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Night at the Museum :: Why We're Obsessed With 21c Museum Hotels

Remember that Ben Stiller movie in which he plays a security guard at the Museum of Natural History, who discovers that the animals and exhibits come to life due to an ancient curse? It’s called Night At The Museum, and I (Alli) loved it (Not so much the sequels, but that’s for another day). Since that movie came out in 2006, I’ve always thought it would be cool to stay overnight in a museum. Sure, maybe not a museum filled with taxidermy and war scenes, but a museum filled with pretty pictures, whimsical sculptures, and art pieces that make you think. It’s a concept that I didn’t think existed… until we recently discovered the 21c Museum Hotels. And it’s as though all of my Night At The Museum dreams came true!

21c Museum Hotels were founded by Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, two art collectors and preservationists who have a heart for contemporary art and global culture. Every 21c property has a multi-venue museum that is not only free of charge, 24 hours a day (say what?!), but also boasts curated rotating exhibitions and site-specific installations by local artists. From watercolor, to animation, to still life like you’ve never seen before, the museums are as modern and contemporary as they are powerful and challenging. And the fact that they’re open 24 hours a day, and FREE of charge is absolutely revolutionary. But that’s only the beginning...

During our cross-country roadtrip we had the chance to stay at three of the eight 21c Museum Hotel properties, Bentonville, Nashville, and Durham. Beyond the mesmerizing and engaging contemporary art museums at each location, is the chic and luxurious boutique hotel that’s as beautiful and captivating as the museums! The rooms are spacious, elegantly designed (would you expect anything less?), and all of them perfectly capture the energy and culture of the city that they’re in. Plus, every 21c Museum Hotel has their own signature mascot(s) that float around the property - big plastic penguins, in varying colors. You might come across one at check in, or when you walk into your room, or even next to your dinner table. The staff is constantly moving them around, and it’s absolutely hilarious. They may be our favorite thing about 21c!

Let’s talk about the three 21c Museum Hotels we visited during our roadtrip...

BENTONVILLE, ARKANSAS

In Bentonville, Arkansas, the 21c Museum Hotel is a welcoming mix of Southern hospitality and thoughtful, contemporary amenities that will instantly make you feel at home. From the in-room original artwork, to the Nespresso coffee machines, to our favorite Malin + Goetz bath amenities, we could’ve easily stayed in our room all day and been totally content. Oh, and did we mention that all 21c Museum Hotels are dog friendly, too? 

Each 21c Museum Hotel has a stylish and acclaimed restaurant that serves modern dishes with a local flair, and The Hive in Bentonville is no exception! We sipped on seasonal cocktails, shared fresh salads with produce from local farms, and filled our bellies with locally caught fish and meat. And of course the surrounding artwork and decor was as elegant as the food! We’d go back to The Hive in a heartbeat!

So many fun pieces!

Downtown Bentonville is like a Hallmark movie

Sally was obsessed with the view in Bentonville!

Our favorite piece in Bentonville!

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE

Located in the historic Gray & Dudley building in Downtown Nashville, just steps from Bridgestone Arena and the honkey tonks on Broadway, the 21c Museum Hotel in Nashville couldn’t be in a better location. The guest rooms are stylish and posh, with striking wood floors, high ceilings, and large windows with floor-to-ceiling drapery. We stayed in a Terrace King that featured a spacious outdoor patio with breathtaking views of the downtown. It was incredible!

We enjoyed breakfast (with the 21c signature penguins, of course) at their onsite restaurant, Gray & Dudley. And in true 21c fashion, most everything was sourced from Nashville area producers and craft purveyors. We even saw the mayor of Nashville enjoying his breakfast a few tables down from us - and if that’s not a sign of a good local restaurant, we’re not sure what is!

Sally felt right at home in Nashville

Incredible video art exhibit in Nashville

Obsessed with these views!

Breakfast with the blue penguin in Nashville

DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA

We rounded up our 21c tour at the 21c Museum Hotel in Durham, North Carolina. Situated in the center of downtown Durham, in the historic Hill Building, it just might have been our favorite of the three! This 17-story art deco skyscraper is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as it was built in the 1930’s by the same NYC architecture firm that built the Empire State Building! The architecture is spectacular, and the way the team at 21c has modernized and renovated the building is really impressive. We stayed in a Terrace Suite, that had a separate living area, bedroom, and a large terrace with gorgeous views of downtown Durham. We joked that it was bigger than our house (and it almost was)!

