Taking on Tampa Bay (for Less than $50 a Day)

There are two things that are true about traveling at 25:

  1. You don’t really have money to do it.
  2. You’re often traveling to see friends who scattered after high school and college.

As it turns out, number 2 usually really helps with number 1. My latest trip to Tampa was no exception. Melanie, who I also had the pleasure of visiting in Boston a few years ago, was the perfect Tampa Bay host and tour guide.

We had an amazing long weekend in the sun without spending a lot of money! It was everything I could have asked for to make it through the last few weeks of Buffalo’s never-ending winter.

Day 1: Downtown Tampa

We kicked off our weekend like any girls’ trip should start: with brunch. American Social offers free bottomless mimosas with any brunch entree on Saturdays, which is a deal we couldn’t pass up. The food was delicious and they were served in portions that tided us over until dinner. (And by dinner, I mean ice cream…)

After brunch, we spent our afternoon walking along The Tampa Riverwalk. This is a great way to see a pretty big chunk of downtown – without spending a penny. I wasn’t used to the 85° heat, so we stopped halfway for iced coffees and air conditioning at Kahwa Coffee.

We wandered back to The Riverwalk and made it to the light at the end of the tunnel: the gorgeous food hall, rooftop bar, event space and park that is Armature Works. With zero planning we happened to step into the line for the new rooftop bar M. Bird just as it was forming at 4 pm.

The entrance to Heights Public Market in Tampa's Armature Works

Drink at M. Bird, the rooftop bar in Tampa's Armature Works

This place was an Instagram dream, Florida style. The breezy, open air bar and lounge were paired with quick service, a cool river view and a good list of options from local breweries. After 1 drink the space was beginning to feel crowded – and we were on a budget, after all.

Walking back downstairs, we grabbed a couple of chairs in the shade to chat as families and friends enjoyed the beautiful weather around us.

Tampa happened to be hosting the NCAA Women’s Final Four the weekend I visited, so there was tons of stuff going on. We weren’t as interested in Sunday’s basketball game as we were in the free Gavin DeGraw concert Saturday night.

So, we headed back down The Riverwalk to the stage at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, which is very conveniently right along the river. We even saw a few dolphins playing in the river on our way, which was completely unexpected.

The sunset was beautiful, Gavin was great and I was dead tired after a day of walking in the sun. We headed back to Melanie’s apartment to rest for another busy day in Tampa Bay!

Day 1’s Total Cost: $48

  • Brunch at American Social: $20
  • Coffee at Kahwa Coffee: $5
  • 1 Drink at M. Bird: $7
  • 2 Drinks at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park: $9
  • Ice Cream from The Pineapple Shack Island Creamery: $7

Day 2: St. Petersburg

If a free barre class on the waterfront in the Florida sunshine is your jam, then Sunday morning Wellness at the Wharf is for you. That sounded pretty good to us, so we dragged ourselves down to Sparkman Wharf to get our ex-dancer butts kicked.

We briefly considered smoothies from one of the Wharf’s vendors for breakfast, but they were a little pricey. Instead, we walked just a few blocks to Victory Coffee for bagels and iced coffee.

After much-needed showers, we made the 30 minute drive to downtown St. Petersburg. The low buildings along Central Avenue were cute and compact. We wandered to the water before backtracking to The Mill for a late lunch. We couldn’t quite kick our smoothie craving from the morning, so our next stop was Karma Juice Bar, just a few blocks away.

Central Avenue in St. Petersburg, Florida

Posing in front of a mural in St. Petersburg, Florida

Juice, sunglasses and a book in the sand at St. Pete Beach

We fended off the Sunday scaries with a late-afternoon trip to St. Pete beach. The public beach was busy without being overwhelming, perfect for a couple of hours of reading in the sand as the sun started to set.

My one regret from this short trip (if I had to name one) would be not doing more research about what St. Pete had to offer. There are tons of coffee shops, breweries, museums and waterfront views throughout the city that we didn’t check out, simply because we didn’t really have a plan.

Back in Tampa, we stopped in beautiful Ybor City for takeout pad Thai and people watching before calling it a night.

Day 2’s Total Cost: $46

  • Breakfast at Victory Coffee: $7
  • Lunch at The Mill: $17
  • Juice at Karma Juice Bar: $6
  • Parking at St. Pete Beach: $6
  • Dinner at Asiatic Street Food: $10

Day 3: Pool Day

Melanie headed to work, leaving me to enjoy my last day in Tampa on my own. I took the (very) long way to Ginger Beard Coffee. The incredibly kind co-owner who made my chai tea does, in fact, have a ginger beard.

