Dubai, United Arab Emirates
- The Armani Hotel in Dubai offers a five star experience. Nestled on floors 3-8 of the Burj Khalifa, the worlds tallest building, this hotel has an attention to detail and service that I have never experienced anywhere else in the world.
- True story, I never left the radius of the Burj Khalifa, the mall on the lower level has every high end store you can dream of along with beautiful art installations. There are several restaurant offerings and the nightly fountain show is not to be missed.
- Don't pay the extra money to go to the 148th floor. A ticket to all three levels costs $95 USD. You can buy a ticket to the 124th and 125th floor for $34 USD and the views are the same. The patio on the 125th floor has the best views. (I paid the $95, trust me -- not worth the cost. I ended up spending the most time on 125).
*Travel Tip: Try to go at sunset. The colors are radiant and the sun turns blood orange over the Persian Gulf.
Victoria, British Columbia
- Book high tea at the Fairmont Empress hotel. This hotel has beautiful nooks and cranny's so leave time to explore.
- Visit Craigdarroch Castle. This beautifully preserved mansion was built in 1887 and has stunning views of the Victoria harbor.
- If you visit in the summer the inner harbor will be bustling with vendors and entertainers. Once you are done exploring have a picnic in front of the Parliment Building.
* Travel Tip: While you can opt to take the Port Angeles Ferry to Victoria, I recommend the Victoria Clipper which gets you there in 2 hours. You don't need a car to experience Victoria.
Quebec City, Quebec
- A cannot miss Happy Hour is at Bistro Le Sam at the stunning Le Château Frontenac. After drinks you can take an evening stroll along the Rue de Ramparts and watch the sunset over the St. Lawrence River.
- Venture out of the city to an authentic sugar shack, Le Relais de Pins, Cabane à sucre. Here you can experience traditional cuisine and a presentation on how maple sap becomes the famous Canadian Maple Syrup.
- For those who want to dance the night away head down to Dagobert, a nightclub in a castle. This multi-level club cannot be missed, seriously... you can't miss it, there is a giant disco ball out front.
United States of america
- Hike Camelback Mountain. Parking is located at 6131 E Cholla Ln, Paradise Valley, AZ 85253. It is best to arrive early in the morning due to the heat. This hike is classified as difficult (including a rock scramble at the end), but the views of the Phoenix Valley are worth it.
- Dinner at any Fox Concept restaurant will not disappoint. My personal favorite is Steak 44
- The best martini's in the city can be found at MercBar
Washington, District of Columbia
- Off the Record Bar at the Hay Adams hotel is where power plays are made and the martini glasses are the size of a fishbowl. Please drink responsibly.
- Monuments by Moonlight is one of my favorite "tourist" activities. This narrated tour takes you to all the major monuments and since it is done at night there is less of a crowd.
- Eastern Market on Capitol Hill is a favorite among D.C. residence. Grab a bite at Belga Cafe and then spend the morning shopping local D.C. vendors. Note: The outside market is not open in the winter.
- Go to Larios on the Beach for dinner for an Old Havana themed meal, ambiance, and live music.
- One of the hottest bars in the city can be found at The Delano. Be sure to dress to impress as many of the hotel bars and restaurants have a dress code.
- Miami has one of the best beaches to lay back and soak up the sun. We bought a cooler and filled it with beer and snacks for the day. Many of the hotels will rent out beach chairs or you can stop in one of the many beach supply stores that litter the main strip to pick up your own.
- Chicago natives may disagree (or agree) but for an amazing Chicago deep dish pizza experience go to Lou Malnati's. I also appreciate that while it is a chain, you will only find it in IL. You're welcome.
- Visit the Signature Lounge on the 95th floor of the Willis Tower. You will be able to see all the way to Iowa (not really), but the views are amazing and the drinks are even better.
- Baseball fan or not, anyone and everyone can appreciate Wrigley Field. This iconic field was built in 1914 and has an addictive atmosphere that will turn you into a cubs fan, if only for 24 hours. The field is also surrounded by great bars and restaurants. If it is baseball season get tickets in the cheap seats and enjoy. Wrigley hosts concerts and other events throughout the year. Check out the website for more information.
- Walking the The Freedom Trail is a must when visiting Boston and there is an app for that. Download "Freedom Trail Walking Tour" for free and walk the trail at your own pace. Maps can be picked up at the State House.
- Samuel Adams Oktoberfest happens to be one of my favorite beers, so when in Massachusetts a visit to the Samuel Adams Brewery should be on your list. I strongly encourage reserving a spot online as these tours are popular. Take the T-train Orange line to the Stony Brook stop and the brewery is two blocks away. Like all good brewery tours there is a tasting at the end but one of my favorite features of this tasting is they test flavors at this location so some of the beer you will find is not sold in stores. Cheers.
