Things to do in New York City During the Holidays

I caught the Christmas bug a little earlier than normal this year. I think it was the lack of overnight shifts and finally being able to celebrate the holidays with my family that really got me excited to start celebrating.

Back in November, my sister and I took our mom to Radio City to see the Rockettes Christmas show. We spent the afternoon strolling Fifth Ave, checking out the holiday windows that were already on display. We were there the weekend that the Christmas tree got to New York from Pennsylvania this year and there were a ton of workers stringing lights and hanging ornaments getting ready for the big reveal.

There is absolutely nothing like New York City during the holidays and it has always given me all sorts of feels. I put together some of my favorite things to do in the city to get in the holiday spirit.

Skate in the middle of the city
There are amazing pop up skating rinks all around the city, and while the Rink at Rockefeller Center is in place all year, the best time to skate under the Rock is in between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when the most famous Christmas Tree in the world is looking down upon you. If you don’t want to skate in a not so packed, but still very packed and popular area, you can twirl on the ice at the Winter Village at Bryant Park, two rinks in Central Park and a few others scattered outside of midtown.

Visit the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
This is one of my favorite traditions. Even when I was in living in Los Angeles, I always made it a point to visit the Gove or Americana at Christmas to see the huge trees and all of the decorations. Even just driving by the beautiful decorations at the Citadel outlets along the 5 Freeway could put anyone in the holiday spirit. But nothing compares to Rockefeller Center. There’s something about this beautiful piece of nature being completely surrounded by cement and skyscrapers. It’s a little piece of Christmas in the city.

Winter Village at Bryant Park
I may have talked about how much I want to visit European Christmas Markets one day. It’s pretty high up on my bucket list. And while we may not have as magical markets here in the US, Bryant Park’s Winter Wonderland is pretty high up there. You can shop artisan goods and food, eat at one of the restaurants over looking the park or skate on the rink.

Stroll 5th Ave and window shop
One of my earliest memories of going into New York City is walking down 5th Ave. and being in awe of how intricate the windows were. (Ironic I was a merchant for 8 years.) Bloomingdales, Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s and Bergdorf Goodman are some of the most famous, but not all on 5th Ave. and you may have to venture out a block or two but they are defiantly worth it. When I went to the city in mid-November the famous Saks windows weren’t revealed yet – yes there’s a whole big to do around the windows being revealed – but last week when I went into the city I was able to visit Lord and Taylor’s windows and they were all the heart eyes!

Rockettes Christmas Spectacular
Every Thanksgiving I watch the Rockettes in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade but this was the first year that I was able to see these amazing ladies perform their most popular show of the year. It was beautiful. I didn’t realize how intricate the entire show was, with a few surprised guests at the end.

This year seeing the Rockettes was a new Christmas tradition but Friday I am going to be talking about my favorite holiday traditions.

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Everything You Need to Know to Plan a Successful Road Trip

Six months ago this week my sister, friend and I set out on a pretty fast paced road trip from Orange County, CA to Connecticut. We had 5 days, 13 states, 4 cases of wine in toe, and one wild night in Nashville ahead of us. But we made it. We had just over a week to plan our cross-country adventure and with myself in the navigation seat, my best friend planning and researching activities along the way, and my sister playing DJ, I think we did pretty well throwing it all together.

A trip this big does require some planning ahead of time, but it also requires a lot of flexibility. For instance, locking my keys in the car in the middle of a rain storm in Arkansas was not really planned (insert palm to face emoji here). I broke this post down into things you need to do before you travel, and what you can do along the way, because let’s face it, you have a lot of free time during a road trip this long.

But these tips and tricks can really work for any road trip, no matter how long or short it is.

Before you Travel:

Map it out, and add time
I used Google Maps to not just look at what cities we were stopping in but also how long we’d be driving each day. Our longest travel days were days 1 and 5, Orange County to Albuquerque and then Knoxville to Connecticut. Both were 11 and a half hours of straight driving. But you aren’t going to be driving straight through. I thought adding an hour or two would be enough, but it absolutely wasn’t. We ended up being on the road for over 16 hours both of these days, making pit stops, stopping for actual meals (you can’t just eat fast food), and just getting out to walk around. The longer your drive, add more time.

Plan your hotels
Being a travel agent, my biggest concern was having a hotel set up each night. I had nightmares about driving through New Mexico with nothing around and only a nasty motel on the side of the road with Norman Bates as the hotel manager. I booked hotels for each night. We stuck with Marriot branded hotels and tried to stay in bigger cities. I feel like Marriott’s brands have a pretty good standard across all of their brands and you know what you’re going to get. Now was not the time to experiment with a $75 a night hotel to save money.

Take care of any car maintenance
Like I said, I had just over a week between planning our trip and leaving. Every day of that week and a half I was packing or getting something done to my car. I got an oil change one day. Another day I got a wheel fixed that I had been putting off for almost 8 months. I even had to reregister my car in California and make sure I had a hard copy of the registration, insurance card, and the phone number for my road side assistance.

