HOW TO SPEND A LONG WEEKEND IN CAMBRIDGE

Originally published by Mary at the Calculated Traveler on May 27, 2017

A trip to Cambridge, Massachusetts, is a journey through history, art galleries, museums, and higher learning. Throw in some shopping and some good eats, and you have the perfect long weekend getaway.

GET EDUCATED AT HARVARD UNIVERSITY

How to Spend a Long Weekend in Cambridge - Harvard University

Image via Flickr by Michael HicksNo trip to Cambridge is complete without a visit to Harvard University — the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Famous alumni of this prestigious university include John F. Kennedy, Barak Obama, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates. Tours, both guided and self-guided, are available. You can choose among a number of Cambridge hotels that will keep you close to the sights and attractions you enjoy.

Harvard Square Hotel is conveniently located three blocks from the University. With a hotel this close, you can pretend you’re an Ivy League student living on campus but without having to share a dorm room. While you are playing student, strolling through Harvard Yard, check out the rare books at Houghton Library, find some culture at the Harvard Art Museum, stop into the COOP for some Harvard U souvenirs, and grab a bite at Mr Bartley’s Burgers.

GET CREATIVE AT THE RAY AND MARIA STATA CENTER AT MIT

How to Spend a Long Weekend in Cambridge - Ray and Maria Stata Center at MIT

Image via Flickr by Tony WebsterHome to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, the contemporary, deconstructivist style of the Frank Gehry-designed Ray and Maria Stata Center contrast the traditional architecture of the buildings of Harvard. The unique exterior and interior design has received much criticism — positive and negative — so form your own opinion while you’re there. This isn’t the only place to find creativity on campus; MIT is home to some fabulous art galleries as well as many outdoor art installations to fill your Instagram feed.

How to Spend a Long Weekend in Cambridge - Kendall Square

Image via Flickr by SoeLinWhether staying in a historic or a contemporary hotel near MIT, you can be in the middle of all the action at hotels near Kendall Square. This 10-acre redevelopment includes restaurants, shopping, 2.5 acres of open space, an outdoor concert venue, a farmers market, and canoe/kayak rentals by the river. Where to eat? Why not pack a picnic or enjoy an outdoor patio meal?

HAVE A 3-D EXPERIENCE AT THE MIT MUSEUM

How to Spend a Long Weekend in Cambridge - Hologram Collection MIT Museum

Image via Flickr by A.M. KuchlingWelcoming over 130,000 visitors each year with a collection of over 1 million objects that explore the concept of idea-innovation-invention, the MIT Museum archives the history of the MIT and holds the largest collection of holograms in the world.

Should you wish to consider hotels near the MIT Museum, Le Meridien Cambridge-MIT is one example that’s a few blocks away, next to University Park Common. When it comes time to eat, I’ve heard great things about Craigie on Main, the James Beard award-winning French bistro run by Chef Tony Maws. Alongside its regular menu, Craigie on Main also offers five-course tasting menus as well as brunch on Sunday.

BOSTON IS ACROSS THE RIVER!

How to Spend a Long Weekend in Cambridge - Davis Square

Image via Flickr by spi516

Cambridge sights are plentiful, but Boston is across the Charles River should you wish to explore further. Davis Square is a great neighborhood to call your home away from home since it’s midway between both cities, and you can find a good variety of Davis Square Hotels.

I HOPE YOU’VE ENJOYED THIS WEEKEND GETAWAY THROUGH CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS! DID I MISS ANYTHING?

Featured Image (top) via Flickr by Tony Webster

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How to Spend a Weekend in Charlotte

Originally published by Andi of The Misadventures of Andi on April 28, 2017.

Disclosure: This post was created in collaboration with Hotel Planner. As always, all experiences and opinions are my own.

The South is steeped in history that spans much more than Southern belles, debutante balls, or Sunday barbecues with smoked meats and crawfish boils. In the past decade, there’s been a revival of the Old South with a new spin, particularly when it comes to the food scene.

Many local chefs are going back to their roots and celebrating Southern cuisine with long forgotten ingredients and menu items. These chefs are also evolving the culinary history of the South by drawing on newer immigrant cultures. It’s this mixing of the Old South with the new that makes a weekend in Charlotte a must.

Weekend in Charlotte

Image via Flickr by James Willamor.

Charlotte is smaller than a lot of other Southern cities, so it’s easier to navigate and enjoy in just a few days. Plus, she’s definitely one of the prettiest belles at the ball. In fact, she’s the queen.

Since a weekend isn’t a whole lot of time, I’m focusing on Uptown in the central part of the city. But you can find lots to do, see, eat and drink all over Charlotte. There are no rules to say you can’t do more!

A Weekend in Charlotte near the City Center/Uptown

Weekend in Charlotte

Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. Image via Flickr by James Willamor.

