Best Places to Eat and Drink in Las Vegas

Headed out to Sin City soon? Las Vegas is one of our favorite places to go for a weekend away. Sometimes we find it challenging to decide where to eat while visiting, because there are so many great restaurants on The Strip! For this reason, I want to share a few of my favorites places to eat and drink in Las Vegas.

Jardin

Jardin is an adorably decorated restaurant located in the Wynn. It is a “resort casual” option that is open for all meals. We ate dinner here during our stay a few weeks ago and loved it. The menu offers a variety selections for every type of palate. In my opinion, Jardin is somewhat expensive for a casual place, but we planned this as one of our nicer meals for our trip. The service is great, and we enjoyed everything that we ordered. I loved the Pink Sangria and the meatball appetizer! Reservations are recommended here.

Tableau

Tableau is another great restaurant located in the Wynn. It is listed as one of the resort’s “fine dining” options for breakfast, lunch, and brunch. This restaurant offers great views of the garden and pool. We ate here for breakfast, and we were not disappointed! I ordered the Belgian Waffles, and Justin ordered the Tableau Breakfast. Let me tell you, this was a lot of food! Even though the prices are a little steep, I thought it was worth it for how much food we had. On a side note, they offer stools for your purse! We aren’t super fancy; so, we definitely laughed a little. I’d suggest reservations at this establishment.

Carbone

Carbone is a high-end Italian restaurant located in the Aria. It is only open for dinner. Even though I generally feel uncomfortable in fancier places, we chose to dine here for a special occasion. I really enjoyed the fresh parmesan, Caesar Salad, and Spicy Rigatoni that we ordered; however, the entrées were a little too extravagant for my tastes. Everyone else in my party enjoyed the meal, though. If I ever return, I’ll probably just stick with the pasta and a drink! Reservations are encouraged.

Maggiano’s Little Italy

Maggiano’s is another Italian-American option on the Strip. It is located in the Fashion Show Mall, and it is open for lunch and dinner. They also offer brunch on weekends. Compared to other options in the area, this restaurant is casual and affordable. Even though we have Maggiano’s in Arizona, I love to eat here in Vegas! Their food is delicious. I mean, who doesn’t love good Italian food? Justin and I usually order the Chicken Parmesan and the Chicken Piccata to split. We could probably just order one dish to share, because they offer large portions. I should mention that this place gets CRAZY busy–especially on weekends; so, I’d HIGHLY recommend a reservation.

Aria Café

The Aria Café is another great casual option for those craving American food. It is open for breakfast and lunch. This is probably our favorite breakfast place on the Strip. The service is usually pretty good, and the prices are reasonable. I love their Red Velvet Pancakes!! We’ve never made a reservation at this restaurant. We also try to arrive earlier in the morning to avoid crowds/wait times.

DOUGHP

DOUGHP is a desert/snack shop, but I thought it was worth mentioning. They sell edible cookie (without the eggs) that actually tastes GOOD. This establishment is located within Planet Hollywood. We stopped here for an afternoon treat, and we were pleasantly surprised. Similar to Coldstone, they have menu options as well as a “make your own” bar. We chose to create our own dough with chocolate chips and M&M’s. YUM!

Black Tap

I had seen advertisements for Black tap in various casinos, and I really wanted to check it out. Black Tap is burger joint in the Venetian with cool decor. They have a variety of menu options including burgers, bar foods, cocktails, as well as Crazy Milkshakes. We ordered an appetizer and their Sweet N’ Salty Shake. This desert was incredibly delicious but a little overwhelming at the same time. I definitely recommend sharing!

Beer Park

Beer Park is a “rooftop” bar and grill located on the Paris property. The cuisine is definitely your run-of-the-mill bar food; however, I love the atmosphere here. This is a great place to grab a drink and hang out in the afternoons! They offer lawn games, televisions, and pool/foosball tables for guests.

Hattie B’s

Hattie B’s is a popular fast-casual restaurant from Nashville that serves fried chicken and fixings. I didn’t get the opportunity to try this establishment on my recent trip to Music City; therefore, I was so excited to see this location in the Cosmopolitan! Hattie B’s chicken sandwich is AMAZING. Fair warning: the chicken is pretty spicy! It’s totally worth it, though! I’d definitely recommend sharing here, as well.

Noodles

On one of our trips to Vegas, Justin and I were craving Thai food. While we were searching through the options, we stumbled upon Noodles in the Bellagio. This casual restaurant is open for lunch and dinner. They offer a variety of dishes from all of Asia. We love their Pad Thai! We’ve never made reservations before dining, but it can get pretty busy here.

