TRVLR104: Top 5 Spots in Philadelphia

Some call it the “City of Brotherly Love.” Some know it as the birthplace of American independence. I know it as a super-cool place with awesome bars, restaurants, and things to do!

Philadelphia has been a place I’ve loved for some time now. I am a huge history buff, so it helps that there is such a historical thread running through the city, but there is just so much going on that it makes exploring the streets so much fun! Plus, you don’t need a lot of time to feel like you’ve done a lot!

We have been to Philly many times since it’s such a short trip from New York, so we’ve discovered some great places! I want to share my favorites with you, right here, right now! It’s a small city, but packs a huge punch. Check out my list below!


Independence National Historic Park
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You’re in Philly, so obviously you are going to spend time visiting someeeee historical landmarks! Spend some of your time hitting up Independence Hall and The Liberty Bell. As an American…just do it! Unfortunately, there will be lines everywhere, but they move fast! (Side note: the US Mint is also around here, and don’t get me wrong, I love $$, but it is super boring…) You are going to get your history quota done in a matter of literally one square mile, and it’s actually fun!


Sonny’s Famous Steaks
Now, Philly wouldn’t be worth the trip if you didn’t have a cheesesteak, and there are a million places to try one. I haven’t been to every place, but I have been to a few, and I have a favorite.There are the famous Geno’s or Pat’s that visitors will flock to, but there is a great whole-in-the-wall joint right on Market Street in Old City called Sonny’s Famous Steaks. The line, again, will be out the door, but the guys behind the counter are awesome, and the food is delicious.

A traditional cheesesteak is drenched in cheese wiz, which I am not a fan of. Instead, I go for the melted provolone and add peppers, onions, and mushrooms to the mix. It might not be the right way, but it sure is yummy! And again, I am no expert on cheesesteaks, so if you know of any other great places, let me know!


Reading Terminal Marketing
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If you are a local business supporter, organic food junky, or just an impulsive shopper, you need to go to Reading Terminal Market, which might be the best indoor farmer’s market ever. There is literally EV-ERY-THINGGGGG here! Butchers, coffee roasters, florists, bakeries…if you can think of it, this place has it. It’s such a fun place to roam around and explore, and I am sure you won’t walk out empty-handed.


2nd & 3rd Streets in Old City
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I love walking around, exploring local shops, and Old City is filled with tons eclectic storefronts, most of which are locally owned. My absolute favorite spot down here is The Book Trader, a small little book shop overflowing with every genre book imaginable! I have bought all of my art history books here for the day I can put them on a kick-ass coffee table! And that is just one of the many local shops you will fall in love with walking through the neighborhood.


Philadelphia Museum of Art
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I am a big art junky as well (could you tell why I love this city so much) and the Philadelphia Museum of Art does not disappoint. The first time we went, I had just finished my junior year of college and that fall semester I had taken a 20th century modern art class. Well, walking into this museum will subject you to one of the best collections of modern art in the Northeast. From Duchamp to Cézanne, it’s a truly breathtaking collection. What’s more, it’s the home of the steps made famous in Rocky, so obviously you need to run up them!


Final Thoughts…
Philly is kind of the best, I won’t lie. I barely scratched the surface on what is here and how much there is to do and see. From the restaurants and bars, to the sights and shops, it has something for everyone!

So! Have you been to Philly? If so, what are your favorite spots?! If you haven’t, is it a place on your list? Let me know!

xoxo Amanda

TRVLR103: Big Sur, California

I’ve been dying to share some pictures from our recent trip to California. It ended up being a very impromptu trip we took to celebrate our engagement; San Francisco to Los Angeles! Now, all of California was amazing, but my very favorite part of our trip was our two-day coastal drive through Big Sur. It was just breathtaking.

Situated on the central coast of California, Big Sur boasts some of the most incredible views you will ever see. Navigating winding roads up mountains, through forests, and along beaches, it was truly the most beautiful drive, one I suggest everyone drive once.

The drive was great from San Francisco to Santa Cruz and through Monterey, but what was beyond civilization was to die for, and I do not say that lightly. I had no idea what Big Sur was really like until it just hits you.

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The views were magnificent. There was something to look at at every turn, one scene more breathtaking than the next. I was in awe of what was around me. The water was clearer, the sky was bluer, and the grass was greener than any place I’ve ever seen.

As we drove along, climbing along the mountains, we stopped every few minutes, the landscape continuously changing around us. I could just keep on saying how beautiful it was, but it really was that stunning.

