Taking Kansas City by [Snow] Storm

My last out of state adventure of 2019 was to the Midwest. Chris and I traveled to Kansas City earlier this month primarily to see the Chiefs and Denver Broncos play at Arrowhead Stadium. Luckily, we also had time to explore other areas of the city.

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Denver Broncos

First off, the game. Not only did we get a taste of Kansas City football, we experienced a Kansas City blizzard. After a failed attempt to make it to the game in our Chevy Malibu rental (we got stuck on a hill and Chris pushed the car into a three-point turn), we made it to Arrowhead Stadium successfully in an Uber XL. Being in the loudest stadium in the world (it holds the Guinness World Record for loudest crowd roar at a sporting event) in a snowstorm was crazy and fun at the same time. Even though the Broncos didn’t pull out the win (6-30), our view of the field was great, and it was an experience we’ll never forget.

P.S. Us New Yorkers are spoiled when it comes to snow removal. #grateful

Country Club Plaza

We spent most of our time at the Plaza where different shops and restaurants line multiple parallel streets. With free parking garages and a map of everything, it reminded me of a huge outlet.

We walked through some KC-specific stores like Made in Kansas City Marketplace where Chris discovered his chocolatier cousin (it’s funny if you know his last name). The shop had a bunch of Kansas City souvenirs like art, accessories, apparel, and barbecue sauce. We also found Charlie Hustle, an apparel store that made us question which state we were in. Missouri? Kansas? Iowa?

The European architecture of the buildings, the clock tower, and the fountains really make the Plaza a nice area to walk around in. The Plaza’s website describes it as, “an outdoor museum of romantic Spanish architecture and European art where people actually live and work every day amid its beauty.”

One of my favorite parts of our weekend trip was riding in a horse carriage through the Plaza one night and seeing all the buildings lined with Christmas lights. The lights are a winter Plaza tradition.

P.S. Look at the horse’s sparkly hooves!

BBQ

There’s no doubt that Kansas City is known for its barbecue. The dry rub of spices and the way it’s slow-smoked over a variety of woods sets it apart from the barbecue in other areas. According to Wikipedia, the Kansas City metropolitan area has more than 100 barbecue restaurants! Prior to traveling, I read all about the different BBQ hot spots. Chris and I made it to Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue where we tried burnt ends for the first time – delicious. It’s one of the higher end barbecue restaurants.

We also crossed the state line and ate at the original gas station location of Joe’s Kansas City BBQ in Kansas. Talk about a unique experience. Joe’s is literally a gas station restaurant and is known for winning numerous awards for its barbecue. Chris and I split a platter of ribs, pulled pork, and sausage. We also had mac and cheese and onion rings. Believe it or not, the onion rings alone made the 30-minute line worth the wait. 

Liberty Memorial

The Liberty Memorial is a monument to commemorate the men and women who served in World War I. It’s located above the WWI Museum and overlooks Kansas City. Chris and I rode the elevator to the very top and saw the greatest view of the city. 

Union Station

Once a working train station and now a historic monument, Union Station is a popular tourist attraction in Kansas City. Upon entering the Grand Hall, Chris and I stared at the 95-foot ceiling, 3,500-pound chandeliers, and lovely Christmas decorations in awe. The Union Station website describes the building as “a hub of culture, education, and entertainment.” Union Station displays national traveling exhibits and is home to a planetarium, the Museum of Illusions, Science City, a movie theater, the Model Train Exhibit, and more.

We spent hours in the planetarium for a holiday laser light show, solving puzzles in the Museum of Illusions, and following 8,000 square feet of toy trains riding the tracks at the Model Train Exhibit

Our time in Kansas City was short but full of fun! In addition to the highlighted experiences above, we also caught a University of Kansas and UMKC men’s basketball game (98-57) at the Sprint Center in the Power & Light District and ate one of the best breakfasts at eggtc. (which I think is pronounced etc. with a couple of g’s). 

The trip crossed off a lot of firsts for me and Chris and was the perfect way to close out the year. It was our first time on a plane together, first time to Missouri and Kansas, first time to Arrowhead Stadium, and first time being at an NFL game in the snow. The trip also crossed off an NFL stadium on Chris’s bucket list.

