Seattle Bucket List: 10 Must-See Sights and Experiences

Seattle is an amazing town with so much to offer, it can often feel overwhelming when you’re trying to decide what to do and see. If you need some inspiration for your Seattle bucket list, here are 10 must-see sights and experiences to add ASAP!

  1. Journey to the top of the Space Needle – you can experience this iconic Seattle landmark through general admission or by grabbing a cocktail in their revolving lounge
  2. Do some shopping at Pike Place MarketPike Place Market is full of unique shops, vendors, and restaurants, making it a great place to wander around for an afternoon
  3. Visit the Museum of Pop CultureMoPop is truly one of the coolest and most unique museums I’ve ever visited
  4. Picnic at Gas Works ParkGas Works Park is one of my top recommendations for first-time visitors to Seattle because you’ll get fantastic views of the skyline and Lake Union. Plus, you may recognize it from the movie 10 Things I Hate About You
  5. Hike through Discovery Park – an outdoor-lovers oasis right in the heart of the city! The Discovery Park and Lighthouse Loop Trail is a great day hike
  6. Take in views of the city skyline at Kerry ParkKerry Park is a gorgeous spot to enjoy sunrise or sunset
  7. Sample some coffees at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery – the Starbucks Reserve Roastery is a great alternative to the Original Starbucks
  8. Pay a visit to the Ballard Locks – the Ballard Locks are interesting and educational, truly the best of both worlds
  9. Admire the architecture of Seattle Central Library – visiting the Seattle Central Library is the perfect rainy day activity: check out my photo diary from a recent visit by clicking right here
  10. Go sailing or paddle-boarding in Lake Union – enjoying Lake Union is a classic summertime activity

Best Day Trips from Colorado Springs

Colorado is a beautiful state with so much to see and do, and Colorado Springs is a great area to have as a home base if you’re planning a trip to the state (check out my ultimate guide to Colorado Springs here). I’ve already shared recommendations on day trips from Seattle, Washington and Atlanta, Georgia, so now it’s time to share my favorite day trips from Colorado Springs!

Boulder – 1 hour 30 minutes

Image courtesy of Unofficial Networks

Boulder is well-known for being the home of the University of Colorado Boulder campus, and the whole town has a very laidback, college-town feel. Pearl Street Mall is a popular destination in the city for shopping and eating, encompassing four whole blocks in the heart of the city. The Flatirons, an iconic formation of rocks, is a short drive from downtown, and offers a number of hiking areas and rock-climbing routes. The world-renowned Red Rocks Amphitheater is also only about 30-40 minutes from Boulder, making it an easy side trip as well.

Breckenridge – 2 hours

Breckenridge is one of my favorite towns in Colorado, and it’s only a 2-hour drive from Colorado Springs. During the winter, Breckenridge is known for awesome skiing/snowboarding, and the town is truly magical around the holidays. Summer, meanwhile, is a great time to visit if you’d like to try some hiking or mountain biking. Breckenridge is full of shops and restaurants and the whole area is incredibly beautiful, so I always bring friends and family when they visit from out of town. For more recommendations, check out my guide to Breckenridge right here!

Mount Princeton Hot Springs – 2 hours

It wouldn’t be a proper visit to Colorado without taking a dip in one of the state’s many hot springs. Mount Princeton Hot Springs is a great option because it’s only 2 hours from Colorado Springs, and the resort is simply gorgeous. There are a few options for enjoying the hot springs, ranging from soaking pools to a waterslide and creekside pools as well. We visited over the summer and had an amazing time, but I’d love to do a winter visit as well.

Estes Park/Rocky Mountain National Park – 2 hours 15 minutes

Estes Park is a fantastic day trip with lots of activities for visitors of all ages. Estes Park is known as a gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, which is well-worth a visit itself. Rocky Mountain National Park is stunning and offers all kinds of hikes ranging in difficulty and length. If you’d prefer to stay in town, Estes Park is full of shopping and dining options, making it a great place to wander around and explore. For any horror fans out there, Estes Park is also home to the Stanley Hotel, the infamous setting for Stephen King’s The Shining. You can stay at the hotel, book a tour, or just visit the lobby area and grounds for free.

