Two Romantic Weekend Getaways in Washington State

Who doesn’t love a weekend getaway to celebrate an anniversary, Valentine’s Day or the solace of a long weekend off work?

We sure do! And we take advantage of time together whenever possible.

If you’re looking for trips on either coast, Midwest or anywhere else check out the Passport section of my blog for some awesome ideas and detailed itineraries. BOOM I’ve already planned it for you!

These two weekend trips are great for a three to four day weekend so you can drive out and really enjoy the areas. No matter what you like, there’s something for everyone. Check them out!

LAKE CHELAN, WA

Even though Lake Chelan would make the perfect warm weather destination for their lake activities, it was also a great Valentine’s weekend for hiding from the cold and wine tasting.

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Driving in there are so many wineries and fruit fields!

We stayed at Campbell’s Resort which will commonly come up on your searches as the main place to stay. The location and restaurant were great and while the rooms were decent, they were not what we saw in the photos. There are several different sections to the hotel and we were fine with the cheapest room block just to have a place to sleep. You’ll be exploring, anyway!

Campbell’s is also a great choice because this area is so spread out. We prefer to walk to the bars, drink and eat our way through town then walk back so we will pay a little bit more to do that. There are a few options in town for you to choose from if you want to walk, otherwise grab a ride to venture out.

We have a habit of visiting a local Italian restaurant whenever we travel and if there were ever a romantically lit room with fantastic food and delicious local wine, Andante‘s is it! This intimate restaurant is packed with style and character and made for a great date night.

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We enjoyed a few more drinks at some nearby casual bar, Stormy Mountain Brewing and Local Public House. Super friendly staff and laid back vibe!

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“Designated as an official American Viticulture Area (AVA) in 2009, Lake Chelan offers a one-of-a-kind wine tasting experience featuring over 30 wineries hugging the shores of a breathtaking lake.” – Lake Chelan Visitor’s Website

Our plan for the first full day was to go wine tasting in the Manson area. so while we waited for the vendors to open up we explored local shops and grabbed YUMMY (seriously) pizza at Westside Pizza.

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Getting to and from the wineries was my least favorite part of the entire trip. There are several options to get taxis, limos or other forms of shuttles but we opted for a local casino’s shuttle.

Of course they will stop halfway at the Mill Bay Casino where you will have to wait about 30 minutes until the next ride comes along. We decided to grab drinks and play a few games while we waited (it is a free shuttle so this is what they bank on you doing).

 DO NOT load one of their stupid cards, just use your money elsewhere. If you do load the card play, play, play until you use all of your money!

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This was a fun thing to do together except I was 24 hours post Lasik surgery so the smoke was not friendly to my new eyes. Getting off the shuttle in the village center puts you right next to the local restaurants, bars, wineries and shops. This is a great little strip! While you could drive and easily find parking, it was also smarter to just use the shuttle.

Walk around, try the wines, pair them with food and chocolate, grab a beer and supper at Lake Chelan Brewing Co. and enjoy the night. We caught the last shuttle back and went out for a few more drinks on the town.

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We wrapped up the trip with a breakfast in Campbell’s Pub and Veranda. Service will be very busy pretty much all the time so expect to exercise patience.


LEAVENWORTH, WA

Oh, how I wish we had visited Leavenworth more than one time. Everyone has a little German town near them but Leavenworth is popular for wedding and event destinations, beer, wine, great food and a gorgeous, intricate town. It’s especially popular (and insanely booked up + expensive) over Oktoberfest and Christmas time.

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Leavenworth is a Bavarian-styled village in the Cascade Mountains, in central Washington State. Alpine-style buildings with restaurants serving German beer and food line Front Street. The Nutcracker Museum displays thousands of nutcrackers, some dating back centuries. On the Wenatchee River, Waterfront Park is a habitat for ospreys and eagles. The village is a gateway to nearby ski areas and wineries.

-Source Online.

As you drive into this small town, every home and business is decked out in the appropriate Bavarian style architecture. Our hotel, The Evergreen Inn, hosted us in the Jacuzzi/Fireplace Suite ( #51 ) which was an awesome, large space for us! The feel is definitely that of an old family cabin but it was still a space entirely our own and not the typical cramped motel room.

Private entrance to our suite at The Evergreen Inn.

It was walking distance to the main strip and, even though it was cold and still decorated from Christmas in February, we didn’t mind the walk one bit.

We stopped in for drinks at several awesome breweries and distilleries, one of our favorites being Icicle Brewing Company! We also got a tour of a local distillery.

I’m sure if you walk around you will end up in all of the same places as we did but a majority of these places you walk into for a drink will be casual; come and drink as you are. There are basement wineries, rundown pubs, karaoke, classical music, corner bar and cafe’s…something for everyone to enjoy!

If you want a beautiful view with a more upscale feel, the infamous Visconti’s will give you a gorgeous date night. You also need to have an empty stomach for the authentic German food at another popular choice: Andreas Keller. You will want to make a reservation at these two places, or anywhere that you visit.

Another bonus is this town is very family, kid and dog friendly. If you’re a couple or looking for a family vaca, head out to Leavenworth. You will NOT be disappointed!

There are so many stores, shops, shows and things to do in Leavenworth and just outside of town you don’t need to drink the whole time if that’s not your thing. On our way out of town we filled up on a breakfast at Sandy’s Waffle Haus and hiked riverside through knee deep snow at Wenatchee National Park just outside of town.

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No, not the most prepared compared to the snowshoing visitors but it was incredibly fun and we still laugh at memories we made there. We always love playing hard then getting out to work hard.


Hope you had a great time visiting! If you have any places we must visit on the east coast, please let me know.

 

Cheers to another year of traveling and exploring!

Marin

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You Are Here: Raleigh, NC

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In August 2018 we moved cross-country from Washington to North Carolina. While we miss the PNW we do enjoy being so close to family and all the east coast has to offer including where America was built and history was made.

We went to D.C. over New Year’s Eve and Charleston (coming soon) for our anniversary but we obviously had to check out the big city just an hour and a half north of us. Raleigh is the capitol of North Carolina and is home to several well-known regions/cities including Chapel Hill, Durham and the Triangle. The Triangle is the area of three major universities (Duke University in Durham, The University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University in Raleigh.) So the nightlife, food and amount of things to do is jam-packed. Not to mention it’s hours away from Asheville, the beaches on the coast and 20 minutes driving from RDU airport.

As of January 2019 we have been to Raleigh twice and, while I’m not a local-local I can offer some insight on the city or a quick trip.

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If you plan on staying the night in Raleigh try this Airbnb and we felt very safe in the apartment. It was just the right amount of space and a few minutes walk from the main strip. There was street parking available as well as covered parking garage which we always prefer.

We stayed there over October 19-21, 2018 to celebrate my husband’s birthday and to spend a day at the Triangle Oktoberfest.

Our first night in was our usual eat and drink around the main strip. There are two to three areas with great bar districts and they’re a 30 minute walk or quick Uber from the Airbnb. We mainly checked out S Wilmington Street. First stop was food at Gallo Pelón Mezcaleria.

Upstairs is their sister restaurant, Centro. If you get a chance try the Cats Out Of The Bag IPA from Ancillary Fermentation; they only make 120 per month. At these types of places I enjoy trying out the cocktails so I tried the Cucumber Caipiroska. We shared their tacos, nachos and spicy chicken sandwich which were all really good but smaller portions than you would get at a chain Mexican restaurant.

You probably sat too long taste testing tequila so get to walkin’ down the street a few blocks to The Raleigh Times. Check out their website! This 100-year-old building displays newspaper clippings from it’s namesake newspaper. They have restored and expanded the establishment several times so there are plenty of booths, table, bar space and an upstairs seating area with a rooftop if the weather’s nice.

