Eating in Kauai

IMG_2452

Over the holidays I took a trip to Kauai. It was gorgeous, warm, and sunny. One major varying aspect was the food. It seemed every restaurant we went to was either really bad or really good. If you’re headed to Kauai any time soon here is my advice on food.

If you are renting a place with a kitchen make sure to hit up Costco for your groceries. They have some great deals compared to many other stores in the area. Another tip for Costco is their snack bar. Food in Kauai is expensive so paying $2.00 for a slice of pizza and a drink is an amazing deal!

Make sure to “check-in” on yelp.com at any restaurants you eat at. We found at least 5 different coupons and deals if you did this.

For breakfast we often stopped at Safeway and went to their deli counter where they made breakfast sandwiches for only $2.50.

Here were our favorite restaurants on the island:

Street Burger – This was such a welcomed meal after a few days of no luck. They have great burgers(and veggie burgers) with fresh ingredients. They even made their ketchup in house! After a long day of swimming and playing in the sun this was a welcomed treat.

Kauai Beer Company – It’s not just about the beer here. Kauai Beer Company has a decently sized menu for a “beer place”. Their food was really great and the service even better.

Duke’s– Duke’s is definitely a staple in Kauai. It has very mixed reviews but we really enjoyed the experience. The service was top notch and we both really loved the salad bar. Not only the good food and service but it has a fun atmosphere with views of the beach. This is a great last night in paradise meal.

Hula Girl – Perfect place to grab breakfast. Hula girl makes delicious stuffed croissants. I recommend asking her to heat it up for you making them extra tasty.

Did you eat at a restaurant in Kauai that you loved? Please share!

 

Best Chicago Eats

I was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago. At 18 I went to Idaho for college and ended up moving to the pacific northwest after graduating. There’s a lot I love about Chicago, but food might be my number 1. I’ll admit I love food… some might even say I have an obsession, but the food in Chicago is just amazing. Here are my favorite places to grab a bite in Chicago:

Lou Malnati’s – I’ve done a post all about Chicago pizza here but I still needed to mention it in this post. Pizza is the first thing I think of when I think of Chicago food. The deep dish butter crust garlic and tomato pizza from Lou Malnati’s with a house salad to start and a giant Diet Coke to be exact. Do NOT I repeat do NOT miss out on trying Lou Malnati’s while in Chicago.
4255375789_8914e948ec_z

Portillo’s – Portillo’s has start to spread outside of Chicago but is still primarily found there. Portillo’s is a unique restaurant where often there are two counters one for the original Portillo’s where you can order Italian beef, burgers, hot dogs, etc and another counter called Barnelli’s where you can order salads, pasta, etc. Everything here is so good and the amount of people in the restaurant will attest to that. While often very busy they are quick to get your order out and there’s always enough seating. My top recommendations of items to try: Italian beef, chopped salad, chocolate cake shake, burger and fries.
portillos-chicago-beef

Julie Ann’s – If you haven’t tried frozen custard yet this is a must. Think of ice cream but extra soft and creamy. Julie Anns knows what they’re doing. They have tons of differnt mix ins and toppings for you to add. You will not be disappointed.
luv_it_custard

Garrett’s – Garrett’s is the place to get Chicago Mix popcorn. Chicago mix is cheese popcorn and carmel popcorn mixed. And while that may sound like an odd combination try it and you will love it. It is messy so make sure to grab an extra napkin or two.
IMG_1962

 Flat Top Grill – Flat top is my favorite place to get Mongolian style food. Once you get your table you will be brought a bowl which you take up to the counter and add the ingredients you want, mix the sauce you’d like, and hand it over to the chef. You can then watch as they grill up your food and plate it. This is a great place for people with allergies or food restrictions. They are very conscious of this and give plenty of alternatives.
flat-top

Visiting Kauai

DCIM108GOPRO

Tunnels Beach

The last time I went to Hawaii was back in 1998 when I was that’s right… 8 years old. We visited Oahu where my family had lived while my dad was stationed there. It was a great trip and I felt I had checked Hawaii off my list. That is until I kept hearing about the island of Kauai. When we found some tickets to Kauai for a cheap price on a last minute deal we thought ok why not. We booked them and went.

