The Cutest Eateries on Anna Maria Island

Last week, I traveled to beautiful Anna Maria Island on Florida’s Gulf Coast for a long weekend of lazy days on the beach. Along with a few friends, I laid on the beach, bodysurfed in the waves, drank mimosas with breakfast every morning and ate a LOT of food.

We made good use of our rental home’s kitchen, but it’s not vacation without a few meals out. We didn’t have a chance to try everywhere we wanted to. Our bigger group kept us from trying smaller restaurants, especially on Saturday and Sunday.

Of the food we did try, we had a few favorites!

For After Dinner Drinks: The Ugly Grouper

Best Anna Maria Island Restaurants | The Ugly Grouper

Best Anna Maria Island Restaurants | The Ugly Grouper

Local beers on draft, tropical mixed drinks and frozen cocktails kept everyone happy at The Ugly Grouper. The bar gets its cool vibe from the completely open-air setting and a giant mixed media grouper statue. We had fun playing the Bimini ring game, cornhole and giant Jenga.

The Ugly Grouper has a full menu and tons of live music, but we didn’t have the chance to experience either.

For Ice Cream: Anna Maria Island Creamery and Bakery

Best Anna Maria Island Restaurants | Anna Maria Island Creamery and Bakery

Best Anna Maria Island Restaurants | Anna Maria Island Creamery and Bakery

In typical Florida fashion, we spent one afternoon waiting for pouring rain to pass. We bundled up and headed for Anna Maria Island Creamery and Bakery. The gelato was amazing and so was the decor. I had a scoop of cookies and cream and a scoop of Irish cream in a waffle cone, which I highly recommend. Their coffee was delicious as well!

For Tacos and Margs: Wicked Cantina

Best Anna Maria Island Restaurants | Wicked Cantina

No warm-weather vacation is complete without tacos and fresh margaritas. Lucky for us, Wicked Cantina‘s tacos are amazing and the margaritas come in goblet-sized glasses. The chips and salsa were truly bottomless, and both the salsa and queso were a satisfying amount of spicy.

For Fresh-Caught Grouper: Star Fish Company

Best Anna Maria Island Restaurants | Star Fish Company

Best Anna Maria Island Restaurants | Star Fish Company

While not technically on the island, this seafood shack is definitely worth mentioning. After a foggy morning on the boat, we headed toward Star Fish Company‘s dock as the sun began to shine. This market/restaurant combination is located on one of the last working fishing docks in Florida. The fish is fresh, the fries are crispy and everyone there is as happy to be there as I was.

Quick Trip: 24 Hours in Rochester, NY

How many things can you fit into a single day in Rochester? A lot.

My friend Mary lives in Rochester, and while it’s not far, we’ve spent months trying to find a few days that we were both free. When we found a full 24 hours without work, family obligations or weekend trips we already had scheduled, we jumped into full planning mode.

I picked a few places on my Rochester bucket list (almost all involving either coffee or beer) and Mary put together a perfectly designed itinerary. She also instructed her poor boyfriend not to eat or drink anything we ordered until I was done photographing it.

First up was dessert before dinner at Scratch Bakeshop‘s new location in the Neighborhood of the Arts. Just like the other small businesses in this stretch between University and Atlantic Avenues, Scratch has the cutest decor, high quality products and a friendly vibe. We opted for a mix of desserts, including vegan options, which were amazing!

24 Hours in Rochester, NY | Scratch Bakeshop | Neighborhood of the Arts

24 Hours in Rochester, NY | Scratch Bakeshop | Neighborhood of the Arts

It wasn’t on the original schedule, but Three Heads Brewing is literally across the street from Scratch, so… we stopped in for a flight before dinner.

24 Hours in Rochester, NY | Three Heads Brewing | Neighborhood of the Arts

For dinner, we headed downtown to try Fifth Frame Brewing Co.,a brewery and roastery that opened last fall. Who knew that beer and an egg sandwich would taste so good at 8 pm? Actually the welcoming staff at Fifth Frame know this; “comfort food with unwarranted but welcomed riffs” is what they’re all about. Their Half & Half, an espresso oat stout, was amazing.

24 Hours in Rochester, NY | Fifth Frame Brewing, Co.

After dinner and drinks, we headed to Mary’s to watch dramatic TV shows and get a good night of sleep.

