A weekend in Nashville, TN

Nashville, nicknamed “Music City,” as the birthplace of country music, gave rise to such stars as Taylor Swift and Billy Ray Cyrus. With its southern charm and famous music scene, Nashville has become a tourist destination and not only for country music fans. The city has blown up for group destination travel celebrating milestone birthdays, bachelor(ette) parties, and getaway weekends. Tourists are drawn to Lower Broadway, which offers much in the way of night life and Music Row, the historic district which is at the epicenter of Nashville’s burgeoning entertainment industry (recording studios, radio stations, etc).  Many bars cater to honky tonk, country and karaoke. Don’t be surprised to hear record-label worthy singers at karaoke bars.  And for those looking for debauchery, don’t worry, you will also hear late-night cringe-worthy singing from the plentiful bachelorette parties. Here is a weekend itinerary for a fun, music-filled group destination. Please note: this can be tweaked for couples travelling too.

Friday:

Get settled into your accommodation. Get into the spirit by trying a pulled pork sandwich at Peg Leg Porter BBQ (903 Gleaves St).

Saturday:

Start your morning with BlueGrass Brunch at The Sutler Saloon (2600 8th Ave S). Stroll around and browse 8th Ave and nearby 12th Ave. Draper James, Reese Witherspoon’s shop, is on 12th st which I would recommend that you check out while you are in the area! If you need an pick-me-up, I love Frothy Monkey’s coffee on 12th St. 

In Nashville, even the bike racks have musical meaning.

After brunch, head downtown for a walking tour of the city. You will enjoy Nashville’s rich history and pop culture. I, like many others, went for a bachelorette party. We loved taking a private line dancing lesson, and it included a routine and a video for the future bride. 

Kick off your live music-filled evening with dinner at Acme Feed and Seed (101 Broadway). Unfortunately, Ame, like a lot of downtown establishments, doesn’t take reservations.  However, Acme has great food and a gorgeous rooftop bar, where you can hang out until your table is ready. After dinner, tear up Broadway! There are a number of fun bars in which to celebrate, including The Stage, Honky Tonk Central, Tootsie Orchard, Robert’s Western World, and Paradise Park, as well as the karaoke bars: Santa’s Pub and Ms. Kellis. 

Sunday:

Start your morning off at Centennial Park, which has its own Parthenon, a full scale replica of the one in Athens. Grab a coffee and some breakfast and go for a walk around the Vanderbilt Campus. 

Cheers to a great music-filled weekend in Nashville! 

A weekend in Chicago, IL

Chicago, the “Jewel of the Midwest,” known for its deep-dish pizza, jazz music, architecture, and …notorious mobsters. Chicago is the third largest city in the United States. Unlike New York and Los Angeles, you can get a good feel for the city during a weekend getaway. Sometimes called The Windy City (lore says its for its politicians as well as its weather), the city’s entire east side is bordered by Lake Michigan and offers miles of waterfront walking. 

Friday:

Get settled into your accommodations and then head out to dinner at Giordano’s for some famous deep-dish pizza. They have many locations, so look up which is closest to your hotel or evening plans. Gino’s East and Lou Malnati are also local favorites for deep-dish.  Save room for pizza dessert! 

After dinner, I recommend heading to The Green Mill Cocktail Lounge (4802 N Broadway, Chicago, IL 60640) for a live jazz performance. This uptown lounge was notorious Chicago gangster Al Capone’s old stomping ground.

Saturday:  “The Loop”

The view of Millennium Park from Cindy’s

Start your morning with the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s river cruise (you can start at either of two locations, I recommend starting at 401 N Michigan Ave). This is a cool and enjoyable way to see the city. The river tour guides provide a nutshell of the city’s history in addition to the city’s famous architectural sites. The price is roughly $45, and tours begin every 20 minutes. 

After the tour, walk over to Millenium Park to see the much-photographed “Bean.”  Millennium Park is located in the heart of the city, and is bordered by many cultural and art institutions. Check out the Tiffany Glass dome in the landmarked Chicago Cultural Center (78 E Washington St.), which was built in 1897 and is open to the public at no charge.  Also nearby is the former Marshall Fields Flagship store, which is now a Macy’s (111 N State St). Get a snack and enjoy spectacular views over Millenium Park at Cindy’s (12 S Michigan Ave), located on the 13th floor of the 1893 Chicago Athletic Association Hotel. 