Have you visited any of these areas yourself? What’s your favorite day trip from Colorado Springs?

The Ultimate Guide to Colorado Springs, CO

Colorado Springs is an outdoor-lover’s paradise, with countless activities and restaurants to enjoy. I’ve called Colorado Springs home for the past year now, and I love discovering new areas in the city to explore. If you find yourself in Colorado, you must take the time to visit this mountain town and enjoy everything it has to offer.

Where to Stay

Staying in an Airbnb is always a great to way to explore a new city, and I recommend looking in the Old Colorado City and downtown areas. Old Colorado City is a very charming part of town with lots of little shops and restaurants, making it very walkable and great for families. Staying in downtown, meanwhile, will put you near a lot of activities and nightlife, which may appeal to younger crowds and couples.

Another option is to stay in the nearby town of Manitou Springs, a quaint mountain town nestled among the foothills of Pike’s Peak. Manitou Springs is very artsy and quirky, offering lots of art galleries and cafes. If you love history and unique shopping/dining experiences, Manitou Springs is the way to go.

What to Eat

– Breakfast –

Denver Biscuit Company is a decadent breakfast option with all kinds of biscuit sandwiches and platters, ranging from savory to sweet. I highly recommend The Lola or The Beeler! They also have great cocktails, making it an awesome option for brunch.

For those seeking vegan/vegetarian breakfast options, Adam’s Mountain Cafe is the way to go. They offer an extensive menu of classic breakfast dishes and allergy-friendly versions as well.

Although it’s a chain in the midwest, Urban Egg is well-known for offering up one of the most delicious breakfasts in town. From rich pancakes to hearty hashes, Urban Egg has a great variety that everyone is sure to enjoy.

– Lunch –

It’s no secret Colorado Springs is full of amazing Mexican restaurants, but one of my favorites for lunch is Vaqueros. The menu is extensive and everything I’ve tried there has been fresh and delicious. Plus, they make excellent margaritas!

Although I’m including an entire section on breweries since there are so many awesome ones in town, Trinity Brewing stands out as a lunch option thanks to their delicious food menu. From pizzas to sandwiches and massive salads, everything at Trinity Brewing is delicious, and they have lots of vegan options as well!

Alchemy Pub is an awesome lunch spot in the heart of Old Colorado City. The pub features classic Irish offerings, like fish and chips and beer cheese soup, and a wide variety of drink options. The atmosphere is very rustic and casual, and it’s a great spot to grab a bite to eat during a day of shopping and exploring.

– Dinner –

The Rabbit Hole is a super unique dining experience themed after Alice in Wonderland. The restaurant is located underground, accessed via a fake subway station entrance in downtown Colorado Springs. The food is delicious and their drink menu offers some whimsical cocktails that make Rabbit Hole a fun, more upscale option.

For all my pizza-lovers out there, Fat Sully’s is a must-visit spot. You can order by the slice or take on the challenge of a 26″ pie which is so large it’s only available for dine-in! Their NY-style pizza is straight up delicious and Fat Sully’s is an awesome spot to hit at the end of the night after enjoying some drinks downtown.

Don’t let the name deceive you – Colorado Mountain Brewery is an excellent restaurant as well as a fantastic brewery. Even if you’re not a fan of beer, their food menu is delicious enough to warrant a visit. You have to try their bison queso appetizer (seriously life-changing) and you can’t go wrong with any of their burgers or sandwiches.

– Breweries –

For more brewery recommendations, check out my guide to the best breweries in Colorado Springs!

A visit to Bristol Brewing Company is unlike any other: the brewery is located inside Ivywild, an old elementary school that has since been converted into a food and drink hall! Grab a few beers from Bristol and some food from one of their four in-house restaurants and you’ve got everything you need for an awesome experience.

