Guys, I have been in the mood for New York something fierce, and I finally found the perfect opportunity to take a trip: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is coming to Broadway, and I. have. tickets. Hells to the yes!
The whole process for being able to purchase tickets was crazy, and I seem to be one of the few lucky ones who had an easy time with it. A couple of weeks ago I registered for the chance to get an access code. I found out at the beginning of the week that my code would be sent to be on Wednesday morning, and that tickets went on sale at 8:00 am. I woke up at 7:45, logged into my computer, and waited. At 8:00 I entered my access code, selected the date I wanted, and bought my tickets. The show itself is in two parts, so technically you’re buying tickets for two shows. Not only do we have orchestra seats for both shows, the TOTAL for two tickets to both shows and fees was $200 Word. The whole thing took less than five minutes. According to Twitter, this was not the experience for most, so I guess I had some good karma going for me or something.
So our tickets are for July, during our birthday/anniversary week and we are leaving the kid with grandparents and heading to the Big Apple. I haven’t been to New York in a couple of years, and I have been having withdrawals like nobody’s business. But now with a trip on the horizon, I can focus on planning instead of jonesing. My last two trips to NYC have been with students, so I am looking forward to you know, going to a bar. Since I am forcing Matt to go to Harry Potter and Mean Girls (!!!!) I will be accompanying him to at least one jazz bar while we are there too.
Other must dos for me include: Strand Bookstore, a martini at a rooftop bar, and some big ass pizza. What are some other experiences I should check out while in New York? Leave me your best tips!
So last year we managed a five hour car ride with a two year old, and to be totally honest, it was pretty easy, all things considered. So much so that we may have gotten a wee bit cocky when planning our family vacation for this summer. We decided to go to Phoenix, Arizona for a couple of reasons. One, it’s close enough to drive. Two, we haven’t spent much time there in the past. And three, it’s home to Chase Field, which was one of the baseball stadiums we hadn’t yet visited. I totally thought Squirt would have no problems with a six hour car ride. Because I am a dumb-dumb. He was hot and cranky and whiny AF all the way there and all the way home. So far, not digging age three. Here’s hoping next summer he will be a better traveler. But that didn’t put too much of a damper on our trip itself, and we had a lot of fun once we actually got to Phoenix.
Pretty much the only time Squirt was happy on the drive was when we stopped in Cabazon to check out the big dinosaurs. The dinos are located near the outlets in Cabazon (close to Palm Springs) and are a great place to stop and stretch, especially if your little one is into dinos. Most of the attractions are part of the museum, which you have to pay for, but there is this T-Rex, plus a big brontosaurus that has a dino filled store inside of it that are accessible for free. Squirt was more than fine with the free exhibits and the only hard part was getting him to leave.
As soon as we made it to Phoenix we checked into our hotel and went straight to the pool. Matt and I were in desperate need of a drink, so we got some margaritas and enjoyed the sunset from the cooling waters. Squirt loves swimming so it was a good way to get him in a happy mood once we’d arrived.
On our first full day in Phoenix, we checked out the Desert Botanical Garden, who were kind enough to host us on our trip to explore their property. I have to say, it was gorgeous and there was so many cool plants and animals and artifacts to check out. But it was also about 110 degrees out and Squirt and I just couldn’t handle it. Poor Matt. We didn’t last nearly as long as I wanted to and I’m bummed we didn’t get to see more. If you are going to Phoenix, I would 100% recommend the Botanical Garden, but only during the off months, or early, early hours of the day. We hit the pool as soon as we got back to our hotel as we were in desperate need of a cool down in tempers and temperatures.
On our second day in Phoenix, we spent the day in the pool, and then headed over to Chase Field for our first home Diamondbacks game. The visit marked the eleventh stadium Matt and I have been to together, and number three for Squirt. We still have a long way to go on our stadium tour, but it was awesome to check another one off our list! More on our experience at Chase Field is coming soon, suffice to say, thank God for their roof.
On the day we were planning to head home, we had one final stop to make, at the Musical Instruments Museum. Matt is a musician and Squirt is obsessed with all of his instruments, so this was a no brainer for us. Both boys LOVED the museum. I loved the AC. There were so many cool things to see, the museum will be getting its own spotlight post soon. It was a highlight of the trip and I’m just sad we didn’t get to spend more time there.
