Roxborough State Park, Colorado

Denver To-Do List

As I am sure you have heard, there is so much to do in and around Denver, Colorado! From the thrill of skiing to the amazing views found on the trails, exhilarating white water rafting to relaxing at a brewery, there are so many options and nailing down your exact itinerary can be a little overwhelming, which is why this post is here to help!

There are two main types of Denver vacations – warm and cold weather. If you are going in winter to ski outside of Denver, I recommend renting a 4-wheel drive car, planning for extra-traffic through the mountains going to the airport on our way home, and checking out my ski-trip packing list and skiing 101. If going in warmer weather, check out the below:

Things to do in downtown Denver:

  • Breweries, breweries, and more breweries – There are 4 of the top 50 breweries in the US located in Denver and many breweries within walking distance of each other. We went to Hogshead and the Denver Brewing Company. Not only did the Denver Brewing Company have an awesome patio and great beer, they were having a block party when we went. There were tons of games, other vendors and food trucks giving out freebies, and tons of adorable dogs since the whole place is very dog friendly.

Denver Brewing Company

  • Go to a Rockies baseball game at Coor’s Stadium – Coor’s Stadium has a super cool top deck bar area great for socializing, grabbing some drinks, and enjoying the game in a “sports bar” type of vibe but at the stadium itself! If you do not want to go into the stadium, check out Viewhouse – a huge bar across the street with a giant rooftop patio, outdoor lawn game area, cabanas, and awesome food and drinks.
  • The Denver Modern Art Museum – The Art museum is 5 floors and spans over two buildings connected by a sky bridge. It has a diverse mix of modern and historical artifacts and you can spend about 2-3 hours there easily.

  • Shopping – Feeling in the mood for a little shopping but don’t want to spend such a nice day indoors? Check out the Denver Pavilions outdoor mall in downtown for an open, outdoor shopping experience.
  • Check out the food co-op for lunch or dinner – Trying to find a restaurant with indecisive people or ones with conflicting opinions on cuisine can be tough. Luckily, Denver is home to the Avanti Food Court which has 7 different eateries, 2 bars, and indoor and outdoor seating, to greatly satisfy any wants or needs!

Things to do within an hour of Denver:

  • Red Rocks Amphitheater – The Red Rock Amphitheater is a concert venue tucked into giant red rock outcroppings about 45 minutes away from Denver. Not only can you see awesome concerts there, you can do yoga in the theater and there are tons of awesome hiking trails that provide insane views!
  • Go for a hike – Day Hikes Near Denver is a great resource for finding the perfect hike for you. It outlines the trail maps, details what the trails are like from difficulty level, time it takes to complete the trails, elevation changes, scenic stops, and proximity to Denver city. You can even see George Washington’s sleeping face (See below)! Additionally, check out my recommendations for a hiking packing list to keep you prepared wherever you go.

Arrowhead Golf Course in Littleton, Colorado

  • White water rafting & ziplining – Just about 35 minutes away from downtown Denver, there are multiple place to raft down the exhilarating rapids and zipline in adventure parks.
  • Stand up paddling or kayaking – There are quite a few manmade lakes, reservoirs, and ponds with beaches to relax on and water to sport in. Check this out to for the top 10 places to water sport outside of Denver.

With so much to do, especially a bit outside of Denver, I recommend renting a car so that you do not rack up a huge ride-sharing bill. You will have a lot more flexibility to go to and from your points of interest with a rental car but, of course, if you are doing a lot more partying in downtown and are not venturing out too far, drive responsibly or get a ride-share.

There are so many options for fun in Denver, what will you choose?!

Hiking through Roxborough State Park, Colorado

Beach Vacation Packing List

Beach Vacation Packing List

Weather you are heading to the exotic beaches of Mexico, Australia, or Thailand, island hopping through the Virgin Islands or Hawaii, or just heading to the US coastline, beach packing is pretty standard across the board! The following packing list should help you get everything you need together for an amazing trip with no “I can’t believe I forgot ….” moments!

