TRAVEL, weekend

I Checked Something Off My Summer Bucket List (Garden of the Gods Recap)

I am on my way back from Garden of the Gods with Connor as I write this. If you have followed along for awhile, you probably recognize the name of this park from past posts. I have been wanting to visit since Connor and I moved to Chicago. I saw an advertisement for it on the side of a bus stop, and then I started seeing it on Instagram. It looked beautiful, so I knew I needed to go at some point.

Luckily for me, today was the day I got to go. Connor and I stayed in St. Louis on Friday night since it is a bit more lively than Southern Illinois. We drove to Garden of the Gods this morning after a big breakfast at Rooster on Grand. The park was roughly two hours from St. Louis and it rained the whole way there. Somehow the rain cleared up about half an hour after we got to the park.

We started our “hike” as the rain died down. I didn’t realize that the entire park was only a quarter mile trail (I definitely didn’t do any prior research) so I am not sure I can call it a true hike. Connor and I assumed we would cruise through the park, but we ended up spending about 1.5 hours at the park.

Basically the entire park is a paved trail with rock formations along the way. Each formation is a bit different from the others, and they all provide different views of the park/forest. We climbed up most of them. They were a little slick in some places because of the rain so I opted not to climb too much on some of them. I liked the third and fourth “lookout” points the best. I think they gave the best view of the park but also the other rock formations.

I was really happy with our time at the park. I guess the weather could have been a bit better, but the rain clearing up was good enough for me. It’s definitely a great place to camp and there are other areas throughout the Shawnee National Forest to explore. I am pretty sure Garden of the Gods is the main attraction, but I could be wrong on that.

Anyway, I would recommend making the trip. It is a beautiful park and really easy to navigate. I saw a ton of kids and families there too, so it would be a fun trip for anyone. From Chicago it is about 5 hours, but it is so nice being in nature, so I hope to make one more trip there sometime. I am thinking the fall would be a great time since the leaves will have changed colors!

What are your favorite parks to explore near you?


My Favorite Instagram Accounts

Lately I have been thinking about the content I am consuming on Instagram, on YouTube, through podcasts, etc. I follow a bunch of different people– some for inspiration, some for travel, some for food recommendations, and some just for fun. I have a bunch of favorite Instagram accounts that I love following along with. I thought I’d share my favorites in case you are looking for some new accounts to follow along with.

I would say most of the accounts are more lifestyle based. Some include more fashion, beauty, travel, and family. And others are more food related or actual restaurants.

1. Shutthekaleup

2. Aspyn Ovard

3. Amberfillerup

4. Jacimarie

5. Maggiemacdonald

6. Chicagoismyboyfriend

7. Chicagofoodauthority

8. Indianafoodie

9. Learningfrombalance

10. Sarahsday

11. Withkendra

12. Embalanced

13. Meredithfoster

14. Thesaltydonut

15. Niceytreat

16. Kathleenpost

17. Detroitcookiecompany

18. Reneeroaming

19. Seersuckersandsaddles

20. Emmamacdonald

21. Gretchengeraghty

22. Brookemiccio

23. Haileydevine

24. Daniellecarolan

goals, LIFE

Summer Bucket List

Summer is almost here! It has been feeling like summer a couple days a week in Chicago (lol it is like 80 degrees once a week and the rest of the time it’s either raining or freezing). Because of all of this, it’s time for my Summer Bucket List!!

1. Ride Divvy Bikes with Connor along the lake

2. Go to Garden of the Gods State Park in Southern Illinois

3. Run outside before work some days (I imagine most will end up being afternoon runs)

4. Go to the Skydeck on a sunny day

5. Visit Sleeping Bear Dunes

6. Go back to Detroit

7. Take two trips that require a plane ticket (one is already booked and I’m thinking Dallas for the other!!)

8. Get some plants for our back patio

9. Perfect some summer cocktails

10. Vlog more

11. FINALLY start my podcast! I have been pushing it off for so long

12. Go kayaking

That’s all I have for now! I am am so excited for a full summer in Chicago and all of the adventures I have planned. Stay tuned to see what I check off my list.