Chai tea at Ginger Beard Coffee in Tampa

Knowing that I’d be headed back to the cold sooner rather than later, I spent the rest of the afternoon at the pool with a good book. Of course, it was only after I was showered and packed that my flight home was canceled.

The extra 12 hours in Tampa meant Melanie had time to show me one more corner of the city. We dodged raindrops in Hyde Park while waiting for a table at bartaco. A locally-brewed grapefruit IPA and fish tacos took the sting out of waking up for an early flight the next morning.

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to love Tampa Bay for anything more than its well above-freezing temperatures. Both Tampa and St. Pete really surprised me with their cute neighborhoods and delicious food. I couldn’t have asked for a better mix of exploring and relaxing or better weather!

Day 3’s Total Cost: $30

  • Coffee at Ginger Beard Coffee: $5
  • Dinner at bartaco: $25

The Complete Guide to 48 Hours in Ithaca, NY

I spent four amazing years at Ithaca College, which means I also spent the majority of those four years (and a summer) in Ithaca, NY and haven’t stopped telling people about it since. It’s been a while since my last weekend in Ith and I’m seriously missing the small city at the foot of Cayuga Lake.

Every few months, someone asks me what there is to do in Ithaca because it’s close enough to Buffalo that a weekend trip is totally doable. There are plenty of Airbnbs and hotel rooms (as long as you’re not trying to go during graduation or family weekend – check the Cornell and Ithaca College calendars!), and the number of parks and public spaces make for an affordable getaway.

48 Hours in Ithaca, NY | Insider's Guide | Buttermilk Falls State Park

It’s to the point that I have a giant message that I copy and paste into conversations with friends. There’s a lot on that list, but it’s probably not the most organized way to share all of Ithaca’s must-dos. In its place, I created a 48-hour itinerary for my ideal weekend in Ithaca.

This is by no means a complete collection of everything Ithaca has to offer. It’s also best completed during the summer or fall when it’s not -5°, windy and sleeting. Hopefully, I’ll be following this exact schedule for my next trip to the Finger Lakes later this year!

Friday

Taking a half day on Friday means getting to Ithaca early enough on Friday to fit in a few fun things before calling it a night. Coming from Buffalo, I like taking the Thruway to Exit 41 for Waterloo/Clyde and heading down Route 89 along Cayuga Lake. This way, you have to pass Taughannock Falls State Park before getting to Ithaca.

Park in the lot on the right side of the road and head to the trail to stretch your legs. Take the Gorge Trail for a quick walk (less than a mile) to the base of the falls. You can also start the weekend off strong with the South Rim Trail to the North Rim Trail, which together are just over 3 miles. This route will take you up and around the falls. You’ll also pass the overlook (you can drive there using Taughannock Park Road instead) on this trail for that Instagram-famous view of the falls.

Hopefully, you’ve worked up an appetite by now and are ready for burritos and margaritas at Viva Taqueria. Order from the counter (walk in the front door and turn right) and take your haul (make sure you add chips and salsa) to one of the tables outside to watch as people enjoy dinner at the row of restaurants along Aurora Street. If the weather isn’t as nice, ask the hostess for a table on the full-service side of the restaurant.

After dinner, window shop your way through the Commons and make your way down either West State Street or West Green Street to end up at Liquid State Brewing Company. Liquid State is a newcomer and I haven’t tried it yet, which is why it’s a high priority on my weekend itinerary.

Saturday

I love starting the weekend at Carriage House Cafe in Collegetown. Carriage House was, in fact, once a carriage house; it’s been restored beautifully into a cute, cozy and delicious brunch spot. Like a lot of restaurants in Ithaca, the menu depends on what’s in season.

Since you’re already in Collegetown, head to Cornell University for some Ivy League vibes. Here, you can simply drive through campus and take in the beautiful architecture and views of Ithaca and the surrounding hills. Walk around McGraw Tower (the Cornell Chimes ring three times a day) and duck into Uris Library.

These beautiful structures will look familiar to Buffalonians because they were built in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, whose namesake designed the buildings within the Richardson Olmstead Complex. Within Uris Library is the A. D. White Library, which gives off serious Harry Potter vibes.