Clothing:

  • Swim suits: A few of them! Who wants to wear a wet bathing suit multiple days in a row? A few options, like strapless suits for your lazy days on the beach so you won’t get crazy tan lines and more sturdy suits that tie around the neck and wont fall off while you are snorkeling or going on excursions with more movement, will be your best bet. While my favorite swim wear comes from Everything But Water, Target and Aerie have reasonably priced options you can’t beat as well
  • Tank tops: Light, breathable tops to keep you cool but give you some sun coverage when you need it
  • Shorts: Make sure they will not chafe and are comfortable / easy on / off when wet. If your thighs rub together like mine (*sigh*), longer shorts, like those at Gap, can help prevent the rub when your sticky from the salt water
  • Easy on / off rompers or sun dresses: Perfect to wear to the beach or resort pool as a cover up and cute enough to go to a restaurant after
  • Athletic leggings / shorts and tops for excursions or workouts: Focus on light, breathable, sweat-wicking, and easy to clean clothes for your zip-line or adventurous tours
  • Formal wear: Don’t forget flowy dresses or a cute skirt / top combo for nice dinners and dancing. Heels might be a bit much for the casual beach scene, so wedges, chunky heels, or cute sandals might be the easier to pack, more practical option
  • A scarf or light jacket for those cool beach nights (and the plane ride to and from your destination)
  • Don’t forget your undies, socks, and bras!

Accessories:

  • Water bottle for excursions: I love Swell bottles. They are easy to travel with, keep drinks cold for hours and hours, and are super cute
  • Water proof camera (if not your phone with a water proof case)
  • Umbrella: For both sun and rain protection
  • Floppy sun hat and sunglasses: A MUST. Bring nice sunglasses for pool days and some cheaper, “it’s ok if I lose these” ones to go in the ocean / on excursions with
  • Day bag: Pack-able backpack for your sunscreen, poncho, water and snacks, towels, and anything else you may need on excursions
  • Sun screen: Make sure you apply often! Don’t forget an oil free version for your face to avoid breakouts
  • Waterproof phone carrying case: This will save your phone when you are on bumpy jet boats, in rain, and are surrounded by water
  • Hand sanitizer, lip balm with sun screen, water proof make up, lots of aloe just in case of sun burns, and bug spray
  • Reading material for the plane or by the pool

Shoes:

  • Comfortable walking sandals that can get wet and keep your feet secure from slipping around. My personal favorite are Chaco’s. While they might not be the cutest shoes, they are so comfortable for miles of walking and are easy to clean. Note, black shoes tend to soak up the heat when you are in the pool or at the beach so lighter shoes are better
  • Sandals for walking beach
  • Sneakers and / or water shoes for adventure tours or a mid-vacay workout (funny right?)
  • Wedges or comfy heels for any “nice” nights out

Hopefully this list will take some of the packing stress away and help you have the best time on your beach vacation!

On the beach in El Salvador

Sonoma, California

Sonoma Bachelorette – Part 2

We were taken to a little, three-sided barn where a long table was set up and we, yet again, had personalized menus for the party! All of those touches made things very special. Additionally, there were bread sticks and all of the girls went crazy of them – they were live savers after all of that wine from the vineyards before!

About half-way through our tasting, our wine connoisseur told us to grab our glasses because the rest of the tasting was on the go! He showed us around the grounds, through the barrel room, and into the vineyard…

They even had a chicken farm with multiple chicken coops and a peacock! After we finished the tour and the wine, it was time to hop back into our Sonoma Wine Tours shuttle and head back to our Airbnb.

We had three or so hours before our dinner reservation, so we decided to take full advantage of our awesome Airbnb’s back yard and jacuzzi! We popped some bottles, played “never have I ever”, and laughed until we were in tears.

Eventually, it was time to get ready and call Ubers to head to Harvest Mood Cafe for a delicious dinner. We were sat on the patio and it was pretty chilly, however, that kept us awake and talkative (we were all pretty tired from the day’s festivities). I had a delicious pesto pasta appetizer and chicken main, and then we all sang happy birthday to my sister and shared her celebratory chocolate cake (which may or not have been a good idea as there was debate to if she had mono or not!). It was so yummy but we sped through it so we could all get back inside into some warmth. While it was 70 and sunny during the day, the temperature dropped into the 40’s at night and we were not prepared!

While the initial plan was to go out after dinner, we were pretty tired, so we headed back to the Airbnb and to bed.

Sunday May 28th –

Today was “explore downtown Sonoma” day! We had a relaxed morning getting ready, eating bagels, and figuring out the game plan. We called some Ubers around 11 AM and took off to Sonoma square!

We originally wanted to do lunch at the famed The Girl and the Fig restaurant, however, even though we arrived when the doors opened, they did not have any tables open for the entire day! Roche Winery was right next store with an amazing patio, so we decided to go there instead. As luck would have it, the wine seller told us that The Girl and the Fig would deliver cheese and charcuterie to us on the patio, so we got the best of both worlds!