This section of Charlotte is densely packed with lots to do. I highly recommend doing as much walking as possible. Burn those calories while visiting a museum, doing a walking tour, or shopping. Then you won’t feel so guilty when you order dessert! Whether you decide to make your home base at a hotel near the city center or close to Discovery Place, you’ll find a plethora of possibilities.

North Carolina’s oldest art museum, the Mint Museum, is right at your doorstep. There are local and internationally renowned artists; Chihuly’s “Royal Blue Mint Chandelier,” and a focus on fine crafts such as glass, pottery, wood, and jewelry. Right next door, you’ll find the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. The museum’s architecture is stunning, and it’s home to works from major artists like Picasso and Warhol. Plus, if your weekend starts on the first Friday of the month, you can catch one of two jazz shows.

Got the kids with you for your weekend in Charlotte? Don’t miss taking them to Discovery Place, an interactive museum for kids focused on science and technology. The museum also has a really cool Genghis Khan exhibit that is not to be missed. The museum is actually a whole lot of fun without the kids, too!

To get a thorough understanding of Southern life and culture, visit the Levine Museum of the New South. Afterward, you can check out the local food scene by exploring the Seventh Street Public Market. Shopping and eating in this famous market helps support the food culture of the Carolinas and promotes local and regional farmers, food artisans, and entrepreneurs. Here, you’re not just eating; you’re contributing, too.

I always enjoy walking tours when I’m visiting a new city, especially if they’re food tours. If you’re also fascinated by local food culture, I highly recommend a tour from Tour de Food or Feast Food Tours, two companies hosting culinary escapades in Uptown. Not only will you learn a thing or two, but you won’t go hungry, either.

Weekend in Charlotte Eating

Image via Flickr by James Willamor.

My picks for food in the Uptown area:

Breakfast and Brunch

  • Amelie’s French Bakery (380 S College St.): Enjoy a casual breakfast with delicious pastries and a damn good croissant.
  • The Asbury (235 N. Tryon St.): Don’t miss the deviled eggs with fried cornichons. This is a great spot for dinner, too.

Lunch

  • The King’s Kitchen (129 W. Trade St.): This spot serves farm-centric Southern comfort food, and every penny of profit goes to feed the poor.
  • Mert’s Heart & Soul (214 N College St.): This spot is home to very good salmon cakes.
  • Chili Man (101-139 S Tryon St.): Get the Life Changer from this food cart owned by Vic.
  • Papi Queso Streatery (6th/Tryon St.): Catch this food truck on Fridays and grab the signature grilled cheese sandwich.

Cocktails

  • 204 North Kitchen and Cocktails (204 N Tryon St.): Stop here for pre-dinner cocktails.

Dinner

  • Rooster’s Wood-fired Kitchen (150 N College St.): Don’t miss the duck dishes or the excellent mac and cheese.
  • Sea Level NC (129 E 5th St.): Dig into sustainable seafood and Carolina oysters in a classy atmosphere.
  • 5Church (127 N. Tryon St.): Try the Rosemary Gin Fizz at this hip steakhouse.
  • McNinch House (511 N. Church St.): Enjoy this formal dining restaurant with top-of-the-line service.

Dessert

  • Crave Dessert Bar (500 W 5th St. #120): Save room for dessert or an after dinner drink at this sweet spot.

Weekend Sports Trips

Weekend in Charlotte Bank of America Stadium

Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. Image via Flickr by James Willamor.

Charlotte is a big sports town. If you visit for a weekend to catch the Charlotte Hornets at Spectrum Center, you’ll find plenty of hotels nearby and these great eats:

  • Sunflour Baking Company (2001 East Seventh Street): Amazing bagels and lox
  • Midwood Smokehouse’s (1401 Central Avenue): Carolina barbecue
  • Mert’s Heart & Soul (214 North College Street): Southern soul food and Lowcountry dishes

If you visit Charlotte for a Carolina Panthers game at Bank of America Stadium, stay at a hotel nearby and fill up on these pre-game treats:

  • Price’s Chicken Coop (1614 Camden Road): Carry this institution’s signature take-out dish to the game with you.
  • Pinky’s Westside Grill (1600 West Morehead Street): Don’t miss the iconic White Trash Burger.
  • Seoul Food Meat Company (1400 South Church Street): Get your chicken wings Korean style.

Weekend in Charlotte for the Family

Weekend in Charlotte Charlotte Nature Museum

The butterfly garden at Discovery Place Nature. Image via Flickr by That Guy DouG.

A great spot to take the kids on a family weekend is Discovery Place Nature, formerly known as the Charlotte Nature Museum. It’s an oasis for children and adults to learn more about local wildlife. There’s a butterfly garden, hands-on animal experiences, and a nature trail to Freedom Park, where you can enjoy a family picnic.

