I’m a natural born wanderer. I want to travel as far as the eye can see and completely immerse myself in as many cultures that I can get my hands on. Aspirational trips include Italy, Greece, Morocco, France, Spain. The mere thought of exploring lands across the pond makes my heart explode. It’s like a dream or a fantasy.
Realistically though, I do have a full-time job, responsibilities at home and my bank account would weep numerous tears, so I improvise. In order to feed my traveling soul, I often have to remind myself that there are countless destinations right here in the U.S., heck even in the Midwest that are both beautiful and enriching. That’s why when my mom wanted to travel up to Michigan for the day to go on a winery trip, I was the first to volunteer as tribute.
Going up to Michigan is always a treat. I honestly think their wineries are impeccable. You can drive through fields and fields of grapevines and going this time of the year allows you to experience early Fall foliage. I would say that I make a trip up to explore Michigan wineries about 5 times a year. It’s one of the easiest ways to escape daily life and not have to travel that far away. Since we go so often, I have developed quite the laundry list of some of my favorite wineries to stop at on our excursions. Here are my top 5 favorite wineries in Michigan if you are thinking of taking a weekend trip anytime soon!
1. Tabor Hill: An elegant, yet relaxed venue with expansive vineyard views, delectable wine tasting and dining options and beaming with natural light. I love doing a tasting at the bar, sitting outside with a charcuterie spread and then wandering the grounds lined with grape plants. I recommend tasting the Classic Demi-Sec (their best-selling wine) and the Pinot Blanc. You will love it here, it’s a little taste of heaven.
2. St. Julian: This is the oldest winery in Michigan, and you can definitely tell given their outstanding hospitality while you enjoy a tasting of six award-winning wines. The staff currently servicing customers are 3rd and 4th generation wine makers and let me tell you they’ve perfected the art over time. The tasting room is nothing special, although, they do have a cute little seating area outside if you visit during the warmer months. Enjoy the Gruner Veltliner and the Chancellor wines while perusing the store tasting nibbles of homemade jams, sauces and salsas along the way.
3. White Pine: White Pine winery is situated in one of my favorite towns in the U.S. St. Joe, Michigan is one of the cutest, quaintest, seaside town I’ve ever been to. Streets are lined with cafes, boutiques, home décor shops and obviously choice wineries. It almost looks like one of those East Coast towns from a Halloween movie where everyone knows everyone, where it’s charming but a little spooky. White Pine is one of the better wineries I’ve been to in St. Joe. It’s small on the inside, but the flavors pack a punch. My personal favorite, not available on the tasting menu but you can sample if you make friends with the ladies behind the counter, is a warm, malt wine It literally reminded me of Christmas in a glass. We bought the malt wine kit and I CANNOT wait to whip it up on the first snowfall this year!!
4. Round Barn: If I’m being completely, 100% honest, this place is not one of my favorites in terms of their wine BUT it is hands down the best place to go for the entire experience. Go with a group and make a reservation to do a private tasting upstairs in the actual round barn. It is absolutely beautiful. You get 7 tastings in total, 5 wines, 1 vodka (which they make from grapes) and then a creamy dessert-style wine. I think the best time to go to Round Barn is in the Summer because their property is so enormous that they constantly have things going on like pop-up boutiques, festivals and live music. There are tons of places to sit outside if after your tasting you want to buy a bottle and enjoy some food truck magic. I could easily spend a whole day here. My favorite wine on their whole tasting list is their Sauvignon Blanc.
5. Shady Creek: Shady Creek Winery is actually located in Michigan City, IN but is a great pit stop location on your way up to Michigan since it’s so close to a lot of the wineries listed above. The building is cute on the inside and if you have a big enough group, you can reserve a private room right off the main tasting room. You have the opportunity to sample six different wines while visiting and I honestly don’t think you can go wrong with any of them. I love the wild, eclectic names the wines have, some of my favorites include T-Wave and Beach Glass. The food here is also another staple as I recommend having the flatbread pizza and getting the meat and cheeses plate.
