Weekenders

Looking For an Adventure? Check Out The Smokies Summer Giveaway!

What are your summer plans? Y'all know how we love a good road trip. The only thing that would elevate the trips we've been taking in our little Toyota Rav4 would be if we could hop in an RV. How much would Sally love that?!?

With that in mind, we recently learned that RVshare is doing an incredible giveaway, with a four-day, three-night trip to the Great Smoky Mountains. You can enter the giveaway here!

We drove through he Great Smoky Mountains last month, and were obsessed with the endless forests and panoramic views. The Great Smoky Mountains encompass over 187,000 acres of forest spread across 2 states. What you probably didn't know is that it is the most popular national park in the USA, ahead of the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Yosemite. Have you been? Hopefully you're starting to realize that you're missing out. 

For the giveaway, the grand prize winner will receive a free RV rental, a free campground stay, and a $1000 cash prize. To enter, you must live in the US, you must be over the age of 25, and you should probably love the RV lifestyle. The winner will be selected at random, and you can increase your entries by doing the following:

  • refer friend to enter by sharing the link with them

  • follow RVshare on social media

  • retweet the giveaway on Twitter

  • answer RVshare's bucket list question

  • and more!

You can enter to win the Smokies Summer Giveaway anytime between June 3rd, 2019 and July 1st, 2019, which gives you only two weeks to get as many bonus entries as you can – so act fast! We can’t wait to find out who wins and to share the thrill that RVing gives millions of families every year. Thanks for playing and good luck!

Nothing better than exploring National Parks!

Nothing better than exploring National Parks!

Road Tripping This Summer? Stop in Dubuque!

One of our favorite parts about roadtripping is the quaint small towns we stumble upon. Towns that take us by surprise, towns that have character and charm, towns that easily fall under the radar... We get almost giddy when we discover a new “hidden gem” of a spot - because we get to share it with you! That’s what we love about this big, beautiful country that we live in… there is still so much to discover.

Most recently we happened upon one of those places, Dubuque, Iowa.

Don’t let the fact that it’s Iowa’s oldest city sway you into thinking Dubuque is outdated - it’s an epic fusion of old and new, with plenty of activities, award-winning restaurants, breathtaking sites, and a revitalizing downtown. If you’re planning a roadtrip this summer (or any time of the year), make sure you spend at least a few days in Dubuque. Here’s why:

IT’S WHERE IOWA STARTED

Like we said, Dubuque is Iowa’s oldest city, and dates back to 1833 - 13 years before the state of Iowa even existed! French-Canadian fur trader Julien Dubuque first settled in the area and befriended the Mesquakie Tribe, and the rest is (literally) history!

Known as the “Gateway to the West”, Dubuque sits along the Mississippi River, and borders Illinois and Wisconsin. We think it’s pretty rad that when you’re standing in Dubuque, you can actually see all three states!

We were obsessed with the architecture!

Love these buildings!

IT’S  AN OUTDOOR LOVERS DREAM

From picking apples in the fall, to hitting the slopes in the winter, to hiking to the Mines of Spain in the springtime, Dubuque is an outdoor lovers dream, no matter the time of year.

Summertime however, is an exceptional time to pass through, as you’ll find locals and visitors alike soaking in the sunshine - whether they’re on a pontoon in the Mississippi River or enjoying a glass of wine by the waterfront! If you’re a hiker, Dubuque has numerous picturesque trails to explore, and if you’re an adventure-seeker, their zipline is a must! There’s also kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, road biking, camping, and so much more.

IT’S A FOODIE CITY

It may sound weird, but we’d roadtrip back to Dubuque just for the restaurants! This bustling city is home to some of the best restaurants in the Midwest, each one with a unique and distinctly ‘Dubuque’ style.

Brazen Open Kitchen serves farm fresh food that is literally from local farms, and their ever-changing menu is always fresh and always a crowd-pleaser.

For an elevated and authentic Thai food experience, Pete’s Thai Kitchen dishes up family recipes that were passed down from generation to generation, in a playful and contemporary setting. Don’t miss the Pad Thai!

Located in the Historic Millworks District, 7 Hills Brewing is a modern brewpub that specializes in craft beer, craft cocktails, and mouth-watering comfort food. Their happy hour is one of the best in town!

Stone Cliff Winery sits along the Mississippi River, and is the perfect spot to enjoy a leisurely lunch on a warm, summer day. This family owned and operated winery is not only known for their award-winning wine, but for their extensive (and delicious) lunch menu, too!

Catch the sunset at Smokestack Dubuque, a rooftop venue with unparalleled views of the Dubuque skyline! Pull up a chair, make some friends, and you’re bound to fall more in love with this lively and captivating city.

Afternoon drinks at 7 Hills Brewing

Brazen Kitchen had amazing cocktails too!

Pete’s Thai made us feel like we were in Southeast Asia!

Stone Cliff Winery is located in the old Dubuque Star Brewery building

Drinks and snacks at Stone Cliff Winery. Sally is thinking the snacks are for her…

Brazen Kitchen creations :)

IT’S ICONIC

One of Dubuque’s most well-known attractions is the famous Fenelon Place Elevator. Not only are the views extraordinary, but the historic elevator is the shortest and steepest scenic railway in the world! You’ll see panoramic views of the Historic Downtown, the Mississippi River, and three states! (Do you remember which three?) Plus, the elevator is dog friendly!! Which leads us to our last point...

