Salem, MA is more commonly known for its witch trials, landmarks and its rich history. It's safe to say not many people venture out of Boston to visit this part of the North Shore, outside the month of October. Since I recently moved to the area, I was so happy to discover this small city has so much more to offer other than ghost tours. Restaurants, museums and craft breweries, Salem has quickly become one of my favorite areas to explore.
After discovering the Peabody Essex Museum and their current Playtime exhibit (via Instagram, of course) I set off on a Sunday afternoon to experience the room filled with pink balloons for myself.
After waiting in line for about 15 minutes, we walked into the room for the allotted 90 seconds. The pure joy of being in a room filled with pink balloons immediately brought me back to childhood. The static, the smiles, the overabundance of happiness, was more than worth the wait.
The Playtime exhibit also features over 40 works by seventeen leading contemporary artists. Don't miss your chance to experience it, as the exhibit is only around until May 6, 2018.
The beautiful glass atrium and cafe courtyard is the perfect spot to "Take a Break" and grab a snack. Don't forget to look up!
Next, we headed towards the "All Flowers For Me" exhibit. This yellow painted room will take your breath away.
A laser-cut cube is suspended from the ceiling and illuminated by a single light bulb. The shadows cast all over the walls, floors and ceilings. Incredible.
Finally, be sure to stop by "XYZT: A Journey in 4 Dimensions". This immersive exhibit contains 10 interactive virtual art pieces using math and physics models. In the dark gallery, you'll quickly notice many of the pieces respond to specific movements, like walking or waving your arms.
Be sure to check out the PEM website before your visit, and if you're a student, don't forget your I.D., as you can receive a discount. While you're in the area, be sure to stop by the Ledger Restaurant & Bar. Not only are the drinks and food amazing, the ambiance inside this 200 year old bank is pretty awesome.
Snow or sand, a beach staycation on Plum Island was the perfect way to spend a weekend in January. I was determined to embrace the cabin fever and the below freezing temperatures this season. Lucky for us, the weekend we visited Plum Island, was beautiful and around 50 degrees. A rare occasion in the midst of winter.
Located about an hour north of Boston, we headed to Plum Island to check into our staycation at the Blue - Inn on the Beach.
We were greeted at the front desk with deliciously baked cookies, what more could you ask for?!
Our beautiful room overlooked the beach and ocean. The water was so calm and peaceful. The beach was empty with a few locals walking their dogs along the shore. It was so relaxing standing on the patio and just taking it all in.
We set off to explore the Island in search of dinner and drinks. We walked along Southern Boulevard and admired all of the beautiful, quaint homes in the area. Many of the homes had adorable names, door knockers and decorations. They sure were a "Day Dream".
We stopped into the Plum Island Beachcoma for happy hour. The people were friendly, the service was great and the sangria was delicious! If you are in the area, definitely stop by and grab a drink! We didn't end up getting food here, but a plate of nachos passed by and they made me take a second look! Yum!
We woke up the next day, refreshed and excited to explore the Island further. The sound of the waves crashing on the shore was the most peaceful, calming way I could ever imagine starting my morning. To top it off, a lovely breakfast basket arrived at our door stop. Fresh, hot coffee, juice, yogurt and pastries, it was the perfect touch.
I spent much of the morning on the patio, coffee in hand, taking in the scenery. The weather was so nice, the sun was shinning, it was such a pleasant surprise. Little did I know, there was another surprise in store (more to come)...
Dreading check-out, we regretfully packed up and headed towards the front desk. My boyfriend suggested we leave our belongings and come back for them, so we can go walk on the beach and enjoy the weather. I happily agreed.
Sunshine, a light breeze and the man that I love by my side, we walked up and down the shore several times. Before I knew it, I turned around to find Kevin down on one knee and proposing.
On a recent trip to San Antonio, we found ourselves with a few extra hours in the city before our flight. To my surprise, I was so excited to discover that the San Antonio Zoo offered a Giraffe Encounter that brings you up close and personal with the beautiful animals.
We lined up for the first feeding at 12:30pm, and happily handed over $7 for 3 lettuce leaves to give to the giraffes. It was incredible. The giraffes were so beautiful up close. Calm and eager to eat, we were warned to watch our hair as the giraffes often confuse it for food! After feeding them the lettuce and posing for a photo, we continued our adventure around the zoo.
If you find yourself in the San Antonio area, this experience is not to be missed!
Our final day in Iceland we headed towards Jökulsárlón in South Iceland. This large glacial lake is filled with icebergs, beautiful blue water and hundreds of seals. We spotted a few during our visit and they were adorable!