Finding places to travel to right outside of your hometown
is kind of like fining a hidden treasure. It really isn’t all about flying
thousands of miles just to get away but finding an oasis close to home allows
you to escape more often for less. With the crazy busy, work-driven lives we
lead, we need something we enjoy to take our minds off of things just for a
bit. For me, that’s enjoying nice wines in a beautiful state. I’d love to know
if you have found any other great wineries in Michigan or what your hidden gem
travel spots are near where you live! If you travel to any of the above place,
I’d also love to know what you think!
I’ve always wanted to travel here. As a pop culture junkie, I appreciated that some of the most highly coveted shows filmed here. The Pacific Northwest is totally foreign territory to a Midwesterner. Tall mountains? Pine trees? Fresh seafood? Never heard of it. Perhaps that’s why the mere thought of traveling to our neighbor up North was so alluring.
A family trip was overdue. Every so often, the whole gang gets together: Mom, aunt(s), uncle, cousin. When sitting around in our pajamas with full stomachs at Christmas time last year, we started throwing around some potential destinations. Germany, Scotland, Ireland, California, Vancouver…wait, Vancouver, that one sounds good. Hey, why not make it a two for one, stop in Seattle on the way and make the most of the PNW? It stuck.
So, on June 4th the crew packed up, headed to O’Hare and took flight toward B.C. I previously exploited on our 24 hours in Seattle, our first stop on the excursion, so you can read all about that whirlwind day here. The next six days were quite an adventure on their own. If you are planning your own trip to Vancouver, I’m here to report that it may not be exactly what you think. Each and every day brought a new surprise, both wonderfully exciting and terrifyingly scary. Will I be back? The jury is still out, but if I were to make the trek again, I’d do many things differently. Here’s a rundown of everything we did, including some tips for packing and planning that I picked up along the way.
Before diving into the nitty gritty, I thought it’d be
insightful to outline what to know before you go.
Food Scene: If you are a total foodie like me, you are in for a culinary experience of your lifetime! Vancouver offered up some of the best cuisine I’ve ever indulged in. The eclectic variations offered numerous opportunities for your taste buds to be both enlightened and excited. Japanese, Vietnamese, seafood, steakhouses, bar and grills, Italian, Mexican, Malaysian, I mean I could go on and on for days. You name it, Vancouver not only has it, but serves it up like an Iron Chef. It was the most pleasant surprise.
Happy Hours: In the same vein as the amazing food options, it seemed as though every delectable restaurant we walked past or dined in at offered some sort of Happy Hour special. Not only did they offer it, the specials were incredible (portion and price wise) AND the restaurants encouraged you to partake. It made each mealtime that much more enjoyable because you had the opportunity to try various small bites and drinks in one sitting. Another fantastic surprise.
Transportation: A not-so-pleasant surprise is that Vancouver does not offer Lyft or Uber to get around. Means of transportation around the city and beyond are required to be either by taxi, bus or walking. Coming from the U.S. where there is Uber or Lyft just about everywhere, this was a bit of a culture shock and made transportation a little more expensive than I had anticipated. I asked a local why Uber or Lyft was not an option and he expressed to me that the companies tried, but the city shut it down because it was taking away from their own economy. Definitely something to take into consideration before booking your trip.
Landscape: Keeping transportation top of mind and knowing that sometimes your most convenient way of getting around may be by foot, I should warn you that Vancouver is extremely hilly. At times, I thought I had entered America’s Ninja Warrior trying to run up that ramp contraption. Lots of breaks and lots of water are needed if you prefer to explore by walking. I even saw a car start to roll backwards once, that’s how intense it is.
Safety: Honestly, this was probably the most shocking aspect of the entire trip. Although, I never really felt in danger, there were many periods throughout the trip where I was extremely uncomfortable. We stayed right in the heart of the city and being from Chicago, believe me when I say that I’ve seen my fair share of things happen, but for some reason this was totally different. Particular drugs are way more legalized in Vancouver than they are in the United States and it was very apparent. The gentrification in certain parts of the city was nonexistent even though you could tell that the city was trying to clean up its act. I saw variations of drug use happen on the street and I felt very uneasy at times, so if this is something you are not used to seeing, I would consider staying somewhere outside of the city. I also advise to do your research on the neighborhoods in the city. Some areas are extremely nice and beautiful, Gastown, West Side, North Shore, Stanley Park, Granville Island to name a few. Areas to avoid would include the South, Chinatown and the East Side.
