Category Archives: Travel Guide

Travel Today — Dan’l Webster Inn & Spa

In early December we had the pleasure of staying at the Dan’l Webster Inn & Spa, in Sandwich, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod. As soon as we arrived we felt like we stepped right onto the set of a Hallmark Christmas movie. The Dan’l Webster is a family-friendly hotel, and it truly offers something for everyone. When you check in you will be greeted by the most welcoming front desk staff — we loved the nutcracker that plays drums — we even took a video for our little one (he asks to watch every day, and he is already asking to go back!)

Here’s a quick guide to a weekend getaway at the Dan’l Webster Inn & Spa during the holiday season:

  • We stayed in the detached Fessenden Wing — we had two queen beds, a table with a Keurig, wingback chairs, a flatscreen TV, and a nice bathroom with two sinks (which was a nice touch!) It was the perfect spot to get some writing or reading done, to work on a puzzle with your family, to have a cup of coffee or tea, and to enjoy some downtime. The room was clean, comfortable, and cozy. You can’t go wrong with any of the rooms at this hotel — some rooms even have a fireplace and a whirlpool tub!
  • Grab lunch or dinner in the Tavern — we had lunch when we first checked in — we ordered the kids Mac & Cheese, Chicken Fingers with Sweet Potato Fries, and the Dynamite Fish Sandwich (with a beer) It was such a cozy spot for lunch — especially with the fireplace!
  • Enjoy dinner in the Conservatory overlooking the Koi pond — during the holiday season you will also see reindeer! We ordered the Surf & Turf special (Filet Mignon and Stuffed Shrimp), the Filet Mignon (with asparagus and mashed potatoes), and the kids Chicken Fingers with French fries. For dessert we had the Chocolate Cake and Vanilla Ice Cream. We also enjoyed a glass of Pinot Noir from their award winning wine list, and a martini — everything was delicious!
  • Grab breakfast at the hotel’s restaurant — you can’t go wrong with any of the choices, but we tried The Sampler which has eggs, bacon, sausage, and a choice of French toast, toast or pancake — we chose the French toast (but also ordered a separate oatmeal quinoa pancake to share!), and the Sausage & Eggs breakfast. (Next time we want to try the Bananas Foster French Toast, and Vera’s Cheddar & Chive Biscuits). They have a great kids menu with all the staples — our little one had the waffle. All of the meals come with a small cup of fruit! We loved having our coffee while listening to holiday classics and looking at the beautiful Christmas tree — it was such a nice way to start our morning!
  • Make a stop (or multiple stops) in the hotel’s gift shop for local art, gifts, Cape Cod sweatshirts, chocolate covered cranberries & chocolate cranberry candy bars (yum!), books and stuffed animals. We stopped in three times during our stay — we bought a few of the children’s books before checking out our room, and we read them before bed. Reading Good Night Cape Cod was the perfect way to end our night after a wonderful day in Sandwich.
  • Get a drink from the Tavern and have a seat by the fireplace (right next to the Christmas tree). Loved seeing hotel guests enjoying cider and coffee, while having quiet conversation or reading a book by the fire.
  • If you visit during the holiday season I recommend walking around the hotel and checking out all of the beautiful decorations – from the wreaths, Christmas scenes, beautifully-decorated Christmas trees, and nutcrackers (the kids love these!) – it’s a great way to spend some time on a chilly day. (There’s also plenty of areas to take family photos!)
  • Make an appointment at their full service spa — Beach Plum Spa — open seven days a week all year long! Treat yourself to one of their day spa packages — I plan on making an appointment during our next visit!

Highlights (for any season): kid-friendly hotel, onsite restaurants, onsite full-service spa, rooms with fireplaces and whirlpool tubs, outdoor pool and gardens, access to Sportsite (a local fitness center), award winning restaurant and wine list, an onsite gift shop, holiday events (check their calendar or call the front desk!), and warm & welcoming staff!

I highly recommend staying at The Dan’l Webster Inn & Spa when visiting Cape Cod. It’s an hour from Boston, 4 hours from New York City, 90 minutes from Rhode Island, and just under two hours from Mystic, Connecticut — and it’s worth the drive from any area. We loved our stay during the holiday season, but we plan on visiting during the summer, as well! This hotel is great for family getaways and larger family reunions, a romantic weekend, or for a group of friends. My family loves traditions — and I think we started one this year — we plan on visiting the Dan’l Webster Inn & Spa year after year (and we will be telling all of our friends and family to do the same!)

