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Hey, guys! I hope your week is going well! Ryan and I just got back from Colorado a couple weeks ago and I wanted to share some of my favorite things from our trip. There was so much beauty and fun to be seen and had in Colorado and we only got a week’s worth taste of it. But, I’m hoping to go back and explore other spots again soon. We started our trip off in Denver, so I’ll begin there and make my way to to the Boulder area.

DENVER:

Where to Stay:

We flew into Denver from Pittsburgh on a non-stop flight with United Airlines and for once did not have any issues with our luggage or flight there, LOL! We stayed at the Kimpton Hotel Born in downtown Denver. It was awesome! If you’ve never stayed at a Kimpton before, I highly recommend it! We have one in Pittsburgh and it’s absolutely gorgeous and so artistically decorated! The Denver Kimpton Hotel Born was no exception. It’s brand new – just two years old, and is located right by Union Station (the train station) in Denver. Don’t be fooled though, our room overlooked the train station, but I never heard a train and I sleep lighter and later than anyone else I know! It was again, really well decorated in a theme that’s true to Colorado’s western history, but so modern at the same time. Our suite had a nice TV room and table for eating, as well as a HUGE bathroom, walk-in closet, and king size bed. It was perfect!

The hotel is a short distance to lots of attractions. You can walk to a lot of areas or take a quick ride in the hotel’s complimentary Tesla! For longer distances, we used Uber or Lyft. They have a complimentary wine hour, room service, a gym, and two restaurants: Tavernetta and Citizen Rail. We did not have the pleasure of eating at Tavernetta, but everywhere we went after we’d left people asked if we ate there. It was on our list, but we unfortunately ran out of time. So, if you’re staying there, be sure to grab a bite at Tavernetta!

What to Do:

There’s so much to do in Denver! We were only there for 2 days and as usual when traveling I had a rough day one of those days, so we focused on doing things that we love to do which are basically eating and shopping 🙂 But, there are incredible museums, botanical gardens, a zoo, and lots of cool shops and restaurants.

Our favorite area for shopping and dining was definitely Larimer Square. It’s so pretty especially at nighttime because they have string lights lit up all the way down the street. It’s not actually a square, but rather a stretch of one street.

I was so excited to visit Denver for many reasons, but one of them is that they have a store on Larimer street called Aillea that carries ALL clean, non-toxic beauty products! It was amazing! So many incredible brands and everything you could wish to find in the clean beauty world was in that store. I got an awesome eyeshadow palette that is so good! It was so nice to get to sample clean beauty products. There aren’t any stores like this near Pittsburgh, so I felt like I was in heaven for a little bit 🙂 If you’re in Denver, and love clean beauty like I do, be sure to check it out!

My favorite boutique on Larimer Square was Hailee Grace. They had a lot of my favorite brands and so many other cute ones I hadn’t heard of! Plus, the pricing is doable. I hate when you walk into a boutique and everything is $11k and you have to act casual, smile and leave, LOL. This one has quality brands but also affordable and is super cute!

We went to the Molly Brown House one day, but unfortunately it was just closing. Molly Brown was a famous Denver citizen. She was a survivor of the Titantic and a humanitarian! (Kathy Bates played an exaggerating version of her in the movie “Titanic”!) She did a lot of great things with her wealth, and I find that to be super inspiring. Plus, I LOVE touring old homes. So, check that out if you’re into history and females who crush life. 🙂

Since our hotel was right by Union Station, we obviously checked that out! It’s an old train station that’s been converted into a beautiful shopping and dining attraction. The trains still run through there, but the inside of the building is now more of a social gathering place. There is also a hotel connected to it. We went and got tea at Mercantile Dining & Provision and walked around all of the shops inside the station. It was a pleasant way to spend an hour so.

There were some spots we wanted to visit but didn’t get a chance, such as RiNo, which stands for River North. It’s an artsy neighborhood in Denver with more shops and restaurants. It sounded right up my alley, so if I were to go again, I’d definitely check it out! Also, we heard great things about Comedy Works located on Larimer Square, too. We love comedy shows, so next time that’s on our list!

Where to Eat:

RIOJA: We ate here for dinner our first night in Denver. We sat outside and it was so pretty with all of the lights strewn across the street. The food was delicious! It’s an American/Spanish restaurant with unique and flavorful dishes! We loved our meal here. Highly recommend!

TAMAYO: This restaurant is a Mexican restaurant also located in Larimer Square. We ate here for lunch before we went shopping on the same street. It’s conveniently located to all of the shops and had some incredible skinny margs! I had gluten and dairy free tacos and they were amazing! Very accommodating to allergies! If you love Mexican, try it out. It’s super cute inside, too!

54thirty: Definitely save a drink for this rooftop bar! It looks over the city and is a perfect place for a nightcap!

THE KITCHEN: I could eat here every dang day. It is super allergy friendly and so delicious! Everything is so fresh and healthy! I actually ate a sandwich for once in my existence at a restaurant (being gluten free usually means you get lettuce) and it was awesome! The french fries were also gluten free and I may have eaten those as well. But, there’s lots of healthy options, too, haha!

BEATRICE & WOODSLEY: This is a very Instagrammable place! We had dinner here on our last night and it was lovely! The interior decorating here is beautiful! The bathroom, though, is the MAIN ATTRACTION. Just trust me. Save this for a special night. It’s definitely a romantic place. You can do several small plates here or main entrees, too. We did a little of both and it was delicious. I didn’t feel deprived at all having my dietary restrictions and that’s always a sign of a great chef!