What is on your Summer Bucket List?


I Visited New York City For The First Time!

My New York City post is finally here! It’s so long, so I apologize in advance, but I hope you enjoy hearing some details of our trip!

Connor and I had NYC on our calendar since around December, so I was SO excited for SO long. We planned to visit my best friend, Aislinn who moved to NYC after we graduated last year. We had a shared note in our phones that we added restaurants, activities, etc. to for months, so getting to check so many things off was really fun!

We left on Thursday night from Chicago. We decided to extend the long weekend by an extra day to make the trip even better. We landed in NYC at 11:30ish. LaGuardia was pretty crowded, so it took us awhile to find the bus that would eventually take us to the subway. After a long wait for the bus and some traffic leaving the airport, we made it to the subway. We took the subway to my friends and stopped for some late night food before. Once we arrived to her apartment, we went right to sleep to prepare for the next day.

Connor and I slept pretty late on Friday (later than I would have liked. We woke up around 9:30am). We headed to Manhattan to start the day and then meet up with Aislinn who took a half day. We got matcha lattes at Cha Cha Matcha to start. It was so good and one of my favorite parts of the trip. I wish we had one in Chicago. I got a regular hot latte and Connor got the “Beautiful Latte,” which was really good as well. We wandered around a bit more and I took a million photos. Then we met up with Aislinn. We headed toward Times Square (so crowded and I think it was my least favorite part of NYC) and then moved on to the Chinatown area.

We headed to Glossier first. I love Glossier and there isn’t a pop-up in Chicago anymore, so I wanted to stop by. It was really nice and open. I tried out a few products I was interested in, and ended up grabbing 2 of them: a Lidstar in “Cub” and the eye cream, “Bubblewrap.” Connor was happy they had a really cozy bench for him to sit on while Aislinn and I explored the store. After Glossier, we were super hungry, so we got ramen in Chinatown. The place we chose was called Bassanova Ramen. We each got a different kind, and some edamame as an appetizer. Each was really good and definitely filled us up for awhile.

After roaming through Chinatown, we walked toward the Brooklyn Bridge. I was super excited about this and it ended up being one of my favorite parts. The walk to the main part of the bridge was kind of long, but the weather was really nice. It was also so crowded and bikes kept flying by, so watch out for the bikes for sure. We took some pictures and admired the view before turning back. We wandered around through a shopping area and some colorful murals.

Then we decided we should grab some ice cream and drinks. We walked further over near the water and got the yummiest ice cream at Big Gay Ice Cream. Connor got the “Salty Pimp” and Aislinn and I got “American Globs.” I think this was our favorite ice cream stop of the trip. I want to go back and try other flavors. We walked down the street to a place with outdoor seating and got a couple drinks to celebrate the first day!

After drinks, we got back on the subway and headed back to Aislinn’s. We ordered some pizza for dinner to end the night. It was super yummy. Then we honestly went to bed since we were all so tired from the night before.

Saturday felt like a shorter day. We decided on a bottomless brunch at Randolph Beer. I was excited about the “brunch punch” rather than having mimosas. We each ordered some food and enjoyed the drinks. After, we headed to Cookie Dō for a treat. We each got a different flavor. I got the oatmeal m&m flavor. It was good but even the tiny cup was so filling and sweet. It was such a cute shop too!

Then we went to Central Park. It was such a sunny day so it was perfect for walking around and being outdoors. We people watched and chatted with each other. Once we were super tired, we headed back to Aislinn’s. Aislinn wasn’t hungry, so Connor and I went to a ramen place. It was SO yummy! I love when ramen has a really nice broth and simple ingredients, and it was exactly that. Ramen was a great ending to our Saturday.

Sunday was our last day in NYC as we flew out the next morning. We had plans to pack a lot into the day starting with bagels, coffee, and a trip to the Empire State Building. We also planned to try a bunch of different restaurants and ice cream shops. We went up to the top of the Empire State Building (shoutout to Aislinn). It was so crowded and crazy going through the lines, but luckily we breezes through them. The view was really nice and it was great to see the whole city. We didn’t spend a ton of time up there due to the crowds, but I’m so glad we did it!