Looking forward to our next adventure in 2020!

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Escape to Bermuda

What better way to celebrate the “official” end of summer than a cruise to Bermuda?! That’s exactly what my family did, but the real celebration was my dad’s 60th birthday. With a group of 21 family members and friends exploring Bermuda and having a great time on the ship, it’s a birthday he’ll never forget.

Norwegian Escape

We cruised on the Norwegian Escape which held over 5,000 people and had 20 decks. There was a packed itinerary of activities each day and plenty of things for everyone to do. We lounged by the pool, slid down the water slides, climbed the ropes course, competed in the arcade, gambled in the casino, danced to live music, walked through the waterfall cave, sang along with The Choir of Man, and laughed at the comedian.

Aside from all the activities, the ship had great food and drinks. We ate most of our breakfast and lunch meals at the complimentary restaurant/bar O’Sheehan’s and the Garden Café Buffet. The buffet was right near the pool and had different tasty options every day. We spoiled ourselves at the speciality restaurants for dinner. Cagney’s Steakhouse had the best crab cakes I’ve ever had and Teppanyaki had the funniest sing along hibachi show.

All the staff on the ship were great. I already miss the “washy washy” hand sanitizer reminders and the “Good Morning” pastry welcomes. Nothing says cruise more than an upbeat staff who make your day (seriously, I loved it!).


Bermuda

Our time in Bermuda was a blast. We swam in beautiful blue and turquoise waters, saw a hint of pink sand at Horseshoe Bay Beach, walked through the Harbor Nights street festival in Hamilton, sailed on a catamaran, snorkeled with sea turtles, got wrecked on a banana boat, explored a crystal cave, and drank a lot of Rum Swizzles.

Horseshoe Bay Beach

Horseshoe Bay Beach was the most beautiful beach I’ve ever been to. The water is a breathtaking shade of blue and is the perfect temperature to cool you off from the scorching Bermudian sun. It’s also SUPER salty, which surprised a lot of us. The massive rocks and cliffs along the beach made for a great adventure and photo-op. We didn’t dare to jump off the cliffs though, because of the rocks in the water.

Horseshoe Bay Beach is known for having pink sand, but the only visible specs were down by the water.

The Restless Native

The Restless Native was the coolest hot pink catamaran. After sailing the calm water, the anchor was put down at Kings Point at the coast of Mangrove Bay. At the cove, we paddle boarded, kayaked, and snorkeled with rainbow fish and sea turtles (so cute!). While relaxing in the water, we were served freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and Bermuda’s infamous Rum Swizzles (pineapple and orange juice rum punch). The Rum Swizzle was my type of drink. By the end of the trip, my nickname was J-Swizzle.

Crystal Caves

Bermuda’s crystal caves are amazing natural attractions that are believed to be millions of years old. They were discovered in 1907 by two teenage boys playing cricket. The crystal formations (stalactites and stalagmites) are highly protected and there are major consequences for vandalism. It was really cool to walk through.

Bermuda is an incredible group of islands (138, actually) and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to explore its beauty with my family.

It was truly a “Bermudaful” trip. Happy 60th Birthday Dad!


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Sailing the San Juan Islands

Part Two of mine and Stephanie’s trip to Washington was spent on the water of the San Juan Islands. Ever since I was young, I’ve wanted to see an orca whale in the wild. I grew up loving the Free Willy movies and developed a fascination for the amazing species.

Part One: Sights of Seattle


After doing a lot of research, I found that the San Juan Islands is a great spot to see two groups of orcas: Southern Residents (diet: salmon) and Transients (diet: small mammals). We dedicated two full days of our trip to whale watching, and luckily had great weather both days! We traveled by ferry from Anacortes to Friday Harbor where we left for a boat tour and a kayak tour. We spent hours on the water but unfortunately, the closest we got to seeing an orca was at the Whale Museum. Nevertheless, we did see some other amazing wildlife.

The Western Prince II

We sailed on the Western Prince II for four hours and did our best to spot as many animals as we could. It’s harder than you’d think, but we had a great captain and naturalist on board who helped us out.