The next morning, we bundled up to venture to Turning Point Park and walk off some of the giant cookie and cake slice we consumed the day before. The boardwalk over the water was so pretty, if wind-whipped. We didn’t make it far, but I’ll definitely be back in warmer weather!

24 Hours in Rochester, NY | Turning Point Park

After our minimal exercise, we needed coffee, so off to Glen Edith Coffee Roaster‘s Park Ave Neighborhood location we went. There were way more people doing homework than I would have expected for a Saturday afternoon, but the cozy, quiet vibe was great. As was the coffee, of course.

24 Hours in Rochester, NY | Glen Edith Coffee Roasters | Park Ave. Neighborhood

24 Hours in Rochester, NY | Glen Edith Coffee Roasters | Park Ave. Neighborhood

Our last stop was the Rochester Public Market, which was surprisingly busy for a cold February Saturday. I can’t imagine how crazy this place gets on nice summer days. There was lots of fresh produce at really good prices and I was impressed with the number of fish and meat vendors as well!

24 Hours in Rochester, NY | Public Market

24 Hours in Rochester, NY | Public Market

24 Hours in Rochester, NY | Public Market

The newer buildings make it obvious that this market is a big piece of Rochester’s plan for the future, and they compliment the shops that hint at the age of the Public Market. It’s been operating in its current location since 1905.

Although my trip was short, I really enjoyed everything we were able to fit in. Thanks for hosting Mary! I’ll be back in warmer weather to try more coffee, more beer, more hikes and other items on my bucket list.

7 Reasons to Visit Salem in the Dead of Winter

Despite some wacky winter weather, Cody and I visited Paige this past weekend in her new apartment in Salem, Massachusetts. We were greeted by 2 feet of fresh snow and single-digit temperatures, but that didn’t stop from us seeing the sites. The 3 of us bundled up (we’re talking long underwear and scarves up to our eyes) to explore the best parts of Salem.

7 Reasons to Visit Salem in the Dead of Winter

For anyone else crazy enough to visit this coastal city in the dead of winter, we highly recommend these 7 stops:

1. Fish Tacos at Howling Wolf

After a very long drive on Friday, we headed straight for tacos at Howling Wolf Taqueria. The place was packed and we waited a little bit for a table. Once we were seated our server was great and I don’t think I’ve ever had tacos delivered from the kitchen as fast as these were.

2. Snow Covered Graves

Salem is synonymous with witches, and no matter your belief on the subject, you can’t deny the history of this town. The Burying Point, the oldest burying ground in the city, looked extra picturesque covered in a thick blanket of snow.

7 Reasons to Visit Salem in the Dead of Winter | The Burying Point

3. Oak + Moss’ Sunny Shop

I found Oak + Moss on Instagram while researching things to do in Salem. Their shop lived up my expectations, with gorgeous natural pieces and nautical accents. I wanted so badly to buy a lot more than I did.

7 Reasons to Visit Salem in the Dead of Winter | Oak + Moss

4. Fresh Bread at A&J King

After battling the cold and wind on Saturday morning, we were ready for lunch and a warm drink. The salad sandwich, chai tea latte and hammered copper tables at A&J King Artisan Bakers were just what we needed. The shop was busy, filled with people looking to get out of the house after days of snow and cold.

7 Reasons to Visit Salem in the Dead of Winter | A&J King

5. Frozen Harbor Views

Sure, the is harbor probably more enjoyable when it’s not frozen solid. But there’s something pretty cool about both waves and boats freezing into place.

6. Craft Beer at Gulu Gulu Cafe

We finished off Saturday with a few drinks at Gulu Gulu Cafe, which was a further walk than other Salem bars from Paige’s apartment. The huge selection of draught beers and live music made the walk completely worth it. Plus, it meant that we saw the trees that lined the streets downtown lit up at night.

7 Reasons to Visit Salem in the Dead of Winter | Gulu Gulu Cafe

7. Streets Filled Christmas Decor

Even though Christmas was a few weeks ago, both businesses and the beautiful old homes of Salem are still decked out in their holiday best. The lights, bows, wreaths throughout the town are dusted with snow, giving them an extra festive look.

Things_to_do_in_Salem_MA_Winter_3

Allegany Photo Diary – Fall 2017

If you hadn’t already guessed from this post or this post, we spend a lot of time in Allegany State Park every year. It’s 65,000 acres of woods, lakes, camp grounds, history and bike paths. You could go every weekend and not come close to seeing everything.