About to head up the Fenelon Place Elevator

IT’S DOG FRIENDLY

Our Bernedoodle Sally loved exploring Dubuque, and the city really is set up well for pets. We stayed at the brand new ? that was walking distance to just about everything, even the Fenelon Place Elevator! We took Sally to the adorable River Lights Bookstore, where they not only welcome dogs inside - but they give them treats, too!

We had a blast walking along the Mississippi River Walk with Sally, and she was permitted to join us while we enjoyed a light lunch at the nearby Stone Cliff Winery.

Our last night in Dubuque we went for an early evening hike with Sally around The Mines of Spain, which ended up being one of the highlights of our trip. (If Sally could talk, she would agree!) And pizza at Magoo’s is a must - and their outdoor patio allows pets!

Sally LOVED the Mississippi River Walk

Story time at River Lights Bookstore

Delicious pizza at Magoo’s

While we’re only beginning to scratch the surface on all that Dubuque has to offer, we hope this sparks the desire to add it to your summer roadtrip! Not only is it breathtakingly beautiful, but it’s packed with adventure - and tasty treats. ;) If you do head to Dubuque, make sure you let us know where you went and what you did! See you on the road!



THROWBACK THURSDAY :: Take Us Back To Carmel, CA!

There are certain places that we crave.

Yep, that’s right. Just like we crave a good In-N-Out burger after a long trip, we crave the return to some of our favorite tried-and-true spots. The places that we know like the back of our hand, the places where we can truly relax. One such spot, Carmel-By-The-Sea, is at the top of that list. Not only did we “mini-moon” in Carmel, but we’ve made it a point to return yearly - even with our pup in tow!

The beach at Carmel is one of Sally’s absolute favorites!

So in real #TBT fashion, we thought we’d share exactly why we love Carmel-By-The-Sea, and where we stay, where we eat, and what we do if we were there right now. Because if we can’t be there today, we might as well reminisce...

STAY:

LA PLAYA: This charming, historic hotel is where we stayed when we were on our “mini-moon”, and we keep coming back. Maybe it’s the central location (blocks from the beach and blocks from the town), maybe it’s the cozy lobby and spacious rooms, or maybe it’s the champagne breakfast every morning… Regardless, it’s a gem of a spot. And remarkably enough, it seems to get better with age.

HOTEL CARMEL: New on the Carmel “boutique hotel” scene, this snug and homey  hotel has quickly become a favorite of ours. The rooms have fireplaces, there’s a nightly wine reception, the fire pit is warm and inviting, and nothing beats breakfast in their cheerful little lobby. Plus, they’re dog friendly - which is always a big plus for us!

We Mini-mooned here… and try to come back every year

Love waking up to this view at La Playa

Sally approves

More La Playa room views

The breakfast at La Playa is everything

Could Hotel Carmel be any cozier?

Fireplaces inside and out…

Cozy porches for your morning coffee

EAT:

LA BALENA: We came here on our honeymoon, and ever since then we’ve been obsessed! Delicious homemade Italian food in a hidden courtyard, it’s delightfully tucked away from other touristy options in Carmel.

LA BICYCLETTE: In our opinion, you can’t go to Carmel without dining at La Bicyclette. It’s simply a must. From their made-to-order pizzas to their homemade pasta, everything is fresh and full of flavor. The ambiance is intimate and romantic, and there’s no doubt that you’ll feel as though you’ve been transported to Paris.

You can’t go wrong at La Balena

DRINK:

GRASINGS BAR: This is another spot that we first went to on our honeymoon, and have made it a point to stop here ever since! Their cocktails are second to none, and their charcuterie board is out of this world!!! But try to get here early - this quaint Carmel-by-the-Sea bar does have a tendency to fill up quick!

THE INN AT SPANISH BAY: Located on the iconic 17 Mile Drive, the Inn At Spanish Bay is well-known for their stunning ocean front views, and their nightly visit from a bagpiper! Grab a drink at STICKS, their outdoor bar, and wait for the sun to set… Before you know it you’ll start to hear the majestic sounds of a bagpiper. It’s quite the experience - and something we look forward to everytime we visit Carmel!

Grasing’s is magical!

Always bustling inside Grasing’s

Yummy appetizers at Grasing’s before dinner

Cocktails and a sunset… best end to the day at the Inn at Spanish Bay

Epic sunsets and Scottish tunes at the Inn at Spanish Bay

DO:

THE 17 MILE DRIVE: One of our favorite drives in the world (along with Highway 1) is the 17 Mile Drive… It’s full of captivating landscapes, jaw-dropping ocean views, and award-winning golf courses - so what’s not to love?! We recommend starting the drive in the afternoon and catching the sunset at The Inn at Spanish Bay (see above)!

BEACH IT UP! Pop by The Cheese Shop (a legendary little shop chalk-full of mouth-watering cheeses, wines, crackers and more), grab what you want for a picnic, and head to the beach. If you have your pup with you (like we often do), let them play off-leash while you enjoy your snacks and the cool, ocean breeze. It’s heavenly. Now we’ll mentally be there the rest of the day… ;)

One of our favorite spots on the 17 Mile Drive (you may need a helicopter to see this)

We all love the beach here :)

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!