Why I loved Kauai: Kauai is absolutely stunning. Everywhere you go there is something beautiful to take a picture of. The snorkeling was better than I thought and we found several Sea Turtles. I spotted whales almost every day off the shore. Having a Costco and Safeway made the trip really easy. The roads were well taken care of and safe.

What I didn’t love about Kauai: My favorite islands are those where you can go to a great beach and have it to yourself or maybe a few other families. I didn’t feel this was the case in Kauai and maybe that had to do with the time of the year we visited. I don’t love that depending on which season you are there your swimming options and beaches are limited because of the strong waves and currants. Finally, it seemed hard to find a good meal with good customer service. We often had troubles and almost every night had to wait 30-45 minutes for a table, again this could have something to do with the holiday season.

Where to Stay:
Kapaa at least for a first time visit was great. Kapaa while it doesn’t have a ton of swimming beaches around is on the East side and is right in between Princeville and Poipu. So if the weather was bad in the north we would head south or the opposite. We went to both the North and the South often so it worked out our home base was right in the middle. Kapaa is also near all the big stores, restaurants, and shops so it makes it easy to grab snacks in the morning or anything else you may need on your way to the beach.

Best Places to eat:
Street Burger – Awesome unique menu. Great ambiance and best customer service we experienced. This was my number one place we ate all week. I had the sweet potato burger Frenchie style with their homemade fries and homemade ketchup.
Kauai Beer Company – Great prices for great food. Enjoyed the sweet potato raviolis and their frenchfries were delicious.

Best Beaches:
Anini Beach – One of the only beaches on the North that was swimmable in the winter. We loved this beach because the water was so calm and we found several sea turtles!
Tunnels Beach – Gorgeous scenery. When we were there sadly we couldn’t swim because the waves we absolutely huge but it was still fun to walk on the beach and watch the waves roll in.
Salt Pond Beach – Great little protected beach with some good snorkeling.
Maha’ulepu Beach – This was my favorite. We didn’t swim here but instead enjoyed a stroll along the water and cliffs. It was stunning and I will forever remember that walk. This is an absolute must!

DCIM108GOPRO

Best Activities:
Helicopter Ride – Everyone kept telling me we had to do this. I was really hesitant because it was so pricey. After hearing from at least five different people that we must do it we forked over the money and took a trip with Blue Hawaiin. You get to see parts of the Island you would have no other way get to see. You fly in and out of canyons and past gorgeous waterfalls. You get to get close to the Napali coast and listen to fitting music while you do so. The captain tells you anything you want to know and more. It was an adventure I will always remember.

image2
Hanakapiai Falls – We decided to do this hike and we started a bit late. The sign at Ke’e Beach where you start said to give yourself 8 hours and so we were stressed about getting there and back before the sun went down. We booked it on this hike. There were a lot of people especially on the beginning of the trail and we would politely excuse ourselves past them. The first 2 miles is a pretty big incline and then an even bigger decline. The view points are astonishing. You get to see part of the gorgeous Napali Coast and we even spotted a whale. After the first two mile you reach a river and a beautioful beach. A lot of people stop here and head back. If you want to continue to the falls you follow a trail along the river up in to the valley. It’s not too hard until you get to the last .5 mile where instead of hiking a trail you start climbing on rocks. Finally when you reach the waterfall you know it was all worth it. The waterfall is massive with a big swimming hole. The water is freezing but it was a welcoming refresher after the long hot hike.

image1

Overall I would definitely recommend Kauai to someone looking for a tropical getaway. Have you been to Hawaii? What is your favorite Hawaiin Island?

 

Visiting Southeast Idaho

308197_10150884911530447_96677775_n

What a random place…. Southeast Idaho. You may not traditionally think of SE Idaho as a destination but hopefully I can convince you that there are adventures to be had. Here are my top favorite things to do in SE Idaho.