If you’re into art museums, check out the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art next. There’s a little bit of everything here, from African artifacts to modern mixed-media. Even if art isn’t your thing, the view of Cayuga Lake from the top floor is gorgeous.

When the weather’s nice, skip the museum and head straight to the Cornell Botanic Gardens for a nice walk. Start in the gardens surrounding the Nevin Welcome Center before heading to either the Mundy Wildflower Garden or Beebe Lake Loop Trail.

48 Hours in Ithaca, NY | Insider's Guide | Cornell Botanic Gardens

By now, you’re probably ready for lunch (which, because it’s Saturday in Ithaca will technically be brunch at most restaurants), so drive to Avaga, a farm to table southwestern restaurant in an old train station near Cornell. Go for the frittata; the black bean burger is good too. If you’d rather, check out Agava for dinner. Start with guac and order a couple of wood-fired flatbreads before live music starts.

Get over your mimosa-induced slump with an afternoon pick me up at Gimme! Coffee. I personally think this is the best coffee in Ithaca and their Cayuga Street location is my favorite. Sit inside or out with your coffee, or take it to go and wander down quaint Cascadilla Street until you get to Cascadilla Gorge. This pretty trail is short, making it a nice post-lunch walk.

48 Hours in Ithaca, NY | Insider's Guide | Cascadilla Gorge Trail

Drive to the Upper Park Entrance of Robert H. Treman State Park and take the Rim Trail to Lucifer Falls. Cross the bridge and walk back up to the parking lot on the Gorge Trail. You could substitute this hike for Buttermilk Falls State Park just across Route 13. If you want to see falls without any walking (there’s a good reason the tour guides at Ithaca College tell you about “Itha-calves”), check out Ithaca Falls Natural Area at the end of Falls Street.

For dinner, head to Ithaca Beer Co. If you’re done with nature (or the weather isn’t great) come to the taproom early for a brewery tour before dinner. They’re fun, informational and indoors. There are lots of seasonal ingredients grown nearby on this menu too. Pizza’s a good bet, and so is the burger with fries (made better by the house-made ketchup). I’m partial to pairing them with a Flower Power and Apricot Wheat, but I’ve never had a bad brew here.

Another great dinner option is Coltivare, a farm to table restaurant that’s part of Tompkins Cortland Community College’s culinary program. It’s the priciest option in this itinerary, but I think it’s worth it.

48 Hours in Ithaca, NY | Insider's Guide | Ithaca Beer Co.

48 Hours in Ithaca, NY | Insider's Guide | Sunset at Stewart Park

After dinner, head to Stewart Park, right on the southern end of Cayuga Lake. It’s my favorite place to watch the sun set over the hills.

Sunday

Depending on whether or not you’re still full from all the food you ate on Saturday, eat breakfast on Sunday morning at either Waffle Frolic or Collegetown Bagels, both located in the Commons.

During the school year, the line for Waffle Frolic can reach out the door. It’s worth the wait. Your imagination is the limit here, where you can top four different kinds of waffles with everything from bacon and eggs to Nutella and locally-made ice cream.

Collegetown Bagels has, you guessed it, awesome bagels. My go-to CTB breakfast is the pizza bagel on a sesame seed bagel. There’s nothing better after a busy Saturday or late night. There’s also a Collegetown location. That one is open late, so if you want dessert Saturday night, it’s a good option!

For your morning caffeine, walk to Press Cafe in Press Bay Alley. This row of shops was once home to the Ithaca Journal’s offices and printers. The back side of this airy cafe’s building is where you’ll find the “Ithaca is Amusing” mural you may have seen on Instagram.

48 Hours in Ithaca, NY | Insider's Guide | Farmers' Market

48 Hours in Ithaca, NY | Insider's Guide | Farmers' Market

A weekend in Ithaca isn’t complete without a trip to the farmers’ market. Stock up on fresh fruits, veggies and flowers along with a good part of Ithaca’s population. Sunday hours start later in the spring and end earlier in the fall, so make sure you check the hours before driving down to Steamboat Landing.

Before you head home, make a quick stop at Purity Ice Cream. One of my favorite features here is the ability to split a single scoop between two flavors. The old-timey feel and homemade ice cream cannot be missed. Unless you plan to stop at Cayuga Lake Creamery, which is another delicious option.