Cerberus Brewing Co. is a popular brewery in town thanks to its delicious food and beer menu and dog-friendly outdoor space. Cerberus has a very welcoming and laidback atmosphere, making it a well-loved spot by locals and tourists alike.

Phantom Canyon Brewing is another great option that combines delicious beer and food, making it an awesome lunch or dinner spot. Phantom Canyon Brewing is located in a historic building in downtown Colorado Springs, and even features a billiards hall if you want to shoot some pool.

What to Do

A visit to Colorado Springs wouldn’t be complete without exploring Garden of the Gods. The garden is a beautiful spot year-round and features some incredibly striking rock formations. Whether you choose to just drive through or stop and do some hiking, biking, or horseback-riding, you’re sure to be amazed by the natural wonder of Garden of the Gods.

Depending on the time of year you plan your trip, you may also be able to pay Pike’s Peak a visit. Though hiking to the summit is an option, driving or taking the iconic Cog Railway are also great ways to experience the mountain. A new visitor’s center recently opened at the summit, educating visitors on the history of the mountain and surrounding areas, and make sure to grab some fresh donuts!

A visit to the Manitou Cliff Dwellings is a great way to learn firsthand about some of the first Native American tribes who called this area home. The ruins are reconstructions of authentic cliff dwellings, and there’s also a small museum to explore as well. As a bonus, dogs are welcome to visit, too!

North Cheyenne CaƱon Park is a popular hiking destination in Colorado Springs, offering lots of trails ranging in length and difficulty. Seven Bridges Trail is a well-known option rated moderate in difficulty.

Did you know Colorado Springs is called the Olympic City USA? The city is home to the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committees and Training Center, and you can learn more about these organizations and their history by visiting the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum. Located in the heart of the city, the museum is huge, offering a variety of exhibits and interactive experiences.

The Manitou Springs Penny Arcade is a quirky spot that offers fun for both kids and adults. The arcade is home to hundreds of old games, like pinball and skeeball; some of them date as far back as the 1930’s! Manitou Springs in general is a must-visit destination, and the Penny Arcade is just one of the unique offerings you’ll find strolling through town.

Truthfully, there is so much more that Colorado Springs has to offer, but my list would be a mile long if I tried to write it all out. Let me know in the comments what activities or restaurants I may have missed, and thanks for reading!

Best Beginner Hikes in North Georgia

North Georgia is full of gorgeous hiking areas, with trails ranging from easy to challenging. If you’re new to hiking or just want some options for an easy hike, these are my recommendations for the best beginner hikes in North Georgia.

Helton Creek Falls – 0.2 miles

Helton Creek Falls is one of my all-time favorite hikes in North Georgia, and at only a quarter mile roundtrip, it’s very beginner-friendly. The trailhead for Helton Creek Falls is located along US 19/129, off of Helton Creek Road. The road there can be rough in some places, but will lead you directly to a parking area for the trail. Descend some stairs and you’ll arrive at not one but two beautiful waterfalls. This hike is perfect for all ages and experience levels, and I love to bring friends and family who are visiting from out of town.

Minnehaha Falls – 0.4 miles

Minnehaha Falls is another great, short trail that will lead you to a beautiful waterfall. The trailhead for Minnehaha Falls is located near the Lake Rabun area, off of Bear Gap Road. You’ll ascend a staircase and hike along a gentle trail before arriving at the falls. Minnehaha Falls is absolutely stunning and a very popular hiking spot during the warm summer months.

Brasstown Bald – 1.1 miles

Brasstown Bald is the tallest mountain in Georgia, and the short but steep hike to the summit is a great challenge for newbie hikers. The trail starts from the parking lot at the Brasstown Bald Visitor Center, located near Blairsville. The trail is paved and very wide, though it is quite steep the entire half mile up. Thankfully, the hike is short, and you’ll soon be rewarded with stunning 360-degree views of the Georgia mountains.