EUCLID HALL: This is a great place to grab drinks and appetizers. It’s a very old, historical building! It has more of a sports bar-like feel, but it’s really cute inside. They make amazing cocktails!

BOULDER:

Our next stop was Boulder, Colorado. We were so excited to get to Boulder because it’s set beautifully in the mountains and we’d heard so many great things about the town. It’s a very health conscious town. All of the food is so fresh and healthy! They pride themselves on it! We didn’t have a bad meal here. I could stay forever and just eat 🙂

Where to Stay:

Hands down the best place to stay in Boulder is the St. Julien Hotel & Spa. It’s located right in the heart of Boulder and you can easily walk to all of the restaurants and shops! They even provide bikes for you to grab and ride around town!

The hotel has a beautiful view of the mountains from the back patio. We had drinks here in the evening and it was such a beautiful backdrop! There is a bar and restaurant in the hotel, so you don’t even have to leave if you don’t want to.

The service at the hotel was excellent! They have a beautiful spa there, as well, it’s perfect after a long day hiking! The room we stayed in was very nice and spacious. Also worth mentioning is the flourless brownie. I am still having dreams about it!

What to Do:

Boulder is a great place to stay if you want to hop around to different hiking areas. It’s about an hour from Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s a little extra perhaps if you take the scenic route, but it’s totally worth it! We drove to Rocky Mountain National Park our first day in Boulder and it was breathtaking! You can drive up the mountain to the very top and the views are stunning! Word to the wise: take a sweatshirt even in the summer. I wasn’t expecting it to be quite so cold at the top, but it was. There’s lots of things to do inside of the park. You can visit the lakes or take hikes. It’s a MUST!

Another area right near Boulder that is great for hiking is Chautauqua Park. You can hike the famous Flat Irons there and get some more incredible photos! That’s where I took these! So beautiful and the hikes aren’t too difficult I hear. I wasn’t able to do the hike, but I was told it wasn’t overly difficult.

Another day, we visited Eldorado Canyon State Park. I loved it there! There was a great trail that wasn’t difficult at all (Rattlesnake Trail) and had the most beautiful views! Other trails are more challenging for those who are able. There’s also rock climbing! We really enjoyed our afternoon there. It’s only a 25 minute drive from Boulder, if that.

In the town of Boulder is the cutest area called Pearl Street. It has so many shops and restaurants! There’s a Free People, Lululemon, lots of outdoorsy shops, a dispensary (yes, marijauna is legal in CO!), bars, and so many good restaurants. Two boutiques worth mentioning are Cedar & Hyde and MAX! We walked around here a lot. There’s always street performers and live music going on. It’s so quaint!

We also checked out a concert at Chautauqua Auditorium. It’s a big music venue up on a hill. Beware, you do have to park at the bottom and walk up to the auditorium. This was a bit difficult for me as I wasn’t feeling well. There is a shuttle, but we didn’t see it. So, if you have a handicap or are not well, perhaps have someone drop you off. Otherwise, the venue is really cool and is an experience in itself! There’s lots of great acts that are booked here. We had tickets for Jose Gonzalez. There’s a cute little pavilion outside that serves some food and drinks. You can’t take anything inside, though which was a bit of a bummer.

Where to Eat:

Honestly, you almost can’t go wrong in Boulder in regards to the restaurants. But, we hit up all of the most highly recommended ones, so here’s our list of favorites!

ARCANA: Arcana was one of our favorite restaurants! We ate here more than once. The food is so fresh, right from the farm to the table! It was so healthy, too! They’re very conscious about making things clean here. All of our meals were so delicious and flavorful. Lots of fresh vegetables! The cocktails were also top notch. DEFINITELY hit this place up!

THE KITCHEN UPSTAIRS: This is a great lounge for evening cocktails! They also have food. It’s the same family as The Kitchen restaurant we ate at in Denver, but trust me, it’s not chain-like AT ALL. The cocktails were amazing and so are the apps and desserts!

FRASCA FOOD & WINE: This is THE spot for fine dining in Boulder! It’s an Italian restaurant with amazing food and wine, obviously. I don’t do wine, but word is, it’s incredible here. It’s at least a 4 course meal or you can opt for the chef’s tasting with more courses. Bring your appetite! They catered to my food allergies as well and it was soooo good! I even got to have a gluten and dairy free rhubarb and coconut cream dessert that was to die for! It’s a perfect date night spot!

RIO GRANDE MEXICAN RESTAURANT: This is Mexican with the best view ever! We sat outside on the rooftop for lunch one day and it was awesome! You can see the mountains and the air is as fresh as the food. I would say that this is clean eating Mexican! It wasn’t greasy, or heavy. It was perfect.

LOCALE: If you love pizza and wine, GO HERE! It’s so fresh and authentic! They have gluten and dairy free options which made me insanely happy! I actually ate here twice because I never get gluten free pizza at home. I had the Gambero pizza the first time. It has shrimp on it. AMAZING. Then, I had the Marinara pizza and it was delicious, but my favorite was the Gambero for sure! They do not have a full bar. It’s mostly wine or premixed drinks. So, beware of that before you go, in case you are looking for cocktails, too. We did have one of their pre-made cocktails though and it was great!

CORRIDA: This is a great place for upscale dining and drinks! We did not have a chance to eat here, but we did have a nightcap on their patio. It was beautiful! It overlooks the mountains. There’s a nice little fireplace you can sit by and cuddle up on the couches. It was the perfect way to end the day!