Packing: Now we went in early June, the 4th-11th, so I expected Summer weather, but because you are so far North and completely surrounded by water, it was actually pretty chilly. It ranged anywhere from 60-75 degrees while we were there, not terrible, but not shorts weather when accompanied with a breeze. My advice would be to pack layers because depending where you are in Vancouver you could be sweating directly under the sun or shivering in the shade. Bring comfortable shoes to walk around in because a lot of walking will take place and a lot of the excursions you do there are very outdoorsy, so you want to be prepared. Make sure to pack some cute going out outfits for dinner and drinks because the restaurant and night life scene is pretty trendy and always a good time.
Where to stay
If you are still with me, it means you are really interested and I’m glad! When we were lodging in Vancouver, we decided to go the Airbnb route because, since there was a larger group of us for the first few nights, we wanted something that was spacious, where we could be together and somewhere that felt like home. I am not even going to waste breath or words going into detail of the first place we stayed. It was not a recommendation I want to make. The picture on Airbnb’s website did not match the place we got. It wasn’t terrible, but also not worth it. It was also located on the East Side, which if you remember from above, is a place I’d avoid, so thank you, but next. After three nights, my aunt, uncle and cousin left, so my mom and I downsized to a smaller apartment (still through Airbnb) on the West Side and it was fabulous. The view was impeccable, we could see the water, we were in a great neighborhood, just a short walk away from Stanley Park and the building was super nice. I would recommend this listing in a heartbeat. I can’t find the exact one, but here is one super similar in the same building.
Overall, if you are planning a trip to Vancouver, I would recommend going one of two routes. Option 1: stay in a hotel on the West Side or near the seawall. This is going to be the nicest area if you want to be right in the city and there are a ton of hotel options available. I would go this route if I went back. Option 2: Stay in an Airbnb right on the seawall or near Granville Island. I think the Airbnb option for Vancouver would be best right on the outskirts of the city and not directly downtown.
Where we ate and drank:
Our food expedition on this trip was one of the best parts
of the entire seven days, so this is probably the section I am the most excited
to share. Here is a list of all of the restaurants, bars, coffee shops and
breweries we had the pleasure of going to while on our trip:
Tim Horton’s: The one place I think you can skip. They say the coffee is better than Starbucks and Dunkin…I have to disagree
Joey Restaurant: Perfect upscale, yet casual dining spot. We shared amazing Lettuce Wraps, Sliders and Pot Stickers
Verre: Gorgeous spot right on the seawall. Had brunch there one early afternoon with great cocktails and even better eggs benedict
Rodney’s Oyster House: This place was quintessential Vancouver. You have to get the oysters (duh), lobster rolls and bacon wrapped scallops. Also, all very attractive men work here…it was kind of weird
Tasty Indian Bistro: Had some amazing drinks and some amazing flatbread here one night after dinner. It’s also really beautiful on the inside, if we had more time, we probably would’ve had dinner here one night
The Sandbar Granville Island: Probably our best meal of the entire trip (close tie with the Malaysian restaurant). What didn’t we order here…my recommendation: Sit inside to take it all in and order the crab cake, some sushi and the seafood hot pot OMG
What we did
It was my mission to ensure that every day was jammed packed
with activities. I am a restless traveler. I have this innate feeling of a
ticking clock over the entire trip, so I find it imperative to see as much as
humanly possible with the time that we do have. Here are all of the fun sights
we saw and endeavors we partook in:
Steam Clock in Gastown – Swarms of people huddle outside to watch this clock whistle a tune every 30 minutes. It’s almost more exciting to watch people’s reactions than to actually gaze upon the singing clock
Wild Whales Vancouver – Whale watching is an absolute must in Vancouver. Any time on the water is a must, but especially with the prospect of seeing wildlife like ginormous whales in their natural habitat. We saw a mom humpback whale and her two calves on our trip as well as a slew of sea lions. Our tour guide Alan Chang is also a fantastic photographer, you can see his work on his Instagram here
City Tour – This was one of those coach buses tours that packs in many sights at one time. Perfect for us since time wasn’t on our side. Our tour stopped at Granville Island, the iconic Totem Poles and the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which was the coolest thing I’ve done in a while. The views were absolutely breathtaking, and the anxiety is thrilling. Here is the tour we participated in.
