Travel resolutions and goals are the best in my opinion. 2017 was an incredible year for travel. I knocked off not one, but two bucket list items (Australia and the Azores), had a lovely Christmas in Europe and experienced many, many weekend adventures. I am …
Tag: where to go
This week we are excited to have a guest author, my friend from grad school, Genevieve Brown. Like us, Genevieve enjoys traveling. Unlike us, she sometimes travels with a side of volunteering. We asked her to tell us a little bit more about volunteering abroad, …
Salt Lake City is not the most exotic location on the planet. However, there are plenty of fun things to do and see there. It is an especially good location to begin a trip out west. Due to its proximity to Idaho, it makes an excellent weekend getaway and we find ourselves there a couple times of year for various events (mostly concerts). Below are my five favorite things about Salt Lake City.
Salt Lake City Recommendations
1. The State Room
I go to a lot of concerts. I hesitate to put a number on it because then I will realize how much money I am spending on concerts and I would rather not go there. So I will just leave it at “a lot.” When one goes to a lot of concerts, one spends a lot of time in concert venues. I have enjoyed large events at places like the Gorge and Red Rocks as well as events at hole-in-the-wall bars that hold 15 people. Each venue comes with its own set of pros and cons.
Of all of the concert venues I have been to, the State Room is my favorite. The only con, in my opinion, is that it is not located in my hometown. I would attend events there a lot more often if it was closer. The State Room is small and intimate and even during sold-out performances, there is room to move. You can choose to sit down or stand. Either way, you will have a great view. Sometimes R and I go to concerts in Salt Lake City instead of Boise simply because of the State Room is hosting. If you get a chance to see one of your favorite bands there, do not hesitate.
2. Wasatch Range
The Wasatch Range, a mountain range that stretches north and south from the Idaho border to central Utah, is awfully pretty. It is also really close to Salt Lake City. Not only are you afforded gorgeous views just by looking up, but it could not be easier to go exploring in the mountains. A short drive from the city (sometimes less than 10 minutes) can find you winding through a canyon with gorgeous views of breathtaking scenery. Salt Lake City’s proximity to the mountains means easy access to skiing, hiking and camping. The people there really are spoiled with this range right in their backyard and it is wonderful perk for those of us visiting the city.
3. Bruges Waffles and Frites
I only recently discovered Bruges Waffles and Frites on a trip for work. A coworker had tried it out and raved about it so I figured I would give it a whirl. Excellent decision on my part. From their website, it appears they have several locations. However, I went to the teeny-tiny original location in downtown. There were three places to sit and barely enough room for two people to stand. Since I was the only customer “dining in,” the cramped space did not bother me. If you have a larger party, I suggest one of the other locations.
How was the food? It was better than fine. The menu is interesting and I had a hard time deciding what to order. I finally settled on some sort of hot dog, fries and a waffle for dessert. It was all tasty, but the dipping sauce for the fries and the waffle exceeded my expectations. I was an instant fan and I cannot wait to travel to Belgium to see how it compares. I also recommend you try it out for yourself ASAP.
4. Smith and Edwards
Okay, so this one is not exactly in Salt Lake City. It is about an hour drive north in a town called Ogden. If you are driving to or from Idaho, it is right on the way and well worth a stop. (Note: it is closed on Sundays so do not try then.) They sell just about everything at Smith and Edwards. I am serious. From clothes and tools to penny candy and kitchen gadgets, they have everything you need and several things you did not even realize you did needed. I have bought over-sized bags of Swedish Fish, kid-sized boots that fit me like a glove, garlic power and a clay pigeon launcher. Seriously. Everything.
About the only thing you cannot buy, as far as I can tell, is groceries. But there is a fast-food restaurant inside so it is not like you will go hungry. The people watching is also pretty good. I do have a couple of warnings however; be prepared to feel overwhelmed. There is a lot to see and a lot of people shopping, especially on Saturday. It is very easy to feel overwhelmed. Also, I recommend you set a spending and/or time limit. I always to seem to walk out an hour later and $100 dollars poorer. I guess that works for me, but you may want to set some stricter guidelines. I do not know of any other store like Smith and Edwards and I always enjoy the time spent meandering its vast and varied offerings.
5. Temple Square
After having visiting Salt Lake City numerous times, I rarely visit Temple Square anymore. The exception, however, is Christmas time. The hundreds of thousands of lights transform Temple Square into a winter wonderland, making it a delight to stroll around at night. It will be cold this time of year so you will want to bundle up first. And maybe grab some hot cocoa. Once fortified against the cold, you will be ready to enjoy the sights and sounds of Temple Square. It is a great way to get into the Christmas spirit.