OAK AT FOURTEENTH: This was another delicious meal! We shared a big piece of sea bass and it was so deliciously prepared with lots of fresh from the garden ingredients! The salad was so filling and delicious, too! Pretty much everywhere is farm to table. The cocktails here were also top-notch!

FLAGSTAFF HOUSE: I was sooo disappointed that we did not get to eat here 🙁 On the last day, I was feeling really horribly and had to spend the day in bed. So bummed. This place looks AMAZING! It’s set in the mountains and has the most beautiful views! I want to go back just so we can eat here! It’s got great reviews and I’d recommend making a point to go.

Well, that about covers our trip! It was incredibly beautiful and I can’t wait to go visit again soon. If you’ve been and have experienced any of these places or others I didn’t mention, please drop a comment below! I’d love to hear about it! ALSO, check out my Instagram highlight “Colorado” on my page, here. You can see all of my pictures and videos from all of the above mentioned places! It was a blast! 🙂

Cartagena City Trip

The clock tower just inside the Old City walls.

Hey guys! I’m so excited to tell you about Cartagena. If you haven’t yet, be sure to go to my Instagram or Facebook page and check out all of the pictures there as well!

This past year, my cousin got engaged to an amazing woman who was born in Colombia! She and my cousin went to Colombia to visit her family and they really fell in love with the city of Cartagena. So, they decided to return there to get married – lucky for all of us who were invited! 🙂

Cartagena City Trip

This city is so full of life!

You might have heard some disparaging things about traveling to Colombia. While the country as a whole does have some safety issues, I can promise you that Cartagena is a safe and beautiful city! We didn’t have any issues that you don’t encounter in New York City or any other major city in the United States. We felt safe walking out and about day and night. Cartagena is a very tourist friendly city. If you do some research, you’ll see that. The Old City is walled in, so you are particularly more safe inside of the walls. They have done an incredible job of restoring the city. There are some of the most beautiful hotels, buildings, and restaurants you will ever see! So, please don’t be hesitant to explore traveling here. As always, if you look for trouble, you can find it. But, we stayed in highly regarded places and had no problems.

We flew to Cartagena from Pittsburgh, PA. There are flights out of the U.S. to Cartagena from Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. We flew from Pittsburgh to Atlanta to Ft. Lauderdale. From Ft. Lauderdale it is less than a 3 hour plane ride to Cartagena. The planes were large and quite comfortable. We had an easy time getting in and out of customs, too. We did have some trouble with our bags not making it onto the connecting flight to Ft. Lauderdale. We ended up having to stay overnight in Ft. Lauderdale because of this. There is only one flight to Cartagena a day and we missed it because my big bag didn’t make it to Florida, of course! Haha. I would say that it’s probably best to plan to stay overnight in Florida and then fly to Cartagena the following day, because you do have to go through security again in Florida after getting your bags from your flight there at baggage claim. There’s about a 35 minute window for you to do that and catch the plane. It’s a bit tight. I think it can be done in one day, but that’s if all goes your way! 🙂

If I had to describe Cartagena in one word it would be VIBRANT! The city is so full of life! The people have a contagious energy, the colors are so bright everywhere you look, there’s gorgeous greenery and flowers on almost every building, and music and dancing in the streets! The food is so colorful and flavorful, and the drinks are delicious, too, haha! There are so many different kinds of shops to explore as well. You can find high-end fashion here as well as affordable boutiques and lots of souvenirs! We had so much fun just exploring the city every day and night. There is a ton of history in this city, so if you enjoy history as much as I do, you will love this place. Although it is really hot in Cartagena, it’s also right on the ocean, so you do get a nice breeze and feel that irresistible tropical vibe!

Where To Stay

There are so many incredible places to stay in Cartagena. I would highly recommend staying inside of the city walls. You really get a feel for the city and it’s history by staying in one of the restored homes or larger hotels. There are lots of old homes that have been transformed into gorgeous small, boutique hotels. We were lucky enough to get to stay in one of these called Hotel Casa del Arzobispado.

Hotel Casa del Arzobispado is perfectly located in the city. There are amazing restaurants, historical sites, and shops within feet of the hotel. Everything is close enough to walk to, but you can always catch a cab for much cheaper than you would in the U.S. There are also horse and carriage rides circling around and the hotel provides bikes for those who want to get some exercise, too!

The hotel has 10 rooms total. We stayed in the Grand Suite, which is the biggest of the rooms in the hotel! It was one of the most beautiful places we have ever stayed. The room had gorgeous high ceilings, marble, wood, and coral detailing, an imperial king size bed, a balcony, huge walk-in closet, an enormous bathroom, and views of the pool, as well as access to the rooftop where you can look out over the entire city! It was so relaxing and luxurious. I wish I could have moved in!

The hotel can arrange for you to a have massage therapist come to your room and give you a massage! I did this. It was amazing! There is also breakfast served in a dining room right outside of the room until late morning which is so great. If you are anything like us, we like to enjoy dinner later in the evening and end up sleeping in. So, a late breakfast was perfect! We did not have any noise complaints at all. It was so quiet and tranquil at this hotel, I would give it 5 stars!

Another amazing hotel in Cartagena that you should look at is the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara. This is where the wedding took place, so we got to spend some time here as well. It is beyond beautiful! The Spanish colonial architecture is just stunning. It used to be an old convent! It has a gorgeous pool, ocean views, and a fabulous restaurant as well!