B.C Lions Game – This was more spontaneous and NOT planned, but that made this little venture that much more fun. After dinner one night, we saw some guy selling tickets and decided to take him up on his $30 for 6 tickets offer and watch the Canadian version of our beloved American football. It was so cool to see inside the stadium that we saw every night from our Air BnB and regardless if you’re a fan of the team or not, sporting events are always a good time in my opinion
Vancouver Symphony Orchestra – Also another spontaneous adventure. On our city tour, we drove past the symphony building. It didn’t look like much from the outside, but our driver said the inside was one of the most beautiful concert venues. I was sold and bought tickets on the spot to see for myself. It was incredible because the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra was celebrating their 100th year and we got to see their closing show. Dressing the part wasn’t half bad either
Seawall Bike Ride – My mom and I spent an entire afternoon taking a leisurely bike ride around the seawall. The winding bike path took you off the beaten trail and some of the sights were ones I’ll never forget. Take your time, ride at your own pace, stop every so often, this was totally worth it because you’re going to think you rode 20 miles when really, you’ve only gone about 10. All you have to do is download an app to rent a bike, all of the instructions are right at the bike stations all along the seawall!
Harbor Cruises – On the last day of the trip, my mom and I wanted to take it easy but still enjoy some true Vancouver sights. I found great reviews on Harbor Cruises and booked the Indian Arm Lunch Cruise for an afternoon of great food, great drinks and stunning mountain scenery. We love being on the water, so riding along the coast in between enormous mountain ranges, there was something so calming about it. Like time stood still. Mountains stretched farther than the eye could see, we stopped by an all engulfing waterfall to snap some pics and enjoyed a surprisingly delicious lunch buffet. The bar was serving Caesars, also known as an American Bloody Mary with Clamato juice. Such a wonderful day.
And there you have it! That right there is my six surprisingly delicious, gorgeous, curious, intense and wonderfully weird days in Vancouver. I don’t want to write off Vancouver. Reflecting back on this trip reminded me of how much fun I had and how beautiful it was at times. Not every place is going to be just like home, and it shouldn’t be. The best part of traveling is getting the opportunity to experience another way of life through other cultures’ eyes. And it was eye opening in that you quickly realize people don’t live the way you do. It’s not a bad thing, it’s actual quite outstanding. Although there were small logistical aspects I would alter about my trip, I wouldn’t change my experience for the world. Vancouver you were interesting and absurd and outrageous, and now you are kind of missed.
Before last night, I was completely in the dark about Macao.
I had no idea where it was, what it had to offer or even what it was if I’m
being completely honest. About a week ago, I got an email inviting me to an
influencer event to celebrate Art Macao right here in the heart of Chicago.
Upon further research, I discovered that Art Macao is a five-month
international arts and cultural event in which visual arts and works are
presented across various exhibition venues in Macao. It is currently taking
place now through October of this year. This all sounded wonderful. I was so
honored to be invited to such an event and was excited to learn more, but I
could have never imagined the wonderfulness that I was going to be exposed to.
If you have seen my Instagram Stories, you can probably tell I am OBSESSED!
For those of you who are unfamiliar, Macao is a part of China actually just a quick road trip away from Hong Kong. Until 1999, Macao was under Portugal’s rule. That is why Macao is so heavily imbued with Portuguese style architecture, and it’s also where the first fusion food was created. Macao is the perfect blend of Portuguese and Chinese cultures and offers many amazing opportunities to experience the combination of both. It is the second richest territory in the world, the fastest growing travel destination in the world with over 200,000 Americans traveling there annually AND has over 12 Michelin-starred restaurants and 19 Michelin-recommended street food options. If that isn’t enough to pique your interest, Macao is also home to the world’s highest commercial bungee jump and the world’s longest lazy river. I mean this place literally has everything!! After learning all of this incredibly appealing information, Macao has quickly worked its way up to the top of my travel bucket list.