TAP Sports Bar

TAP Sports Bar is a restaurant located in the MGM. This is a casual bar and grill open for lunch and dinner. They are also open for brunch on weekends. We have eaten here a few times, and we’ve always enjoyed it. Prices are pretty reasonable. We’ve never made reservations to eat here, but I imagine it could get busy if a big event or game is on.

The Sugar Factory

While I’ve never visited their location in the Fashion Show Mall, I’ve stopped at their shop and bar in Planet Hollywood. Let me just say that this place has AMAZING drinks. I had seen their crazy fishbowls on Pinterest, and I really wanted to try one. I ordered the Passion Punch with Sour Patch Kids, and it did not dissappoint my expectations. These goblets are a lot bigger than I anticipated; therefore, I’d highly highly recommend sharing/drinking responsibly.

Where do you like to eat in Vegas?

Must-See Sights and Attractions in Nashville

Nashville, Tennessee has become a popular destination for a variety of visitors ranging from country music lovers to partiers (and everybody in between). A few weekends ago, I traveled to the famous Music City with my mother-in-law for the very first time. I like that no matter what a person’s interests may be, the city offers a little something for everyone. For this reason, I wanted to share my list of things to do in Nashville that you won’t want to miss.

Downtown Nashville

Downtown Nashville is definitely the heart of the city. We stayed at the DoubleTree by Hilton Downtown, and we were within walking distance to a lot of the major attractions. Like any city center, it can become congested with traffic, crowds, and some litter.

Broadway Street

Broadway Street is the epicenter for bars, restaurants, and live music. During the weekends, this place is packed! We went exploring when we landed on a Friday night, and we had a difficult time maneuvering through the crowds. Even if bar-hopping isn’t quite your scene (which it wasn’t for us), it’s still fun to experience the craziness and people watch.

The Nash Collection

On Broadway, there is a clothing shop called The Nash Collection. If you’re looking for a souvenir that’s not cheesy, this is definitely the place! I was originally drawn to this store for their cute “NASH” hats; however, I ended up with a t-shirt instead.

Legendairy Milkshake Bar

This dessert shop is located near the crossroads of Broadway and 3rd Ave. I think the name speaks for itself, because these milkshakes are definitely Legen-wait for it-Dairy (yes, this is a How I Met Your Mother reference). I’ve always wanted one of these insane desserts, and my shake did not disappoint. I strongly recommend sharing!

House of Cards

House of Cards is a speakeasy bar and restaurant that is located under the Johnny Cash Museum. If you’re looking for a unique experience in Nashville, House of Cards is it! Around the restaurant, there are magicians doing close up card tricks. This is a nice way to spend time while waiting for your meal or the bigger “magic shows” that they host throughout the night. The restaurant requires guests to purchase entrées for admission to the show. My suggestions? Order a drink and a meal/appetizer to share and enjoy the close up magic. This place is pretty pricey, and I didn’t think the stage show was worth it. Also, I should mention that this establishment has strict policies regarding dress code and photos; therefore, I’d recommend taking a look at their website before visiting.

The Gulch

The Gulch is a super cute neighborhood in Nashville. This area of the city is filled with shops, restaurants, art, and fitness centers. I loved exploring here! If you’re planning to brunch at one of their popular joints–such as Biscuit Love or Milk and Honey–you’ll want to get there early. These places were INSANELY busy!

Amelia’s Flower Truck

The main reason that I wanted to visit The Gulch is for Amelia’s Flower Truck. I had seen these adorable trucks all over Pinterest, and as corny as this sounds, I just HAD to see it in person! If we were staying longer, I definitely would have purchased some of their beautiful flowers to enjoy.

Murals

While wandering around The Gulch, we stumbled upon a few of the area’s popular murals. The art in Nashville is pretty amazing. I’m not going to lie, I felt pretty touristy waiting in line to snap my photo. It was fun to people watch here, though.

Opryland Area

After we explored Downtown Nashville and The Gulch, we took a Lyft over to the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. While the resort itself is an attraction, the Grand Ole Opry and the Opry Mills mall are also close by. This was a nice surprise for us! We spent the rest of our Saturday afternoon in this area.

Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center

This resort is huge! Even if you’re not a guest, it’s fun to walk around and enjoy the garden scenery, shops, and restaurants here. This hotel even has a water park on the property.

