Labor Day Weekend in Chicago

When it came time to plan our activities for September, we figured we could work around Labor Day and do a small trip somewhere close to Michigan. We bounced a few road trip ideas around and settled on Chicago since I have never been. It’s about a 4 hour drive from Dearborn, Michigan, so not too far but also not too close.

We began our drive on a Saturday morning and arrived in Chicago around 11:30am – we had not accounted for the one hour time difference! Our first stop was Superdawg’s Drive In, which was a recommendation from a coworker. She highly recommended Superdawg’s for a Chicago-style hot dog. It was pretty darn good and I am also highly recommending it!

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We hit the Lincoln Park Zoo and Conservatory after a quick lunch since our AirBnB was in the Lincoln Park area. Linking it here for anyone who’s interested because we had such a nice stay there, I feel like I need to tell everyone about it!

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The Zoo and Conservatory are both completely free, but you will have to pay for parking if you cannot find street parking. You can probably spend a solid 3-4 hours at the Zoo – there is so much to see!

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Our second day in Chicago began with a visit to see the Cloud Gate, or the Bean, in Millennium Park. We tried and failed to take some selfies. Much fun was had.

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We then wandered to Grant Park to check out the Buckingham Fountain, which is HUGE! If you’re into fountains, I highly recommend this.

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Then we walked some more and got to Museum Campus for a visit to the Shedd Aquarium. Bank of America actually offers free general admission to the Aquarium for the first full weekend of every month, so we took advantage of this. We spent about a solid 3-4 hours in the Aquarium and thoroughly enjoyed our time.

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After a brief break, we headed over to the Field Museum, which is a natural history museum. If you’re a fan of totem poles, you’re in for a treat! There is a lot to see at the Field Museum, so plan to spend at least 3-4 hours here.

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Dinner that night was one of our only sit-down meals of the trip. We went to The Purple Pig on a recommendation of a friend and had a lovely meal. Definitely get the Uni Toast and the Chocolate Blackout Cake!

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Our last day started off with a nice walk along North Avenue Beach, which is a beach along Lake Michigan in the middle of Chicago! The walk was really nice and we wished we had brought our bathing suits!

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We ended our trip with lunch at The Little Goat Diner, which was jam packed! We split an order of their Dark Chocolate Crispy Pancakes and a Goat Patty Melt, which were both delicious. Ask for their special condensed milk creamer for your coffee, you won’t regret it!

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We had a lovely time in Chicago and I definitely wouldn’t mind going back to check out a whole bunch of other attractions we had missed. Until next time!

Weekend Trips to Michigan

Since the BF lives in Dearborn, I’ve been spending a lot of time in Southeast Michigan lately. Before we started dating, I think I had Michigan as a state I would probably fly or drive by, but wouldn’t visit on my spare time or for vacation. But you know what? It’s slowly growing on me – there is actually quite a lot to do here and a lot of really good food.

At the time of this post, I would’ve spent 6 weekends in Dearborn, Michigan. We usually try to do at least one activity outside each day, although sometimes it just means grabbing lunch and seeing a movie. Most of the credit goes to X since he’s the one who plans our activities!

So what is there to do and eat in the southeast part of Michigan? Read on to find out!

One of the very first places I visited was The Henry Ford, which is Dearborn’s biggest attraction. The Henry Ford is a large indoor and outdoor history museum complex. It consists of the Museum, Greenfield Village, and the Ford Rouge Factory. I have yet to do Greenfield Village, but the Museum and the Factory Tour are both stellar activities. The Museum has a little bit of everything – apparently Henry Ford liked to collect a lot of random items! The Rouge Factory Tour, however, is my favorite. You get to see how a Ford F-150 is made from the beginning to the end. It’s an actual factory that produces F-150’s, so you really get to see everything.

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Dearborn is very close to Detroit proper, so a trip to the city is always a good outing for the day. There is a lot to see in Detroit – and even more great places to eat. A visit to the Detroit Institute of Arts is a great way to spend the day. In particular, I quiet liked walking down along the William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor. On a nice day, it’s really pretty place to go for a walk after lunch or brunch!