We were super hungry by then so we went to Browns Bagels. The spot Aislinn likes best was closed (I think it was called Best Bagels), so this was our next option. We each just got bagels with cream cheese because we planned on eating a lot of food that day (Connor: everything bagel with lox cream cheese, Aislinn: everything bagel with bacon and herb cream cheese, and Ellie: sesame seed bagel with veggie and herb cream cheese). The bagels were amazing and really hit the spot. We grabbed lattes at Gregory’s down the road and made a game plan for the rest of the day.

The next stop ended up being Chinatown. So many places I wanted to go to were in that area including some ice cream shops we wanted to try. We tried Milk & Cream and Stax Ice Cream. Milk & Cream definitely had the cutest ice cream. Stax was more unique in the fact the flavors weren’t the typical flavors and inside of a glazed donut. The textures/flavors worked great together. See my ice cream rankings below.

Ice cream rankings:

1. Big Gay Ice Cream

2. Stax Ice Cream

3. Milk & Cream

We also got sangria in Little Italy. The place we went was so empty, but we had a nice time. The patio was perfect for the warm weather. We also stopped in a few shops: Mulberry and Grand and Outdoor Voices. They were in the area, so I figured it would be fun! I ended up getting the cutest earrings, so I am pretty excited about them!

We continued our food tour at Tijuana Picnic. We got drinks and guacamole for a snack. The drinks were pretty good, but I would be interested to try more of the food. We just weren’t that hungry after sharing the ice cream! While at Tijuana Picnic, we realized Katz Deli was down the road. Connor really wanted to go there and Aislinn had heard good things about it, so we headed there next. Connor ordered a pastrami sandwich for later (he ended up eating it for breakfast on Monday morning before the flight). The deli was super cool though and very crowded! It is definitely a spot you have to try in NYC.

After Katz, we went back to Aislinn’s to rest up for dinner. We made reservations for 7pm, so we needed to get hungry again after our day of snacking. We hung out a bit and then went to dinner at Da Nonna Rosa. We each got pasta dishes. I went with a pesto dish and it was giant! I barely made a dent in it, but it was really yummy! It was a nice ending to the trip!

Other than dinner, we just hung out, watched a movie, and packed up for our flight in the morning. It was at 10am so we wanted to get an early start, especially since it was so crazy at LaGuardia when we got to NYC. Luckily, the trip to the airport ended up going really smoothly and it wasn’t as crowded.

Overall, it was such a nice trip. I’m so glad I got to experience NYC for the first time and spend a long weekend with my best friend! Also, all of the yummy food was such a highlight. If you haven’t visited New York, I really recommend it. I am already thinking of things I want to do on my next trip!

Here are some other random photos!

TRAVEL, weekend

Boulder/Denver, CO Trip

I have been so bad at blogging lately and I don’t love that. I feel so consumed by other parts of my life so finding that balance is something I want to do! Anyway, I went to Boulder, CO and Denver for a tiny bit a couple weekends ago. I wanted to share the highlights in case you are ever looking for a fun weekend trip!

Connor and I flew Frontier. It was really inexpensive! We paid $86 each for a round trip flight. Checking Google Flights daily really paid off. Our flights were at the WORST times (they had us landing in Denver around midnight and Chicago around 1am), but it worked out for us. We wanted to have 2 full days to explore and that’s what we ended up with.

We decided to rent a car because we wanted to go to Boulder to hike and explore. So we got our rental car and then headed to our hotel. We stayed really close to the airport which was great because it gave us a decent night of sleep.

On Saturday morning we made a few stops before Boulder. We went to Voodoo Doughnut first. I wanted to go there for so long ever since I first heard about it. It didn’t disappoint. We got four donuts to try and share. My favorite was the grape kool aid. It sounded weird, but the donut, the frosting, and the grape went well together.

After donuts, we went to Red Rocks. I would love to see a concert there, but I knew we could walk around the explore a bit. The drive there was so pretty and there were a ton of people working out and hiking. We even met a person who went to the same college as us which was funny.