This bar is a super cool interior and seat yourself. I had the Peach Milkshake IPA and the Blackberry Ale which were both delicious and drinkable to keep the night going. We didn’t try their nachos but heard this is one of the few places offering a late night menu. The later you go, the fewer options you’ll find.

Down the street is the Landmark Tavern which reminded me of a Irish tavern but had the trendiness of a basic hipster bar in and outside. There’s a $1 cover and we had the 2 Hearted IPA from Bell’s Brewery.

The London Bridge across the street was closed for a private event and, what looked full of Greeks; otherwise it looked like a fun, younger crowd with loud music and live events!

A popular choice from everyone who visits Raleigh is Trophy Brewing Company. Head to the corner, turn left and walk down a bit before you see their neon sign next to other random streetside stores. We were in the mood for a late-night snack by now and shared their tots and wings. The wings weren’t too good and really spicy but the tots are definitely worth ordering!

Trophy Brewing Wings and Tots

Trophy Wife and Cloudburst were probably the top beers we had from our visit. Other people have also raved about their session IPAs, the Milky Way Stout which ‘tastes like candy’, and the best nano brewery in the Triangle.

Trophy Brewing Company

On Saturday we were planning on going to Oktoberfest but first…BRUNCH. The biggest must-do while here is heading to Beasley’s Chicken + Honey. We were able to take our time getting ready and got there right before their 11 am brunch doors opened. We didn’t want to stand in line too long so we walked around and found the street closed down for a festival where artists were creating chalk art on the pavement.

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If you can get there right as they open to wait in line DO IT or else you’ll be waiting for a while. Even on a rainy day Beasley’s was buzzing with guests. We snagged a couple seats at the bar and ordered drinks and brunch from the menus written on the wall. Hope you brought your glasses! I don’t think you could really go wrong ordering anything on the menu but we loved their beer, cocktail Ameila’s Crush, and several more classic cocktails. I cannot remember what we ate but I’m pretty sure mine was The Reunion after looking at several strangers plates. (Ok Creeeeppp). Drew had their recommended Huevos Rancheros.

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We caught an Uber for the 30-minute drive to the Triangle’s Oktoberfest. We did NOT expect to spend all day here but we did!  Pre-purchase your tickets which I believe were about $30 for all you could drink cup option but they have several to choose from. They open up an outdoor, riverside ampitheatre which is also used for concerts and your proceeds go to benefiting the rotary clubs, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and several other organizations.

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They had two large tents, a row of food and drink vendors, competitions, weiner dog races, brat and food stands, live music and performers, games and much more. (Sorry this video is sideways!) 

It was a great family-friendly crowd and we ended up shutting the place down with some new friends we met and Uber’d back to Raleigh with.

Reserve your Sunday for RECOVERY. We went to BREW Coffee Bar which was said to be an old train station converted to serve local beer and use coffee from Raleigh Coffee Company. When we got there it was the post-church, college study venue in a strip mall. Next door was Donatos Pizza which made my Ohioan husband go crazy with childhood memories and (to be honest) pizza on the hangover never sounded better!

On our second trip in December 2018 things were a bit more tame. It was a day trip with my dad and sister while in town for Christmas. Luckily it was a sunny (but windy and cold) day to wander around downtown. If you continue down S. Wilmington you’ll come up on the corner of the Capitol building. The North Carolina State Capitol is a 19th-century Greek Revival–style building with a statue of George Washington dressed as a Roman general in its rotunda.

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You can walk around the grounds to view the statues and views of the city and you can enter with a brief security scan before exploring the building. There are three levels and when it was decorated for Christmas it was beautiful! They have most rooms open including detailed signs of where the NC Supreme Court, Legislature, General Assembly and the two committee rooms on the opposite wings. There’s also a small library and a geology room.

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A block and a half away from Beasley’s is Sir Walter Coffee where they host a board of pay-it-forward drinks, seasonal flavors and friendly service and treats. While we just stopped in for a drink to warm up they also had a beer menu for their late-night guests.

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Take your drink and wander down to the historic Raleigh City Market.

The cobblestone streets are home to some venues, pet stores, restaurants and artsy boutiques. The market opened in 1914 and through the years hosted farmers with a variety of goods. Over the years it was sold and purchased from several owners for numerous purposes but it’s still a small corner of charm in the Raleigh.

If you’ve never been to The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar you. need. to. go. It was the largest menu selection I have ever seen and they were featured on the show Tanked. Every mash-up we had was insanely delicious, top-grade burgers and sushi. The portions are pretty large and easy to share. We loveddddd it and I can’t wait to go back!

 

We will of course be back in Raleigh soon and I’ll update you on everything else there is to do as we explore the area. If you have any suggestions or places we need to visit on the east coast let us know and until next time…

 

Cheers!

Marin

Girls Weekend in North Carolina

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We had just moved in to our new home in North Carolina and would host our first guests the next week. Over Labor Day 2018 two of my friends, Lauren and Tessa, made the drive down from West Virginia!

We were new to the area and had much less to do than the PNW but we still had a blast! The first day we had together was spent driving out to Caswell Beach on Oak Island. We chose the Oak Island stretch because of the liquor laws and the atmosphere. There were lots of young couples and about as many families during the busy weekend. Before you go, research what the rules for alcohol are , because some don’t allow it, then pack a cooler of canned beer and head out. 

We made the wise decision of eating lunch before heading out to take beach photos. Much like Oahu. Grab a table at Shagger Jacks for some seafood, burgers and simple drinks. It’s a short drive to the beach and free parking for  beachfront access. 

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We had a great time laying out on the beach since the sand was super soft and surprisingly clean. We were to the left of the Oak Island Pier that’s experienced multiple hurricanes and was built/rebuilt a total of three times from what I’m aware of. We liked playing in the warm Atlantic water even though we couldn’t see much. 

After a day in the sun, grilling at home and having friends over for game night was perfect. 

The next day we wanted to take our friends on a tour of Fort Bragg (something we usually do with any guests we have in a new area) and on up to the infamous Southern Pines. Southern Pines is just south of Pinehurst which is known for their world class golf courses and hosting several events. Southern Pines is easy to walk around eating, drinking and shopping in this area. Over the multiple trips we usually visit Chapmans, The Bell Tree, Neville’s and The Jefferson Inn. New favorites include the Mockingbird on Broad for unique gifts, Betsy’s Crepes for the infamous treats, Southern Pines Growler Co. and Southern Pines Brewing Company just a few minutes down the road. We have a few places on the still-need-to-visit list including Sweet Basil

If you’re looking for any suggestions, reach out! 

If you’re worried about having fun…don’t be.

On our way home we also stopped in at the hometown star of the show, and well loved by locals, The Mill at Puppy Creek. They frequently announce live music guests and have homestyle food with a few local and domestic beers. The thing that really sells this place, however, is that it is set in the woods down a gravel drive with an old mill feel next to a river. During Hurricane Florence it was amazing to see how many people volunteered times and services at The Mill to help block the rising river from destructing the restaurant again. 

There are basically two levels to the restaurant and bar with an outdoor seating patio perfect for twinkling lights and live music. It was not only fun to meet new friends but also get an initial bachelorette party for Lauren! (Hint: The Bud Light hat.)

How we feel after hosting a whirlwind Labor Day Girl’s Weekend.

If you’re familiar with anyone in a military or long-distance position you know how important it is to visit them and make an effort to explore a new place. We have lots of places left on our list but we are excited to get out and see the east coast! Please leave your suggestions below. 

Cheers!

Marin

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Day Trip: Paradise and Mt. Rainier

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If you’re familiar with Washington, you’re familiar with Mount Rainier
This stunning beauty is iconic whether you’re seeing it from I-5, on the  daily dog walk in my neighborhood, at the end of the parade field on Fort Lewis or visiting for the weekend. 