If you are looking to use hotel points, there are hotel chains just outside of the walls of the city. A lot of my family members stayed at the Hyatt Regency Cartagena. It is a really nice hotel as well! The room rates are great. It also has an infinity rooftop pool that overlooks the city and the ocean!

Things To Do:

As I mentioned earlier, Cartagena is full of history! Cartagena is a major port city founded in 1533! We got to do a walking and car ride tour with a local citizen who was born and raised in the city. His name is Sandy Cuadrado. Our hotel set up the tour. He is so well known in the city, everyone was waving hello! So, I’m sure if you ask for him by name your hotel can help you find him and book a tour with him. He showed us around the city, the historial sites, where the schools used to be, the Spanish Inquisition, the cathedrals, popular restaurants, bars, and shops, and so much more! Then, we got in his car and he drove us to the fortress, Castillo de San Filipe de Barajas, outside of the city walls, as well as Las Bovedas, which used to be a dungeon but is now filled with souvenir shops!

There are an endless amount of shops to browse through. There’s also a lot of street vendors around selling souvenirs. You will find lots of shops have really cute straw bags, hats, and other items that are unique to Cartagena. They also have really great quality emeralds! You’ll find them all over the city. Cartagena is a very stylish city. You’ll notice that the shops carry very fashionable clothing and the people who live there and visit are dressed to the nines! It was so fun to go shopping here! One of my favorite boutiques was Laetitia. I bought quite a few items here. Such beautiful quality, too! You’ll also want to check out St. Dom and Goretty Medina. They have gorgeous clothing and accessories you won’t find at home in the U.S.!

Since you are in the Carribean, you gotta go to the beach!
There are beaches right outside of the city walls. We were told you can go here, but you must should leave your valuable personal items in your hotel. There are a lot of vendors that stroll the beaches and can be a bit of a nuisance while you are trying to relax.

The local tour guide, Sandy, told us our best bet for a beach experience while visiting Cartagena is the Rosario Islands. The islands are an hour away by car or boat, but so worth the trip – we’ve heard, haha. We didn’t make it out to the islands on our trip. But, my family did, and I trust their judgement. Plus, everyone in the city says it is a must! So, when we return, we will be sure to hit up these islands for some sun and sand time. The snorkeling I’m told is amazing there! The Rosario Islands are a Natural National Park that protects one of the largest coral reefs in the Colombian Caribbean Coast. There are aquariums and open sea oceanariums found here as well, so there are lots of activities to do if you make your way out to the islands.

Where To Eat:

There are so many incredible restaurants in Cartagena, it’s seriously hard to go wrong. We had a few favorites, though so I’m going to share those with you! The seafood and ceviche in Cartagena is amazing! My favorite thing there though are the plantains. I’ll eat them any way that they will give them to me! Fried, sweet, baked, you name it. I can eat plantains all day long, LOL!

First up is Maria. We loved this restaurant so much! The decor is so cute! I love their chandaliers. Very instagrammable. I had a shrimp dish here on top of some fried plantains, and it was to die for! I actually went back for it again because it was THAT good. It’s great for lunch or dinner.

For a romantic evening, you must go to Restaurante 1621. Located in the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara hotel, the ambiance here is second to none! It is so beautifully decorated and intimate. We were seated in the garden area where there is lush greenery and open air. It’s absolutely stunning. The food was incredible. They cater very well to dietary restrictions, too. It was one of the most exquisite nights of my life!

We had a lovely little lunch at Candé one afternoon. This is such a cute restaurant. It’s so airy, and light! The menu is fantastic as was the food! Ryan got a whole lobster here for lunch! It’s the perfect spot for some rosé and ceviché!

We ended our stay at the lovely Restaurante Club de Pesca.  This is another very romantic location, especially in the evening!  It sits right on the water.   It is a short cab ride outside of the city walls, but so worth it! We had the most private, candlelit little spot just inches away from the ocean.  We could literally hear the fish diving right below our feet. They were so accommodating to my dietary needs, too!  They specially made some gluten free bread,  and even did a gluten and dairy free dessert plate with several different desserts on it!  It was the perfect end to our amazing trip!  

Overall, we absolutely loved Cartagena.  It has a special place in our hearts now!  I feel so incredibly lucky and blessed to have been able to travel and see this beautiful city.  It really makes you feel alive! If you have the chance to go, I would highly recommend it!  If you have any questions at all, I would be more than happy to help you answer them.  Safe travels, my friends! <3

Hey, there! It’s finally Friday! Anyone else ready to be done with January? Haha. I don’t know why but it always seems to drag on and I’m ready for a change! It did help to get a change of scenery last week, though, when we visited Charleston, South Carolina! We love it there. We went two years ago in February for a nice five day getaway, and then went back again this year for another! I had a work engagement there so we decided to make a little trip out of it and do some of the things we didn’t get to do last time. So, I’ve put together a little guide of some must-see and do spots and things in Charleston!

Accommodations

Ryan and I found a fabulous little hotel called the French Quarter Inn for our first stay in Charleston two years ago. We loved it so much that we chose to stay there again this year! It’s located in the French Quarter (hence the name), which is right in the middle of all of the great action and not far from the water, either! You can easily walk to the best restaurants, shops, the harbor, and all of the city tours, too!