Last night’s event only intensified this wanting to travel there. It was the perfect opportunity to network with like-minded people, my kind of people, and be completely immersed in Macanese culture. We were offered authentic Macanese bites and sipped on bubbles while touring the Zhou B Foundation and Life Garden space. After an insightful and inspiring walk through Macanese culture by our amazing hosts, Mina Hsing, a famous artist, guided us through our own Art Macao painting of the famous A-Ma Temple. Painting may not be my forte, but it was so fun to sit together and hear stories of our host’s own travels to this hot spot. We all even got to take home hand painted fans with our names on them.
As traveling has been such a priority of mine in 2019, the travel bug inside of me was dancing and jumping around the entire evening. Not only did I get to add a new travel destination to my ever-growing bucket list, but I also got to meet a ton of boss babes in the process. If you are narrowing down options for your next trip, I highly recommend doing some research and putting Macao on that list! They have quite the list of exciting activities happening through the rest of 2019 and into 2020, including the opening of the Palazzo Versace and Karl Lagerfeld hotels, the annual Fireworks Display Contest takes place in September and Grand Prix in November. This is a place that is always celebrating, and that is something I can definitely get on board with!
Dear Fellow Chicagoans (or people traveling to Chicago soon),
Whenever I’m traveling and say I’m from Chicago, I often get asked the question “how do you survive those winters?” The reason I’m so passionate about Chicago and tough it through our brutal winters is because when the harsh months are a thing of the past, we can truly say that we’ve earned our Summer. And there is no better place in the world to be than in Chicago during Summertime. From beaches to parks, downtown to quaint neighborhoods, Chicago has it all. One of the best things to do in the city during the Summer is walk around until you find the perfect patio to set up camp at for the afternoon and sip on your favorite rosé. Okay, maybe that’s just me, but if it isn’t and you’re looking for the top spots in the city to rosé all day, I have curated a list of my top bucket list destinations for the perfect, crisp glass of blush-colored wine. I’d also love to know where you’ve been celebrating rosé season this year, so put some place down below in the comments!
The highly-coveted Cindy’s rooftop bar and restaurant on the 13th floor of the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel in the loop has been on my bucket list for quite some time now. The panoramic views of the city, overlooking Millennium Park, are just to die for. Not only do they have a rotating large-format list of cocktails and premium food options, but they also offer a variety of select rosés, perfect for those hot Summer nights. I hear getting in here can be a real pain, so make sure to reserve a spot as soon as you are considering. The high prices can also deter people away, so perhaps save this spot for a really special occasion.
Katana Chicago is a chic, upscale Japanese eatery offering a robust menu including sushi and modern cocktails. This place was never on my radar until this year. I have followed a local PR agency called Monica Dixon PR and Katana happens to be one of their clients. The reason this hip spot caught my eye was because of their Rosé Friday specials. Bottomless fountains and rosé specials from 4-7pm every Friday to kick off your weekend with a bang. The menu looks inventive and eclectic, all up my alley, but again this is probably another place you’d want to reserve for a really special occasion.
I mean how could I not include this place on my list, it literally has a “Rosé all day” neon sign right in the dining room. This place has all of the iconic, East Coast vibes, which is perfect for a hot Summer afternoon. Many sources online revealed that The Hampton Social actually has ½ off rosé of the day Monday-Friday during their Happy Hour which runs from 3-6pm. I included this one because although I’ve never been there, it seems like one of those Instagrammable staples you have to try at least once in your life.
So I actually have been here before, but I just HAD to include it because it truly is that good. From the Spanish and Mediterranean décor, fringe umbrellas, colorful upholstery, this place is like magic. It offers up some of the most amazing food I’ve ever had in my life, which comes in small plates so you can try a little bit of everything. I’m telling you from an insider’s perspective, get the fried rice and the curry meatballs. The rosé selection is also abundant with options from all over the world making it, in my opinion, the perfect place to drink pink! Grab your girlfriends, your cameras, get there early to snag a prime spot and spend the entire afternoon here.