One of the many views of Rainier. This one from Madigan Hospital on Fort Lewis.

While my all-time favorite trip was hiking our way through the Olympic Peninsula, this is a close second.

Paradise is about 5,400 feet on the south slope of Mount Rainier in Mount Rainier National Park. This area includes Paradise Valley, Paradise Glacier (which is the source of the Paradise River), meadows, wildflowers, wildlife and much more.

I enjoyed the visitor’s center as well as how accessible the area is for all modes of transportation and ages of people. This was one of the most crowded, busiest places we had explored which made it feel very touristy instead of a sweet escape into wilderness but the further up you hiked, the more desolate it was. The only possible frustration here would be parking. There are several lots and roadside options (which we chose to do) so be prepared to drive around a bit and take the first spot you see if you don’t mind a small pre-hike warm up! 

Besides a fantastic view one of my favorite things about being on top of a mountain is the wind that silences out any other noise, the feeling of being on top of the world and the change of scenery as you climb from concrete parking lots to grassy meadows to sandy outlooks and rocky peaks. 

Paradise is so appropriately named because of this. Our friends were able to see a bear, deer and beautiful fall colors. Check out her Instagram and these photos she took! 

On August 20, 2017 we hiked halfway up Mount Rainier yesterday and agreed it was one of the MOST beautiful place we’ve been. To get there you’ll need a National Park Pass (free for military) or $30 per vehicle (includes all passengers, good for seven consecutive days.) You will get a map but follow signs for Paradise Road. The Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center is the busiest visitor center and is open year round. Next door is the Paradise Inn. Enjoy the views on the way in!

This area of Mount Rainier National Park is basically a glacier-covered volcano but it’s also home to the park’s most popular trails. We opted for the longest of the three options known as  Skyline Trail: 5.5 miles RT, 1700 feet elevation gain. 

View of Mt. Rainier through Paradise on the way down. 

While we didn’t see bears or deer we did see enough marmots they could consider renaming the mountain. Despite the endless warnings not to step on the grass there were still visitors climbing over to mess around. Hike Guides would consistently reprimand them and hikers coming down from the summit were passing us on the way down. After climbing the initial two miles you’ll get to Panorama Point which gives you an amazing view and an outhouse style toilet available to visitors (hilarious for jokes.)

As we kept climbing we wove in and out of grooved rock formations, gravel pathways, large rock navigation, snow and a few creative jumps across frozen creeks to maneuver where we wanted. We stopped a few hundred feet from where people were changing for the base camps to summit. In a matter of hours we had started in a sunny, hot August day and ended in a near-freezing winter wonderland. It’s the coolest experience! 

The end of Skyline Trail on Mount Rainier

Where was your favorite place to visit in the PNW? Leave it below in the comments and make sure to add Paradise to your next trip.

Cheers!

Marin

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The Mountains Are Calling: Mount Si

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Sigh…

Si what I did there? 

Okay. I’m done. Mount Si (pronounced sigh) was our last big hike we did before leaving Washington. As any other Sunday we headed out on July 8, 2018 around 11 a.m. to climb a mountain.

From a previous hike at Rattlesnake Ledge, another must do!, we had seen and heard all the rave about Mount Si. Si is in the Snoqualmie Area and is 8 miles round-trip. As far as elevation goes you’ll get a gain of 3,150 ft in under four miles. The highest point is 3,900 ft. From using our WTA app I found out this mountain was very important to the Snoqualmie people.

“In the legends of the Snoqualmie people, Mount Si was the body of the moon, fallen to earth through the trickery of the fox and the blue jay.”

 

This was a dog-friendly hike so we were taking our German Shepherd/Saluki Mix, Argo, and Drew’s pack. It was the ideal hiking day; maybe even a little too hot: Clear and 72 degrees. As soon as we got near the infamous peak and sheer edges were showing off for us. It’s intimidating to view this driving in but soooo satisfying when you’re driving away. Feeling like a badass=addicting. 

Post-Hike IG story. Can you see Argo’s tired head waiting for ice cream?
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It’s important to note that they have a parking lot but you might find it difficult to find a spot. If it’s a great day expect to create a spot like we (and many others) did. They also have a bus option to shuttle in and out if you don’t want to bother driving. They also have bathrooms and a water spout at the trailhead.

On the way up you have an opportunity to learn about the Snag Flat and how the mountain survived logging, mining, fires, and other natural causes. The trail you walk actually was once a 4×4 track. 

Finding squirrels and chipmunks

By the time we started our hike up it was 12:45 p.m. With a few stops to enjoy the view, catch my breath and dog breaks we reached the top at 1510 (or 3:10 p.m.) 

From the top we could see beautiful Mount Rainier, Snoqualmie Valley, Seattle, and the Olympics. If you look down and around you you can also see small wildlife.

We took turns holding the dog while the other navigated through jagged rocks to climb even further to the peak. If you’re able, go a little bit further up. The view changes with every few feet and you get closer and closer to a 360 view. The true summit is called Haystack.

In early spring, climbers getting ready for Rainier come here with weighted packs. Conventional wisdom says if they can reach the end of the trail in under two hours, they’re ready to conquer the state’s tallest peak. 

WTA

The top is mostly rocks so don’t expect shade for your lunch or snack break. I recommend lots of water, a hat and crouching down under the tree or large rocks you’ll find for shade. 

We started heading down at 3:45 p.m. and were back in the truck by 5:30 p.m. I remember how much my knees HURT so wearing proper hiking gear, layers and good boots will make a world of difference. No, we never used poles. 

As I shared on my Facebook and Instagram (FOLLOW ME FOR REAL TIME UPDATES!)

Conquered Mount Si today and HOLY KNEES AND CALVES this was no joke! 8 miles in 5 hours. We gained about 1,000 ft in elevation per mile and reached the elevation 3,500 ft. Perfect hiking day with clear views of all the cities and #mountrainier ! 😍
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#mountsi#climb#hike#explore#adventurer#getoutdoors#optoutside#pnw#themountainsarecalling#mountains#workoutcomplete#sundayfunday#upperleftusa

This kicked my ass!

Not only was it a steep and slightly challenging hike there were a lot of people on the trail (100,000 per year hike this trail) and I was at the battle of some health issues that would last a few months. But, as with all of our hikes, I was impressed that I was capable of handling something like that in good time and the view is always worth it.

Don’t let this scare you away though! Novice hikers are just as welcome and enjoy it just as much. We had so many friends who denied (and continue to deny) exploring the areas we live in. If you just get out and try you will be in awe. You have no idea what you’re missing until you go see it for yourself. 

Cheers to getting outside and moving today!

Marin

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Our Favorite View in Olympia, WA (And A Few Other Special Surprises)

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If you’ve visited downtown Olympia, WA, you are more than likely familiar with the charming farmer’s market, the eclectic shops, the vast amount of delicious food and local beers and the view of the water.

During our three years living minutes from Olympia we discovered as many easy hikes and places to see as we did new restaurants to try out in the state’s capital. Being from a land-locked state we were constantly in awe of the mountains and water; even in a crowded downtown area filled with concrete and surrounded by buildings.

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There are several short ‘hikes’ and walks you can do nearby and they are surprisingly enjoyable. They are all family, kid and dog friendly so it was great when we had visitors. Some of our frequent stops were Mima Falls (read more here), Tumwater Falls, try the restaurant out, too, Watershed Park, Priest Point Park which we frequently took guests of all ages, Capitol Lake Trail which is a surprisingly great hike with great views of the capital dome before filling your growler, Tolmie State Park, and the Chehalis Western Trail which was right next to our subdivision and offered a great place to walk, run and ruck on gameday weekends.