The highlight of the trip was seeing Scratchy the humpback whale. He got his name from the unfortunate scratches on his fluke. Following him in the water was exciting because he started off in the far distance and then progressively got closer until he was about 100 feet away.

All the animals in the water surrounding the San Juan Islands are protected, which means there are specific restrictions on how close humans can get to them. If the animal approaches a person and breaks the regulation, it’s not a human violation.

We also saw harbor seals, stellar sea lions, bald eagles, porpoises, puffins, and an elephant seal.

Sea Quest Expeditions

Most people would be terrified to kayak in waters with an 8,000+ pound whale, but I was excited to get as close as possible.

A six-hour kayak tour was an ambitious commitment for two novices at the sport, but we got through it! We had a beautiful day on the water with minimal roughness, which helped. Prior to hitting the water, we were trained on the equipment and safety procedures. We wore blue spray skirts to shield our legs from the water and wind – not so fashionable, but definitely needed. After the tour, our arms were covered in large patches of dried salt from the water that dripped off our paddles.

Stephanie and I originally started off in the same kayak, but after drifting in the wrong direction and not being able to turn around, the tour guide noticed our rudder was broken and swapped us into separate kayaks with more experienced kayakers. We quickly realized that worked out in our favor.

We saw harbor seals, stellar sea lions, porpoises, and a lot of different birds (bald eagle, great blue heron, Canada goose, auklet, etc.). The harbor seals were the most fun to kayak around because they were so curious. They swam about 15 feet away from our kayaks, popped their heads out of the water to take a look around, dove under, and then popped back up again in a different spot


On our lunch break, Stephanie and I learned that it’s “normal” to see raccoons out and about during the day on the San Juan Islands. You could imagine how frightening that was to us, especially when we saw one on the beach after we ate.

Friday Harbor

Friday Harbor is a small town on San Juan Island that welcomes tourists coming off the Washington ferry. It has a bunch of restaurants, souvenir shops, and many different whale watching tour options. We explored some of the town before and after our tours, visited The Whale Museum, ate a delicious salmon dinner at Blue Water Bar and Grill, and treated ourselves to ice cream cones from Friday Harbor Ice Cream Company. Coincidentally, we were in Friday Harbor on a Friday.

While we didn’t see orca whales on this trip, I am so grateful to have seen a humpback and so many other cool animals in their natural habitats.

My #1 on my bucket list remains unchecked, but I can check off traveling to the west coast and taking an amazing trip to Washington State. Looks like it’s back to researching and planning for me!

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Sights of Seattle

For my birthday this year, my sister Stephanie and I traveled to Washington state. Neither of us had been to the west coast and it was a trip I’ve wanted to do for a long time. 

Washington has great scenery and a lot to do. The weather was a little funky. We woke up to clouds, fog, and a chill in the air each morning, but then enjoyed a hot and sunny afternoon. Lucky for us, we never got caught in the rain. 

Driving along the evergreen trees while spotting snow-covered mountains in the distance was a cool experience. Some areas are a lot different than Long Island, like the 60-70 mph speed limits on most highways and the steep hills in the city. 

The 5-day trip was a combination of time in Seattle and the San Juan Islands. Below are some of my favorite spots in Seattle.

The Space Needle

What better way to see the city of Seattle than from 520 feet above? The Space Needle was built in 1962 for the World’s Fair to symbolize humanity’s Space Age aspirations. The famous landmark stands at 605 feet, with an observation deck at 520 feet. Just below at 500 feet, there is a revolving glass floor, called The Loupe, giving tourists a 360-degree view of Seattle.

The Space Needle is located in Seattle Center, an arts, educational, tourism and entertainment center in the city. It’s just a short 2-minute monorail ride away from downtown Seattle. Traveling at 45 mph, The Seattle Monorail is the nation’s first full-scale commercial monorail system.

Fun Fact: The Loupe is the world’s first and only rotating glass floor.

Pike Place Market

This is THE market of Seattle. It’s lined with all different vendors selling goods like fresh fish, fruit, nuts, cider, flowers, handmade jewelry and crafts, clothing, etc. The fish markets are fun to watch, as the men chant and throw fish every time someone places an order.

