Visiting every National Park in America has been a huge bucket list item of mine for years. Each National Park provides a great opportunity to learn the history and culture of the United States. The National Park Service (NPS) works to preserve important historic sites around the country for the enjoyment of future generations to come. To help preserve our beautiful historic parks, remember to practice the ‘Leave No Trace Principles’. Help ensure the protection and preservation of the precious lands and environment within these parks entrusted to us as visitors.
The month of May has been absolutely insane for me. For starters, it’s my 30th birthday month (HUGE, I know). For whatever reason, turning 30 always scared the hell out of me. I even came up with a 30 Before 30 List of things I wanted to accomplish before the big day (I did pretty awesome).
I spent a good portion of the last 6 weeks (End of April- May) living out of either a suitcase or a backpack. Sleeping in tents, hotels, airports, and cabins. Traveling back and forth across the country….twice. First time by plane, second time was by plane AND moving truck. I explored my first European country. Then before I beat the jet lag, I took another road trip over Memorial Day weekend. This time across my home state of Michigan. So this all translates to: I’ve had absolutely no time to write about each of the adventures individually (which I intend on doing).
Meanwhile- I came to the realization that the last 6 weeks was one giant adventure, made up of back to back mini adventures! Here’s a recap, with a super awesome picture from 10 places I visited this spring.
Los Angeles, CA
I started out in LA for work the last week of April- and it’s been a giant blur since.
I was home for 48 hours after I got home from LA, in which time I attended a baby shower, and a birthday party. Then it was off to Chicago, where I stayed for less than 24 hours to start the next mini adventure.
Badlands National Park, SD
We left Chicago EARLY, and started the long drive across the country to Seattle. We drove through four states before we made it to our first stop.
We were in South Dakota after 12 hours (not including stops). Arriving at night- we set up camp and spent the night at a campground inside the park. Check out my full post on Badlands National Park for more details!
Mount Rushmore National Monument, SD
The drive from Badlands to Mount Rushmore was only about an hour or so. The stop helped break up the long drive we still had ahead of us- and it was pretty cool to see the National Monument I never in a million years anticipated I’d see.
Grand Teton National Park, WY
We drove another 8 hours into the state of Wyoming. I really struggled choosing just one picture for these next two stops. Grand Teton National Park was incredible. We spent a day exploring the park and fell in love with the snow-covered peaks. We crashed at a hostel inside the park (no campgrounds were open this early in the season).
Yellowstone National Park, WY
We camped for the next two nights in the colorful world of Yellowstone. Only the west half of the park was open during our time there. Thankfully the Grand Prismatic spring was accessible (I had pre-warned Grace I might lose my shit if I missed it).
The last 12 hours of our trip from Yellowstone to Seattle took us through 3 more states (Montana, Idaho, Washington). When we finally arrived in Seattle, I had 24 hours there before my flight home. Check out my post on The Perfect Weekend in Seattle for more details on this amazing city.
After being on the road for a week, I was looking forward to coming home for a few days. I was going to be home for FIVE WHOLE DAYS before we left on the next trip. Check out my post on The Perfect Weekend in Detroit for a local’s guide on my favorite city.
The entire week, Logan and I planned on leaving for Iceland Saturday night (the day before Mother’s Day). We made plans with our families, put off laundry and packing (we had all day Saturday after all) and figured we’d get through the work week and worry about everything Iceland on Saturday.
Friday night I double checked our tickets and realized, our flight actually departs at 12:30 THAT NIGHT! We now had 4 hours to drop off the dogs/do laundry/clean the apartment/pack our bags/get to the airport…
I planned my Iceland trip almost 5 years ago. It was always the #1 spot on my list of places I wanted to go- I just never seemed to make it there. Well after 5 years of waiting… I finally made it! My favorite travel crew and I set off on a week long road trip around the country that ended with my 30th birthday hike to the bluest waterfall I’d ever seen.
“Up North”, MI
We got home from Iceland exhausted and jet lagged. At this point the constant traveling was beginning to catch up with me. I’d been in so many different time zones the last couple weeks, I had no idea what day it was, what time zone I was in, or if I should be awake or sleeping (Iceland never got fully dark at night, so our sleeping schedules were all sorts of messed up.)
After spending a few days at home recovering and starting to sort our life back out, next thing we knew- the week was over, and it was Memorial Day weekend.
