By Craig Alley
Tourist Must Sees (landmarks, parks, etc.)
Tip from a local: If you live in Asheville then you drink beer, wear Chacos, have a beard, eat healthy, have a nose ring, tattoos, tye dye skirts, free the nipple, white people with dreads and seem to love everything around you even though it’s probably just the psychedelics talking. If you are visiting Asheville you are safe.
Best way to get around:
Uber/Lyft is huge in Asheville. Driving is only difficult during rush hour.
Biking is best on River Distract and Blue Ridge Parkway
Why should people visit your city?
Asheville, NC is already known to be a tourist trap on the east coast with attractions such as The Biltmore and driving/hiking the serene Blue Ridge Parkway. However, Asheville isn’t all looks and no talk. What attracts people to this city time and time again is how even if you are just a tourist, you could never feel more at home. The locals know hospitality, and they know how to make their city and business open as if it’s yours. It could just be the southern charm, but Asheville is filled with the most accepting/open people who enjoy meeting new friends and sharing their journey with others.
Asheville also offers a tremendous variety of different local restaurants, cafes, and breweries suited to what you are in the mood for. You can be as upscale, or penny pinching as you want to be and still get amazing food, service, and ambiance. Asheville connects with all ages, races, genders, and personalities inevitably making you feel like you’re right at home.
Swimming in swimming holes or in waterfalls during the summer. Looking Glass Falls is most popular place to swim.
What’s the next best excuse for a quick trip? A destination bachelorette party (which is all the rage now)! So what’s a hot spot to take your best friends & celebrate your singledom for the last time? If you’re looking for a cute city, warm weather and to not be surrounded by 1,000 other bridal parties -looking at you Nashville-Charleston, SC is the perfect place for a weekend getaway.
Whether you’re a shopper or into hitting up iconic landmarks, Charleston has a lot to see & do to fill up a bachelorette weekend:
Definitely put Charleston on your list of potential picks for a destination bachelorette party- it’s the perfect reason to travel, drink, eat and hang with your “bride tribe.” Cheers!
When I booked my trip to San Francisco, I mostly chose it because I had a great voucher from Alaska Airlines (can we say Midwest to West Coast for $30 rt?!) I'd never really thought much about going to San Francisco, and I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Growing up, I saw San Francisco as the home of Full House, but more recently, it seems that San Francisco is on the news more for its growing homeless population. So after exploring the city (and the surrounding area) for a few days here is my take and some recommendations.
Best Day Trips from SF:
Napa: With wine country only about an hour away from the city, it's well worth a short drive up to experience the beauty of the area and try some of the delicious wine. I was a bit afraid that a wine tasting at a vineyard would break the bank, or that I'd be surrounded by nothing but middle-aged tour groups, but I was pleasantly surprised that many vineyards offer wine tastings for as low as $20-30 (for about 6 wines).
The views were astounding, and the wineries were filled with people of all ages (and most are dog friendly). TIP: Book early to get a seat outside or ensure a spot at the wine tastings. I went to the Gundlach Bundschu Winery in Sonoma, which is one of the only places I found that welcomed walk-ins.
A1 Roadtrip: If you have a few extra days, I highly recommend taking a road trip down the coast highway. Book a hotel or Airbnb in Monterrey and enjoy the beautiful coast town. If you don't mind some winding roads to get to some beautiful views, keep driving south towards Carmel-by-the-sea and Big Sur.
Best Area to Stay:
In all honesty, there is a huge homeless problem in SF, and certain areas are a bit more dicey and just plain dirty. When booking a place to stay, do your research. I'd recommend staying closer to Union Square or the Water, which seems to be much cleaner. The first night I stayed in a hostel in "The Tenderloin" where I honestly didn't feel comfortable leaving after dark. I moved to a hostel just a few blocks away the next night: The HI hostel Downtown, which felt a lot cleaner and safer (especially since they had a security guard posted outside for most of the night).
Free Things to Do:
One of my favorite parts of SF was that there are tons of things to do and see that cost nothing, which is great because food is crazy expensive in the city. TIP: If you want to get your workout in and don't mind some walking, you can save tons of money on transportation by just walking from place to place.