Head up to the Old Town/Goldrush neighborhood to catch a 4:00 pm comedy show at The Second City (1616 N Wells St.), which has launched the careers of many celebrity comedians such as Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, and Bill Murray. After the show, get a happy hour drink and peruse the exquisite furniture offerings at Restoration Hardware, now known as RH (1300 N. Dearborn St.) which is located in an old arts club. 

Get some dinner in the Lakeview East neighborhood. Both N. Halsted St and N. Clark St offer a number of great dinner and debauchery locations. N. Halsted is the main strip in Boystown, the historical LGBTQ neighborhood, while N. Clark St, in the Lakeview neighborhood, is geared more towards a younger crowd and Cubs baseball overflow, since it runs south of Wrigley Stadium. 

Sunday: Evanston, IL

Baha’i House of Worship in Wilmette, IL, one hour north of Chicago.

Start your morning by taking the metrorail to Evanston. Get a coffee and pastry from Hewn Bakery (1733 Central St, Evanston, IL). Spend an hour touring downtown, which has many interesting galleries, small businesses, and museums. Walk over to Northwestern University’s campus, and don’t and forget to check out the waterfront views in the Lakefill section of the campus. After Northwestern, get a two-mile ride to the architectural gem that is Baha’i House of Worship (100 Linden Ave, Wilmette, IL 60091). You can ogle the lace-style details for hours!

For those who do not want to make the roughly one-hour train ride to Evanston, the neighborhood of Ravenswood in Chicago is quaint and offers much to do. It has an old fashioned apothecary. Each fall, Ravenswood sponsors a superb Apple Festival in Lincoln Square. I recommend checking it out if you have a chance.

Cheers to a great weekend in Chicago!

If you are looking for more weekends away in the Midwest, check out my itinerary for a couple of the iconic college towns of Madison, WI or Ann Arbor, MI.

Thank you to Emma, Katrina, Elizabeth, and Jimmy for showing us around your city! Thank you to Meghan and Sarah for exploring with me 🙂

A weekend in Santa Ynez Valley, CA

Santa Ynez Valley is a picturesque destination, known for its rolling hills dappled with vineyards, western-style storefronts, and the iconic Danish-style architecture in the town of Solvang. Ronald Reagan, Dolly Parton, and Fess Parker, who played Davy Crocket, have all had homes in this region. Fess Parker loved it so much he even created an inn and vineyard that you can visit today. Pioneers developed the land around a stagecoach stop in the mid 19th century, and much of the feel still has elements of the rustic early settlement. The scenic valley of roughly 20,000 residents is known for its agriculture (mostly wine), horse ranches, and friendly people. It is also the setting for the comedy, Sideways, which I recommend watching!  Located just over the mountain range from Santa Barbara and two hours north of Los Angeles. Santa Ynez has many wineries, boutiques, restaurants and galleries to make it a relaxing weekend getaway. 

Situated between the sloping hills of the Santa Ynez Mountains and San Rafael Mountains, the Santa Ynez Valley has six charming towns: Solvang, Los Olivos, Santa Ynez, Buellton, Ballard and Los Alamos.  All with their own distinct character. But please be warned these are small. 

When to go: I would recommend going in the springtime, after the rainy season, when the landscape is lush, green and abundant.

Where to stay: You can not go wrong staying in any of the villages, although both Solvang and Los Olivos have quaint downtowns that are fun to walk around. There is something to be said for staying in Solvang to avoid the midday crowds. I went on a girls trip, and we were able to actually rent a historical house that was part of Mattei’s Tavern (an original tavern from when it was a stagecoach stop) in Los Olivos!

Friday:

If you are coming from southern California, I recommend getting dinner en route at Cold Spring Tavern (5995 Stagecoach Rd, Santa Barbara, CA 93105). This mountainside Western saloon, will remind you of the true west. For those who would like to stretch their legs before dinner, there is a one mile hike to the abandoned Knapp’s Castle ( parking can be found roughly at 3880 E Camino Cielo Santa Barbara, CA 93105). It’s a great spot to see the sunset through the stone arches of the original structure. The trail is completely downhill on the way there, so be prepared for the uphill on the way back. 

Saturday: Wine tasting

I recommend starting your morning with breakfast at the Corner House Cafe (2902 San Marcos Ave, Los Olivos, CA 93441) in Los Olivos. For those with a sweet tooth, the local favorite God’s Country Provisions Donut Shop sells their donuts in the tower next door on the weekends. 