After walking around Red Rocks, we drove to Boulder. The drive was about 45 minutes, so it wasn’t bad. I loved the view of the mountains so I was very happy. We got to Boulder and headed to the downtown area. It was adorable. The sun was shining, there were so many people out (only downside was it took FOREVER to park lol), and there were tons of pretty flowers. It felt perfect.

Connor and I walked around enjoying the sunshine. We grabbed coffees since we were tired from the late flight. We also got popsicles. I LOVE popsicles so it was a must. We got them at LE Pops on Pearl Street. They were the best popsicles I have ever had. We ended up going back the next day since they were that good. I would definitely recommend the avocado flavor and Connor loved the butterscotch.

After our treats, we drove up Flagstaff Mountain. It was a bit of a drive up, but it made for a pretty view. It was getting a bit gloomy so we knew we would have to save our hike for the following morning. We headed to a late lunch at T|ACO. We got queso, margaritas, and tacos of course. They definitely hit the spot since all we had all day was treats.

We were super full so we headed to our Airbnb to rest up for a bit. Our Airbnb was amazing. It was in a perfect location and it was so cute. The decorations, the natural light, and all of the amenities made it hard for us to leave the next day. I believe it is usually booked up on weekends, so we were really lucky to stay there.

We had a late dinner reservation at Pizzeria Locale (shoutout to my friend Brooke for this recommendation and all of the others too haha). It was the best pizza I have ever tried. I highly recommend the “Mais” pizza. After dinner we headed back to the Airbnb. We had an early hike planned for Sunday.

On Sunday morning, we went to get coffee at Spruce Confections. We both got lattes to get the day started. It was a really cute place and the outdoor seating looked really nice. We didn’t have too much time to enjoy it since we wanted to get started on our hike. We headed to Chautauqua Park and did the Royal Arch trail. I believe it was 3 miles total. The whole way to the arch/view is basically up hill, but after a bit we got used to it. The view was certainly worth it. It was so nice to sit for a second and look out. We also met quite a few adorable dogs, so that was a highlight. We hiked back down and headed for some food.

We went to Snooze A.M. Eatery for brunch. The menu was huge. So many drinks and meals to choose from. Connor got a breakfast pot pie and I got a breakfast bowl. We shared a flight of pancakes because they all sounded so good. Also, I love trying anything in flight form (beer, waffles, margaritas, etc, haha). We loved the blueberry danish pancake the most, but the others were still really good.

After brunch we walked around to a few different stores to soak up Boulder a little bit more. It was another nice day and it was hard to leave the sunny, flower filled streets. But we wanted to go to Denver for a little bit before catching our flight home.

We drove to Denver and decided to go a bit further to Golden, Colorado. It was such a cute town with lots of shops. I am pretty sure everyone was outside enjoying the weather. We walked along the river a bit to explore.

Then we headed back to Denver and went to Avanti F&B for dinner. It was basically a bar/eatery with a bunch of different places in it. There was a burger place, an arepa place, a poke bowl place, and a few others. Connor had a burger and I got a veggie arepa. We also got watermelon juice which I still can’t stop thinking about a couple weeks later. After eating, we grabbed a beer and sat on the patio upstairs. It made for a nice view of the city and gave us one last chance to be outside since the weather was so nice. Avanti was our last stop of the trip. We filled up the gas tank, returned the rental car, and made our way to our terminal. On our way to check in we saw the prettiest sunset over the mountains. It was a great way to end the trip! We had a super late flight so we didn’t get back to our apartment until 2:30am, but the trip was totally worth it. I am already looking for flights to go back!

TRAVEL, weekend

Seattle Trip Recap: Days 2 & 3

Happy Thursday! The long awaited day 2 and day 3 post is finally here (just kidding. I doubt anyone was waiting impatiently for this haha). But nonetheless, it’s here!

Day 2 started out with coffee and bagels at Kaladi Brothers Coffee. We woke up pretty early and decided we should grab a bite to eat before our hike at Mount Rainier (more details on the “hike” later). The coffee was great and the coffee shop was really nice. There were tons of tables to sit at and dogs so it was great!

