Friend Trip to Minneapolis!

When I was talking with friends about plans for the 4th of July holiday a few weeks ago and I told them that I was going to Minneapolis with my bestie, they would ask “Ummmmm why tho?” and honestly, I thought that was a valid question! I’d never been to Minnesota and was kind of ok with that… Like, why on earth did we pick Minneapolis for a VACATION when we could have gone anywhere?!?! But chose it we did, and y’all I’m so glad that’s where we spent a few days! My friend and I had the best time and did a TON of fun stuff together!!

First off, we stayed in the world’s best AirBnB! It was a loft in the Upper Loop neighborhood (by downtown) and it could not have been better for the two of us! The location was amazing, parking was included (my friend Kelsey drove her car), and we had a great view from the rooftop for fireworks on the 4th!

Kelsey was so sweet and picked me up from the airport, and it was hilarious that we wore basically the exact same thing!! Grey v-neck tee, denim, and a cross-body purse! After we got settled in to our lodgings, we headed down to the Mall of America to check it out! Everyone says that you need to see what it’s like because it’s HUGE and…. I suppose they were right, it was very large! But also… not as big as I was anticipating? We definitely made sure to go in the middle and check out the amusement park area – and we even rode a roller coaster! We only wanted to ride one… and we picked the perfect one! It took us on a little tour around the entire amusement area and was pretty fun!!

Next we went to get a Jucy Lucy – a cheese-filled burger that is THE thing to try when up in Minneapolis. And ummm yes it was DELICIOUS. So delicious, in fact, that we went to another restaurant the next night to try another one and compare. For science. Obviously. The best of the two was definitely the one we had the first night at Matt’s. The cheese was so darn good and it was the perfect “welcome to MN” meal!

Our first fill day on the trip was July 4th, and we made sure to have lots of fun stuff planned for the holiday! Kelsey REALLY wanted to go floating on the river (we were going to do it last year in NE but the water levels were too high) and so we finally got to do that! I really did NOT want to go floating on the river, but anything for my bestie! So we packed up her cooler and got in the car and drove over to Wisconsin to get in the river! It ended up being a lot more fun than I anticipated, even though the people we encountered while floating were not very friendly. We had good talks and got a good arm workout trying to navigate our tubes away from the banks! We only got “stuck” a few times, which was an overall win!

The weather was nice and warm and I didn’t even get a sunburn, which was a miracle!! The fact that it was cloudy for part of the time helped. Later that same day after we got back to our place and got cleaned up (nobody likes smelling like river and sunscreen) we headed out to the sculpture park to take a look at some art! I’d seen pictures of the giant spoon and cherry fountain and was so happy to see it in person!

 

The next day, we went back to the sculpture park area but went inside the art museum that is right next to it – the Walker Art Center! It’s a modern art museum and we walked thru the entire thing and it was good, but the REAL reason we went there was the fact that they had a mini-golf course on the roof. WHAT?!?!? How weird and random and amazing is that?!? When I saw it online before going, I knew that we HAD to go and play!! And it was actually very fun! We didn’t really keep score, except for one hole where I got a hole-in-one! Oh boy!!

The rest of Friday we spent more time outside (in the morning) by going for a little hike/walk at Minnehaha Falls (super cool to see but so muggy walking around – thankfully Kelsey brought bug spray!) and heading over to St. Paul for a fun dinner at Saint Dinette. It was a nicer restaurant (without being too crazy or expensive) and we got all dressed up for a fun night out – Kelsey loved her meal and I wasn’t hungry, so I just had some french fries which were… fine!

And finally, we got to our final day of the trip (really just a half day as I had to go to the airport and Kelsey had a long drive home) and we spent it doing more of the same – eating delicious food and spending time outside! We had the BEST brunch at Hen House Eatery in downtown Minneapolis (they had the world’s best cinnamon roll and I ate it so fast that I didn’t even get a picture of the huge thing!) and then we walked around Mill Ruins park.

And that was about it! Kelsey took me to the airport and after an almost 4 hour delay, I finally got to fly home. It was such a fun time with my friend and I was able to cross 2 more states off my list, so that is always exciting! Have you been to Minneapolis before? Did we miss out on anything super fun or exciting?!?

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New England Road Trip

One of my friends that came on the Boston trip (hi, Allison!) has a goal to see all the US states by a certain year. She also has a more realistic goal of seeing the continental states first. She had quite a few New England states to check off of her list, and since we were already going to Boston, she mentioned that she would stay an extra day or two and go on a little mini road trip, and anyone was welcome to join her. So I thought “I have some PTO to burn and I want to see those states, too…. ok I’m in!!!”