After your breakfast, walk around the small downtown for a little bit before starting your wine tasting with a “chaser” of cupcakes at Saarloos and Sons Winery (2971 Grand Ave, Los Olivos, CA 93441). The family owned winery frequently names and labels their wine after ancestors.. You may get the opportunity to meet snarky, yet family-oriented son #1, Keith, who will share a bit about his elders that he honors in all actions he takes.

We had planned on spending the day wine tasting at different vineyards but ended up spending the whole time at our first stop, Demetria Estates (6701 Foxen Canyon Road, Los Olivos, CA 93441). We packed a picnic to eat outside at Demetria’s which resembles a Greek villa. The Greek-American owners named the vineyard and their daughter after the Greek goddess of harvest, Demeter. We had a local, Raymond (805-757-2342, ~$25/ hour) drive us around and give us the oral history of all the vineyards and the region in general.

After wine tasting we had a suburb dinner on the patio at S.Y. Kitchen (1110 Faraday St, Santa Ynez, CA 93460). They have a great farm to table italian food and cocktails. 

For those who aren’t quite ready for the party to end, consider a nightcap at country western, Maverick Saloon (3687 Sagunto St, Santa Ynez, CA 93460).

Sunday: Solvang, a Danish village

Spend Sunday morning walking around the Danish village of Solvang. Danish-American’s moved west in the early 20th century to avoid the long midwestern winters and created this village. Start with a hearty breakfast from Paula’s Pancake House. Enjoy window shopping, the many small boutiques, year round christmas stores, and art galleries. For those with a sweet tooth grab a danish pastry to go! 

If you are looking for more weekends away, check out my weekend itinerary for Santa Barbara, San Diego, Napa Valley, and San Luis Obispo.

A weekend in Napa Valley, CA

The rolling hills of Napa Valley have become synonymous with images of culinary excellence and award-winning wine. Much to many Francophiles’ surprise, the area was put on the global wine map when two local vineyards won in a blind taste test at the “Paris Wine Tasting of 1976.” Napa Valley is now best known for its dry red wines, the most popular of which is Cabernet Sauvignon but Merlot, Pinot Noir and even Chardonnay have received high praise. (If you are more interested in vineyards producing white wine, check out the neighboring laid back Sonoma Valley.)  I consider the Napa Valley region as the apex of “rural chic” and the culture is still steeped in its agricultural history. Napa Valley is an hour drive north from San Francisco and it makes for a great weekend getaway.

Situated between the sloping hills of the Vaca and Mayacamas mountains, Napa Valley includes five cities: Napa, Yountville, St. Helena, Calistoga, and lesser known American Canyon. The region stretches for over 30 miles from north to south, and be prepared to have up to a 40 minute drive between destinations. Napa Valley can get expensive. Tastings at inexpensive vineyards start at around $35, and seeing multiple vineyards in a day can add up. Please note: I enjoy wine, but I am not a sommelier, so my itinerary is focused on a positive experience rather than as a wine critique! Pace yourself both physically and financially and remember to hydrate, as the area is known for hot temperatures and drinking all day can cause dehydration.

I enjoy watching movies and reading books about a place before I visit. For Napa, I recommend watching movies such as Wine Country, Bottle Shock, or the oldie but goodie, The Parent Trap. A few of Dean Koontz’s novels are set in Napa, but I would recommend The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty by Julia Flynn Silor.

When to go: I would recommend going in the spring-time, after the rainy season, when the landscape is lush, green and abundant. Autumn and winter are also often good times. I would be wary of going in the summer, as Napa gets very hot and temperatures can go above 100 degrees.

Where to stay: I love staying in downtown Yountville, as it has a quaint downtown and walking around the center is always fun. I have previously stayed at Maison Fleurie, A Four Sisters Inn, and really enjoyed the ambiance.

Friday: Dinner in Napa

The Restaurant, Allegria, has seating inside the old bank vault.

Get a reservation for dinner at Allegria (1026 1st St, Napa, CA), an upscale italian restaurant in a historic bank landmark, built in 1916. Take a stroll through Napa’s downtown after dinner. Please be aware that much of the town shuts down earlier in the evening, since most tourists spend the day sampling wine.

Saturday: Wine tasting

Start your morning with a pastry and coffee from Bouchon Bakery (6528 Washington St, Yountville, CA 94599), in the middle of the quaint downtown section of Yountville.