Overall, despite the crazy heat, we had a really fun family trip to Phoenix. Matt and I have both determined that we would much rather take Squirt to new places every year than spend money on birthday parties and toys (please God, no more toys). I think traveling is so important with little ones, and I want to give Squirt the opportunity to do and see all kinds of new things as he grows up. Now it’s time to start planning next year’s trip, and hoping and praying a four year old Squirt is less cranky than three year old Squirt.
A couple of weekends ago, I got to coordinate a wedding up in Santa Barbara and used it as an excuse to spend a weekend out of town and exploring. Santa Barbara is about 90 miles north of LA, though the drive can take as long as three hours if traffic is bad. Luckily, I left on a Friday at 11:00 am and didn’t have to worry much about traffic. I stayed in a little studio that I found on Air BNB that was perfect for the trip since it was just me and I was working the majority of the weekend.
I arrived in Santa Barbara in the afternoon and headed straight to the wedding venue for the walk through and the rehearsal. The wedding was held at the University Club, and the venue was absolutely gorgeous and the staff was amazing. If you are looking to get married in Santa Barbara, you should definitely check it out (and also hit me up if you need a wedding coordinator!). After the rehearsal I went to check into my room and spent a few minutes getting settled and freshening up. I then headed out to go find something tasty and simple for dinner. I happened to find Fresco Cafe via Yelp and it was the perfect place for a solo dinner. They had an awesome patio, yummy Italian food, and the most important part of any meal: wine. I had the caprese sandwich and it was really tasty.
The next day was wedding day so I didn’t have a ton of free time, but I did, of course, make time for coffee and breakfast. I headed to Handlebar Coffee Roasters, which was convenient to both the wedding venue and my studio. I also found this coffee place on Yelp, and based on the line out the door, knew it was going to be yummy. The coffee was good, but what really sold it was the almond croissant. It was literally one of the best pastries I have ever eaten and I would go back to Handlebar just for the croissant.
The wedding on Saturday was absolutely amazing and such a beautiful day. I don’t know how I got so lucky, but the couples I work with are all just awesome people. They are down to earth and relaxed, and always so appreciative of my hard work (so like, the exact opposite of my teaching administration). It was one of my favorite weddings I have done this year and I am so hoping to work at the University Club again soon!
On Sunday I woke up tired and sore, as is usual after a long wedding day, but I was also excited to do some Santa Barbara exploring. I had been to SB before as it is home to a pretty popular college (UCSB) that I had friends go to, but had never really spent time dedicated to exploring the town. Coffee was obviously my first priority, and this time I headed to the French Press, which is located on State Street, the main downtown drag.
I knew I wanted to walk by City Hall since it is a gorgeous building and luckily it was only a couple blocks away from the coffee shop. I think if I were getting married in Santa Barbara, I would be tempted to just go to City Hall!
For lunch I headed to the Santa Barbara Public Market, which houses several small food stall type shops. I had a really tasty sandwich and mint lemonade and got a nice break from the heat (that was probably the only downside of the weekend–it was just as hot in Santa Barbara as it was in LA, which is unusual).
I spent the rest of the afternoon strolling around the shops on State Street. There are a bunch of little local boutiques, along with some art galleries and some chain shops like Old Navy and Paper Source (which might be my favorite store ever).
My last stop before hitting the road was McConnell’s Ice Cream shop. I didn’t do a ton of research about places to eat for my weekend, but the couple of posts I saw all mentioned McConnell’s as a must do, and all those posts were right. I consider myself to be something of an ice cream aficionado, and this was definitely some of the best I have had. I got peanut butter cup and salted caramel and both flavors were amazing.
Overall I had an amazing weekend in Santa Barbara. The only bummer was that Matt and Squirt weren’t able to come with me. It would have been a much more fun trip with the two of them along, but I still had a great time (and alone time is not such a bad thing in the grand scheme of mom life). I am really hoping I get to do some more work in Santa Barbara soon, and maybe next time the boys will come and we’ll make a family trip of it!