Salt Lake City is an excellent place to visit. It just so happens to be a good example of a place in our “backyard” that we can easily visit in a weekend. So we do so often. If you have never visited before or are looking for something new to try, give one of my top five recommendations a go. Then let me know what you think.
Recently, R and I spent a day in Boston, Massachusetts. Now one day may not sound like much, but even a short amount of time in Bean Town is better than no time at all and I am going to share with you some tips …
R and I spent five and a half days driving around and exploring São Miguel Island in the Portuguese archipelago of the Azores. Locally, it is referred to as The Green Island. I just called it stunning. Turns out the Azores make a great micro …
Last July, B and I ventured to St. Louis, Missouri, to attend the Antiques Roadshow. While there, we were pleasantly surprised by several attractions and left with a very positive view of this city, which, to be honest, we weren’t expecting much out of. This post will discuss five St. Louis things we saw and did so next time you find yourself randomly in St. Louis, you’ll have as nice of a time as we had. (To be fair, I’ll leave the highlight of the trip, the Roadshow, off this list because it isn’t a permanent fixture.)
5. Delmar Loop
From our downtown hotel, we hopped on the St. Louis Metro Red Line and headed to the Delmar Loop. This is a hip, groovy part of town that is chock full of restaurants, entertainment and funky shops. We walked up and down Delmar Boulevard and enjoyed looking at the different stars in the St. Louis Hall of Fame (kind of like in Hollywood, only these are St. Louis people). I was especially pumped when I found Nelly’s Star. To be perfectly honest, I was singing Country Grammar all weekend.
In Delmar Loop, we did one of our favorite trip rituals of wandering around a local grocery market. This particular one had a very robust section of Asian goods…not sure why. We also saw our first example of a quick, cheap place to eat in St. Louis that we did a few more times. At several grocery stores, there is an excellent selection of prepared foods. Not the gross kind like a Tornado at a gas station, but good quality. Instead of a sit down restaurant where you have to wait and pay a tip, you can pick what you want and get sushi, barbeque, sandwiches, etc.
We also found a few cool shops and enjoyed spending our money on interesting local items before the heat and humidity finally did us in and we had to catch the train back downtown. Sadly, last month Delmar Loop was the site of vandalism after a what-had-been peaceful protest. Several of the shops that we had visited in July had their windows broken. Hopefully, by the time you visit, the Loop will have been restored to how it should be.
It seems like most regions of the south are known for their barbeque. To be honest, I don’t have a refined enough bbq palate to be able to distinguish what city does it best. I can say, though, that barbeque down south just tastes better than it does in Idaho. After we finished up at the Roadshow, we walked down the road from the convention center and B found a highly recommended place on her phone called Sugarfire. So we decided to stop in. It was around 3:00 in the afternoon, so we walked right into the establishment, ordered our bbq and took a seat. It was quite delicious, so much so that I was in no mood for dinner later that night.
If you are going to hit up Sugarfire, you might want to get there during in a non-peak hour. We had no idea we had lucked out the first time with no line; whenever we walked past this place around meal time, the line was out the door.
3. The Arch
The St. Louis Arch is iconic, and all other times I have been to St. Louis I have made a point to go to the visitor center and get a stamp in my passport and one time, I even took the elevator to the top. However, when B and I visited St. Louis, I got a new appreciation for the Arch. Instead of being a destination, we enjoyed it more as part of the landscape. We took a walk around the park that begins at the Arch and runs along the Mississippi River. Then we sat at the base of it and watched the tour helicopters take tourists on quick flights around the city while eating pizza in the plaza in front of it. Most magically, we watched the sunset set it on fire from the roof of our hotel.
The Arch was built in 1965 and was dedicated to the American people. I hadn’t fully appreciated how cool the Arch was until I looked at it as something other than as a structure–this trip helped me think of it more symbolically, as a representation of ingenuity and ambition.
2. The Cardinals
I have seen the New York Mets play baseball at 90% of the major league games I’ve attended. I’ve seen them in San Francisco, New York, Washington D.C. and even interleague in Baltimore. So it came as no surprise to me that when we decided to see a St. Louis Cardinals game, they would of course be playing the Mets. (This would all be cool if the Mets were my team..they aren’t.) ANYWAY, we weren’t sure if we were going to be able to make a game so we didn’t buy tickets beforehand. This made our experience at the stadium even more magical. Here’s how it went: we showed up and bypassed the ticket office line by purchasing tickets at an electronic kiosk. The machine spit out our tickets, receipt and coupons for free hotdogs and drinks (Miracle #1).
