Durham, North Carolina is right in my backyard, and makes up one of the cities in the Triangle - Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. I like to hate and say Raleigh is better, but that is highly debatable in the last few years as the Bull City is expanding, developing, and evolving into a hip, vibrant city for the whole family. We always enjoy going to the American Tobacco Campus to dine and catch a Durham Bulls game.
I don't get to this city as often as I like, so I asked three resident experts to help me out. My friends, Stephanie and Kent, live in the city and have first-hand experience of traversing across the town. My other friend, Mindy, lives in Cary, but she's always in the know of what restaurants, breweries, and bars are good. Read on for their top recommendations.
Breweries and Bars
I grew up in Wheeling, WV, an hour southwest of Pittsburgh, so we would make frequent trips to this city. While I am an avid hater of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Penguins (Pirates are all right), I do love the city itself. Having been to the city so much, I am simply going to list my Top 5 favorite things to do in the Steel City.
I haven't been to Sandcastle in years, so maybe it has lost its charm, but growing up, well into high school even, I absolutely loved going to this water park nestled on The Waterfront. We would spend hours riding the slides, floating in the lazy river, and nearly drowning in the wave pool. The day would always be capped off with Dippin' Dots and concession stand food. The ride home we would flow asleep while still feeling the motion of the waves. Those were the days.
4. Mom and Daughter Trips
Another fond memory growing up was when my mom and her friends would take their daughters and me on day or overnight trips to Pittsburgh. The malls near Wheeling are dismal to say the least, so we had to travel to Pittsburgh to do some real shopping. While I am not a big lover of shopping, I did enjoy those trips with the girls. We would hit up Ross Park Mall, South Hills Village Mall, or Robinson Town Centre Mall, or sometimes all three in one day. Hours were spent in Limited Too, American Eagle, Hollister, and Abercrombie and Fitch. Then, we would enjoy dinner or a show at the Benedum Center
3. Station Square
Station Square is a strip along the river where you can dine, drink, and have fun. From here, you can take a ride on the famous Inclines or Gateway Clipper. The Duquesne or Monongahela Incline take you up to Mt. Washington, which has some killer views of the city. The Gateway Clipper can take you into the city, and you can walk around The Pointe, the area where all three rivers meet.
2. The South Side
The South Side is a hip area of Pittsburgh not far from Station Square. The area had restaurants, bars, and shops, including The Cheesecake Factory and Urban Outfitters, which, growing up in WV, were novelty for my friends and me. In high school and college, we would make special trips here and would use it as an excuse to get dressed up. Going through old photo albums, I found many photo shoots from the South Side.
1. PNC Park
My absolute favorite thing to do in Pittsburgh is to see a Pittsburgh Pirates game. You don't have to be a lover of baseball to enjoy this stadium. Walking over the Roberto Clemente Walking Bridge with everyone will give you all the feels and tailgating in the parking lot will get you hyped for the game. PNC Park does it right. It has excellent views, excellent in-game entertainment (Pierogies racing after game concerts) and, excellent food (Primanti Brothers!), and excellent surrounding features (bars, restaurants, and entertainment). My family or friends would make sure we would catch at least one game every Sunday. I definitely miss being so close to such an awesome baseball stadium.
Definitely spend time enjoying this city if you ever get a chance. And even though I hate, Pittsburgh fans are diehard, so catching a Pirates, Steelers, or Penguins game is sure to be enjoyable.
The Nation's capital, Washington DC is home to much history. Museums, monuments, music, and chicken pot pie is what comes to mind when I think of this beloved city. I've been here few times. I've attended the March for Life rally in high school, watched the Nationals play, run the Rock N Roll half marathon, and explored the National Mall with my cousins. On one occasion, we have dined at Elephant and Castle and all ordered the chicken pot pie randomly. Now, it has become a tradition to go to that restaurant and order chicken pot pie. I haven't ventured much further than the downtown area, but I will give you a summary of what I did there.
Welcome to Chi Town, The Windy City, and the Paris on the Prairie. That's right, today, we are discussing Chicago, Illinois' largest city and the third largest city in the U.S. Situated on Lake Michigan, Chicago is known for its skyscrapers, museums, and deep dish pizza. I've only been once when I traveled with some friends after high school in 2007 to stay at my one friend's sister's place. We packed a lot in in a little bit of time, and I must say this is a place to go back to. My husband and I were supposed to go back for our 5th anniversary to see the Cubs, Whitesox, and Brewers all play, but COVID ruined that. Fingers crossed for next year.