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The Detroit Zoo, which is actually located 2 miles north of Detroit proper in Royal Oak, is another great place to spend a nice day. The Zoo is reasonably priced and very well-kept. The exhibits are pretty big for the animals and there is a lot to see. There are also a lot of picnic areas for people who want to pack a lunch and make a day of it.

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Dearborn is also very close to Ann Arbor, home of the University of Michigan. It’s a very cute and quaint college town, with amazing restaurants. I’ve been to Ann Arbor a few times – sometimes just to eat and other times to just walk around. It’s a really cute place to just stroll through the streets. Stop by Zingerman’s Delicatessen for a delicious Reuben sandwich or Frita Batidos (in downtown Ann Arbor) for some delicious Cuban-inspired street food.

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Zingerman’s Delicatessen
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Frita Batidos

The University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens is free to visit and a great place to spend the day for plant lovers – or just people who like looking at pretty things like us! The Gardens includes botanical gardens, natural areas with trails, and several research-quality habitats, which means you can spend a few solid hours here.

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Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio

When it came down to planning the BF’s birthday weekend, I wanted to do something fun and go away for the weekend. Since we only had 2 days and 1 night to spare, it cut down a lot of options. I toyed with the idea of going away to the shore for the weekend, but most B&B’s won’t let you book for only 1 night during the summer season. A co-worker from Michigan clued me into Cedar Point, an amusement park located on a Lake Erie peninsula in Sandusky, Ohio. It’s apparently the, “Roller Coaster Capital of the World”, according to their slogan.

So on a Saturday morning, we piled into the car to drive 2.5 hours out to Sandusky, Ohio. The drive wasn’t too bad – and a lot of it was quite quaint and scenic. We arrived at about 11am and cruised right in with our prepaid online tickets. There is a TON to do at Cedar Point, even if you don’t ride roller coasters (like me). It’s also very kid friendly with Camp Snoopy, Planet Snoopy, and Kiddy Kingdom areas filled with rides.

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They have a pretty nice Ferris wheel, the Giant Wheel, which goes up 136 feet. It’s considered one of the tallest wheels in North America. The view from the top of the wheel is quite spectacular.

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If you’re not afraid of heights, they also have a tower swinger ride, the WindSeeker, which goes up 300 feet in the air. You’re not allowed any loose items, but it offers THE BEST view in all of the rides at Cedar Point, in my opinion.

The BF went on the Blue Streak, their oldest operating roller coaster, the Raptor, and the Rougarou (pictured below). He was on line for the Top Thrill Dragster, which was the tallest and fastest roller coaster when it opened in 2003 (before being replaced by Kingda Ka at Six Flags as the tallest and 1 Formula Rossa at Ferrari World as the fastest coaster), but then it broke down and wasn’t back up for the rest of the day. It looked like a heart attack waiting to happen to me!

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I had pre-purchased a Souvenir Bottle Drink Plan online, which entitles you to free refills on your first day. It was so worth it because we refilled our bottle about 10 times during the entire day! We also split an All-Day Dining Plan, which allows you to get an entrée and a side every 1.5 hours. Since we split the plan, we ate about half a meal every few hours, which ended up being worth it in the long run.

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We spent the night at the Farrell House Lodge, which is located in Sunnybrook Trout Club. We were arriving past check-in time, but they were super nice and pre-checked us in and by the time we arrived, our room was ready to go. It’s a super cute B&B close to Cedar Point with very reasonable rates. Our room was clean and comfortable. We met their night manager the next morning when we stopped by for breakfast, which is included! They have an assortment of cereals and pastries but also had hot breakfast made to order. We thoroughly enjoyed our time there and would return if we’re in the area again.

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From http://farrellhouselodge.com/

All in all, I think we had a great weekend at Cedar Point. It was large enough to spend the entire day – but not so large that we felt like we couldn’t do all that we had wanted in one day. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a fun weekend trip.