I spent my Memorial Day weekend with Logan and the fur babies “up north” in the U.P. (Upper Peninsula, MI) We spent time relaxing at our camp site, grilling, and playing tourist in our own state. We stayed at Indian Lake State Campground which was only 15 minutes from Kitch-iti-Kipi, and an hour from Pictured Rocks National Lake shore.
6 Must Try “Michigan Foods”
The holiday season is my favorite time of year. My friends come home to Michigan from all over the country, work shuts down for a weeklong vacation, and I get to spend my afternoons brunching with my girlfriends instead of sitting in meetings. When my friends come home I always ask them– where do you want to go? what are you craving? Almost immediately the response includes something or somewhere only Michigan can provide.
Here’s the “Michigan Foods” you must try if you’re visiting the Great Lakes State!
Cider & Donuts
Growing up in Michigan meant going to cider mills in the fall. Cider mills meant melt in your mouth delicious cinnamon sugar covered donuts and crisp apple cider to wash it down. The cider mills used to only be open during the fall- but as popularity of the cider donut combo grew- the hours of some of the larger mills extended into the other seasons. There are so many cider mills within driving distance of Detroit- if you’re in Michigan, this is one treat you don’t want to miss. (Click Here to find a cider mill near Detroit!)
Lafayette Coney Island VS American Coney Island. The ongoing battle for best Coney in Detroit is a long one. The two restaurants are next door to each other on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Lafayette Boulevard- try them both, and you be the judge on who does em best.
Chicken Finger Hani
Crispy chicken tenders, lettuce, american cheese and tomato wrapped in a pita smothered in delicious homemade ranch. You can find this signature sandwich at most Coney’s in Michigan– making it my go to sandwich for lunch more often then I care to admit. In fact, I’m pretty sure the Kerby’s by my office knows me by name …
A pasty, or meat pie- is a hearty, savory, pastry filled with meat, potatoes and veggies. The pasties have an unusual history, and were originally made for the copper mine workers. There aren’t many places in the U.S you can get your hands on these, so if you’re from outta town- don’t leave without trying one!
Detroit Style Pizza
My favorite Detroit style pizza is made by Buddy’s. My recommendation would be to get their award winning Detroiter pizza with a huge side of homemade ranch to dip it in- oh and don’t forget the Buddy bread while you’re waiting.
Getting ice cream after dinner happens all year round in Michigan. In the summer- going out for ice cream is pretty standard a couple nights a week (at least in my home). Even in January when temperatures are in the negatives- we’re in the freezer aisle picking up ice cream. Yes I know froyo is the cool thing, but we take our ice cream in Michigan serious- which means dairy & sugar- so skip the froyo and try something local your taste buds will thank you for like Cook’s Dairy, Hudsonville, or Sanders.
Spending time in Detroit? Check out my guide for what to do here!
The Perfect Weekend In Detroit
Like A Local
Detroit is the largest city in Michigan- with several nicknames. We lovingly refer to our beloved city as “The D”, “Motown”, “The Motor City”, or most recent- “America’s Comeback City.” Having grown up just 30 miles north of the city, and done my fair share of traveling around the world- I feel Detroit is seriously underrated as a travel destination. But fear not! Detroit city is making a comeback. Lonely Planet recently ranked the D- No.2 in the top 10 cities to travel in 2018, making it the ONLY continental U.S. city on the list.
Ready to see what all the hype is about?.
Here’s your guide to Detroit in a weekend!
Brunch Instead of Lunch
Brunch: My favorite meal of the day. Detroit has so many options for a delicious mid-day meal, and many are centrally located right downtown. Here are some of my personal favorites!
Dime Store: This dime is a little hidden- it’s located inside the Chrysler House at
719 Griswold Street. Order a peach mimosa, with your eggs benny and find out why they call it Detroit’s #1 breakfast spot. Pro Tip: While you’re waiting for a table, go around the corner of the Chrysler Building to Bon Bon Bon and snack on the most adorable, tasty, handmade chocolate boxes you’ll ever taste.
The Hudson Café: Located in the heart of downtown Detroit, the namesake comes from the old Hudson’s department store that was across the street from the café. I would recommend trying their delicious Baklava French Toast- covered in walnuts, pistachios, and drizzled in honey.