So we started making plans on where we wanted to go, what we wanted to see, and making sure that logistically we could fit in visits to Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont before we had to be back at the airport in Boston. I did a lot of Google-mapping and making timelines and figuring out where to go, and before too long our New England road trip was all planned!

Monday

We got up EARLY to hug and say goodbye to one of our friends who was heading to the airport for an early flight, and then the remaining 3 ladies took an Uber to get to one of the girl’s car (she lives in New York so she drove to Boston). We got in her car and started driving toward Hartford, CT! Once we got to Hartford, Allison and I got our rental car and then we all drove to Washington Depot. If that name sound familiar at all, it’s probably because that’s the adorable little town that was the inspiration for Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls! Yes – we sure did drive all the way to western Connecticut just to do some Gilmore Girls fan-girling!

We ate at the cutest little cafe, Marty’s, we went into a little bookshop, we stopped in the cute market (and Allison re-enacted when Rory stole some corn starch but SHE DID NOT STEAL IT it went safely back on the shelf!!), and we stopped in a little boutique and talked to the owners who were ALL about Gilmore Girls tourists!

We also stopped in the next town over which also has some Gilmore Girls claims – they have a gazebo!!! So obviously we had to stop and take some pictures with it! We listened to a lot of Sam Phillips while driving around (featured heavily on the show) and it just all felt so magical!

After getting our fill on Gilmore Girls, we said goodbye to our friend – she headed back to New York, and Allison and I got in our car and headed toward Rhode Island. By the time we got to the state we were both getting kind of tired, so we just made a quick pit stop across the border (at a Walgreens – it counts!!!) before heading back to our AirBnb where we ordered takeout for a late dinner (it was pouring rain) and stayed in for a cozy night.

Tuesday

This was an EARLY day for us – we were in the car and out the door by 6am!! We were on a tight schedule since we had to get to the airport by 3:30pm to turn in our rental car, and we didn’t want to push it by sleeping in too late.

Our first stop was the Nubble Lighthouse in York, Maine. It’s one of the most iconic lighthouses in the country and it also just so happens to be on the very southern tip of the state – so convenient for two gals on a schedule! We also got some bagels while in town (delicious) and made a fun new friend (we named him Sergio and he loved our warm car.)

Our next destination was New Hampshire. Literally anywhere in New Hampshire. As we were on the road, I saw that we would go right by the state capital, so we decided to stop and look at their gold-topped capitol building. And I’m so glad we did! Not only was it very pretty, BUT they have a liberty bell replica out front! How fun and random is that?!?

Our final state on the road trip was Vermont. We stopped in Brattleboro (right on the border) and walked around a bookstore before eating lunch at a little country store just south in Guilford. At this point in the trip, we were both kind of tired and growing tired of the rain, but SO happy that we got ALL of the states in!

The only thing left on our journey was to get back to the airport to turn in our rental car, which we did with a few minutes to spare! It was such a fun little trip and we saw so many gorgeous leaves while driving through New England! Allison and I have taken a lot of road trips together over the years (I think the longest was from Missouri to Virginia Beach) and we have a good rhythm in the car, and so it was nice to have such a great road trip buddy to drive around with!

Boston Travel Recap

I just finished editing my Boston pictures and I CANNOT WAIT TO SHARE THEM!! I just had such a fun trip with my college girlfriends and the pictures don’t even do it justice! I’ve always been the person to document our fun times over the years, and while I had my phone out constantly, I don’t feel like I captured all the fun things we did! So here’s a full recap of my trip to Boston!

Friday

I got there first and our AirBnb (the cutest little white row house) was still being cleaned, so I dropped my bags inside and went on a leaf peepin’ walk around our neighborhood! We were staying in Back Bay which is definitely the place to stay if you’re in Boston! The houses were SO adorable, there were so many trees, and it was SO walkable! There were restaurants and shops all over the place and I had the best time just walking around. While I was walking around, I found a juice place to grab a small meal while I waited for my friends to arrive.

By the time two of the other girls got to town, we were all starving! We walked a few blocks to have dinner at a place called Whiskey’s where we had what we so affectionately called “dip dinner” which was us sharing orders of spinach dip and buffalo chicken dip. It was obvious that the creator of that menu had never stepped foot in the midwest because the buffalo chicken dip was NOT what we expected! It was CHUNKY and not creamy and it was still good but it was kind of sad when we were all expecting one thing and then got something completely different.. know what I mean?

After dip dinner, we got some ice cream and waited for another friend to get to town (delayed flights are the worst!)