Green Water and Blue Skies at Green Lakes State Park

We knew this fall’s vacation to Smugglers’ Notch State Park would be a bit of a drive from Buffalo. We also didn’t want to take more than a couple days of vacation after enjoying a lot of long weekends this summer. To make the trip to northern Vermont more manageable, we made Wednesday night reservations at Green Lakes State Park, just outside of Syracuse.

This park is just as old as Allegany State Park and in both parks many of the existing trails and buildings are thanks to Depression-era CCC efforts. What’s different about Green Lakes is that it feels like a little oasis just outside the busy suburbs of Syracuse. You could hear the planes at the airport take off and land from our campsite.

This may be why Green Lakes has received a lot of love the last few years. The bath houses in the loops were both beautiful and very clean, the beach was closed but still perfectly groomed and new grass was growing by the playground.

Green Lake at Green Lakes State Park, Syracuse, NY

We picked Green Lakes State Park as our stop on the way to Vermont because of the Instagram-worthy lakes, which are indeed green. The layers of water within Green Lake and Round Lake don’t mix. The minerals of the deeper layers are what makes the water the blue-green color. It’s also incredibly clear and you can rent kayaks with clear bottoms to see more of what lies below the surface.

Our original plan for our time at the Park was to bike around Green Lake, starting at the beach and taking the short path at the south end of the lake to make our way around Round Lake as well. It turns out you can’t bike around the lakes, so we only saw Green Lake before hitting the road.

Green Lake at Green Lakes State Park, Syracuse, NY

I didn’t expect the water to be so green. It was cool to see the water between the trees every few yard as we walked. We’ll definitely be back because I so badly want to swim and kayak in this water!

9 Downtown Dallas Gems

Last month, I had the chance to explore a little bit of Dallas, Texas thanks to a four day work trip. We stayed downtown and because I didn’t want to wander too far from our hotel, I kept my exploring to downtown as well. This probably isn’t the most exciting part of the city.

There has to be a neighborhood with cute boutiques, blocks of cute craftsman-style houses and streets lined with authentic Latin American and Asian restaurants somewhere. Unless I really messed up, they’re not downtown.

Because those more everyday experiences are my favorite part of getting to know a new city, I didn’t love Dallas like I love Austin, Ithaca or Boston. However, I did find a few gems hidden within the limits of Downtown Dallas.

1. Ascension

Thursday, my first full day in Dallas, I had most of the day to explore. Of course, my first stop was for coffee (and avocado toast) at Ascension‘s Elm Street location. The combination of amazing coffee, proximity to the hotel and a server who spent a few years in Buffalo means I ate here three of the four mornings I spent in Dallas.

2. Klyde Warren Park

Klyde Warren Park in Downtown Dallas

This pristine park sits on top of a freeway, giving visitors a unique perspective at either end of the park. When I walked through the arch-lined paths early Thursday morning, there were multiple staff working to clean up after heavy rains. Lots of tables, twinkle lights and pristine public bathrooms made this one of the cutest corners of Dallas I found!

3. Dallas Museum of Art

I arrived at the Dallas Museum of Art a little early, along with what seemed like 15 schools worth of field trips. We were ushered into the Museum together, but there are enough exhibits that it didn’t feel too crowded most of the time. The collection here is impressive, especially considering admission is free. I loved the impressionist collection, and ancient Asian and African pieces.

Dallas Museum of Art in Downtown Dallas

4. West End Historic District

I had a few hours to myself on Friday morning so I walked down Main Street to the West End Historic District. I stepped into the JFK Memorial Plaza for a few minutes as the sun came out for the first time since arriving at the airport. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time to go into The Old Red Museum, Dallas Holocaust Museum or Sixth Floor Museum.

I did spend a few minutes breathing in the smell of leather and looking at a hundred or so pairs of boots I don’t need at Wild Bill’s Western Store before walking back to the hotel.

5. Dallas Farmers Market

It should come as no surprise that I loved the Dallas Farmers Market. It was also one of the very few places downtown where I saw families enjoying the city together. A huge complex of permanent structures house various vendors, selling everything from pumpkins and peppers to ice cream and coffee, as well as tons of pretty accessories.

Dallas Farmers Market in Downtown Dallas

downtown-dallas-things-to-do-5-min

Dallas Farmers Market in Downtown Dallas

I took the short walk to the farmers’ market for lunch between a stint at our exhibitor booth and tearing it down at the end of the conference. After a smooth cold brew on nitro and delicious banh mi, I wandered through the vendors and a few acoustic musicians under a perfect blue sky.

