Weekenders

Our First Mardi Gras: Tips & Tricks for the Biggest Party of the Year

The following post is from a sponsored trip with New Orleans & Company. Head over to their page for all the Mardi Gras info you can need, including the Mardi Gras bucket list, Mardi Gras like a local, FAQs, etc. Hope we see you there next year!

Mardi Gras.

It’s an iconic event that we’ve had on our bucket list for years. Parades, beads, glitter, costumes, dancing - Mardi Gras is one of the biggest parties in the world, and we finally understand the hype.

We just returned from a trip to New Orleans where we got to experience our first Mardi Gras parade, and it was everything we could have dreamed it would be! We had the TIME OF OUR LIVES - and the joy on our faces say it all!

But that being said, navigating the celebrations can be overwhelming. Choosing which parades to attend, knowing what to wear, where to stand… it’s a lot for newbies like us! So here are some tips and tricks that we learned from our first (and definitely not our last!) Mardi Gras:

PLAN YOUR TRIP ACCORDINGLY

We decided to visit New Orleans the last weekend in February, which happened to overlap with the very beginning of the Mardi Gras celebrations. The city was abuzz with preparations and Mardi Gras decor was everywhere, but crowds were minimal and hotels weren’t at capacity. The deeper into Mardi Gras that you get, the more crowded the city becomes and rates for hotel rooms can reach an all-time high. Mardi Gras “season” starts 12 days after Christmas, and then culminates the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. If it works with your schedule, we suggest planning your trip for early in the season, then you can explore a more mellow New Orleans, but still get to join in with the Mardi Gras festivities.  

In terms of hotels, we recommend staying somewhere within walking distance of all the excitement. We stayed at Le Pavillon, a beautiful four star hotel in the Central Business District that is a 5 minute walk to the French Quarter (We’ll share more about our hotel in our next post!). It’s an even shorter walk to St. Charles Avenue, where many of the Mardi Gras parades roll through! We find it crucial to be close to all the action, but then be able to retreat to a cozy, quiet, and relaxing hotel.

KNOW WHICH PARADES YOU WANT TO SEE

Mardi Gras clubs (officially called “Krewes”) put on dozens of parades, and each one has a different theme. There’s “The Krewe of Iris”, which is the oldest all-female krewe, “The Krewe of Chewbacchus”, which is for lovers of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, and “The Mystick Krewe of Barkus”, a parade for pets, and so much more. (Head here to see a full list!)

We saw “The Krewe of Cork” parade, which celebrates food, wine, and a good time - three of our favorite things! The Krewe members wear wine-related costumes, toss necklaces with their cork logo, and are even accompanied by “wine police”, whose motto is “To serve and pour”!

THERE IS NO DRESS CODE

While we highly recommend dressing up for the theme of whatever parade you are attending (something we will definitely do next time), there are no rules when it comes to Mardis Gras! People wear whatever they want, and it makes for some glorious people watching.

Wear comfortable shoes, and if your parade is in the daytime, double check the weather. When we were there it was warm (and humid), so light, loose layers were perfect. Since the timing and weather of Mardi Gras changes year to year, it could chilly and cold, so be prepared! We also suggest stopping by the French Market beforehand, and purchasing some beads to throw around - that’s half the fun! And while we’re on the topic of throwing beads...

MARDI GRAS IS FAMILY FRIENDLY!

That’s right -  there were kids everywhere! Mardi Gras can have an “adults only” reputation, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. At The Krewe of Cork there were all ages, and the little ones were having a blast watching the parade go by. We were incredibly impressed with how family friendly the entire afternoon was - it felt like one big neighborhood block party! (There are a few adult themed parades, most notably the “Krewe de Vieux”, so just be aware of the themes ahead of time - if your kiddos are in tow.)

FIND A BALCONY

Ask any seasoned Mardi Gras attendee, and they’ll say that the best way to view a parade is from above! It’s people watching at its finest, and throwing beads from a balcony is so much fun. We watched The Krewe of Cork from the balcony at Arnaud’s, but we’ve also heard great things about the event space Bourbon Vieux on Bourbon Street. A ticket will get you access to their large wrap-around balcony, gourmet cuisine, and a premium open bar. In our opinion, that is truly the way to go!

Loving the views with our new pals!

Mardi Gras can feel overwhelming for a first timer, but it doesn’t have to. Order a Mint Julep to go from Napoleon House, throw some glitter on your face, and get ready for the biggest, most eclectic block party you’ve ever seen… chances are you’ll want to make it a yearly tradition!