Parks & Rec Diner: To get here- enter at the corner of Grand River and Cass Avenues. Breakfast & lunch are served all day, every day. The artisanal menu boasts a number of traditional fan favorites- I had the mouthwatering C-Day Benny: Thanksgiving spiced, smoked & pulled local chicken, poached eggs, sweet potato biscuit smothered in sausage gravy. But the real winner was the melt in your mouth delicious Crème Brûlée French Toast.. it was so different than I expected- soaked in orange anglaise coated in a crackly sugar crust and fresh fruit, served with two eggs any style-we went with scrambled.
Gold Cash Gold: Located in Corktown, this old pawn shop turned hipster eatery has a fantastic farm to table rotating seasonal menu.Try their take on the classic chicken & waffle- made with a cornbread waffle, hot & spicy fried chicken, and an orange sorghum butter, it’ll satisfy your sweet AND savory cravings.
Shop Eastern Market
You can’t visit Detroit without experiencing the oldest and largest year-round market in the US. During the busy season, Eastern Market has over 225 market vendors with up to 40,000 visitors in one day. Depending on the season, you can expect fresh Michigan grown produce, fresh proteins, TREATS, flowers, hand crafted goods, and all kinds of fun stuff. I would recommend getting here early on the weekends (like 7-8 a.m. early). Parking is free but fills up fast, the earlier you get there the better chance you have of getting a good spot. After you’re done shopping- head a couple blocks over to the Detroit Distillery and wet your whistle with their hand crafted cocktails.
Get Inspired By The Heidelberg Project
The Heidelberg Project is an outdoor art environment on Detroit’s East Side- about 5 minutes from Eastern Market. The project is on Heidelberg Street- the street that the local artist grew up on. In 1986 the artist started transforming his childhood neighborhood that had turned to poverty and shambles into a massive piece of art. The old abandoned houses and lots were cleaned, and the refuse collected was recycled back to create the artwork. The street, sidewalks, trees, and anything else on this street has become a part of this neighborhood gem.
Campus Martius Park
Visit Detroit’s gathering place, Campus Martius Park. Located downtown, the park has spectacular skyline views and is home to the always flowing Woodward Fountain, gardens, historical monuments and the popular Parc Restaurant. The park is open year round with activities for everyone- in the summer it’s turned into a small beach where you can relax and sip on cocktails in the middle of the city- while in the winter the park transforms into a winter wonderland, with the most popular ice skating rink in the area. Make sure to check their calendar of events before you go, there’s often special events on weekends- you don’t want to miss out!
The District Detroit is one of the largest sports and entertainment developments IN THE COUNTRY. Located in the heart of Detroit, the 50 blocks include just about everything, including businesses, parks, restaurants, and bars. This newly formed district brings together eight world-class theaters, five neighborhoods and three professional sports venues. In addition to the residents, the district is also home to the Detroit Tigers, Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Pistons and Detroit Lions- making it the district with the most professional sports teams in one downtown…again… IN THE COUNTRY. This is where the action is- grab some tickets if you’re in Detroit on game day, and experience what Detroit is really like with the fans in the city we love over the teams we love.
Visit Belle Isle
Belle Isle Park is a 982-acre island on the Michigan side of the Detroit River. The park is home to Belle Isle Aquarium, Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, Dossin Great Lakes Museum, Belle Isle Nature Center, and the James Scott Memorial Fountain. No matter what season it is- there’s always something to do on Belle Isle. Take a walk around the island and explore, you’ll find an old lighthouse, several historical sites, and incredible views of both Detroit and Windsor across the river.
Detroiters love their coffee; it’s also a requirement for me to start my day with something that contains caffeine. The Roasting Plant is the perfect place to grab a fresh cup of joe (and just so happens to be my favorite coffee shop in Detroit). The coffee beans are stored in a Javabot (super cool tub machine that shoots the beans out through tunnels you can see) at the center of the shop- measured out per order. You can blend up to four different varieties per cup, they’re brewed within seconds – fresh just for you. I would recommend the Jamaica Blue Mountain blend- a bright acidity with a butter-soft body. Aromas of almond and praline come first, followed by dark chocolate, and energetic lemon zest.
Great Lakes Coffee has a few locations in Southeast Michigan including one in Midtown. If you’re looking for somewhere cozy with tea options and yummy baked goods and sandwiches, head to Corktown over to Astro Coffee.