Drive up to Calistoga, and start your day at Sterling Vineyards (1111 Dunaweal Lane, Calistoga, CA 94515).  This has the only aerial tram in Napa Valley and offers cascading views of the area. By the late afternoon, the tram can get hot and crowded, so I recommend starting here.

A tranquil Chinese garden and serene Jade Lake were added to the ascetic appeal of the already beautiful Chateaux Montelena by a Chinese- American family during the roughly two decades that the estate took a hiatus from wine making and was a private home. Do not miss walking the grounds at this vineyard!

Next stop is Chateau Montelena Winery (1429 Tubbs Ln, Calistoga, CA 94515) this beautiful 19th century chateau and vineyard was put on the world vintner map when the Chardonnay won the “Judgement of Paris” wine competition in 1976. The movie, Bottle Shock, is a fictionalized depiction of this new world victory! 

After visiting two vineyards get a late picnic lunch at V. Sattui (1111 White Ln, St Helena, CA 94574). You can pick up some food from the store and sit outside at many of the park benches. After lunch, you could continue on with winery tours, but I would recommend regrouping at your hotel and window-shopping the quaint shops in downtown Yountville. 

For dinner consider the French restaurant, Bouchon Bistro (6534 Washington St, Yountville, CA 94599). For those who are looking to burn through some serious cash, French Laundry (6640 Washington St, Yountville, CA 94599) is a delicious 9 course prefix experience ($310/per person). Located in an unassuming stone farmhouse, this restaurant is repeatedly listed among the top restaurants in the world and received 3 stars in the Michelin guide. 

For those who still have the energy, consider an after dinner drink at Restoration Hardware (6725 Washington St, Yountville, CA 94599) which is open until 10:00PM.

Sunday: Hot Air Balloon ride and Oxbow Public Market

For those who are not afraid of heights, start your morning very early with a memorable sunrise hot air balloon ride provided by Napa Valley Balloon, Inc (4086 Byway East, Napa, CA 94558). This could be missed for those who want to sleep in and save some money. Prices run roughly in the low $200’s per guest. 

Try a grab and go brunch at Oxbow Public Market (610 1st St, Napa, CA 94559) before heading home for a weekend well spent (in more than one way) in Napa Valley!

If you are looking for more weekends away, check out my weekend itinerary for Santa Barbara, San Diego, Santa Ynez Valley and San Luis Obispo.

A weekend in Seattle, Washington

Seattle, named the Emerald City for its lush evergreen forest, is the birthplace of Starbucks, Microsoft, and Amazon.The whole Pacific Northwest has the trifecta of natural beauty: water, mountains, and forests, and Seattle has it all. Seattle, what I think of as the cleaner and greener San Francisco, is also a city of seven hills. That being said, prepare to get those calf muscles moving while walking around this manageable and iconic city!  What other excuse do you need to visit?

I enjoy reading and watching movies about a place before visiting. For those who enjoy reading, I recommend Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford; Where’d you go Bernadette By Maria Semple; Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown. I am embarrassed to admit all of the Fifty Shades of Grey movies and the Twilight series, which use Seattle as the backdrop. Sleepless in Seattle is a classic and crowd pleaser. 

Day 1: Downtown

Start your morning off at Pikes Place Market (85 Pike St, Seattle, WA 98101), walk around the many stalls of fresh food and artisan goods. Even see the famous flying fish! You can easily spend over an hour perusing the market. Don’t forget to check out both Bubblegum Alley and the first Starbucks Coffee. After Pike’s Place Market make your way UPHILL to the Starbucks Reserve (1124 Pike St, Seattle, WA 98101) which offers flights of coffee to try, quite an experience. From here you can walk over to the Amazon Dome and grab a free banana from the banana stand. 

Grab lunch at Ivar’s Seafood (1001 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98104) for lunch, great waterfront views and great fish and chips.

Head to Pioneer Square for an Underground Tour, which starts every hour on the hour. It’s a great way to get to know the city’s history before the tech companies put it on the global map. En route do not miss the modern architecture and quick walk around the Seattle Public Library.

After a jam packed day, enjoy a delicious dinner at Kedai Makan (1802 Bellevue Ave, Seattle, WA 98122) for creative cocktails and amazing Malaysia food!

Day 2: Hike Rattlesnake Ledge + Fremont/Ballard

Start your morning off by renting a car and heading to Rattlesnake Ledge or Snoqualmie Pass (updated information on directions can be found here). While I put this on day 2 of your trip, I would try to go on whatever day is not the weekend, to avoid crowds. 