Day 1: Start in Union Square. This is mostly just an area with lots of fancy shops, so take your time window shopping or just people watch as you walk through it. Then make your way up to Chinatown. Once you walk through the gate, you'll feel like you've been transported to a Chinese market. Small shops and restaurants line the streets, and even the street signs start being translated into Chinese characters. If you just keep walking, you'll soon jump from China to Italy (in only a few blocks!). Head up towards North Beach for some delicious Italian restaurants.
After about 2.5 miles total of walking straight, you'll arrive at Fisherman's Wharf. Take in some street performers, then head to Pier 39 for some sea lions, shopping and a bite to eat. Finish your self-guided walking tour by walking down the Embarcadero to the Ferry Building. If you're not tired at this point, then keep going, but my feet could only take so much, and I decided to call it quits for the day.
Day 2: I was feeling pretty ambitious (and a bit guilty for all the food I'd been eating), so I decided to walk all the way from Union Square to the Golden Gate Bridge. BEWARE: This is about 5-6 miles of walking and includes some pretty steep hills (let me tell you - my legs hate me today). If you head up to the water, you can enjoy some beautiful views as you walk. Take a pit stop in Ghiradelli Square for some ice cream or chocolate and make your way down the street to the Hyde Street Pier. Catch an Uber to Alamo Square and check out the iconic Painted Ladies from Full House.
Even though San Francisco wasn't my absolute favorite city, the surrounding areas are beautiful, and San Francisco has its own kind of charm that's definitely worth checking out. Pack your hiking shoes and get ready to walk.
Everyone has their favorite "bar scene." Some like to dance all night, while others like to kick back with a craft beer and listen to live music. One of the highlights of being back in my hometown of Grand Rapids is discovering all of its downtown bars. While GR is now known as "Beer City," I'm happy to report that its nightlife is on the rise. Below are the bars my friends hit up on the weekends that are great spots to meet young people, bar hop, plan a bachelorette party or rediscover GR.
Is the new place to chill, try a craft beer or two and listen to live music. Its huge outdoor patio and fire pits make it a great hangout spot in the summer. If you're looking for a casual and spacious area to sip a drink or kick off your night downtown, this is the place to go.
Tues: Open Mic Night starting at 8 p.m.
Thurs & Sat: Live music acts (start times and cover charges vary)
GR's famous Big Old Building is a staple for a night out because it hosts seven different venues that offer everything from karaoke to breweries to a nightclub. Its location is also a major plus: right in the heart of downtown by Van Andel Arena.
Cellar:BOB'S BREWERY-Microbrewery with craft beers that features live music and karaoke every weekend. There's usually a younger/college crowd here and fun bar games like giant jenga, cornhole and ping pong.
1st Floor: H.O.M.E-Newest live music venue known for its bourbon bar.
2nd Floor: BOBARINOS-Traditional bar vibe with pool tables, great pizza and live music on Fri & Sat.
4th Floor: EVE-A posh nightclub only open on Fri from 11 p.m.-2 a.m. and until 3 a.m. on Sat. It's an additional $5 cover for guys.
-It's a general $5 cover to get in the building, which includes all venues, but women get in free on Friday.
It's pretty hard to miss the painted rainbow skulls on the outside of my favorite bar in GR. Lucky for you, the eclectic decor doesn't stop on the outside-the bar is covered in graffiti, creepy dolls, and strange knickknacks; old cartoons play on the TV screens and there are even retro arcade games if you're not feeling the bar scene. There's a dance floor and bar downstairs, but be warned that it gets incredibly toasty. I'm never disappointed by the crowd Stella's draws and always have a good time here.
Mon: "The Drunken Retort"-spoken word, comedy and acoustic performances at 8 p.m.
-Stella's is known for its burgers & over 250 kinds of Whiskey
-Its new patio space just opened!