 

A Weekend in D.C.

When we were discussing our plans for April, we decided that since the BF had two days off for Easter, we could go somewhere and explore. Since his dad lives in Washington D.C., and it was relatively cheap for the both of us to get there (Amtrak for the win!), it made the perfect spot. The last time I had visited D.C., I was probably about eight years old, so I was excited to go back as an adult.

On our first day, we took the Metro over to the National Mall and walked around. I am absolutely obsessed with this gorgeous fountain that is right smack in the middle of the Mall. X tells me that they turn it into an ice skating rink during the winter months.

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We then headed over to The Smithsonian Institute – National Museum of Natural History, which is completely free to enter. There are donation boxes all over the museum and you should probably drop something in if you can! Here you will find the elephant from the Night at the Museum movie! I think my favorite was either the Mammal Hall or the Ocean Hall.

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After that, we made our way over to the National Air and Space Museum. On the way, you can get a nice snapshot of the United States Capitol as well as the Washington Monument.

The National Air and Space Museum has the world’s largest collection of historic aircraft and spacecraft, which is pretty neat and interesting to look at.

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On our second day, we drove over to the United States National Arboretum, which features over 446 acres of trees, scrubs, plants, and flowers. It was a really nice day so we took a very leisurely walk around the grounds. We had visited during Azalea blooming, which was beautiful to see. There is also a very extensive Bonsai Exhibit in the museum – many of them are over a 100 years old.

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On our third day, we drove to Virginia to visit the Luray Caverns, which is an underground cavern system with hundreds of stalactites, stalagmites, and columns. The entire trek is about 1.5 miles long and takes about an hour to finish. My favorite part was the Dream Lake which has a mirror-like appearance. The stalactites are reflected in the water, making them look like stalagmites. The water is only about 20 inches deep, but the reflection makes it look a lot deeper.

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I didn’t end up taking any food photos – I know, how dare I?! But here are some amazing restaurants that I highly recommend –

  • Tico DC
  • Rosa Mexicano
  • Lebanese Taverna

A Work Trip to Austin, Texas

I’ve been very fortunate to get to travel for work a few times a year. Most recently, I was in Austin, Texas for 4 days and got to explore the city a little bit in between work.

On my first night, I had a lovely dinner at Dai Due, a butcher shop themed restaurant that’s a little bit away from the main downtown area. The combination sounded a bit weird, but their Chicken Liver Mousse with Pickled Green Strawberries, Macerated Strawberries, and Grilled Buttermilk Bread was phenomenal! The creamy liver mousse contrasted very nicely with the tart/sourness of the pickled green strawberries and the sweetness of the macerated strawberries. I think this was my favorite meal of the entire trip.

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On the morning of my first full day in Austin, I made the walk over to the State Capitol building just a little after sunrise. The building was quite beautiful in the early morning light and I had a lovely walk around the grounds. The inside of the building was just as impressive. They open every day at 7am and offer free tours as well for visitors.

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My first official Austin lunch was at Iron Works BBQ, where I had some amazing brisket that just melts in your mouth. I know it’s not one of the famous BBQ spots where people line up for hours, but it was pretty darn good!

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We also made the trek out to the South Congress Bridge to try to catch the bats leaving the bridge for the night. Our hotel gave us the tip of arriving by 7:30pm and going across the bridge to a small grassy area just under the bridge. This was a great idea as we had a great view of the bats coming out. You have to wait about 15-20 minutes after the sun has officially started setting. Then a few bats will come out first, to scope out the situation, and then go back in. Then, if they’re going to come out, they start flying out like confetti being shot out of a confetti machine. It’s truly an incredible sight!

I had a great time in Austin and had some truly amazing food. I can’t rave enough about the meals that I had in Austin – everything was so good! I would love to go back one day to explore some more.