Pack your car for the apocalypse
You’ll never have everything you’ll need. We stopped at both Walmart and Target on our drive. Things come up and that’s inevitable, but being as prepared and comfortable as possible is always important. Here is a list of things I found we needed:

*a pillow for that third driver in the back seat
*tissues and TP just in case
*refillable water bottles to fill up before you leave a restaurant or hotel in the morning
*healthy snacks to keep you from pulling over at another fast food restaurant
*blankets for that one person that’s always cold
*jumper cables because you never know

During Travel:

Be overly cautious with gas station stops
I was super paranoid about running out of gas so I tried not to have my tank too far below the halfway mark. This is probably a little aggressive but three girls on the side of the road with an empty tank was in my mind right there with Norman Bates.

Have a back up plan for the radio
My 2012 Sentra isn’t too fancy with XM Radio so when we were going through the Texas panhandle and we had no service, my high school CDs from 2004 really came in handy. (Thank you Jimmy Eat World and Britney Spears) Download some of your favorite podcasts, grab your phone charger and get that crazy static off the radio. A quiet road trip is not fun!

Check the dates of your must-see sights
We really wanted to make a stop at Pioneer Woman’s Mercantile in Pawhuska, OK but did you know they’re closed on Sundays? Do you know what day we were in Oklahoma? Yep. If there’s something you defiantly want to see, make sure you’ll be in that area when they’re open. The city girl in me forgot places close for days of rest. Who knew?

You can check out our road trip details from earlier this year here and here.

Gift Guide: Traveler

I love to travel – in case you’re new around here. But my best friend is an insane traveler. I not so secretly want her travel life. Last week was her birthday and some of these items were on the list we were choosing from. I got this travel steamer at the beginning of the year and it’s been to Vegas, across the country, to Florida, Atlanta, and upstate Connecticut. She has defiantly gotten her use this year. Also this Rebecca Minkoff travel tag charger is too cute.

For a few small gift for any travel loving girl’s desk is this global, a cute travel journal from Urban Outfitters or these amazing travel sized candles. Who doesn’t want their hotel or Airbnb to smell like their home? Any travel girl, or New Englander, need these amazing L.L.Bean slippers. They’re perfect for inside the house, walking the dog or driving shoes for a long car ride. And they are soooo warm!

This Loft cardigan is amazing. The perfect thing for changing temperatures or a cold airplane. And my favorite git of the season. I love this Vera Bradley cosmetic case.

Another gift guide coming your way Friday  to bring to all of your upcoming holiday events.

12 Non Boozy Things To Do in Las Vegas

If you’ve been around here for a while, or even a little bit, you know Las Vegas is one of my favorite places. Now if you’re not from the southwest I understand that this can make me sound like a complete lush. Even as a travel agent, I find myself justifying Las Vegas as a perfect long weekend getaway. But there have been many trips where I have gone to Vegas and done non boozy activities.

So instead of justifying myself over and over again, I thought I’d compile a list of 15 non boozy things to do in Las Vegas.

1. See a Show
Oh my goodness this has to be one of my faovirte things to do in Vegas. And now with the new TMobile arena, there are even more options of shows to see. I’ve seen a few different Cirque de Soleil shows, Blue Man Group, Jennifer Lopez and so many more different shows while in Las Vegas. And there are so many more shows that I want to see. (Like Backstreet Boys and Britney!) These shows are absolutely fantastic and there are options for everyone’s style.

2. Grand Canyon Tour and the Hoover Dam
The first time I went to Las Vegas, my sister and I joined our parents for a little family vaca. My parents had gone the year before and weren’t really into visiting the Grand Canyon again, so my sister and I woke up early one day, took a taxi to a hotel downtown and hoped on a bus tour to the Grand Canyon. It was pretty interesting learning about the history of Boulder City and how the Hoover Dam was built. Our first stop was the dam, where we grabbed a bite to eat and then headed out to the Grand Canyon. For our first trip out to the West, it was definitely worth the visit.

3. Freemont Street Experience and Zipline
All the way at the north end of the current strip is Freemont Street. This is where the hotels that built Las Vegas are still standing. At night you can head down to Freemont Street via taxi, Uber or even the bus system, and check out the light show. Hanging over a few blocks on famous Freemont Street is a huge screen of LED lights. When I was there last there, the show played lights to classic rock music. And if you’re up for it, there is even a new zipline that runs down the street.

4. Venetian Canals and Gondolas
Just like Italy. Okay maybe not but this hotel is definitely somewhere you can spend the day exploring the high end shops, taking a ride on the gondolas, and ending the night with some pasta. The Venetian is defiantely one of my favorite hotels to get lost in.