-What I love about Mojo's is how it's like two bars in one. The bottom floor is all about the dueling pianos-where you can hear some of your favorite songs played by the live band. It's a fun time because the band is really interactive with the crowd and you'll be singing along with all the songs that were played at your High School prom. On the 2nd floor, there's another bar, dance floor and great DJ playing today's hits (his playlist is always on point).
Wed: get in for free with a college ID
$3 cover. Dueling pianos happen on Wed & Thurs at 9 p.m., Fri at 8 p.m. and Sat at 7 p.m.
Dance floor is open on Wed, Fri and Sat at 9 p.m.
While most college grads celebrate their graduation with a party, my family likes to be unconventional. Since my Omi and cousin were coming from Germany, my dad used their visit as the perfect excuse to plan a road trip through Kentucky and Tennessee. It was like a scene out of a Chevy Chase movie: the entire Muehlbauer clan packed into a minivan and jamming out to country music as we made our way through the Smoky Mountains.
1st stop-Lexington, KY
It’s unintentionally (or intentionally, depending on how you look at it) become a theme in our family to try the native alcohol of each place we visit; so naturally we made a pit stop along the bourbon trail to taste Kentucky’s famous whiskey. Woodford Reserve did not disappoint. The distillery was surrounded by fields of potential race champions and offered a historic tour on how Kentucky bourbon came to be.
Fun fact: The minerals in the state’s water source are proven to produce stronger muscles in horses and is what gives the bourbon its edge. My family had a blast touring the property and taking part in a tasting. It’s no surprise that we left with too many alcoholic souvenirs (try the bourbon balls!)
2nd Stop-Pigeon Forge, TN
Driving into Pigeon Forge, the first two words that popped into my head were “cartoon” and “Vegas.” Just like in Sin City, there is a long strip of businesses with colorful lights, gaudy buildings and ads for unusual attractions (like an upside down house). But everything had a very whimsical and cartoonish vibe. We stayed on the “island” which was like a resort in itself. The Margaritaville hotel overlooked a village-like cluster of shops, restaurants and a ferris wheel.
On our first night, my dad, cousin and Omi discovered “Ole Smoky”-a moonshine distillery-on the Island. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to witness my 78-year-old grandma shoot back 13 different flavors of moonshine, but my family must’ve made an impression because the employees recognized them all when we did the tasting again the next day. We *shockingly* left the store with another armful of souvenirs (my favorites are the coffee and margarita flavors).
If we hadn’t put my poor grandmother through enough, we decided to check out a haunted house called “Outbreak-Dread the Undead” along the strip. Was it the smartest idea to take Omi and mom (who screams at anything and everything) through the ‘zombie apocalypse?” No. Was it entertaining? Absolutely. I can still picture all of us shuffling forward on the lookout for zombies while my mom screamed directly in my ear. It was by far one of our most memorable moments. Poor Omi had to chill on a bench, her heart was pounding so fast....
Last summer, some friends and I decided to celebrate our last summer at home before graduating with a weeklong road trip to the East Coast. We hit Pinterest for a little inspiration, packed our bags and some snacks, and loaded ourselves into our second home for the next week.
After 5 hours in the car, we rolled into Nashville. Let me tell you something, you have not felt sweltering heat and humidity until you have traveled south in August. We peeled ourselves off the seats and got ready to do a little exploring.
So we did what all good tourists do when heading to Nashville – we hit Broadway. We got some good home cookin’ at Jack’s BBQ and my goodness was it good – We walked up and down the main strip for as long as we could handle the heat, and then made our way back to our hotel, which was only about a 5-minute drive from Broadway.
Normally I would look for a hostel, but with 3 of us splitting the cost, it really wasn’t too expensive (For a cheaper option, we stayed at the music city hostel on another trip). That night we did dinner at Acme Farm Supply’s rooftop bar. We got some pulled pork nachos (another southern must try) and watched the sunset over the river with a drink in hand. Is there really a better way to end a night?
...With a little food in us, we were ready to check out Nashville’s famous live music and bars, so we went to Tootsie’s, Honky Tonk Central, and Tequila Cowboy. The live music is amazing at every bar (and every street corner) and there’s usually a different band on every level of the bar, so if you get tired of one, go upstairs and check out another. There were no cover fees, so we could just bar hop whenever we got tired of one place. Having no cover does mean that sometimes the bars get a little crowded, but hey, you can’t have everything....