- Take a stroll through the Beacon Hill neighborhood to see beautiful old colonial homes, cobblestone streets, and do a little boutique shopping.
- Lobster, lobster, lobster. Sorry if you have an allergy.
- You MUST visit the Holy Donut. There will be a line and they do close for the day when they sell out. These donuts are made from scratch and include Maine potatoes. They have vegan and gluten free too!
- Hubs and I were looking for a little seclusion, and what is better than a private island? The Inn at Diamond Cove. This island was once the site of Fort McKinley and provides a peaceful escape. Leave your car in Portland (they don't allow cars on the island) and take the Casco Bay ferry to Diamond Cove.
*Traveler Tip: Make a reservation at The Diamond's Edge Restaurant. It is the only restaurant on the island outside of the hotel offerings and it is very popular with island residence. The food is delicious!
Hoboken, New Jersey
Full disclosure, we are former Hoboken residence and think it is quite possibly the best place in the world.
- Whether you are there for an hour or a week, visit Carpe Diem. This is your neighborhood Irish Pub with the best wings in the world. Seriously, they have won awards.
- There is a great waterfront walkway with stunning views of Manhattan and if you get thirsty along the way stop by Pier 13 which features a beer garden and local food trucks.
- Washington Street is the heart of Hoboken and lined with boutiques, bars, and restaurants. It is also home to the original Cake Boss location, if you are into that sort of thing.
New York, New York
Manhattan, bar none, is one of my favorite cities in the world. I dreamed about it as a little girl and when I finally visited for the first time in 2006, it felt like coming home. While I still have never called NYC home, it has and will remain to be one of my favorite spots to visit.
- The bar at Novotel has amazing views of Times Square and the perfect spot to head before a Broadway show.
- Pasta is my favorite food group and finding the perfect perfect pasta carbonara is a sport. Crispo NYC located in the Meatpacking District ranks #1 on my list. Handmade pastas coupled with a warm Italian wine cellar motif makes for a perfect night out. Don't make plans after, you will be in a food coma.
- The NYC Highline, also located in Meatpacking is a park created on top of an old elevated railway lined with areas to lounge and relax along with water and art installations. I recommend visiting at sunset.
Las Vegas, Nevada
There are a million nightclubs in Vegas but my personal favorite is Tryst nightclub at the Wynn. They play great music and have an open dance floor that leads to an outside waterfall/terrace area.
Have you ever wanted to be sipping a martini surrounded by faux diamonds? Visit The Chandelier Bar inside the Cosmopolitan hotel.
Vegas is the land of many shows but one of the BEST is Cirque de Soleil, Beatles LOVE. You will be mesmerized from start to finish by the movement, music, set, and costumes. There is not a bad seat in the house so don't worry about getting cheap seats.
Ashville, North Carolina
- Ashville is the land of craft beer. My personal favorite was Wicked Weed Brewery. Be prepared for a wait. If you only want to drink, there is an outdoor bar on the bottom floor of the restaurant.
- If you love historic houses (or a Downton Abbey fan) visit the Biltmore Estate. This former Vanderbilt Estate is lavish and has all the trappings of the great houses of Europe. Carve out time for this gem, the house is the main event but there are gardens, walking trails, a restaurant and a winery. The price to visit is a little steep, but if you love architecture and history it is worth it.
- Ashville offers beautiful walks and hikes. Bring your walking shoes and make sure to get outdoors.
- Philadelphia has an amazing food scene. One of our favorite spots is Indeblue an upscale Indian restaurant in the heart of downtown that has a great tasting menu with wine pairings.
- Since Philadelphia is one of the oldest cities in the U.S. it is filled with historic charm. McGillin's Old Ale House is one of the oldest bars in the city with taps that have been serving ale since 1860.
- Yes, be touristy and visit the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. If the line for the Liberty Bell is too long, you can see if from the lawn if reading all the history and getting up close is not on your wish list.
Charleston, South Carolina
We ATE our way through Charleston. The food, people, and hospitality will make you never want to leave this Southern haven.
- HUSK. If you can only eat in one place in Charleston, make sure it is Husk. We went here for brunch and everything from the coffee to the entree was melt in your mouth Southern perfection. The menu changes daily and is driven by locally sourced ingredients.
- You will find Prohibition on top of every must visit bar list in Charleston. This low light craft cocktail bar has delicious southern fare and top shelf drinks.
- End your night at Cocktail Club. This speakeasy bar is a favorite with locals and has bacon fat popcorn that I still dream about.