On the way home from our family trip to San Francisco, my most amazing husband ever was kind enough to drop me off in Solvang so I could join my group of girlfriends for a one night wine tasting trip. Solvang is a small town a little ways north of Santa Barbara that features lots of Danish influence, cute little shops, and lots and lots of wine. I, sadly, missed out on most of the actual wine tasting during the trip, but I did manage to arrive in time for happy hour at our hotel and did plenty of catching up. We had a perfectly lovely (and much needed) girls night away from home and it was so awesome we decided to make it an annual event. Here are some of the more appropriate highlights of our stay…
We spent the night at Hotel Corque (pronounced “cork”), which was very chic and boutiquey. We got a chance to enjoy happy hour at their restaurant, Root 246, which had great appetizers and tasty wine (obvs). I would have liked to have had another day so we could have enjoyed the pool during the day. We went for a dip right before the pool closing time and it looked like it would have been a very relaxing place to spend the day.
The rooms at Hotel Corque were really nice (sorry I didn’t get a pic, one of my very lovely friends was in a bit of a hurry to get us down to happy hour before it ended…) and it is definitely somewhere I would stay again. It was also centrally located, meaning it was walkable, which is obviously important on a trip with a lot of drinking involved.
Also, there is this old-fashioned stockade in front of the hotel, which clearly makes for some fun drunken pictures. For our dinner, we walked down to the Landsby hotel and ate at Mad and Vin. They had the best fries I have ever eaten in my entire life. Seriously, I would go there just for the fries. This is another hotel I would consider staying at in the future. Very cute, and West Elmy.
As you can maybe imagine, after a full day of nothing but wine, we were a little worse for the wear when we woke up the next morning. So we walked down to Paula’s Pancake House, which is one of the most popular breakfast spots in Solvang. None of us actually had pancakes, because sweet is not usually the way to go with a hangover, but the hash browns were bomb and we all managed to eat enough to prep us for the ride home.
I, of course, had to snap this picture of the Little Mermaid statue since it is one of my faves (the author, Hans Christian Andersen was Danish). I would like to point out that we obviously had an amazing girls trip given my utter lack of pictures from the trip. We had a great time exploring Solvang, and drinking lots (and lots) of wine.
Where is your favorite place for a girls’ trip? Where should we head next? Let me know!
A few months ago my mom decided she wanted to take the fam on a beach trip, and found a gorgeous condo to Air BNB for a week down in beautiful San Clemente. San Clemente is about an hour south of Anaheim (sorry for folks who don’t live in California, we measure distance in the time it takes to get there) and is one of the few really small, cute beach towns in So Cal that hasn’t been completely hipsterized/modernized/built up to crazy extravagance. I have spent some time down there because there are two beautiful wedding venues there that I have worked at, plus one of our good friends got married there a few years ago. So needless to say, I was super stoked to get to spend some time relaxing at the beach.
My mom and I caravaned down to San Clemente on a Monday (meaning it took much longer than it would have taken me on my own, due to Grandma driving). We left early to avoid traffic so when we got down to the beach we had a couple of hours to kill before we could check in. We went to lunch on SC’s main street downtown and had some delicious pizza and beer.
Then we headed over to our condo to check in and get settled. The beautiful view you see at the top of this post is from the condo balcony. I cannot express enough in words how awesome it is to have a full kitchen when traveling with a little one, and this condo had a super spacious kitchen. My mom and I did a big supermarket trip to stock up on supplies for the week, which is so nice to be able to do so you don’t have to eat out every meal. We grilled hamburgers that night and spent most of our time sitting on the patio and enjoying the view.
The next day was our beach day. So we packed up everything needed for three adults (Matt joined us Monday evening) and one toddler and headed down to the water. It was Squirt’s first time at the beach and that was the best part of the trip, watching him figure out the ocean and the sand. This picture is one of my new favorites…
That night my mom was kind enough to take over Squirt duty so Matt and I could have a date night. The main strip was about a half a mile from our condo so we walked up to the downtown area and had drinks at a Mexican place and then dinner at a super hipster (but tasty) restaurant.
The next morning we all walked down to the beach/pier area for some local coffee. This place was awesome and it is literally right on the beach so the location can’t be beat!
Before heading home, my mom and I took Squirt around the downtown shops for a little browsing. There are a bunch of cute clothing stores, plus some local gift/home decor type stores that were fun to explore.