I have also been here, but thought it was a great place to include on this list for a couple of different reasons. One, the patio at this West Loop location is just unparalleled especially in this area. The patio is huge and has such a vibrant energy that makes it the perfect place for a Happy Hour after work or to hang at on the weekends. Two, the specialty pizzas are out of this world good. With a wide variety, there’s something on the menu for everyone in your party. And three, the rosé drink I always gravitate towards here is actually Frosé. For those unfamiliar, it’s basically frozen rosé, almost rose in margarita style, which makes this the ideal drink to order when temperatures are just a little too high. Sit at a table on the patio under an umbrella and spend your afternoon sipping on this frozen masterpiece. It’s a different take on your typical rosé, and that’s fun, but hurry before this location officially closes!
I found this place while doing research for this post and I’m kind of obsessed. North Pond is a Michelin-starred farm-to-table restaurant right on the edge of Lincoln Park’s North Pond (hence the name). Just from looking at pictures, this place totally reminds me of Central Park in New York. It just has that vibe. I assume prices are steep as they offer prix-fixe menus, but definitely a place to consider if you are looking to splurge. I also read they have a stellar selection of rosé options from still to sparkling, both of which I am not opposed to.
I have been to Piccolo Sogno once for a baby shower and the food was incredible. I love going with a big group of people because you get to order and sample a bunch of menu items. Unfortunately, on the day of my visit to this iconic spot, it was raining hard, and I couldn’t sit outside in their renowned patio. At a glimpse, I could tell it would be the prettiest place to grab a table and sip on some sparkling rosé. It’s on my list before Summer ends for sure!
I had to include City Winery (the Riverwalk location) because the only time I’ve been here was on a team outing for work so we could sit in the iconic igloos. It was literally snowing outside….so now that I’ve had that experience, I now need to experience City Winery in all its glory on a nice, sunny Summer day. Sit out by the river right in the hustle and bustle of the loop and sip on rosé? Sounds like the perfect day to me!
I went to Saint Lou’s about two weeks ago and absolutely LOVED it! It is the perfect Happy Hour spot after work especially with a small group. During their Happy Hour, they have a 4-piece fried chicken, 2 biscuits and a bottle of rosé special for only $40. The food was incredible and the patio was so much fun!
Last month I was extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to travel all over both domestically and internationally. My month started out with my first ever trip to the upper Pacific Northwest on my annual family vacation. Our first stop…Seattle. It was my family’s first time in Seattle, and it did not disappoint. As soon as you step foot outside the airport, you can feel the culture change in the air as if it were a tangible being. The lackadaisical attitude was a shock from the hustle and bustle I’m used to in Chicago. The tall pine trees, winding roads and mountain views also boasted a paradoxical shift in my mind. Knowing I was going to be spending the next 7 days up here, I needed to adapt. It was a different way of living that I wasn’t used to but kind of sort of liked for vacation mode.
It was always in our plan to spend only one day in Seattle as a pit stop before making our way even further north to Vancouver, Canada. Before I go into our one-day itinerary in the Emerald City, I wanted to cover off on a few housekeeping notes first. First and foremost, if you are not used to seeing this, there are a lot of people facing homelessness in the Pacific Northwest. I actually heard on my trip up there and since have read articles that cities up in that corner of the US like San Francisco are the worst they’ve ever been. Now I’m used to seeing people who face homelessness as I work in Chicago every day, but Seattle was definitely worse, and I was not prepared for that reality going into it. No harm or danger was present any of the time I was in Seattle, but there was more of an uncomfortable factor when walking the downtown streets. I wanted to give this warning upfront in case this is not something you are accustomed to wherever you are from. Another note on the city is that one of the landmarks synonymous with Seattle is the first ever Starbucks…skip it. The line to get in was a mile long and it looks exactly like any other Joe Shmo Starbucks down the street from your house. I do not think your time should be spent waiting in this never-ending line. The last note for my fellow Midwesterners thinking of traveling to Seattle is that the streets are VERY hilly, some can even be described as extremely steep. In the Midwest, we are so used to flat lands, so walking long distances here can be difficult. Seattle does have Uber and Lyft though, so if walking the streets is a concern, just order a rideshare.