Saturday

In the morning, two of the girls had some homework they wanted to work on (#RealLife) so the other non-homework-having gal and I walked a few blocks to get everyone tea/coffee and bagel sandwiches for breakfast. It was drizzly when we walked and our timing couldn’t have been better because it started POURING as soon as we got back to our house!

Finally mid-morning the last girl got into town and then the fun could really begin!! Our house was very close to the Boston Public Garden, so we started walking that direction and spent some time in the park looking at all the gorgeous trees. The sun was shining for a few minutes and it was just so beautiful!

We also stumbled across a statue for Edgar Allan Poe, which obviously we had to pose with for a few minutes.

We kept walking and didn’t stop till we got to the Boston Tea Party ship and museum. This was one thing I REALLY wanted to do while we were in town and I’m so glad that we did! The tickets for the re-enactment/museum tour were more than I expected, but it was so worth it. I just love history and learning things and it was so fun to get to “throw tea” off the ship and into the harbor!

After the tour was done, everyone was pretty starving, so we walked to get some dinner. We went to the Boston Sail Loft which was pretty close by, and enjoyed a nice meal together! We all got a communal order of clam chowder so we could try it, and I couldn’t really taste things very well (I was already getting sick at this point) but it wasn’t terrible! After dinner, we got MORE ice cream (SO much better than the stuff we got the first night) and just hung out at our house catching up!

Sunday

We took our time waking up on Sunday and two girls were sweet and walked to get everyone tea and coffee while the rest of us hung back at the house. Once we got ready for the day, we all walked a few blocks to have brunch at a cute place called Cafeteria Boston. This brunch was SO GOOD! Somehow I took zero pictures while we were there, but just trust me, this place was amazing.

Next, we hopped in an Uber and made our way across the river to Cambridge where we went to visit Harvard University. My dad spent a summer going through a program at the Kennedy School of Government there (it was maybe 10 or 15 years ago, but he still loves to talk about his “time at Harvard” haha) so I made sure to take a picture there to send to him. From there, we stopped at a Mike’s Pastry to get some treats and I wanted one of EVERYTHING! I’d never had a cannoli before and was very excited to get one to try later!

We had the BEST time walking around Harvard! I’m pretty sure we all got a little bit smarter just by being there. The buildings were just so pretty and the trees made everything seem magical and we were quoting Gilmore Girls while walking around and it was a great afternoon!

We headed back to Back Bay after Harvard and would up at the Boston Public Library. I’d heard that it was gorgeous on the inside and it did not disappoint! We didn’t even see any books up close, but the detail inside was incredible to look at and the inner courtyard was beautiful!

One of the girls was flying out Sunday night, so we went back to the house so she could get her things and we could say our goodbyes to her. After she left, the remaining 4 of us were trying to decide what we wanted for dinner. We ended up going to a place called Lolita because we all agreed that a good margarita was needed. The entire weekend we got SO lucky and were able to get tables immediately without reservations, but our luck ran out when we got to Lolita. They said it would be a two hour wait for a table (what?!??! On a Sunday night?!?!) but we were welcome to sit in the lounge/bar area where they served the full menu. So that’s what we did! We hovered by a group who had seats around a little coffee table (they were waiting for their table to be ready) and as soon as they got up, we swooped in so we could have a place to sit and eat. We ordered food and drinks and everything was delicious – it was a great end to the weekend!


Typing it out, it doesn’t seem like we really did that much while in Boston, but we were constantly on the go and I honestly just had such a fun time. It was so good to see my friends and catch up and hug and snuggle laugh WAY too hard. We started making plans for the next time we would all get together (which does not happen very often since we’re all so far away and life gets busy) but I’m already looking forward to the next one!

The next two days were spent on a little mini road trip adventure around New England, but I’ve already shared so many pictures so I’ll share those in the next post!

How to Create a Custom Google Map for your Vacation

I like plans. I am a planner. And yes vacations are supposed to be relaxing, but I’ll admit it. I can be a bit…. obsessive… when it comes to planning trips. I just love details and making sure that everything will work out and have good timing and ensuring that all the fun things will get done. I want to see as much as possible while somewhere new! I’m totally fine (or fine enough…) playing things by ear on a trip once we are there, but leading up to the trip that thought stresses me out to no end. I just imagine getting to the fun new location and wasting precious time just sitting around saying “What do you want to do?” “I don’t know, where do you want to go?” “I don’t know, do you have any ideas?” And then the next thing we know it’s 2 hours later and we still haven’t done anything. NIGHTMARE!