Our drive from San Francisco to Cambria, our half-way point, took us about 8 hours, stopping a lot along the way (you will stop a lot, trust me). We had beautiful blue skies most of the day, but about 3/4 of the way through the weather began changing. The higher elevations brought about tons of fog. But, don’t think this ruined our drive at all, it did the exact opposite; watching the fog roll in was an incredible sight to see.

It looked different from every angle. When the sun was in view, it reflected on the sky and the ocean to cast such gorgeous hues of color. When it wasn’t, the mountains looked eerie but calm. This mix of fog and light brought us right into the sunset.

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As we came back down to lower elevations, the fog began to burn off and we witnessed a sunset that was unlike any other.

Within 15 minutes of the sun going down, we had made it to Cambria. Our timing couldn’t have been any better. (We ended up back tracking those 15 minutes in the morning to go see the Elephant Seals in San Simeon that we had missed after the sun went down.) Cambria has a strip of small, beachfront hotels; we stayed at The Fogcatcher Inn, and it was so perfect! It was steps away from black sand beaches and serenity — perfect for an early morning walk, listening to the waves and enjoying a cup of coffee before heading to Los Angeles.

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Big Sur was truly impressive. It was incredible to experience so many different landscapes and views, all within one drive. It was one of those drives where our mouths were dropped the whole time. Being together on a drive so magnificent was something I will never forget.

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If you have any questions about Big Sur or the coast drive, let me know in the comments! Or, if you’ve done it, I’d love to know what your favorite parts were, or if there was a place you wish you could have stopped. There is so much to see along the way to keep you talking about it for months (trust me, I still am) and wanting to go back for more!

xoxo
Amanda

TRVLR102: What’s in my bag? Boston

Jake and I headed up to Boston this past weekend for a conference he is attending (PAX East, if you are familiar with the video game industry). This trip was all over the place; we needed to be ready to walk a convention show floor all day, and then head to dinner and after parties with barely any time inbetween. This called for packing a few key things to get me from Friday to Sunday without taking my whole closet!


Tops and shoes, tops and shoes…

It is super important to have clothes that can easily move you from day to night. I rarely bring more than two pairs of jeans anywhere I go. I bring a loose fitting pair and a skinny pair, both of which can be dressed up or down. I ALWAYS bring more tops than pants because they wear much faster. So, I save a lot of room in my bag by only bringing two pairs of bottoms, one of which I wear on the way there!

This trip, I brought six shirts and wore three. Again, I like to be safe rather than sorry and bring more tops, since I’ve literally been sorry too many times (like forgetting pants altogether…). It was good to have options since the weather was a little all over the place!

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Same holds true for shoes, and I always bring a few options. I brought two pairs of sneakers (one pair walking, one pair gym), a pair of sandals, and a pair of heals; I wore all four pairs! Since we were driving I could bring an extra pair of sneakers, which was good! If I have the ability to bring a few pairs, I jump on it! If I don’t, I make sure I bring shoes I can wear for multiple occasions, dressed up or down.


Beauty in 1, 2, 3…

And done! My beauty routine is always easy. I honestly rarely wear makeup because I breakout so much, so I just keep it clean and fresh most days. I also am one of those gross people who only wash their hair once every few days, and I promised myself no clean hair on this trip. I brought my personal holy grail 🙌🏻, dry shampoo, a few other minis, and my curling iron to keep my hair in check. I did bring some shampoo and conditioner for Jake, even though he ended up just using the hotel’s stuff (lame!).

In a previous post, I’ve raved about Amika’s Perk Up Dry Shampoo and Number 4 Hair Care’s Super Comb Prep & Protect, so I will just say I love those, I use them everyday, and you should too! (You may be asking why I brought a leave-in when I swore I wouldn’t clean the tresses; it’s always in my travel bag, just in case!) However, I will talk quickly about my hair and skin routine, which includes some downright wonderful brands!

The hair was my biggest battle; I was constantly retouching it. I kept my hair naturally curly because of the chance of rain, and just used my Hot Tools Tapered Wand to get the top of my hair back in shape. But because of the rain and humidity, I was curling it in the morning and at night. No fear though, for Rusk Texture Spray and PARLOR by Jeff Chastain Moisturizing Sea Salt Spray literally saved both parts of the day! The texture spray always gives my curls exactly what is necessary to hold them without weighing them down, and the sea salt spray gives them just the right amount of grit for that lived-in look, but doesn’t dry my hair out. Ultimately, the hair did what I needed it to do.