  1. Driggs, Idaho – Driggs is such a beautiful town. It’s actually where my mom grew up and her mom still owns a home. Since I was young we would visit often and I have seen it grow from a small town in Idaho in to a little bit of a resort town. It sits at the base of the Tetons and in fact my grandmas house sits on the road that separates Idaho from Wyoming. In Driggs you have great restaurant choices ranging from great little burger places to upscale thai food. Driggs is also close to the Tetons and grand Targhee so there are many hikes and slopes to have fun on. One of my favorite things to do is go up Darby Canyon. There is a campground up there used for boy and girl scouts in the summer and they have these giant play ground slides that run down a huge hill. When no ones at the campground it’s a blast to take wax paper and see how fast you can get going down these huge slides. It’s great fun for both adults and children.
    10400994_78873660446_509_n
  2. Lava Hot Springs – Lava Hot Springs is located a few miles outside of Pocatello. You can choose to relax in the gorgeous springs or head to the pool where you can dive off a 10 meter high platform. This is another great location for kids and adults alike.
  3. Mesa Falls – Mesa falls is  gorgeous waterfall where you can do some hiking. This power waterfall has great view points that are very easily accessible. This is a great day trip to bring a picnic too and enjoy your lunch with the sound of a gushing waterfall behind you.
    298416_10150800213300447_1251659498_n
  4. Ice Caves – The Ice Caves are located north of Rexburg Idaho and you need four wheel drive to get to it. It’s this awesome cave filled with ice that you can climb back in to. It’s not too long but there are some challenging parts to get past. Make sure to dress warm and bring gloves!
  5. Bridge/Cliff Jumping – I can’t explain why but I love jumping off of high things into a body of water. SE Idaho is a great spot to do this. There is Funny Farm Bridge which is in St. Anthony and you can jump off the bottom part of it or if you’re crazy you can climb to the top and jump. This one you do have to be careful because at times the river current is strong. If you are not a strong swimmer I would not suggest jumping here. Then there is Monkey Rock which is a great swimming hole. Right near it is a bridge to jump from that can give you a great thrill. Finally there is Ririe Reservoir which is a beautiful lake in what seems to be the middle of no where. The lake has giant rocks and cliffs surrounding it where you can get a good jump. Always remember when jumping anywhere to check the current and the depth of the water you’re jumping in to. Stay safe!
    1919132_280263840446_6180630_n
  6. Sand Dues – In St. Anthony there are sand dunes that stretch for a few miles. Here you can go dune sledding, ATVing, or even have bonfires at night. These sand dunes are a blast any time of the year any time of the day. Just be sure when having a bon fire not to burn pallets. They are really sticklers about this and for a good reason. The nails in those pallets are then left after the fire and can get buried in the sand for someone to potentially step on.

Scuba Diving At The Local Zoo

12036534_10156101369405447_8561169585376526771_n

Recently I got to go scuba diving at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium‘s shark tank. Although I have been diving with sharks before, it still was nerve-racking getting into that water.

The trainers there helped me along the entire way. Everything from getting me into the dry suit to getting me weighed properly. I had never worn a dry suit and it was pretty cool to be able to wear my street clothes into the tank and not a drop of water got on them.

First they had me enter into the cage and follow the lead. They open the doors to the cage and you hop out into the water… with the sharks. They had weighed me down a lot and I wonder if that was because they’ve had divers try and go off and do their own thing while in the tank. They wanted me to stay close and I was ok with that. We took a little swim and watched the sharks swim by. They weren’t afraid to swim right next to us. On a few occasions I thought they might touch me. The lead had a stick in his hand that let the sharks know not to get any closer which made me feel more comfortable.

As we swam around the cage the sharks became less and less intimidating. Honestly the worst part were the little black fish. I wish I remembered the species, but unfortunately I don’t. Anytime you got in their territory they would bump into you trying to get you to move. On several occasions I had this happen. They were tiny so it didn’t hurt, but it’s a little scary being in a tank with giant sharks and having something surprise you and ram in to you every few minutes.