 

Just to name a few.

But they mostly revolve around the Budd Inlet: a deepwater shipping channel has been dredged providing access to the Port of Olympia. You can walk the boardwalk and Percival Landing in downtown, watch the sunset over the water while eating supper, check out the houseboats parked at the docks or enter from multiple trailheads. One of the hikes we did near the water was Burfoot Park which welcomes families, sunbathers and dogs alike.

 

Burfoot Park covers 50 acres of property with 1,100 feet of saltwater beach frontage on Budd Inlet. There are nature and beach trails (beaches in WA=rocks so wear good shoes) with clear views of the State Capitol and the Olympic Mountains. There are also shelters, a playground, a garden and bbq grills so I frequently saw birthday parties and events going on on the lawn.

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My husband, dog and I headed out on a gorgeous day for the three-mile trail and to play in the water. We had fun walking through the forest, reading signs as we went down the path and it opened to a rocky beach filled with driftwood, sailboats and others looking for a sunny day out.

There were a few large fallen trees we hopped over to travel further down the beach until we reached a ‘No Trespassing’ sign of private residents. There were some crabs and fish in the water including salmon jumping several hundred feet out. Argo was not a fan of learning to swim in the freezing cold water and we decided to turn around. By this time the water had crept up over the trail a bit and we made a loop back. It was fun to watch the dogs run around in the walks and see the salmon jump by sailboats with the mountains in the background.

To get all of these views only a 10-minute drive from our house and a few minutes walk down to the beach access was incredible. If you’re looking for a casual bite to eat in town we loved The Spar Cafe (McMenamins chain). If you go you HAVE to get their truffle fries, add cajun tots side to your entree and top it all of with, my personal favorite, a Ruby Ale. We also had delicious post-hike pizza and built our own six pack at the Oly Taproom.

If you’re looking for any other suggestions, send me a message for more recommendations!

I hope you have a great time in town and I know we can’t wait to come back up.

Cheers!
Marin

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Westport Beach Camping

Summers are for camping, beaches and time with your friends. If you can fit them all in the same weekend, even better!

Westport is known for it’s miles of sandy, public beaches, boardwalk with stores and plenty to eat and drink and a casual weekend for anyone wanting to drive out to the beach. They allow dogs on their beaches and you can take the truck or 4WD on the sand.

Leaving for Westport. Read more at www.mylocalcollaborative.com

From Lacey to Westport it was only 1.5 drive. It takes you through Aberdeen, known as the gateway to the Olympic Peninsula (Which we camped through a few weeks ago. Most incredible trip ever; check it out here!) It is also famous for being the birthplace/hometown of Kurt Cobain.

Aberdeen. Read more at www.mylocalcollaborative.com

Shortly after we met our friends at Westport Winery. You’ll see it on your right and just keep a look out for the lighthouse. They have a small, gated dog play area with water and a bench. They have outdoor games and you can go inside to order beer or wine and shop around. They also had basic food and snacks available. After a few hours we walked around the gardens to view their plants, flowers and themed set up.

Wesport Winery. Read more at www.mylocalcollaborative.com

It was a quick 12 minute drive from the winery to Twin Harbors State Park for us to get our site set up in the daylight. The entrance fee is minimal and you just keep the ticket in your car window. We had two lots across the street from each other and were located right next to the bathhouse, trash dumpster and water spout which was super convenient.

The campsite is popular and fills fast so get your reservations in early! If you can’t find anything there are at least two more campgrounds in the same area.

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The first thing we did when we got there was walk a short distance to the back of the campground and get beach access. From tents to sand it was about a ten minute walk. It’s a small, single path clearance that’s a little rough so wear your shoes. You will come out of the woods and climb a short hill to the top of the sand dune for the best, expansive view ever!

After setting up camp we started up the fire and heated up our pre-made meals. I went on Pinterest to find easy dinner meals. We were in charge of dinner and had loaded fries (or tots) and foil wrapped meals followed by s’mores with Reese’s. If you haven’t done this then GET ON IT! It’s a game changer.

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The next day I woke up super early thanks to my dog and caught the most gorgeous pink, orange and ethereal sunrise ever. I had the entire beach to myself and had left my phone at camp and it’s one of my favorite memories to think back on. We heated up a campfire breakfast prepared by our friends and spent the morning playing in the water, walking around the exposed dunes and down the beach.

That afternoon we packed up and went downtown to walk the boardwalk, around the lighthouses and get a view of Ocean Shores. If you’re hungry you need to stop into Aloha Alabama for savory BBQ twists and a dog friendly patio. We also grabbed ice cream at Pickaroon Pelican.

 

We had a few more photos and videos on the GoPro but due to a hard drive crash they’re currently unavailable. Thank goodness for Instagram!

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Once we got home from our overnight trip, we noticed when we got home that Argo’s paws were raw and sore from the hot sandy beach so we tried Vaseline and taping a sock to keep him from licking it off. Just a heads up if your pup has sensitive paws!

 

 

Cheers!

Marin

 

Don’t be selfish, share with a friend! Know someone who could use marketing assistance? Have a friend who is wanting to establish their brand? Let’s Connect!

 

**This trip was late July 2017**

Christmas in Whistler, BC

This trip was December 19-23, 2017

Whistler, BC. To some it’s the host location of 2010 Winter Olympics, to summer thrill seekers it’s a hotspot for numerous activities and in the winter everyone and their mother shows up for alpine skiing, snowboarding and winter sports, bringing in over two million visitors annually.

So why did a Kansas girl and Ohio boy decide to ski and snowboard (for the second time in our life) in the top North American ski destination?

 

Well, we loved our trip to Vancouver and Victoria! My husband really wanted to visit Whistler and I had heard from numerous Washington friends that it’s a must visit location. We had our Thanksgiving in Oahu trip the month before, knocking out as many trips as we could before leaving  the PNW.

HEADS UP Whistler is a world-class destination and prices everywhere will reflect that. If you’re buying or renting there are plenty of ways to save and/or splurge. We prefer to take trips instead of buying presents throughout the year and this was one of our Top Three FAVORITE trips we’ve ever taken. Get ready for a great time!


How To Prep

If you’ve never traveled to Canada, check out how to prep here.

A month before the trip (mid-November) I booked our hotel through Expedia. When we travel our main concerns are 1) Walking distance to nightlife/downtown and 2) Price. The best choice for us was staying at the Aava Whistler Hotel. This was minutes away from the gondola lifts, the Whistler Village and  included a free locker for our ski gear.

Aava Hotel Room

Aava Hotel Room

We don’t own any gear so we rented everything from JBLM’s Northwest Adventure Center was closed during our rental so we went to Adventure’s Unlimited on McChord. They gave us coats, helmets, skis, snowboard, boots and poles. No, it won’t be the best gear or cutest helmets but it will get the job done. We agreed that, if nothing else, we would buy our own helmets. We don’t go skiing or snowboarding often enough, and move too often, to justify snow gear.

Hints…this very attractive photo of the goofy helmets

Whistler, BC

Whistler, BC

FUN FACT Whistler brings in tons of Europeans, Australians and others from around the world. It’s cool to be around the families who spend their ‘holiday’ for weeks/months at a time. It’s a popular choice among college students in Australia to spend their breaks or a year ‘off’ in Whistler either in the service industry or giving ski lessons. Plus, you might even ride the lift up with a young girl, Jemimah, who will be doing a double black diamond while you crash into the lift chair…so…yeah….

Let’s Go!!

December 19, 2018

Driving up we noticed the farther north we drove the messier the weather got. We kicked in the four-wheel drive a few times but didn’t have to put chains on.

From Lacey, WA to Whistler, BC it was just over a five hour drive. While we never slid off the road we saw several people slide off so drive careful!