The skin situation was much easier. Malin & Goetz Grapefruit Face Cleanser was gentle yet super effective; Aura Cacia Rosehip Oil is literally my daily serum go-to, and my skin is all the better for it, so it was a no brainer to bring it along; a few spritz of Liz Earle’s Instant Boost Skin Tonic Spritzer gave me that instant pick-me-up to get out the door and get going! All three together were a perfect combo for clean skin and no irritation!Boston Beauty Essentials.JPG

As for makeup, I kept it simple: a little bit of my NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer, which I just adore, Benefit Watts Up Highlighter that doubled for my eyeshadow, Mirabella Eye Definer in Khaki for a little lift in the eyes, Benefit Roller Lash Mascara because it’s amazing, Tata Harper Volumizing Lip & Cheek Tiny for some color on my cheeks, and whatever dusty rose lip color I had in my purse. Took 5 minutes to put on and gave me just the right amount oomph I needed.

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Ultimately when you are always on the go, you want to have a quick morning routine to get you out the door and a quick refresh at night when you need to go out looking somewhat “put together.”These bad boys did the trick.


Final thoughts…

I kept it simple this weekend and knew what I was up against ahead of time. This trip was not a traditional one for us, as it was mostly business. Multi-functional pieces along with a simple beauty routine (even for the guys) kept my weekend bag lean and got me out the door faster to take on the day! I hope this packing list and my routine help you pack for your next busy trip! Let me know in the comments your thoughts on this post: what you liked, what you didn’t, and what you want to know more of!

Also, send me your tips for simplifying your beauty and clothing checklist for quick trips that pack a big punch! I love new ideas to take with me on my next adventure! And don’t forget to check down below for all of the products I mentioned in this post to try them yourself!

xoxo Amanda


Products Discussed
Amika Perk Up Dry Shampoo: Full size $24; travel size $10
Number 4 Hair Care Super Comb & Protect: Full size $30
Beauty Protector Protect & Detangle: Full size $23.50
Hot Tools NanoCeramic Tapered Iron: Multiple Sizes $59.99
Rusk Texture Spray: Full size $18; travel size $7
PARLOR by Jeff Chastain Moisturizing Sea Salt Spray: Full size $24;
travel size $8
Malin & Goetz Grapefruit Face Cleanser: Full size $32
Aura Cacia Rosehip Oil: Full size $7.79
Liz Earle Instant Boost Skin Tonic Spritzer: Full size $25
NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer: Full size $29
Benefit Watts Up Highlighter: Full size $30
Mirabella Eye Definer: Full size $19
Benefit Roller Lash Mascara: Full size $24
Tata Harper Volumizing Lip & Cheek Tint: Full size $36
 

TRVLR101: Hidden Gems of NYC

I am lucky enough to live in the shadow of one of the greatest cities in the world. New York. It’s a place on many people’s travel bucket lists for its famous landmarks, huge skyscrapers, and unique culture. But there is a lot to New York.

You could travel to the Big Apple multiple times and never see every square inch of it. Spanning 5 boroughs, all of which are very different from one another, it is a vast city. BUT NO FEAR! NYC is very doable. I know you’re already going to have the biggies on your list (the Empire State Building, Central Park, the Brooklyn Bridge,) but I want to break down for you my favorites of NYC…places you probably don’t have on your list, and ones that are easy to fit into to your weekend getaway!


The Flatiron District

I am sure you have some incredible neighborhoods and skyscrapers on your list of places to see, but you probably don’t have the Flatiron District on it. Sure, you probably have heard of the Flatiron Building, but it might be one of those buildings you choose not to see for time’s sake. Please, don’t miss out (there is a sick view of the Empire State from here).

You will find the Flatiron District where Broadway meets 5th Avenue, right around 23rd Street. This area boasts some of midtown’s gems, without the pomp and circumstance that generally comes with the area. The Flatiron Building is the visual highlight of the neighborhood, and an exceptional piece of New York architecture. Built in the 1900s, it has been a showpiece of NYC landmarks and featured in countless books, publications, and movies (remember, it was the Daily Bugle!). But there is so much more than that.

Madison Square Park is the heart of this neighborhood; amidst the bustle of the city this park is quaint and generally pretty quiet with plenty of benches, walking paths, a dog park, and great art installations. It is also home to the OG Shake Shack, which has a line all day, everyday, but is totally worth waiting on for a Purple Cow and a Double Shackburger. Another great place across the street is Eataly, an Italian lovers dream. There are 7 different restaurants, all with a different specialty, and loads of fresh pastas, veggies, and meats to buy and make your own creations. You can really fuel up before continuing your day in this prime spot.