Here are some family-friendly spots for food:

  • Duck Donuts (1710 Kenilworth Avenue): Don’t miss these donuts!
  • Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar (1626 East Boulevard): The kids will love the name, and you’ll love the burgers.
  • JJ’s Red Hots (1514 East Boulevard): Enjoy classic hotdogs in a retro environment.

Once everyone’s belly is full, make sure it’s only a short walk to the hotel to take a nap.

How’s that for options? The Queen City rules when it comes to an action-packed, food-filled weekend. How about you? Have you visited Charlotte? What would you add to my weekend plans?

About Andi Fisher

I’m a lifestyle blogger focused on travel and food. A marketing gal who gave up my job to travel around the United States in an RV with my hubby. I’m now settling into the Portland area where I’m looking for my next career adventure! I love to travel via my stomach. Eating, seeking out local artisans and features to share. I’ve got more than 26 years of experience in marketing focused on content, social media, and direct marketing and I’ve mentored many bloggers, old and new.

HOW TO PLAN THE BEST TRIP TO PHOENIX, ARIZONA

How to Plan the Best Trip to Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix, also known as the Valley of the Sun, provides sunshine almost every day of the year. And while it has remained on the list of must-visit cities in the U.S., something has shifted as of late. The city is gaining visitor momentum with its up-and-coming arts scene, gastronomic greatness, and its stunning desert and mountain scenery. If you’re intrigued, here’s how to plan the best trip to Phoenix, Arizona.

When to Go to Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix offers extreme temperatures ranging from 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 40 degrees Celsius, in the summer months to freezing in the winter. So it’s best to go in the in-between months in spring and fall to enjoy the Valley of the Sun at its best. When you’re ready to plan your trip, check out this Phoenix hotel planning guide to book the perfect hotel for your needs.

Soak in the Culture and Gastronomy

Capitol Building Phoenix, Arizona

Image via Flickr by Gage Skidmore

Culturally, Phoenix can really stand out with its many museums, theaters, music venues, opera, and symphony. Some of the state’s best museums lie here and feature a number of themes. I recommend The Heard Museum, the Arizona Science Center, the Phoenix Art Museum, and the Museum of Musical Instruments. You can also take a stroll through Bentley Projects, a downtown warehouse district full of art galleries.

Dining Phoenix, Arizona

Image via Flickr by Alan Light

After fueling with the complimentary breakfast at your hotel, feel free to work up an appetite during the day to give way to delicious food. Given the proximity to Mexico, you’ll find outstanding south-of-the-border inspired cuisine.

At the Phoenix Ranch Market, you’ll find freshly made tortillas, refreshing aguas frescas, and mouth-watering tres leches cake. Phoenix also has other international flavours, including French, Korean, and other Latin American cuisines.

Stay Cool

Pool Phoenix, Arizona

Image via Flickr by mirage1210

As mentioned, Phoenix can get pretty hot, but there are several ways to stay cool. Many hotels have pools where you can soak, refresh, and lounge with the family. You can also take them to the several water parks around the city. If water isn’t your thing, you’ll find air conditioning across buildings in Phoenix. So feel free to satisfy your shopping needs at the many malls and chic boutiques.

Witness Stunning Natural Beauty

Hiking Camelback Mountain Phoenix, Arizona

Image via Flickr by ThreeIfByBike

Possibly one of Phoenix’s best feature is its majestic desert landscape with breathtaking sunsets and plenty of outdoor activities. Nature enthusiasts will enjoy hiking and biking up Camelback Mountain, where you can view the city from above. If you want to bring your furry friend on your hiking adventure, there are many pet-friendly hotels in Phoenix, too.

There are also many green areas around the city, like the South Mountain and Squaw Pearl parks. You can also go horseback riding through the splendor of the desert and enjoy the vast array of colours during sunset.

Now you have all the best tips for arts and culture, gastronomy, staying cool, and outdoor adventure to visit Phoenix, Arizona. Do you have any other tips or recommendations?

(Featured image via Flickr by midiman)

Originally published by Mani at A New Life Wandering on 3 April, 2017

Enjoying the Diversity of Charlotte

Written in cooperation with Hotel Planner.

For many, when they hear the mention of Charlotte, North Carolina, the first thing that comes to mind is NASCAR. Long the hub of the racing industry, Charlotte boasts the amazing NASCAR Hall of Fame museum along with Charlotte Motor Speedway.

However, this landlocked city has much more to offer than merely car racing. From family fun to civil war history and bountiful gardens, Charlotte has so much to offer. And with a huge selection of lodging choices at your fingertips, booking a vacation has never been easier.