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By the time we checked into Aava it was getting dark and it was a cute little town with the Christmas lights and skiers coming off the mountain. Aava was a very modern hotel with clean, simple rooms and big, white robes which were perfect for our trips to the outdoor hot tub and after a long day on the mountain.

As you know by now, our favorite thing to do in a new city is walk around eating and drinking from place to place downtown.

I brought cute outfits and heeled booties to wear but everyone is in jeans and a cute top, winter coat and snow boots if they’re not in ski gear. Be comfy and don’t slip on the ice, wear the big snow boots girl!

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I don’t think we had a bad meal or drink the entire time we were there. There was a great mix of high-end, casual, pubs, pizza, steakhouses and much more. If you’re looking for something specific you can get exactly what you want on their website. A few places that we went to on night one were Stonesedge Kitchen, 21 Steps, Brewhouse was close to the Olympic Rings and ice skating rink so we checked out this side before stopping in for dinner. Amsterdam Cafe Pub was one of the only places open on our way back to the hotel. Once we sat down a couple came over asking if we were stationed at the same location in WA which we were. Ended up we had mutual friends!

PS: Gloria has her own blog and cute IG that you can check out here and her blog www.brunetteventure.com. She travels all the time, finds the best food and drinks and shares her trendy outfits.

amsterdam pub

 

Although we didn’t go in the Ketel One Ice Bar would also be a unique and super fun experience!

 

December 20, 2018

After a night out…this was a rough morning! With all of our gear and boots on, it was about a 10 minute walk (if that) to the lifts. Most lodging areas will have a shuttle if you’re not within walking distance.We bought our ski lift passes at the base of the mountains but they were super busy so I would get them online here 7+ days beforehand. Grab a map before you head up!

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We were unsure of what options, mountains, etc. we would be doing when we got there but, after seeing it, definitely purchase beforehand!

Wear your access card in your pocket by itself, push it up against the machine and you’re in! There are several restaurants on the mountain top, a few in the middle and several at the base. You can get off and ski to another lift to keep going up or practice on the Olympic runs and greens. There are two mountains; Whistler and Blackcomb.

This first day we stayed on Blackcomb where I ate S**T!! MANY times! There are several sections where you will cross over so just watch out for people coming down (they have the right of way) and will move around you…or help you stand back up and bring your ski that fell off.

I started to get my ‘ski legs’ as I will call them by the end of the day and watching the sun set on the mountain while we grabbed poutine and beer at Longhorn Saloon and Grill.

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That night we went out to a few new bars including a downstairs bar next to a movie theater called Three Below. Yes, it felt like we were in a mall but they had an awesome live band. Of course, when in Canada, you have to get truffle fries at Earl’s.

 


December 21, 2018

Day Two on the mountains was much better for me as I only fell once! We spent most of the time on Whistler and took their record setting glass-bottom lift (record setting) from one mountain to another called Peak to Peak. You get a 360 view of the mountains, the valley and Whistler.

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It was a gorgeous day, sunny and clear. I noticed even though it was 0 degrees or something freezing and crazy, it felt like a dry cold so it wasn’t miserable or the biting cold we experienced in the Midwest.

Here are some videos going down through heavy snow machines…this was the choppiest iciest run we had and yes, that is me snow plowing and Drew crashing HA! and some other runs of the day.

After a few runs we grabbed some lunch at an Irish pub at the main area at the base of the mountain called Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub for burgers and beer.

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Whistler had amazing skiing, unbelievable views and made me consider doing more ski trips in the future. One of the coolest things we noticed on the tops of Whistler Mountain were Inukshuks.

Read more at www.mylocalcollaborative.com

Read more at www.mylocalcollaborative.com

As you can tell by the unedited pictures below the views were breathtaking. This Iconic Statue is the Whistler Mountain Inukshuk, created for Whistler as a Symbol of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. If you’ve skied Whistler Blackcomb in the last couple of years, or visited the summit in the summer, chances are you’ve noticed the large stone statue at the top of the mountain.- Source

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That night I enjoyed the outdoor hot tub next to the pool with a few other visitors.

Read more at www.mylocalcollaborative.com

Read more at www.mylocalcollaborative.com

The door to the pool was also next to the indoor sauna if you wanted to check that out. We had a casual dinner night and found super yummy food for CHEAP at El Furniture Warehouse. Sounds weird, right? Just trust me and go there! For our actual meal we stopped in at Beacon Pub & Eatery. We had tried to stop in once before but they weren’t serving food.


December 22, 2018

Day Three we went to the VERY TOP of Blackcomb mountain. One of the stops on the mountain were the Olympic Rings where we were able to stand on the platform and swap pictures with other skiers.

It was hilarious because we thought we had messed up because all we saw were black diamonds. At the very top were some more amazing views, above the clouds, it’s a long winding path before you can choose to separate to the trick and ramp area, novice or blacks and double blacks.

The best part of this day was that I didn’t fall ONCE! We were some of the last people to get on the lift so the way down was serene and easygoing. We also didn’t run into any bears. So that’s fun.

Out of the two days we really felt like we were on the mountain a majority of the day getting in as many runs as possible.

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For our last night we had a ‘fancy’ dinner upstairs at 21 Steps.


December 23, 2018

Check out day! If you wanted to grab some duty free goodies, beer or anything cheaper than in the states go ahead and grab it now.

Driving Home

Read more at www.mylocalcollaborative.com

Luckily it was great weather to drive back but as we crossed the border back into the US we noticed the roads were jam-packed with the Christmas rush. We were an hour behind schedule  because of crossing back into the border and we actually had to leave our dog in the kennel until the next day because we weren’t going to make it back in time. Just some weird tips from the border patrol: When going back and forth have your glasses off, passports out, back windows open and answer the questions quickly and simply.

 

I would love to hear if you’ve been to Canada especially now that we are on the East coast! Tell us where we should go, what we should see and do.

Cheers!

Marin

 


OH YEAH, GUESS WHAT? Phone calls and consultations are always free. If you have questions about your marketing approach or need to get serious and brand your business, let’s talk.

Vancouver to Victoria, BC

British Columbia

Read more at www.mylocalcollaborative.com #localcollab

This trip was July 19-23, 2017

 

Oh, Canada.

We live 4.5 hours from the Canadian border. Being from the middle of the United States it was exciting to have the chance to be in another country that quickly. Drew had never been out of the country until this trip and it was time for me to renew my passport so Canada it was!

We knew British Columbia was a must-see and heard Vancouver and Victoria were a blast for sightseeing and nightlife. While we never made the long trek out, we would absolutely have gone to Banff.

Before You Go:

  • First make sure your passport is up to date or allow up to six weeks for any changes. My renewed passport came in about 10 days sooner than Drew’s first passport.
  • We did exchange for Canadian currency at our local Wells Fargo bank. Once we got there we realized we would have been just fine using our cards. Because of the exchange rate it’s actually more beneficial for you to use your card. We found it nice to have some cash to use or have ‘just in case’. You’re visiting their country. Be respectful and make it as easy as you can on them. Having said that…
  • Let’s say worst came to worst. They might accept your American currency. They’ll round the difference and you’ll get Canadian change. We spoke to a bartender about how they handled this.
  • Not important but just for fun 😉 …They bring a portable card scanner to your table to process the transaction which we found common in every city we visited.
  • They had the same outlets. You won’t need to bring an adapter but double check with your lodging.
  • The drinking age in Canada is 18-19 depending where you go. Each province and territory is free to set its own drinking age.
  • 3 a.m. will be the latest bars and clubs are open. U.S. residents can bring back 1 liter of alcohol duty-free on their return from Canada. If you want to bring back cigarettes or any other products, check this out.
  • Sleeve=Pint. Or as close as you can get give or take a few ounces. You’ll see what I mean.