Squirt and I headed out in the early afternoon so we didn’t get stuck in too much traffic. Overall, it was a quick trip to the beach, and I wish we had more time to spend there since it was such a beautiful spot, but Matt was in a wedding that weekend so we had to head home a little sooner than we would have liked. We had a lovely time in San Clemente, and I’m definitely hoping my mom sticks to her plan to make this an annual excursion!
Hello fellow travelers! It’s finally time for our full San Francisco trip report! If you haven’t been around lately, Matt and I recently took Squirt on our first family vaycay (at least the first one to somewhere other than Disneyland) and we had a blast exploring San Francisco. We love SF and try to make a trip up the coast once a year, but being there with Squirt opened up some new adventures for us in one of our favorite cities. Follow along on our trip!
We checked into our hotel, the Suites at Fisherman’s Wharf at about 2:30 pm and took a little time to get settled into our room. Then we decided to go out and explore a bit. We knew we would be spending our full day of vacation at the wharf, so we decided to head down and check out Ghirardelli Square. It was literally one block away from our hotel (which could have been dangerous if we were there for an extended amount of time). I hadn’t been to Ghirardelli since I was a kid so it was fun to go back and see. The main attraction is obviously the chocolate and ice cream, but there are also a bunch of really cute hipster shops and some fun restaurants. Thursdays-Sundays there is also a beer garden, which sadly we missed. We enjoyed a salted caramel sundae (just like the one at California Adventure) and it was delicious (duh).
After our sundae and walking around a bit, we decided to stop for a beer at The Pub. They had some good local beers on tap and a bunch of specialty cocktails. We didn’t eat there, but all the food looked good. Despite it being a bit chilly, we sat out on the patio since it overlooked the water and gave us a great view of the bay.
For dinner we went to Capurro’s, one of the many restaurants along Beach Street (the main street along the water). It was a little overpriced and touristy and they got slammed right when we got there so the food took a while, but everything was really tasty. Matt had the clam chowder and it was delicious.
We really only had one full day in the city so we decided to spend it at Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39. Both Matt and I had been there several times before, but it’s not a place we would go hang out if we were there just the two of us, so it had been some time since we had visited. But we knew it would be a fun place to take Squirt, with lots to see and explore.
The absolute highlight (as far as Squirt is concerned) of our time at Pier 39 was the Aquarium of the Bay. We went in the evening hours, after nap time (I still can’t believe he actually napped in our hotel) and it was not super crowded, which was nice. We had a really fun time at the aquarium and I imagine we will be going back at some point.
For dinner that night we wanted something a little more causal (and less expensive) than our previous dinner so we headed to the Chowder Hut, which is located outside Pier 39 near the Boudin Bakery. This is the kind of place that serves your beer in a plastic cup and your food in a paper tray, but it was delicious. I had the fried shrimp and it was amazing. Definitely a good cheap and easy place to get some super fresh seafood.
On our way back to our hotel we stopped for some dessert at the Baked Bear. We had never been here before (found it on Yelp!), but it was amazeballs. Matt is not a big dessert person and I had to beg him to stop. While he was eating his custom ice cream sandwich, he looked me and said “This was the best decision ever.” Baked Bear could be easy to miss, it is off on one of the side streets and is basically an ice cream food truck, but you guys, if you are in SF, you need to go here. You create your own ice cream sandwich and they are straight up little pieces of heaven. Side note: We recently discovered we have our own Baked Bear about two minutes from our house. This is going to be very, very bad news for my waistline.
We had an awesome time in San Francisco, as always, and it was really cool to see some of our old childhood vacation spots through the eyes of Squirt. We had a busy vacation month In July, with trips to San Clemente and Disneyland, so more trip reports will be coming your way soon!
This is a sponsored post. I was compensated in the form of a discount, a product, and/or monetary compensation to write this post. All opinions are my own.
At least once a year Matt and I do an adults only trip to Disneyland. While I obviously love sharing Disneyland adventures with Squirt, there are things we can’t do in the parks with him there. And Mom and Dad need a break every now and then, ya know? This year, Matt and I ventured down to the Grand Legacy at the Park hotel for a belated birthday/anniversary trip. The Grand Legacy has actually been a family favorite for many years as the Ramada Maingate, but is now operating as an independent hotel and has undergone some major renovations. Probably the biggest selling point of the Grand Legacy is its location. It is literally right across the street from Disneyland and literally a ten minute walk from the hotel to the security checkpoint. Literally. (I really want to stress that point since so many hotels claim to be within walking distance of the parks and they definitely are not.) It was really nice to be able to walk straight to the park without getting on a bus or a shuttle, and I honestly think the distance from the Grand Legacy to the park entrance is shorter than from the Paradise Pier Hotel (which is a Disney property hotel). So location is a huge plus, and probably what most guests are paying for.
