Chi-Town, The Windy City, Second City….

Call it what you want but this city [Chicago] is a GEM!

I have spent so much time exploring Europe over the last 5 years that my husband & I decided that we want to spend more time visiting and discovering the amazing places the U.S.A has to offer and CHICAGO was our first stop.

Where to stay?

In my opinion, Downtown is where it’s at. We decided to stay at the Raddison Blu Aqua and it was the perfect choice in a perfect location. We literally could walk to most of what we wanted to see and everything else was just a short 10-15 minute cab or uber ride away. The hotel in general was excellent and they had great amenities which include an onsite restaurant, outdoor and indoor pool, kids pool, hot tub, game room and fitness center.

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PC: Radisson Blu Aqua

What to do?

Like with all big cities trying to fit seeing everything in just a short weekend is not only tough but stressful. I always tell people to pick a few places or spots and if you end up seeing more – great! This is a list of the must-see favorites:

1. Millennium Park (Cloud Gate A.K.A The Bean)
2. Navy Pier
3. Art Institute of Chicago
4. Shedd Aquarium
5. The Field Museum
6. Museum of Science & Industry
7. Adler Planetarium
8. Skyjack Chicago
9. 360 Chicago (Formerly John Hancock Observatory)
10. Lincoln Park Zoo

I highly recommend purchasing a Chicago CityPASS.

Your CityPASS Includes:
1. Shedd Aquarium – PRIORITY ENTRY
2. Skydeck Chicago – FAST PASS
3. The Field Museum – VIP ENTRY
4. Museum of Science and Industry OR 360 CHICAGO – EXPRESS ENTRY
5. Adler Planetarium – VIP ENTRY OR Art Institute of Chicago – FAST PASS

What I loved about this pass was everything offered in it were places we knew we would visit during our time in Chicago. We went to all of the above with the exception of the Museum of Science and Adler Planetarium. The Chicago CityPASS is $100 for adults (savings of $113) and $85 for children between 3-11 (savings of $95) – Children 2 & under are free at all of the venues listed above. Another perk of purchasing the pass is the fast pass, priority and express entries you receive. Just to give you an idea of how much time the pass saved, when we went the the Skydeck there was a 2.5 hour wait but it took us a total of 20 minutes to get up to the top since we had the Chicago CityPASS. Not only did we save money with this pass but we also saved time.

Some other things we did while in town were eating pizza at Giordano’s, visiting The Bean both at night and during the day, visiting the Chicago Theatre, spending time in both Millennium and Maggie Daley Park, grabbing treats at Stans Donuts, hopped on the water taxi to explore Navy Pier and went to the Jurassic Park exhibit.

I think the media plays a HUGE part in the bad rep Chicago gets. Every city has areas that are less than desirable but overall this is a city that is so worth visiting. It’s vibrant and rich in culture and history. There’s always events taking place and the food scene is top notch.

Feel free to send me over a DM or e-mail if you have any questions. Also make sure to check out their Tourism page (HERE) as they are a wealth of knowledge and have a ton of information to help you plan your trip.

Here are some of my favorite shots from our time in CHICAGO!

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Back in March while attending the #WeAllGrow Summit, I had the opportunity to spend a full day with the the Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau. Prior to visiting Long Beach for this conference, I wasn’t very familiar with the area and truthfully it never was a location that I thought to visit. Being in town for the conference plus spending the day with their tourism board has totally changed that. Long Beach is absolutely beautiful and has so much to offer.

We stayed where the conference was being held, Hotel Maya. There aren’t enough words to describe how much we LOVED this property. The property is large and has some awesome amenities. The pool and hot tub area have cabanas, a bar and is waterfront. We dined at their on site restaurant, Fuego, multiple times as well as spent some time at their hookah lounge. The view from our balcony was was breathtaking!

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Our day with the Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau started with a sail along the Long Beach coastline aboard one of Harbor Breeze’s modern and comfortable catamarans. It was an awesome way to see and enjoy Long Beach’s downtown waterfront.

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We then hopped on a bus to head to The Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) where we got to check out a comprehensive retrospective exhibition by legendary Los Angeles artist Frank Romero, encompassing over 50 years of the artist’s career. His work has powerful and meaningful messages behind them.
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From there we headed to the The Aquarium of the Pacific which is the fourth most-attended aquarium in the nation! We started off with a delicious lunch and then had a super fun Behind-the-Scenes Tour. This aquarium displays over 11,000 animals in more than 50 exhibits that represent the diversity of the Pacific Ocean. We were able to feed the fish from the back room and just see how everything operated which was really cool.