 

VANCOUVER, BC

Jul 19 – 21, 2017

 

canda currency

We drove from Lacey to Vancouver with no traffic. Crossing the border was a short line and, as you drive into Vancouver, you’ll see a beautiful cityscape. Here are a few VERY professional GoPro videos of us passing through Seattle and on our way into Vancouver.

 

There are long winding roads that take you down a two-lane highway to town. We pulled up to our Airbnb which hosted it’s own parking garage and keys to access the elevator and our room. We stayed here which I cannot recommend highly enough! It was clean, modern, close to everything and the floor to ceiling windows give you an awesome view 24/7.

If you’re looking for some money off your Airbnb rentals, use this code!

Here is a tour of the awesome Airbnb!

Since you’re staying in the most superb location, walk over to THE place to eat and drink…Yaletown. It used to host industrial warehouses but has since turned residential the perfect mix of industrial turned residential. You’ll feel the modern, boutique, funky and stylish personalities at each location. Several have indoor/outdoor seating. We grabbed our first food and drinks at a delicious Mexican place called Tacofino.

Here’s a little breakdown of day/night one thanks to Snapchat.

 

It’s fun to walk down the sidewalks pass the multiple restaurants, bars and shops and we stopped for a few beers at Phat Sports Bar. We talked a ton to the owners here (a husband/wife couple) and here is where I learned what a sleeve was. Awwww.

Phats Sports Bar

Phats Sports Bar

Yaletown Brewing Company is a MUST go to! The inside is huge, rustic with awesome decor and Happy Hour atmosphere. We went here twice solely for their Raspberry Wheat Ale. It was seriously that delicious and I want to go back right now…

Yaletown Brewing Company

Yaletown Brewing Company

Now go take a nap! 😉

 

If you want to go out tonight for some late-night food and drinks head over to Doolin’s Irish Pub. Grab their nachos! This is the side of town where most of the clubs are so expect to be carded and run into more of the homeless population. We slipped into the Republic bar for a steep cover and pricey drinks. It was pretty dead and we saw a guy puke on the couches so….Not sure if I would recommend going there….

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I hope that booty is ready for today! Walk down the street for your carb loading at La Petit Belge. They’re famous for their Belgian waffles and we can see why. We waited in a short line and, by the time we left the line was backed up to the door. The best way to tour the city is going to be on your bike to avoid busy streets.

 

We rented two city roadsters from Cycle City Tours. Right above this is some bumpy bike basket footage of us starting off the ride to Stanley Park.

 

They’ll have multiple bikes to choose from and you can add things like baskets. You will rent a helmet along with your bike…don’t feel like a nerd. EVERYONE had a helmet on because it’s a law and you’re riding next to cars on the street. We wore rainjackets today along with comfy clothes and were thankful for the layers. They also provide a lock for you to explore without worry of the rental being lost. You’ll save 10% by booking online and pay for only as long as you bike (half or full day).

The views are awesome and the path is busy. Head down the hill and you’ll find the path for a quick 15-minute ride to the totem poles at Legends of the Moon in Stanley Park.

A few minutes later down the road you’ll see the “Little Mermaid” statue on your right. This statue was built in 1972 and is actually a woman in a wetsuit. We also heard and spotted an eagle above us!

As you round the corner (You’re basically following the Seawall which you will hear lots about) you’ll start to exit the ‘city’ and find yourself next to stunning rock formations, the large Lion’s Gate Bridge, more water views and several lookout points. Each time I saw mountains or a new city view we would pull over and enjoy the view.

You’ll start trading the rocks for the sandier beaches. You can make it to the highest point of the park, Prospect Point Lookout, to grab a bite to eat but we decided to keep pushing since we were going to see the entire city.

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You’ll bike through some beautiful gardens and parks where families are enjoying their weekend and wildlife are scurrying around. There are a few hills I enjoyed coasting down like a kid….maybe three times….

Finally we made it over to Olympic Village. By this point my tailbone was feeling it! It hurt to get off the bike and walk around or jump down curbs and potholes (haha). Olympic Village was built for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games and is now one of the greenest communities in the world.

Olympic Village

Olympic Village

The housing used for the worldwide guests is now hosting residents. We grabbed a large lunch and beer at Craft. Craft is the large red barn in the center next to the oversized birds so I hope you don’t miss it. They provide over one hundred different beers on tap, most of them from local brewers. We tried their hot dog sushi, lobster roll and OF COURSE poutine.

We biked back across and over the bridge to Granville Island which was one of my personal favorites. Granville is a man-made island formed in sand dunes around False Creek and is home to breweries, arts and beautiful neighborhoods. If you had more time to explore this area I would. It was extremely busy when we made it in to town and, even as a biker, it was difficult to lock our bike up. Cars were almost at a standstill.

catshouse granville

We grabbed some cold cocktails at Cats Socialhouse which is now permanently closed. Granville Island Brewing was packed full of people but we were still able to check out their gift and beer center. Their public market and stores were also fun to walk around and check out.

That last push back to Vancouver was a long one but we made it! On our walk back to the Airbnb it was late afternoon. We walked into the most Instagram-worthy restaurant/bar, Homer Street Cafe and Bar, a few steps from our door to grab a couple celebratory drinks. I believe I got the Secret Garden and Spring Flowers (pictured.)

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We grabbed some of the best couture pizza and sliders we’ve had at The Parlour before drinking at a couple cool random bars nearby tonight. Our criteria is 1) Are they still open? and 2) Looks cool, wanna try it out? The Parlour turns into a club and while we were paying the bill they started transforming the space and a line began forming.

PS: We heard lots of good things about Medina Cafe but the line was always way too outrageously long for us to wait around.

We went to a few other bars tonight but nothing that I think you’d be missing out on.

 

Our last day in Vancouver started out in Gastown. Gastown is the original settlement of Vancouver and upholds the historical characteristics from bricked pavers to street lamps and wrought iron, cozy stores.

This area is extremely busy so park where you can. We chose a parking garage downtown and walked the sidewalk a shortways to the infamous steam clock. This clock blows steam constantly and chimes it’s bells loudly to tell visitors the time.

We walked through a few touristy stores and noticed several bars as we walked through town. You can easily find the “Gassy” statue before stopping in at the Lamplighter Public House for lunch.

We had great beer and delicious food plus there wasn’t any waiting time. You can sit outside but we had to change when it started to rain. They have the old pub feel, molded ceilings but arcade games in the corner.

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Find the photo above with the pavers behind the black chain link looking at the Lamplighter. I am standing in the spot where they named it Vancouver.

We plugged in directions to the BC Ferries about an hour away. We rode from Tsawwassen (Vancouver side) to Swartz Bay (Victoria side). You can check schedules here. As you approach the ferry expect long lines and the biggest ferry you’ve probably ever taken.

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Arrive an hour before your departure time. This is a pricier ferry ride because of their charges and I believe we paid $40-50/per adult. You can check current rates here.

HIGHLY RECOMMEND reserving a ferry time so you don’t wait around as long OR risk missing out on a ferry altogether. You also save money.

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They will sort you into a row, you park and each time a ferry leaves you MIGHT be able to move forward. There are restrooms, restaurants and a concourse area for you to grab food and drinks. Kids were playing in a park and people walked their dogs around the grassy areas.

Once you’re on the ferry, it’s business as usual. Park, emergency brake and grab your coat to head up to the top. This ferry had several floors and rooms full of activities for people of all ages. We were REALLY hoping to see whales but had no luck. Seals and smaller wildlife were in the water and the views of islands and mountains were stunning. Crossing over took 1.5 hours and when we arrived we were able to drive into Swartz Bay.