So when some friends and I started dreaming up our fun trip to Boston, we found a good unspoken compromise. (We’ve been friends for 10 years at this point so we all knew this is how it would go.) They’d let me do tons of research and find places we could potentially go and things we could potentially do, and I’d have a go with the flow attitude once we got there. And I genuinely don’t care what we do or when, I just like to know that we have options at the ready!

I decided that a good thing to do for this particular trip, filled with so many potential fun things to do and see and eat, would be to make a massive custom Google Map. That way we could always know what was close by when we wanted coffee, see what historical things we could knock out along the way to a destination, and see where we wanted to go when it was time to eat dinner. I’d never actually made a custom map before, but y’all it was SO easy! I’m going to share with you how to do it step by step so you can make one for your next adventure, too!

Step 1: Create a New Map

First, you need to make sure that you’re logged into you Google account (that way your map gets saved to YOUR maps and you can access it later! Once you’ve got that taken care of, go to Google Maps. I do this on my laptop where its’ easier to work on a larger screen. Once you get to Google Maps, click the hamburger menu on the screen to bring up the maps menu.

On the menu, go toward the bottom and click on Your Places.

Next, click on the Maps tab. Then, click on Create Map.

Step 2: Create Layers

So I guess this part is kind of optional, but if you’re going to create a custom map, you might as well throw some layers on there. This is just a good way to differentiate between different items on your map and it will let you sort and filter out items based on what you’re looking for.

From your new map, click the Add a Layer button.

Now, give your layer a name! Once you do, click Save.

Do that for as many layers as you want to add! For my Boston map, I had five and they worked out pretty well for us.

Step 3: Add Locations

This is the really fun and more time consuming part. You can import locations from an external doc if you have them, but I find it’s plenty easy just to add each location individually.

So now, you just need to search for your locations. (User tip: if you click on the layer you want it to go into before searching, the location will automatically end up there when you add it. You can drag locations around between layers later, but this will just save you a step.)

When you find the location you’re searching for, click Add to map.

Once you’ve added the location, you can edit the pin color if you want (I like to give each layer separate colors).

If you click on the pencil icon, you can also edit the entry and add little notes for that location. Click Save when you’re done.

Now keep doing that until all your locations are added!

Step 4: Use and Enjoy

Once you’re added all your locations and layers- you’re done! Good job! Now you just have to use and enjoy the map you created! Usually this will be done on a phone; here’s how to find that awesome map you just made.

On the Google Maps app, click the hamburger menu in the search bar, then click Your places.

Next, click the Maps tab, and then select the map you just created.

Now look at your beautiful map! You can click View Map Legend to see a list of all your locations, and here is where you can toggle each layer on and off and only see the individual layers you want.


So there you have it! That’s it! It doesn’t seem so hard, right? I know you can do it! It’s really nice to just have a bunch of custom map locations at the ready, and you can even share your map with others so the people on your trip can see it, too!

How to Pack and Stay Organized Before a Trip (FREE Packing List!)

While I may be terrible at unpacking, (like, the actual worst… I still have things in my bathroom bag from my trip a few weeks ago…. so…) I’m surprisingly VERY good at packing. I always make a very detailed packing list (man do I love lists!!) and I can pack a week-long trip into a small carry-on. I actually don’t know how it happens, but it is really nice never having to check a bag. I could say it’s just magic or packing elves helping me out, but I’m pretty sure the reason I’m so good at getting everything perfectly in my bag is the fact that I make a packing list each and every time I travel.

Since I’ve been making my packing lists over and over and over again with all the traveling I have been doing recently, I thought I might save some time and a little bit of sanity and make a MASTER packing list for myself that came pre-loaded with all the things I take on every trip no matter what. I need to start packing for a trip I’m taking on Friday, so this was the perfect time to make this happen.

But first, I had to make a list that was completely blank. When I’m making my normal packing lists, I always divide things into categories, so that’s what I did for this one, too. (I’ll post the link to download and print your own blank packing list at the end!)

Now that I had that done, I started adding things that I usually pack for every single trip. Things like pajamas, deodorant, socks, toothpaste, etc. Things that I’m always afraid I’ve left off my packing list on accident, but thankfully never do.

Once I got that made and printed out, I started to fill in the rest of the list with things that need to get packed for my trip!

And now that I have my fancy packing list ready to go, I can start packing and be confident that I’m not going to forget anything important! I’m super excited to use this pre-made packing list going forward – it makes my structure-loving enneagram 1-wing very very happy!

Now that you made it to the very end, let me give you a link to have a FREE blank packing list of your very own! Just click here and enjoy!