There are also restaurants and live music along the cobblestone streets. We especially enjoyed pastries from Piroshky Piroshky, a Russian bakery, and lunch and drinks at The Pike Pub – Pike Brewing Company.

The market is also near the waterfront overlooking several different piers, including Pier 57 where we rode The Seattle Great Wheel

Fun Fact: Pike Place Market covers nine acres and is one of the country’s oldest farmers markets 

The Gum Wall

Life is too short to let anything burst your bubble.

The Gum Wall is pretty self-explanatory; it’s an alleyway, stretching more than 50 feet, full of thousands of pieces of chewed gum. People have been sticking colorful gum on the wall since the early 1990s. Some may say it’s gross, others will argue it’s a work of art. 

Fun Fact: 2,350 pounds of gum were peeled off back in 2015, the only time the Gum Wall was ever cleaned. 

Chihuly Garden and Glass

Glass art like you’ve never seen before. Chihuly Garden and Glass is a beautiful indoor and outdoor glass art exhibit. Designed by artist Dale Chihuly, the pieces are unique, captivating, and display vibrant colors and sophisticated designs. Chihuly Garden and Glass is located in Seattle Center, not far from the Space Needle. 

Fun Fact: The centerpiece of the exhibition is the Glasshouse, which features a 100-foot long red, orange, and yellow sculpture, one of Chihuly’s largest suspended sculptures.

The Original Starbucks – 1912 Pike Place

I don’t drink coffee, but I workout a latte. Luckily, for me Starbucks serves non-coffee drinks like Frappuccinos and passion tea lemonades. The original Starbucks was founded in 1971 and is located in Pike Place Market. To mine and Stephanie’s surprise, the line outside was not too long (we went on a Tuesday afternoon). While waiting, we were given a sample of the Mango Dragonfruit Refresher and listened to live music being performed outside the door.

Inside is a lot smaller than one would expect. It operates just like any other Starbucks, with the exception of old logos, history on the walls, and cup throwing. Once you order, your name is written on a cup, which is then thrown across the bar to the barista who will make your drink. The bar was built higher than the rest of the store so you can watch your drink being made. 

Fun Fact: This location is only one of two spots you can buy Starbucks’ Pike Place Special Reserve coffee. The other is the Heritage Starbucks at First and Pike.

Rachel & Billie The Piggy Banks

We paid Rachel the Piggy Bank a visit, literally. She is a 550-pound piggy bank that sits in the center of Pike Place Market. She’s been raising money for the Market Foundation since 1986. She was named after the pig who won the 1985 Island County Fair. 

Fun Fact: We also visited her cousin, Billie the Piggy Bank. 

Biscuit Bitch

Perfect place to go to breakfast when you wake up on the wrong side of the bed. When I found Biscuit Bitch during my research of Seattle, I knew it was a must go, just because of the name.

Biscuit Bitch is a breakfast hotspot infused with southern hospitality and the word “bitch” casually thrown around (in a lighthearted way). Stephanie and I both ordered the “Bitchwich,” a delicious egg sandwich on a biscuit. Waiting on line just to get in, was definitely worth it. 

Fun Fact: All three locations strive to create a welcoming environment for all tourists and locals, a goal made by the owner and founder.

Hat ‘n’ Boots

Yeehaw! “Hat ‘n’ Boots” is a former cowboy-themed gas station that is now a great spot to take fun pictures. It was built in 1954 as “Premium Tex.” The hat covered the station office and the boots were men’s and women’s bathrooms. In 1988, the station closed and Hat ‘n’ Boots fell victim to vandalism. In 2003, a community fundraised to restore and relocate them to Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood. Not visible from the main road, but once you find them; they’re hard to miss!

Fun Fact: The hat stands 19 feet tall.

Overall, we had a great trip filled with lots of adventures, good food, and hundreds of pictures. In addition to the sites above, we also enjoyed time at University Village and the Woodland Park Zoo.

Stay tuned for a post about our experience at the San Juan Islands! Read

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Bachelorette in Asbury Park

Last summer, my younger sister and I planned our older sister’s Bachelorette party. We traveled to Asbury Park, NJ for a weekend, which is technically the Jersey Shore, but the boardwalk and surrounding area are nothing like the TV show.

