln Memorial
10:50am – explore the Lincoln Memorial

11am – head back to hotel
11:30am-12pm – relax in hotel
12pm – hop on the metro and head to the airport for 2pm flight

Colorado Horseback Riding

Horseback riding is one of those classic Colorado activities you have to do at least once, whether you live in state or are visiting from out of town. In 2021, I was able to go horseback riding through Garden of the Gods with my husband which was a super cool experience, so we decided to go riding again this year while my in-laws were in town. This time around, we opted to book our ride through American Safari Ranch in Fairplay, about 45 minutes outside of Breckenridge.

The main appeal of American Safari Ranch for our group was they don’t do nose-to-tail riding, but actually let your group space out and ride alongside each other. The setting also looked beautiful, with rolling hills, forests, and some water crossings as well.

Our guide for the day was Pedro, a super friendly and knowledgeable ranch hand from Spain. We booked an hour and a half ride which was the perfect amount of time to take a beautiful loop up a rocky mountain and through a gorgeous forest of aspens. All of the horses were very well-trained and Pedro did a great job sharing facts about the area, the ranch, and our horses. All in all, we had a fantastic time, and I would say it was one of my top horseback riding experiences yet!

American Safari Ranch also offers ATV tours and various lodging options. The ranch is also home to some adorable goats and even some alpacas!

Best Things to Do in McMinnville, OR

McMinnville is a charming Oregon town just an hour southwest of Portland. The town is well-known for its historic ties to the Oregon Trail and for the various wineries that can be found throughout the area. I recently spent a few days in McMinnville over July 4, and these are some of my favorite things I did while visiting!

Check out the historic homes

The town of McMinnville was first established in the mid-1800s, and the area’s rich history is still evident today. There are tons of historic homes throughout McMinnville, and many can be found on sidestreets near the main downtown area. A great way to enjoy these homes is taking a drive or walk through town!

Go shopping downtown

McMinnville’s downtown area, which primarily runs down NE 3rd St, is super cute and full of awesome shops. You can shop for everything from clothes to art and locally-made treats. I highly recommend taking a stroll down NE 3rd St and popping into any stores that catch your eye.

Learn about the local history

McMinnville is home to a number of museums that educate visitors on various facets of the town and its history. One of the most well-known museums in the area is Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, a huge museum that holds a number of civilian and military aircrafts. Another great option is the Yamhill Valley Heritage Center, which focuses on McMinnville’s agricultural history.

Taste some local wine

A visit to McMinnville would truly be incomplete without sampling some local wine! There are a lot of tasting rooms and wine bars in downtown McMinnville, and all offer unique blends and offerings. I was thoroughly impressed with my visit to R. Stuart, but you really can’t go wrong in McMinnville.

Keep your eyes on the skies

Did you know McMinnville is home to the country’s second largest annual UFO festival (with Roswell, New Mexico being the location of the first largest)? In 1950, a number of UFO photographs taken on a local McMinnville farm were published in the city’s newspaper. Since then, the small town has become a surprising hub for UFO-chasers. Whether or not you believe in aliens, it is fun to keep an eye on the skies during your visit. In fact, my dad is big into astrophotography, and he captured some amazing star photos during our time in McMinnville (though we didn’t spot any UFOs). Check out his website to see more incredible astrophotography!

I highly recommend a visit to this charming Oregon town, and if you’ve been before I’d love to hear what your favorite activities in the area are!

How to Explore Newport, OR

Newport is a quaint town on the coast of Oregon that is teeming with things to see and do. Located just 2 hours southwest of Portland and 5 hours south of Seattle, Newport is the perfect coastal escape. From rugged coastline to charming shops and some delicious food, Newport truly has it all. If it’s your first time visiting Newport, these are some of the top activities to make the most out of your trip.

Start your day with some coffee

Newport is home to a number of great coffee spots, so make sure to kick off your visit with a cup of Joe. If you prefer something quick, check out one of the coffee stands in town, such as Bonnie’s Espresso or Camp One. There are also a lot of roasters in town where you can enjoy a more laidback coffeeshop experience. My favorite is Surf Town Coffee – make sure to try their lavender chai!

Grab some treats

Another activity I recommend doing in the morning is paying a visit to Pacific Sourdough, which is technically 20 minutes down the road in Waldport. Pacific Sourdough is a legendary bakery that is well-known throughout the Pacific Northwest. They offer a wide variety of breads and both sweet and savory baked goods. I’ve sample the sourdough baguette, lemon rosemary sourdough, lemon bar, lemon poppyseed loaf, chocolate chunk cookie, marionberry muffin, and old-fashioned sugar cookie, and all were to die for! Warning: be prepared to wait in line if you don’t arrive before opening.