Distilleries, Speakeasys, Historic Hotels... Oh My! Our Guide to Drinking Your Way Around Downtown Louisville

Affectionately called “Bourbon City”, Louisville, Kentucky is home to some of the most unique and innovative distilleries and bars in the US. From modern and stylish tasting rooms, to underground prohibition-style speakeasies, to charming hotel bars that are dripping with history… Louisville’s drinking scene has something for everyone. Here’s a few of our favorites from every category:

DISTILLERIES:

OLD FORESTER

While Old Forester is famous for being America’s first bottled bourbon, their 70,000-square-foot distillery is one of the newest hot spots on Whiskey Row! They just completed a $45 million renovation on their original building, and the result is nothing short of breathtaking. Tickets for the Old Forester Distillery tour are $16/person, and the tour includes and extensive look inside the history and distilling of bourbon, the bottling process, a tasting, and more. More specifically, you’ll learn about George Garvin Brown, a visionary in the world of whiskey who was one of the first to distill a quality bourbon. You’ll also find out how Old Forester was able to keep producing whiskey during prohibition. Their are the only bourbon continuously distilled before, during, and after prohibition. They must know what they’re doing.  (Reservations are recommended, you can do so here.)

MICHTER’S

Founded in 1753, Michter’s is considered to be America’s first whiskey company, and to this day they make some of the finest single barrel and small batch whiskeys on the market. Their distillery is also new to downtown Louisville, as it just opened its doors after an 8-year renovation in January, 2019! Tickets for the Michter’s Distillery Tour are $20/person, and the tour includes an inside look into the whiskey production process, a whiskey tasting, and a cocktail demonstration in their second-floor bar, “The Bar at Fort Nelson”. Our recommendation is that you spend some time sipping on the Sour Mash - it is fantastic!  (Reservations are recommended, you can do so here.)

EVAN WILLIAMS

Having opened Kentucky’s first distillery on the banks of the Ohio River in 1783, Evan Williams has been around for many years and many whiskey barrels. They produce a quality bourbon that is a fantastic introduction for those that aren’t whiskey drinkers. The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience will offer the history of how Louisville was settled and became the bourbon mecca that it is today, knowledgeable guides that will share the process of distilling bourbon, and a whiskey tasting at the end of the tour. The 1 hour tastings are $14/person, and you can make reservations here. Enjoy!

ANGEL’S ENVY

What we love about Angel’s Envy is that they have taken the bourbon tradition and combined it with their expertise to create a phenomenal whiskey. They hand blend small batches and taste every barrel as it ages. What makes them different is that they finish their bourbon in ruby port casks, and their ryes in rum barrels. Angel’s Envy whiskey emerges with a complex aroma, sophisticated taste, and long, lingering finish. Sorry if that was too much, but Angel’s Envy is special. If you would like to visit,  they have tours by reservation only. It’s worth visiting to see their process and taste some of their fine whiskeys. (You can make reservations here)

SPEAKEASYS

PIN & PROOF

A modern speakeasy hidden behind a moving painting is cool on its own… but throw a bowling alley into the mix, and now we’re really talking! Pin & Proof is located in the luxurious Omni Louisville, tucked away behind a modern painting near the Library Bar. From the moment you step inside you feel as though you’ve entered into a dimly-lit labyrinth. Whether or not you decide to bowl, the bar alone is worth a visit. Try their 1881 Old Fashioned!

HELL OR HIGH WATER

If you’ve ever wanted to step inside a time machine, head to Hell or High Water, a speakeasy located underneath Whiskey Row. Accessible through a little curio shop with no signage, it can be easy to miss - so keep a lookout. The interior is designed to feel like a real 1930’s speakeasy, and they did an incredible job. It’s surprisingly spacious, with hidden rooms and an upper level that’s every bit as picturesque as the bar below. Make a reservation in advance, as it does get busy. (You can do so here.)

HISTORIC HOTEL BARS

THE LOBBY BAR

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, The Brown Hotel is famous not only for its glamorous architectural features, but for its iconic Lobby Bar as well! You’ll find classic comfort food like Lobster Mac and Cheese, The Hot Brown, and Derby Pie, and you’ll find handcrafted cocktails and bourbon flights that’ll please anyone’s palette. We suggest trying their Mint Julep, featuring Jim Beam bourbon, simple syrup, and lots of fresh mint. The Lobby Bar has been named One of 150 Best Bars in America for 2019, and it’s easy to see why!