6. Ruibal’s Plants of Texas

Just across the street from the farmers’ market is the incredibly well-stocked and staffed Ruibal’s. The rows of pumpkins, mums and perennials were both a gardener’s and blogger’s dream. There were plenty of both wandering through the rows of flowers here, taking photos of their fall outfits and planning their fall porches.

It was strange to see so many people just starting to get excited about fall, when the season was coming to a close at home. Thinking about picking out pumpkins in 80° weather was also pretty weird.

7. Deep Ellum Brewing Co.

I wanted to see the murals painted on buildings throughout the Deep Ellum neighborhood, but a quick internet search had me thinking I shouldn’t head there alone. So, I convinced the rest of the team to explore this historic neighborhood, which was once an industrial hotbed, and home to early jazz and blues musicians.

Deep Ellum Blues mural in Deep Ellum, Dallas

We made our way to Deep Ellum Brewing Co. on Bird scooters, which was way more fun than I thought it would be. After arriving in style, I had an amazing Oak Cliff Coffee Ale and really good nachos (nachos are not complicated, but some bars really mess them up) on the patio, along with a cat on a leash dressed for Halloween. 😻

Deep Ellum Brewing Co. in Deep Ellum, Dallas

Deep Ellum Brewing Co. in Deep Ellum, Dallas

8. Dot’s Hop House

100 beers on draft, giant Jenga and a huge chandelier for no apparent reason? Yes please. I lost at Jenga, as per usual, but I had fun doing it. The expansive outdoor space filled with costume-clad groups was a people-watching paradise.

9. Braindead Brewing

Our last stop was at Braindead Brewing, which had a huge list of beers on tap. Good Morning Dave, a grapefruit saison, was a good way to end the night.

Braindead Brewing in Deep Ellum, Dallas

Fall in Dallas feels like June in Buffalo, with patios seating, doors open and people spilling onto the streets after months indoors. Braindead was no exception and we took a seat at a table between the bar and the doors, enjoying the breeze.

Smuggs and Stowe Aren’t Just for the Winter

After a very, very busy July and August, Cody and I finally got around to a summer vacation in September. We chose Vermont after an afternoon of research on the couch last spring. Our first choice was one of the state parks within Groton State Forest, but they didn’t have as many camping options as we were looking for.

That led us to Smugglers’ Notch State Park a little further north. The Park is surrounded by ski trails and the mountains are dotted with luxury lodges. It’s obvious how ingrained skiing is in the culture here. Finding travel guides written about visiting in the summer proved challenging.

What ended up being so nice about Smugglers’ Notch was how close it was to Stowe. We could hike and cook breakfast over a fire, but also go out for pizza and get coffee in the morning.

We packed a lot into a long weekend, especially considering we slept 10 hours a night and never managed to leave our campsite for the days’ activities before 11.

Day 1: Road Tripping to Stowe

We spent Wednesday night at Green Lakes State Park, both because we had never been and it would get us 2 hours closer to our final destination. After a walk around Green Lake Thursday morning, we got in the car, ready for the 5 ish hour drive to Smugglers’ Notch. Most of the trip was through the southern end of the Adirondack Mountains, making for a much prettier, more interesting drive than, say, the 7 hours on the NYS Thruway/Mass Turnpike it takes to get to Boston.

You emerge from the mountains just in time to cross the New York/Vermont state line over Lake Champlain and are immediately in the prettiest farmland I’ve ever seen. We drove toward the Green Mountains, taking in the view and coming up with a game plan for setting up and getting dinner.

Our campsite was tucked back into the woods, making it feel like we were much more remote than we really were. The one downside to this was how early it got dark in the trees, but it was nice to sit around a fire every night and just listen to the sounds around us. We set up the tent, blew up the air mattress (priorities…) and took quick showers before heading into Stowe for dinner.

After three days of showers in the coin-operated Smugglers’ Notch showers, I think I’m 100% on board with the idea that a campsite should charge for hot, high pressured showers, instead of provide free lukewarm showers that don’t have enough pressure to even get the shampoo out of your hair.

Another thing I really enjoyed about the Park was how attentive the rangers were. They were easy to find if you had questions and even stopped by our campsite to see if we needed anything or were looking for trail recommendations. We ended up with extra tomatoes from the camp volunteer’s garden too, which were delicious.

