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.

4 Accessories You Need for Your Next Beach Day

There is something so satisfying about escaping to warmer weather when it’s still below freezing in Buffalo. This week, we packed our bags and traveled to Anna Maria Island, Florida where we were greeted by sun and sand.

While I packed plenty of sundresses and even jeans for chilly nights, the most important beach accessories didn’t take up much room in my luggage. Last summer, I shared 9 beach day must haves. I still stand by those favorites 100%; I’m adding a few more from this week’s trip to the Gulf Coast.

Must Have Accessories for Beach Day | Anna Maria Island, Florida | A New Day Sunglasses | Floppy Sun Hat

1. A Hat

A hat is an essential beach day accessory that keeps your scalp from burning and shields your eyes from the sun. The weather and our plans for the day dictated what hat I wore. I love this floppy sun hat with a pretty bow for lounging on the sand on clear, calm days. For a morning out on the boat or windy weather, my favorite UT baseball hat was a better fit.

2. A New Day Clubmaster Sunglasses

A New Day is a recently launched Target-exclusive brand with lots of cute accessories. These were a complete impulse buy just days before we left for Anna Maria Island. I love that they’re a classic shape with just enough details that they’re not boring. They also fit my smaller face really well.

Must Have Accessories for Beach Day | Anna Maria Island, Florida | Pura Vida Bracelets Silver Wave Ring

3. Pura Vida Bracelets Silver Wave Ring

This dainty accessory adds just a touch of nautical sparkle to my beach day ensemble. The ring was a Christmas gift from Shannon, along with an Anna Maria Island sticker and coozie. This gift had me daydreaming of the beach for the past 3 months!

Must Have Accessories for Beach Day | Anna Maria Island, Florida | Cool Gear Tumbler

4. Cool Gear Tumbler

Keeping drinks cold is a very real beach day struggle. I love this tumbler because it has a wide mouth for ice cubes. The double walls keep it from sweating, so sand is way less likely to stick and end up in my bag or the cooler.

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.

 

A Fall Staycation at Hart House Hotel

Spending a little time away from home, no matter how far you actually go, is always a nice break from day-to-day life. Cody and I had the opportunity to spend a night at Hart House Hotel in Medina and jumped at the chance – despite the fact that Cody lives exactly .5 miles from the hotel. Hart House is a beautifully restored factory with tons of tiny details that make it so welcoming.

Staycationing at Hart House Hotel | Medina, NY

Staycationing at Hart House Hotel | Medina, NY

Staycationing at Hart House Hotel | Medina, NY

When I was in elementary school, my favorite family trip was our annual long weekend in Rochester. Not Cape Cod, not Disney World, but a hotel with a pool an hour east on the Thruway. We used to visit the museum, planetarium, mall and bagel shop. These trips didn’t have a long car ride or the stress of not knowing where you were.

The same was true about our stay at Hart House. We knew what we wanted for dinner and where we were heading for drinks afterwards. We had time to stop in all the shops we’re always saying we should go into. I couldn’t even forget my leftovers in the hotel fridge because we stopped at Cody’s house between dinner and heading to the hotel.

We started our staycation with dinner at Mariachi de Oro, which is always a good choice for authentic fajitas and enchiladas, plus 60 ounce margaritas, if that’s your thing. We walked from Hart House to Fitzgibbons for drinks. Fitz has a great selection of Irish and local beer, plus gorgeous woodwork and servers in kilts.

Staycationing at Hart House Hotel | Medina, NY

We woke up at Hart House to a sun drenched morning, perfect for iced coffee and Roberts’ cider from Shirt Factory Cafe. The weather felt more like June than September, perfect for walking to shops on Main Street. Our first stop was to The Bread Basket for peanut butter chocolate chip and cookies and cream scones (disclaimer: Cody’s mom owns The Bread Basket 😉).

Staycationing at Hart House Hotel | Medina, NY

Staycationing at Hart House Hotel | Medina, NY

Staycationing at Hart House Hotel | Medina, NY

After wandering through the farmers’ market, the rest of our day included stops at Creekside Floral (for our Ale in Autumn tickets!), Ellen J. Goods and Filomena’s Favorites. Medina is ready for fall, with chrysanthemums and rustic decor in every direction. I even did a little Christmas shopping…

Staycationing at Hart House Hotel | Medina, NY

Staycationing at Hart House Hotel | Medina, NY

On my way home I stopped at Roberts’ Farm Market for cider and to wander through their mums, pumpkins and u-pick orchards.

Staycationing at Hart House Hotel | Medina, NY

Staycationing at Hart House Hotel | Medina, NY

Staycationing at Hart House Hotel | Medina, NY

If Hart House is a little further than a 15 minute drive, there’s lots to do between Medina and Buffalo. Spend the weekend and check out Alternative Grounds or Steamworks for coffee, hike at the Royalton Ravine or spend some time at Bear Bottom Wholesale!

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. Amity Coffee Co., 13 Main Street

Amity Coffee Co. | Penn Yan, NY

Amity Coffee Co. opened this spring in the space that was previously Publick Coffee Co. Paige and I stopped by for Amity’s opening weekend; we were greeted by cozy textures and pretty latte art. 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!

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.