Before you get into the tank the leads tell you that if you find any shark teeth you can pick them up and keep them. I was determined to find some and at one point a lead had found one and gave it too me. I was excited but still wanted my own. Finally I spotted one on the ground but as I leaned down to get it one of those pesky black fish started poking at me. It took me awhile to finally grab it but I was excited when I finally did.

During the dive one of my leads had a scuba mask that allowed him to speak. He did a presentation for anyone out looking in to the cage. It was great because I got to learn more about the sharks and the species in the tank while actually being inside with them.

Something really interesting about the experience is seeing the side of the tank sharks see. You can look out and see all the people looking in at you. It’s an odd experience and it makes you wonder what the sharks think when little kids press their faces against the glass to get a better look.

If you’re ever in the Tacoma Washington area I highly recommend this experience. You must have your divers license, but if you don’t you can do the cage dive where you still go in to the tank but have to stay in the cage.

Chicago Style Pizza

1380176_10153325968600447_892766726_n

How I love Chicago style pizza. I just returned from a trip from my hometown and the taste of butter crust is still lingering in my mouth.

Whenever you meet someone who has lived in Chicago they have a true passion for their favorite place to get Chicago pizza. I won’t bore you with the list of different great places but give you the only one you need to know, the number one, the big cheese… Lou Malnati’s.

Trust me on this. You’re headed to Chicago soon? Don’t trust anyone but Lou’s to make you pizza. Order the house salad to start and choose you favorite dressing. Make sure to get your favorite soda because who doesn’t eat pizza without soda? Also Lou’s gives you a giant cup of it. Then comes the pizza part. Make sure to order the deep dish butter crust. Any toppings will do. My personal favorite is sliced tomato and garlic. While it may be a simple and maybe even odd sounding it is perfection.

Then as you’re walking out the door grab one of their frozen pizza’s and through it in your suitcase. Once you’re home and missing that delicious Chicago pizza you can throw that in the oven and re-live one of the best food experiences of your life.

Which reminds me my to-go pizza is in the oven and ready for me!

Visiting Austin

IMG_9884

Texas, I’ll be honest, has not been on the top of my list. I had only ever had layovers in Dallas and never gotten outside the airport. When I found out I would be traveling here for work I was happy to be going somewhere new, but wasn’t thrilled. Then the more I read about and researched Austin the more excited I became.

I haven’t mentioned much about what I do, but I work for a DMO aka a Destination Marketing Organization. Or what you may know of as a Visitors Bureau. I had been awarded the honor of being a part of the DMAI(Destination Marketing Association International) 2015 30 under 30 class. With that came this trip to Austin. Granted a lot of my time there was for work, but I work in the tourism industry so sometimes work equals play.

I arrived in Austin and I had read about the 100 Bus that took you straight downtown for only $1.75. I found it easily and only waited about 10 minutes until it arrived. It was perfect it took maybe 20 minutes to arrive downtown and even had a stop right outside my hotel.

I stopped into the visitor information center which was a historic building. I would recommending making a trip here. There was a store inside with fun souvenirs and the people were very helpful and friendly.

The opening night we had an event at Austin City Limits. I’mm be honest, I had never heard of this before but a lot of people had. I walked out of the hotel and up came a cowboy… yes a cowboy. He had two horses and asked if anyone wanted a ride. I jumped at the first opportunity and rode to the event. Riding in downtown Austin was an experience I will not forget.

Austin City Limits was a blast. They had The Night Owls playing live music with delicious food from around the city. I heard later how much of a rarety it is to have Austin City Limits hold a party for just one group. It was a great venue and I would recommend anyone who has the opportunity to go.

On one night I waited to watch the bats. There is a bridge with 1.5 million bats that fly out at dusk to eat. Unfortunately, they were a no show. You can’t control nature so I understand, but I was bummed.