Our final meal in Durham was enjoyed at the 21c’s Counting House restaurant, which highlights North Carolina’s fresh seafood and high-quality seasonal ingredients. The contemporary design of the restaurant, paired with the fresh and creative menu made it a meal to remember. And of course, the penguins joined us there, too!

Checking in in Durham

Views from our room :)

Sally started to love the elevator - but not alone

Play time in Durham

Can you see any similarities to the Empire State Building?

Sally loved the hotels, but was terrified of the penguins. This photo took awhile to get :)

We’ve now been to three of the 21c Museum Hotels, and we can’t wait to visit more. They have other properties in Cincinnati, Kansas City, Lexington, Louisville and Oklahoma City, and Chicago, Des Moines, and St. Louis are opening soon. And you better believe it’s our goal to visit them all. 

6 Must-Try Bend Spots for 2019

Ask us why we love Bend, Oregon so much, and we’ll immediately start gushing its praises. Chances are this “gushing” will last for several minutes and will end with us enthusiastically out of breath. Our friends, family, even our neighbors know how much we love this thriving and ever-changing mountain town… and if we’re being honest, they’re probably all waiting for the day when we announce that we’re officially moving to Bend. (It could happen!) 

In the meantime, we’ll find any excuse to visit. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter - Bend is a beautiful adventure no matter the season. The more we visit, the more we discover about Bend, and the more we see this town continue to grow and flourish - but all the while keeping a small town feel. We’ve got our favorite places that we keep coming back to (check out our Bend Guide), and we always try to branch out and explore new spots too. This time was no exception, we visited some of our tried and true spots, and mixed in some new places as well. 

Here’s 6 places that are on our radar (or should we say “Bend-ar”) for 2019:

COFFEE

Companion Coffeehouse: It was love at first sight with this hip, welcoming, and modern neighborhood coffee house. Maybe it’s the cool tilework, maybe it’s the friendly baristas, or maybe it’s their $3 kombucha (it’s double the price in California), but whatever it is - we’re big fans of this place. Oh, and they have overnight oats on the menu. We really love overnight oats. (Is that weird?)

Looney Bean: Contrary to the name, there is nothing “looney” about this place. Set along the Deschutes River, this tucked away coffee shop is a gem of a place… and we can’t believe we haven’t been before! Its homey vibe makes you feel like you’ve stepped into someone’s cozy lakefront cabin, and the spacious “backyard” is the perfect place to spend an afternoon!

Loving the vibes at Companion Coffee

Here for the coffee and the views at Looney Bean!

BEER

Boss Rambler Beer Club: They had us at “Beer Club”, and at the picture-perfect ambiance and stylish decor didn’t hurt either. This brand new brewery just opened in April, and it’s already taking Bend’s craft brewery scene by storm. From hazy IPA’s, to farmhouse-style ales, to their special “Collaboration” beers with other locals brewers, their beer menu is constantly changing and always exciting. 

Crux Fermentation Project: K, this spot isn’t new. But we couldn’t not include it. It’s our favorite. The open, contemporary tasting room has a fun and bustling energy, but their spacious outdoor area is where we always gravitate to. There’s food trucks, plenty of room for kids (and dogs) to play, and it’s one of the best places in Bend to catch the sunset. Plus their beer (and wine) is top-notch!

Boss Rambler is a delightful spot for a few beers :)

Crux is always our go-to

FOOD

900 Wall: Over the years we’ve heard a lot about this trendy New-American eatery, so we figured it was time we checked it out for ourselves! The raving reviews were right - 900 Wall’s menu is extensive, their food is delicious (try the French Onion Soup!), and the dimly lit setting makes it perfect for a date night or special occasion. Don’t leave without trying one of their many desserts!

Riff Cold Brewed Coffee: You might be wondering why a coffee spot is on our food list… and at first, we were a little confused as to what Riff Cold Brewed Coffee was. A coffee shop? With food? And cocktails? Exactly. Many of the items on Riff’s food menu is inspired by (and sometimes infused with) coffee - and it’s SO GOOD. Get the Hummus Trio and the Thai Chicken Bowl and you’ll never want anything else. Except maybe one of their Blondie Sundaes or Unforgettable Affogatos… 

Date night at 900 Wall

900 Wall yummies…

The beers are as good as the coffee at Riff

Our time in Bend was short, but so, so sweet. There’s no doubt we’ll be back soon, as our list of must-try spots keeps getting longer and longer. It’s a wonderful problem to have, and we’re thinking that our next visit should be for at least a week. And it most definitely will include a float on the river - something we STILL HAVEN’T DONE!! (We’ve been too busy eating, haha!)