We grabbed our rental car at Enterprise and hit the road. Mount Rainier is about 2 hours from Seattle. It doesn’t look like it would take that long, but driving up the winding mountain takes a bit. We had no intentions of doing a serious hike. We didn’t even have any hiking gear or a winter coat with us. We just wanted to do something outdoorsy, and we have gone to a National Park for our anniversary every year, so we couldn’t stop on this trip!

Anyway, we drove up the mountain and eventually made it to the classic National Park sign. We figured that there would be a visitors area or something like that, so we kept going. We drove about 3 minutes further and it was snowing much more. We were surprised that the car was clearing the snow piled up in the center of the lane, and just as we said that, we got stuck. We tried reversing. We tried digging the snow out under car. We weren’t exactly sure what to do.

Luckily, a truck pulled up behind us (our heroes)! Two people walked out (shout out to Peter and Destiny! She also took a lovely picture of Connor and I) and said Peter saw us going up and wondered if we were going to get stuck. Obviously, we looked like silly tourists. He wasn’t able to tow us out, but he knew that there were some “Jeepers” down the mountain a bit who could. We then went down the road a bit to talk to them. It was perfect because they had been towing people out that morning, so they weren’t shocked. They were kind enough to tow us out. It took a few minutes of digging to attach the tow strap (shout out to Connor for that– I just cheered him on and took pictures of him haha), but eventually they were able to tow us back a little. And by a little, I mean a few feet. We were barely stuck. Then they guided us down a bit and we were on our way!

We were so lucky to meet such kind people who were willing to help. It seems like they were used to these types of situations which was nice. They also let us know that the touristy area that we were looking for was in a totally different place. Basically, the moral of the story is that we are going to do more research on where exactly to drive to, and we are going to visit in the summer to avoid snow!

After our adventure at Mount Rainier, we drove back to Capitol Hill. We went straight to dinner since we hadn’t eaten since the bagels. We decided on HoneyHole Sandwiches. It was a sandwich place right next to our Airbnb. The host recommended it. We got a drink (much deserved) and some yummy sandwiches. They really hit the spot. Then we decided ice cream was necessary too, so we went to Molly Moon’s. I really don’t remember what flavor we got, but I don’t think you could go wrong with any of them. Plus you can try them too!

We planned to go out for drinks, or at least to explore more, but fell right asleep once we got back to our Airbnb.

The next morning we got up super early. We packed up our stuff and got ready to leave our Airbnb. We got an Uber to Moore Coffee. I just had to go again. Plus, I wanted to try the original location. We got lattes and they were even more adorable that the matcha I got before. Connor’s has a cute octopus on it, and mine had a bear. I was so happy because I really wanted a bear. You can’t really request the animal (I tried of course) because it depends on the consistency of the coffee/milk.

After coffee, we wandered to Pike Place Market. We needed to kill some time before meeting up with our friends, Chris and Erica. We walked around a bit and then met up with them. Prior to meeting up, I met an adorable corgi named Bella. She was so cute and had spots like a cow.

We caught up with our friends and then got breakfast at Both Ways Cafe. It was a bit of a drive, but it was worth it. They all got biscuits and gravy, and I got an omelet. We all loved our food! After breakfast, they dropped us off near the light rail. Connor and I grabbed a last minute treat as if we weren’t already stuffed, and then hopped on the train to the airport.

I will spare you all the details from our travel back to Chicago because our trip wasn’t quite as fun at the end. Basically, we ended up sleeping in the Minneapolis airport because there wasn’t room to land in Chicago. It wasn’t the best night of sleep (literally didn’t sleep) but it was sort of fun in a way! I will definitely remember it forever.

Overall, We had the BEST time in Seattle and we can’t wait to go back. We are planning to go back when it’s warmer so we can hit all 3 National Parks near Seattle. I really want to go to Olympic, so hopefully we can go there!

TRAVEL, weekend

Seattle Trip Recap: Day 1

As promised, I am sitting on the train to work writing this post. I think I will split it up into 2 or 3 posts so it’s not super long!