After the hike and with the luxury of your car, drive to the Ballard District to enjoy a beer and hard earned grub. Enjoy window shopping at the many independent stores on Ballard St and Market St. For those interested in Seattle’s quirkier side, stop in at Fremont Troll.

End your evening with a lively dinner at the Pink Door (1919 Post Alley, Seattle, WA 98101) for dinner and a jazz, cabaret, or burlesque show. Make sure to get there early because seating is on a first come first serve basis.

Day 3: Queen Anne neighborhood

Take it easy on your last day and start your morning with a walk to the beautiful views at Kerry Park (211 W Highland Dr, Seattle, WA 98119), with sweeping views of the city (on a clear day!) Enjoy a leisurely walk through the Queen Anne neighborhood.

Grab some coffee and a look around at La Marzocco Cafe in KEXP radio center (472 1st Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109) before going to a museum. The Museum of Pop Culture or Chihuly Gardens are both amazing, and it just depends on your personal preference.

Enjoy some oysters from nearby Taylor’s Shellfish (124 Republican St, Seattle, WA 98109).

The space needle is in this area, for those who want to go up and look at the city.

Cheers to a great weekend in Seattle!

If you are interested in other weekend getaways on the West coast, check out my itinerary on San Diego, San Louis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Napa Valley.

A long weekend in Portsmouth, NH

This quaint New England harborside city has converted numerous pre-war maritime homes to art galleries, restaurants and bars. Settled in 1623, as Strawbery Banke, Portsmouth sits on the harbor of the Piscataqua River. This among many other New England small cities brings a thriving restaurant scene to walkable historic cities. This is a great long weekend or even day trip from Boston, MA, and is only a one hour drive. 

Friday:

Get settled into your accommodation, I recommend staying in the city center. Once settled, get some dinner from one of the many waterfront seafood restaurants: Old Ferry Landing (10 Ceres St), Surf Portsmouth (99 Bow St Suite 200W) and River House (53 Bow St) all offer great options. After dinner you can see if there is live music at Portsmouth Book and Bar (40 Pleasant St, Portsmouth, NH 03801) which is a bookstore and bar located in 1860 Portsmouth’s old Custom House and Post Office. 

Saturday:

I recommend starting your morning with a bike ride around Portsmouth and through New Castle Island. In New Castle take a detour off route 1B down the winding River Street which offers great views of the river and beautiful homes. For those looking to get some more miles in, you can bike all the way to the honky tonk, Hampton Beach and back (round trip is roughly 30 miles of SCENIC east coast greenway). Warning: The bridges into New Castle can be a pain (one has grates on the road and another is a single line of traffic, so you may have to wait.)

In the afternoon, make your way to one of the beaches in Rye, NH. Jenness Beach is a favorite, or if you are trying to get away from people, the river side of Odiorne State Park offers soft sand and few crowds. While in Rye, get some lunch from Ray’s Seafood (1677 Ocean Blvd, Rye, NH 03870).

Walk around the downtown and window shop before dinner. Grab some grub from barrio tacos (319 Vaughan St, Portsmouth, NH 03801). You can build your own tacos here and I recommend a margarita! For those who enjoy more seafood, I recommend The Franklin (148 Fleet St), which has a great oyster bar.

Sunday:

Start your morning with brunch from The Friendly Toast (113 Congress Street, Portsmouth, NH 03801). I recommend that you spend the afternoon at Strawbery Banke Museum (14 Hancock St, Portsmouth, NH 03801). Strawberry Banke is the oldest european settlement in New Hampshire. The museum is outdoor and encompasses many buildings which were in use from the 1630’s- 1950’s. Don’t forget to admire the river views and flower garden in Prescott Park which is across the street from the museum area. 

Cheers to a relaxing weekend in Portsmouth. NH! 

If you are interested in other ideas for weekend getaways from Boston, check out my article 5 Seaside Getaways from Boston.

A long weekend in Portland, ME

This quaint New England seaside city has converted numerous pre-war maritime warehouses to art galleries, restaurants and bars. This among many other New England state capitals brings a thriving restaurant scene to walkable historic cities that are easily manageable on a weekend. This is a great long weekend from Boston, MA, and is only a two hour drive. 

For those interested in literature I would recommend reading Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, Empire Falls by Richard Russo, or Maine by Courtney Sullivan, all of which are set in Maine.