The Grand Ole Opry

While we weren’t originally planning on seeing the Grand Ole Opry, I would say that this tour was the highlight of the trip! I loved that we were able to go behind the scenes and stand on the historic stage. If you’re a country music fan, I’d highly recommend visiting!

Opry Mills

We love to shop; so, we had to go to Opry Mills after our tour. This mall has a ton of stores and outlets! We got some really great deals here. In addition, there are other attractions–such as an IMAX theatre, wax museum, and arcade–for those who may not be interested in shopping.

Nashville is a great city to visit, and we had a great weekend there! Have you ever been? If so, what are some places that you recommend?

Tips for Visiting Universal Orlando Resort

Planning a trip to Universal Orlando Resort? Justin and I recently visited, and we learned a few things during our adventure. For this reason, I want to share my experiences and tips for a great vacation!

Where to Stay

We stayed at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort. We planned to meet up with my sister and nieces in Orlando; therefore, we chose to reserve one of their Family Suites. The prices are pretty reasonable for this hotel, and the resort is within walking distance to the parks.

Room Details

In our room, we had two queen beds, a pull out couch, and a small kitchenette area. Our suite was pretty spacious, and it worked well for all of us. In addition, I also liked that the toilet, sink, and shower were separate from each other. This is very practical for families.

Amenities

This hotel offers great amenities, and there is something for everyone in the family. The property has two pool areas with a lazy river, a water slide, and even a splash pad. I love that they offer “sandy beaches” for lounging. There are even fire pits and lawn games by the pools. In the main building of the hotel, there are plenty of activities–such as bowling, arcade games, a fitness center, etc–and dining options (including Starbucks!).

Take Aways

If you’ll be there for a while, or even just plan to enjoy the pools, I’d definitely suggest bringing a tube and some snacks!

When to Go

We flew to Florida on August 22nd and returned home a few days later. I have heard that the weekends before and after Labor Day are great for theme parks. Based on my experiences, I’d say that these rumors are accurate! I would definitely visit around this time again.

Even though we went to the parks on a Saturday, we had minimal encounters with crowds and lines. There is a trade off, because Florida is very hot and humid in August.

Theme Parks and Tips

There are 3 theme parks within Universal Orlando Resort: Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay. We chose to purchase a single day ticket with access to Universal and Islands. On this trip, we didn’t upgrade our tickets for additional perks. Even though I usually recommend purchasing the MaxPass at Disneyland, I didn’t feel like we needed the Universal Express Pass.

Universal Studios Florida

Early Access

By staying on the property, guests are able to access Universal an hour early. We arrived promptly at 8 am to start our day. While I didn’t expect every attraction to be open, I was pretty disappointed to find out that most weren’t. For this reason, we explored the park/shops and rode the only ride (Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts) that was operating. If you’ve purchased a wand, this is a good time to practice some spells.

I mainly wanted to visit Universal to experience The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The land is separated, though. Diagon Alley is in Universal, while Hogsmeade and Hogwarts are located in Islands. I think that this is a bit odd, but it’s a great strategy to get those Harry Potter fans to pay for both parks.

Attractions

Because we were already in Universal, we decided to stay there for the morning. We didn’t wait longer than 20 minutes for any of the rides. Once we were finished, we took the Hogwarts Express over to Islands of Adventure. While I liked Universal, I was a little dissatisfied in the lack of variety there. A lot of their rides incorporated CGI; so, I left feeling dizzy and nauseous.

Take Aways

My recommendations? Bring your over the counter medications and don’t eat any churros before going on the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit roller coaster.

Islands of Adventure

After our ride on the Hogwarts Express, we were in Islands of Adventure before we knew it. This lead us right into the Hogsmeade area of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It was early afternoon, and we started feeling pretty warm at this point; therefore, we decided to stop for some Butterbeer.

Butterbeer

There are two kinds of Butterbeer to choose from: regular or frozen. I recommend trying both! I definitely preferred the frozen, though. It was incredibly refreshing! I didn’t think that I would like it.

Where to Eat

After our quick break, we rode a few rides and then decided to stop for some lunch. We chose to eat at the Three Broomsticks. Let me tell you, this restaurant did not disappoint.

We ordered The Great Feast Platter for four. This meal included chicken and ribs for the main courses as well as salad, potatoes, corn on the cob, and a veggie mix for the sides. It was plenty of food for five of us, and we even had a bit left over. In addition, even though the price seems steep at $60, it is incredibly economical for a group. This is, hands down, the best and healthiest meal that I have EVER had at a theme park.