We did a little bit of restaurant research before leaving for the trip, and decided Piecasso was worth checking out. Like most Stowe restaurants, they have a draft list filled with local craft brews and try to source their ingredients from local farms and producers.

Sunset, Stowe, VT

Piecasso, Stowe, VT

It was just the right temperature to sit on the patio for the last few minutes of the sunset. Our pizza was delicious, as were our beers (Zero Gravity Strawberry Moon for me and Burlington Beer Company and Lost Nation’s Mosaic IPAs for Cody). We headed back to our site tired and full, but excited to explore more of the park and Stowe.

Day 2: Exploring Smugglers’ Notch State Park

We chose to explore the park on Friday instead of Saturday hoping to avoid some of the weekend crowds. We started with Bingham Falls, which is a short trail right outside the campground that leads to a series of waterfalls and crystal-clear pools, perfect for swimming if you don’t mind water so cold you can’t feel your legs. It wasn’t warm enough to stay all day, and we wanted to cook lunch and have plenty of time for another hike.

Bingham Falls, Smugglers' Notch State Park, VT

Our next destination was Sterling Pond. To get there, we drove through the Notch along Scenic Route 108, which was equal parts amazing and terrifying. I didn’t take a single picture during our drive because I was too distracted by the view and the blind turns. As you drive between Mt. Mansfield on one side and Spruce Peak on the other, you can definitely see how goods were smuggled though this pass before it was widened and paved for the enjoyment of nature enthusiasts. At the higher altitudes of the Notch, the leaves are beginning to change colors, hinting at how gorgeous this drive becomes each fall.

The trail to Sterling Pond from the Notch is pretty much straight up the side of Spruce Peak, but the view at the top is worth it. The trail connects to Long Trail, which reaches across the entire state from North to South. We could have reached the Pond exclusively on the Long Trail for a much more gradual hike, but it would have made for a much longer round trip than we were planning on.

Sterling Pond, Smugglers' Notch State Park, VT

Sterling Pond, Smugglers' Notch State Park, VT

We caught our breath taking in the deep blue water and watching two friendly ducks go about their afternoon. There’s a trail around the pond as well, which, if we started earlier in the day, we may have done. Instead, we headed down to continue our drive along Vermont Scenic Route 108.

On our way back to the campground, we stopped at Barnes Camp Visitor Center and walked along the boardwalk there, which winds through a wetland created by busy beavers. We were lucky enough to see a few of these beavers going about their day against the dramatic view of the Notch.

Boardwalk, Smugglers' Notch State Park, VT

We had grand plans of taking in part of the Stowe Jazz Fest after dinner, but that never happened. Instead, we got another 10 hours of sleep, which felt way better.

Day 3: Drinking Our Way Through the Green Mountains

Vermont feels almost synonymous with craft beer. Stowe and nearby Morrisville have more than enough breweries to fill a day with. However, we started at Black Cap Coffee (which actually also sells craft beer, although you can’t drink it in the shop).

We brought our bikes with us to Vermont and until this point, all they had done was sit in the truck bed. We finally put them to good use on the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail. This trail runs across the state in two long sections, one of which conveniently goes directly behind Lost Nation Brewing.

Lost Nation Brewing

After a short ride, we were ready to find a new favorite beer or two. We took a seat on the covered patio at Lost Nation among bikers much more serious than us and ordered a pint each. My blueberry gose, The Wind Blue, was delicious.

Lost Nation Brewing, Morrisville, VT

Lost Nation Brewing, Morrisville, VT

Lost Nation Brewing, Morrisville, VT

Our one complaint was how refined the food was. Maybe it’s because every brewery in Buffalo has chicken wings and pretzels on the menu, but we were looking for a snack to tide us over and nothing on the apps menu was calling our names.

Ten Bends Beer

We weren’t originally going to stop here because it seemed out of the way, but we realized it was only five minutes from Lost Nation! The location would remind Buffalonians of 12 Gates; Ten Bends shares a building with a reuse store and has picnic tables in the parking lot. Just like our first trip to 12 Gates, we drove right by the brewery before realizing we went too far down Main Street.

The beer list was small but impressive, there was a dog to pet when we walked in, and the bartender had really good suggestions. Cody and I split a flight, considering we still had a lot of stops and the nearest Lyft was in Burlington. I was recommended the Cream Puff War because, despite its IPA style and 8.3% ABV, it was fruitier and less bitter than the blonde ale. The iteration on tap when we stopped was peachy, which I loved.