The wine was flowing, the cheese and meats were scrumptious, the weather couldn’t have been better, and I was with all of my best friends. I literally could not have been happier than I was on that patio.

After a few hours of enjoying, we decided to walk around the square and explore the stores and other wine cellars. Our first stop was the Sonoma Cheese Factory which, as you guessed, had lots and lots of cheese! Even better, they had wine and free cheese samples! We walked around and tasted all of the yummy cheese varieties and browsed all of the fun knickknacks they had for sale.

We continued our walk and smelt the incredibly seductive scent of freshly made ice-cream cones at Scoops. After being told by multiple people throughout our trip that Scoops was a must try, we could not resist some home-made ice-cream.

With ice-cream in hand, it was time to find some more wine. We found this enchanting flower path that led us to yet another tasting room!

The winery that we found had an awesome deal on wine bottles, so we bought quite a few, and the wine sellers told us we could drink the wine in the park! What a perfect plan. We walked back down the flowery path and about half of us made it across the street to the park before the other half was called back. A woman from a different wine room ran out after us and told us that we could get arrested for having wine outside of the part (which was about 100 yards away). We decided to “risk it” and all ran dramatically back across the street with great (sarcastic) relief when we made it unscathed! It was pretty fun being rebellious!

We found a nice area in the park to sit and enjoy our wine. About 30 minutes into that, this strange man in a dress shirt, athletic shorts, and Crocs started talking to us and was so creepy we had to move! We were getting pretty hungry at this point, so we decided to go to Sunflower Cafe for a Turkey Pesto sandwich that hit the spot.

The last place on our agenda for the day was Muscardini Cellars. They were having a big Memorial Day Weekend celebration with live music and they had a beautiful outdoor garden, so we were excited to check it out.

Unfortunately for us, the music was actually the day prior to our arrival, but we still had a marvelous time in the outdoor space.

Eventually, it was time to head back to the Airbnb for spaghetti night (sorry Betty)! For some reason, I was under the assumption we did not have enough garlic bread, so we asked our Uber driver where the best garlic bread in town was. He suggested some restaurant that was “on the way” and I called ahead to order a $25 loaf of garlic bread.. Let’s note that there was a lot of wine involved in the decision-making process here. Anyways, we get to the restaurant and I bought this giant pizza box filled with bread. About five minutes of driving later, our Uber driver stops on a hill and announces we were at our Airbnb – which was definitely false. Somehow the GPS had the right address but wrong county and we drove 20 minutes in the wrong direction! Oops. I supposed the good thing was that the other girls had pretty much finished cooking dinner by the time we finally arrived back with our now 3/4 full box of bread. We relaxed by the fire pit on the patio while, enjoying what was left of the sun’s rays, until the food was ready.

Dinner was delicious and, afterwards, we played bachelorette party games until late in the evening!

Monday May 29th –

Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. We spent most of our last morning packing up the Airbnb. My sister was able to get us brunch reservations at The Girl and the Fig so we drove over and had a relaxing meal on their patio.

We were all tired, but in good spirits, and we decided to go to the Palace of Fine Arts on our way back to San Fransisco airport.

The Palace of Fine Arts was built for the Panama-Pacific Exhibition in 1915. It was massive and so impressive. I would have never imagined such a thing would exist in the middle of San Fransisco!

The drive back to the airport was scary. Waze took us through the middle of San Fran and up some hills that were so steep, we didn’t think we were going to make it! I was driving and the girls in the back of my car kept telling me to “stop messing around”, since the accelerator on the car didn’t seem have enough power to make it, and to “just keep going!” through stop signs since stopping on the angle seemed like certain death. It was like a roller coaster and, thankfully, we survived! We made it to the airport and back to Dallas all in one piece.

Special thanks to all of my amazing friends who made this weekend one of the best of my life! Also thanks to M. Hood for taking some great photos!

Sonoma California

Sonoma Bachelorette Weekend – Part 1

For those readers that don’t know my exciting news.. I got engaged to the love of my life in August of last year! That day gave me so many exciting things to get day-dreaming about, including what I was going to do for my bachelorette party.

Figuring out when and where wasn’t too tough. I’ve been to Las Vegas a few times and that was a little too fast paced than what I wanted so it was easily nixed. I wanted as many of my girls to be able to attend as possible, so I didn’t want to go too far or make my friends take days off of work to attend. With all of those things in consideration, Memorial Day weekend seemed like the perfect 3-day weekend to take our quick getaway since it is not a religious / family oriented holiday or one that people usually travel for, and it is known for amazing weather before summer kicks in.