Family Fun in the Sun

What can be more fun than a day spent at an amusement park that also doubles as a water park? Carolina Harbor Waterpark is part of the 398-acre Carowinds amusement park, hugging the border of North and South Carolina. Enjoy fun for the entire family as you ride the rides, wander the grounds, and then cool off in a variety of different water park features that range from kiddie wading pools to tidal waves for the big kid in all of us.

image via Flickr by jamesnaruke

Exploring the Past

Civil War history ranks high among things of interest for travelers to the south. This tumultuous period in our country’s history continues to intrigue. Charlotte offers up one very unique addition to the mix in the Levine Museum. This colorful, interactive museum focuses on the history of the south post-Civil War, both in general and specific to Charlotte and the Carolina Piedmont region.

Get out Into Nature

Set on the banks of Lake Wylie, the 380-acre Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens are a delight. The spectacular gardens feature multiple fountains and a glass conservatory. With miles of trails to wander, you can take your time to look at each unique section of the property, such as the Four Seasons, the Cottage, or the Scroll garden. A grand finale might be the 8000 square foot orchid conservatory, which is the only glass house in North Carolina.

image via Flickr by erh7777

A Modern Touch

When you’re done with the great outdoors and exploring the past, head to the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. This delightful museum, only the second in the country designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta, is housed in a building as impressive as the artwork that it contains. The collection includes works by all the important artists of the mid-20th century, including Miro, Picasso, and Warhol. It is a breathtaking example of the power of art.

Discovery

Young and old alike will be thrilled to check out the Discovery Place Museum and IMAX. This science and technology museum offers up an interactive, hands-on approach to learning. With several locations and over 70 years of encouraging learning, Discovery Place is a fantastic option for the whole family.

Overall, the Charlotte area offers up everything you look for in a vacation: hotel options, great food, southern hospitality, and sightseeing that includes everything listed here and more. Outdoor activities abound, including hiking and white water rafting. Plus, in the end, you can always check out the NASCAR scene!

San Francisco Revisited: Five Spots You Never Knew Existed

Written in cooperation with Hotel Planner.

The city of San Francisco is by no means undiscovered territory. One of the most loved and visited cities in the nation, the City by the Bay is a perennial favorite. Everyone is aware of major attractions like Alcatraz Island, Embarcadero Wharf, San Francisco’s sourdough, and Lombard Street’s famous curves, but here are five of my favorite little-known sites that you shouldn’t miss on your next visit.

Visit the South Pacific

Image via Flickr by Doug Letterman

Recreate the exoticism of the South Pacific with a visit to the Tonga Room. Fans of Jimmy Buffett will recognize the name, but others may have missed this explosion of bamboo, seashells, and tiki figurines. During World War II, tiki bars opened all across the country, with San Francisco jumping on the trend relatively early. While it’s now considered a bit kitschy, the Tonga Lounge, which opened in the luxurious Fairmont hotel in 1945, was once the place to be seen. Even today, the pool in the center of the restaurant, where the band plays, is a unique feature.

Sleep Like Royalty

When you visit the Tonga Room in the Fairmont Hotel, ask to take a peek at the hotel’s luxurious penthouse suite. Spanning a staggering 6,000 square feet and costing a whopping $18,000 per night, this suite has housed the likes of Prince Charles, Mick Jagger, and Alfred Hitchcock. It features a two-story library, a cornucopia of design styles, and a dining table that seats 60. One of its main claims to fame is the secret passageway that John F. Kennedy supposedly used to allow Marilyn Monroe to enter.

Step into the Sunset District

Image via Flickr by Ed Bierman

Located in the quiet and relatively undiscovered Sunset District, the 163 mosaic-tiled steps are worth the effort to climb. Completed over the course of two years, the gorgeous steps lead to beautiful views of the city. They also pave the way to the neighboring Green Hairstreak corridor, along with the beautiful succulents and native habitat designed to sustain the local butterfly population.

Slide in the Park

Image via Flickr by jdeeringdavis

The Seward Street Slides are a perfect example of community activism and protecting green spaces. In the 1960s, this area was slated for development, prompting local residents got together to protest with an epic bulldozer-defying sit-in. After nearly a decade of protests, the community won their lot back and turned it into a city park, which opened in the early 1970s. A local teenager designed the Seward Street Slides to encourage enjoyment of the park by young and old. Bring your own cardboard along for this unique experience.

Remember the Dearly Departed

In San Francisco, the most interesting cemetery revolves around furry family members. When military families resided at the Presidio, this cemetery was created as a final resting place for their beloved pets. Tombstones show that the array of species includes dogs, cats, goldfish, birds, and even lizards. Local development nearly caused the demise of the pet cemetery in 2009, but community activists managed to save it from complete destruction. It’s a fitting tribute to beloved pets.

San Francisco will always draw visitors to explore its most popular tourist attractions. Next time you visit, take a minute to head to these lesser-known gems.