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The day ended with a helicopter tour!!!!  Anthelion helicopters took us on an amazing adventure over the storied Queen Mary, the historic USS Iowa Battleship and the spectacular Catalina Island. This was my first time in a helicopter and it was one of the best experiences.

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While we did do a lot in just one day, when visiting I would absolutely break these activities up between two days so that you are able to walk through the museum as well as the aquarium at your own pace and take everything in. I also highly recommend a tour of  Queen Mary which is considered one of the most haunted places in America! Click HERE for some additional recommendations on what to do while in Long Beach courtesy of TripAdvisor.

I spent a majority of my Honeymoon in Santorini eating fresh seafood, drinking A LOT of Ouzo and catching the most spectacular sunset you will ever see. In between all of that though, we actually got to experience some really great activities. Here is a look at some of my favorite things to do while visiting Santorini PLUS one popular tourist activity that you should cross off your list.

  1. Book a sailing cruise with Sunset Oia – You can’t come to Santorini and not take a sailing cruise! We chose to book the premium semi private Lagoon 500 day cruise which held a max of 16 people but they also had some itineraries that held up to 55 people and started at 95E. On the Lagoon 500 we made stops at the hot springs, white beach and red beach. What I loved most is that you don’t actually go to the beach… they were at a far distance and you basically just jump in and swim and snorkel in the middle of the Aegean Sea. Included in the price is unlimited beverages and a delicious fresh lunch. At the end of the sail a bus can bring you back to your hotel or you can decide to stay and head to Perissa Black Sand Beach like we did. 4
  2. Watch the sunset from Oia – Santorini has hands down the most amazing sunset I have ever seen. If you are not staying in Oia, I highly recommend heading there to catch it at least one of the nights you are in town. You will get a full view of the caldera with the whitewashed homes with a rosey pink sky that changes hues until it is completely set. Just be warned… you and what seems like 91736847465984 people will have the same idea so find a spot early. We stood in Oia and lucked out because our cave had a private terrace and a clear view of the sunset – with no tourist lingering in our eyes view. 1
  3. Wine Tasting at Santo Winery – There are numerous wineries on the island but one of the most popular has to be Santo Winery. A place that you can literally visit for the view alone. Take a tour, order the 18 wine flight and enjoy the company of whoever you are visiting with. The sunset is amazing from here too so order another glass and enjoy the scenery. santo
  4. Have dinner in Amoudi Bay – Amoudi Bay is a tiny port located at the bottom of those 300 steps below Oia. The walk down, besides dodging donkey poo, is actually not that bad – the walk up…. yikes lol but totally worth it. There are a handful of restaurants and cafes that you can visit for lunch or an early dinner and just enjoy the gorgeous view and serene atmosphere. I had this incredible squid ink lobster pasta at one of the restaurants that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind since. Santorini-Ammoudi-Bay-fionaTree-1024x682
  5. Rent a quad and go on your own to explore – A lot of people tend to only visit Oia + Fira when in Santorini but their are so many charming villages all over the island. Rent a quad, I believe they go for about 45E per day, and venture out. This allows you to visit beaches and other spots you otherwise would have missed out on. quad
  6. Have dinner in Fira overlooking the caldera – We only ventured into Fira once and ended up dancing late into the night there but the highlight for me would have to be dinner at Volcano Blue. Seeing the sunset over the caldera was beautiful, the wait staff was so friendly and the food was DELICIOUS! 3
  7. Visit the Santorini Brewing Company – My husband loves trying out the local beer whenever we are away and Yellow Donkey happens to be one of his favorites. This brewery is small but it’s definitely worth a visit if you are a beer lover. You will get a tour, a tasting of all the beers available and then can purchase some to go if you’d like. 910084c4eb3461ee8947cd42bdd4b146_XL

The ONE activity that I think everyone visiting Santorini should avoid is riding the donkeys. I’m in no way an animal activist but these animals spend day in and out with tourist on their back because “it looks fun.” If you participate in this you are contributing to the abuse they are receiving on a daily basis. They are typically overworked, mistreated by handlers, are often not given enough water & food per day and are forced to work in grueling heat by carrying people who often weigh more than they do. Santorini-donkeys

There’s something super charming about renting an apartment when visiting Europe. To live like a local for a few days or even a few weeks really helps you indulge in the culture and lets you see the city in a different light. Paris is MY city… I mean, it’s not literally mine but I just have this connection with it. The city, the people, the food…. the buildings! The buildings and architectures are this perfect blend of Gothic style and elegance. I have been to Paris twice now and both times have stayed at a rental property. Each so different yet both exceeded my expectations. I highly recommend renting a place in one of these beautiful buildings when visiting. These are a few of my favorite apartments that can be found through Cobblestone Paris Rentals.