 

 

Travel Today — Mystic, CT

Mystic, Connecticut is the perfect spot for an overnight or a weekend getaway — it’s great any time of the year, but keep in mind that many of the attractions are outdoors. There are beautiful water views, family-friendly activities and attractions, romantic restaurants, and great coffee shops. There is truly something for everyone!

Where to Stay

Mystic Marriott

  • Early morning coffee at Starbucks right down in the lobby.
  • Breakfast and dinner at Octagon Steakhouse
  • A glass of red at the lobby bar (you can also enjoy apps from the All Day menu)

Highlights: Family-friendly accommodations/dining, Indoor Pool, Full-Service Spa, Updated rooms, lobby, and ballroom (to be completed this fall), small lobby market with toiletries, snacks/drinks, and souvenirs. This hotel is in a great location — it’s a short drive from everything you will want to see in Mystic!

Another great option: The Whaler’s Inn (located right in downtown Mystic).

Favorite Spots

Olde Mistick Village is across the street from the Mystic Aquarium so it’s a great place to go just before or just after visiting — you can re-enter the aquarium so you can always take a break mid-day, as well. This shopping center has lots of small, local shops, and restaurants, including Vault Coffee Roasters.

Vault Coffee Roasters is a cute coffee shop, that also serves delicious Deviant Donuts (Friday-Sunday). They offer classic flavors (we tried the Strawberry Chocolate Frosted), and then a variety of specially donuts. Go early so you can have your pick — they run out quickly!

Mystic Aquarium is a great aquarium that has both indoor and outdoor exhibits including: beluga whales, penguins, seals, sea lions, and smaller exhibits — they have hands-on exhibits, as well. We also loved the dinosaur exhibit (luckily it’s still running — it was supposed to end last winter!) I recommend buying your tickets on the app/computer ahead of time to avoid the long lines — this will save you a lot of time. No matter what you decide to do while you’re in Mystic I would definitely recommend a morning or afternoon at the aquarium!

Octagon Steakhouse at the Mystic Marriott has a good wine list, and delicious food. My go-to dish is the Statler chicken, but there are other great options, including a kid’s menu. At first glance this restaurant doesn’t look kid-friendly, but we all enjoyed our breakfast and our dinner, and they even have kids cups!

Downtown Mystic is one of my favorite areas of Mystic. It has the Mystic Draw Bridge (Mystic River Bascule Bridge), lots of local stores, restaurants, coffee shops,  Mystic Draw Bridge Ice Cream, and a great local book store.

You should definitely visit Mystic Pizza when you’re in Downtown Mystic! You can get pizzas by the slice so even if you’re heading out for the afternoon, you can grab a slice and head to your next destination! The pizza is good, and the staff is friendly. It’s just disappointing that you won’t get to hang with Julia Roberts!

Bank Square Books is one of my favorite bookstores. They have a great children’s section, and an entire wall of journals! You have to stop by when you are in downtown Mystic!

S&P Oyster Restaurant and Bar — just check out the view!

Some other attractions include: Mystic Seaport Museum and Mystic Museum of Art

Mystic is definitely one of our go-to spots in New England — it’s under 2 hours from Boston, and just about 2.5 hours from New York City. It’s perfect for a romantic overnight, or a getaway with friends and family, and it has all you’d want in a charming New England town.

Travel Today — Nashville, TN

Do you love country music (or just music in general?) Do you love the Bobby Bones show? Do you love southern food, Nashville Hot Chicken, and pancakes? Do you love live music, museums, and cowboy boots? Are you interested in history and beautiful hotels? If you answered yes to at least some of these questions than you should consider Nashville for your next getaway!

Where to Stay

Hyatt Place Downtown Nashville 

  • Breakfast served right downstairs
  • 24/7 Gallery and Gallery Market for a quick bite right in the lobby — serving bar bites, shareable apps, grab-and-go items
  • A lobby bar to grab coffee — starting at 6:00am, and wine, cocktails, and beer until midnight! Perfect for early morning, or when you’re getting back from a show at The Ryman.

Highlights: family and pet-friendly hotel, onsite breakfast, 24/7 dining options, live music in the lobby (check with the hotel for schedule), onsite gym, and an indoor pool — also this hotel is walking distance to amazing restaurants and attractions.