The Flatiron District is small, but it’s worth making your way down there, even for a little while. From the great views to the great food, it’s an easy place to enjoy. And, its proximity to both midtown and downtown makes it an easy place to pass as you journey through the city!


The High Line

There are tons of unique spots across the city, but none reigns more supreme than The High Line. If you’ve never heard of it, I beg you to take a walk down to the west side and check it out.

The High Line towers 30 feet in the air and runs through the heart of the West Side, along 10th Avenue from Gansevoort Street up to its end around 34th Street and 11th Avenue. This city park is situated along the old West Side Freight Line, weaving in and around the actual tracks used up until the 1980s, and featuring lots of greenery, sitting areas, and cool views! The main digs of this park fall within the Meatpacking District, which, yes, actually used to be what it sounds. The neighborhood is home to some of the most prestigious hotels, museums, and fashion design studios in the city, but it hasn’t been until the last several years or so where it has been put back on the proverbial map.

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The High Line at 15th Avenue. Photo courtesy of Claudia Heidelberger

Up on the High Line you will find some great food vendors to feast your eyes on, but down below you’ll have your pick of some great restaurants. My personal favorite is at the center of the Meatpacking District and has some downright delicious margaritas; Dos Caminos has a prime location where you can see everything that is going on in the neighborhood. It boasts an incredible outdoor seating area that you will wait forever for, but it’s totally worth it on a nice night. After you’ve had too many margaritas a fantastic meal, go to Chelsea Market and be prepared to drop the rest of your money! There are so many great shops, restaurants, and food vendors to choose from, pretty much putting you on sensory overload. It’s just one of many great finds in the neighborhood.

I barely scratched the surface on this hot spot, but it’s well worth the visit west. Whether your into just a walk up high, or looking for good food and high-style buys (whoaaa, look what I did there!), the Meatpacking District is your place, and The High Line is the sweetest spot of it all.


Grand Army Plaza & Prospect Park

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Grand Army Plaza, looking southeast through the Soldiers’ & Sailors’ Arch, directly towards Prospect Park

Oh, hey! Didn’t think I was going to take you to Brooklyn? Wrong! Grand Army Plaza & Prospect Park are two that are just too beautiful to pass up, but so many people don’t know they exist when coming to New York!

Take the Manhattan Bridge into Brooklyn (or tell your Uber driver to go that way) and drive along Flatbush Avenue until…BAM!, the massive Soldiers’ & Sailors’ Arch is in your face and defining the area with more grandeur than expected. This arch, plus many other arches in New York, were designed at the turn of the 20th century as celebratory pieces of architecture, inspired almost directly from the arches found throughout Europe. It provides the perfect entryway to the beautiful Prospect Park.

The park is massive and is a haven for many Brooklyn resident. It’s sprawling fields provide ample space for picnics, sports, and general hangs; the band shell, home to Celebrate Brooklyn!, is the perfect summer concert venue; the Prospect Park Zoo is perfect for the kiddies to get their fun on; Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket is the best at bringing local vendors of all sorts to the people for farm-fresh goodness. It’s got everything anyone could really want, and on a much smaller scale then it’s big brother, Central Park, and is flanked by one of Brooklyn’s greatest neighborhoods, Park Slope.

Park Slope, a beautiful neighborhood in Brooklyn, just oozes that brownstone living vibe. It’s tree-lined and open streets sound unheard of in NYC, but they exist and they are great. Park Slope has some awesome restaurants and bars as well! My suggestion for a good night: go to Soigne for a delicious dinner in a super intimate setting and then head to Blueprint for AMAZING cocktails in the coolest of atmospheres! You probably will end up just wanting to stay in Brooklyn…so don’t fight it :).

If you have the time to trek to the depths of Brooklyn, I suggest you do so. It has such a different feel from the bustle of Manhattan and with so much to offer. Whether you spend a few hours or the whole day exploring BK, be sure to swing by the park, look up and stare at that massive arch, and then settle into the neighborhood and explore.


Final thoughts…

While there are tons of places to go and see while you are in New York, there are plenty you may not even know to see, and I want you to be sure you’re well aware before making the trip. These are some of my personal favorite spots in New York and are ones that really give you a great blend of local culture and touristy flare!

Because I live in New York, there will be so many more posts about this fantastic city, so be on the lookout, and follow (scroll back up and click on that link to the right! 😀 ) so you never miss a post!

But I also want to know your favorite spots of the cities you love! Share your stories with me and your thoughts on this post! Have you been to these places before? What did you think?! I want to know!

xoxo Amanda