  1. Balcon Notre Dame – This is the apartment I rented on my last visit to Paris just a few weeks ago. First of all, it’s located in the Latin Quarter (5th & 6th arrondissements) which happens to be my favorite part of Paris to stay in. It literally is located in the middle of everything and the ideal location for walking to many of the landmarks. The apartment itself fits 4 guest very comfortably between its 2 bedrooms and has a modern kitchen with a spacious livingroom area. My favorite part of the apartment is the walk out balcony that overlooks the Seine River and Notre Dame Cathedral. 1 2 3 4
  2. La Charme Du Marais – This rental is super dreamy and where I want to stay for my next visit to Paris. It is an elegantly furnished 1 bedroom apartment that can accommodate 4 guests with a large open-style living/dining space with a full kitchen. It’s located on the border of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Arrondissements so you will have the pleasure of enjoying 3 wonderful neighborhoods of Paris. The small walk out balcony with chairs is a charming addition. 1 2 3 4
  3. Le Triomphe Elysees – This apartment is on the border of the 8th & 17th arrondissement where some of the most famous shops, five-star hotels and Michelin gourmet restaurants are located. You are steps from the famous Arc de Triomphe and from the “Place De L’Etoile” where you can check out views of Champs Elysees Boulevard and the Eiffel Tower. This one bedroom apartment is filled with historic Parisian charm. 1 23
  4. Terrasse Du Sorbonne – This 2 bedroom apartment is located in one of the most desirable neighborhoods, the Latin Quarter, right beside the Sorbonne University. It is a large, 2 bedroom apartment that fits up to 5 guests. From this apartment you will have an easy walk to many central sights such as Saint Germain Des Pres, The River Seine, Notre-Dame Cathedral, Musee D’Orsay, Musee Du Louvre and the Jardin Luxembourg. It’s truly in the true center of it all and best of all – has a private terrace! 1 2 3
  5. Le Grand En Isle – This one bedroom apartment can accommodate up to 4 Guests. It’s located on exclusive Ile Saint Louis which is steps from Notre-Dame Cathedral. it is renovated with high-end fittings and furnishings and is stylishly decorated in a historic style to accentuate the original 17th century architectural. 1 2 3 4

 

Don’t these rentals make you just want to hop on the next flight to Paris?! Make sure to check out Cobblestone Paris as they have many more rentals all over the city.

If you guys have any more questions on where to stay when visiting – feel free to shoot me over an email.

The honeymoon is suppose to be the relaxing part of getting married. It’s where you jet off somewhere to unwind and finally be able to kick your feet up after all those months of vigorous wedding planning. Unfortunately for some people, planning the honeymoon can just be added stress. Where do you go? What do you do? What is the best time to visit?

Ahhh, ok. I get it.

Planning in general isn’t for everyone. For me though – planning vacations is MY THING. I love researching places, activities to do, must see sites etc. BUT every once in awhile I stumble across a website or book that just helps me tremendously and that is exactly why I wanted to share The Honeymoon Handbook with you guys.

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First of all – reading through this book gave me major wanderlust. After making a mental list of all the places that need to go on my bucketlist I started to take in all the super useful information.

Here are 2 of my favorite tips from the book:

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Planning tips will help you cover off the basics and bypass the stress, with advice on:

– When to go, how long to go for, and how to factor in seasons and climates

– How to build a multi-stop honeymoon

– How to pick hotels

– Working out a realistic budget, and sticking to it

– How to compromise with your other half

– The benefit of mini-moons, and how to plan the best one possible

– Getting married abroad, including logistics and legalities

– A host of top-rated destinations, listed by type of trip

– The best destinations for same sex couples

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While this book technically is for helping you book a honeymoon, the tips and information you find in it can be applied for any vacation you need help planning. Click HERE to find + purchase the book (ps it’s ON SALE!)