Union Station

  • This beautiful hotel was originally built in 1900 — it was Nashville’s major local train station, and nearly 100 years later it was converted into a luxury hotel. Some of the historical features can still be seen at the hotel — take a tour of the hotel to learn more about the history and the architecture (Wednesday/Friday — 4:45pm, and Saturday — 2:00pm). I love trains and train stations — and of course I love hotels, so I make it a point to visit Union Station when I’m in the area. Even if you plan on staying elsewhere I would stop in for a meal!

Highlights: Onsite restaurant (Carter’s) — opened for breakfast, lunch and dinner, fitness center, live music in the lobby, family and pet-friendly option, gift shop, and proximity to area attractions.

Loews Vanderbilt Hotel

Highlights: family and pet-friendly option, fitness center, gift shop, proximity to Broadway and other area attractions

You cannot go wrong with any of these options. They are all close to Broadway, and to everything that downtown Nashville has to offer. There are plenty of hotel options in Nashville, these are just a few of my favorites.

Other hotel options: The Hermitage Hotel, The Omni Nashville

Favorite Spots

Pancake Pantry is an absolute must-visit for anyone who loves pancakes and breakfast as much as we do. The chocolate pancakes were some of the best I ever had, and at the time I was drinking decaf coffee and this is one of the only places that refilled my decaf!  If you’re visiting Nashville please add this to your itinerary now. This restaurant tends to have a long wait (even in the pouring rain) — head over there as early as you can (they open at 6:00am).

Husk Nashville has delicious Southern food — opened for lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch. The building is beautiful, too. I recommend making a reservation.

The Southern is such a great restaurant that we ate here multiple times during our trip!

Hattie B’s is a great spot for Nashville Hot Chicken. I don’t like spicy food, but the spice was tolerable – the sides were absolutely delicious! This is another restaurant with a long wait — get there early!

The RymanThe Mother Church of Country Music is an amazing place to see a show. Try and catch one of their Opry at the Ryman shows — starting in November (running through the Winter). The lineup is confirmed closer to the show date, and the posters are made at the Hatch Show Print — it’s the perfect souvenir. Also, take the tour of The Ryman — it’s worth it!

Bridgestone Arena is a great venue to see a show.  During a Bobby Bones interview, Dierks Bentley shared how important this place is to him — since then it has been high on my list of places to see a show!

Country Music Hall of Fame is not a tourist trap. It’s worth a visit! I would also do the RCA Studio B Tour, as well as a tour of Hatch Show Print. I don’t want to give anything away regarding the Studio B tour, but trust me — it’s a memorable way to spend a few hours. When you take the Hatch Show Print tour each member of your group will get to make their own poster to bring home.

The Gulch Neighborhood is a cute little area just outside of downtown Nashville — there are lots of restaurants and shops, including Two Old Hippies and Lucchese’s.

Breakfast at either Loveless Cafe or Biscuit Love (or both!)

Catch a Predators or Titans game

Some other attractions include: The Johnny Cash Museum, Grand Ole Opry, Honky Tonks on Broadway — including Robert’s Western World, The Stage, Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, etc., The Blue Bird Cafe, Schermerhorn Symphony Center, John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge, The ParthenonAndrew Jackson’s Hermitage, etc.

Nashville is ideal for families, couples, bachelor and bachelorette parties, and of course, for fans of country music. It’s perfect for a long weekend, or for a longer vacation, and it’s a city you will want to visit time and time again. There is so much to do in Nashville you will need to visit multiple times to do it all! Don’t forget to check the concert schedules before your trip (or maybe plan a trip around a show). 

What are some of your favorite spots to visit in Nashville?

Travel Today: Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

My parents introduced me to James Taylor when I was a child (I’ve loved his music ever since), and as I got older I finally learned why he sang “In my mind I’m going to Carolina…” We’ve been to different parts of South Carolina, but this post is going to focus on Hilton Head Island. HHI is the perfect place for a getaway with your family, significant other, or a group of friends. Southern Living named HHI as the South’s Best Beach Town for 2019, and I agree that it is definitely one of the best beach towns — would be hard for me to choose a favorite, but HHI ranks high on my list!

Where to Stay

Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort

  • Coffee from Palmetto Market (grab your coffee to-go, and take a walk around the hotel’s beautiful property or along the beach — this became our routine each morning).
  • Breakfast at HH Prime
  • Casual outdoor lunch at the Buoy Bar.
  • Drinks and appetizers at XO Sports & Spirits

You can also grab a quick breakfast, or snacks throughout the day, at Palmetto Market. They have seating, as well, so it’s a great spot to get out of the heat to enjoy a bite.