Preacher’s Rock – 2 miles

At 2 miles roundtrip, the hike to Preacher’s Rock is an excellent day hike, and a great way to get acquainted with the Appalachian Trail. The trail for this hike begins at Woody Gap off of GA Hwy 60, just outside of Dahlonega. You’ll gradually gain elevation as you hike through the forest before reaching a slightly steeper push at the end that will lead you to Preacher’s Rock. Preacher’s Rock is a great day hike and an awesome place to catch the sunrise or sunset.

Seattle Central Library – Photo Diary

Looking for a unique (and free!) activity in Seattle? Consider paying a visit to Seattle Central Library. Seattle Central Library is a public library in the heart of downtown Seattle that features some stunning architecture. The building, which is constructed largely out of glass and steel, has a very geometric and striking appearance, giving you plenty of great photo opps. The library is also massive with 11 stories and capacity to hold over 1 million books. Seattle Central Library is well-known for its unique architecture and is visited by millions of people every year. I love wandering around the library and people-watching on a rainy day, and I highly recommend a visit if you’ve never been.

Deception Falls

Despite the ominous name, Deception Falls is a beautiful waterfall and hiking area located near Skykomish, Washington. At only half a mile roundtrip, the hike to Deception Falls is a great spot to stretch your legs, take some photos, or bring friends and family who are visiting from out of town.

The Deception Falls Recreation Area is located along the north side of US Highway 2 by mile marker 56. There is a large parking lot with restrooms and picnic tables, making it a great lunch spot, and an interpretive trail that leads you through the forest and to the falls.

Even though the falls are located right off the highway, you’ll feel as though you’re worlds away from civilization. When I visited Deception Falls in late October/early November, the water was incredibly high thanks to a lot of recent rainfall.

Deception Falls is a great option for those seeking beautiful waterfall views without a significant hike, and is well-suited for hikers of all ages and experience levels.

5 Fun Seattle Date Ideas

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and whether you have a significant other in your life or not, it’s always a fun excuse to celebrate and share the love. Even if you’re celebrating solo, I encourage you to take yourself out on a date and really treat yourself, because you deserve it! If you need some inspiration for Valentine’s Day or otherwise, here are 5 fun date ideas in the Seattle area.

Dinner and a show at The Pink Door

Image courtesy of ThePinkDoor.net

The Pink Door is a well-known, speakeasy-style restaurant located along Post Alley in Pike Place Market. The restaurant is cozy and eclectic, with gorgeous waterfront views. I took myself on a date here a few months ago and thoroughly enjoyed their antipasto of the house and linguine alle vongole (pasta with baby clams and garlic in a white wine sauce), though the menu does change regularly to feature fresh seasonal ingredients. The Pink Door is also known for providing some spectacular entertainment ranging from aerial performances to jazz bands and burlesque shows.

Catch sunset at the top of the Space Needle

Image courtesy of Trip 101

I know, I know – the Space Needle has a reputation for being a major tourist trap in Seattle. But sometimes it pays to be a tourist in your own city, and experiencing sunset from the top of the Space Needle is truly incredible. You’ll be rewarded with stunning 360-degree views of the Puget Sound and surrounding mountain ranges that are hard to find anywhere else in the city. You can enjoy the Space Needle through general admission or by sipping on some drinks at the Loupe Lounge, a rotating cocktail bar located at the top.

Walk through the Volunteer Park Conservatory

I recently visited the Volunteer Park Conservatory for the first time (enjoy my photo diary here!) and was blown away by how beautiful this spot is! Volunteer Park is located in the heart of Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood and the greenhouse pictured above is over 100 years old! The conservatory is very peaceful and features all kinds of trees, flowers, cacti, and everything in between. This is a great spot to go solo or with a loved one, especially on a rainy day.

