The Perfect Weekend in Death Valley National Park

Death Valley Sign

Death Valley holds the title for driest, hottest, and lowest National Park of the 59 in the U.S. PLUS it’s the largest National Park outside of Alaska. We had two full days to see as much as we could and we’re already planning our next trip back to explore more of this diverse landscape.

Death Valley Road

The park entrance fee is $25 usd per vehicle per day- I have an annual pass ($80 usd) we used to get in. With over 3 million acres of wilderness, sand dunes, slot canyons, rocky rainbow peaks, and miles of back country roads to explore- where do you begin?! We flew into Las Vegas after work the Friday of MLK weekend and rented a car to make the 2 hour drive through the desert into Death Valley.

Tip: Make your rental car and camping reservations early. Spend the money on a 4×4 high clearance vehicle. You’ll need one if you plan to do the back country drives- that includes the famous racetrack. It’s 27 miles of HARD road to get there, and the ever logical Logan deemed our compact car  unfit for such conditions… preventing us from seeing the racetrack and other park sites (getting a flat or needing a tow truck in the middle of no where sounded not so fun).

Day 1: East Side

Sunset Campground

We spent more time dicking around in Vegas than we anticipated, so we got to the park a little later than planned, meaning we got to drive around in the dark looking for an open site… the campground is first come first serve and there were plenty of spots (it seems we’ve made setting up camp in the dark an unintentional tradition). The campsite didn’t have a fire pit or picnic table but the campground had water and flush toilets (no showers). The sites weren’t very private and it felt like we were in a giant parking lot more than a campground. We set up our tent facing to the darkest side, and watched the sky light up with stars.  

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Artists Drive

This scenic loop drive is 9 miles of paved road that takes you through multi-hued colorful volcanic and sedimentary hills. We had the the one way road to ourselves so we took our time as we drove. As the famous Artist Palette came into view we got out at the pull off and explored further into the rock formations for a small hike. Our little compact car did fine on the paved road.

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Natural Bridge

We did a few hikes in our time at the park, but this by far was our favorite. The road to get here is rough and rocky, we didn’t think our car was going to make it- thank God it did. The out and back hike took us 1 mile round trip from the natural bridge formation- bbbbbut don’t stop there! We hiked back as far as we could get past the bridge (another mile or so) and the dramatic canyon turned to beautifully colored marble walls glistening around us. You could see the remains of a dried up waterfall, and how the powerful element carved it’s mark permanently into the earth. It was incredibly pretty, and the tall narrow canyon kept us shaded from the sun.

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Badwater Basin

It was 75 degrees and sunny when we walked a mile out to the salt flats 282 ft below sea level- the lowest point in North America. There was no shade, and in the dead of winter- we were hiking in Death Valley, and for the first time- we felt it. I’ve seen salt flats in Bolivia, and they were miles and miles long. But these were the first salt flats with water I’d seen, and it was an incredible sight (and another reason I FREAKING LOVE MY TEVAS). I walked out into the salty water expecting the lake I saw before me to get deeper as  walked further out. The water never went above my ankle in depth- and from afar it looked to others as if I was walking on water. It was a magical experience.

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Zabriskie Point

If you’re looking for the best spot to catch a sunrise or sunset- this is it. The golden colored badlands make for an amazing backdrop to natures free shows each day. Start your day or end your day here- you won’t be disappointed either way you do it. We missed the point coming into the park at night, so we made sure we caught it on our way back out!

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Day 2: North Side

Stone Pipe Wells Campground

We spent our 2nd night in this first come first serve campground that’s only open during the winter season; the campground has tent only sites everywhere, and a lot of private options; we had a beautiful view outside our tent of the mountains across the desert- there’s flush toilets and water, but no fire pits or picnic tables.

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Ubehebe Crater

Hundreds of years ago, a massive volcanic explosion happened in Death Valley. Magma mixing with an underground spring caused the explosion that created this 600 ft deep crater. As we drove to the trail head you could see the landscape around us changing from light colored brown tones to dark volcanic black sand. You can hike the full rim of the crater (around 1.5 miles round trip) but we were short on time, so we hiked to see little ubehebe crater and enjoyed the views before heading back down.

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Mosaic Canyon

This was the hike I was most excited about. The 4 mile hike took us through polished marble narrows, and required a bit of rock climbing (scrambling). It was beautiful walking through the labyrinth of smooth rock.. The colorful walls changed in color and texture along the hike, making for gorgeous photo opportunities.

 

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Rainbow Canyon

We ended our day exploring the west side of the park. As soon as I saw their was a “rainbow canyon” I knew we couldn’t leave without seeing it. The drive takes a couple hours, so we stocked up on fuel and road trip snacks in Stovepipe Wells Village before heading towards the canyon. The drive to Father Crowley Vista was one of the most scenic drives I’ve ever done. A landscape of dark lava flows and volcanic cinders turns to rainbow canyon with an explosion of color. As you’re driving through the mountains you can see the colors start to pop the closer you get.

 

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Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Hike to the largest dune field in the park for another great spot to catch a sunrise or sunset. You can walk as far out into the dunes as you want, the hike to summit the highest is about 2 miles roundtrip. We walked through the sand up and down the dunes until we found the perfect sunset viewing peak, all to ourselves.

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Furnace Creek Campground

We spent our last night back on the east side of the park (where the only showers in the park were)- it was MLK Day, and the park entry and camping was free for the holiday! We were expecting a huge crowd but we had no issue finding a site on the first come first serve sites. It was our favorite campsite, we had a picnic table, a fire ring, and nobody around us. Of course the night we have furniture the clouds decided to be assholes- we didn’t see one star that night. Instead we were kept awake by the howling of the locals (aren’t they just adorable?!?).

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Know Before You Go

  • Showers are only available at the privately owned Furnace Creek Resort. It’s $5 per person for a pool pass that gives you access to their pool & showers/locker room. **These are the only showers in the entire park, and if you’re camping and hiking, you will want a shower.**
  • You can rent a 4×4 high clearance vehicle by the hour in the town of Furnace Creek from a privately owned company.
  • There is 1 restaurant (Stovepipe Wells Village) and a few small grocery stores inside the park (Stovepipe Wells Village & Furnace Creek).
  • It is a 2 hour drive to the park from Las Vegas and a 5 hour drive from Los Angeles. The park is located in both California & Nevada.
  • Check out my guide on what to pack for your national park camping trip!

 

 

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6 Must Try Michigan Foods

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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!

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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!)

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Coney Dogs

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.

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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 …

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Pasties

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!

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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.

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Ice Cream

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!

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The Perfect Weekend In Detroit

 

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!

 

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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!

 

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District Detroit

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.

 

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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.

 

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Coffee

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

The Perfect Weekend in Seattle

The Perfect Weekend Guide to Seattle- Everything you need to know for food, entertainment, accommodations + local favorites | Her Life Adventures | #seattle #weekend #guide #wheretoeat #wheretostay #whattodo #itinerary #washington

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!

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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.

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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)

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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).

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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 😊

If you’re looking for THE BEST clam chowder in Seattle, head to Pike Place Chowder | Her Life Adventures | #seattle #weekend #guide #wheretoeat #wheretostay #whattodo #itinerary #washington #pikeplace #chowder #food

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!

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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!

The Perfect Weekend Guide to Seattle- Everything you need to know for food, entertainment, accommodations + local favorites | Her Life Adventures | #seattle #weekend #guide #wheretoeat #wheretostay #whattodo #itinerary #washington #westpoint #lighthouse

Get Outside

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.

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Treat Yourself

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.

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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!

Have a couple extra days in the area? Why not spend them in Olympic National Park?

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