This year, we visited a few sights that hadn’t been on our itinerary in past years: the Summit Hill Fire Tower, Old Quaker Store Museum and Quaker Lake. The Summit Hill Fire Tower is a short hike from the road, and if you go on a day that a volunteer is manning the tower, you can climb to the top, although the trees almost completely cover the view of the surrounding peaks. The Old Quaker Store Museum was a very interesting history of human influence on the park and I really enjoyed learning about how groups from Buffalo used it in the ’20s and ’30s.

Of course, old standbys were part of our trips too; we climbed Thunder Rocks and made our way to Stone Tower.

Check out some of my favorite shots from our two trips to Allegany this year:

Allegany State Park | New York State Parks | Photo Diary
No better way to start the day than a cup of coffee around the fire.
Allegany State Park | New York State Parks | Photo Diary
The Summit Hill Fire Tower in Red House is rickety but fun to climb if you don’t mind heights.
Allegany State Park | New York State Parks | Photo Diary
Beautiful fall views from the Stone Tower.
Allegany State Park | New York State Parks | Photo Diary
Checking out the site of a tornado that touched down in 1990; most vegetation has grown back by now.
Allegany State Park | New York State Parks | Photo Diary
Climbing Thunder Rocks never gets old.
Allegany State Park | New York State Parks | Photo Diary
The Ad Building decked out for fall.
Allegany State Park | New York State Parks | Photo Diary
Sitting around the campfire with sparklers is a great way to spend the night.
Allegany State Park | New York State Parks | Photo Diary
Cody’s cousins being very patient while I play with camera settings!

Allegany State Park | New York State Parks | Photo Diary
Cody’s grandparents driving through the park on Sunday morning.

 

3 Penn Yan Must-Dos that aren’t a Winery

I love Penn Yan, the small central New York town on the northeast branch of Keuka Lake. This is the town where I spend every Christmas and most Easters, but nothing is better than a warm summer weekend or crisp fall day here.

Penn Yan is known for the dozens of award-winning wineries in the hills around Keuka and Seneca Lakes, but there’s so much more to do in this gem of a village!

1. Publick Coffee Bar, 13 Main Street

Publick Coffee Bar | Penn Yan, NY Must Do

Publick opened last year and started serving local coffee and pastries, along with craft beer on tap and local wine by the glass. Paige and I stopped by on a rainy weekday morning this summer; we were greeted by cozy textures and CREMA pour overs. The exposed brick, comfy leather chairs and industrial lighting make this a must-visit before hitting the wine trail the next time you’re in the Finger Lakes.

2. Indian Pines Farm Market, 2406 State Route 54A

Indian Pines Farm Market | Penn Yan, NY Must Do

Stocking your cottage with local fruits and veggies is a must, and you’ll also find fresh pies, jellies and coffee here. If you’re feeling adventurous, check out the glass store across the street for some super cool old windows and frames.

3. Climbing Bines Hop Farm, 511 Hanson Point Rd

Climbing Bines Hop Farm | Penn Yan, NY Must Do

So this is a brewery, which is almost a winery, but not quite. Cody and I met here for a drink a few weeks ago on a beautiful summer Sunday. The staff is friendly, views are amazing and the beer is delicious. The combination of natural wood and stainless steel give this place a great vibe, bolstered by the cornhole boards, disk golf course, hop fields and picnic tables.

Do you have a favorite Penn Yan must-do? Let me know!

Lake Life: A Weekend in the Finger Lakes

I call Buffalo home, but my parents, who both grew up in the beautiful town of Penn Yan,  love the Finger Lakes region of New York. My sister and I were raised taking weekend trips to Central New York, and we both have an affinity for the endless lakes and rolling hills there that not everyone in Western New York really understands.

Last weekend was a collection of beautiful August days and I got to spend it on not 1, but 2 of the Finger Lakes.

Day 1: Canandaigua Lake

My college roommate totally gets the draw of lake life, because she grew up spending summers on the boat in Canandaigua. She (and her mom) are nice enough to let all of us experience the thrill of tubing and soak in some sunshine at least once a summer there.