Highlights: Full-Service Spa, 2 family pools, and an adult pool, as well as a splash zone for the kids. Also when you check into the hotel, kids get a small Omni backpack filled with crayons, an activity pad, and a water cup — we still use the cup and backpack — they are great souvenirs!

Other hotel options: Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island, The Westin Hilton Head Resort & Spa 

Favorite Spots

Watusi Cafe & Coffee Bar was a recommendation from a local. Watusi’s motto is “It is what it is…”, and their definition of Watusi is “It is a state of mind. Let go of your worries, relax your mind, and feel at home. It is what it is.” What a great reminder while you’re enjoying a cup of coffee/tea and a delicious breakfast. There was a short wait, but it was worth it! Also, the kids pancake comes in the shape of Mickey Mouse — it made us all smile. Locals always know the best spots to grab a great meal!

New York City Pizza has unique baked ziti, delicious meatballs, and great pizza (which you can also get by the slice!) We went to the Shelter Cove Towne Centre location where we enjoyed sunset views, as well as shopping after dinner.

Palmetto Dunes General Store is located on the property of the Palmetto Dunes Resort on Queen’s Folly Road. Where else can you grab beach toys, sunscreen, t-shirts, and a delicious breakfast or lunch? This is a must-visit while on HHI! When putting together your list of what to order, make sure to include: cinnamon rolls (baked fresh daily!), homemade biscuits, and grits, and then you will need to try the fried chicken and macaroni & cheese for lunch. PD General Store also has soft-serve ice cream and slushies!

A Lowcountry Backyard Restaurant lived up the hype! I worried that this was just a tourist trap, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I won’t say too much, but go and order the Shrimp & Grits, and the Shrimp BLT Salad (both dishes are amazing!)

Shelter Cove Towne Centre for unique shops selling gifts from local artists, books, HHI-inspired clothing, and lots of restaurant options (along with evening activities).

Alexander’s Restaurant & Wine Bar is also located on the property of the Palmetto Dunes Resort (both PD General Store & Alexander’s are walking distance to the Omni). We had such a nice dinner here — they have a great menu (including a unique kids menu), a diverse drink menu and wine list, and delicious food — I recommend the crab cake with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

The Shops at Sea Pines Center has great shops and restaurants including Lowcountry Produce Market & Cafe — grab a coffee and walk around the shops. Try and visit when the Farmer’s Market is scheduled.

Lawton Stables is great for families to see beautiful horses and farm animals, and to go horse-back riding. This was one of our favorite stops on HHI. One of the best parts is the drive through the Sea Pines Resort — you’ll want to drive slowly and take it all in (especially the Live Oaks with Spanish Moss).

Harbour Town Lighthouse at the Harbour Town Marina, not only has the iconic lighthouse (perfect spot to grab a photo), but also has shops and restaurants. I would recommend hitting the gift shop at the bottom of the lighthouse — that’s where we picked up our copy of Scoot’s New Home by Ann Eilers Lilly. It’s still one of our favorite books at bedtime.

Coastal Discovery Museum for the Farmer’s Market, nature trails, reptiles & amphibians, butterflies, and a beautiful property. Make sure to check their schedule before heading over so you can register for their daily events. The Coastal Discovery Museum also has a great gift shop!

Bluffton, South Carolina is just under 15 minutes from HHI, and it is worth the drive. We did not spend as much time here as we would have liked during this trip, but we are so glad we visited this beautiful area. Make sure to visit the Church of the Cross — read the history and grab some photos.

The Storybook Shoppe located in Bluffton is a beautiful little local bookstore.

Duck Donuts for made-to order donuts — I recommend the plain donut with hot fudge, and the donut with peanut butter/chocolate sauce. Those were our favorites!

Kilwins Hilton Head Island located at Shelter Cove Towne Centre, is perfect for grabbing ice cream after dinner at New York City Pizza.

Hilton Head Island is ideal for a family vacation, or for a romantic getaway — it is just under an hour from Savannah, and just over two hours from Charleston, Kiawah Island, and Isle of Palms. The beaches are beautiful and serene, and there are so many hotels and vacation rentals in the area — so there are plenty of options for your stay. This is the type of place you will want to return to again and again. 

What are some of your favorite spots to visit on Hilton Head Island?

 

Travel Today: Newport, Rhode Island

It’s no secret that Newport, Rhode Island is one of my favorite places in New England. We would move there if we could, but luckily it’s a short enough drive that we can visit at any time. It’s the perfect place for a day trip, an overnight, or a long weekend getaway. Condé Nast Traveler named Newport the Best Walking City in the United States – I’m not surprised. Who doesn’t love walking along Newport’s cobblestone streets?