 

VICTORIA, BC

Jul 21 – 23, 2017

 

From Swartz Bay it was a straight shot about 30-40 minutes to our Airbnb. We passed Butchart Gardens, the edge of downtown and the entrance into the city.

We stayed here. It was a shared room which I didn’t really understand but the host was very nice and the location was great. If we were to go back to Victoria I would prefer a place to ourselves but this provides great parking and a clean space at a very low price!

This first night we went out for dinner and drinks hopping around the downtown area. It was easy to find places to visit because of how popular this area is. If you haven’t discovered Earl’s chain in Canada take the walk down to Government Street. We are big, big fans of their garlic fries and wings. This area close to Market Square is where lots of college and young adults hang out for nightlife.

Here’s another snapchat video of our nightlife…

nightlife

We walked down the street and stopped in at a few bars: The Churchill, a few bars here and there and found the COOLEST interior ever at Bard and Banker.
If you need to cure that hangover this morning grab breakfast at Browns Socialhouse. It’s a very short walk from your Airbnb and they have the most delicious FRESHLY SQUEEZED orange juice I have ever tasted. It’s a must try!

Drive thirty minutes out to The Butchart Gardens. No, we’re not big gardening enthusiasts but it really is breathtaking and the expansive grounds were impressive to walk through. Because it is such a famous landmark plan on spending some time walking around here. It was raining off and on the day we went but they have clear umbrellas you’re able to borrow.

Instead of including a million photos from Butchart, here is a link to all the photos I uploaded. Take a look!

You drive through neighborhoods to get to the entrance and then pay about $30/adult to get into the park. Don’t worry it’s worth the one time visit.

These grounds were once a personal residence and the couple grew it into the grounds you see today. They will hand you a map so you know what you’re looking at and how long it has been there. There are waterfalls, a rose garden, grass sculptures, a Japanese section, a boat dock to the water, ponds, a home and much more. You can easily spend a few hours here.

Head back to Victoria and walk around the Market Square and Bastion Square. We were able to wander through The Bay Centre and several really cool bookstores.

Speaking of bookstores you should visit the infamous Powell’s in Portland. I talked about it here.

OH AND I FOUND SOMETHING WITH MY NAME ON IT!!

 

While you’re on this side of town stop into the Irish Times Pub for a classic beer and great live music. I wish we could have stayed longer, the atmosphere was a great time!

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You’ll walk around the edge of Brentwood Bay. You couldn’t have missed it but go by The Empress. This is MASSIVE and difficult to get in one photo! Some people like to visit for high tea or tours and others even stay here.

Caddy-corner to the Empress is their provincial capital, Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. Ain’t nothin like the one in Topeka…. You can climb up some of the steps, walk the grounds and visit the gigantic trees, statues and totem poles on their grounds.

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Your feet are probably hurting as much as mine were by this point but keep going to see more cool things while you circle back to your room. Past the Royal BC Museum (we will come back to this) is the Elliot Street Square, St Ann’s Schoolhouse and further down the road is Beacon Hill Park.

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We definitely didn’t make it through all of the park but it was cool to walk through a historic and famous area. Round the street by the Old Spaghetti Factory to walk through the historic St. Ann’s Academy.

 

The Airbnb is right here on the corner so rest up, get ready and walk down to The Guild. We had an enjoyable dinner and drinks even though the portions were fairly small we were still full. There WAS some waiting and were extremely surprised when the bartender comped our meal for us!

We visited several bars in this area on our walk back home including Darcy’s Pub where there was more live music and a cover charge for the band. This was pretty crowded and definitely more of the college and bachelor party scene. Big Bad John’s was a dive bar with another cover and it reminded me of the Floribama bar near Gulf Shores. We grabbed a Coors but there wasn’t a place to sit down or move and we left after one drink. I wouldn’t say it’s worth the cover.

Since we’re big fans of Irish pubs we hit up one closer to home, the Sticky Wicket Pub. We would have loved to spend more time in this HUGE bar filled with games, tables, bartops and outdoor seating but it was closing time and we finished the walk home.

This last day is for the museums: The Museum of Anthropology / Royal BC Museum so grab a filling breakfast at Sam’s Deli and Bistro. This museum was both of our favorites we had ever been to. It was really well done and there was plenty to look at. Victoria had a large presence of showcasing and honoring their Native American heritage.

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It will be a lengthy walk but head down to the Fisherman’s Wharf. There were more hotels lining up the water and the area itself is entirely on a floating dock. There are restaurants all over the place and one of the more famous ones is Barb’s Fish n Chips.

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Next to the wharf is another dock area where whale watching and tours take off from. There are tiny houses are docked and you can walk the boardwalk to view the private residences.

The ferry out tonight is in the same area as the Empress. Plan for traffic and arrive an hour ahead of time. This is a narrow two lane road so if you’re earlier then you will be turned away and asked to come back. Once you park your car in the lot, walk up to the office for your ticket and to fill out a card that will be placed in your windshield.

We took Black Ball Ferry line and you can find more information here. Use the same approach as you did on the earlier ferry.

This ferry will be just over two hours long and it was FREEZING outside. We had a great view of Victoria as we sailed out. About halfway through we saw whales pop up out of the water! It was fun to watch their tails fluke in the sunset.

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Our drive back through Port Angeles happened right after nightfall. If you want to spend some time in Port Angeles or the Olympic National Park read about it here.You’ll love that the sun doesn’t set until 9-10 p.m. in the summers here.

This Canada trip was one for the books and we want to go back constantly. We’ve got some spare loonies and toonies if you want to pick us up on your way there. Now that we are about to move to the East coast I would love to hear and read about your trips on that side! Please leave them down for me in the comments.

Cheers!
Marin

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Thanksgiving in Oahu

ALOHA!

Hawaii is a dream destination for basically every individual on this planet. And for good reason, of course.

Before we begin, remember to follow my Instagram for all the live photos!

While we were living in Seattle we knew we had to take advantage of SeaTac airport’s direct flights. If we moved and ended up connecting through SeaTac we would kick ourselves. We were wanting to travel and explore as much as we were able to in this stage of our lives and when my husband gets a chance to take time off, we take it and run.

Our friends had recently been stationed in Oahu and were gracious enough to host us over Thanksgiving leave! We chose to travel around November 23-November 27 so we started keeping an eye on direct flights. You can set up Google flight alerts or search for alerts on your favorite comparison and search engine sites. We bought tickets a few months beforehand (another perk about traveling in September-November…it’s usually cheaper than peak travel months!) I watched prices for the next drop. Check your airline’s policies but we were able to get a credit from Alaskan Airline to use on a future flight. Score!

 

Pre-Trip Planning

  • Book your pet’s boarding now to avoid the holiday rush and make sure they’re up to date on all required vaccinations. Some kennels may also request sweaters or extras for weather.
  • Book your parking reservations. If someone can’t drive you, look at other options before airport parking! It gets SO expensive SO quickly. We’ve had great experiences using Park n Jet Airport Parking and Jiffy Airport Parking.
  • We were beyond lucky enough to stay in our friends home and have them drive us around. If you need to book a hotel or Airbnb do it now! Renting a car can also be pricey (as our friends found out in Maui) so figure out your needs or if walking/Uber/etc. would be a better option.

 

We flew in on a redeye and as we arrived near the island we could see the lights lining the edge and airport. Stepping off the plane we were hit with warmth and bit of mugginess; welcome surprise from late fall in the Northwest! Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, also known as Honolulu International Airport, was an open air concourse before walking through the main area which was easy to navigate. We met our friends in baggage claim and were lei’d with beautiful locally made leis (that I dried and hung in our guest bedroom.) 