Go seal-spotting and explore some tidal pools

You can spot all kinds of animals throughout Newport, from eagles to whales and seals and so much more. One of the best places to do some wildlife-spotting is Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area. Near the Yaquina Head Lighthouse you can find a set of stairs leading right down to the rocky beaches below. At low tide, countless tidal pools of all shapes and sizes are formed where you can spot anemones, starfish, crabs, and other marine life. You’re also likely to spot some seals in the distance! The Yaquina Head area is not only beautiful but also an incredible opportunity to experience Newport’s biodiversity firsthand.

Enjoy some local grub

Unsurprisingly, Newport is known for serving up some exceptionally delicious seafood. You can find everything from small hole-in-the-wall joints to upscale culinary experiences, and almost all are sure to impress. Clam chowder, oyster shooters, and fish and chips abound in Newport, and there are some amazing restaurant options to sample some of freshest and most flavorful seafood I’ve had in the PNW.

Buy fish straight from the source

For seafood-lovers, Newport is a true paradise. There are several great markets in town where you can buy some incredible seafood. One of the coolest options for purchasing seafood is Chelsea Rose, where you can buy a variety of items straight off the boat! Just head down to the pier off of Bay Boulevard and keep an eye out for the vessel. Right down the road is Local Ocean Seafoods, which is another awesome spot to purchase seafood as well.

Get high (in the sky)

Just 15-20 minutes north of Newport you can find Cape Foulweather, a beautiful land formation rising several hundred feet above the sea. There’s a stunning view from this point and you’re guaranteed to get some amazing photos. I also think this would be an amazing place to go stargazing or do some astrophotography, which my dad is really into (you can see some of photos right here).

Despite its small size, Newport offers a surprising amount of activities and sights that make it the perfect weekend destination. I hope you find this guide helpful as you plan your trip, and if you’ve been to Newport before I’d love to hear your top recommendations!

5 Tips for Taking Your First Solo Trip

I’ve always considered myself fairly independent, and traveling solo is a huge extension of that. While I obviously love traveling with my husband, there are a lot of times that work or other outside circumstances make it easier for me to take trips alone. I honestly love traveling alone because you have complete flexibility and freedom as you plan and embark on your trip. I’ve undertaken a number of solo road trips (my most recent was to New Mexico – check out the vlog and blog), camping trips, and cross-country flights, and I’ve learned something new on each adventure. These are my 5 tips for taking your first solo trip!

  1. Consider your destination – do you want to stay fairly close to home, or venture to an entirely different state (or country)? Doing a “staycation” somewhat close to home, or to a city you’ve visited before, is a great way to ease into solo travel. Having a sense of familiarity with your destination makes the whole process a lot less intimidating. If you have your heart set on solo-traveling to a completely new area, do some research into how “solo traveler-friendly” the destination is. A great way to do this is by joining social media groups related to solo travel!
  2. Identify your intentions – maybe you want to solo travel to spend some time with yourself in solitude, or maybe you’re super social and plan to make friends along the way. Having an idea of your expectations and intentions when solo-traveling can help as you plan what to do and see on your trip. Some activites and areas are known for being great places to connect with others, while some destinations are perfect for those who want to keep to themselves. Thinking of what kind of solo-traveler you are makes a world of difference as you plan your trip.
  3. Travel safe and smart – I could do a whole separate blog post on how to stay safe when traveling solo (let me know if you’d like to see that!) but a lot of it comes down to common sense. Some of the biggest ways to travel safe and smart are: tell one or two trusted contacts your itinerary before leaving on your trip, don’t tell strangers you’re traveling alone, and do research on unsafe areas at your destination to avoid. Also make sure to “fake it til you make it”, aka try to project confidence as much as possible, because if you’re looking really confused or lost, you could come across as an easy target. At the end of the day, solo travel should be a fun and rewarding experience, so set yourself up for success by taking the necessary precautions to stay safe so you can truly enjoy your trip.
  4. Don’t feel awkward to do things alone – sure, some activities might be more geared towards couples, but you should never let anyone or anything make you feel awkward or inferior for doing things alone. Some of my favorite solo activities to do on my trips are going out to eat at a restaurant or cafe, going to the movies or a museum, browsing through some shops or local markets, and exploring a public park or hiking area. For some of these activities, I recommend bringing along a book or popping in your headphones to listen to a podcast/audiobook/music to keep you occupied. Besides, most people will be too focused on themselves to even notice you’re there alone, let alone waste time and energy on judging you for it!
  5. Be open to new experiences – obviously, you want to keep your wits about you and not put yourself in a dangerous situation, but go into solo travel with an open mind and a willingness to try new things. Sometimes, the most unexpected adventures end up being the most memorable! Don’t be afraid to try new things, especially if it’s something that will help you learn more about and/or experience the local culture of your destination. This could be anything from trying a new food or activity to spending a whole day with a local guide or tour group doing something you wouldn’t have planned otherwise.