Our favorite part of The French Quarter Inn has been the outstanding service and hospitality there! You are greeted at check-in with champagne (which is BOTTOMLESS for your entire stay!), given a detailed map of the city, and where to find everything you could possibly want to explore. They are so kind and accommodating. There is a complimentary breakfast, wine and cheese hour at 6PM, and a dessert and port wine hour until 10PM! There are always teas, coffee, detox waters, and snacks available to you around the clock, too! And, they provide you with as much bottled water as you want for your entire stay. I drink a ton of water, so this was particularly nice for me! 🙂

The rooms are a nice size, the beds are very comfortable, and the bathrooms are pretty to boot! The decor is classic, colonial, and southern, just like the city itself! We had a lovely room with a terrace that overlooked the city below. It was a bit cold for sitting outside this time of year, but still a nice touch! I would highly recommend staying here.

There are a couple other hotels that I love, too! The Spectator, which is the sister hotel of the French Quarter Inn, is right down the street and is so beautiful! The bar is situated in a beautiful library and it’s one of our favorite spots for a quiet night cap! They also just opened a kitchen, so I foresee us staying here in the future!

The Dewberry is also a great hotel in Charleston. It has beautiful decor, too! The bar is also a popular spot here. They make amazing specialty craft cocktails if you’re into that! You’ll notice that the interior decorating and design in Charleston is top notch! It’s so inspiring to just walk through the hotels and restaurants and look at all of the beautiful design taking place, and the Dewberry is definitely one of them. It is decorated in a mid-century design and is a great place to get some shots for your Instagram feed, haha!

I can’t mention Charleston hotels without mentioning The Belmond Charleston Place! Here you will find the most luxurious shops and restaurants as well as a beautiful spa! We had a spa treatment here last time we visited and it was amazing! The Charleston Grill is also located at this hotel and it’s my favorite dining experience in the city! If you love luxury, this is your spot.

Tours

One of my favorite things to do in Charleston is to take a horse drawn carriage tour! You get to ride around the city while a guide tells you about all of the history that surrounds you! And there’s A LOT of history! They will take you by the churches, historical sites of the revolutionary and civil wars, beautiful homes of famous people who live and once lived in Charleston, and tell you the tales of old times. They also take you by the shopping district, rainbow row (a beautiful must see!) and down by the harbor, too. There is so much to see on the cobble stoned streets of Charleston. The architecture of the “Holy City” is a sight in itself. There are two different horse carriage tours. You don’t get to pick which one, unfortunately. It’s chosen randomly. But, you can always go back and try to get on a different one later. You can easily find these tours located on 20 Anson Street, right in the heart of the historic district. You can visit their website here.

There are also boat tours that ride around the harbor area. We have heard that these are also great! It was a little cold when we went, so we stayed on the land. But, these boat tours will take you by Confederate and Union Army forts, including Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were shot! They also include views of gorgeous, historic homes, bridges, and St. Michael’s Church. It is a 90 minute tour, and you can find more details here.

Another really fun and exciting tour to take in Charleston is a ghost tour! Being that Charleston has been a site for wars and slavery, there are lots of opportunities for spirits to haunt this town! Whether you believe in ghosts or not, it’s still a fun tour to take! There are many ghost tours around the city. Ours went through the old military base, jail, The College of Charleston, and more. It was about an hour and 15 minutes long and was so fun! We didn’t spot any ghosts or paranormal activity, but it was very entertaining nonetheless. I’d highly recommend doing one of these! You can find some ghost tour options here.

One of the things Charleston is most famous for are it’s plantations. There are several plantations in the area you can tour. We went to the famous Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. It is a bit of a drive out there, but it’s totally worth it! The plantation dates back to 1676! It is known first for having grown rice, but later was opened to the public for its beautiful gardens in 1870. The main house is in tact and is open for tours to the public. You can also tour the grounds, gardens, and the slave cabins on the property. We arrived in time to only take one tour. We chose the “From Slavery to Freedom” tour which takes you down the road to the four slave cabins that have been restored on the property. The guide was very knowledgeable and told us how the slaves lived and worked on the plantation. It was a somber experience, but an important one. We also walked along the garden paths and up to the main house. We could not go inside, but got a peek through the windows and got to sit on the large covered porch outside. It is a beautiful plantation, but also a site where we must learn from our mistakes of the past and honor those who suffered there.

The slave cabins have been restored to resemble several time periods from 1850-1960’s. After slavery ended, these cabins were still occupied by paid employees until the 1990’s.

There are other plantations around Charleston that attract a lot of visitors, namely Boone Hall Plantation and Middleton Place. You certainly get a feel for historic Charleston by taking a little drive to visit one of these plantations. You might even recognize them from some of your favorite movies like “The Notebook”. You can find some Charleston plantation tours here.

Also worth mentioning are the home tours. There are many historic homes in Charleston that are open to the public. It is so neat to take step back in time in these homes restored to look like they did long ago. You get to learn about their owners, the slaves who lived and worked in the homes, their children, and what their lives were like back then. I love to see all of the antiques and beautiful design inside of these homes. We visited the Nathaniel Russel House, which was a great tour. There are many others to see as well, which you can find here.

Shopping

If you love to shop, you’ve come to the right place! Charleston is known for it’s sophistication, class, and exquisite taste in art, architecture, and of course, fashion! You can find high end designer stores like Gucci and Louis Vuitton, as well as locally owned boutiques all over King Street and it’s surrounding areas. There are boutiques for every taste! I found a cute one I liked called E. Blackhurst at 123 King St. It had a nice selection of gifts, jewelry, accessories, and clothing! Another favorite is Hampden, also located on King Street. They have a large selection of top designers and you won’t walk away empty handed! I recently met a stylist on a photoshoot in Charleston who gave me some boutiques to check out as well. Her other picks are Beckett, The Skinny Dip, Small, and Candlefish. Thanks, Andrea of https://www.Charlestonshopcurator.com 🙂 You can find great shopping guides on her site, too!