Planning a Bachelorette party can be tough, but it’s also a lot of fun. We tried to create the perfect balance of good food, good drinks, good dancing, and good fun. Overall, I think we pulled it off.

Below you’ll see a summarized itinerary of our weekend.

Where to Stay

The Asbury

One of the most modern and unique hotels I’ve ever stayed in. The lobby invites you in with a huge LED announcement sign, an open game/lounge area where live music is occasionally played, and a wall of vinyl records. The pool deck has plenty of fun seating areas, a fire pit, a bar, and a food truck; and the Salvation rooftop bar has a sophisticated vibe with great views.

One of the best parts about The Asbury was our room. We stayed in the “Octo” room which allowed us to have a big sleepover. There were eight bunk beds (each with a large closet/locker), two vanities, two bathrooms, two showers, and a large den area with tables, chairs, and two cushioned benches. We had plenty of space to hang out in and get ready when we needed.

The Asbury is about a 5-minute walk from the main boardwalk, which was perfect.

Where to Eat

Toast

Just like the “Toast” locations on Long Island (but not affiliated), this homey breakfast joint serves delicious pancakes, French toast, omelettes, egg sandwiches, etc. They don’t take reservations, so expect to wait about 45 minutes during primetime, especially with a large group. Luckily, it’s located on a main strip with small stores and boutiques to explore while you wait.


Robinson Ale House

This oceanfront restaurant looks like the crown jewel of Asbury Park, literally. You have the option of sitting inside or out and it’s only a 3-minute walk from The Asbury Hotel. Tasty American cuisine and refreshing drinks. I highly recommend trying one of the flavored mules.

Stella Marina

An Italian restaurant that serves a casual crowd on the boardwalk and a fancier crowd in the dining area. Its delicious food ranges from fried calamari to spaghetti to chicken, to even pizza. Don’t forget to enjoy a champagne toast during dinner. Great spot to eat before hitting the bars at night.

What to Do

Explore the Boardwalk

Perfect for taking a stroll on a warm, sunny day. It has a lot of cute little shops and snack stands that overlook the beautiful beach. One end of the boardwalk is decorated with murals while the other end leads into a very small flea market-looking area with a few boutiques (this is actually the entrance way of the Convention Hall) that connects to an oceanfront bar (Beach Bar).

Pedalcycle

Awesome way to visit a few bars in the area, and it adds some exercise to the trip too! It’s a 90-minute tour that stops at three bars. Drinks and food are not included, but snacks are welcomed onboard. Our driver was super cool and totally into blasting our music while we pedaled down the street. We stopped at Porta, Langosta Lounge, and Anchor’s Bend. The tour would have been better if we had more time at each spot, so we didn’t feel rushed. Being with the tour didn’t give us priority service, unfortunately, but our driver was accommodating and allowed us to stay at our last stop (Anchor’s Bend) instead of dropping us back off at the hotel.

Where to Party

Johnny Mac House of Spirits

With every drink you buy, you get a free personal pizza (toppings included). This place is a no-brainer! Unique decorations cover the inside and outside and games like skee ball and ping pong add to the fun.


Porta

Chill pizza place by day, raging dance club by night. You read that right. This place goes through a total transformation; it’s totally unrecognizable on the inside. The place gets super packed and crazy with the DJ blasting and a lot of dancing. At one point it rained white napkins from the ceiling and at another, a masked bartender was shooting champagne at everyone (he got me good). Not recommended if you don’t like crowds, tight spaces, or champagne in your eyes.


Beach Bar

Two words: Rum Buckets!

The Beach Bar (related to Anchor’s Bend) is right on the sand and overlooks the water, just like a beach party. There’s room to chill and there’s room to dance under the lights, strung across the ceiling. Party music all night long. Overall, this was my favorite bar.

How to Decorate

No matter where or how you’re celebrating, it’s always fun to add in some decorations! Think accessories for the bride, matching shirts, shot glasses for everyone, and streamers to hang all over the room. Themes are also common; our shirts said “Last Fling Before the Ring.”

Of course, we didn’t experience everything Asbury Park has to offer, but we had a great time in the two days we were there and I’d definitely consider going back.

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