I hope you find these tips helpful as you plan your first solo trip! I’d love to talk more about this topic so please let me know if there’s anything specific you’re curious about or would like me to cover. Thanks for reading, and happy travels!

Pike Place Market: 5 Things to Know Before You Go

When you think of the city of Seattle, a few images probably come to mind: the Space Needle, rain, Starbucks, and, of course, Pike Place Market. Pike Place Market is the most popular tourist attraction in Seattle, and one of the most popular in the entire world! Every year, more than 10 million visitors from all over the world come to Pike Place Market to experience this iconic place for themselves. Pike Place Market is one of the few tourist attractions in Seattle that I actually consider worth the hype, and I think everyone who finds themselves in Seattle should make time to stop by. If you’ve never visited, here are 5 things to know about Pike Place Market before you go.

Pike Place Market is one of the oldest continuously-operated farmer’s markets in the entire country! Pike Place Market has an incredibly rich history dating all the way back to 1907, when the market first opened. The market presents the amazing opportunity for visitors to experience a slice of Seattle history firsthand as they walk through the various levels consisting of local vendors, shops, and restaurants.

The unofficial mascot of Pike Place Market is Rachel, a bronze piggy bank statue! This isn’t your average childhood piggy bank, though: Rachel weighs 550 pounds and receives anywhere from $6,000-$9,000 every year in the form of all different kinds of currency. Rachel can be found under the “Public Market Center” sign where she was first placed in 1986.

Image courtesy of Pike Place Market Foundation

Inside the market you can find Pike Place Fish Market, which is world-famous for its fish-throwing fishmongers! The quirky tradition first began in 1980 when the former owner decided it would be more efficient to toss the seafood rather than walk it over to his employees on busy days. Since then, the fishmongers – who can be identified with their signture orange waders – have become known for this practice which they do when a fish is purchased, a donation is made, or randomly for tourists who may be watching.

Pictured is Jack’s Fish Spot, another fish vendor in Pike Place Market

Just across the street from the market is the “original” Starbucks. Technically, the first Starbucks originally opened in another location before moving to this storefront on Pike Place. There is almost always a massive line out the door of visitors who want to experience the original Starbucks for themselves. I’ll be honest – it’s not too special, and resembles pretty much any other Starbucks you can find in the country. If you’re a lover of Starbucks, I recommend visiting the Starbucks Reserve Roastery, which is right down the street, instead!

Pike Place Market is truly a cornerstone of the Seattle community. For years it has been a place where locals and tourists alike can gather to support the local economy by purchasing from small businesses. Pike Place Market has undergone a number of renovations and restorations over the years, but its original purpose has remained through it all. When you go to Pike Place Market you’re not just visiting any other tourist attraction: you’re supporting the community by putting money directly into the pockets of local business owners!

A Weekend Exploring New Mexico

Happy June everyone! Over Memorial Day Weekend I embarked on a solo road trip to a state I’d never been before: New Mexico! I explored the towns of Santa Fe and Taos and had an amazing time. I was only able to stay for one night, so I’d love to go back to New Mexico and take some more time to see everything it has to offer. This is a little recap of everything I did and saw during my short time in New Mexico. If you haven’t already watched my road trip vlog, you can check that out right here!

Santa Fe

My first destination for my solo road trip to New Mexico was the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market. I arrived around 11:30am and was excited to see that the market was huge! There were a lot of people there because it was a beautiful Saturday morning, but I had a lot of fun wandering around and checking out all the vendors. I didn’t purchase anything this time around, but I highly recommend visiting the market if you want to pick up some local produce, baked goods, or arts and crafts.

After exploring the farmer’s market, I made my way over to REI Santa Fe. REI may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but as a former employee, I find it interesting to visit the different stores when I travel. REI is also typically a great place to buy local goods, and especially souvenir items. While there, I grabbed a few freeze-dried foods and snacks to have for dinner at my campsite.