I sniffed out the Gucci store!

There are so many different kinds of shops on King Street. You’ll find candles, skin care, hat shops, gift shops, antiques, art galleries, coffee shops, bakeries, jewelry stores, candy shops, and more! You really can make an entire day out of shopping on this one street 🙂 I love to find unique gifts to take home to my friends and family and this is the perfect place to do it!

Restaurants

I saved the best category for last, haha! The food in Charleston is BEYOND! Ryan and I always come home with a few extra pounds in our suitcases and other places, too. We refer to it as our “Charleston weight”. That’s a number on the scale we don’t want to ever see again, LOL. Nothing a couple weeks of healthy eating can’t undo, though.

Charleston is such a great foodie town! They really know how to create some amazing dishes with all of their local fresh fish and produce. The seafood here is unreal! Below I’ve listed several of our favorite places to eat.

1). The Charleston Grill – This is our favorite dining experience in the city! It is elegant, charming, and delicious! Here, you are treated like the most important person in the room every time! They address you by name, always happily cater to your dietary restrictions (they even had mine saved from when we visited two years ago), and are as lovely as can be! You can order a la carte or do one of three chef tastings. I highly recommend the tastings! You can choose each of your courses and pair with wines if you like. We did the six course tasting and it was phenomenal! There is live music playing at nice volume. It’s the perfect romantic evening or way to celebrate in style!

2. Slightly North of Broad (S.N.O.B.) – This Lowcountry bistro give you all of the Old Charleston feels. They have classic southern entrees on their menu made with fresh, local ingredients. I enjoyed their vegetable dishes just as much as the seafood! The flavors in their meals have never disappointed! They also have a lovely little bar. It’s a great spot for lunch or dinner!

3. Hall’s Chophouse – You definitely want to make reservations ahead of time for this place! They specialize in mouthwatering steaks and sides of lobster tails, so it’s no wonder they are always packed! There is live music here every night of the week. It has a great old school vibe to it, that’s lively and fun. There is a bar on the other side of the restaurant where you can dine as well. They will do vegan and vegetarian dishes upon request and have plenty of gluten and dairy free options, too.

4. Minero – We love this spot for amazing tacos! It’s perfect for unwinding with a delicious, freshly squeezed margarita with homemade chips and guacamole! The fish tacos here are to die for. You can mix and match different kinds so you can try them all! It’s such a hip, relaxed environment and a great spot to sit and relax.

5. Magnolia – We love this restaurant! Our meals were both packed with flavor! This is definitely what I would call upscale Southern cuisine! The presentation is as beautiful as the interior of the restaurant itself. I had the most delicious seafood bouillabaisse! I wanted to lick the bowl. They have a gluten free menu here as well! The service was fantastic and we will definitely be returning.

6. High Cotton – The menu here is amazing! You can find anything you’re in the mood for. We loved the decor, the live music, and the ambiance. Our service was excellent. They create unique and flavorful dishes with local ingredients that will not disappoint! Another great spot for a fine dining experience!

7. Husk – This restaurant is a hotspot in Charleston. You can’t really ask anyone where to go without hearing this name. We enjoyed our meal here. I will say it was more difficult for me to find options that were gluten and dairy free than at other places. That being said, we did eat here for lunch, so the dinner menu may be more suitable for those needs as dinner menus usually are. The food was delicious and is full of southern flavors, local fresh ingredients, and charm. It is such a beautiful restaurant that is definitely worth checking out! You must get a picture outside, too! It is located in a gorgeous, historic Charleston home.

8. Oak Steakhouse – This is another great spot if you are looking for steaks! They have a nice menu selection of fresh fish, oysters, clams, pasta, and vegetarian options, too. We were seated in a lovely quiet spot upstairs and enjoyed some excellent cabarnet with filet mignon and brussel sprouts! The decor and ambiance is very nice, you won’t be disappointed eating here.

As for bars and places for nightcaps, I must recommend The Spectator Hotel, The Darling, Bourbon N’ Bubbles, Prohibition, The Gin Joint, The Belmont, and The Dewberry.

Also of note are some great coffee shops and cafes, we really like City Lights Coffee, 1 Broad, and Miller’s All Day!

If you get the chance to visit Charleston, you are in for a treat! Not only is it close to the beach and some amazing resorts, but the city itself has so much to offer, you don’t even need to be a beach-goer to enjoy it! It is full of history, amazing architecture and design, flavorful foods, shopping galore, and some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet! I can’t wait to go back 🙂

Walking amongst the beautiful Magnolia trees at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens.

New Year's at Nemacolin

The last several New Years, Ryan and I have found it fun to make it special and go somewhere to celebrate in style! This year, we decided to go to one of our favorite spots year-round, which is Nemacolin Woodlands Resort! Nemacolin is a beautiful resort and spa nestled in the Laurel Highlands of Southwestern Pennsylvania. It’s a short drive from Pittsburgh, being under 2 hours. The reason I say it’s a favorite spot year round is because there is SO much to do! From hiking, skiing, golf, children’s activities, a zoo, mini golf, hunting, fishing, four-wheeling, shooting clays, swimming, art classes, yoga, a holistic wellness center, the spa, fine dining, shopping, a casino, special events for holidays, and more! It’s definitely a destination spot for couples for romantic getaways and family fun, too! Your pets are also invited! Nemacolin really has it all and they do a wonderful job of seeing to all of your needs.