I love wine / wineries and had always thought Napa was a good option, but then I heard about the less crowded, less expensive, highly regarded, next door neighbor to Napa, Sonoma. Sonoma is a quick 3 hour flight and one hour drive from the SFO airport, so it fit right into the Memorial Day weekend timeline. With the dates and place settled, it was time to get planning!

Loxton Winery in Sonoma, California

My little (but taller) sister, Julia, lives in San Fransisco and just happens to be my Maid of Honor (because she is absolutely amazing and I love her to pieces). With my honeymoon, bridal shower, and wedding to plan, I gave Julia a quick outline of what I was thinking for the weekend and she did a fantastic job of planning and coordinating the bachelorette weekend details for all 12 of us and as they say, the rest is history…

Friday – May 26th

All of us were flying out to SFO after work on Friday and were getting in around 8:30 / 9:15 PM. I live close to quite a few of the girls that were on my flight so we all met up at one of the girl’s houses and her fiancé was nice enough to drive us to the airport. We got through the check-in process in under 15 minutes and decided to take the shuttle and hop terminals to find a wine bar and a bite to eat for dinner. Unfortunately, the wine bar told us that 40 minutes wouldn’t be enough time to get our dinner and back to our terminal for boarding, so we decided to find somewhere for takeout instead. We ended up at a Mediterranean placed called Cafe Izmir and found a bar tender who was ready to start our party! On top of our wine, he made us grape shots to celebrate and couldn’t stop gushing about his shot concocting capabilities. We couldn’t help but laugh with him. Once our to-go was ready, we raced back to our gate, hopped on the plane, and took off with no delay.

At Cafe Izmar in the DFW airport on the way to Sonoma!

We were taxing on the runway after landing and one of the stewardess came on over the loud-speaker. She congratulated the bride in seat D14 and wished our party “so much fun” over the long weekend! I turned bright red as all of the people around me looked at me, clapped, and wished us well, but it was super sweet!

Once we deplaned, we grabbed our bags and took the train to the car rental pick-up. After a bit of a complicated check-in, we got two cars, drove to the arrivals terminal to pick up the rest of the group, played Tetris to get our luggage in the trunks, and headed on the hour-long, windy drive to our Airbnb in Sonoma!

The Airbnb was AMAZING! It was a house with 4 big bed rooms, 6 beds and a huge couch that fit two people, a hot tub, fire pit, and bocce ball court. Each room has a wall of mirrors so there was plenty of “getting ready” space for all of the girls. Figuring out the bedding situation reminded me of America’s Next Top Model when all of the models run through the house on the first day, claiming bedrooms in a frenzy. It was pretty comical and everyone seemed happy for the most part. *Phew!*

With the time change and a late get in, we all got settled and went to bed so we would be well rested for Saturday’s shenanigans.

Saturday – May 27th

Conveniently for us, the 2-hour time change from Texas to California maked it feel like we slept in, even though we woke up at 8 AM after a very late night. Everyone was up on time and excited to hear our wine tour itinerary for the day from Julia while we cooked up breakfast tacos, drank mimosas, and got ready.

Mimosa for Day 1 in Sonoma

At 10 AM sharp, our stellar tour guide Soussan, from Sonoma Wine Tours, knocked on our door and we all piled into her van. We played an introduction / fun fact game so everyone could get to know each other on the way to Loxton Winery, our first stop of the three for the day.

My "Bride Tribe" at Loxton Winery in Sonoma, CA

Loxton Winery is owned by a Australian, 4th generation grape grower named Loxton. His family has been in the wine business for many years in South Australia, but he was the first to make his own wine and has been for years in Sonoma. We had a wonderful tasting in the barrel room of the winery and the wines just kept getting better! I ended up buying the best Port I’ve ever tasted and the only bottle I purchased that weekend from Loxton winery. (It probably helped that they served the Port with chocolate…)

Wine tasting at Loxton Winery in Sonoma, CA

Loxton himself came by during our tasting and was quite a character! We had a great time chatting about Australia as a few of us have Aussie and Kiwi roots. He even signed all of the bottles we bought with personal messages. The whole thing made for a great experience.