A short walk from Jökulsárlón, you'll find Diamond Beach. The beach is covered with massive blocks of ice. The ice-chunks take on so many forms and colors, ranging from transparent, to white, to the most amazing blue color. It's surely not like the standard beaches we are use to in the States or anywhere else in the world. Black sand, crashing waves, and large ice chunks, theres truly nothing else like it.
The black sand is so unique, it was created by lava flowing into the ocean which cooled almost instantly as it touched the water.
Heading back towards Reykjavik, we noticed these beautiful fields of lupine flowers. They were everywhere, we just had to pull over on the side of the road and take in these incredible views. For a moment, I felt like I was on set of The Sound of Music.
Next, we visited Skaftafell National Park. We took a short hike up to get some incredible views of the glaciers. I stayed put (and away from the edge) while the boys were more adventurous and hiked up further. My heart was definitely racing watching them get so close to the edge.
Next, we took our longest hike yet (about 2 hours) to visit Svartifoss, also knows as "Black Falls". It was the most unique waterfall I've ever seen. The black columnar basalt formations beautifully frame the waterfall. You can hike down and get up close and personal with the water.
Our final stop was in Vik. Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach was amazing, with its black sand, basalt columns (that you can climb) lava formations, and caves. At this point, it was well into the night, about 2:00am, so we were very lucky to have it all to ourselves. It was chilly, drizzling rain and absolutely incredible.
Iceland, you've been incredible! Until next time!
We began day two in Iceland by kicking off our tour of The Golden Circle. First stop: Pingvellir National Park. Surrounded by beautiful, vast land, this National Park has several small waterfalls, hiking trails and stunning views. Any Game Of Thrones fan (like me) will be so excited to walk through this attraction. This location has been used in several scenes of the HBO series.
We continued our tour with a hike to Bruarfoss "Blue Gem". It is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland, with hundreds of tiny waterfalls falling into a large blue pool. It is off the beaten path, and therefore was very quiet when we arrived. I highly suggest not attempting to drive to this location without rental car insurance and a larger vehicle like an SUV. Reason is, you have to drive through a small, gravel road to reach the (few) parking spots. Just when you think you're lost and want to turn around, you're there! The hike is short, unpaved, and slightly confusing, but very worth it once you reach the falls.
Next, we headed towards the Geysir Hot Spring Area. Parking is free and despite being a popular tourist location, there were plenty of parking spots. With a stop in their Geysir Center for coffee, we continued to check out the the boiling mud pits, exploding geysers and the lively Strokkur which spouts water every 10-12 minutes.
In Iceland, horses are everywhere. And its wonderful. While driving through The Golden Circle we enjoyed views of mountains, waterfalls and herds of horses running alongside the road. The photo below of the black horse was taken out of the car window. It was incredible. Not only are Icelandic horses absolutely beautiful, they are so gentle and friendly. But of course, please use your discretion and approach with caution.
After a long day of hiking and site seeing, we were so excited to make a stop at this secluded hot spring. To our surprise, even at midnight we ran into locals who were taking advantage of this hidden gem. You can find this hot spring on the outskirts of Flúðir.
We ended our day with a beautiful (somewhat) sunset at 2:00am from Seljalandsfoss. It is one of the most well known waterfalls in Iceland and conveniently located right off of the main road. You are able to hike behind the waterfall, so be prepared to wear rain boots/coat, the mist does get pretty intense as you hike up.
Next stop: Vik and South Iceland!
Iceland has been a dream vacation on mine for quite some time now. I was so excited to head north this past June and explore the land of fire and ice. We hopped on a quick 5 hour red eye from Boston and arrived early morning Iceland time. After picking up our rental car, we headed straight to the Blue Lagoon.
Our visit was so calm and relaxing. It was the perfect way to unwind after traveling. I think its safe to say that this attraction is on most peoples bucket list. We purchased tickets in advance (highly recommended) for the opening time (8:00AM). When we got there, it felt as if we had the lagoon to ourselves. We put mud on our faces, enjoyed some Icelandic beers from the in-water bar, and floated around the beautiful blue water for hours. By the time we left in the afternoon, there were several lines and lots of people getting into the water, big difference from the morning.
We continued our action-packed day by heading into the city. Reykjavik was so charming with its colorful homes and street art. By this point, we worked up quite the appetite so we headed straight for Iceland's most renowned food item...the hot dog.
Next, we headed towards the water and browsed Harpa Concert Hall. The geometric shaped glass panels are inspired by the basalt landscape of Iceland. The Hall is open to the public and free to walk around in.
The jet lag started to sink in, so we went out in search for a coffee shop. Little did we know that we would stumble upon the most delicious bakery. Braud & Co had the most phenomenal cinnamon rolls we've ever tasted. The smell of freshly baked bread will draw you into the small bakery from blocks away. This place is must when in Reykjavik.