We will definitely be floating next time!

Leave a comment and let us know where the cool kids are hanging, so we can keep our Bend list as fresh as possible!

Our Dog-Friendly Guide to Des Moines

If you read our previous post, you’ll know that we’re newly obsessed with Des Moines, Iowa. (And if you haven’t read our previous post, read it, and then you’ll know why.) This city is a dream for so many reasons - for humans, and for pups! We’re realizing that the Midwest in general is extremely dog friendly, and Des Moines is no exception.

If you’re headed this way with your fur baby in tow (and you should be), here’s our Dog Friendly Guide to Des Moines!

WHERE TO GO WITH YOUR PUP

Downtown Farmers Market: Every Saturday from May to October, one of the biggest (and best) farmers markets takes place in downtown Des Moines… and it’s dog friendly! There’s multiple vendors selling dog treats, leashes, homemade food, and more!

Pappajohn Sculpture Park: One of our favorite parks to explore in Des Moines is not only fun for humans - but fun for pups! There’s 22 iconic sculptures to admire, and an unlimited amount of absolutely adorable photo opportunities. Just make sure you keep your dog on a leash!

Ankeny Dog Park: This 7.5-acre park is a dream for dogs of all sizes - with fenced in areas for small and large pups, a picturesque pond, and plenty of open space to run free!

Racoon River Dog Park: Another epic option when it comes to getting your pup’s “wiggles out”, this sprawling dog park is over 10 acres - bring a ball (and some water), and your dog is sure to leave exhausted, and oh-so-happy!

Walk the downtown:  It may be obvious, but we just have to include a walk around Des Moines beautiful and bustling downtown! We took our Bernedoodle Sally with us all over the city - whether we were walking to coffee or admiring the sights, it’s such a fun place to explore with your four-legged friend!

We loved exploring Pappajohn Sculpture Park

Sally chasing sticks at Raccoon River Dog Park

WHERE TO EAT WITH YOUR PUP

Gazali’s (patio):  Looking for healthy, fresh, and authentic Mediterranean cuisine that you can enjoy with your dog in tow? Head straight to Gazali’s! Their outdoor patio is dog-friendly and their lunch and dinner options are affordable and really delicious.

Smokey D’s BBQ (patio):  If you love BBQ, you’ll love Smokey D’s BBQ. (I mean, anything that’s been featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives has to be epic, right?!) Best part is, they have a dog friendly patio!

Snookie’s Malt Shop (patio): We’ll take any excuse to get an ice cream cone, and the adorable Snookie’s Malt Shop is not to be missed… whether you’re a human or a dog! They serve free “pup cones” - little puppy size ice cream cones with any purchase. Win/win!

WHERE TO DRINK WITH YOUR PUP

Confluence Brewing Company (patio): We can’t think of a better way to spend a Summer day then at Confluence Brewing! Their dog friendly deck and beer garden sits right along the Gray’s Lake Bike Trail - order a few brews, pack a bully stick for your pup and a deck of cards for you and your friends, and you’ve got the makings for a perfect afternoon!

515 Brewing (patio):  Another great brewery that allows pets on their patio is 515 Brewing. This friendly and innovative craft brewery is a favorite among Des Moines locals, and it’s sure to be your pup’s new favorite, too!

Tipsy Crow Tavern (patio):  Cornhole, live music, games, strong drinks, and they welcome dogs… you can’t beat the patio at Tipsy Crow Tavern! Stop by on a Saturday afternoon for a drink and some appetizers after you’ve enjoyed the downtown Farmers Market!

Sally likes brewery hopping too :)

WHERE TO STAY WITH YOUR PUP

Embassy Suites:  We recently stayed at the Embassy Suites in downtown Des Moines and absolutely loved it. Not only is the location ideal, but the rooms are spacious, the included breakfasts are amazing, and Sally was ushered right in without a problem!

I See It, I Like It, I Want It, Des Moines Got It

For years our friends in Iowa have told us about how cool Des Moines is. How the restaurant scene is unparalleled, how their Farmer’s Market is unlike any other, how quickly the downtown scene is changing and growing… They would go on and on. And it wasn’t that we didn’t believe them, we just didn’t have a good excuse to come and see Des Moines for ourselves. Until this Spring, when we decided to roadtrip cross-country, and made Des Moines our final destination. Des Moines had big shoes to fill - our expectations were high, and we were really hoping to end our month-long adventure on the road with a bang. Well folks, we did just that and our friends were right.