Attractions

Once we were finished with lunch, we headed back out to the rides. At this point in the afternoon, I was nervous for the wait times. We used the Universal app to help plan out the rest of our day. Even though some of the estimates were listed at 45 minutes or more, we only waited 20-25 minutes (at the most) for everything that we rode.

Full disclosure: if you decide to go on Popeye & Bluto Bilge-Rat Barges or Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls, you will get wet. Some of the employees tried to be silly by telling us otherwise. They even moved our seat assignments! Honestly, it didn’t really matter, because we were all soaked anyway. It felt nice to cool off, though.

Navigating the New Ride

All day, we watched Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure on the app, and we never saw the wait time drop below 2 hours. Before we left the parks for the night, we decided to try our luck in the single rider’s line. Even though the employees attempted to discourage us from doing this (by saying the wait was going to be longer or that they frequently close the line), we continued on anyway.

It worked out, because all five of us rode within 25 minutes. Let me say, this is definitely my favorite ride within the resort! What a great way to end an amazing day.

Have you been to Universal Orlando Resort? Do you have any tips for next time? Let me know in the comments! 🙂

Pump Rules or Does It?

Our Experience Dining at SUR

What is SUR?

Last December, we drove out to California for a Disneyland trip. At the time, I was really into Vanderpump Rules and desperately wanted to visit SUR. For those not familiar with the Bravo reality show, SUR is one of Lisa Vanderpump’s (a former Real Housewife of Beverly Hills) concept restaurants. SUR stands for Sexy and Unique Restaurant. Yes, the name is a little redundant. They serve a variety of food and drink options to satisfy every type of palate.

Our Arrival

Even though we planned on dining during a weeknight, we weren’t sure how busy the restaurant was going to be; therefore, we prepared and made reservations. Once we arrived (on time, might I add), the host sat us in the bar area before seating us at our table. This practice is a little odd, in my opinion. My best guess is that they want customers to purchase more alcohol. Because they were out of LVP’s Rosé Sangria, I ordered the Red Sangria instead. My drink wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t my favorite either. I’d rate the sangria a 6/10 at best. I’m pretty picky with drinks, though.

Dining Room

After we spent about half an hour in the bar/lounge area, the host directed us to our table. This restaurant is a bit of a maze, and there are multiple rooms to dine in. Even though I don’t care for the layout, I think that the decor is tasteful and trendy throughout the establishment.

Once seated, we were greeted by our server. She was friendly and kind. We had some time to browse the menu and decided on what we wanted to order. After some deliberation, I ultimately chose the Grilled Skirt Steak entree.

Our food arrived promptly, and we all enjoyed our meals. My steak was cooked to my preference, and the sides complemented it well. The food was better than I expected, but this definitely was not the best meal I’ve ever had. Even though we were happy with our dinner and service, we thought the prices were a little steep. My plate alone cost us $30. Because of it’s popularity and location, we anticipated some inflation.

Overall Thoughts

Despite the fact that we didn’t bump into any of the stars from the show, we enjoyed our experience dining at SUR. I’d definitely recommend it to any fan of The Real Housewives or Vanderpump Rules. While I would return for another meal, I’d probably like to try some other establishments in the area first.

Have you ever dined at SUR or one of LVP’s other restaurants?

First Timer’s Guide to Rome

Justin and I travelled to Italy for our first time in March. We stayed in Salerno, Venice, and Rome. Even though we only spent two days in the country’s capital city, Rome was definitely the highlight of our trip.

Rome is a gorgeous city that balances history with modern times. It is pretty walkable, as most of the main attractions are 10-20 minutes from each other. Below, I discuss the itinerary of our visit and must-see sites for first timers!

If you’re planning an adventure to Italy, you should also check out my post regarding what I wish I knew before our trip here.

Don’t forget your comfortable shoes!

Our Itinerary

Colosseum and Roman Forum

We started off our morning by the Colosseum and Roman Forum. To our surprise, the city was offering free entrance to some of its museums and attractions for Culture Week; therefore, there were long wait times to enter both sites. We didn’t want to waste our morning in line and decided to return later on in the afternoon. We did explore the area and take a few photos, though.

Trevi Fountain

After walking by the Colosseum, we decided to continue over to the Trevi Fountain. This iconic fountain was different from what I had envisioned in my head–especially after seeing The Lizzie McGuire Movie. It seemed tucked away and slightly smaller than I expected. The statues are incredibly detailed, and the basin is filled with turquoise waters. I didn’t see anyone tossing coins into the fountain; so, I’m not sure if that’s still allowed. We enjoyed some gelato here before heading out to our next stop. The gelato in Italy lives up to the hype.