Friday:

Arrive and get settled in your hotel. I stayed at Courtyard Portland Downtown/Waterfront (321 Commercial St, Portland, ME 04101) which was an easy location to walk to everything downtown.

Get some grub at Fore Street (288 Fore St, Portland, ME 04101) then enjoy a rooftop drink at Top of the East (157 High St, Portland, ME 04101) on the top of the Westin Hotel to get oriented on with the city and if possible watch the sunset.

Saturday

Start your morning off with breakfast at LB Kitchen (249 Congress St), you order at the counter and get the food served to your table. 

Portland is great for a seaside bike ride. We rented bikes from Portland Encyclopedia ( 6 Commercial St). On your ride don’t miss both Bug Light and Portland Head Lighthouse (12 Captain Sprout Cir, Cape Elizabeth, ME 04107) Take a break and grab a lobster roll from the Bite of Maine food truck, right outside the Portland Head Lighthouse. They will NOT disappoint!

After biking, relaxing over an IPA from Shipyard brewing company.  We spent some time at the brewery. After getting your hops on, window shop down the Old Port section of the city. This is quintessentially New England with the cobblestone street and colonial brick buildings. I did not miss out on tasting Portland’s favorite donut shop, Holy Donut (7 Exchange St), which is a great afternoon snack.

Get dinner at Eventide Oyster Company (86 Middle St, Portland, ME 04101). This sleek and busy restaurant is great for any seafood lover. We ordered some oysters for the table and then continued to sample most of the menu!

Sunday

Get breakfast at Tandem Coffee and bakery or the standard baking company before heading for a last walk downtown and head home. 

If you are interested in other ideas for weekend getaways from Boston, check out my article 5 Seaside Getaways from Boston.

Three days in Reykjavik, Iceland

The iconic blue lagoon, the meeting of plate tectonics and the first known Geyser make Iceland a unique long weekend getaway for East Coasters. Iceland’s location and the sub 6 hour flight makes it an easy layover for a further European destination or quick getaway. The locals are friendly, kind, helpful, and most are fluent in English. The well oiled tourism industry has fine tuned all aspects of travel for a very straight forward trip. We found a very inexpensive, $340, roundtrip flight leaving Thursday night and arrived early on Friday morning and returning Monday. You can always find these deals through Norwegian Air.

Please note: at the end of your trip you can declare your tax payments and at the airport kiosk they will reimburse your credit card for any taxes on purchases made during your trip. 

Day 1: City Tour and Puffins

We started our trip with breakfast at the eccentric, Grai Kotturinn (“Grey Cat”, Hverfisgata 16a, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland) across from the National theatre.  It was down stairs a half flight. 

After breakfast we got a free two hour city tour, which starts at 11:00AM daily. Similar to other “free” tours the guides work on tips, which often gives you a far more animated and interesting guide. The tour starts at Austurvöllur (Parliament Building) and ends at City Hall. It is great to understand some of the Icelandic history and get a better understanding of the lay of the land.

After your tour taking in the views from the iconic Lutheran church, Hallgrimskirkja (opening hours 12:00pm-3:00pm). It’s a 15 minutes walk from City Hall. While expensive, I would recommend splurging on the elevator ride for 360 degree views of the city. 

From the church make your way back down to the waterfront. Grab a hotdog from Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur hot dog stand (Tryggvagata 1, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland). The stand has been around since the 1930’s and even boasts President Clinton as one of it’s previous patrons! Add crunchy onions to make it a treat. A block away is the Kolaportið (Tryggvagötu 19 , Old Harbour Grófin Reykjavik Kvosin, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland), the local flea market. While this is a true flea market, in which you can find a few good items but the majority is junk. I recommend spending an hour looking around and interacting with the locals. 

Make your way to the harbor for a puffin tour, which runs every hour and half. This would be a great late afternoon tour to do. Due to the extended daylight in spring, do not be discouraged with a 5:00pm tour. Please note timing based on the time of year you are in Iceland, given that we went in late Spring, we had daylight until very late in the night. 

For those who like seafood, check out Sægreifinn (Geirsgata 8, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland), a no frills seafood joint down by the harbor. I highly recommend the lobster bisque!

Day 2 : Golden Circle Tour

We started our morning off with a hearty breakfast from trendy Bergsson_mathus (Templarasund 3)

The Golden Circle Tour normally encompasses the first geyser, their double waterfall, and the rift valley between North American and Eurasian continents (the only plates that meet above water). Tickets are at the visitor center. The Tour bus starts and drops off at the visitor center. Tours generally run around 8 hours. The bus drives through the countryside with magnificent views of the ocean and unique landscape of basalt volcanic rocks that makes up most of Iceland. Expect strong winds between the plate tectonics.