Des Moines is everything we hoped it would be - and more.

Let’s start with the obvious. Being the capital city of Iowa, we knew Des Moines would be relatively cosmopolitan, with a busy downtown and a handful of sophisticated hotels. What we didn’t expect to see is such a hip, quirky, and playful city - with chic cocktail bars, modern cafes, trendy boutiques, sculpture gardens, and so much more! It’s midwest charm meets big city perks - and we’re officially obsessed.

THE FOOD.

Des Moines culinary scene is incredibly advanced, with sleek, stylish restaurants like St. Kilda Surf & Turf - that boasts a fresh and creative menu that’s as visually stunning as it is delicious, unusual and offbeat restaurants like El Bait Shop - that serves tater tots and pizza pockets alongside their 260+ beers on draft, and posh, elevated restaurants like Centro Trattoria & Bar - an urban and posh Italian eatery that specializes in fresh, homemade pizza and pasta.

While we were only in Des Moine for two nights, it’s safe to say that we ate our way through the city, and we have a loooong list of places we plan to hit up next time we’re in town. But onto the next category...

Obsessed with the goods at St. Kilda

Love the vibe at St. Kilda

Not enough beers at El Bait Shop… hehe jk

THE DRINKS

From specialty coffee shops to family-owned microbreweries and eclectic cocktail bars, you won’t go thirsty when you’re in Des Moines. Neighborhood coffee shops like Horizon Line Coffee and Mars Coffee Bar are exactly the kind of places we’d frequent if we were locals - they’re cool and friendly and are experts at crafting a good cup of joe.

Hello, Marjorie is a creative (and super Instagrammable) craft cocktail bar in the heart of downtown Des Moines that quickly became one of the highlights of our trip. Their signature cocktail, The Marjorie, made with Absolut Pear, sloe gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup, is perfectly smooth and refreshing. If you’re more of a beer connoisseur, head to Confluence Brewing! Their dog friendly deck and beer garden sits right along the Gray’s Lake Bike Trail, making it the perfect place to spend the afternoon when the weather is warm!

THE DOWNTOWN

In 2018 Des Moines was named the “#4 Best Places to Live in the US” by U.S. News, and after spending a few days in downtown Des Moines, we totally get it. The city is clean and inviting, and it seems as though fun concerts and events are always happening. The Saturday night we in town, there was a baseball game and a Kenny Chesney concert happening blocks away from each other - and the city was buzzing!

Located right in the middle of downtown Des Moines is the Pappajohn Sculpture Park - a 4.4 acre park that features artwork by 22 celebrated and iconic artists. It’s one of the most unique and well maintained parks we’ve seen, and the sculptures are incredible! While we didn’t have time to visit the adjoining Des Moines Art Center, that’s high on our list for next time.

THE FARMERS MARKET

We’re big farmers market people. If we happen to be in a town that has one, we make sure to hit it up. You can learn a lot about a place by their farmers market - what’s grown locally, who the farmers are, the goods that area is known for… some of our best souvenirs have been bought from local vendors at farmers markets!

That being said, we had no idea what we were in for when we decided to check out the famous Des Moines Downtown Farmers Market! Over 300 vendors come from across the state of Iowa to take part in the Downtown Farmers Market, and over 25,000 visitors attend each Saturday - from May through October! You’ll find everything from Iowa raised meat, to fresh flowers and seasonal candles… and it’s quite the sight to see! (Make sure you try a Thelma’s Treats Ice Cream Sandwich - SO GOOD!)

Our time in Des Moines may have been short, but it sure was sweet. If there’s anything that we learned, it’s that this city is on the rise - and we can’t wait to come back!

IS IT TOO SOON TO GO BACK TO SOUTH LAKE TAHOE?

It doesn’t take much convincing for us to go to South Lake Tahoe. Just a photo or two of that bright blue lake and we’re already loading up the car. Sure we love a good pool session or a trip to the beach, but there’s something really special about Lake Tahoe. Maybe it’s the crisp mountain air, or the towering pine trees, or the vast, clear water… or maybe it’s the fact that we feel one with nature when we’re there. Whatever it is, South Lake Tahoe is a dream and if you haven’t been, you NEED to go. 

Here’s where we stayed, what we did, and where we ate (and drank) - feel free to copy everything about this trip and we promise you you’ll have the time of your life. 