Spanish Steps and Shopping

Next, we then ventured over to the Spanish Steps. We discovered that there are a ton of shops to browse around this area. We definitely did a little damage to our wallets while we were here!

Pantheon

While exploring through some of the shops, we decided to head toward the direction of the Pantheon. This historical church was an unexpected gem for me. It has gorgeous alters and an open rotunda (in which visitors are able to see the sunlight above). The architecture and art within the building are impeccable. Overall, I think this is my favorite site in Rome!

Piazza Navona

After visiting the Pantheon, we then walked over to the Piazza Navona. This area is a nice place relax. There are various benches to sit on by the fountains and plenty of restaurant options. In addition, street performers frequently linger here. We took a break and ate at one of the cafés.

Colosseum and Roman Forum: Part II

Once we finished our lunch, we wanted to try our luck at the Colosseum and Roman Forum again. This choice worked out well for us, because we didn’t have to wait at all for either site. We first explored the ruins of the Roman Forum and ventured over to the Colosseum afterwards. Even though I’m not a history buff, I enjoyed both experiences.

At this point, we were exhausted and ended up heading back to our hotel. Rome is supposed to be gorgeous at night time. I would love to see some of these sites glisten with lights. Maybe next time. 🙂

Vatican and Vatican City

The next morning, we had early reservations for the Vatican. Even though this museum is incredibly confusing, it’s still worth visiting. The paintings in the Sistine Chapel are breathtaking. I would recommend taking a seat while there, because I definitely started to get dizzy looking up at the ceiling. As a Catholic, I also loved seeing some of the church’s history in person. The exhibit of PopeMobiles was probably my favorite part.

(If you’re interested in going to the Vatican, I discussed further details regarding our visit in my post linked above.)

We wandered around Vatican City for a little while, and we ended up stopping for lunch as well as our last cup of gelato. Because this was our final evening of the trip, we went back to our hotel shortly after. We wanted to start preparing for our early flight and long journey home.

Are there any other sites that you recommend in Rome? If so, let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear your thoughts for next time.

The Ultimate Guide for a Weekend in Washington, D.C.

When I was a child, my parents took us on a trip to Washington, D.C. I remember standing in front of the White House, sitting in Ford’s Theatre, and seeing Dorothy’s ruby slippers at the Smithsonian. While I may not recall all of the details from this vacation, I remember being SO incredibly bored. I definitely didn’t appreciate my first trip to the Capital; however, I recently revisited, and my opinions changed. Now, I believe everyone should experience Washington, D.C. at least once.

When We Went

We ventured out to this destination in February of 2018. Even though it was a little chilly, I enjoyed visiting during this time of the year. D.C. is flooded with tourists during the National Cherry Blossom Festival in the spring. When traveling, we usually try to avoid peak seasons if possible. We landed on a Thursday morning and left on that following Sunday.

Where We Stayed

We stayed at the Kimpton Carlyle Hotel Dupont Circle. I am a huge fan of the Kimpton’s boutique properties. The room was cute, clean, and cozy; however, it was a little smaller than I was anticipating. While it isn’t my favorite Kimpton Hotel, I did enjoy our stay there. This property is located in an adorable neighborhood and is close to various shops and restaurants.

What We Did

The National Mall

The first location that we visited was the National Mall and Memorial parks. This iconic area is definitely a “hub” for the city. Sites that reside along the Mall include: the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Smithsonian Museums, the Capitol, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the World War II Memorial, as well as several other government buildings, museums, and tribute/remembrance statues. In addition, many popular destinations–such as The White House, Tidal Basin, and the Holocaust Museum–are within walking distance from this area. I recommend wearing comfortable shoes, though!

I absolutely love the National Mall. There are gorgeous views of Washington D.C. from every direction here. This park has been the setting for various influential events throughout history. It’s quite the experience to explore these grounds and reflect on the past. There is so much to see along the Mall and within the museums. I know we didn’t catch everything. For this reason, I would recommend allotting at least a day here. Even though we visited during the tail end of winter, we were lucky enough to witness a glimpse of some cherry blossoms blooming! That was a highlight for me.

The White House

The next morning, we toured the White House. To make our reservation, we submitted a request to our local member of Congress. I suggest doing this as soon as possible. I believe that the earliest they accept requests is 3 months prior.