5. Seven Magic Mountains
Last summer, after our trip to Vegas to see Garth Brooks, we stopped off of route 15 to see the oh so instagramable pieces of art along the freeway. Check it out here, and next time you’re in Nevada, check out these rocks. They are absolutely enormous and a sight to be seen.

 

6. Stratosphere thrill rides
Not something that I have done, or will do, but if you are a thrill seeker you need to visit the Stratosphere. Here you can bungee jump, go on a rollercoaster and a set of swings, all sitting 1,149 feet above Las Vegas Blvd. Or if you’re like me you can watch all of the crazies from the observation tower where they have a cute little restaurant. (If you really want to freak someone how, bring them here and don’t tell them about the bungee jumping… then watch their face as someone falls off the side of the building… it’s great.)

7. The Neon Museum Las Vegas
The Neon Museum is a pretty cool stop for any history or entertainment buff. With 6 acres full of old neon lights and signs, these signs show the history of Las Vegas and pays omage to some of the cities most famous attractions.

8. Golf…or better yet, TopGolf
TopGolf came to Las Vegas a few years ago, and now you can’t go there without a wait. Anytime you want to hit some balls, you can head over to the four story dirving range between 9am and 2am, attached to the MGM Grand. There are climate controlled bays where servers can serve you food (or booze) between your practice swings. There are even two pools, VIP cabanas and private suites. Very Las Vegas.

9.Helicopter Tour of the Strip
I haven’t done this yet, but it is definitely on my bucket list. For myself, I may need a little vino to get myself up in a helicopter but for most people, this can be a non boozy activity. I’ve always loved the view of the strip from up high. On my last trip to Vegas, I was that annoying guest at check in asking if there was anything better. I went back three times but the view was pretty good.

10. The Mob Museum
Based in the old Las Vegas Courthouse and Post Office the mob museum was built to show the history of organized crime in the US, which is actually a lot of the history of Las Vegas. This has been a place I’ve wanted to visit in Las Vegas since it opened about 5 years ago.

11. High Roller at the LINQ
The High Roller is new to the strip but has quickly become a part of the Las Vegas skyline. This beautiful, huge Ferris wheel sits right in the middle of Las Vegas Blvd. behind the LINQ hotel. You can take the trip during the day or at night, in a “cabin” with an open bar, or how I like to view it, from the ground at the Promenade at the bottom. Hanging out at the Promenade is a nice little afternoon of stopping in the stores, grabbing a drink at one of the restaurants or bars or even a cupcake at Sprinkles.

12. Fountains of Bellagio , Mirage Volcano and Treasure Island’s Pirate Show

Most people visiting Las Vegas make it a point to check out the Bellagio’s water show that goes off every half hour to 15 minutes each afternoon and night depending on the day. But there are other shows along the strip that don’t get as many spectators. Depending on weather both the volcano at the Mirage and the pirate show at Treasure Island are really cool and fun shows to stop and check out.

 

 

Why the Fall is the Best Time to Visit California’s Central Coast

Living in Southern California wasn’t always a vacation. I worked in retail management for the majority of my 7 years in California and that meant my phone was attached to my hand even when I wasn’t clocked in. But there was one place in California that I could always go and good news for me, service wasn’t really the greatest. (Or at least I could pretend to have bad service and usually my boss believed me.)

The central coast is a place that will always have my heart. I’ve written about Solvang, Carpintaria, El Capitan, Pismo Beach and Avila Beaches. As soon as I drove north on the 101, leaving Ventura, it was like I was entering this place where people didn’t have real jobs, no one cared what time it was, and beach life was the only life.

Uhg take me back.

I went during the winter, spring, summer and my favorite time: fall. Each year that I was on the west coast, I took a weekend trip north to get away and veg out before the chaos of the holidays began in the retail world. It was a place that I could reset and had no worries.

The beach in the fall
I grew up in a New England beach town my whole life. When I was 23 and moved to Los Angeles the beaches just were not the same. They were packed. You had to fight for parking and a spot on the beach. Going to the beach ended up being more of a project than fun. The central coast beaches are smaller, less crowed, and way more townie than anything you will find in Orange County or Los Angeles. I love it. Small shops, seafood restaurants and beach side bars… just a few of my favorite things. It felt just like home.

Closest you can get to fall foliage
Okay, you’re right. Last year we found Oak Glen, CA and that was a little piece of fall in Southern California but not like in Avila Beach. One of my favorite places in Avila is the Avila Valley Barn. They have amazing fresh fruits and veggies, homemade baked goods, Mexican corn on the cob, tractor rides, a corn maze and animals throughout the property.

Take advantage of your fall wardrobe
My first fall in California I went pumpkin picking on a not so crisp October afternoon. I was so excited to do some fall activities that I dressed up in my knee-high boots and sweater to get into the fall spirit… and I wanted to die. By the end of the day I had run to the car to switch into my flip flops and threw my sweater around my waist and just wore the tank top that I had under my top layer. The weather north of Santa Barbara is completely different then the hot fall weather in southern California.

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