We then walked through the gates and a ticket checker handed us our commemorative St. Louis Cardinals baseball caps so we could support the hometeam (Miracle #2). We then found our way up, up, up to our cheap seats. You’d think we’d be sad about our nosebleed seats. However, because our seats were so high, we were in the shade. Yes, instead of roasting in the heat and humidity, we were the first row of shaded seats (Miracle #3). We didn’t anticipate we would last long at the game because of the heat, but we ended up watching the whole game. The Cards won and we were fed and clothed for a very inexpensive ticket.
A few months before I found out I had been selected to get tickets to the St. Louis Roadshow, I came across an article about an ancient culture in the southeastern United States. I was astounded. How is it that I have a degree in American History and have dragged B halfway around the world multiple times to see ancient structures and I had never heard of this in my own backyard? So embarrassing! I resolved to visit at my earliest convenience. Fortunately for me, I did get tickets to St. Louis so I knew I’d be adding this piece to the Roadshow trip.
The Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site is located a short 15 minute uber ride across the Mississippi River into Illinois. The grounds are about 3.5 miles and look like a very well manicured lawn, with some hills every now and then. I had purchased a Groupon to the site, so B and I each got our own ipods and could learn the history of the place as we climbed the hills. The Site is very well managed and we learned so much about the people that lived here a thousand years ago who had decided to carry bucket upon bucket of dirt to create hundreds of these mounds. If you visit St. Louis, the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site is an absolute must. I’m quite surprised that this park is only a National Historic Landmark and not a full-fledged National Park.
Honorable mention: Insomnia Cookies
I would feel remiss if I didn’t mention the fine establishments in St. Louis called Insomnia Cookies. One day we weren’t quite hungry enough for a proper dinner so we popped into an Insomnia Cookie and had a delicious ice cream cookie sandwich–which we did manage to eat most of before it melted in the sweltering heat of a Missouri summer. This bakery delivers cookies ’til 3:00 a.m. Guaranteed the students at local universities make good use of this place.
St. Louis has a pretty bad reputation. Yes, we did see some rough areas and wouldn’t have felt comfortable in a lot of places after dark. That being said, B and I were pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable a time we had there during a long weekend. There’s always good places mixed in with bad. So if you find yourself in St. Louis, don’t stay locked up in your hotel room. Explore!
Girls’ weekend getaways and micro trips are the best. Wouldn’t you agree? As part-time travelers and single ladies, our lifestyle is quite conducive to mini vacations. So we take full advantage of that whenever we can. Below are 10 ideas for a girls’ weekend getaway …
Work brought me to Kansas City twice in the course of one month. Lucky for me, I have a good friend (we will call her AA) who lives in and loves KC. She provided me with helpful hints and suggestions about what to see and where to go during my downtime. I have laid out those suggestions, along with some of my own, in semi-geographical order below (south to north). They include neighborhoods worth visiting, places to eat and must-see attractions. It is a local’s perspective as executed by a tourist. (Thanks for all of the helpful suggestions, AA.)
Starting south of the city, there are some fun neighborhoods worth checking out. The first is Brookside. You will know you have arrived when it feels a bit like you have arrived in Germany. The architecture is very gingerbread-like and makes for a fun walkabout.
Country Club Plaza
Up next is Country Club Plaza (or just the Plaza). It was designed to look like Seville, Spain. (It felt a bit like Vegas to me. Kind of like how there is an Eiffel Tower on the strip, but it is not the real Eiffel Tower.) I had dinner at the Oliver with my friend and I enjoyed that experience very much. I attempted to have dinner at Gram & Dun another night (suggestion by AA), but I was not able to get a table. It is probably a good idea to make a reservation if you want to eat anywhere at the Plaza on the weekend. There are also plenty of places to shop, but they are all going to be big, nationwide names.
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
About a 10-minute walk from the Plaza is the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Do not miss this! Both the grounds and museum are excellent. Best of all, it is free! The Bloch Galleries of European Art (filled with impressionist and post-impressionist art) will keep you occupied for some time. However, the museum is not overwhelmingly huge. I found it to be the perfect size. I also found free parking on Oak Street, which was a great suggestion from AA.