This tour is self-guided. Many of the rooms available to the public aren’t utilized much anymore. For this reason, it felt like we were walking through a museum. They were setting up for a press event while we were there, and that was cool to see. Even though it was different than I expected, I still thought it was a unique experience.

My suggestions? Leave your bags at the hotel, but make sure to have a form of government-issued identification with you. The rules are strictly enforced.

Other Nearby Things to Do

After our tour, we explored some other attractions in the area. First, we visited the National Archives. This is where several historical documents/records such as the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, anda the Declaration of Independence, are preserved and displayed.

We also visited the Arlington National Cemetery. This historic cemetery is across the river, and it was well worth the steps. Here, visitors are able to pay their respects to service members as well as other pertinent political figures. For example, John F. Kennedy and his family are buried here. The cemetery is also home to various memorials and monuments, such as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I really enjoyed seeing the guard changing ceremony.

Georgetown

Finally, we also ventured out to Georgetown during our trip. This area is a quaint shopping district with a variety of stores and food options. My favorite stop was Georgetown cupcake! I definitely have a sweet tooth, and I had a difficult time choosing.

Final Thoughts

Overall, even though I’ve never been much of a history buff, I really enjoyed my trip to our Nation’s Capital. It was awesome to learn and reflect on some pivotal moments in history. I’d like to return for another visit someday.

Sedona with Kids Itinerary

Last month, my nieces were in town from out of state. While brainstorming activities for us, Justin and I thought it would be fun to take the girls on an adventure to Sedona! The beautiful city of red rocks is only about 2 hours from us in the Valley. While it is possible to have a decent day trip up there, we decided to stay overnight for a better experience.

We arrived in Sedona around noon. Luckily, our hotel–the Arabella–had our room ready, and we were able to check-in early. Justin and I stayed at the Arabella two years ago, and we enjoyed it. The rooms are comfortable and budget friendly. They have a pool, fire pits, and even a hiking area with a beautiful view of the sunset. Sometimes they have unique activities or events on the weekends. The best part? This hotel provides its guests with free breakfast in the mornings. Sweet!

After we settled in to the room and ironed out our plans for the afternoon, we headed out to Sedona-Off Road Center to rent our side by side. Once we completed our paperwork, the company provided us with a map of trail options. Before we knew it, we were off!

off-road selfie
Off Roadin’

We decided to do the Schnebly Hill Road Trail as well as the Devil’s Bridge Trail. They were both relatively easy to do with an off-roading vehicle. Schnebly Hill provided us with beautiful views of Sedona as well as a nice place to stop for a snack. The Devil’s Bridge Trail was my favorite, though. Once we couldn’t drive any further, we parked our side by side and hiked up to the spectacular rock formation. While the hike was a little rough in the afternoon, the view was well worth the work! I was a little nervous about taking the girls off-roading at first, but they ended up having a blast.

devils bridge

After we returned our vehicle, we ventured back to the hotel and hopped in the pool to cool down. The water was so refreshing after being out in the heat all day. We then washed up and headed to Oregano’s for some dinner and a pizza cookie. While we have the Italian restaurant here in Phoenix, we love to visit this one in particular for the stunning red rock views. We even spotted Snoopy while we were there. 😉

Once we returned back to our room for the night, we discovered that the hotel was offering a star gazing event. We can’t see many stars here in the Metro-Phoenix area, so we decided to check it out. At the meeting spot, there was a nice gentleman discussing the planets and constellations above. He had a telescope that we were able to use. We were even able to see the Milky Way!

night sky
Some Stars Visible with My Camera

The next morning we drove out to Slide Rock State Park before heading home. This area of the Oak Creek is blast, because the rock formations act as natural water slides. There are even areas where the creek is deep enough to swim or cliff jump. We all had such a great time! I will mention, though, that the water is extremely cold and the rocks are VERY slippery. So, next time, I will definitely bring water shoes and wear board shorts.

Overall, our trip with the girls to Sedona was amazing! I think they were a little hesitant about our plans at first, but we all had such a great time. I’ve been to Sedona before, and I’d definitely say that this trip/itinerary was my favorite by far.

Kimpton Seafire Resort, Cayman Islands Review

Discovery

Last October, Justin, his parents, and I ventured to the Cayman Islands. While ironing out the details of our trip, we decided to book a reservation at the Kimpton Seafire Resort and Spa. Justin and I discovered this group of boutique hotels when we did a “staycation” here in Phoenix at the Kimpton Hotel Palomar, and we loved it; therefore, we were all so excited to have a similar experience in the Caribbean!