Where to Stay

Gurney’s Newport

  • Early morning coffee at For Five Coffee.
  • Brunch at Tillie’s (order the house-made croissants and the egg breakfast!)
  • Get your second cup of coffee (or tea), and enjoy a walk along the grounds of the resort – make sure to visit the lighthouse and Cornelius and William (Gurney’s adorable goats!)
  • A drink at the Pineapple Club (May through September)
  • Dinner and wine at Scarpetta (extensive wine list, and delicious spaghetti!)
  • A nightcap and a cheese board at the Regent Lounge

Highlights: Cornelius and William, the ice skating rink (mid-December through the end of February), a full-service spa, indoor and outdoor pools, and cozy sweatshirts at the gift shop!

Newport Marriott

  • Coffee from Plank Bar
  • Brunch at MainSail (a la carte or buffet)
  • Drinks and small plates at Skiff Bar
  • Dinner at The MainSail

Highlights: Indoor Pool, Full-Service Spa

Up next: Hotel Viking 

Favorite Spots

Flat Waves Food Shack (Middletown, Rhode Island) for a little taste of aloha in New England. This is one of our go-to stops on the drive into Newport!

Liberty Donuts for made-to order donuts, delicious coffee, ice cream, and breakfast sandwiches. Get the warm Liberty Donut and a coffee – you won’t be disappointed. When you’re done, take your coffee and walk around the Long Wharf Mall.

Shopping up and down Thames St. and Bowen’s Wharf

Museum of Newport History and Shop (great books and gifts) – you can spend so much time just walking around this shop!

Kilwins Chocolate and Ice Cream

Newport Vineyards for dinner or a cheese board at Brix Restaurant, wine and beer tastings, and shopping in their on-site wine shop! (Check out the chalk drawings around the vineyard created by their in-house artist!)

Visit the International Tennis Hall of Fame

Tour the mansions

Visit the Newport Cliff Walk

Ryan Family Amusements (arcade)

Grab breakfast at the Corner Café

Enjoy a cheese board and a drink (or brunch) at Bar and Board Bistro

Audrain Automobile Museum

National Museum of American Illustration

The Redwood Library — this library is steeped in history, and it’s a must-see for anyone who loves books and libraries as much as I do!

Newport is ideal for a family getaway, or for a romantic overnight – it’s the first place that comes to mind when people ask where to go for a night away. It’s just about 2 hours from Boston, and just under 4 hours from New York City. It’s the perfect place for a change of scenery and water views, for inspiration, and a place to clear your head. I love that New England destinations are great for summer and fall getaways, and also for cozy winter ones. If you’re looking for travel spots, I would add Newport to the list.

Just a tip: It’s less expensive in the winter months, and also less crowded — it’s always a good time of year to visit Newport!

What are some of your favorite spots to visit in Newport?

Newport Lighthouse Gurneys

Water Towers

My dad had a fascination with water towers. He loved seeing them in the distance as we drove into small towns, he loved taking photographs of water towers, and he hoped to publish a book or calendar with his photos. He felt like they were symbolic of something, but I don’t remember what that was, I just know he found them to be comforting, and he often would drive to towns just to see them. Me and my mom would always point them out on our drives, and then we would pull over so he could take his photos. The best one is probably the Mickey Ears from Walt Disney World. My dad passed away 7 years ago and he didn’t get to publish his book of water towers, and at this moment I do not know where most of these photographs are, but I think of my dad whenever I see a tall tower in the distance.

During a road trip, when I was a child, we were talking about our passion for writing, travel, and small towns. I mentioned wanting to write a travel book one day… the term “one day” and “someday” have always been a big part of my vocabulary:

“I will do it one day.”

“I want to go there someday.”

“I will write a book one day.”

Even though I can’t snap my fingers and be anywhere, and I can’t always find the time to write, my mindset has shifted. Travel and write today doesn’t mean you will do everything or be everywhere today, it just means that you’re working towards it today. If you want to write, you write, if you want to travel, you plan. Like my motto says: If you’re deciding on the right time to work towards your goals or change careers, the right time to take that next trip, the best time to write that book — the answer is today. Don’t wait. I know others have published water tower books, and anyone can go out there and see them standing beautifully in the distance against the sky, but the photographs you see won’t be my dad’s – and that’s why I’ve changed my way of thinking – don’t do it one day or someday. Do it today.