Seattle is three hours ahead of Oahu so luckily we woke up early while on vacation. Looking out our window you could glimpse the ocean. It was Thanksgiving Day and my one request on things to do was a hike to see a waterfall. We drove across the island and I was blown away by the beautiful landscape next to a busy downtown area. We drove past coastal drop offs, the Royal Hawaiian Golf Club and tall peaks. I loved driving around with ‘locals’ who pronounced street names for us, told us stories of the areas and had been on the hikes before.

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We parked in a neighborhood street and headed off on Maunawili Falls Trail. Something I wasn’t expecting was the consistent, daily rain showers that breezed over the area. It was like walking through a mister and was great for cooling off but the trail was extremely muddy. It’s a thick, red clay-style mud which wrecked our shoes so bring dark socks and shoes you don’t mind getting stained.

We wore our swimsuits under our clothes and carried a light backpack with towels and water. A small portable speaker also made the 3 mile hike enjoyable. You walk along a river in the base of the mountains and the only trail issue we had was walking through a river…so we got a little wet. Made it fun, though! The incline on the second half of the hike was fairly steep but the lookout points and stairs made it easier. Overall I would say this trail is moderate to just harder than moderate with all conditions considered.

Crossing a few more rivers we came up on a secret little corner of paradise. There were a few other small groups of people enjoying the cove but everyone we met on the trip was extremely friendly. The water was FREEZING but we numbed up as we waded and swam over to a rock ledge. You climb up on the left-hand side and use caution as you climb over the slippery wet rocks; there’s nothing here that is established, it’s all natural. There’s a wide rock ledge that leads to another small rock formation. If you climb up this there is an even more intimate small swimming hole to wade around in. A small waterfall fills it up and you’re surrounded by trees and rocks.

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We scooted down to the first ledge and jumped off into the water. It’s about a 12 foot jump into the swimming hole.

There were a few boys who climbed even higher-about 40 feet-to jump down. You can tell where we are at and get an idea for how high up they climbed. No way would I do that but if you’re brave and crazy do it! Here’s a quick video of one of those jumps…

When we got back to our car, covered in mud and water, a resident drove by and offered us a hose to clean off. SO NICE! We drove back through town and stopped in for Thanksgiving goodies. It was fun to see the different food and produce in the store. Of course we had to pick up local, Hawaiian beer.

Drew’s jump off the waterfall: 

Lexi told us to try the pineapple because it’s sweeter than on the mainland….ABSOLUTELY! Usually pineapple makes me throat scratchy, too but this was perfect. We ended Thanksgiving with the ultimate feast and enjoyed a night of board games and playing with their dogs.

thanksgiving


 

THE NEXT DAY we took a quick driving tour of Schofield and drove out to the legendary surfing mecca North Shore, passing the Dole Plantation.

We grabbed some sandwiches at the Waialua Bakery; we learned sprouts were a big part of many Hawaiian dishes and sandwiches.

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You can easily walk around Haleiwa exploring tourist and surf shops including the North Shore Surf Shop. Laniakea Beach was short drive down the road and made for some beautiful views straight out of a movie.

The waves were too strong for swimming and there were several flags along with lifeguards who warn you not to go in.

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There were only a few experienced surfers out in the ocean…and some sea turtles swimming in the surf.

On the far end of the beach we saw a sea turtle who came up on shore. There were several people from a local organization guarding the turtle making sure the ropes were placed around it to ensure it’s safety.

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We drove down to see the infamous angel wings next to Anahulu’s Shave Ice. In Hawaii you can get shaved ice with condensed milk—SURPRISINGLY not that bad! There were several surf shops here, too, and you can see a small alcove where rowers and surf lessons were taking place.

On your way back home stop at the Green World Coffee Farm for a quick drink and snack. They have rows of coffee to smell, taste and view. I picked up a couple bags of “Coffee Cake” for presents.

TIP: You can buy them ground or as whole beans. If you buy them as beans you can fly home with them in your suitcase PLUS ship them without worry. You can grind shortly before drinking for freshness.

This was our nice night out so we got all dressed up and Ubered to downtown to watch the free fireworks show at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. (Each Friday evening the Hilton Hawaiian Village puts on a free firework show on Waikiki Beach.)
Taxi a few blocks over and ride the elevator to the rooftop bar Buho Cocina y Cantina. This was one of the coolest places we’ve been to for Mexican plates and cocktails. We shared their spiked melon bowl which was a half watermelon scooped out and created into a margarita bowl for us to share.

DAY THREE kicked off with a big breakfast and fresh, sweet guava juice at the Wailana Coffee House. This won’t stand out as the most modern restaurant but the best places never do. For very reasonable prices you can get TONS of really good food. We hurried over to Pearl Harbor to make our ticket time. They sell tickets for a certain time of day and limited amounts so check on this beforehand.

TIP: If you want to visit Pearl Harbor or the memorials nearby, buy your tickets in advance. We purchased them the day before at the Navy PX but you can look online or through other tourist locations.

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The Pearl Harbor Visitors Center offers a small concourse to walk around on and, at your assigned time, a theater with a short film to explain the history of what you’re about to look at. They’ll empty the theater and file you over to the World War II Valor In The Pacific National Monument; this beautiful all-white monument is what you envisioned before visiting.The names etched into a wall, the continuous oil leak and the open-air monument are breathtaking.

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You’ll need a taxi or ride across the bridge to get to Ford Island, home to Navy families. Have them drop you off at the gate of the Battleship Missouri Memorial. There were a few stands for drinks and refreshments near the dock but we were still too full from breakfast.

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Walking up on the USS Missouri you understand how large of a ship this is and you’re able to walk around the exact spots where history happened, including the site of the official Japanese surrender in WWII.

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If you walk across the island you’ll see the neighborhoods that current Naval families live in. Farther along you’ll see the more historic neighborhoods. The names on the properties show nameplates from officers living in the residence during Pearl Harbor and, just below them, the current resident. Standing in this neighborhood under palm trees and next to the water you really get a sense for what it looked like on the day of. It was surreal to be in the same place as such a historic event.

all four blowhole

Lexi picked us up and drove us to the East side of Oahu and stopped off at several blowholes and rock formations.

You can visit the Halona Blowhole and a few other beautiful locations on this side of the island.

 

Coming back into Oahu we stopped for a cavity…I mean…snack….at Volcano Shakes. Make sure you share with one (or more) friends! You can walk around Waikiki beach in the daylight to view the statues and monuments then swing through the open air Ala Moana Center.

It was still warm for November but it could get chilly in the evenings so we picked up super-soft crew necks and tees at Local Motion. There were multiple weddings and photoshoots taking place in and around the mall which apparently happens every weekend.

Korean BBQ

We had dinner reservations for (my first Korean BBQ experience!) at Sura Hawaii. Good thing because the wait line never ended! You can grab some cold drinks at several local places; just start walkin’!


 

ON THE LAST DAY drive out to the Countryside Cafe for a super yummy, local breakfast and cross the street to Ma’ili Beach Park.

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We were the only people on this far end of the beach so we could snorkel, swim and sun the food babies. Ride down the road a ways to the Mermaid Caves! You will not regret this! You’ll park in a lot and walk over the Nanankuli Beach Park.

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If you’re hungry grab a quick pick-me-up of Poke at Poke Stop. Pack up real quick and head to the airport. We checked our luggage on the far side of the airport before heading over to stand in security. It was a very long line but they moved fairly quickly and we had plenty of time for our flight back home (BOOOOO). Keep in mind many people will need to claim items, check luggage and passports. Get there early.

Our flight home was with Hawaiin Airlines and if WHEN we go back to Hawaii we will fly with them. It was a great airplane, fantastic service, a hot meal and gets you in the island spirit.

Thanks again to our friends, Josh and Lexi, for hosting an amazing trip!

 

Mahalo for reading and, as always, cheers!

Marin

PS: Did you get those free downloads I shared earlier? If not, here ya go.

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