Arrival

When we arrived at the Kimpton Seafire, we were escorted into the lobby and greeted with sparkling Rosé. Yum! The lobby is spacious and gorgeous. I would definitely say that it is the heart of the hotel. The Kimpton offers guests a coffee bar in the mornings and a wine hour in the evenings (both are included in your stay). This area is a great space for relaxing during those times. In addition, there is also a library, concierge desk, and a café for guests to enjoy as well. I was a frequent visitor to the café for my iced coffee and an occasional sweet treat. 🙂

Our Room

After we checked in and received our keys, we couldn’t wait to see our temporary home away from home. Our room was nice and had a wonderful balcony equipped with comfortable outdoor furniture. We enjoyed a partial view of the ocean. My only complaint is that there was a construction site next to our hotel. That put a bit of a damper on the beautiful view and serene ocean sounds.

This hotel offers a turn-down service. I had never heard of that prior to our visit. I loved that they got our room “bedtime” ready in the evenings, and they even left us water bottles, cookies, and postcards. This was a nice touch.

The Outdoor Amenities

The amenities at the Kimpton Seafire are spectacular. We loved being outside. The resort is located on Seven Mile Beach. There are several lounge chairs with umbrellas on the white sand. In addition, there is also an area for guests to rent water toys. We chose to try paddle boarding. It was a fun experience, but the activity is way more complicated than it looks! We also decided to rent a jet ski (for an extra cost). Flying through the water was definitely a highlight of the trip for me!

The pool is only few steps away from the beach. On the deck, there are various areas for sun bathing as well as a poolside bar. In addition, there is even a small lawn with some games to play. Overall, the resort employees are very kind and helpful. They assist guests with towel service and even occasionally walk around with snacks.

If water activities aren’t your thing, the resort also offers fitness classes, spa services, and bike rentals. We didn’t partake in these activities, but they did look pretty fun! In addition, their concierge desk service is also incredibly helpful in excursion bookings. We planned a tour through Red Sail Sports and had a great time.

Onsite Restaurants

There are a few restaurant options on the Kimpton property as well as one within walking distance of the resort. We ate at Ave most mornings. There are a variety of menu options for everyone in the family. Ave turns into Avecita for dinner, but we didn’t care for it. Their menu is mostly seafood and is pretty expensive.

Cocoloba is another restaurant on the hotel grounds. We enjoyed eating there, because it was right on the beach. It was a wonderful way to get a front row seat of the sunset. This restaurant is Mexican themed, and the food was enjoyable. It did get repetitive towards the end of our trip, though.

Finally, Calico Jack’s is just a few steps away from the resort. This restaurant was nice change of pace. It offered various “bar food” options such as chicken, sandwiches, fries, mozzarella sticks, salads, onion rings, etc. They also have a lot of mixed drink options as well. This bar and grill does get visited by the cruisers during the day; so, we mostly visited during the evenings to avoid crowds.

Overall Thoughts

In conclusion, I really enjoyed myself at the Kimpton Seafire Resort in Grand Cayman. The service was amazing (a lot of the staff knew our names) and the views were wonderful. The only downside? This resort is somewhat pricey. Even though it was definitely a splurge for us and our budget, I would highly recommend a visit to this little slice of Heaven if you ever have the opportunity.

Iceland’s Blue Lagoon and What I Wish I Knew

Iceland is my favorite destination that I’ve traveled to so far. When we visited last January, we had a jam-packed itinerary. If interested, you can read one of my previous posts about our adventure snorkeling Silfra here. The first activity that we did upon landing in Iceland, however, was the Blue Lagoon.

The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal pool with beautiful turquoise waters. Regardless of it being a hotspot for tourists (pun definitely intended), this spa was a must-see on my list. Prior to our visit, I extensively researched this attraction; however, there are a few things that I wish I would have known beforehand.

The Locker Situation

First and foremost, I want to discuss the locker situation. When approaching the spa from the parking lot, there is a separate building with lockers where guests are able to store their suitcases. This is a nice amenity, because mosts visitors enjoy the lagoon on their way to or from the airport.

In addition, once customers are checked-in to the facility, there is an additional locker room for clothes and other personal items. In my opinion, the lockers in the changing area are pretty spacious. They are a bit finicky, though. Guests have to use their wristbands to secure and open them. The process is not difficult, but visitors must pay attention while activating their lockers! I saw a few of them fly open a few seconds after the users walked away. In addition, my locker registered to another woman’s wristband at first. Luckily, we sorted it out with the attendant; however, these situations made me a bit paranoid. I waited for a few minutes to ensure that mine actually locked.