Ryan and I arrived the day before New Year’s Eve. We had booked shortly in advance and let them know about my dietary restrictions of being gluten and dairy free. They were extremely accommodating! Upon entering, the main chateau was decorated beautifully on the outside with a huge lit up tree, lights all over the outside of the building, flashing different colors, all while Christmas carols played adding to the excitement in the air! It was a sight to be seen!

There are several places you can stay at Nemacolin and varying price points for each. The main chateau is where most of the action is! The rooms are very grand and luxurious. The entire place is stunningly beautiful! There are several restaurants connected to the Chateau as well as shops, a cigar room, and beautiful artwork. You can walk from your room there without having to go outdoors. It’s a massive building and there’s always something to look at on your journey to each destination. There is a bar in the main lobby and a beautiful sitting areas surrounding it. There is also a stunning patio that looks out onto the grounds. Lots of weddings happen here for good reason! It couldn’t be prettier. Inside of the Chateau is the resort’s famous restaurant, Lautrec! If you love fine dining, you will love this place! It is a 5-star, award-winning restaurant with awards for it’s wine selections to boot. More on this later!

Lautrec

resort's newest accommodations at Falling Rock

Ryan and I have stayed at the Chateau several times, so this time we decided to try out the resort’s newest accommodations at Falling Rock. Falling Rock is located just down the road from the Chateau. It is a smaller hotel with only 42 rooms. However, don’t think that means less luxury! The rooms at Falling Rock come with butler service! That’s right. You have your very own butler to assist you with any of your needs during your stay. You can press a button and someone will come and draw a bath for you. Or call and request it to be drawn when you arrive home from dinner. Pretty nice! We felt guilty utilizing all of the butler services at first. But, that’s what you pay for when you go there and that’s what they want you to indulge in to make your experience that much more relaxing and enjoyable. And that it was! They bring you freshly baked cookies (they even made mine gluten and dairy free, and they were the most delicious gf, df, cookies I’d ever had!! Oh my gosh! I’m drooling just thinking about them now!) every evening. There is always room service available and breakfast items delivered to your room that are included in your stay. When we first arrived, I had a button pop off of one of my dresses and the butler service came and fixed it in minutes! We also enjoyed a beautiful fruit tray and champagne upon our arrival. The service here was beyond excellent!

most delicious gf, df, cookies

In our experience the rooms at Falling Rock are a bit larger yet equally beautiful to the ones at the Chateau. There is a difference in the decor style. But, it’s just as lovely. It is definitely a bit quieter at Falling Rock being that it is a smaller hotel and there are less activities in the building. There is a fabulous restaurant called Aqueous located there. They have excellent steaks and seafood. You enjoy a view of the golf course from the dining room as well. Attached to the restaurant is a bar and lounge where you can also order the same food available to you at the restaurant. For the golfers in the family, there is a pro shop on the main floor equipped with all of your golfing needs!

One thing you might want to note is that you should make reservations at the restaurants prior to your trip, especially on busy holidays. Be sure to make reservations for their amazing brunch as well! You do not want to miss that and there is a limit on seating for it.


On the first night of our stay, we got dressed up and headed over to the Chateau to check out the decorations and have dinner at Lautrec. The lobby of the Chateau was decorated so elaborately, I was in heaven! They do such an amazing job with their decorating for holidays! We have been to their Easter celebration as well and both New Year’s and Easter were so beautifully done! This time there was a big, white, ice sculpture-like building set up in the lobby with gorgeous floral arrangements and blue lighting surrounding it, made specifically for photo opportunities! (This place is very Instagrammable! :D) The kids can also play inside of the sculpture! They really do think of everything. There were Christmas trees lit up exquisitely inside in each room with lots of gold and garland. It was impeccably done!

The beautiful entrance to Lautrec.

After getting some pictures, we were seated at Lautrec in a cozy, quiet, dimly lit spot. Perfect for the quiet romantic getaway we had invisioned! This is where things got so fun! The menu for the night was called “Leap of Faith” which was the chef’s seven course dinner. They gave us an envelope with a sheet of paper enclosed with several different ingredients to choose from. We were to take the quill and ink pen from the table and circle ten ingredients that you like the most and then the chef would prepare the seven courses for you and your guests with those ingredients! It was such a fun, interactive, and unique concept! We loved it! Kudos to Chef Kristin Butterworth! She has been at Lautrec for 8 years. She has received the Forbes Five-Star and AAA Five-Diamond awards every year since 2011, and it’s easy to see why! She was also recently chosen as one of Pittsburgh Magazine’s 40 Under 40, how cool is that? Also deserving of mention is one of the main servers there, Terry. I don’t know exactly how long he has been there, but we have been going for 6 years now and he’s been present every time. He is the most amazing server you will ever have in your life! He’s so kind and so knowledgeable. There is no air of stuffiness about him, or any of the servers at Lautrec. But, he always makes the experience that much more special and we appreciate him so much! <3

At Lautrec, you always have the option of doing a wine pairing. We have done this once and it was amazing! However, I cannot drink very much alcohol, so we did forgo that option this time. But, the food was absolutely amazing! My favorite courses were the halibut (which I apologize I got really excited for and forgot to take a picture until I was halfway finished with it), and the beef! But, the best of all had to be the gluten and dairy free dark chocolate pine cone dessert to top the meal off! It so decadent! The chocolate was soft on the outside and thick and fudgy on the inside. It was surrounded by toasted marshmallows, little bites of sugary cocoa, and warm cherries. It was the best dessert I have had perhaps EVER! (Sidenote* I know that I talk a lot about eating Paleo which means NO SUGAR, but I do indulge in a little during the holidays – but that’s seriously IT! If you are new to Paleo or AIP and aren’t in remission, I wouldn’t suggest doing this!)