Las Vegas Day 5 + 6

Technically, we didn’t stay in LV for Day 5 and only spent half of Day 6 there. Still, since it was where we started off and ended, I’ll label it like so!

X and I woke up early to pick up the rental car from the airport and then drove back to pick up S and M. We ended up with a slow start since there was a hot choco issue in the car. Our first stop was Boulder City to pick up some sandwiches for lunch and to have breakfast at World Famous Coffee Cup, which S found online.

They were featured on Diners, Dives, and Drive-Thru’s so we wanted to try it. I made my own omelet with mushrooms, cheese, and avocado. Every omelet comes with a side of toast and your choice of fruit, hash browns, or home fries. I, in an attempt to be healthier, went with fruit. End result? I couldn’t finish all of it! The waitresses were all super nice and I really enjoyed our breakfast.

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After breakfast, we made our way to the Hoover Dam. We arrived around 11:30am and brought tickets for the 12:00pm tour. We paid $30 for all three parts of the Dam – the dam tour, the plant tour, and the Visitor’s Center. You start off with a short video explaining the building of the Hoover Dam. Then you’re separated depending on the tour you’re going on. If you do the whole tour package, you’re first taken on a plant tour and then switched to another tour guide to do the dam tour.

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Both of our tour guides were nice, informative, and very professional. It does get a bit cramped in the dam part of the tour so if you’re prone to claustrophobia, you might want to reconsider doing that portion of the tour. It is really quite amazing that they were able to build the Hoover Dam in such a short time and without the same machinery that we have now. It’s definitely worth a visit – whether or not you’re a history buff or an architecture buff.

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Expect to spend about 2-3 hours and plan accordingly. I think we definitely didn’t plan enough time and ended up staying later than we thought we would.

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After the Hoover Dam, we swapped drivers for the drive to the Grand Canyon South Rim. M drove and S navigated while X and I took a nap. We swapped again a few hours later, so I got to experience riding shotgun while driving in the dark with no roadside lamps. I don’t think I’ve ever done this before, so it was a new experience! We arrived at about 6pm at the Maswik Lodge, our home for the night.

The plan was to get some sleep and wake up at 6am to catch the sunrise at the South Rim. End result – we got up at 6am to a floor full of snow!

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Las Vegas Day 4

In retrospect, it was probably not a good idea to have a ton of drinks, get back to the hotel at 12am, and then have to wake up at 4am to make a sunrise hot air balloon. Despite the fact that we complained the entire time, I think we all agreed at the end that it was well worth it.

We had brought Groupons with Vegas Balloon Rides and opted to do a sunrise ride instead of a midday ride. For those skeptical about buying a Groupon for this, don’t be! Redemption was super easy and everyone in the crew was super nice. You make your reservation and call the night before to confirm if the flight is going as scheduled. We had to meet at their office by 5:45am, which was a bit hard!

Once everyone has assembled, they drive you out to a lot where they blow up the balloon and then you’re off! Our pilot told us that this was their first flight in 15 days, so we felt very lucky indeed. We managed to get over the canyons, which was beautiful. It was a bit scary being up so high, but the view and the experience itself was so worth it!

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We ended our ride with champagne with the crew (none of them actually had any) and they even drove us back to our Strip hotel. We asked to be dropped off at the Cosmopolitan since we were planning to grab breakfast and then naps.

Breakfast was at Eggslut, which was recommended by a friend who had it in Los Angeles. Eggslut is a pretty popular new breakfast spot that specializes in egg dishes for breakfast.

I split the Fairfax Sandwich (cage-free soft scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, and sriracha mayo in a warm brioche bun) and the Slut (cage-free coddled egg on top of a smooth potato puree, poached in a glass jar and topped with gray salt). To be honest, both were super delicious in their own way. It’s really hard to decide which one was better!

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The soft scrambled eggs in the Fairfax Sandwich were really soft and gooey – really hit the spot. But the Slut was also really good – the potato and egg mixed together very well and tasted great both on the toasted baguette and by itself.