There are several signs at the facility that recommend removing all jewelry. At this point, I wished that I left my wedding ring at home. Fortunately, we did not have issues with missing belongings.

Getting In

After showering, I had some anxieties about getting in and out of the lagoon. I knew that the water would be warm, but I didn’t want to become a popsicle outside! For this reason, it was a nice surprise to see that they have indoor entry/exit points. This was a wonderful way to transition outside upon entry and back inside when we finished. Also, the spa has a wall with hooks for towels and space for flip-flops close to this area. Very convenient!

The Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon is bigger than I expected it to be. There are various bridges, coves, and areas to relax. They even have a swim-up bar. Our reservation was early in the morning, and the spa was pretty empty when we arrived. I’m sure it gets busier in the afternoons, though. The water felt comforting–especially after our overnight flight.

Minimal sunlight and steam from the lagoon created some challenges for me and my waterproof camera. Although my photos weren’t as perfect as the ones I saw online, I got a few decent shots for my travel journal.

The Aftermath

After we got out of the pool and returned to the locker room, I immediately showered again. The minerals from the water made my skin feel dry and itchy. I read that some people experienced hair damage afterwards. For this reason, even though I didn’t get my hair wet in the lagoon, I decided to wash it anyway. The spa provides conditioner and body wash, and I applied them liberally. In the locker room, the spa offered blow-dryers for guests. While I don’t normally like to use a ton of heat on my hair, I did not want to go exploring with it wet.

The water did not agree with my sensitive skin. I took another shower after we checked-in to our hotel, because I still felt uncomfortable hours later! My skin looked red and blotchy for about two days. Yikes.

Overall Thoughts

While I enjoyed my experience at the Blue Lagoon, I don’t think I’ll ever return. If I visit Iceland again, I’d like to try a different hot spring. There are several to choose from, and I would love to be able to compare my experiences.

What I Wish I Knew Before Traveling to Italy

As I’ve stated before, I like to do a ton of research on new destinations. I especially like to read articles regarding what other people learned on their trips; therefore, here is what I wish I would have known before our adventure to Italy.

First and foremost, I learned that it is possible to eat too much Italian food. Italian is one of my favorites, and I didn’t think I could ever be tired of it! We enjoyed the local cuisine, but we really needed a change of pace near the end of our stay. While exploring the area around the Vatican, we stumbled upon a great burger place. It was our favorite meal in Italy! Unfortunately, we ate there on a Friday during Lent… oops. On the other hand, I will say that there can never be too much gelato! The frozen treat totally surpassed my expectations, and I ate a lot of it.

I also wish I would have known how busy the Vatican Museum gets. Luckily, we booked early entry tickets. When we first arrived, the museum was pretty empty and enjoyable. After our first time through, I really wanted to see the Sistine Chapel again. So, we started to head in that direction. At this point, it was maybe a half an hour after the official opening time, and the museum was flooded with people. We could barely move! As Catholics, we were really looking forward to visiting; however, I think the craziness took away from our experience there.

In addition, I wish I had heard about the sales people lingering around the popular attractions. While it is common to see this practice in Europe, I felt that some were pretty assertive in Rome. We tried to politely decline their tours, selfie sticks, bracelets, etc, but a few of them made us feel a little uncomfortable.

We also learned on our trip that tourists have to pay city taxes each day. While the fees aren’t incredibly expensive, they are per traveler and can really add up. One night we had overlapping hotel reservations, and we had to pay for both cities.

We also discovered on our trip that Venice is incredibly walkable. As we were planning out our stay in the City of Canals, we purchased a pass that provided us transportation to and from the airport as well as unlimited water taxi rides. It was difficult to decipher walking paths from maps online; so, we weren’t sure what to expect. We only really needed the bus portion of our tickets, though.

Finally, I’d like to talk about our rental car. After we booked our trip, I was really having second thoughts about Justin driving in Italy. Most articles I read strongly discouraged tourists from renting cars. While the different language/culture required us to more observant, Justin didn’t think that driving was all that terrible. To be honest, we thought that the conditions were worse in Iceland. While we utilized the freeways to get to the majority of our destinations, we also tackled the dreaded Amalfi Coast drive. There were definitely some tight corners, but the roads were similar to those here in the mountains of AZ. I think it’s important to note that we decided not to drive in Rome. We kept our rental car at the hotel and used the MyTaxi App to get into the city center.

I guess we never really know what to expect of a new destination until we arrive! 🙂