Hike to West Point Lighthouse in Discovery Park

Discovery Park is a gorgeous area of hiking and walking trails, and one of the highlights is West Point Lighthouse. The lighthouse is perfectly picturesque, and the hike there will lead you through forests, meadows, and sandy beaches. At 4.4 miles roundtrip, it’s definitely a solid hike to get there, but the stunning views will make the effort well worth your time. While the trail is especially beautiful in the spring and summer when wildflowers are abundant, you’ll still catch some beautiful sights if you go before then.

Picnic at Gas Works Park

For first-time visitors to Seattle, Gas Works Park is always at the top of my recommendations list. The park, which used to be Seattle Gas Light Company plant, is a super cool spot that mixes industrial with the outdoors. The park offers fantastic views of Lake Union and the Seattle skyline, and is an awesome place to fly kites, walk, bike, or picnic. I love visiting Gas Works whenever I’m in town, and have enjoyed several picnic dates on its rolling hills.

Volunteer Park Conservatory – Photo Diary

Seattle’s Volunteer Park Conservatory is a stunning botanical garden and conservatory in the heart of the city. The iconic glass greenhouse has been a fixture of the park since 1912, and is a beautiful piece of architecture. If you’re looking to escape the rain and enjoy a slice of Seattle history, a visit to the conservatory is a great option. Tickets are $4 for adults 18+ and $2 for kids 12-17 (free for children under 12).

3 Reasons Why South Dakota Should be Your Next Vacation Spot

South Dakota is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated states in the U.S. Most people associate the state with Mount Rushmore and little else, but the truth is, South Dakota has a lot to offer. I used to live in South Dakota and have visited many times since then, and I always thoroughly enjoy my time there. Here are 3 reasons why I think South Dakota should be your next vacation spot:

Outdoor Activities

South Dakota has a lot of awesome outdoor activities for the whole family to enjoy, from hiking, fishing, kayaking, rock-climbing, and horseback riding. Badlands National Park offers some incredible hiking through crazy rock formations and features. It will seriously feel as though you’re on another planet! Custer State Park also has a plethora of outdoor activities to choose from, such as hiking the tallest mountain in the state, Black Elk Peak (formerly known as Harney Peak), fishing/swimming in Sylvan Lake, and rock-climbing The Needles. Spearfish Canyon is another great area for hiking and fishing, with lots of gorgeous streams and waterfalls to enjoy.

History

South Dakota has an incredibly rich history, and it’s amazing to learn about everything that has taken place in the state. While Mount Rushmore is definitely a must-visit, I would also recommend visiting the Crazy Horse Memorial which, upon completion, will be the world’s largest mountain carving. Other great areas to visit to learn about the history of South Dakota are Deadwood, where you can learn about the gold rush and visit the graves of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, and the Mammoth Site & Museum, where you can step even further back into history by visiting the world’s largest mammoth research facility.

One-of-a-Kind Experiences

If you visit South Dakota, you’re sure to find some truly unique experiences and activities. For instance, Wall Drug, a massive general store located in the town of Wall, is a destination known around the world, featuring all kinds of shops and exhibits, like an animatronic T-rex and a massive jackrabbit statue. Dinosaur Park in Rapid City is another quirky spot, featuring large dinosaur statues on a hill overlooking the entire city. In Custer State Park, you have a really good chance of encountering herds of buffalo, which is an amazing sight. And of course, Mitchell, SD is home to the Corn Palace, an entire facility dedicated to (you guessed it) corn! There are so many unique and quirky spots in South Dakota that the whole family is sure to be entertained.

If you need some inspiration for your next family vacation, I hope you at least consider visiting South Dakota! It’s definitely a bucket-list destination in the U.S., and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

5 Seattle Tourist Traps to Avoid, and Where to Go Instead

Seattle has so many activities and attractions, it can be overwhelming to decide what to do and what to skip on your first visit. Here are my recommendations on five Seattle attractions to avoid, and five definitely worth the visit instead.