The Grand Legacy at the Park has some really lovely features, so we’ll start with the good. The pool is located at the center of the property and it is an awesome pool for kids. It has a bunch of these water games and a splash pad, along with a sloped entry and large wading area (only one and a half feet deep). For adults, the pool features a small bar selection and plenty of lounge chairs and tables. Matt and I spent a couple hours just sitting in the wading area, drinking some dranks. Though this was not a family trip, we both noted how much Squirt would love this pool.
Right outside the lobby of the Grand Legacy is a row of small shops. There is a pizza place, a small market with snacks, toiletries, and souvenirs, and a ticket/tour shop. Coming soon, there will also be a taco place and an ice cream shop. It is really nice to have these options so close to the hotel (a two minute walk from our room). It’s always good to have food options outside the park, and I personally love the convenience of the Alpha Mart for forgotten necessities or a quick snack.
One of the main reasons I was pumped to stay at the Grand Legacy was to have a chance to fully check out The Fifth, their rooftop bar and lounge. I was invited to the press opening of The Fifth and was (mostly) impressed with my experience, so I was looking forward to a second chance to check out the space. I will have a full review of The Fifth coming soon, but suffice to say, this is an amazing spot to check out the Disneyland fireworks without having to deal with the crowds. They even pipe in the Disneyland Forever music so you get the full experience.
Another thing we really enjoyed at the Grand Legacy was the free breakfast. If you are doing a full Disneyland trip, a free hotel breakfast is a huge bonus. Breakfast at the parks can be both crowded and pricey, so to have the option to eat at the hotel is awesome. We did the breakfast one of the days we were there and really enjoyed it. The only downside to the breakfast is that it has really early hours (6:30-9:30), which is great if you are heading out to the parks at opening, but kind of a bummer if you are planning on sleeping in (we actually missed the breakfast window on our last day, but it was worth it to sleep in without being woken up by a toddler!). (Also, please ignore the bite out of the doughnut…I was hungry.)
Some other pluses of the hotel were great wifi (which seems to be few and far between at hotels) and accessible parking. The option of adjoining rooms is also really nice if you are traveling with a large group.
Now, for the not so good. If you check out the Grand Legacy’s photo gallery on their website (which I obviously did as I was preparing for this trip and review) you will see beautifully renovated rooms. The bathrooms in the photos have large tubs and granite counters and are super modern and enticing. If you read the info on their website, you will learn that certain buildings of the hotel and some rooms have recently been renovated. What they don’t mention is that many (most?) of their rooms have not been recently renovated. I opened the door to our room expecting a gorgeous bathroom (and was planning on taking a kid free bath) and instead found a totally mediocre and outdated bathroom.
Wah wah. I totally understand that when a hotel is undergoing renovations it is a process that takes a long time. However, it should then be made very clear when booking that the room has not yet been updated (like don’t get excited about those pictures because that is not what you will be getting). At no point was I told that we would be staying in an unrenovated room, not upon booking or checking in, and a heads up would have been nice.
In terms of the rest of the room, I appreciated the large space and the fact that there was a mini fridge and a microwave. Those are both bonuses in my eyes, and things I really appreciate when we are traveling with Squirt.
As a frequent traveler, I am all about transparency. I can deal with pretty much anything if I am prepared for it. In the grand scheme of things, an outdated bathroom didn’t affect my trip at all. I mean, we were there for the park, not to spend time in the room. But because it wasn’t what I was expecting, it felt like we were being cheated somehow.
In terms of off property hotels near Disneyland, the Grand Legacy has a lot going for it, the main thing being its location. It is definitely the easiest commute to the parks that I have had at an off-site hotel and that is a big selling point. In my opinion, the price for an unrenovated room is pretty steep, but I can definitely see how it would be worth it for an extended family vacation. The location, breakfast, and pool make this is an awesome choice for a family Disneyland trip and I would 100% consider staying here again with Squirt.