Hanging with Loxton at Loxton Winery in Sonoma, CA

After we finished at Loxton, it was off to VJB Winery for lunch and another tasting. I swear, VJB must have picked up an Italian villa and winery, flew it across the ocean, and dropped it in Sonoma! It was like I was back in Italy and I was in total heaven.

We did a quick tour of the property, saw the deli where the owners sell their hand-made pastas, meats, and other treats, and then sat in the beautiful courtyard for our tasting. We even had a personalized menu!

We ordered some pizzas to share and were mid-way through our flights when three dapperly dressed men came into the patio and started to sing! With an accordion in hand, the men sang some of my Rat Pack favorites and we couldn’t help but sing along. I requested that they come back and sing “That’s Amore” by Dean Martin, since my sister and I grew up signing that with our mom every time we cooked Italian food at home. After they made a round through all of the tables, they came back and serenaded us and I danced with my sister and the singers. It could not have been a better experience and was literally perfect – especially since we topped the lunch off with VJB’s home-made gelato afterwards!

Totally on Cloud 9, we said “Arrivederci” to our melodic gentleman, hopped into the van, and headed to Wellington Cellars for our last tasting of the day… which you can read all about in next week’s post!

*Photo cred to all of my girls from the trip, especially M. Hood!

 

Playa Del Carmen

Playa Del Carmen – Day 4 & 5

Today we finally got to sleep in! Getting out of bed was incredibly difficult with the super fluffy pillows, ridiculous amount of room to stretch, and cloud like covers, however, the siren call of our 10 AM massage somehow got us out! We had a quick and delicious breakfast at the buffet and headed over to the spa.


The Yhi Spa smelt amazing and instantly relaxed us. We changed into robes and went outside to the private jacuzzi area. I was all about the cold-water Jacuzzi, as it soothed my burnt back, and Ryan hung out in the hot tub. After 5-10 minutes, I tried out the sauna and the mint steam room – ahhhhhh so nice! Eventually, we were taken upstairs to the couple’s massage room. The spa was one of the nicest I have ever been too and it was one of the best massages of my life! The pressure was perfect, the only downside was it went way to quickly.

After the massage, we walked to the pool and hopped into the day bed we reserved with towels. We ordered some drinks and Ryan got a burger for lunch. After lounging for a while, we hopped in the pool and watched the very enthusiastic water aerobics teacher do his thing with about 30 people in the pool. It was funny and I couldn’t help but join in for 10 minutes. We made our way over to the pool bar to meet up with the group from Vermont that we talked to the day prior, grab a volleyball, and play water volleyball. After about an hour or so before we decided to get out of the sun and back into our cabana for a nap. It was heaven!

We had a 7:30 reservation at Bana – the hibachi / Asian fusion restaurant. I love all things sushi but Ryan never gets “full enough” from sushi dinners so we don’t go often. In this case, it was all you can eat, so we ended up ordering over half the menu; spicy edamame, rock shrimp, a pineapple crab roll, a tuna roll, tuna nigiri, sea weed salad, pork egg rolls, sea bass with sweet noodles, shrimp pad Thai, and two desserts.

We did not go hungry this trip!

We ended up going to the Blue Agave cocktail lounge after dinner for some strawberry margaritas and tequila tasting. That was delicious, and needless to say, I was in the mood to dance after those exotic drinks. There was a funky band playing at the outside bar on the adult’s side so we enjoyed and danced to their music the rest of the night.

Day 5 – The last day in Playa:

Last day in paradise! We woke up early so we could enjoy a quick breakfast and head to the beach. Being pretty burnt, we decided to snag some lounge chairs under an umbrella and relax for the last 2 hours of our stay. The water was a bit choppy and the wind was blowing, but it was so relaxing and warm. The beach in Playa is much narrower than that in Cancun and there are quite a few more reefs so you should be careful where you enter the ocean.

Ryan started to itch and we noticed he had red bumps on his hands and legs! They were pretty concerning so, after we finished on the beach, we quickly showered, changed, packed, and went to the front desk to check out and to ask for a medic. The medic came and said that his bumps were either a sun rash or reaction to the microorganisms in the seaweed. We had been using SPF 30 and apparently, if your sun screen is not potent enough, you can get sun poisoning, so we will be upping the SPF in future. The medic gave Ryan some Benadryl cream and that seemed to lessen the irritation and redness almost immediately! Thank goodness.

With a less itchy fiancé, we went to the Market restaurant for some Italian fare before grabbing a taxi and heading to the airport for our quick flight back to the Lone Star State.