Kansas City Sports Complex
From the museum, if you head east instead of north, fun can be found in the form of Arrowhead Stadium (home of the Kansas City Chiefs) and Kauffman Stadium (home of the Kansas City Royals). I recommend you take in a game if possible. The Royals were at home while I was visiting and I very much enjoyed watching the home team beat the Mariners.
Back on track, just north of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, is the neighborhood of Westport. AA describes it as “a little seedy in a good way with fun restaurants and bars.” I found that description to be perfect. My favorite part about the neighborhood was a little store named Mid Coast Modern. This place features handmade goods, mostly from the KC area. It is definitely worth a stop.
National World War I Museum and Memorial
If you ask any local or do any research at all about what to see in Kansas City, you are going to hear about the National World War I Museum and Memorial. AA told me: “You have to check out the monument area if it’s the only thing you do in KC.” After cramming as much KC in as I could, I have to agree. This attraction is a real gem. Parking is free and easy just south of the museum and the view of Kansas City cannot be beat…except by maybe the view from the top of the monument (I think it cost $5). I opted to visit the museum which includes a trip up to the top of the monument for $16. The museum is very well done and informative. Plus, the history of how it came to be is really heartwarming. I highly recommend you visit.
Tip: visit the museum as early as you can. I decided to leave it until the later in my day. I noticed the short lines when I passed it in the morning. By the time I returned in the afternoon, it was much, much busier. The monument elevator only holds seven people and it is one load up followed by one load down. It can be quite a wait, so plan accordingly.
From the museum, I walked to Union Station. It was an easy trip getting there. Climbing the hill back up to the monument later in the day was not so easy. Oh well. Union Station is lovely and well worth a visit. There happened to be a makers market going on while I was visiting so I enjoyed perusing handmade items from local Kansa City artists.
Tip: catch the (free) street car at Union Station and ride it all the way to River Market. Or get off here and there to visit the neighborhoods below. It was a little on the packed side when I rode it north, but things were thinned out by the time I road it south.
Crossroads was another great neighborhood. There are galleries and shops and restaurants as well as “artsy” graffiti. I was here in the middle of the day on a Saturday and it was pretty dead. But I enjoyed the vibe, none the less. I even did a little shopping. It was too early for dinner, but I would have liked to have tried out another suggestion from AA: the Rieger.
The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts is located in this neighborhood. It is a very unique-looking building. I checked the calendar to see if there were any shows happening during my stay, but alas, there were not. Still, I enjoyed walking the grounds and admiring the unique architecture.
I am still not sure if the Power and Light District and Downtown are one and the same, or if they are distinct areas. It all seemed the same to me, but maybe I was missing something. Either way, there is stuff to do here. I, however, did not do much since it was getting really hot and humid at this point in my day. AA did recommend the Kansas City Public Library. It is beautiful inside and they often have (free) exhibits on the second floor. While I was visiting, they had a photography exhibit. Mostly though, I enjoyed a break from the heat and a bit of AC. This is an area I will have to explore more of during future visits.
River Market was the furthest north that I ventured. On a Saturday, it was very busy. The farmer’s market was in full swing and there were plenty of permanent shops and restaurants as well. A coworker of mine recommended I checkout the Arabia Steamboat Museum here, but I ran out of steam. (Sorry, bad joke.) I will check it out next time. Instead, I picked up a sandwich at Bloom Baking Company and dessert at Beignets. The line was a little long at Beignets, but after inhaling my dessert, I kind of see why. Both of these delicious eateries were recommendations from AA. She also recommended a place called The Farmhouse. But I was too full at that point to contemplate more food.
More to see
Most of the recommendations listed above are contained to a general area. But there are other things worth checking out. Kansas City has a robust artisan scene for handmade goods. Most of what the stores sell features words and images about the local area, but you can find some gems for those who live out of state. The following stores were all pretty cool and worth a visit if you are nearby:
Near Urban Provisions was a tasty food truck called Pigwich. The area felt a bit remote, but there was a line for food, which usually means it tastes good. In this case, that was indeed true. And speaking of food, you will not go hungry in Kansas City. Naturally, there is BBQ. I got several recommendation for Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, and I think it lived up to its reputation. I also enjoyed small place called Fireside BBQ. The real highlight of my trip however, was a steak from Jess & Jim’s Steak House. It was everything a steak should be and still has my mouth salivating.
There is a lot to do in Kansas City and you will have your hands full trying to experience it all. If you still need more to do, you can always take a road trip. Both Missouri and Kansas have places to explore. However, I suggest you first try out all the wonderful things recommended to me by my local friend. Her suggestions were great and provided a wonderful Kansas City experience.