Astoria Pastry Shop
Located in the Greektown District of Detroit, Astoria Pastry Shop is open till 1:00 a.m. on weekends for all your late night sweet tooth cravings. They have TONS of yummy treats- you’ll find something for everyone, from muffins, to cannoli’s, to fancy cheesecakes. Astoria has been filling Detroiters with goodies since the 1970’s- making it a local staple and a must try on your visit to Detroit.
Eat in Detroit
Detroit is rapidly transforming itself into a food mecca with foodie approved eateries throughout the entire city- the majority of which are locally owned and operated. Head to Hamtramck over to Polish Village for some pierogis that will give your taste buds an explosion of flavor. Feeling spicy? You’ll want to go to Mexican Town for some tasty tacos. Some of the best sushi I’ve had has been at Maru. It’s the perfect spot for a nice night out and a warm cup of Japanese tea. Wright & Co is great for sharing- with their menu consisting of creative seasonal small plates, my friends and I always order a couple plates a person, and then share family style.
When you work full time- you look forward to a couple days off at the end of the week. I am the queen of utilizing my weekends to their full potential (all the adventures). April 2017 I spent a long weekend over Easter with one of my oldest friends in Seattle. We both live in different states- and I arrived a couple days earlier, giving me time to explore the city solo. We spent a couple days in the city and then ventured off for a day trip to Mount Rainier National Park.
Seattle, is surrounded by water, mountains and evergreen forests, and contains thousands of acres of parkland (could you BE any cooler Seattle?!) I gravitate to cities surrounded by nature and scenic getaways close by- Seattle was no different.
Here’s your perfect weekend guide to Seattle!
Stay in Downtown Seattle
In Seattle, staying in the downtown area is going to be the most convenient. All the prime spots are close by if not walking distance, and staying there will keep you in the center of everything which helps save some cash on transportation.
AirBNB: Before I even look at hotels- I always start with Airbnb. It has some awesome places right in the city center, and you’ll save some cash renting one big house or apartment rather than booking multiple hotel rooms. (Click Here to earn a $40 credit!)
The Edgewater Hotel: Seattle’s only waterfront hotel looking over Elliott Bay and the Olympic Mountains in the distance. Located in the heart of downtown, you’ll be within walking distance to the city’s favorite sites… or you just might decide to relax there, soaking up the view beside a river-rock fireplace. Search for current prices HERE.
Four Seasons: This five-star stunner is located downtown near Pike Place Market. Reflecting the Hotel’s appreciation of local art, guest rooms display a selection of 16 works by classic Northwest artists, reproduced from the collection of the Seattle Art Museum. Search for current prices HERE.
Kimpton Hotel Monaco: Winner of the 2017 Traveler Readers’ Choice Award- this boutique hotel is PET FRIENDLY (yeyyy fur babies!) and comes with a yoga mat in every room so you can start and end your day with some sun salutations. Search for current prices HERE.
Grab Brunch in Seattle
Brunch is my absolute favorite meal when I travel- and just so happens to be the ideal time for planning your adventures for the day. The hard part will be choosing where to go-Seattle has foodie approved eateries across the city. I didn’t have a bad meal the entire trip.
The Fat Hen: Innovative french low country cuisine made with freshly provided ingredients from their local friends and neighbors in the farming community. (Whittier Heights)
Skillet: This award winning diner has delicious stuff like maple braised pork belly and waffle with a fried egg on top. (Multiple Locations)
Americana: Cozy bistro famous for their diverse brunch menu and mimosas. Bonus: dog friendly patio for your fur babies. (Capitol Hill)
Biscuit Bitch: A coffeehouse as funky as its name that serves southern-inspired foods specializing in biscuits, BITCH. (Pike Place Market))
Citizen: Café and bar with all types of crepes (sweet & savory) that serves Nutella hot chocolate- need I say more? (Queen Anne)
Drink Local in Seattle
Seattle takes it’s beer seriously. The microbrewing scene has been going strong for decades-with over 60 breweries in the city. With so many options- it’s tough to go wrong when deciding which ones to try. If you’re like me and prefer anything other than beer- no worries, you’re also in luck! Washington state is one of the top five cider producing states in the country (victoryyyyy).