As some of you know, Connor and I went to Seattle, Washington this past weekend. We flew out Friday morning (way too early haha), explored Seattle for 3 days, and flew back late Sunday night (ended up being Monday morning)!

After reaching Seattle on Friday morning, we hopped on the sound rail which goes downtown from the airport. The ticket for a one-way ride is 3 dollars, which isn’t too bad! It took about 30 minutes to get downtown, so I’d say it’s the best way to get there, and a great way to avoid traffic.

We decided to get off at the “West Lake” stop. This stop put us right by Pike Place Market, which was definitely on the list of things we wanted to do. We decided to head to the market, since we couldn’t check into our Airbnb until 3pm. We figured we would do most of our exploring for the day in our backpacks anyway!

Pike Place was super crowded and only got more crowded as the day went on until it closed. We walked through to get an idea of the food options and different vendors. We were really hungry, so we got some little donuts to hold us over from Daily Dozen Doughnuts. They were really yummy. We got a few different flavors to share/try. We also visited the Gum Wall. It was cool to see in real life, but also a little gross as you could imagine haha.

After our “pre-breakfast” we went to Pike Place Chowder. The line for this place was winding down the road. I felt like we were waiting to get into an exclusive event, when we were really just waiting for chowder. Connor got a sampler of a few different chowders and I got the vegan option (coconut & lime). It was so yummy!

I grabbed a matcha latte at the most adorable coffee shop called Moore Coffee. I wish they had one in Chicago because it was amazing. They do latte art in the shape of animals and my matcha had a perfect cat on it! I was really impressed.

We decided to walk everywhere because it was SO nice out. I was shocked that it was so sunny. We really lucked out with the weather. We walked along the water and through the Olympic Sculpture Park. Then we headed toward the Space Needle which was a highlight of the trip. Tickets were about 32 dollars each, but they were so worth it! The line wasn’t too long and the elevator ride up was super fast. Once we were at the top, we walked around, took some photos, and enjoyed the view. I loved that there wasn’t a time limit at the top. We could have stayed up there until 10pm if we wanted, so that’s really cool!

We considered a couple museums by the Space Needle, but we weren’t sure if we really wanted to go to them. We may go next time. I have heard good things about them, so if you are ever in Seattle, they may be worth checking out (The Chihuly Glass Museum and MoPOP). I think you can buy a whole package for all three (including the Space Needle) at a discount too!

We walked around a bunch after the Space Needle. We ended up at “The Sphere” which is part of the Amazon headquarters. Basically they are giant glass domes filled with plants, meeting space, etc. They looked really cool and I would have loved to go in. I am pretty sure there are tours, but we were really worn out, so we were excited to get to our Airbnb to rest up for a bit.

Before checking into our Airbnb, we did stop by MooBar which is a bubble tea shop I follow on Instagram. I initially found them because they had corgi cups for the bubble tea, but those were gone well before we even got to Seattle. The shop was super cute and I love that they had reusable cups for the bubble tea!

We got an Uber to Capitol Hill where we were staying. Our Airbnb was in a perfect location by a bunch of restaurants, shops, and bars. We got settled and then went to the Great Wheel! It was a nice, clear night so I wanted to go on it while we had the chance. It was 14 dollars per person which is a bit pricey. I think 5-10 dollars would be a better price. We did get to go around 4 times instead of 3 which was nice. The view was really nice though, so I’d recommend at least going on it if it’s your first time in Seattle.

We were super hungry by the time we got off the Great Wheel. We grabbed a mac & cheese from Beecher’s Cheese. It was so yummy and I’m glad we ended up trying it. We ended the night with moscow mules at Rachel’s Ginger Beer. I heard a lot of good things about this place, so I really wanted to go. Plus, I love moscow mules. We both got “make your own mules.” I chose vodka with guava ginger beer and Connor went with tequila and pineapple ginger beer!

By the end of the day we were exhausted. We woke up super early that morning, so we figured we could call it a night! I will share more later this week on the rest of our trip!