Okay, now that those pieces are out of the way, below you
can find everything we did with the 24 hours we had in Seattle. If you have any
questions on any of the places we visited, please leave a comment and I’ll
answer in my most honest opinion!
Arrived at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport around 9:30am PST and got a Lyft to the downtown area, which was about a 10-minute drive.
At this point we had been up since 3am CST and were starving, so we had the Lyft driver drop us off at a restaurant right down the street from where we were staying.
Ate an early lunch at Nate’s Wings and Waffles. Nate’s is a relaxed, order at the counter spot dishing up wings, waffles and sliders and co-owned by former NBA star Nate Robinson. I got the waffle sliders and they were easily some of the best sliders I’ve ever had in my entire life. Get them!
After lunch, we walked a couple blocks to our Air BnB to drop off our luggage before exploring the rest of the city. Pro tip: I would stay in an Air BnB in a nearby downtown neighborhood versus staying in a hotel right in the heart of downtown because the international food scene is just incredible in the outer parts. We stayed about 5 minutes from the downtown area (on the corner of 12th and Fir Street) and our condo was near the hidden gems of Ethiopian, Caribbean, Japanese and French restaurants. I wish we had more time in Seattle just to indulge in the outstanding food scene.
One of the first landmarks we wanted to see was obviously the Space Needle. We took a 5-minute Lyft ride from our condo to the observation tower and bought $35 tickets to take a glass elevator all the way to the top. The views were to die for!! Sprawling views of Seattle can be seen from a 360-degree angle. I could have walked in circles for hours. What I didn’t know was that there is a full bar and restaurant at the top. You could sit and enjoy a nice cocktail and dinner up there if you wished and I thought that was awesome. Aside from the very top where you can walk outside to enjoy the views, you can also take a staircase one floor down to a fully enclosed area with a glass floor that rotates. If you stood in one spot, you would make an entire rotation in about one hour. Now I’m terrified of heights, I was having a mini panic attack from the moment I purchased my ticket to when I was actually outside on the top floor, but I’m so happy I pushed myself because in my opinion the Space Needle is totally worth it.
When we left the Space Needle, the other Seattle specialty we wanted to see was Pike Place Market. We took the Monorail (almost like an airport shuttle train) for $2.50 a ticket from the Space Needle to the stop nearest the market. After a couple block walk, we made it to the famous Pike Place sign and entrance, also near the first ever Starbucks. My advice is to start at one end and walk the entire way through the marketplace. I’ve never seen anything like this. Every station and every vendor had something new and interesting to look at. There were bouquets of flowers, nice flowers, for $10 and the food was so fresh they were literally throwing fish from the ocean onto ice right in front of your eyes. Nowhere has made me want to cook more. Fresh pastas and CBD lotions also lined the walkway. Again, this was one of those “worth it” kind of places.
While in the marketplace, we stopped at a small restaurant for seaside views, a glass of rose and a dozen oysters before we left.
My uncle was on the family trip with us this year and his cousin lives in Washington, so after Pike Place, he picked all of us up from the market and drove us about 25 minutes out of Seattle to Bellevue where we arrived at his gorgeous home greeted by his beautiful family.
We spent the rest of the night here, as we enjoyed stimulating conversation, a fabulous boat ride around Lake Washington (where we saw Bill Gates house) and a delicious backyard barbecue. It was the perfect ending to a long travel day and the best way to get us prepared for the next week of vacation ahead.
A short ride back to the Air BnB and we were all fast asleep, preparing for our train ride into Canada the next morning.
I know we didn’t spend a ton of time or do a ton of touristy things while in Seattle, but I had an absolute blast and would love to go back for a long weekend. There is so much more to see and so many more places I want to eat. In my honest opinion, I wouldn’t rush back to Seattle for my next vacation, but I will definitely be back! I hope this helps at least a little if you are planning a trip to this culturally-rich city soon. I think it was the perfect place to land and spend a day in to break up the travel in our journey further up to Canada. If you too are going up to our northern neighbor on the west coast side, my recommendation is to make a stop in Seattle first. The plane ride is faster and cheaper, and the city offers up amazing opportunities to see what the PNW is all about.