We spent Saturday together on the boat with weather so much nicer than predicted. I’m more of a lay-in-the-tube-person than a let’s-go-tubing-person, but everyone else enjoyed themselves!

A Weekend in the Finger Lakes | Succulents and Sunnies

Day 2: Keuka Lake

My parents rented a cottage on Keuka Lake for the week at the last minute, completing my Finger Lakes weekend. I spent the morning on the dock after convincing Murphy he wasn’t going to fall through the wooden slats.

Cody met me at Climbing Bines Hop Farm in the afternoon. We’ve been dying to check out the brewery since it was named #1 in New York by a BuzzFeed article (and, apparently, Yelp). The location is amazing and so is the beer. Cody tried both the House and Pandemonium IPAs, while I liked the Tart Cherry and Honey Apricot brews, both from the Pandemonium line.

A Weekend in the Finger Lakes | Climbing Bines | Succulents and Sunnies

We had lunch in Penn Yan and I took advantage of being in town to stop by my grandma’s house, before heading back to the lake for dinner with my parents, sister, my grandpa and his girlfriend. We watched the sun set over the Bluff after homemade peach pie and ice cream for dessert. This was definitely a Sunday funday.

A Weekend in the Finger Lakes | Succulents and Sunnies

Day 3: A Solar Eclipse

Sunday fundays are even better when you take Monday off! And when that Monday happens to be the day of the first solar eclipse visible in the US since 1979 and there’s not a cloud in a sky – that’s a good day.

We were not prepared enough to have solar glasses, although our neighbor let us look through his for a few minutes. Instead, we watched with a cereal box/tin foil contraption and a Ritz cracker. No matter how you saw it, this was a super cool event.

A Weekend in the Finger Lakes | Solar Eclipse | Succulents and Sunnies

A Weekend in the Finger Lakes | Solar Eclipse | Succulents and Sunnies

A Weekend in the Finger Lakes | Solar Eclipse | Succulents and Sunnies

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. I headed home Monday night, tired and happy in a way that only spending a weekend on the lake can do.

How To: Using Instagram to Plan the Perfect Trip

I love social media and I love to travel, so it probably isn’t much of a surprise when I say that I always use social media when planning a getaway. Instagram is particularly helpful, because people share the most beautiful place they saw during their day, which usually means it’s worth your time as well. This was really helpful in Costa Rica (check out all the highlights in this post) because it was a shorter trip, which meant less time to wander and happen upon the coolest places on our own. Here are 3 ways I used Instagram to make our trip extra-amazing:

1. Research Local Hashtags Before You Go

Start with basic location-based hashtags (like #costarica, #sanjose and #manuelantonio) and let Instagram’s suggestions lead you down a rabbit hole. Collect a list of 15 or 20 of the the most promising, based on how the photos look, how many posts there are and how relevant they are to what you want to do on your trip.

How To Use Social Media to Plan a Vacation | Succulents and Sunnies
There are 3 reasons you should do this:

  1. Take a look at what people are already posting to discover unique must-dos and restaurants.
  2. Post pictures of your own trip with these hashtags for more likes AND to help future travelers.
  3. Help local attractions find you. Cafe Milagro in Manual Antonio commented on a photo I posted and we ended up going 3 times. We would have never chosen it on our own, but the craft beer, live music and local coffee were all amazing!

2. Search the Cities You’ll Be Visiting

Instagram’s “Places” are also really helpful when you’re looking for things to do. I like this feature because it not only lets you scroll through all the photos tagged as in that city (Quepos, Costa Rica for example), but also at locations within that city (like Playa Manuel Antonio).

How To Use Social Media to Plan a Vacation | Succulents and Sunnies
This really helps when you’re trying to figure out which must-dos are where, especially when they’re not in a book or on Google Maps (like the can’t-be-missed Playa Biesanz). Plus, Instagram’s new location stories make this easier than ever!

3. Follow Local Attractions You Want to Visit

This goes for local businesses you’re planning on patronizing too. To stay up to date on hours, special events and even coupons, give places you really want to visit a follow. Their posts could help you decide what day you stop by or other nearby stops you should make. This tip can also be applied to Facebook and Twitter, depending on where the attraction or business is most active. If you’re visiting a country where you don’t speak the language, Facebook’s native translation will do a good enough job to get the point across.

Now go and plan a killer vacation! And let me know how you use social media to find the coolest places on your next trip.