Next, we headed towards Hallgrimskirkja Church. A Lutheran church in Reykjavik and one of the tallest buildings in the country of Iceland. As you can imagine, the views from the top were incredible.
Next stop: The Golden Circle!
Portland, Maine is the perfect weekend getaway and a seafood lovers paradise. The city has gained much recognition in the past few years-- and with good reason. The food scene here is incredible, whether lobster rolls are your thing, or not, Portland has some of the best restaurants on the East Coast.
We began our morning with a stop at The Holy Donut. I heard a lot of hype about this place before our visit, and let me tell ya, the hype is real. Don't be fooled by the potato flour, the donuts are delicious and taste nothing like the spuds you would expect. We tried the coconut (my fav), triple berry, coffee brandy, pomegranate, dark chocolate, and the "mom-isa" (it was Mother's Day weekend).
We spent the afternoon wandering on Commercial Street all the way to Fort Allen Park. From the top, we enjoyed the views of the waterfront and took in the sights.
After a busy afternoon walking around the city, we built up quite the appetite and headed to the highly talked about Duckfat. As expected, there was about a 30-40 minute wait, so we walked next door to East Ender for a drink. The upstairs lounge had a great ambiance and the prosecco was refreshing. Definitely stop by during your wait!
After much anticipation, we ordered the large duckfat fries with truffle ketchup and garlic aioli. We also ordered a caprese panini and split between the two of us. The fries were crispy and delicious. Everything I could have hoped for and more. No trip to Portland is complete without a visit here. Don't let the wait discourage you, it's definitely worth it.
Portland has quite the thriving beer scene. The city earned the top spot by having the most per-capita breweries and bars. We headed to Shipyard Brewing and enjoyed our beer flights complete with tea infused brews. They have quite the selection to choose from and taste. We missed the tour, but they also offer those, as well.
We ended our action packed day with dinner at Scales Restaurant. It's a great, open space with high ceilings and beautiful views of the waterfront. He got the steak, I got the halibut, and we both ended the night with full, happy, tummies.
And if you have time, head over to Beals Ice Cream. They have an abundance of ice cream flavors (I recommend the black raspberry).
Until next time, Portland!
One of my absolute favorite things about living in New England is the ability to pick up and drive to another state in under an hour. After a long, cold winter I was anxious to head to Rhode Island for the day to enjoy the beautiful spring weather.
We started our day with a stop in Providence at Knead Doughnuts. Their donuts are enormous, fluffy, filling and delicious. We got the raspberry fritter (my fav) brown butter pecan, blackberry and espresso bean.
If you live in New England, chances are this magical little farm was popping up all over your Instagram feed this past Spring. No need to travel to Holland, when you can experience these beautiful tulip fields stateside.
Tickets sell out fast, and the fields are only open for about a month (mid April to May), pending weather. Definitely be sure to purchase tickets ahead of time and double check the website and "Bloom Report" before you head out there. Before you enter the fields, you will be given a short explanation of how to pick and care for the tulips.
This place is breathtakingly beautiful. I'm already looking forward to visiting again next year and making this an annual tradition!
You might have heard about Tampa's infamous Gasparilla Pirate Invasion and Parade, but this hometown of mine, has so much more to offer. Tampa Bay is home to several top rated beaches and restaurants. After I moved to Boston in 2013, some of my favorite go-to spots popped up around the Tampa Bay area. Luckily, with family still in the area, I get the opportunity to visit a few times a year.
If it wasn't for the crazy humidity, hurricanes and ruthless mosquito's, Oxford Exchange might be my reason to move back to Florida (sorry mom)! It's a restaurant, coffee bar, gift shop, and book store. Upstairs, you can rent desk space and work in the "library". One look, and you'll be asking yourself "When can I move in"?!
No trip home is complete without a visit to Sungroves for the orange swirl. Theres nothing like it, made from fresh, Florida grown orange juice, it's the perfect treat after a day at the beach.
For great water views and a fun atmosphere, head to downtown St. Pete. The Canopy Rooftop Lounge is perched atop The Birchwood hotel in the heart of downtown St. Pete. You can find great drinks, private cabanas, fire pits and phenomenal views of the waterfront.
Bandit Coffee Co., has some of the best coffee in Tampa Bay. This multi-roaster coffee shop has a simple and relax atmosphere and great coffee to keep you coming back.
Come by boat or car, The Getaway Tampa Bay is the perfect place for a tropical cocktail. This relaxed, waterfront tiki bar is one of my favorites. Theres a great selection of drinks and food trucks on certain days. You can sit on the docks and watch the boats and paddle boarders go by.
And finally, enjoy some live music and entertainment while watching the beautiful sunset on St. Pete Beach. Bongos Beach Bar is a fun and casual beachside bar located in the Grand Plaza Hotel.
Until next time, Tampa!