I had never been to California, so when I got the opportunity to go for a weekend, I took it. I made the cross-country flight and a few hours later I found myself stepping off the plane at LAX (with a dream and my cardigan….). I met up with a friend, and the rest of the day was spent in L.A. My night in the city was spent exploring a little bit of downtown. If you make it to downtown L.A, make sure to look for a place to eat outside. We found quite a few and managed to get some really tasty pizza and a prime seat to watch the DJ and dancing going on; it was dinner with free entertainment.
The next day, we made our way to Disneyland, and I think that I might have had more fun at 20 than I did when I was little. I’m not sure if Disney stepped up their game, or I just appreciate things that I didn’t as a kid, but the parades and rides were really fun. We ended the day with the fireworks show ( a must-do if you make it to Disney)
Now that I’m an adult and paying for things myself, I will say that Disney is incredibly expensive. But if you’re only doing it for a day, I think it’s doable, and definitely worth looking into. Oh and did I mention that this trip included at least a meal a day at In N’ Out? Seriously those burgers are the best thing I’ve tasted. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it......
Once we were done checking out Vancouver, we made our way back across the border to Seattle for the last 5 days of our trip. The drive down was only a couple hours, and I’d never seen real mountains before this trip, so the scenery was pretty incredible.
Seattle, like Vancouver, was a nice break for the heatwave we’ve been having in the Midwest for the last few weeks and another city I was excited to explore. This time we rented an apartment with Airbnb, which was actually a lot cheaper than a hotel and gave us a lot more space (if you’ve never used airbnb, definitely check it out and use this link for a discount www.airbnb.com/c/carolinez207).
Seattle is another bustling city full of cute little neighborhoods that have so much personality and plenty of shopping and restaurants to choose from.
1) Marysville Outlets - the outlets were actually really great for travel lovers. If you’re like me and getting ready for a trip, this is perfect because they have shops like Eddie Bauer, Columbia, and North Face, and with most of the stores being discounted, it made for a great way to prepare for my trip to Europe.
2) Seattle is the home to so many flagship stores including Starbucks, Nordstrom, and REI. REI is home to the giant rock climbing wall - be warned that before you climb, you have to take a class, so it’s not really easily accessible.
3) University Village - this was recommended to us by a local and is pretty much a big outdoor mall. It has the first Amazon brick and mortar store, a bookstore, which was really fun to look around. We grabbed some lunch and found what is apparently the only ice cream shop in Seattle because 1. I saw no others and 2. The line was 50 people long.
This past week, my family and I took a vacation to the West Coast before my sister heads off to college and I head to Europe. Like any family vacation, it had its highlights and a few challenges (I'm sure you know what I mean). Unfortunately, our 7 p.m. flight was delayed until 11 a.m. the next morning due to some technical difficulties, so we only had two days to see Vancouver. Here are a few of the must dos:
We stayed at a hotel on Hornby, right in the heart of downtown, which was great because most things were in walking distance. There were plenty of shops and restaurants to choose from:
1) Robson Street - the main shopping strip was only a few streets over. It was also just a few blocks to the water's edge, which was definitely worth a walk down to see the sunset.
2) Gastown - this fun, hip neighborhood had tons of boutiques and restaurants that would definitely appeal to a young adult crowd. If I had more time, I would have spent some more time walking around this area and maybe grabbed a drink and bite to eat.
3) Granville Island reminded me a lot of the Rastro in Madrid - you walk inside and there's hundreds of booths and counters set up. You can get anything from fresh bread, fruit, and flowers to paintings, purses and magnets. Go around lunch and grab some fresh food from one of the many vendors and enjoy it by the water (beware of giant seagulls though).
4) Stanley Park was really beautiful with some totem poles and a nice trail right next to the harbor. We only walked for about 20 minutes, but you could easily spend an hour or two walking around the park....