Shop at Pike Place Market
Yes- it can be as touristy as you fear… but it’s worth the visit if it’s your first time in Seattle. Pike Place market is WAY bigger than I thought it would be. This nine-acre historic district is filled with local farmers, a crafts market, and over 200 specialty shops- all locally owned. The market was originally established in 1907 to connect citizens and farmers. Farmers markets take place year round with bakeries, fish markets, butcher shops, produce stands, and FLOWERS! My suggestion would be to buy some of the famous tulips while you’re there to color up your life a bit 😊
Taste Award Winning Chowder
Located within the market, Pike Place Chowder makes the perfect snack while you’re shopping up an appetite. This chowder has earned dozens of wins in regional AND national competitions! Now, I’m not a huge chowder fan, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try this famous chowder, and I’m so glad I did- it was so creamy and delicious! With awards coming out the ass- it’s no wonder there was a line out the door and around the block!
Chew Bubble Gum
I loved the look of the gum colors melting together on the famous gum wall, it almost looked like wax. It wasn’t as gross as I’d imagined it would be, and I found it weirdly fun to look at, while I added my bubble 😊 Grab some bubble gum and make the decision for yourself!
Discovery Park: Discovery Park is Seattle’s largest public park at 534 acres. The park is in the Magnolia neighborhood of Seattle, and has around 12 miles of walking trails. It has a lighthouse- and I’m from Michigan (so many lighthouses) so this park was at the top of my list. The West Point Lighthouse was my favorite part of the park. To visit the lighthouse, your best bet is to stop into the Visitor Center- they can direct you to the walking trails that will lead down to the beach of the lighthouse. Warning: The hike back up can be strenuous, there’s a shuttle bus that runs from the Visitor Center down to the beach as well. (Magnolia)
Kerry Park: This park is popular for its incredible view of downtown- the city sky line against the green of the park is just breathtaking. (Queen Anne Hill)
Gas Works Park: What I love about this park, is that it could have been left as a forgotten industrial wasteland, like so many others- but instead was turned into a beautiful park. This park is so unique- the rusting remains of the manufacturing plant that once stood remain. The park has a picture-perfect view across the lake to downtown Seattle that’s worth the visit. (Lake Union)
Olympic Sculpture Park: Take a stroll along the water front and admire the outdoor sculptures. Located right by the Space Needle and Seattle aquarium, the park is in a great location.
Visit the Chihuly Garden & Glass
Located next to the Space Needle, the Chihuly Garden & Glass is a magical place. The glass wonderland is breathtaking and bursting with colors. The venue combines the glass with the natural beauty of the gardens. The glasshouse occasionally closes for private events, but the rest of the exhibition and the garden remain open, so check the calendar before you’re heading over. If you plan on visiting the Space Needle- save some cash, and buy a combo pass for the Glass Garden + Space Needle.
I’m obsessed with Molly Moon! It has delicious icecream with rotating seasonal flavors. It’s an easy detour where ever you are with 8 various locations spread across the city.
Go Out For Dinner in Seattle
The food scene in Seattle is starting to gain some movement. When you’re there, forget about chain restaurants, and go where the locals go.
Uneeda Burger: Do you need a burger though? Located just .04 miles away from Seattle’s fremont troll, Uneeda Burger is a casual, roadside-style burger shack with seriously delicious burgers, sandwiches, sides and shakes. (Fremont)
The Pink Door: Equal parts Italian-American dining, with eclectic entertainment such as trapeze, cabaret, music and tarot. If it’s a nice day when you visit, opt for outside on the view deck overlooking Elliot Bay. Located on 1919 Post Alley the restaurant has no sign, but look for the pink door on the water side of the Post Alley promenade. (Pike Place Market)
Lola: With cooking styles of Greece; the menu offers modern Mediterranean and North African riffs on local ingredients such as Anderson Valley lamb, Penn Cove shellfish and wild King salmon. (Belltown)
Northlake Tavern – If you crave pizza always like me- then you know where to go. The pizza is an old local favorite, having been around since 1954! The pizza is served with an “old Italian recipe.” Not only is the pizza incredible, but it’s also a local dive bar with cheap pitchers and a laid back Seattle attitude. (North Lake)
How to Cook a Wolf: This rustic Italian-inspired small plates restaurant is sure to impress. Best to go family style and order a couple plates a person to share, that way you get to try a little of everything!