I explored 6th St which was such a cool experience. They close off the street to cars after a certain time and you can walk down and listen to all the live music coming out of each venue. We went to the Vulcan Gas Company who had the Spazmatics playing. It was such a fun time. They cover 80s music and everyone was dancing and singing.

I shopped on South Congress in all it’s cute little shops. There’s everything from an old fashion candy shop to quaint boutiques. This is the place to get something to remember Austin by.

I ate delicious Austin food from BBQ to Pizza. My favorite place had to have been Tacodeli. Which as you can imagine had tons of different Tacos. Bonus they had about 5 different vegetarian taco choices.

Overall I really enjoyed Austin. I would love to go back and bring Ryan and eat more delicious food and listen to more live music. It has now inspired me to go on a Texas road trip. I want more Texas!

Melakwa Lake

DCIM105GOPRO

It was one of those gorgeous sunny days where you wake up and know you’ll be going on an adventure. Ryan and I woke up bright and early and tried to figure out what to do. We knew it was going to be hot and sunny so we thought a nice trail to a waterhole would be great. We decided on Denny Creek. We’d been there before and it’s a nice and easy 1.5 mile hike and then a beautiful river that runs over smooth rocks. Perfect place to cool off.

We set off and arrived at the trail-head at about 9am. There weren’t many people yet and the mugginess of the day hadn’t set in yet. When we arrived at 9:45 we took a few photos and ate a few snacks. We then saw a family pass the river and continue on the trail. I hadn’t even realized the trail continues. Just our luck a forest ranger passed by right then and we asked him where it continues.

He told us if we had water we could continue on the trail to Melakwa Lake. He said it was beautiful and worth it if we could handle the elevation. Plus it was only another 3 miles from where we were.

We set off with full water bottles. We saw a beautiful waterfall in the distance and came out of the woods. Luckily we brought sunscreen so we weren’t to worried. We weaved in and out of the forest and through rock fields. The elevation was difficult and I made us stop several times for a little break. Our dog, Cooper, who’s just a small thing was doing great. When we reached about a mile away we noticed our water was low. We didn’t realize how fast we’d been drinking it. We pushed to the end though because we were so close. That last bit of elevation challenged me to the point where I kept thinking we should give up and turn back.

Finally we reached a point where we started going down hill. Which was bitter sweet. I was happy to not be going up, but I knew we’d have to climb right back up on our way back.

When we reached the lake it was a gorgeous sight. We hiked around and found a great boulder field where we dove in to the water to cool off. I was so happy to find out Ryan had packed an abundance of snacks. We sat and snacked and swam.

When we left we knew we needed to get down fast. We hardly had a cup of water left and it was now a little past noon and the sun was out full force. I picked Cooper up and carried him much of the way as he was really tired. We finished our water and I was nervous. I have never been on a challenging hike without water. We reached a stream and I needed water. Ryan warned me not to but I knew I needed it. I took water from the area it was flowing the fastest(thank you naked and afraid for teaching me this tip) and drank. We then weaved our way back to the car. Luckily I never got sick from that water.

It was a challenging hike. I have never been much of a hiker. I will admit that was the hardest one I’ve done. With that being said I would recommend it. The lake at the end was the perfect place to cool down. If I could do it again I would bring more water(duh) and backpack in and stay the night.

What’s the most challenging hike you’ve ever done?

Attending the US Open

image2

I got the opportunity to attend this years US Open at Chambers Bay. I really don’t know to much about golf but was really excited to go. The US Open is a huge event with almost 40,000 people attending a day. Here are a couple things I learned about attending the Open.

1. Go during the practice rounds. I was able to go once during the practice rounds and once during the tournament. If you can’t decide when to go I would lean towards the practice rounds and here’s why. You can take photos and get autographs. The players are more relaxed and will interact with you. The stands are not full whereas during the tournament you sometimes have to wait an hour or more just to sit and watch. And of course since there’s less people there are less lines overall.

2. Find a hotel near the shuttles not necessarily near the course. In order to get to the Open you had to take a shuttle. Many people booked a hotel within a few miles of the course instead of near the shuttle stations. What happens is then you have to drive away from the course to a shuttle and then shuttle back to the course.