OLD SEELBACH BAR

This restored early 1900’s bar not only has an impressive bourbon collection, but some celebrated craft cocktails too! Located in the famed Seelbach Hilton, The Old Seelbach Bar has been visited by many a famous face over the years - most recently Billy Joel was spotted playing the bar’s piano! Try their popular “Seelbach Cocktail”, made with Old Forester Bourbon, cointreau bitters and sparkling wine!

Looking For Your Next Weekend Escape? Head to Idaho!

It’s prime ski/snowboard season. Your friends are heading to tourist-filled spots like Lake Tahoe and Breckenridge, but you’re looking for something different. Somewhere that’s accessible, but off the beaten path. Somewhere that has great food, stunning views, great skiing, but less crowds. Somewhere that truly feels like an ESCAPE. Well friends, we’ve got the perfect place for you.

Idaho.

More specifically, Boise and McCall. But shh… don’t tell too many people. Here’s why we love it:



IT’S EASY TO GET TO

If you’re based in Southern California (like we are), Boise is a dream to travel to. You can find 3+ daily nonstop flights out of LAX that will have you there in just over two hours. We left at 7:10 am, and we were sitting at our favorite Boise pizza spot for lunch (The Wylder - add it to your list). The ease of getting there gives you more time to explore and enjoy Boise!



BOISE IS UP-AND-COMING

Boise is COOL. Mark our words, this city is on the ups! From a thriving craft brewery scene (Woodland Empire, Cloud 9 Brewery, and Bittercreek Alehouse to name a few), to trendy, innovative restaurants (check out Diablo & Sons Saloon, Fork, and Capitol Cellars), to fun coffee shops (Form & Function was our favorite), lush parks (Camel’s Back Park has panoramic views of the city), historic buildings with stunning architecture (the Boise Train Depot is a MUST), and more! We stayed at the Inn at 500 Capitol, a lovely hotel that has comfortable (and quirky) rooms with a ton of great food options within walking distance. We definitely needed more time in Boise to sample more of the restaurants and breweries… next time!

Woodland Empire has some great beer!

Get the burger at Diablo & Sons. You’re welcome.

Form & Function has some yummy coffee!

Camel’s Back Park looking out over Boise

The view from the Boise Depot. Go to the top of the bell tower!

Inn at 500 Capitol


MCCALL IS A SNOWBIRD’S DREAM

McCall is one of those little mountain towns that we’ll be raving about for awhile. It’s quaint and rural and stunningly beautiful… and it’s an easy 2-hour drive from Boise! Because it’s relatively under the radar, it’s rarely crowded, and they have snowboard/skiing terrain for all ages and skill levels at the nearby Brundage Mountain Resort. If snowshoeing or cross-country skiing is more your style, there are plenty of tree-lined trails around Ponderosa State Park.

Exploring Ponderosa State Park by snowshoe

We had fun :)


YOU CAN SNOWMOBILE TO RUSTIC HOT SPRINGS

We went on a full-day snowmobile excursion with Brundage Mountain Resort that might have been the highlight of our entire trip. We rode snowmobiles for over 80 miles of snow-covered hills and trails. It was breathtaking. We stopped at the rustic Burgdorf Hot Springs, which is only accessible by snowmobiles in the winter months. We soaked, we ate, and we marveled at the views… Words honestly don’t do justice to this incredible place, so we’ll let the pictures do the talking.

In our opinion, it’s worth a trip to Idaho just for this experience.

Here’s Alli pushing the pace. She wants to get to the hot springs!


IT’S INCREDIBLY ROMANTIC

I mean, Burgdorf Hot Springs ALONE is incredibly romantic. Beyond that, the Shore Lodge in McCall is perfect for a couple’s getaway. It sits right on Payette Lake, the rooms are spacious and luxurious, and they’re home to one of the best restaurants in Idaho, The Narrows. We had the dreamiest date night there, sipping on craft cocktails, dining on Double R Prime Beef Wet Aged New York Striploin (melt-in-your-mouth delicious), and ended the night with s’mores by the Shore Lodge’s outdoor bonfire. Does it get any more romantic than that?!

Big, cozy room with a view!

Payette Lake with a winter coat :)

Bobby likes the fireball, while Alli is a slow toaster


IT’S AFFORDABLE

Because McCall isn’t commercialized, it’s significantly more affordable than other popular ski towns. You’ll find lakeview rooms at the Shore Lodge for a fraction of the price of other places. When it comes to dining, restaurants in McCall are reasonably priced and almost all are family owned and operated.