Ten Bends Beer, Hyde Park, VT

Rock Art Brewery

Rock Art only offers pints once a week, so we settled for a tasting of each of the brewery’s beers. Nothing here was super impressive, but I do have to say they get points for creativity.

Idletyme Brewing Company

We headed back to Stowe, very ready for lunch. Idletyme was more restaurant than brewery, but the food was delicious and the biergarden was exactly what I wanted a Vermont brewery’s outdoor space to be, filled with flowers, tomatoes and hops.

I tried both the Danube and Pink N’ Pale before settling on the later, a grapefruit-infused American-style pale ale. After lunch we sat in the sun in Adirondack chairs before heading off to our next stop.

Idletyme Brewing Co, Stowe, VT

The Alchemist

Cody was more excited for this tap room than I was because of The Alchemist’s reputation for their IPAs. (Heady Topper anyone?) This was another brewery that only offered samples, but it wasn’t stopping people from walking out with dozens of cans.

The Alchemist, Stowe, VT

Because of Jazz Fest, the grounds and tasting room were packed, but the atmosphere was great and views were amazing. We walked through the vendors before heading back to the car.

von Trapp Brewery

We weren’t really planning on having time to make it to the von Trapp Brewery, but because we didn’t order pints at very many places, we still had plenty of time before the sun went down. I ordered an Oktoberfest Lager and we grabbed a picnic table with an amazing view of the mountains and sinking sun. While this beer wasn’t our favorite, the weather was perfect and there was a cozy buzz of conversation around us.

von Trapp Brewing, Stowe, VT

Hindsight is 20/20. If we were to do it again, I think we’d start at the von Trapp Brewery and then head to Idletyme for lunch. Next would be Ten Bends, and then we’d bike before hanging out at Lost Nation for the afternoon. The tastings at Rock Art and The Alchemist weren’t really worth the stop, considering we didn’t buy any cans.

Lost Nation was by far our favorite. They had a great mix of beers and a relaxed, not too busy atmosphere. Because it was our first stop and we were getting a little hungry, we only had one drink here. It set the bar really high, but no one else quite lived up to that expectation.

Stowe Ice Cream

Nothing like fueling your body with a dinner of ice cream after a day filled with beer… But hey, we were on vacation. The homemade ice cream at Stowe Ice Cream is delicious, and the view of Main Street from their Adirondack chairs is darling.

Stowe Ice Cream, Stowe, VT

Saturday night was another low key evening. We burned the rest of our wood, showered and put on enough layers to sleep through the 40° night. Sunday morning we packed up and hit the road for the 7 hour drive back to Buffalo.

This four day trip was exactly what I needed after a summer of constant motion. It felt so good to catch up on sleep and start our day at 11 am instead of 6. I was worried we wouldn’t have enough to keep us busy in Stowe and the State Park, but I don’t think we even scratched the surface. That just means we’ll have to go back someday, hopefully soon!

A Three Day Weekend on the North Shore

Since visiting Paige in the literal dead of winter, I was dying to explore her new corner of the world in warmer weather. Earlier this summer, we spent a three-day weekend taking in all the best parts of eastern Mass, from Boston’s city lights to Rockport’s coastal charm – and a lot of places in between.

I spent most of Friday driving, arriving in the eastern part of Massachusetts just as the entire state headed toward Cape Cod. When I did arrive in Salem, Paige had an amazing dinner filled with fresh produce from the farmers’ market ready for me, which we enjoyed on her breezy second story porch.

After dinner, we caught the train into Boston for good beer, neon lights and a long walk through the city on a beautiful summer night. We met Tom, one of Paige’s friends from high school who now lives outside Boston as well, at Trillium Brewing Company’s Garden on the Greenway. I sipped on Peach Fated Farmer with Peach Juice, a sweet beer that went perfectly with the view of The Greenway and just a touch of a salty ocean breeze.

Beet at Trillium Garden on the Greenway

Taps at Trillium Garden on the Greenway

GLOW Art Exhibit on the Rose Kennedy Greenway

We wandered through the city, around the harbor and on and off the Freedom Trail before catching the train. We headed back to Paige’s apartment for a good night of sleep before a day on the North Shore.