For lunch, I decided to stop by La Choza because it has amazing reviews, with some people calling it the best Mexican restaurant in the whole city. I had pretty high expectations, and La Choza did not disappoint. To start, I tried their house margarita with prickly pear, which was highly-recommended in reviews. The margarita was incredibly fresh and not too sweet – just my style! I also got an order of their chips and guacamole. While the guacamole wasn’t as chunky as I usually like it, the flavor was amazing and I loved the addition of blue corn chips. For my entree I tried the crisp taco plate with green chile beef. The taco itself was amazing and the green chile beef was super flavorful. The plate also came with beans and posole, a type of pork/hominy soup that I had never tried before and really enjoyed. I chose a sopapilla for my side item which was super simple but surprisingly delicious, even though I totally forgot to try it with honey!

After lunch, I made my way over to Kakawa Chocolate House, which was one of my favorite stops of the whole trip. Kakawa serves up drinking chocolate and all kinds of chocolate creations ranging from truffles to caramels and even brownie sundaes. I got their Mayan drinking chocolate with whipped cream which was the perfect combination of sweet, bitter, spicy, and creamy. I also tried a sampling of their truffles and caramels which were mind-blowingly good. The prickly pear truffle and pinon caramel were my favorites!

Next, I decided to visit the downtown Santa Fe area. I didn’t have a specific destination in mind, so I just wandered through the various streets and popped into a few shops. I stumbled across a beautiful church in the heart of the city that was an amazing find, and I loved the big park in the main square as well. The whole area has a very artsy feel, with lots of galleries, museums, and art vendors around every corner. I didn’t get to spend much time exploring, but would love to come back sometime.

Taos

My next stop on my New Mexico road trip was Taos, where I’d be spending the night. Taos was about an hour and a half drive from Santa Fe, and the ride there went by the Rio Grande which was beautiful. Taos is a pretty small town, and I immediately loved the atmosphere as soon as I arrived. My first stop after checking in to my campsite was the Taos Inn to try their world-famous Cowboy Buddha Margarita. The margarita was very fresh and delicious, and I took my time enjoying it.

As the night came to a close I returned to my campsite at Taos Valley RV Park and settled in for the evening. I had hoped to do some hiking while in New Mexico, but wildfires had sadly closed many of the national forests. All the more reason to plan another visit!

If you’re looking for simple and comfortable camping or RV accommodatioins, I definitely recommend Taos Valley RV Park. All the facilities were very nice and well-maintained, and the park was surprisingly quiet so I got a great night of sleep. There are also beautiful views of the surrounding mountains which made for a beautiful sunset.

The next morning, I started my day with a visit to Michael’s Kitchen for breakfast. The restaurant is clearly a favorite in town because it was very busy, but I was able to grab a table without any wait. I opted for the atole-pinon pancakes which were made of blue corn. I absolutely loved how hearty and almost savory these pancakes were in contrast to your normal buttermilk shortstack. On my way out, I also grabbed a freshly baked loaf of sourdough bread, a chocolate croissant, and an apple empanada. All of their baked goods were amazing!

After breakfast, I took a short stroll through downtown Taos. Like Santa Fe, Taos is full of shops, art galleries, and museums. I picked up some handmade margarita glasses, which I can’t wait to use, and enjoyed my morning walk through town before beginning the journey home.

All in all, I had an amazing trip to New Mexico for the first time! I loved all the art and history that was evident in each town, and would love to return to explore some of the state’s beautiful hiking areas as well. I definitely recommend paying a visit to New Mexico if you’ve never been. What are your favorite things to see and do in New Mexico? Leave your recommendations in the comments so I can be sure to incorporate them during my next trip!

Peru Photo Diary – Part 3

Hi everyone! Today I’m wrapping up my Peru Photo Diary series with part three. This may be my favorite installment in the whole series because these photos were taken in Cusco and Machu Picchu!

Cusco is a beautiful town in the Andes where many people stay before continuing on to Machu Picchu. It’s a great place to acclimate to the higher elevation and is so full of incredible history. We only spent one night there, but I loved wandering the streets and watching the sunset.

Of course, the highlight of my whole Peru trip was seeing Machu Picchu. It took a plane, a train, a bus, and a hike to make it there, but it was so worth it. Machu Picchu is just indescribable to see in person, and I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to experience it for myself. It’s incredible to think about the work that went into creating the city and what it must have been like in its prime. And, of course, it was so cool to see the llamas that wander through the ruins! I would love to return and backpack to the city via the Inca Trail.

It’s been so fun for me to reflect on my Peru trip and revisit the memories through this series. I hope you’ve enjoyed my photos and if you’ve ever thought about visiting Peru, I highly encourage you to make it happen!