Boise too, is just as reasonable - with hotels, dining, and breweries offering cheap deals and incentives. (Take advantage of it before the word gets out!) You can find nonstop flights to Boise out of LAX for under $200, making the whole trip totally attainable.

We need views like this more often!


So, what are you waiting for?! Idaho is calling! Head to visitidaho.org for more travel inspiration, as the options to explore and adventure are endless in this stunning state. Leave a comment and let us know which part of Idaho we should explore next!

A Pampering "Pupcation" in Newport Beach

These days, a calendar packed with travel is bittersweet. Sweet, because we get to see more of this beautiful world we live in. Bitter, because it (usually) means we’re away from our pup. She’s our baby. Our “firstborn”. When we’re home, we take her everywhere, and when we’re gone, we spend hours scrolling through photos and videos of her on our phones. Yes, we know we’re obsessed.

We jump at any chance we get to bring Sally with us on our adventures, and we’ve gone as far as taking her to Canada and back with us. She LOVES traveling, and we love seeing the world through her cute little eyes. We’re hoping 2019 brings more Sally-friendly adventures - and it’s already off to a great start!

Since we’re mentally (and emotionally) preparing ourselves for a month without Sally, we decided the best thing to do is take her on a little “staycation”. Somewhere luxurious and dog friendly, somewhere all three of us can be pampered, and somewhere close to all of Sally’s favorites spots (the dog park, the beach, and Sprinkles cupcakes - pupcakes, hello!)... The Fashion Island Hotel!

Checking in at the Fashion Island Hotel

Nestled in the heart of Newport Beach, across the street from the iconic Fashion Island Shopping Center, is the Fashion Island Hotel. The decor is coastal-modern, it’s chic and elegant without feeling stuffy, and everyone that works there couldn’t be friendlier. From the moment we checked our car in with the valet, we knew we were staying someplace special. Sally was warmly welcomed by everyone - even the guests! And our ROOM. Let’s talk about our room.

We stayed in a Coastal View Corner Suite, which features a spacious living room, seperate bedroom, a furnished private patio, and a roomy marble bathroom. Plenty of space for all three of us, and an ocean view too! The neutral, beachy tones were warm and inviting, and the Fashion Island staff greeted us with one of the best cheese plates we’ve had in awhile. Did we just check into heaven?!

We spent the rest of our day enjoying the amenities of the hotel (a stylish pool area, a well appointed fitness room, the lavish Island Club Lounge), and took Sally for a walk around the Fashion Island shopping center. We ended the night with dinner at the Fashion Island Hotel’s on-site restaurant, Oak Grill. Their menu consists of fresh, local ingredients coupled with one of the most extensive wine lists in the area - they have over 50 wines by the glass! Those of you that are local, this is a great date night spot. Bobby had their signature Prime Rib Eye, and Alli had the Roasted Chilean Sea Bass, and both were spectacular. (Don’t worry - we gave the leftovers to Sally!)

Sally is always the first to claim the bed

Welcome treats!

Sally loves the Koi fish at Fashion Island

Cheers to sunsets from the Island Club Lounge!

Sunset views from the Island Club Lounge

Fashion Island views from the Island Club Lounge

Quinoa Garden Salad at Oak Grill

We woke up to the glorious Newport Beach sunrise… and what a sight it was! We’re pretty sure even Sally was in awe! We took our time getting up, took Sally on a leisurely walk around the property, and then made our way up to the 20th floor for breakfast at the Island Club Lounge*.

Honestly, we’re not sure what we loved more - the breakfast or the views! We stayed up there for several hours, taking advantage of the quiet work space and endless cups of coffee. When we got back to the room, we found Sally sleeping in our bed, and we couldn’t help but laugh. She appreciates a big, plush, hotel bed just as much as we do!

The Island Club Lounge comes with a great breakfast and these views!

This quick little trip away was exactly what all three of us needed. Everything about it was relaxing and easy, and we can’t wait to do it again. Maybe for Valentines Day? ;) The Fashion Island Hotel is running a special “Suite Love Package”, where guests can stay in a suite, enjoy $100 credit to Oak Grill, and a bottle of bubbly. Sounds like the perfect Valentine's Day getaway, don’t you think?