End your day with a leisurely meal at a cozy French restaurant,  Le Bistro (Laugavegur 12, Reykjavik 101 Iceland). The scallops were amazing. I tried shark and whale here to mediocre reviews (would recommend it only for the adventure and note for the flavor.)

Day 3:  Blue lagoon EN ROUTE  to the airport.

We had breakfast at a wonderful French bakery, Bakari Sandholt (Laugavegur 36, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland) before getting picked up for the blue lagoon. The bus picked us up just beyond there on the corner. For our drive to the Blue Lagoon. 

While I generally enjoy sleeping in, I highly recommend trying to get to the Blue Lagoon when it opens. We did this because we had a late afternoon flight. When we arrived, we had the place to ourselves. Then every half hour or so, a new wave of people came in with their timed entrance. Tip: the Blue Lagoon sells out, so get your tickets in advance, Cheapest tickets can be found at the Visitor Center. Your belongings can be safely locked up, then you wear the key on a wristband. It was a very clean place and since we were the first group of people, everything was dry, etc. Don’t forget to take all jewelry off. 

Cheers to an easy weekend getaway in Reykjavik!

If you are looking or other international long weekends from the east coast consider looking at my Mexico City, Barcelona, and Cotswolds itineraries.

5 Seaside Getaways from San Francisco, CA

  1. Sausalito, CA

This artists’ village is just off the Golden Gate Bridge in upscale Marin County. Most of the small city offers a spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge, Richardson Bay, and many houseboats in the bay. It’s a popular day-trip destination, with sheer cliffs and a rugged shoreline dotted with trails and villages. Personally, Sausalito reminds me of the Pacific version of the Amalfi Coast! You can use this as a jumping-off point for many of the nearby hikes such as Mount Tamalpais (“Mt. Tam”), the leisurely Tennessee Valley Trail, and Alamere Falls. Spend some time checking out the many galleries, stores and restaurants. Any trip to Sausalito, I love perusing handmade dinnerware at Heath Ceramics (400 Gate 5 Rd, Sausalito, CA 94965)

  1. Carmel, CA

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a small beach city on the Monterey Peninsula, two hours south of San Francisco. Historically a Bohemian artists’ village, Carmel-by-the-Sea has been home to many famous people such as Doris Day, John Madden, Ansel Adams, and John Steinbeck. Clint Eastwood was not only a resident, he was elected Mayor of Carmel. This picturesque city of less than 4,000 residents features unique homes including many cottages with minute detailing valued in the millions because of the location. One house which we viewed was decorated with heart-shaped cut-outs decorating the picket fence, the shingles, and gracefully furbishing the interior decorative trim. The lush gardens roll into each other in ever flowing bloom. This is worth a day-trip for a coastal walk and a stroll around the interesting shops, restaurants, and homes.  For a more in depth itinerary check out A Day in… Carmel, Ca!

  1. Santa Cruz Mountains and Capitola, CA

The Santa Cruz Mountains are dappled with houses among wooded forest and many trails to hike. Skip the honky tonk in Santa Cruz proper, and instead head to Capitola Village. Capitola Village developed as a seaside resort when the Soquel Mountains were a thriving location of the lumber industry.  The small downtown area is worth a stroll to look at the Soquel Canal, and iconic Capitola Venetian with it’s brightly colored guest suites. There is a beautiful and brief (10 minute) pedestrian walk along the Soquel Creek. One hour south of San Francisco, the Santa Cruz Mountains are great to slow down and enjoy the serene nature that California has to offer. For a more in depth itinerary check out A Day… in the Santa Cruz Mountains & Soquel Cove!

  1. Half Moon Bay
Part of the walk Coastal Walk near Moss Beach, CA

Half Moon Bay is a charming seaside town approximately 45 minutes south of San Francisco. I enjoy the beautiful Coastal Trail, which is about 11 miles of leisurely coast side walking roads with beautiful waterfront views. The Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay offers free parking for the public who would like to visit the beach. Walk all the way north to Cypress Ave on Moss Beach and back. I enjoy grabbing a beer from Half Moon Bay Brewing company in Princeton Harbor. When the pandemic ends, watch the sunset with a glass of wine and dinner over the fire pit at Moss Beach Distillery, situated on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Beware: Moss Beach Distillery is supposed to be haunted by the ghost of the “Blue Lady”. 