- Pike's Place Market is world famous for a reason. You can grab a coffee from the original Starbucks (or walk around the corner to one of the many Starbucks locations and beat the line). Stop by Uli's Sausage for lunch and don't forget to stop by the Pike's Place Fish Market to watch the flying fishmongers.
- Every picture you have ever seen of the Seattle skyline is taken from Kerry Park. Nestled in the beautiful Queen Anne neighborhood. Parking can be a bit of a problem but it is a fun place to walk around and look at the million plus dollar homes in the area. While you are in the neighborhood stop by The Five Spot, one of the best breakfast paces in the city.
- Outside of the downtown area is the Fremont neighborhood known as the more artsy side of the city which is filled with funky shops, restaurants, coffee shops, and home to the famous Troll Under the Bridge. The Fremont Troll is an art installation under the Aurora Bridge made from steel, wires, two tons of concrete and complete with a full size VW bug.
- If you are feeling adventurous, hike the Quilotoa Loop.
- Eat at Urko
- Carve out at least an entire day to experience the historic city center. It is a UNESCO site and described as "the best preserved, least altered historic center in Latin America
*Travel tip: Bring a neck purse and be careful taking out your phone for pictures. Theft is high in the city center.
- Eat at Die Weisse for a true local experience.
- Have afternoon beers and brats at The Augustiner-Bräu Brewery. You can walk from the center of town along the Salchz to take in all the beauty of the city.
- If you are a Sound of Music fan, many of the scenes were shot in Salzberg. Visit Mirabell Gardens where the "Do Re Me" song was filmed. The gardens are stunning and a wonderful way to spend an afternoon in this storybook city.
- I recommend taking this trip in December. While the weather may not be ideal the Christmas Markets are worth the trip. Markets are set up all over the city and include unique gifts and crafts, food, any my personal favorite thing about December, mulled wine.
- Have a drink at the Das Loft bar in the Vienna Sofitel. This rooftop bar/restaurant offers sweeping views of the city and is an art installation itself. The ceiling was designed by multimedia artist, Pipilotti Rist.
- Now, I did not get to do this activity myself, but I regret not doing it and wanted to pass on the wisdom. Viennese opera is world renowned and there are three main theaters in Vienna. You can go early the night of a show and pick up standing room tickets cheap. I linked to a helpful article here.
Copenhagen is home to some of the best restaurants in the world. Since we were celebrating our one-year anniversary, we splurged for dinner at Relae. This is still to date one of the best tasting menu/wine pairing experiences of my life.
The best way to see this canal city is by water. Rent a Go Boat! These solar powered boats are simple to operate and can be rented from one - six hours. They also see wine and snacks at the marina shop. What is better than rose and the open water?
Visit the Little Mermaid statue, a tribute to Hans Christian Andersen and walk back through the Kastellet, a 17th Century military fortress. You will also walk by the beautiful St. Alban's Church and Churchillparken. The scenery is picturesque and there are local coffee shops and eateries on your way back into the city to stop at.
*Travel Tip: We stayed at the Scandic Palace which I highly recommend. It is in the center of the city near the main shopping street (longest shopping street ever) and Trivoli Gardens. The hotel is an old castle with beautiful modern rooms. Breakfast is also included every morning.
- Have a champagne cocktail and dinner at Crazy Bear.
- Take a day trip out to Hampton Court Palace and have your camera out at "The King's Stairs," a 1700's Italian Baroque masterpiece painted by Antonio Verrio.
- I took this trip at 18 with Contiki. It was my first overseas experience and they were amazing from start to finish. If you are 18-35 and looking for a seamless vacation option with the added bonus of traveling with people from all over the world (in your age bracket) look into Contiki.
- The best steak frites (fries) of my LIFE was at L'imperial Rivoli. Located steps away from the Palace de la Concorde this Parisian gem serves all the best French cuisine. Hubs and I ate here multiple times on our last trip to Paris.
- The Louvre is a given, however, buy your tickets in advance here to beat the lines.
- Once you have finished your tour at Notre Dame, walk to Berthillon for ice-cream or if you are visiting in the winter order the Chocolate affogato. This is hot chocolate as you have never seen. There is vanilla ice cream melted into the bottom and topped with hazelnut flavored whipped cream.
- Begin your trip with a visit to the Hofbräuhaus located in the heart of Munich. Sit at a communal table and load up on beer and sausages while listening to Bavarian music. You will see Lederhosen and be transported back in time. Reservations are encouraged.
- If you are a lover of street food, do not miss the Viktualienmarkt a daily food market filled with stands and beer gardens. My personal favorite was the bratwurst at Schlemmermeyer.