This red rock Arizona city isn't in the top 100 of most populated cities, but I have been twice and just love it, so I decided to feature it. Sedona is where Hippie meets Native American and they combine to make this quaint, tranquil town. Picture stepping into a spa and they have the trickling water and peaceful music playing. Add in the red-rock buttes, canyon walls, and pine forests, and you have got Sedona.
I have gone twice. Once with James over Labor Day. I essentially won a "free" trip at a bridal show. Free if you count paying for airfare and sitting through a 2-hour timeshare presentation to get the room comped. But it was worth it. The second time, I went with my mom and aunt as we drove back from San Diego to St. Louis.
Sedona is a city where you'll want to pack layers. It is the desert but temperatures are comfortably warm during the day and brisk, borderline chilly, at night. Three to four days is a perfect amount of time to say. That time will give you a chance to hike, explore, visit a spa, do yoga, eat, shop, and go on an adventure. You'll be sure to leave Sedona invigorated!
I am not a huge fan of gambling, exorbitant drink prices for fancy cocktails, clubbing, and staying out past 10 PM, so on the surface Las Vegas isn't for me, but I have been twice, and I have enjoyed it both times although I am not clamoring to go a third time.
The first time I went was in the summer of 2010 with my parents and brother. We started and ended our Out West road trip to the Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, and Zion National Park from here. I was a couple of weeks shy of 21, but I was in awe of the intricate details of the casino hotels, and really just enjoyed wandering around and taking in the sights. We stayed at the Parisian and upon our arrival were upgraded to a suite. The only problem was that it only had one bed for four people, which began a running joke on the trip.
The second time I went was in the winter of 2011 with some high school friends. We went while we were on winter break from our college classes. My one friend's parents had a timeshare on the strip, The Polo Towers, and we decided it would be a nice hurrah to end our senior year of college. This time I was 21, and could fully access the casinos, bars, and clubs.
Vegas is a city where, in my opinion, you only need to stay for 2-3 days. After that, drive out to some of Vegas' close by destinations like the Grand Canyon, the Hoover Dam, and Zion National Park. Read on to see what happened in Vegas which will not stay in Vegas as I will give you a brief synopsis of things I did here.
San Francisco is an absolute pleasant city. A food lover's paradise. A cyclist's dream. A baseball enthusiast's heaven. It has delightful weather with little pockets of microclimates scattered about. I've been fortunate enough to go twice in a year. Once on a California road trip to see baseball stadiums and the other time for a wedding. I'll lump everything we did on both trips into one list. We flew into San Francisco, rented a car from the airport, and stayed at an Airbnb both times. The first time we stayed for 5 nights and about 4 1/2ish days. The second time we stayed for 2 nights and 2 days. I thought that was plenty of time to really see and do a lot. I hope you get a chance to go here one day!
The City of Angels. LaLa Land. Hollywood. Whatever you want to call it, welcome to Los Angeles, the land of fame excess. Whoa, am I gonna fit in? No, probably not but whatever.
I've been to LA three times not because I particularly like it. The traffic. The glam. The cavalier attitudes. The super health consciousness. I'm being stereotypical here, but it's too much. Not for me. No, I've been three times because I love Ellen (although what's going on with her lately? Someone fill me in.) and baseball. I also don't mind the sun, beach, and running around chasing celebrities.
I'm going to list what we did on all three trips and if you ever go maybe it's something you can do. Enjoy!
Celebrity Match Up
Can you guess if the celebrity is a real celeb or fake? Sorry my camera was so blurry at times. This was 2009. Click on the picture to see the name.
Discovered by the Germans in 1904, they named it San Diego, which of course in German means a whale's vagina. Never mind, I was just trying to impress you.
The setting for the comedy Anchorman, San Diego is a vibrant city on the Pacific coast of California. Full of history, museums, gardens, a world famous zoo, and a naval fleet, people here flock here for all the activities and stay for the idealyc weather. In the heart of summer, it can still be 72 degrees and perfectly sunny.
I had the fortunate pleasure of going to San Diego in the summer of 2016. I have family living in Alpine, a city right outside of San Diego, and we got to stay with them in their beautiful house with views of the valley below. Even though I would have been perfectly content staying at their house the whole time soaking up the rays by the pool and staring out over the hill, I am going to list what we did during the trip and also provide other suggestions/recommendations from a resident of the area, my mother's cousin (my cousin once removed), so she has first hand knowledge of what to do if you want to be a tourist or go off the beaten path.
Things We Did
This small, quaint national park is located in northern Ohio, not too far from Cleveland. We won't fault it for that (haha Cleveland joke). Upon arriving at the main area of Boston Mill Village, it's like you stepped back in time. Old-fashioned homes and stores, a Towpath for bikes, and a railroad station. We had limited time in the park, but we made the most of it.