3. Wait to buy your gear for the merchandise tent sale. If you’re going to be around after the Open you can attend the merchandise tent sale where everything is half off. This will save you loads on the souvenirs you may want to purchase.

4. Take a seat and let the players come to you. Golf courses are big and if you want to see a certain player it may be difficult to track them down. I found that if I wanted to find a player it was best to take a seat at a green they haven’t been to yet and wait for them. That way you are able to watch some golf and you’re guaranteed to see your player. Plus it’s a lot of fun to get to know a green and see the similar mistakes the golfers might make at that green.

5. Attend the local events. Surrounding the US Open were all sorts of local events. While in the area make sure to be a tourist and see what the destination has to offer. They are so excited to have the US Open in their home that they want you to make sure you experience all of it. You can expect excellent customer service most places you go. Don’t miss out on getting to know the local community.10734003_10155660701465447_7294700488319978119_n

Going to Disney Land for the First Time EVER, as an Adult

10383990_10152534598673227_4134548383237063680_n

Everyone and I mean everyone loves the Disney Parks. Growing up my family traveled a healthy amount, but I had NEVER been to any Disney Park. It soon became my “Never Have I Ever” go to. As I crept into my 20’s more and more people couldn’t believe I had never been. Well I am here to tell you I FINALLY went this past fall at the ripe age of 24. So if you’re like me and have never been and are going or thinking about going here is my take.

Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago we had Six Flags Great America nearby. Which has some huge rides that are terrifying and a blast. My first mistake was having the expectation that Disneyland was the same way. Even though I had never been I could name a couple of rides since everyone talked about them… Space Mountain, Tower of Terror, and the Matterhorn. I had it in my head that these rides were huge and scary. The first ride we went on was Space Mountain. I was really scared getting on. If you’ve ever been or heard about it the ride is pitch black the whole way. I was screaming the entire time because I was so scared of the big drop that was bound to happen and since it was dark I had no idea when it would happen. To my surprise the ride ended without a giant drop. That’s when I realized. These rides are not big. If space mountain was supposed to be the most terrifying ride, and besides the fact that I didn’t know what was going to happen, it wasn’t scary at all. I realized fast that the rides are more about the Disney theme and experience than how fast it can take you or how big of a drop it has. Maybe most people else realize this, but I really had no idea.

Being an adult who enjoys Disney, but not a fanatic, I was impressed with the scenery. They really go all out. The parades are absolutely amazing. Carsland is stunning and was definitely my favorite part. I was a little disappointing in the size of the castle, but everything else made up for it.

1779793_10154738774910447_1724267673809715361_n

Meeting the characters is a little odd at 24, but it was fun. I was impressed with how well they stayed in character. They were quite funny to interact with.

I was really impressed with the food. Not necessarily in Disneyland but if you walked out of the park and went to Downtown Disney you could get great food for a decent price. I also loved the churros and probably bought 10 while we were there. I have to admit I didn’t try the dole whip everyone goes crazy over… I guess I will have to go back.

Now that I’ve said the rides weren’t scary I do have to give a disclaimer about one ride. This was the most scared I think I have ever been in my life. I can generally get myself to do almost anything. Big rides I get nervous on, but never have melt downs. But this one ride in California adventure made me so scared I lost my sanity on it. And it was….. the ferris wheel. Ok now for those of you who haven’t been this isn’t an ordinary ferris wheel. You can get on cages that swing as the ferris wheel turns. They make you feel as though you are going to swing off into the pond. I am very rational. And when I am scared I can think through… ok this is a safe ride otherwise they wouldn’t have it. Not on this ferris wheel. I was terrified. I have never been so terrified. All I can say to those who have not been is DON’T GO ON THE FERRIS WHEEL.

Overall I think a Disney Park is a must for anyone no matter what age. It’s just something you have to experience.

What’s your favorite part about Disneyland/World? Have you been on the terrifying ferris wheel?