- We rented a car and drove the romantic road to Neuschwanstein Castle. This castle is the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty's castle and what would go on to become the Disney logo. It is about two hours outside Munich but a beautiful drive.
- Order saganki (unless you have a dairy allergy). This pan seared flaming cheese does not disappoint and we ordered it at every single restaurant.
- Visit the Plaka, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Athens. Here you will find shops and eats galore. Stop into Brettos, the oldest distillery in the city and be dazzled by the colors and tastes.
- We found an amazing rate on Expedia for the Royal Olympic Hotel and HIGHLY recommend a stay. The location is central and within walking distance to the Acropolis and other major sights. There is also a stunning rooftop terrace with sweeping views of the city. Grab a glass of champagne near sunset from the rooftop bar and watch the sun dip behind Acropolis Hill.
- HEAVEN ON EARTH. If you are visiting Greece you do not want to skip this jewel hidden in the Agean.
- Visit Santo Winery. Greek wines are unique and bold. This winery is nestled in a quiet part of Santorini, but built above the sweeping cliffs with two levels of patio space looking directly over the ocean and barren volcanoes that dot the Cyclades.
- If you want to see the picturesque white houses with blue domes, you will need to stop at Oia and Fira. We went to Oia first and ended at Fira. There is a cable car that will take you from Fira located on top of the cliffs to the Old Port by the sea. This is a fun ride and will give you great views of the island.
- Go over to the Buda side to Castle Hill. This is a non-negotiable if you are in Budapest. Fisherman's Bastion offers beautiful views of the Pest side of the city and the stunning Hungarian Parliament Building. It also connects all of the castles on the hilltop and is a scenic and enjoyable walking tour of Buda.
- When you are walking back to the Pest side stop at Platan Grill and order the goulash. This little spot is easy to miss so keep your eyes peeled.
- Once you make your way over to the Pest side of the city find a Ruin bar. (Most of them are located in the old Jewish Quarter.) What began as an underground club experience is now one of the top attractions when in Budapest. There are no neon lights outside these clubs so don't be afraid to ask around. The original ruin bar is Szimpla Kert and one of the most popular!
- One of the best things about Italy, besides the history and amazing architecture is the food and wine. Right outside of our hotel was Alex Cafe Gestione Ci.Bi. Sas. It looks like a little glass house and offers amazing pasta, wine, and service.
- I realize Vatican City is independent city-state from Rome, but this is a sight you do not want to miss when you are in the area. St. Peter's Basilica opens at 7:00 a.m. and if you arrive at 6:00 a.m. you will beat the lines and the tour buses. This will also give you time to take pictures of the famed St. Peter's Square before it is packed with people.
- If you need a break during sightseeing grab a slice of pizza and glass of vino at Piazza Navona. This open space was built in 1st century AD and is home to breathtaking sculptures and architecture with prime people watching as artists paint, dance, and play music.
- The Guinness Storehouse is on the top of every "Dublin" travel list and I agree. However, pay extra for the Connoisseur Experience. You will be taken to a private tasting area that resembles an early 1900's study and be treated to a unique tasting experience of Guinness not only as you know it but how it is served in other parts of the world.
- Rent a car and drive the Ring of Kerry. Stops along the way should include Muckross Abbey and Ross Castle. We stayed at Gleann Fia Country House in Killarney and were treated to traditional Irish meals and wonderful hospitality.
- Don't travel to Dublin over Christmas. While we had an amazing trip, but most of major sights were closed for the holiday until the New Year.
- Visit the Magic Ice Bar. This one-of-a-kind attraction is a bar made completely of ice. Don't worry about wearing your winter clothes, the bar provides gloves and a poncho. Sit on the ice throne and admire the ice artwork on the walls as you sip a cold beverage. Make sure to set your glasses on the coasters provided or else your glass will slide off the ice table.
- A traditional Norwegian meal is shrimp on toast and we found the best one at Bryggeloftet & Stuene. This marina side restaurant feels like you are having dinner with family and offers traditional Norwegian cuisine including Whale Steak (when available).
- Bergen is one of the rainiest places in the world (around 240 days out of the year). Be sure to pack a rain jacket and umbrella even if you are visiting in summer.
- If you are an outdoor enthusiast look no further than Geiranger. This sleepy village at the mouth of Geirangerfjord offers kayaking, hiking, biking, camping, climbing, and a host of other outdoor adventures.
- Book the Sky to Fjord biking adventure. You are taken by motor coach 1,500 meters above sea level and get to descend the side of the mountain on a bicycle stopping at scenic waterfalls, cliffs, and overlooks along the way.
- Visit CafeOle when you need a short reprieve from your outdoor adventures. Great coffee and free wifi.
Maybe one day...