After dinner, we took the bus back to Falling Rock. They have nice buses with comfy seats and pleasant drivers that are constantly running around the property. There is rarely ever a wait. The entire resort was lit up for the holidays which made riding around on the bus a treat in itself! There was a stretch of lights that we drove through that feels like you’re in a tunnel of Christmas lights! So cool!

The next morning Ryan had a nice breakfast at Aqueous, while I slept in and ordered some food up to the room. They have great selections for those of us with food allergies! I had oatmeal, fruit, and tea. But there was plenty of other choices I could have had that fit my dietary restrictions, too!

nice breakfast at Aqueous

Then, we headed over to the Woodlands Spa. It is such a gorgeous spa! When you enter you feel like you’re in a different world. There are waterfalls, natural light, and lots of natural finishes that make you feel connected to the Earth and so tranquil! The service here was top notch, too. We were greeted and given glasses of champagne and strawberries. They help you to the locker rooms and guide you down to where your designated waiting area is. There are men’s and women’s relaxation rooms to wait in before your treatment. If you are there as a couple, which we were, they take you down to the indoor pool, where you can sit together. From there, our massage therapists came to get us and walked us down into the couple’s massage room. Walking through the halls of the spa is an experience in itself! It’s such a beautiful place with so many peaceful waterfalls, decorations, and artwork to look at.

We both had the 80 minute Woodlands Massage, which you can tailor to your liking. We did deep tissue, swedish, and hot stone massages. They were heavenly! I’ve never had a massage at Nemacolin where I felt like I didn’t get what I needed out of it. The pressure was great, and it was also relaxing at the same time! Just how I like it 🙂 They use essential oils like lavendar to de-stress the body and relieve fatigue. They also used eucalyptus to open up our sinuses when you are turned on your stomach which I thought was so nice! I always get stuffed up when I turn over and my face is in the head rest. Something about being in that position always causes congestion. But, the eucalyptus really helped! The massage was wonderful. We both felt so relaxed and peaceful.

We went upstairs to another one of their relaxation rooms. There were several fire places with big comfy recliners and couches covered in fur blankets. So cozy! I could’ve stayed here all day! But, we had to get back and showered to get ready for our New Year’s Eve Ball.

There were several parties going on at Nemacolin for New Year’s. There was a family dinner party in one area, a band playing at the casino, a party just for kids, live music in the main lobby where there is also a bar, and of course, the Masquerade Ball at Lautrec which we attended 🙂

The Masquerade Ball was really nice! Everyone got dressed to the nines and were seated with their parties. We were all asked to choose masks and then we were served drinks and hors d’oeuvres. There was a live singer doing classic hits and taking requests. She was awesome! I loved her. She was rockin’ out to No Diggity, No Doubt! LOL! She pulled it off, too! So fun. Then, we were seated and the four course dinner started. They were very accommodating to my diet for this meal as well. I got to eat everything that was served at dinner, which is great!

The first course was a take on the Ferrero Rocher candies. They made a “Foie-Rero Rocher” of farm foie gras with apple butter, salted roasted hazlenuts, and maple, topped off with a 10k gold wrapper! I appreciated the creativity, and it was quite tasty, too. The second and third courses were Chilean Sea Bass and a Japanese strip loin and a four hour braised short rib. Very delicious! To top off the meal, there was an entire room dedicated to JUST desserts! Pretty decadent!

I can’t talk about dessert at Nemacolin without telling you about Lautrec’s dessert cart! After you are finished with your meal and dessert, they bring around a vintage dessert cart with assorted novelty candies like swedish fish, candy cigars, and gum drops, as well as macaroons, chocolate truffles of all sorts, and several other cookies and chocolate covered items! You will never leave there hungry even if you try.

After dinner, they opened up the dance floor and the bar was flowing all night. Everyone danced to the likes of John Legend, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, and Chris De Burgh (Lady in Red!). There were families there with their older children and lots of couples, too. It was a nice quiet party. Nothing too loud or boisterous. We rang in the New Year with champagne provided by Lautrec. It was a really lovely night!

Love Couple

We left Lautrec and headed down to the main lobby where there was more live music and lots of people hanging out by the bar and beautiful seating areas around it. We met some really nice people! It was a super fun way to spend New Year’s Eve and we would gladly do it again!

The next morning we attended one of Nemacolin’s famous brunches! The brunches here are out of this world! They are also hosted at Lautrec in the Chateau. The spread is unreal. They serve up mimosas and Bloody Mary’s, everything you can imagine! Salads, chilled seafood, pastries, breads, roast beef, fish, shellfish, chicken, steak, pastas, omletes, waffles, other breakfast items, and an entire table of incredible desserts! They specially made entrees for me and brought out gluten and dairy free breads and muffins. It was the perfect way to end our stay! Needless to say, we will be returning again soon. It is a perfect place to celebrate anything or just get away for some much needed rest and relaxation! Thank you to everyone at Nemacolin for a wonderful New Year’s celebration and for making our stay so memorable!

Nemacolin memorable dish

You can visit their site and check out all of the amazing accommodations and things to do here. I am also linking my dress and accessories below! I hope you all had a wonderful New Year and wish you much happiness and health in 2019! 🙂

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