Skip: The Gum Wall

The Seattle Gum Wall is exactly what it sounds like: a wall. Covered in gum. If you happen to be walking in the area, it’s a fine stop to add to your route, but I wouldn’t go for the sole purpose of seeing it. Plus, the wall is frequently flooded with people wanting to take selfies or add their own chewed-up bubblegum.

Instead try… Pike Place Market

I know, I know – Pike Place Market is probably the quintessential tourist trap when it comes to Seattle. But I have to say, you should visit at least once. The market itself has a lot of interesting history, and I thoroughly enjoy walking through all the stalls and vendors. You can get some great views of the water, and there are lots of options for shopping, eating, and drinking. I would recommend trying to visit on a weekday or earlier in the morning/later in the evening to avoid the massive crowds that tend to form.

Skip: Original Starbucks

Fun fact: the “Original Starbucks” at Pike Place Market is actually considered the second Starbucks store, because the true first store was located in another location! Sure, it’s cool to walk by, but there are always extremely long lines and unfortunately, it is literally just another Starbucks store. Not worth the hype, in my opinion.

Instead try… The Starbucks Reserve Roastery

Of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to Seattle without paying homage to Starbucks in some way. The Starbucks Reserve Roastery is a really cool spot I’d recommend visiting. The building itself is historic with gorgeous architecture, and you can actually book tours to see how everything works. Plus, the menu has some unique items you won’t find at other Starbucks locations, like a flight of cold brew to sample three different flavors and ice cream/coffee concoctions.

Skip: Seattle Aquarium

Confession: I haven’t actually been to the Seattle Aquarium myself, but I don’t plan on visiting anytime soon either. I’ve heard mixed reviews on the aquarium, and pricing tends to be quite expensive, so I wouldn’t say you have to visit it while you’re in town. Of course, if you especially love aquariums you may have a good time, but there are so many other unique spots you could visit instead that the aquarium would be low on my list of must-visits.

Instead try… MoPop

MoPop, or The Museum of Pop Culture, is a really unique museum located in the heart of Seattle. MoPop features different exhibits on books, movies, bands, and pop culture movements. I’ve been twice now and thoroughly enjoyed each visit, especially the exhibits on Nirvana and the history of horror movies. Plus, the MoPop building itself has some interesting architecture, and is located right by the Space Needle which makes for good photo opps. I would recommend MoPop more for older crowds, as little kids may not be super interested in the types of exhibits they host.

Skip: The Seattle Great Wheel

The Seattle Great Wheel is a large Ferris wheel that will give you a birds-eye view of the downtown skyline. Unfortunately, tickets to the ferry will cost you $11-$16 a person, depending on age. I’d prefer to head somewhere else for free views of the skyline, and just admire the Ferris wheel from the ground. I will say that seeing the Ferris wheel lit up a night is a pretty sight, but again, I’d recommend enjoying it from the ground than paying for tickets to go up.

Instead try… Kerry Park

Kerry Park is a small park located in the historic Queen Anne neighborhood. The park offers sweeping views of the city, and is completely free! Sure, the view will be different than if you were in the Ferris wheel right downtown, but I personally prefer to see the city, water, and the mountains beyond all in one view. The Queen Anne neighborhood is a beautiful area to drive through as well, with lots of older homes and mansions.

Skip: Alki Beach

Alki Beach is a strip of sand that runs along Elliot Bay. You’ll get some decent views of the skyline, but given the beach is only about 2.5 miles long, it can get overcrowded and kind of dirty. If you’re looking for a quick stroll through the sand, Alki Beach will do just fine, but it isn’t a must-see in my opinion.

Instead try… Discovery Park

Discovery Park is a large public park located right in Seattle, with 10+ miles of walking trails through forests, bluffs, and along sandy beaches. I highly recommend the Lighthouse Loop Trail which will take you to West Point Lighthouse. Discovery Park is a great area for hiking, wildlife-watching, and photography. Because some of the areas within the park are protected, the trails and facilities are well-kept and you’ll really feel like you’ve stepped into another world. As a bonus, the park is completely free to visit!