PINKY PROMISE!

STAY :: ZEPHYR COVE RESORT

This was our first time staying at the Zephyr Cove Resort, and it definitely won’t be our last. Their cozy lake-side cabins are spacious and quaint, and are situated just steps away from their own private beach! (Pets are allowed in the cabins for an additional $20/night, making it a perfect spot for us to stay with Sally!) While we didn’t end up having time to cook while we were there, we definitely will next time - as every cabin has a fully equipped kitchen!

DO :: BEACH, HIKE, BOAT, REPEAT

Beach: As we mentioned, Zephyr Cove Resort has their own private beach - and it was as idyllic as it was convenient. We spent hours there everyday, playing in the water, laying out, reading books… and the best part? They have a section that’s dog friendly! Sally loved splashing around in the lake, finding sticks and making friends.. And we loved that she could be with us! 

Hike: There’s no shortage of pretty hikes around South Lake Tahoe, so don’t forget your hiking shoes! Our first night we walked the Rabe Meadows Trail to Nevada Beach to catch the sunset, and we absolutely loved it. It’s an easy (and beautiful) 1.5 mile paved trail that was as enjoyable for us as it was for Sally! Other South Lake Tahoe hikes that we love are the Skyline Trail, the Rubicon Trail, and the Cascade Falls Trail.

Boat: You can’t visit South Lake Tahoe without adventuring onto the lake. It’s a must! If you’re traveling with a big family, or want a leisurely way to see the lake, Zephyr Cove Resort has daily scenic (and sunset) cruises on their paddle wheeler the M.S. Dixie! If you’re looking for something active (and dog friendly), we highly recommend renting a Tandem Island Trimaran from Day Go Adventures. It’s easy to operate, pedal-powered, and SO MUCH FUN. Sally’s tail was wagging the entire trip!

She’s not a swimmer, but she loves being in the water :)

Family paw-trait

Taking in the last light of the day on the Rabe Meadows Trail

It’s safe to say Sally like’s hiking

So fun exploring the lake!

DINE :: PIZZA, NACHOS & SANDWICHES… OH MY!

BASECAMP PIZZA: Our tummies are rumbling just thinking about this pizza! It’s fresh and hearty, perfectly crispy, and full of flavor. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but our favorites is their signature Base Camp pizza and the Thai Chicken Curry pizza (they’ll do half and half if you order a large)! Ask for a table outside, it’s dog friendly and there’s live music every day! 

AZUL LATIN KITCHEN: We knew we wanted to try this place after we saw photos of the food on Yelp… and it did not disappoint. We tried it all - from the tacos, to the nachos, to the margaritas, everything is fresh and full of flavor! We suggest going at happy hour (daily 2-6pm) when the house margaritas are only $7!

SPROUTS NATURAL FOODS CAFE: If we had this fresh, healthy, and organic cafe near our home in Orange County, we’d go every day. It’s SO GOOD. They have everything from hearty turkey sandwiches to delicious baked tofu bowls (sounds random, but trust us), and their juices and smoothies are amazing too!    

Love. Nuff said.

Great live music at Base Camp Pizza!

Nachos anyone? We might share…

Sally wanted nachos too

Delicious lunch at Sprouts!

DRINK :: COFFEE + COCKTAILS = YES PLEASE

CLYDE’S COFFEE ROASTING CO: This quaint, family-run coffee shop is as instagrammable as it is delicious. Their pastries are made in-house (the croissants are to die for) and the coffee is smooth and strong. Bring your book, order a cappuccino, and grab a seat by their cozy fireplace, and you’ll thank us later!

REVIVE COFFEE & WINE: Of course we HAD to include this place - it has two of our favorite things! Located just a few doors down from Sprouts Natural Foods Cafe, Revive Coffee & Wine is definitely a spot where the locals go, and we love that about it, It’s charming and unpretentious, and has plenty of seating both inside and out. Plus, they have an extensive coffee and wine menu - and you better believe we order both!  

EDGEWOOD LAKE TAHOE: One of our favorite South Lake Tahoe traditions is having a cocktail and watching the sunset at the luxurious Edgewood Lake Tahoe. We’ll order our cocktails at the bar, then take them to their picturesque adirondack chairs and watch the sun set over the mountains… it’s heavenly! 

Love this spot at the Edgewood

So all that to say… is it too soon to go back? Asking for a friend...

Can’t get enough of these views! We’ll be back soon!