Please note: On the coastal trail, Princeton Harbor does not have a trail and you will have to walk on the streets.

  1. Tomales Bay
Outdoor seating at Hog Island Oyster in Marshall, CA

Road trip along east coast of Tomales Bay. From San Francisco our first stop on Route 1 was Point Reyes Station, the small town which developed around a (now) bygone railroad station. The whole town reminds me of the “Wild West”, with mostly country roads surrounding it. The town prides itself on local produce, agriculture, and organic food. We bought lunch at Cowgirl Creamery in the picturesque Tomales Bay Foods, which has been renovated from an old hay barn. The tiny town has Bovine Bakery, which is worth a delicious pastry! The area has a Farmers Market on Saturday Mornings. Second stop on our coastal road trip is Hog Island Oyster (Marshall, Ca), to relax and shuck your own oysters. It is surprisingly a lot harder than I thought! We brought our CowGirl Creamery picnic here. We spent quite a bit of time relaxing and enjoying the views. Last stop on our road trip was: Nick’s Cove, with renovated historic seaside cottages and restaurant. We ended our road trip here for a glass of wine and a little snack. The beautiful Point Reyes National Seashore is a great day getaway that is often overlooked. The natural landscape also provides many options for hikers, bikers and beach side day trippers. Next time I make it up there, I am going to try to bike!

Cheers to your summer getaways!

5 Seaside Getaways from Boston

5 Seaside Getaways to take this summer from Boston, while safely Social Distancing:

Nobska Lighthouse in Falmouth, MA
  1. Cape Cod, MA
Cahoon Hollow Beach, Wellfleet, MA

No matter where you are coming from, Bostonians always call it “the Cape.” Cape Cod is known for beautiful beaches along its 400 miles of shoreline.  My favorite beaches are the ones along the Cape Cod National Seashore, especially Cahoon Hollow Beach in  Wellfleet on the Lower Cape. While the surf is rough, there are lifeguards on duty, a parking lot, and The Beachcomber, one of the best beach bars/restaurants in America. For family fun, you may want to try one of the more tranquil beaches on the bay side of The Cape. I have always enjoyed the Cape’s great bike trails, such as the Cape Cod Rail Trail, which runs from Yarmouth to Wellfleet or Shining Sea Bike Trail in Falmouth. For a scenic ride, take route 6A or “Old Kings Highway” (just to remind you are in New England) from Bourne to Provincetown, a distance of about 65 miles.

  1. Portsmouth, NH
View of Portsmouth, NH

One of the many charming New England seaside cities, I love biking from historic and vibrant Portsmouth, NH along scenic Route 1A, also known as Ocean Boulevard, to the honky tonk locale of Hampton Beach and back. The whole New Hampshire shoreline is less than 20 miles long, and is worth a drive.  Portsmouth has a few well-preserved museums dating back to the early colonial days of the 17th century. Portsmouth is surprisingly lively considering it’s in low-key New Hampshire. The downtown has many restaurants, bars, galleries and street performers.

  1. Portland, ME
Lobster roll from the Bite Into Maine food truck, located on Cape Ann near the Portland Head Lighthouse. This makes a great biking destination!

This quaint New England seaside city has converted numerous pre-war maritime warehouses to art galleries, restaurants and bars. This among other coastal state capitals is a walkable historic city that now has many breweries and is flush with colonial history. I love shopping in the quaint city center, biking down to the lighthouse and grabbing a lobster roll from the food truck. 

  1. Gloucester, MA

The North Shore city of Gloucester is known as a fishing port and it’s the setting for the book and subsequent movie The Perfect Storm. In fact, The Crow’s Nest dive bar is still located in downtown Gloucester.  I enjoy a beach day at Good Harbor Beach. For cyclists, the Essex Scenic Route is a beautiful bike route through seaside Essex, Gloucester, and Rockport. 

  1. Newburyport, MA
The pedestrian Inn Street in Newburyport, MA

This charming small city is also located on the North Shore. The stately brick Federal-style houses and the brightly- colored wooden houses come right out to the edge of the sidewalk, attesting to the early history of Newburyport, before cars were prevalent. The Essex County Superior Courthouse, designed by Charles Bulfinch and built in 1805, is a beautiful brick Federal-style building overlooking a pond. In the downtown waterfront area are many interesting shops and restaurants.