*When booking a room at The Fashion Island Hotel, you have the option to pay an extra fee for access to the Island Club - and we highly recommend it. There are so many perks and ammenities included - like continental breakfast, a nightly wine hour, snacks, soft drinks and coffee all day, nightly turndown service, and more. Learn more here.

A Festive, Pup-Friendly Staycation in Surf City USA

Last week we spent a few days (a “staycation”, if you will) in a wintery, Christmas-y beach side town we love... Huntington Beach! Okay, so maybe it’s not thattt wintery, but it’s definitely a festive spot during the holiday season. Huntington Beach is a short 15 minute drive from our home, and a perfect destination to escape for a weekend and soak in the relaxing surf vibes. Staycations are our hassle-free way to appease that travel itch - and if you forget your toothbrush you can always go home!

Anyway - let’s talk about Huntington Beach. This surfer’s paradise has been termed “Surf City USA” and it’s easy to see why. The pristine, white, sandy beaches, the iconic lifeguard towers, the picture-perfect pier (complete with a bustling Ruby’s Diner).. it’s all like something out of a surf movie. The activities are endless, and with hip restaurants popping up left and right, it's quickly becoming a foodie's destination. It’s about as California as you can get - and we love it for that. We were there in mid-December, so an added bonus was all the holiday decor and sparkling lights around town. It was magical!

We stayed at the Shorebreak Resort, a Kimpton property just steps from the water. We partially chose it because of its proximity to the beach, and partially because of just how dog friendly and accommodating they are (there's no additional pet fee - insert praise hands). In typical Kimpton fashion, every need is met - even extra doggy items such as dog bowls, toys, beds, and more. Sally even made their VIP board!

For us humans (haha), they do an insane job of making your experience as special and memorable as possible. The Shorebreak has a nightly wine hour, complimentary s’mores (yes please!), bicycles to ride around town, even hot coffee and cold pizza (a true surfer’s breakfast) in the morning! You better believe Bobby had pizza for breakfast every. single. day. We also tried their on-site restaurant, Pacific Hideaway for dinner... and their Latin/Asian influenced cuisine blew us away! (Make sure you try the Samurai Old Fashioned and the Tea Pot Pork!) The real highlight of our stay was the picture-perfect view from our balcony. If it wasn't for all the things to do, see, and eat we might not have left! 

Nightly s’mores? Yes please!

Being on a "staycation" gave us the excuse to try some of the hot Huntington Beach restaurants we’d been hearing so much about! Tanner's (located at the Pasea hotel) has a stunning outdoor patio that has an ocean view and welcomes pups. And the FOOD! Alli likes to say that you can judge a restaurant based on how good their salmon is - and Tanner's has one of the best salmon entree's we've ever had. This just might be our new date spot. Located right on the beach is Sandy's Beach Shack, a fun and festive restaurant for lunch and dinner. Prices are affordable, the food is great, and they even have a dog menu! Order a Mai Tai and some fish tacos, and you'll feel as though you're in Hawaii! Milk and Honey is a fun little coffee shop just a short walk from The Shorebreak. They have light and healthy breakfast options, their coffee menu is extensive, and their grassy patio was a hit with Sally. Another great breakfast option is the pup-themed Sit Stay Cafe, with made-to-order coffee and bagels. You can even bring a framed picture of your dog to hang on their (very) full doggie-lined walls! We'll be back shortly with a photo of Sally. ;)

Sally trying to get a bite of Bobby’s burger at Tanner’s :)

Yummy dinner at Sandy’s

Sally begging for a bite of bagel at Sit Stay Cafe

It can sometimes be challenging to find things to do with Sally when we're on the road. Not the case here! We took her to the Huntington Beach Dog Beach daily, aka her favorite place in the world. She could dig, swim, and frolic around leash-free... and the look on her face says it all! The Pasea Hotel has a brand new dog park called PawSea, where she had the chance to run around and play with other pups, and we got a kick out of all the quirky little features. On Tuesday nights they have the Surf City Night's Weekly Street Fair, with live music, vendors, snacks, and more... and a good portion of it is dog-friendly! 

Lifeguard on duty at Paw-Sea :)

Our staycation may have only been for two days, but we packed a lot in, and we truly felt like we'd gone away. Bobby had a chance to surf (while Alli watched from our balcony), Sally got to play on the sand, and Alli got her foodie-fix. It was perfect. Whether you're a So Cal local like us, or in the market for a California getaway, we highly recommend a trip to Huntington Beach. We'll meet you for drinks at the Shorebreak. 

See our Huntington Beach guide HERE.