Because it was 5° last time I visited, I was looking forward to enjoying the wind coming in off the ocean, rather than dreading it. We started the morning in Swampscott, walking along King’s Beach, Red Rock Park and Nahant Beach. The sun was shining, the water was the perfect temperature for dipping our feet in, and we worked up enough an appetite to really, really enjoy our pizza from Volo Craft Pizza.

The restaurant was small but bright, with sun streaming in through the windows and reflecting off the stainless steel tabletops. Everyone behind the counter was incredibly sweet and our food (the House Pizza and a Panino Sandwich) was ready in just a few minutes.

Red Rock Park, Swampscott, Massachusetts

Skyline View of Boston from Red Rock Park, Swampscott, Massachusetts

Red Rock Park, Swampscott, Massachusetts

Volo Craft Pizza, Swampscott, Massachusetts

north-shore-ma-long-weekend-13-min

We headed back to Salem for a few hours out of the sun before driving up to Rockport. Our first stop was for coffee at Bean & Leaf, which has an amazing view of Rockport Harbor. We popped into a dozen shops before visiting the iconic Motif #1. Among our favorites along Bearskin Neck were Queen of Sorts, Wicked Peacock and Rusty + Ingrid Creative Company.

Bean & Leaf Cafe, Rockport, Massachusetts

Bear Skin Neck, Rockport, Massachusetts

Cottages in Rockport, Massachusetts

Rockport Harbor, Rockport, Massachusetts

Motif #1, Rockport, Massachusetts

Fishing Shack in Rockport, Massachusetts

At this point, all we wanted were fish tacos, which are surprisingly hard to come by in this lobster-obsessed town, so we stopped for a quick dinner in Gloucester.

Sunday morning was gloomy, but that didn’t stop us from walking to Front Street Coffee House and peaking into Oak + Moss. We walked home through The Point to admire the gorgeous murals, all part of the mission of Punto Urban Art Museum to “break down the invisible, but undeniable socio-economic barrier between the Point Neighborhood and the rest of Salem and the North Shore… through stunning, world class art.”

Because of the rain, I left my camera at home during this outing. I’ve been kicking myself since, because this neighborhood’s art, from the full-scale murals to the small reminders that what goes down the storm drains will end up in the ocean, is stunning.

After our morning walk, I started the drive home, Volo leftovers in hand and ready to face the traffic waiting for me along the Mass Turnpike.

We managed to see a lot in just a couple of days, but I also put a big dent in a new book and got a few much needed good nights of sleep, making this the perfect weekend with my sister.

A Rainy Day Trip to Ithaca

It’s hard to forget a place as beautiful, diverse and delicious as Ithaca.

I hadn’t made the drive down Cayuga Lake in a year and after spending four years making that drive after weekends in Rochester and school breaks at home, I really, truly missed it. There’s something special about winding through wine country, passing Taughannock Falls, being able to tune in to 103.7 and finally seeing the Towers through the trees.

Needless to say, I was looking for an excuse to make that drive. This past weekend, I spent six hours in the car for five hours in the 607 and it was completely worth it.

Rainy Day Trip to Ithaca, NY | Taughannock Falls

Rainy Day Trip to Ithaca, NY | Taughannock Falls

Rainy Day Trip to Ithaca, NY | Taughannock Falls

My first stop was Taughannock Falls. I only had time for the Gorge Trail, but the morning’s rain accentuated the green within the gorge and filled the falls. Dreary weather also meant I had the trail almost completely to myself.

Next up was the always delicious Gimme! Coffee, which was packed with people on laptops and chatting out front. I love coffee shops’ sense of community and I think Gimme! is one of the first places I really experienced it. Plus, the coffee is delicious.

Coffee in hand, I walked down Cascadilla Avenue, the cutest, greenest, friendliest path there ever was. How have I not wandered along the creek this way before? My end goal was Collegetown Bagels, of course.

Rainy Day Trip to Ithaca, NY | Gimme! Coffee

One pizza bagel later and I was ready to take on the real reason for spending six hours in the car. The smart, soil-savvy people of GreenTree had invited me back for an afternoon of local farmers and soil selling strategy. If that sounds bizarre to you, it’s okay. This small team of people completely welcomed me as a summer intern my senior year at Ithaca and I learned a ton because of it, about marketing, running a business and dirt.

Rainy Day Trip to Ithaca, NY | GreenTree Farm to Garden Days

My little taste of Ithaca only made me miss the things I didn’t have time for more, so I’m counting down the days until I’m there again. Hopefully, I’ll be joined by some of my favorite Itha-people next time.